Thursday, May 31, 2012

Turn off your mind

A slight cautionary tale:  why we are better off not living entirely in our minds.

Copyright M. Kelly

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Black holes and hammer throws

"A black hole is a region of space whose gravity is so strong that it acts like a giant vacuum cleaner in space. Anything that gets too close gets sucked in. When it hits the center, the singularity, it disappears forever. The gravity in black holes is SO strong that it tugs at space and time, slowing down time and stretching out space. Not even light, the fastest thing in the universe, can escape from a black hole."

Yesterday, it was all "walk and don't look back," sung, said and meant.  Today, though nothing that can be seen or even known has changed, my center has become the astronomic phenomenon which even light cannot outrun.  It could make a person feel leaden and stuck and more than a little deranged.

I would not describe myself as mercurial by nature, though others may disagree.  As age and other things overtake me, I believe I am reasonably consistent, maybe even predictable.  Yet following a day of inner peace and happiness, mixed with the confusion that now seems a fixture in our lives, as Donald Trump again, hey, presto!, flourishes President Obama's birth certificate (or so he says) for our scorn and rejection, today I have been called out by vagabond anxiety, thinking this looked like a good place to crash.  

The morning began with email, including an Amazon promotion, books about Paris.  One of them, I believe it was called Everything Looks Like Dessert, prompted me to take the "closer look" and as far as I could determine, the only things that looked like desserts were pastries.  Awake at 3 a.m., I played with letter forms in my journal, a phrase I read yesterday: Do More Of What You Love.  Well, duh.  And I had planned to do exactly that today.  Anxiety had another agenda.

Just now, a phone conversation with a friend, brought up - relative to Earthly swampiness and the aforementioned excessive gravity - the memory of a Kingston Trio song about the Everglades, "...if the skeeters don't get you then the gators will."  I feel the need for calamine lotion and high, dry ground.

Any tolerance I once may have had for whining has been ground to dust.  That includes my own.  Anything I speak that sounds like a complaint causes me to feel that I've punched all my gifts and good fortune in the nose.  And so help me, I see this as a mystery in which we may all be conscripted actors, but if it smacks of complaining, I apologize, as I do if I just repeat myself using different (or not different) words from post to post.

How it feels is like being the ball portion of a hammer throw rig (I think they call them rigs), being swung around and around and then let fly, to land - wherever.  Being made of human stuff, the harder landings are hellish.  I have bruises to prove it.  What I am is misplaced, bewildered and in touch with quite a few people who are going through the same thing, the sense of having lost our way, become unhitched from our moorings.

The ride is not as fun as it looks.

(Hammer throw photo credit: and blogger will not let me adjust the spacing between paragraphs, which will tell you something about the state of things.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

We're gonna leave all our troubles behind

For today, let's walk and don't look back.  And Mick,  were any of us every that young?  One of my happy songs, not thought of in years.

When I am being serenaded as I wake up, I pay attention.  Today it was Peter Tosh.  Little did I know he was sharing the stage.  When the words have something to tell me, I pay even closer attention.  Today could bring the first steps in a long dance away from people, thoughts, experiences and swirling uncertainties that are no longer here, no longer apply.  Amnesia in its mildest form can be a gift.  Forget about it.  Let it go.  Nothing like a reggae beat to start the forward momentum.  Just put your hand in mine.  xo

Mick Jagger & Peter Tosh

If it's love that you're running from
There is no hiding place
(You can't run, you can't hide, you can't run)
Just your problems no one elses problems
You just have to face
(You can't run, you can't hide, you can't run)

So if you just put your hand in mine
We're gonna leave all our troubles behind

We gonna walk
And don't look back (Don't look back)

We gonna walk
And don't look back (Don't look back)

Now if your first lover let you down
There's something that can be done
(You can't run, you can't hide, you can't run)
Don't heal your faith in love
Remembering what's become

So if you just put your hand in mine
We're gonna leave all our troubles behind
We gonna walk
And don't look back (Don't look back)
We gonna walk
And don't look back (Don't look back)



Places behind you
There to remind you

If your first lover broke your heart
Something can be done
(You can't run, you can't hide, you can't run)
Don't heal your faith in love
Remembering whats been lost
(You can't run, you can't hide, you can't run)



MICK JAGGER and PETER TOSH hold this conversation while background singers continue singing back-up

(P.T.) How far you been walking man?
(M.J.) About a hundred miles
(P.T.) You still got some more to walk man
(M.J.) I know, don't remind me about it
(P.T.) I'm getting tired, but I still got to keep on walking
(M.J.) I'm walking barefoot
(P.T.) You know, keep on walking
(M.J.) You got to walk and don't look back
(P.T.) Keep on a walking
You got to walk and don't look back
Keep on a walking
You got to walk and don't look back


Sunday, May 27, 2012


Things become round in our home this time of year.  Basketball shapes our schedules.  However, we don't have access to all the local games, sometimes turning to the radio or, as we did last week, finding compelling, related viewing.

Earvin "Magic" Johnson has been in Los Angeles news frequently as a member of (and public face for) the consortium that purchased the Dodgers.  He is also among the group of sports figures commenting on Lakers' (and other) games for ESPN, recently stirring controversy over remarks about coach Mike Brown.  I was not a basketball fan during his championship years, so really only know him from his role as businessman and larger-than-life ex-NBA pro.  My perception was shifted by a documentary called  The Announcement produced by ESPN Films.

Election years heighten my sense of spoken words as hollow and misleading, thought that can be said for non-election years, too.  To see as prominent and idolized a sports figure as Magic Johnson step up and tell the press and the public, extemporaneously, about being diagnosed as HIV-positive with no shirking or tap dancing, though it took place 21 years ago,  seemed to be taking place in an alternate reality.

I will leave you to your own viewing of the film, to your own opinions about the events following The Announcement.  The world of professional sports is filled with cautionary tales and tales of courage.  Sometimes the two intersect.

Friday, May 25, 2012

"The only way out is through"

Some years ago I explained to a therapist that I was Sisyphus AND I was the rock.  Instead of being the conversational cherry bomb that knocked some debris out the way, it sat there, unexplored.  One of the remembered and forgotten moments when I was sure I was talking in tongues.

Awareness is the telemarketer who keeps dialing your number until you answer.  Assuming, as with the Sisyphus/rock realization, that we are always all the performers, props, scripts and directors in our own dramas, I suppose I ought to take heart that any portion of my self is paying attention.  It wishes to be heard and it is relentlessly patient.

Knowing, then admitting, that each aspect of my struggle, as well as longed-for redemption, is my responsibility is wearying.  I would rather be writing about something color-drenched or lilting but fancy footwork takes energy I don't have.   My wiser self, once soft-spoken and hesitant, or so I imagine, has become insistent.  I see it watching the clock, urging me to a quicker response than I would come to on my own.  It has at its disposal the pointy stick of, oh, physical discomfort, insomnia, anxiety, the sense of everything being off.

More than 25 years ago, having arrived at the amends portion of a 12-step program, I stepped out of my car at a farmer's market one Saturday to see the person whose name was at the top of my list.  I tried to turn around, muttering, "you can't mean me, you can't mean now."  Turning back was not an option.  Now it seems, and perhaps I should say at last, putting right the wrongs against myself is not a choice, unless I am willing to let the increasingly intolerable symptoms of torpor dismantle and maim me.

As to the next step, the next, often-described, indicated thing, I am uncertain.  To write this may be a preamble to larger heroic acts. I don't feel heroic today; I barely feel present.  Such a capacity for generating interior fog will likely not make any list of personality strengths.  I do, though, believe a crisis comes when we are equal to the challenge, however inadequate we feel.  Time to answer the phone.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Old Dragons

Edward Gorey illustration.  He always gets it right.

No matter how much shaking, avoiding, ignoring, denying, explaining and ritual we do, our histories cling like rain-soaked summer clothes.  History assumes forms that bedevil us without cease. The eggs hatched just as we drew first breaths and their reptile-kin spawn have acted, always, as the rip currents that pull us into the deep water, just when all looked calm. That many of us haven't drowned is the miracle.  At my advanced age, I can think "I'm too old for this shit" as often as I want and it makes no difference.  Until I fill the basement with concrete and pile their 60-odd years' accumulation of foul-smelling stuff on the lawn, they will not leave.  I think of them as The Old Dragons.

Though by now they are as creaky and shrunken as I, they have going for them (a) numbers.  I am but one.  (b) the sharp elbow of bad manners which they use to intrude on tranquil moments.  (c) malice and dishonesty.  I think the writer of GAME OF THRONES patterned his endless parade of manipulators on some well-known-to-him Old Dragons.  (d) what they claim to be evidence of shortcomings and crimes that could not even be called misdemeanors, when viewed through their magnifying projectors, seem heinous and unforgivable.  (e) stubbornness which I have come to believe rises from their fear of eviction.  And I swear by the ancient gods, they will be gone.

During my clearest moments, I know each of us, each human, is, like me, a wooden-framed screen door with an inexpertly patched worn spot that always works loose and lets the flies in.  No matter how much professional help (and I mean good professional help) we've paid for, shown up for and cried through, any dangerous residue of self-doubt, even a drop, provides the needed false bravado that is the dragons' trademark.  They grow, in their wee reptilian minds and eventually in ours, strong, unbearably loud and, because they wear us down so, apparently right.

One of the great mysteries is they way in which we can be pursuing a favorite distancing activity, like sleeping when it is not bedtime, and know as sharply as if we'd put a fork in the socket that something is very wrong and this is not the life we want, nor were intended, to live.  And then emerges the next horrifying question: how do I fix it?  This is where I come up short, for I am edging forward with the greatest care, taking the tiniest steps, and mostly acting on the strength of certain beliefs:

     It is never too late.
     Nothing this big can be fixed in a day.  Nor should it be.  This, too, is a process.
     Feeling terrified and small is normal.
     The dragons have always lied.
     The people who traded your silver baby cup and savings bonds for the dragon eggs lied.  It wasn't personal, it was how they got by.
     We continue to know in increments of ascending clarity.
     I am still here and grateful about 99% of the time.

The old dragons speak the language of why, at some alarmingly advanced ages, we discover that we have been keeping ourselves from what we love most for years, decades.  We have allowed the lies to stand between what felt like dreams without hope and our truest hearts.  Too-fresh beliefs about being undeserving, insufficient, incapable may finally be toted away in mildew-stained carpet bags bearing the dragons' former address.  Even dispossessed, they will try not to go far, not out of hissing distance.  Eviction may not be enough.  I trust directions must still exist for ways to slay an old dragon.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Gram Parsons, who has nothing to do with the vigilance vs. paying attention debate

(If, with my sketchy memory, I posted Gram Parsons' Return of the Grievous Angel (with Emmylou Harris) a few years ago and don't remember, consider this an encore.  Now I try to have labels for each post.  Who has the patience to look through so many when there are songs to be played?)

A separate topic:

Introduced by Jayne in her comment on the recent "Worry" post, we will look at vigilance, which I have come to believe is not the same as paying attention.  Not the same at all.

Vigilance, or hyper-vigilance, depending on how deep one's wariness runs, is usually a vital coping mechanism, resulting from too many real monsters in too many closets over too many years.  It is an exhausting, unproductive, full-time volunteer job that one can never do well enough to keep the cockroachs from crawling all over the chocolate cream pie.  Paying attention is just what it claims to be: an alert noticing of the world within and without and responding appropriately to its cues.

Jayne mentioned calling her lawyer, severing all ties with vigilance in a legally-binding way.  I like the vision of marshals serving papers on a shirtless, barefoot vigilance at 3:30 some morning.  As my son would say, "ooooh, snap."

This is a first installment of this exploration.  Having devoted what I might once have described as my good years to hyper-vigilance, I know its investigation is not an off-the-top-of-my-head activity.  I wanted to open the door for my own thoughts to wander through and invite others who, like Jayne, have grown weary of watching the horizon for ghost ships.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Quick! We need some music


My son uses an expression, "vortex of suckage."  I appreciate how emphatically it sidesteps ambivalence.  Worry has to own major real estate in that vortex.  It is possibly the poorest use of human resources.  I know it is the worst use of mine.

Cat versions of Guatemalan worry dolls.
Worry is a state of mind that almost proves demonic possession.  What, on an ordinary day full of promise and possibility, can cause a semi-normal senior citizen to make the mental leap into an unknowable future and start gnawing on bad outcomes as though there was nourishment to be found there?  Monkey mind.  Reptilian brain.  Like Odysseus, it becomes necessary to lash one's self to the mast of this very moment so as not to stray into places where trouble awaits.  Worry's call is that convincing, insistent and, perhaps to some, seductive.

Over time I have become more skilled at eluding its grasp.  I am much less inclined to put energy into frightening myself than I once was; the only payoff is anxiety which becomes sleeplessness, palpitations, dread, discouragement, defeat.  The wearing of tin foil hats makes a lot of sense, if it stops even one negative thought from forming.

Worry has not swallowed me whole, yet, today and likely will not.   But, quoting Princess Leia, it's "...foul stench" is enough to set off the alarms.  It is a task to combine vigilance with the ideal lazy, punting-on-the Thames existence.  The trick is always to know just where you are - and where you are not.  If whatever you hear shrieking that its hair is on fire is not actually in the room, it is worry.  Let it go.  I will try to do the same.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


When music floats in over the mind/transom, who am I to question it?  Lowell George.

Still times persist.  But words are pulling themselves together and taking unruly shape.  Always, the next indicated thing. xo

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Full moon in Scorpio

Frosted amber mercury glass moon ornament from Dept. 56, approx. 5 inches diameter, rises and sets in the curio cabinet.

Thinking moon thoughts, wanting to sing moon songs. On one of their yearly CDs, with each grade level writing, composing and performing an original piece with the help of my music specialist brother, a class offered the never-to-be-forgotten "Throwing Pizzas at the Moon." It couldn't hurt and might just be the gift for which our orbiting body has been waiting. Consolation prize: the pizzas fall back to Earth and land cheese side up.

 In one of the truest rock-and-roll voices ever, Joe Cocker sings his moon song.