Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

So, if you can’t go back, what’s the harm in looking back? Twelve Step programs counsel “Look back, but don’t stare.” Wonder why? Because it’s fcking painful! I’m sitting comfortably at this lovely computer in my homey home office and almost everything coming to mind is about what an asshole I was and am still capable of being. So many stupid mistakes. So much selfishness and ego-driven thoughtlessness to bathe in. Sure, I recall the victories and joys and laughs and lovers, but for reasons beyond me, those happier remembrances are cloudy, dimmed, and distanced. I have to reach for them. Whereas the miseries and hurt, every mistake, misfortune, and betrayal I endured or delivered remains conveniently at my fingertips. The guns are loaded, the knives still cut, and the adage “Time heals everything” makes a lovely lyric but is a fcking lie. Time heals nothing…

In Twelve Step work we look back to identify the bad stuff we are responsible for and, if it’s possible to do so without causing more harm, we make amends for our wrongdoing. I recommend this cleansing exercise of exorcising. Suddenly, glancing over your shoulder is less frightening. There are fewer shadowy figures following you. You are freer to move about unencumbered, knowing that the scary shit of the past has been peaceably entombed. Unfortunately, entombed is not destroyed. It waits quietly in the dark for someone to dig it up again. Bad shit is patient. So, here I am with my work clothes on and my shovel in hand. If you’re willing to listen, I’m willing to dig.

Harvey Fierstein, from his Preface titled “Look Back, But Don’t Stare” in “I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir” (Knopf, March 1, 2022)


NY Times 11 New Books We Recommend This Week (March 10, 2022)

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

It’s no good telling yourself that one day you will wish you had never made that change. It is no good anticipating regrets. Every tomorrow ought not to resemble every yesterday.

Beryl Markham, West with the Night (first published in 1942)


I called B.S. when I read this testimonial by Ernest Hemingway. And then I read it. Wow. What a writer.  If you have an Audible membership, this book is free with the membership.  In the must read category.

…she has written so well, and marvellously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer…she can write rings around all of us…I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody wonderful book.” — Ernest Hemingway, in a letter to Maxwell Perkins”

SMWI*: Fly!

dog-frisbee-jump


Notes:

  • SMWI* = Saturday morning workout inspiration.
  • Source: wsj.comA dog catches a flying disk during a competition in Moscow. Photo by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters.

Lightly child, lightly

red-balloon-over-manhattan

Knot by knot I untie myself from the past
And let it rise away from me like a balloon.
What a small thing it becomes.
What a bright tweak at the vanishing point, blue on blue.

– Charles Wright, from “Arkansas Traveller” in The Other Side of the River


Credits:

  • Image Source: Michael Surtees (Looking forward from Empire State Building)
  • Poem Source: Lit Verve
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

And all that was leading me where?

stone-temple-pilots-yellow-colored-vinyl

I could never turn back
any more than a record
can spin in reverse.
And all that was leading me where?

To this very moment…

— Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea


Notes: Photo – vinylgif.com. Poem: Fables of the Reconstruction

Mistakes made by the selves we had to be

white,photography,arms crossed

Do you have hope for the future? someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.

Yes, and even for the past, he replied, that it will turn out to have been all right for what it was, something we can accept, mistakes made by the selves we had to be, not able to be, perhaps, what we wished, or what looking back half the time it seems we could so easily have been, or ought…

The future, yes, and even for the past, that it will become something we can bear.

And I too, and my children, so I hope, will recall as not too heavy the tug of those albatrosses I sadly placed upon their tender necks.

Hope for the past, yes, old Frost, your words provide that courage, and it brings strange peace that itself passes into past, easier to bear because you said it, rather casually, as snow went on falling in Vermont years ago.

~ David Ray, “Thanks, Robert Frost.”

 


David Ray, 82, was born in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. Ray comes from a broken home that was thrown into upheaval when his father left the family by hopping on the back of a watermelon truck headed to California. After his mother’s next failed marriage ended in the suicide of Ray’s stepfather, he and his sister Mary Ellen were placed into foster care—a system that wasn’t kind to young children in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Ray’s classic “Mulberries of Mingo” steeps from memories of he and his sister being thrown out of a foster families home at dinner time – to fend for themselves eating the mulberries from a neighbor’s tree. The years that followed were dark and tragic as he and his sister were separated to face their separate nightmares of abuse. He is a distinguished award winner, and has lectured and read at over 100 Universities in England, Canada and the U.S. Graduating from the University of Chicago, BA, MA. Ray’s poetry varies from short, three to four lines pieces, to longer 30 lines poems. His work is also often autobiographical, providing unique context and insight to scenes of childhood, love, fear, sex, and travel. “Communication is important to him, and he has the courage, working with a genre in which simplicity is suspect, to say plainly what he means.” He and his wife, poet and essayist Judy Ray, live in Tucson, Arizona.

Studs Terkel: David Ray’s poetry has always been radiant even though personal tragedy has suffused it.” [Read more…]

Riding. My Bike.

motorcycle, riding

It’s Monday morning.
I’m driving down I-95. Off to work. Same
Two car lengths in front of me is a rider.
Helmet-less.
Cars in front and back of him giving him wide berth.
I close the gap to one car length.
And hold position.
Both of us cruising a smooth 55.
A Harley.
I’ve never been on a bike. Never.
Hemingway: “No, that is the great fallacy: the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful.”
Man is speaking to me. Don’t like it.
[Read more…]

What I regret most in my life are failures of…

George Saunders

READ THIS.  You will not be disappointed.  It started my day off on the right foot.


From George Saunders’ 2013 “Advice to Graduates” commencement speech @ Syracuse University:

“…Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?”  And they’ll tell you.  Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked.  Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

So: What do I regret?  Being poor from time to time?  Not really.  Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?”  (And don’t even ASK what that entails.)  No.  I don’t regret that.  Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked?  And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months?  Not so much.  Do I regret the occasional humiliation?  Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl?  No.  I don’t even regret that.

But here’s something I do regret…What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly.  Reservedly.  Mildly.  Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope:  Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth? Those who were kindest to you, I bet… [Read more…]

l’esprit de l’escalier

l'espirt de l'escalier word definition

murr-ma word definition

tsundoku word definition

[Read more…]

Words

photography, black and white, portrait, woman

Yesterday. Marathon meeting starting at 8am. A single topic, full day meeting ending at 3pm. Tight agenda on an important subject. Full engagement by all participants. Constructive collaborative discussion. Good meeting. Yes, an Oxymoron.

We finish our working lunch and continue at a workmanlike pace chopping through the agenda. My mind drifts. Back to a moment in 1985. A moment drifting into consciousness hundreds (1000’s?) of times. (Can it really be 28 years ago? You’ve deeply regretted so many other foot-in-mouth-moments. Why does this painful one keep coming back?)

[Read more…]

I couldn’t tell you…

grandpa, photograph

My Grandfather. Deda. Walter Cecil Kanigan.

He was born on March 22nd. Yesterday.  In 1909. 103 years ago.

I couldn’t tell you with certainty where he was born. Believe it was in the Ukraine. In a hospital? Home delivery?

I couldn’t tell you what he did as a child. Who were his friends? Did he have toys? A bike? A cat?

I couldn’t tell you of his journey to Canada. Where did he land? Did he ride the rails to get cross country? Was it Spring time?

I couldn’t tell you if he attended high school. Did he learn “his figures?”  Did he know how to write?

I couldn’t tell you how he met Grandma. Baba. Did he ask her Father for permission to marry? Was she his first choice?

I couldn’t tell you his dreams. He mentioned that he wished he could fly. Just once. I couldn’t tell you if he ever flew in a commercial airliner.

I can’t tell you much about Deda.

But, I have moments.

He mixed different cereals for breakfast.

He slurped vegetable soup off his spoon.

[Read more…]

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