Wedded Bliss & I Don’t

Couple in love sitting on a bench

Dear Reader!

First, a very important and necessary disclaimer:

I believe in love that fights.

I believe in love that sacrifices and gives every thing, every thing—and not think twice.

I believe in love that shatters our everyday reality and flings us into the heavens not only exists but, more importantly, can go the distance… all the way to the grave.

I believe we live and we die and that love is the only thing—the only thing—that makes any of the in between worthwhile or meaningful.

My point is: I believe in love that is deep, meaningful, true.

I do.

Now, that I have delivered my disclaimer…

bridal couple wearing sneakers

Nevertheless, I have never witnessed firsthand a happy marriage. I am not saying they don’t exist—I simply have not witnessed one firsthand. I have, however, had great occasion to witness too many unhappy and/or stupid ones.

Not to mention how much I despise, abhor, and loathe women’s fixation on ONE day and an overpriced, white dress — when it is loving day in and day out; putting up with each other’s bullsh*t; honoring your love and your beloved; and living a lifetime together well that really matters.

So from a very tender age, I swore off the institution of marriage.

Love, definitely yes. Marriage, definitely no.

To me marriage is primarily a social construct that protects any children a union might give birth to and provides the partners’ with legal recourse (typically, the woman) for “fair” compensation should the union fail.

In love relationships, mutual adoration and fidelity come first, and then the parties involved can choose to marry to make a public statement of their intentions. But you certainly do not need marriage to convey this.

Unfortunately, too many of us confuse love/romance and marriage as being one and the same. They are not! Frankly, love does NOT necessarily equal marriage and marriage does not necessarily equal love.

FACT: People marry for all sorts of reasons, known and unknown. And you can be married and totally uncommitted and unmarried and 110% in with all of your heart, body, and soul.

With that being said and because when it comes to matters of the heart or marriage, nothing is simple: While I am decidedly not interested in saying, “I do,” I would never consider for one second staying with any man who does not want to marry me.

Call to action: Which do you believe in: “I do” or “I don’t?”

Remembrance: Deep, Meaningful, True

Auschwitz Concentration Death Camp
Auschwitz Concentration Death Camp

Dear Reader!

The very best films break open your heart; or remind you of something very important that you may have long forgotten or buried in some dark corner of your mind; or delight your heart and your mind with a new recognition of the stunning beauty and power of the human potential.

The German drama Remembrance (2011) directed by Anna Justice is precisely such a film. It does all three with a rare poignancy.

This movie is an incandescent confirmation of deep, meaningful, true love and its wondrous power.

This is the story of Tomasz, a captured Polish-Catholic resistance fighter, and Hannah, a Jewish woman. In 1944 both were imprisoned at the Auschwitz Concentration Death Camp.

In the presence of senseless, depraved evil and in the midst of…

inconceivable human cruelty…

wretched squalor…

How deep, meaningful, and true is your love?

calculated starvation…

unfathomable hopelessness…

and the stifling, heavy aroma of death perfuming the air,

love found a way to seed, to grow, and to even flourish.

One man found a way to a love one woman, to nurture her physically, to give her hope, to save her life.

And what struck me as hauntingly breathtaking is that this love seeded and sustained itself without…

a common language…

the deception of makeup…

Pinterest-worthy outfits…

silicone assets…

or professional definitions.

All the things we—with our comparatively easy lives—think we need to love and to be loved.

Yes, two ordinary people ripped from their homes and their families, thrown into the hell that was a labor/death camp, and stripped naked of all their human dignity found their way to hope… and to a deep, meaningful, true love.

The movie is even more exhilarating, because it was inspired by true events. Imagine that!

And I can’t help but wonder: Is it possible for those of us with comfortable existences and our superficial checklists — Does he have a college degree? Is she hot? Does he have blue eyes? Is her hair blonde? Does she have a big arse or breasts? Is she white? How about 50 shades of stupid? Whatever! — to ever be certain that the untested love we find is deep and meaningful and true?

Call to action: In the comments, share: When do you know that love is deep, meaningful, and true? Have you been lucky to bear witness to this kind of love?

Other film posts: Fall in Love, the 11th Commandment; Yes, I Am Queen of Sheba; and I Don’t Like All Black People.

So Much Nothing!

a map of the world imprinted on two hands

Dear Reader!

Am I the only person, who thinks there is way too much nothing going on in our world today?

So many — a lot — nothing books… Everyone Is Italian on Sunday by Rachael Ray comes out later this month. I have to ask: Do we need yet another cookbook on how to cook pasta and tomato sauce?! Do we?!

So many noisy, ridiculous nothing movies… Yes, I am looking at you Fast & Furious 8, Iron Man 3, et al...

So many inane, vapid, dull, tedious nothing TV shows… Really, why the frack is everyone desperately keeping up with all these silly women on reality TV shows? Why?!

So many g-d awful nothing magazines… Seriously, do we need another “revolutionary” how-to on getting the holy grail of fitness, a flat tummy?! And why does a certain section of my local magazine stands resemble a porn site?!

So many truly horrible song lyrics like “But you wanna say no… What do you mean? Hey… When you don’t want me to move… But you tell me to go… What do you mean?” and so forth, ad nauseam. This is the load of ca-ca that sits at #2 this week on Billboard Top 100 Songs.

What are you about? Nothing or Something?

So many conversations about nothing—the weather is, well, the weather—when there are so many important thoughts, ideas, and feelings that need to be shared…

And saddest of all, so many people, who are about nothing… no decency, no integrity, no character… Nothing!

Oh, the dreck… the dreck… And because I like threes, I’ll say it again: the dreck!

What I know is this: What the world needs desperately right this minute is more people who are actively committed to daily choices and behaviors that will better them mentally, emotionally, and, most of all, spiritually as individuals—and as a natural consequence, better civilization as a whole.

Call to action: Are you feeling me? Am I asking too much?

I Am Strong… and It’s My Birthday!

I AM strong!

Dear Reader!

My name is Janine. I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, a rare, “benign” brain tumor, four and half years ago. And today is my birthday.

Where should I begin…

Facial numbness on the entire left side of my face… You know, that truly horrible feeling you have after you’ve been to the dentist and gotten a shot of Novocaine, except it NEVER goes away!

The sensation of hauling around concrete on the left side of my head…

Inability to chew food on the left side of my face… Yep, the teeth on my left side have seen no action for five years…

Facial twitching and spasms on the left side of my face… I am still terrified when these happen.

Drooling is so humiliating and gross…

Dizziness is so inconvenient when you like cute shoes…

Feeling like the world is spinning like a top while I am absolutely still… also a deterrent to cute shoes… (And don’t try this when you’re driving!)

Total loss of hearing in my left ear, except…

For the nonstop and vexing — did I mention, really vexing — buzzing, beeping, roaring, or ringing in my left ear. Sometimes, it is so loud I can barely hear myself think and what thoughts I do have are about ending my miserable existence…

Unbearable hypersensitivity to loud noises and sounds in crowded places, i.e., restaurants, airports, movie theaters, malls, everywhere these days… Seriously, it is like hell has invaded my brain.

Migraines that last for days at best or weeks at the worst — that’s right, weeks, and then leave me with a headache hangover for another week… Shoot me!

Physical exhaustion…

Extreme mental fatigue… No one has any idea. No idea. No idea.

The loss of ever experiencing again a single moment of peace or my beloved silence… except

When I sleep and even that eludes me…

I am strong!

Yes, I have lived with these symptoms for the last 1,643 days… 39,432 hours… 2,365,920 minutes… four and half fracking years.

Yes, two MILLION, three hundred and six-five thousand, nine hundred and twenty minutes, which is rather amazing to me when I remember how I prayed that I would be able to endure these symptoms for six months until my treatment of choice, Gamma Knife, “cured” me.

Hmm, silly me.

Sadly, I am not cured. And I will never be cured, so I’ve been told by my oncologist neurosurgeon.

And this stinking, rotten “benign” brain tumor is really not so very benign at all. Besides all the daily bullsh*t I cope with, if the growth of my tumor does not stay halted, it will press against my brain stem/cerebellum and interrupt vital functions, say like, breathing — and I kill me. So brain surgery — sometimes, I still can’t believe I have a brain tumor — may be part of my not too distant future.

[SIGH]

BUT I am here today, October 5, 2015. And today is my birthday, so Happy Birthday to me. And, if I may, I would like to say to myself: “I am so proud of me. I am stronger than I ever thought I could be.”

Call to action: Do you believe in your own strength? Has your strength been tested?

Check out my post from last week: I Need to Soar.

I Need to Soar…

bird soaring

Dear Reader!

Lately, life is kicking me around again. What a “it rhymes with witch,” right?!

My bones ache and creak with the heavy burden of the business of life…

My heart is exhausted from caring and pretending not to care…

My soul, a void…

My mind, a desolate place…

[SIGH] [SIGH]

And, frankly, I have nothing much that I want to say… this week.

So I will take a little time to try to soar above it all—and find my way back…

Call to action: Do you ever feel like you just need to take time away from it all as a way to regain your sanity?

 

Scary, Hairy Problem!

picture of a horse's behind and his tail

Dear Reader!

NOTE: If you think I’m nuts, don’t get mad. Instead, give me the total ignore you think I deserve. Ladies, continue to spend your life resources on whatever you wish and try, try, try to please an audience that does not want to appreciate you. And, men, continue to embrace your narrow concept of beauty and shrug it off as a preference.

Anyhoo, this week, these are just a few of the questions sizzling on my mind, which proudly resides under barely a smidgen of hair:

Did you know that black women in the U.S. are supporting a $500 BILLION industry of weaves, extensions, wigs, relaxers, beauty products, styling tools, and appliances?!

For a little more perspective, $500 BILLION — also known as a half TRILLION — is double the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Greece — a country!

And did you know that the women on the Dark Continent are shelling out another $6 billion for the same?!

$500 billion.

A half trillion. (I have no idea how you write that with a dollar sign.)

$6 billion.

Seriously, how are black women here and on the Dark Continent paying for all this faux hair and its upkeep?!

Well, get this: In Detroit, Michigan, The Weave Loan Store really wants to help “the cause.” They will give you a loan [PAUSE] so that “you can afford to be beautiful!” Sadly, this is not a fracking joke! See for yourself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGkBTTq5vlc

Clearly, black women’s hair acquisitions and the subsequent care of it is colossal business, here and abroad.

I won’t bore you with what has already been said and written on this matter, except to ask that you please consider these notable points:

  • In the U.S., black women make up just 13% of the population.
  • And that the poverty rate among black women in the U.S. is 28.6% (13% for white women;  10.8% for Hispanic women).
  • And that there are reports that the average black woman’s net worth in the U.S. is a whopping $5 — yes, that bill. The one that sequentially follows the $1 bill and features a portrait of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.

So again, I ask: How are black women paying for all this faux hair and its upkeep?!

And one last question: Why, why… is it that black people love to be trendsetters in every other area of life — music, art, language, clothing, food — except one: Hair?!

How come?!

Obviously, women of other races also buy weaves, extensions, and wigs, etc. Whatever. That fact still does not make one single thing said here any less true. Plus, for black women the internal motivations are different or at the very least more extreme.

Finally, please let us not engage in a fruitless argument about the numbers. Because even if some of the statistics provided above aren’t exact, all you or I have to do is look around in our real lives, on TV, and on the Internet and we know — we can see — that when it comes to black women and the issue of their hair that whatever the $$$ numbers (and they are too high)… there is definitely a scary, hairy problem.

Call to action: Am I the only one who thinks this is beyond incomprehensible? I would love to hear your comments.

What Will It Take?

picture of barack obama

Dear Reader!

We had Medgar Wiley Evers, who fought valiantly until June 12, 1963 when he was shot in the back. As the bullet slashed through his heart, he staggered 30 feet before collapsing. He died 50 minutes later for the cause.

We had Nelson Mandela. On June 12, 1964, Mandela was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent 27 — yes, 27 — years of his youth in an 8×7 cell for the cause.

We had Martin Luther King, Jr. He went up the mountaintop and came down with a dream. On April 4, 1968 at 6:01 PM, he was shot. He was dead just an hour later for the cause. Later, an autopsy revealed that while he was chronologically 39 years of age, he had the heart of a 60 year old man. That is how much he cared for the cause.

And Harriet Tubman.

And Solomon Northup.

Black people, we cannot afford our current way to be. We never could.

And Abraham Lincoln.

And Rosa Parks.

And Booker T. Washington.

And Ruby Dee.

And Colin Powell.

And…

Currently, we have President Barack Obama of the United States of America. He made just about everyone — black, white, and otherwise — believe change was possible.

And we have his lovely lady, Michelle Obama, who provides all women with a beautiful example of how to be a First Lady in our everyday lives.

[I love the Coconut Cream Pie Larabar. Yum!]

And yet, too many black men still aren’t stand up guys, won’t pull up their pants, and have chosen a life of crime as their vocation.

And still too many black women are having babies with worthless arseclowns… and baring their arses and other “assets” at malls and grocery stores, on the Internet, on popular magazines, and in music videos as cheap, sleazy entertainment, for another buck, and/or for cheap compliments.

[SIGH]

If the admirable — if imperfect — human examples listed above, who have risked and sacrificed so much, haven’t made a recognizable impact on how the majority of us (black folks, that is) choose to live, what impact can rest of us hope to have?!

Honestly, I am disheartened.

But I still can’t help but ask the question:What will it take for us to see a better way to be?

Call to action: How do you feel about the choices that black Americans are making?

Check out this excellent article at the Huffington Post: Why Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech Is the Greatest Speech of the 20th Century: Line by Line Analysis

Slingbacks, a Saleslady, and an Epiphany

Dear Reader!

NOTE: These words were originally posted on January 30, 2015. Over the last week, I have been reconsidering who I am in the context of my world, so I thought I would share them again — re-edited and spruced up a bit — with you.

Moments that re-define our life can happen anytime and anywhere. For me, well, one such moment involved a simple pair of much-loved, worn out, navy blue slingbacks that led the way to me embracing my truest nature — without apology.

I am not difficult -- I am definite. ~ HEDY LAMAR

Years ago, when I was a younger woman, I went shopping to replace a pair of lovely, navy blue slingbacks that I had previously bought and worn until my two big toes were surfing the pavement.

So I decided to return to the shoe store where I purchased the original pair, hoping desperately on my way there that I would get very lucky and be able to replace my beloved, worn out slingbacks with the same pair.

I can hear you thinking: What’s the big deal? It’s just shoes. Well, the big deal was that at the time I only had two pairs of shoes to my name. Yes, two.

Why? Well, because for me a shoe had to be (and still does) all things: pretty, feminine, stylish, very reasonably priced, and comfortable. Price, comfort and style were non-negotiables! And those slingbacks were all that!

Sadly, Lady Luck had business elsewhere that day. Many months had passed since I had made the original purchase, and those slingbacks were out of stock, forever.

Upon hearing this, I felt a little frantic and began to wonder what would I wear on my feet now that my beloved slingbacks — remember, one of only two pairs shoes I owned then — were over and done.

The saleslady probably sensing my disappointment and panic asked, “Is there anything else I can show you?” And show me she did. Lord knows she tried.

But in a store full of shoes of all styles and colors, there was not one pair that appealed to my sense of style combined with my need for comfort. Ugh!

Finally, feeling difficult and silly for not liking anything, I decided to save her any further trouble and be on my way, so I said very apologetically, “I guess I’m just too picky.

And then, out of nowhere she uttered something so simple, so profound, so priceless that to this day I still turn to that moment when I need a swift kick in the arse to remind myself to fully embrace me.

The details of her face has faded from my memory, but, strangely enough, I can still see her expression. It was matter-a-fact, warm and sincere as she said and I quote: “You’re not picky. You’re simply a woman who knows exactly what she wants.”

“You’re not picky. You’re simply a woman who knows exactly what she wants.”

Again, please: “You’re not picky. You’re simply a woman who knows exactly what she wants.”

In that moment, a dark room in my mind became flooded with light. In that moment, I understood something fundamental about my nature. In that moment, those words became permanently etched on my heart and mind. In that moment, my own heart embraced me, completely.

Yes, navy slingbacks and a shoe saleslady taught me how to embrace myself and changed my life.

Call to action: In the comments below, share, share, share. Do you have a re-defining moment? Is it easy or difficult for you to embrace your true self?

It Starts with the G-Word

Scenic telescope

Dear Reader!

This has been a very good weekend. On Friday, Michael came up from South Florida to see and just be with me and do nothing. And it reminded me that it was again time to give pause and remember what I can be grateful for.

I am so grateful for my mum and dad who have always given me an oasis of certain love in world where love is difficult if not impossible to find and keep. I am so lucky to still have BOTH of my parents here to talk and share with Every. Day.

With my circle of four (David, Catalin, LLJ, and Michael), I am grateful to have such “serious” relationships built on loving constancy that shows up Every. Day. When I told someone that my friend Michael was coming for a visit, he asked if it was “serious” between Michael and I. I said: “Yes, it is very “serious.” In fact, we’ve been “serious” for over 34 years!”

I am grateful that today I have this roof over my head (even though my neighbors are thoughtless arseclowns), that my tummy is sated from a breakfast of a cheese omelet and a refreshingly delicious green drink, and that another meal is highly likely later on.

I am grateful that even though illness came for a visit and made itself permanently at home in my body, I am stronger than I ever thought I could be.

I am such a lucky girl!

No, my life ain’t what I had hoped. It never was — and it will never be. And most days I cannot help but be a little — or, sometimes, a lot — cockeyed pining wistfully after my cherished delusions of happiness.

But it is clear that I have so much to be thankful for. So even when life drags me through a steaming pile of recurrent physical discomforts and emotional defeats and disappointments, gratitude sustains. Yes, gratitude gives me cause to stand up and spurs me to tread back into this jumbled, insane turmoil we call life.

Call-to-action: What about you? Share with us in the comment section what sustains you through life’s insanity and what you’re grateful for today?

Check out these related posts: Today, I Made My Mommy Cry… and Every Generation Is Right.

Yes, I Am Queen of Sheba

Joanne Woodward & Paul Newman

Dear Reader!

I love the movie the Long, Hot Summer (1958), starring the beautiful, blue-eyed Paul Newman (Ben Quick), a very young Joanne Woodward (Clara Varner), and a husky, swarthy, bearish Orson Welles (Will Varner).

This movie has a definite tone of the America South. And the dialogue is, well, good. Here is one of my favorite pieces expressed passionately by Miss Clara to Mr. Quick:

Mr. Quick, I am a human being. Do you know what that means? It means I set a price on myself: a high, high price. You may be surprised to know it, but I’ve got quite a lot to give. I’ve got things I’ve been saving up my whole life. Things like love and understanding and — and jokes and good times and good cooking. I’m prepared to be the Queen of Sheba for some lucky man, or at the very least the best wife that any man could hope for. Now, that’s my human history and it’s not going to be bought and sold and it’s certainly not gonna be given away to any passin’ stranger.

PSST! You decide.

You decide your worth.

Not he or she or “they,” but…

Whatever the price on your head, you decide.

So how much do you think you are worth?

Are you bargain basement? Are you on clearance? Or are you priced above stunning Pigeon Blood Red rubies accented with diamonds and set in an  intricately hand-engraved platinum setting?

Yes, you decide.

Call to action: What is your price and when did you decide your worth?

Check out this related post: Priced Above Rubies

 

This Is Life…

Dear Reader!

Annie Lennox, par excellence British songstress, once said: I can’t wait to go to bed at night. The world is quite exhausting. 

Oh, Annie, I couldn’t agree more.

Often, I pause… in the midst… and look at the throng of humanity that encircles me… this ever bustling collective that I am a member of…

a throng of humanity

Scurrying to and fro… to and fro… in a flurry of motion… always in a hurry… to get somewhere, anywhere, nowhere…

train station

And I cannot wait to be unstirred and enveloped in a soundless void, me, myself, and I…

person sitting on a bench in the middle of nowhere

Where I blissfully E-X-H-A-L-E into the whispering hush of twilight…

Dark night with a single star in the sky

And dream a childish dream of lying in a cheerful field of daisies, all eagerly stretching their petals up, up, up to touch the fabric of the soft, blue sky…

And I am not fiery… I am not discontent… I am not “blue”… I am not lonesome… I am nothing…

Woman asleep in a field of daises

And for a while there is the briefest intermission…

before I must crawl back into the light of another dawn with its frenzied to and fro, its infinite grind up the cliffs of life, its unbroken demands for my attention, and its outcries of woe, woe, woe…

A bed, morning light, and a cup of coffee

Call to action: At what time of the day do you find stillness? Share with us in the comments below.

 

Whatever We Think Matters…

A the universe superimposed over a human face

Dear Reader!

IT DOESN’T MATTER. Whatever you think matters–doesn’t. Follow this rule, and it will add decades to your life. It does not matter if you are late, or early; if you are here, or if you are there; if you said it, or did not say it; if you were clever, or if you were stupid; if you are having a bad hair day, or a no hair day; if your boss looks at you cockeyed; if your girlfriend or boyfriend looks at you cockeyed; if you are cockeyed; if you don’t get that promotion, or prize, or house, or if you do. It doesn’t matter. (Rule 1) ~ ROGER ROSENBLATT, Rules For Aging

Okay, I am just gonna fess up right now! Since my very first memory of myself, I have been neck-deep in my awareness, my feelings, and my reactions.

I take things seriously. I care deeply. I feel things passionately. I believe intensely.

And to what end?!

Maybe I treated my body like a temple and I got chronic illnesses anyway…

Maybe I invested almost two decades in a friendship and she just tossed it away like a Dixie cup anyway…

Maybe I handed the best parts of me over to him and he love bombed, devalued and discarded me anyway…

Maybe I was qualified for that position and they gave the opportunity to someone less qualified anyway…

Maybe I am really a beautiful butterfly having a really bad dream…

Maybe all that happened and more over the years, but here I sit still,  living and writing this post.

Oh, how I have raged against the shock, the pain, the disappointment, the harsh realities. And, oh, how I have plotted to be good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, enough…

But I am glad to say that I am over and done with all that now.

I wish I could say that this change in my way to be is solely the result of my becoming wiser from experience and better with age. There is some of that to be sure.

BUT, honestly, I am absolutely and positively bone weary from the futile melodrama of worry and the delusion of control.

I’m not mad, I’m not sad, I’m just done.

Yes, I still believe in doing my best, being my best, living by my professed values, and not settling for any nonsense… But I have a more serene, muted perspective now.

I have finally embraced with my whole heart a very hard truth: Life is not concerned with me — or you. Yes, you too. (Please, do not shoot me.) She just goes merrily, merrily on her way doing whatever the hell she feels like doing whenever and however she likes, regardless of how much it pains us.

And when most things are considered side by side with the vastness of our Universe and the certainty of our oblivion, what is the point of being so furious, so grieved, and so frantic?!

So lately, when Life is insensitive, narcissistic, downright stupid, and completely insane as she is often guaranteed to be, I stop and remind myself: It does not matter.

And almost instantly,  my panties get untwisted, my mind goes still, my racing galloping heart slows to a trot, and my sweaty armpits begin to feel a cool breeze…

Call to action: What about you? Are you still in the ring, getting boxed around and knocked down by Life? Or, have you discovered a way to peacefully co-exist with her, ringside?

Are You Happy, Baby?!

someone crying tears of sorrow

Dear Reader!

Tim Lott opened up and bled these words in his book “The Secret of Happiness? Stop Feeling Bad about Being Unhappy:” I wish I were happy all the time – I just don’t think it’s a very realistic possibility. The daily parade of disaster on the news is sobering enough. The fact of my own mortality is a downer. Old age and sickness frighten me. The difficulties of human communication produce as much isolation as connection. The corruption and venality of the powerful are daily reminders of the ubiquitous nature of injustice. The lot of most people in this country who simply work and work harder and harder in order to spend, or simply survive, strikes me as profoundly un-jolly.

Let me bleed a bit here too: I’ve lived long enough for any naïvety and delusions of perpetual “happiness” I may have had to have come to an agonizing demise after a lengthy illness.

Personally, I know all too well the heartbreak of having my heart taken, tricked, and discarded too many times and the disappointment and loneliness of having been carelessly discounted by “family,” so-called friends, and the world at large.

Then, there is living with the chronic, terminal illness that is life, which afflicts us all and forever lurks beneath the other inconvenient sicknesses, accidents, and freak accidents, that has us all living with one leg rooted on land and the other leg suspended over the edge of the Cliff of Oblivion.

It is no wonder that so many of us choose constant motion, endless activities and deafening distractions as a reprieve, a salve, against our fickle reality.

Daily, we all witness too many stupid, ridiculous, and shallow people and other amusements validated by “the powers that be,” and then sold to and bought by the gullible masses. And as a result, our information,  entertainment, and social media super highways have become like landfills littered with so much hazardous waste.

Globally, we all see too much senseless ugliness, injustice, evil, and apathy on the evening news; on the History Channel; and in our everyday observations of and interactions with our fellow human beings.

We are all chasing happiness, to no avail.

America is, arguably, #1 among all First World — advanced — countries. We are all very familiar with the “good,” so let us own the bad. We are also at the very top of the heap in matters like sexually transmitted diseases (STD), obesity (gluttony), stress, depression, consumption and over consumption (greed), suicide, homicide… I’ll stop here.

(SIGH)

Hmm-mm, am I happy?! Can I be perpetually happy?!

Are you?

Call to action: Share in the comments below your own thoughts on the chase for happiness.

You might enjoy this related post: Where Did Wonderful Go?!

Please, Don’t… Don’t Shoot!

the American flag with gun in holster lying on it

Dear Reader!

No law-abiding American should be made to face evil with empty hands. ~ National Rifle Association (NRA)

I hear you NRA, but here we are again

On Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, a 21-year old, white male entered a black church during Bible study, sat with the members for ONE hour — yes, ONE hour — before he gunned down nine souls, as he hurled words of racial hatred.

There is simply nowhere to hide from the homicidal unhappiness and mental illness of the few.

So what are we to do now that evil also again and again asserts its Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, picks up a gun, and goes hunting for law-abiding Americans?! What?!

Here’s the thing: People are dead. Children are dead. More of us will die. And while the 32% of Americans who own firearms may feel safer, more in “control,” I think it is safe to say that for all of us our peace of mind is also dead. (Interestingly enough, gun ownership in this country is on the decline!)

And the grim reality is this: We law-abiding Americans are not safe anywhere!

Not at our public gatherings. Not on our sidewalks. Not on our highways in our cars. Not at our malls. Not at our movie theaters. Not in our schools. Not in our homes. Not in police custody. Not even at our places of worship.

Not anywhere!

Maybe, we were never safe. Maybe, it is unlikely that we can or will ever be.

Ugh, are you terrified yet?!

I am.

Call to action: Are you terrified? Share in the comments below.

Is It OK to Be Satisfied with Enough?

the finger of destiny touching the finger of a man

Dear Reader!

Today, in the West, it seems like so many of us want to be somebody. Furthermore, we want the somebodies we choose to “love” to be somebody too. And as for our kids, well, so many are feeling suicidal under the enormous pressure to be somebody. And when we say somebody, we mean S-O-M-E-B-O-D-Y. Being a regular anybody just won’t do. It seems that more than ever, everybody wants to be one of the biggest, brightest somebody in the Universe.

We admire, bow and worship, and are captivated by outrageous success stories. These days, there is a S-O-M-E-B-O-D-Y to obsess over whatever your ambition.

But I have two questions: Is outrageous success a logical aspiration? And does it deserve to be worshiped?

Really, no one — no one — can predict the kind of other worldly success that flings a person into the stratosphere of: The Few. The Famous (or The Infamous). Or the brightest star you’ve ever seen.

So, it seems so fruitless and so sad to judge ourselves and everybody else as if this kind of success is a possibility for almost everyone. Frankly, outrageous success in any field is actually an unpredictable peculiarity, an irregularity. And its “merit” is in its unpredictability and its rarity.

No one can predict this kind of success. No one.

Yes, beneficiaries of outrageous success may put their hearts and souls and everything into an idea or a cause or the development of some talent. (Some just fall into it.) Whatever. This is essentially just placement — it is not, however, the reason for their success.

Rather, there is a huge element of the stars aligning, the skies parting, and Destiny being awake, paying attention, and touching them, as she simultaneously invokes the imagination of the masses. In other words, there is a huge element of timing and luck.

While hard work may be part of the process of success, it is not the defining factor. We all know that there are certainly more people who work hard and still fail than those who succeed. And then, there are those who toil at nothing or lack talent and are, in spite of themselves, a bright star among us.

The truth is, so many of us do have smashing ideas or great talents or true hearts. Many of us do toil, toil, toil. And we fail anyway to be one of the few flung that get flung into the heavens. Maybe it is us. Maybe the timing is wrong. Maybe the masses lack imagination. Maybe Destiny is taking a nap.

(SIGH)

Bottom line: No one knows why some succeed beyond their wildest dreams and others, equally talented and committed, don’t.

So if outrageous success is our goal, we must keep in mind that the only thing any of us can control is summoning the courage to start, the strength to do what we dream of over and over again for the joy of it or for the engagement. Then, maybe, hopefully, if the stars align, the skies part, and Destiny is awake, she chooses us.

And, for almost all of us, this will simply have to be success enough…

Call to action: If someone puts their heart and soul into a plan; work hard at it; and still fail, are they a success or a failure? Is it OK to be satisfied with enough?

Do You Want to Live Forever?

Clock

Greetings!

I recently saw The Age of Adaline (2015), starring Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Ellen Burstyn, Harrison Ford, and Kathy Baker.

Beautiful people. Beautiful outfits, Ms. Lively. Beautiful scenes. Beautifully quiet.

But boring. Really boring.

It is yet another contrived tale of youth, beauty, love, and immortality. Here’s a brief synopsis:

A beautiful (of course), 29-year old mother (Blake Lively) is “gifted” with immortality after a strange car accident involving a meteor (don’t ask), her heart stopping, her being struck by lightning, and then her heart restarting. She lives the next eight decades pretty much to herself, moving every 10 years or so to avoid discovery. Seriously, can you imagine her fate if any government caught wind of her secret?!

Tragically, while she may be young, beautiful, and very well dressed, she can never really live and love and be happy, because “change” doesn’t come easy to her. Immortality is, for her, a living death. After eight long decades of youth, beauty, and immortality, Adaline is not having a good time.

Only one person — her aging daughter — is privy to her deepest secret. She has, however, managed to keep one long-term female friendship with a blind woman who cannot see her secret. And then she meets him… Ellis (Michiel Huisman). And four days later, Adaline comes to a crossroad in her life… Will she finally trust someone enough to share her secret with them and, in effect, choose “life?”

Oops, was I snoring?! I’m sorry, but I told you it was unbelievably boring, except for the icky reveal (I still love you, Harrison).

Still, the movie did get me thinking and asking myself: “Janine, if given the choice, would you actually choose immortality over death?”

Here’s the thing: Death, the infinite darkness of the unknown, is fearsome.  And the process of aging, equally so. From the first moment we embrace the light, we are all careening on a well-trodden path to old age — if we’re lucky or unlucky, suffering along the way, and inevitably death. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would have to admit that we are terrified, a little or a lot, at the prospect of our own expiration. I am.

But if given the choice, would I, would you, choose to be forever young, forever beautiful, forever here? Forever young… Forever beautiful… Forever here…

Forever young… Forever beautiful… Forever here…

As seductive as that all sounds, I think before anyone can answer that question with any intelligence, they should first ask themselves another: “Do you have the capacity and the desire to love?”

You see, I think everyone could enjoy the perks of immortality — in the short-term. Short-term, before the losses pile up, it might be grand fun. But only a psychopath or a narcissist has any real possibility of enjoying it long-term.

Why? Well, since these people care about no one but themselves, other people are interchangeable to them. It is this defining characteristic, their inability to love, that makes them the most likely of us to truly enjoy the “gift” of immortality. For them, an eternity of “Next” would probably be simple easy, or at the very least simpler easier, choices.

But if you, on the other hand, have the capacity and the desire to love other people, life would eventually become absurd, hopeless, and bitter. Think… Think about how agonizing it is to lose loved ones in one lifetime, never mind many! Or, maybe worse of all, to always have to stand emotionally on the outskirts of love, never able to fully submit, to fall.

This price alone would be too costly for most of us to pay — it became so for Adaline. The truth is, for most of us to enjoy living forever, we would need to have the power to invite everyone we love or would ever love to take the journey with us.

Then, there is also the issue of how intolerably bored most of us feel on a quiet Sunday afternoon with no distractions, nothing to do, and no one to see.

So with that said, my final answer is a fearful no.

Call to action: In the comment section below, answer this question: “Do you want to live forever?”

It Was Always Lucille

gibson guitars

Greetings!

Last week a legendary blues artist and guitarist died. And by his own account he had fathered 15 children with 15 different women and had 50 grandchildren.

When my mum told me he had died and the fact that he had fathered 15 children with multiple women, I tweeted and texted to four of my closest friends: “A famous man died last night leaving behind 15 children with multiple women and 50 grandchildren. What does this factoid say about the man?”

One friend (male) texted, “Typical.”

Another friend (also male) texted, “He had 15 children he could take care of! There are so many black men who have nearly as many and cannot support none. It is not ideal… He was no saint, but not all of the 15 women were angels. Some saw an opportunity and took it.

And someone (male) tweeted back, “He loved women and he gave 15 people the gift of life.”

My mum said, “Mm. He shared the “love.” 15 different women. How disgusting!”

And another friend (female) texted in response to the tweeter, “Well, that’s one way to put a positive spin on it.”

Here’s the thing: Frankly, this man was free to make his choices and he did. But when I heard this factoid, any respect I could possibly have had for this man was lost at “he fathered 15 children with multiple women.”

However, when someone tweeted that “He loved women and he gave 15 people the gift of life,” I got to thinking  a little deeper about love, life, and character.

First, love is sublime and upscale, which is to say that it breathes profundity, discrimination, and elevation into what is beloved. While I cannot speak to the content of all this man’s relationships with women. The evidence of his choices would suggest that his associations lacked, generally, any great emotional profundity or depth or elevation. And I feel very comfortable saying the following with a great degree of certainty: His behavior with women was not driven by love. It was driven by the other L-word lust and the numerous opportunities he was given by women to f**k bare back.

Second,  daddies are NOT optional! But a man does not “give” the gift of life. A man contributes to the process. It is a woman that sustains life within her womb for nine months, and then she gives birth to life through hard labor.

So I broke down and I Googled him, and I learned this from an article in the New York Times: … his great love, his guitar. And he addressed his guitars — big Gibsons, curved like a woman’s hips — as Lucille.

Also, being part of the reason why another being is here is no small matter! This man’s approach definitely appeared to be slapdash, thank you ma’am, which is no way to attend the very important matter of the creation of life.

Furthermore, whether life is a gift depends a great deal on the innate nature of each individual, as well as how they feel about and process their parents’ involvement in their lives and the quality of that involvement.

Finally, yes. Yes, I would agree that it is very likely that most of those women, who gave birth to his 15 children, were opportunists. But regardless, we are all still accountable for our choices. That is, life presents us all with opportunities and struggles and how we choose to take advantage of those opportunities and cope with those struggles exposes, for better or worse, the content of our character.

P.S. I believe he really did love his Lucille, deeply. What he did with a Gibson guitar was sublime, profound and elevated. There is no doubt from his life’s work what he really loved.

Call to action: In the comments below, share what you think about how our choices tell on us?

Did You Get the Script?!

two pictures: mother & child; wife & husband

Greetings!

So it’s the day after Mother’s Day and yesterday got me thinking about an experience I had not too long ago.

It was a really pretty, sunny day. And my mum and I were chatting away about nothing as we sauntered across the parking lot of our local grocery store when we spotted Rose, the young woman who works as the office administrator in Dr. V’s office. And in tow, she had three of the cutest little kids, a son, a daughter, and a nephew.

So we greeted her excitedly and I made the casual, small talk statement, “So there’s life outside of Dr. V’s office?!”

Rose’s reply was swift, definite, and full of pride of achievement: “Yes, there is. I am a wife and a mother too.”

Her words and the supreme confidence with which she stated them got me thinking and examining the idea of roles and how they have applied to my life.

newborn baby

All the world’s a stage. ~ WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

From the first moment our lungs expand with the acceptance of the breath of life, we begin playing our first, inescapable role: a daughter or a son.

Then, depending on how the roles are casted, you may be a sister or a brother too.

Next, as we grow into life, we hopefully become a loyal friend to someone and they to us.

And if you choose it and/or Lady Fortune has her way with you, you may play the role of a wife or a husband — legally or in spirit — and then,  a mother or a father.

While there are other roles one can play on the stage that is a human life, these roles are fundamental. For most of us, these roles are a way of keeping up with the passage of time. That is, they provide evidence — milestones, if you will — that we are here, that we are engaged in the interplay of living, that we have given something back to life.

Like it or not, these fundamental roles often define us, for better or worse; provide us with structure; lend us purpose; and even give our existence a greater depth and range.

But the way of life and individual human nature is random and the path uneven and littered with obstacles and interference.  For one reason or another and/or misfortune, we can fail to meet our destined co-stars.

Or, maybe like me, you had certain instructive experiences in your youth that coloured your entire perspective and, therefore, the choices you made along the way.

Since I had only witnessed indifferent or unhappy marriages and I had always sensed that life was a dark comedy with just a enough light moments and delusions interspersed between the dark to keep most of us in the play and on stage, I decided to not be a wife (what man could I trust with forever) or a mother (why would I pass on uncertainty, injustice, sickness, and death to another soul).

I don’t know, maybe life did send me the wife/mother script a time or two, but I had already said an emphatic “I’m not interested” to both early on.

And while I do not regret my choices and I have a pretty good idea of the pros and cons of what I missed out on, I can’t help but wonder sometimes: Am I no one if I have never been a wife or  a mother? Have I lived an incomplete life? Did these choices make my life less?

Call to action: In the comments below, how do you feel about the fundamental roles and how they’ve played out in YOUR life?

Every Generation Is Right

marble statue of a woman thinking

Greetings!

Every generation proclaims that their generation is the worst ever. And guess what?! Every generation is correct. The ugly truth is: The heart of humankind, collectively, has always had a deep streak of deceit, perversity, and wickedness. Yes.

And today, like no other time in the history of humankind, thanks to the reach, grasp, and speed of the Internet that feeds our insatiable and predatory greed and envy; to various technological “progresses;” and to very sophisticated instruments of destruction with which the most evil among us can very efficiently annihilate other souls en masse, human existence has arrived at a record low of utter chaos, unbearable despair, and unparalleled ridiculousness.

This weekend in the news, in one part of the world, the British royal family welcomed its newest member — a girl — into its inner circle of privilege, while in another distant part of the world Nigeria, hundreds of kidnapped women and children were finally… finally… finally rescued from terrorists’ camps. When I examine the gross disparity between these two news stories, I can’t help but ask: What is optimism?

For those crushed beneath the lack of to satisfy ravenous consumers;

For those whose hunger will not be fed to satisfy those that know not “enough;”

For those whose bodies are pillaged and peddled to satisfy base carnality;

For those whose spirits are trampled to satisfy those too weak inside or too stupid to be good and kind;

For those who have not the luxury of leisure and stability to anguish over what or who to be or how to choose between good, best, and even better;

For those whose destinies are stolen to satisfy the means to another’s end.

Every generation proclaims that their generation is the worst ever. And guess what?! Every generation is correct.

What is optimism for those who die
unwashed, unknown, unloved, without.

It’s for them I despair; it’s for them I grieve, for they are us and we are them.

So optimism may well be an illusion for those of us whose bellies are round and full and whose skin is smooth and cool to the touch.

Call to action: In the comments below, share if you agree or disagree with me that optimism is an illusion of the West? And how do you feel about how Lady Luck metes out privilege or opportunity to a few and sorrow and injustice to, too many?

Love Fights

love doesn't make us fight for it. love fights for us.

Greetings!

I want to give you the 411 on real love, whether it be friendly, familial, or romantic:

Love does NOT toss you away like a used Kleenex or a Dixie cup. EVER.

Love is steadfast, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

Love has integrity and will NEVER make you beg or make lame arse excuses for why it failed to attend. But if it is real and your life depends on it, it will get down on its hands and knees, even crawl across hot asphalt strewn with broken glass on the hottest day of summer, and beg for you (figuratively, of course).

Love is as dependable as sunrise — even when you’ve really pissed it off.

Believe these words like your heart and the quality of your life depend on it, because… because… they do.

Call to action: In the comments, please share with us an instance when love fought for you or you for it. Then, go out into the world and look for opportunities to fight for someone you love.

And if you missed it, check out my earlier post So “Connected,” So Alone.

Also, if you want an exceptional model of real love, check out CBS’s Blue Bloods. Ooh, I love the Reagans! Heck, I want to be a Reagan!