From Pleasure, Pain

This is the first in a series of blog posts about what I see as the paradox of love. This essay is my answer to the prompt, what has brought you to your knees? I’m not sure where I’ll go with this. Maybe you can help. Ask me questions, or prompt me in some direction. Please keep in mind, this is merely my take. Feel free to provide yours.

Nothing begins, nothing ends,
that is not paid for with moan;
for we are born in other’s pain,
and perish in our own.
~ Francis Thompson

Twenty years ago, I started using the phrase it’s all about how we feel. Normally, I’d caveat such a mantra by claiming it only applied to people without mental health issues. In this case, I think the words apply universally. How do you feel?

Love is the highest standard we have for caring about others. In literature, movies, music, religion, and in our daily lives; our obsession with love is obvious. It’s poorly defined, extensively written about, and grammatically misused; but love is everywhere in the English language. We want to love and to be loved. It’s our ultimate pleasure. How sweet love is.

I embrace love, but I fear pain. Pain can take over my body. Excruciating physical pain has brought me to my knees. It’s absurd that such pain may be helpful as it travels my nervous system from its source to my brain. Pain is abnormal. Even though we all experience pain, it’s not supposed to be there unless something is wrong. Pain is a symptom more useful to doctors than to me.

As bad as physical pain is, emotional pain is more devastating. In extreme cases, mental grief often leads to thoughts of suicide. In physical pain I might say, I want to die; but, I never intended that. I only wanted the pain to stop. On the other hand, people in emotional agony can be dangerous.

Our vulnerability to emotional pain is greatest when we love someone. When we love another person, we grant that person more power over us than any god or demon. Still, we choose to love. Not just willingly, but aggressively with passion and desire. Why? It’s like we can’t live without it. If anyone does live without love, we consider that sad and dysfunctional.

Love has brought me to my knees in two ways. First, the wondrous and joyful pleasure of experiencing love has led me to my knees with happiness. Be it romantic love, love of parents, love of children, grandchildren, or friends; the wonderful state of love takes away the dark and gives light.

Second, love has dropped me in pain, in fear, in a depressingly dark, hateful passion. Love betrayed leaves behind lifelong scars too deep to ever completely heal. The end of a romance, the betrayal of a friendship, the dismissal of a parent we love, the suffering or death of a child; each of these may, and perhaps should, put me on my knees. Such pain and agony from the dark side of love makes me question the value of life.

There may be recovery or even pleasure at the end of the tunnel. Time may mend love betrayed. Still, our human nature forces us to look back into that dark tunnel, into that abyss of pain and suffering. We remember. Do we dare to ever again risk pain by making ourselves vulnerable? Do we face the agony of finding ourselves desperately miserable because we loved?

Why do we do it? Would you, could you, live without love?

That’s a paradox of love. We know the risks, the vulnerability, and the potential to suffer. And yet, we still seek out love and take the risk. How do you feel now?

Even when we look both ways and mind each gap, we will experience pain in life.

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you.
You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
― Bob Marley (20 years after his death, which means he never said it. True, nonetheless.)

The youtube poem below is worth hearing/reading, and I think the Love Hurts song by Nazareth is worth a listen.

 

Mother’s Happiness

I know little of what my parents thought about any deep subject such as a philosophy of life or their world view. I managed no more than hints or rare tidbits. Regarding my father, I remember too much of the bad and little of the good. The opposite is true of my mother.

I remember more in Mom’s case, and most of it good. The few bad memories were usually not her doing. Mom may have had her share of bad days, but I can’t remember one that was her fault.

My clearest memories are the pleasant ones about our overall relationship. We were close. Not in the best of friends sense you may hear some parents brag about. Mom was my parent – not my friend.

As a teenager or young adult, I would have railed against being called a “momma’s boy.” I now look back on our relationship with pride.

My mother protected me, mostly from Dad, but also from a few other things. Oddly, not from bullies. If I developed an early skill in dealing with them, it was avoidance. Later in life, my approach was more direct. Conversely, she liked telling people how she often broke blood vessels in her hands spanking me. I don’t recall any of that.

She and I argued our share. I was a momma’s boy – not a good or obedient boy. There were times when I was disappointed in her for not coming to my aid. Looking back, I now realize how right she was.

When she did help me, she did it her way. She helped me in a manner that permitted me the dignity of learning difficult lessons the hard way – which was apparently my preference. When she felt like I needed to learn a painful lesson, she gave me the space I needed. I now realize how difficult that must have been for her. My mother’s love for me, and mine for her were never in question.

When Dad’s health was declining and she felt like she needed to help him, she postponed action on the lump in her breast. After his death, she moved on to her own health care. Everything she did during the period of that treatment, she did with the occasional assistance of her sister. My sister and I lived too far away to be of much help.

While Mom was a long-term breast cancer survivor, the invasive disease brought on her death only after she decided to end most of the treatment.

But years before that, the spot on her lung had been removed and she was recuperating in the hospital the day my flight from Texas arrived in Pennsylvania. Walking down the hospital hallway, the sounds and smells were unique. I would know where I was had I been awakened blind.

As I walked down the hall following the directions I’d been given, I knew I would take the next right into another hall, then right again into her room. I anticipated walking in and finding her groggy and sore from the surgery. I envisioned her smiling up at me, weak and tired. I turned the corner.

The window at the end of that hall looked down on the hospital’s parking lot. Its sill of hard tile was about a foot deep. My recovering mother could easily sit there and gaze down to the parking lot, watching for me.

When she heard my voice, she turned her head and saw me walking toward her. The day after surgery, my 70-something mother jumped off the sill and started running toward me. Mom drove her five-foot-tall frame hard against me, wrapped her arms firmly around me, and then pulled my face down and kissed me.

After I suggested that she get back into bed, we walked to her room and she slid back onto the sheets and pillow. Mom was excited and chatty. She was always happy to see me. But on that day, her response was overwhelming. The doctors and nurses kept Mom alive. All I had to do was walk down the hall at the right time. I became the star of her show. I will always remember how happy she was to see me that day. I’m glad I could help.

Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere.
Look both ways and mind the gaps.

A to Z Blog Challenge and National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) Review and Recap

 

Click on the graphic to link to the National Poetry Writing Month page.

April was my second time doing the A to Z blog challenge. I combined it with my first attempt at the National Poetry Month (NaPoWriMo) challenge. For 2017, poetry was my theme for A to Z. With four exceptions, my poems were in alphabetical order according to topic or poetic form. I had 30 posts for NaPoWriMo, 26 of which I used for A to Z. The NaPo challenge was to write (post) a poem each day.

My theme developed over time. I wrote poetry every day, but I didn’t finish a poem on each day. Some poems took more than a week, while one or two others were ready in hours. I thought some of my poems were long, but that relates to form, content, and purpose.

NaPoWriMo provides optional daily prompts. I did not use the prompts because my rookie status as a poetry writer and dual use with A to Z were complicated enough. Next year I hope to: participate with the poetry month challenge, write one poem each day (start to finish), and use the prompts provided. I also used poems for my weekly writing class assignments, instead of prose essays. I don’t plan to participate with the A to Z challenge again.

However, I’ve always liked poetry, even though I know so little about it. During April, I discovered my greater love of poetry and an overwhelming fondness for writing poems. I grew increasingly curious about poetic forms, genres, and styles. I read several books about poetry and many poems. My quest to learn continues.

My A to Z reveal was the most popular of related posts. The best-liked of my poems were Specks: Coincidence meets Kismet and Sunday Lions. By far, the most commented on was the Collaboration Poem, Dewey and Dad, with my daughter. Other well-liked poems included my Haiku; Onomatopoeia, Never Again, and Regna, The Poetry of Art. Zumurgy Blessings finished off the month well liked.

Surprises that did not do well included my sonnet, the tercet, and the poem on coal miners. Dark poems did not do as well as others. Maybe I should not be surprised. I enjoy dark poems and don’t consider mine as bleak as many. However, since I struggled with those three poems (each for a different reason), it’s more likely they were simply not so good.

Another surprise lesson: I can’t predict what you will like. I can tell from your comments how a poem affected you. I received strong positive comments about twaddle I considered only so-so. Things I thought good, took a long time, or challenged me most, were not always popular. For example, the Sunday Lion verse and Xu (Bang the Gong) I wrote quickly and were liked; whereas, I worked for days on the coal miner poem and the sonnet and they sort of flopped. But, there were some positive comments.

Many readers never click like or comment (maybe can’t). So, I don’t get every reader’s feedback. The bane of a writers craft, “what will readers like?” In some cases, there were more likes on Facebook than on this blog. Another example: when I posted the poem about the deer on the Historical Society’s Facebook page there were more likes, but who knows why? This is no scientific evaluation, despite the best efforts of WordPress to collect data. And no one said anything derogatory.

Bottom line, I learned that, for me, poetry is fun – reading it, hearing it, writing it, or remembering it (we memorized O Captain! My Captain! in grade school). I enjoy relating to love poems, poems about nature or human nature, or the occasional taste of the dark side.

Thank you for reading this. If you will excuse me, I have poems to write, read, and to memorize.

Life is lived forward and understood backward,
but look both ways and mind the gaps.

K – Kismet (NaPoWriMo #13)

Kismet (kiz-met) means destiny, or fate; or a power that is believed to control what happens in the future. The word kismet come to us from Turkish, originally from the Arabic word qisma (keese-mah), meaning portion or lot. There is so much poetry about, or related to, kismet that it seems to be its own type within a genre.

Specks: Coincidence meets Kismet
By Bill Reynolds

Among the billions traveling through space…
Two specks of dust without direction or purpose,
None aware of another, simple lifeless vectors of eternity
on pointless, unrelated journeys to nowhere.

Each born of events eons past in both time and distance,
mindless entities uncaring, without purpose or reason.

Unguided, random, alone, on endless journeys to
nothingness, absent of all consciousness, awareness, or
desire in the vast universe of both
loving and frightening utter insignificance.

They do not know, do not feel, do not see, do not care.
Mindless and might be as well, not to exist at all.

Set apart in time and distance, spirits within–
Still unfulfilled, unknowing of self, unknowing of others.
Closer they loom but continue to wander,
thru time and thru space with nothing to ponder.

Then a fire starts to burn. There is something.
A light. A spark. A slowing from forever’s pointlessness.

Slowly, one at a time, a special day, each glides to a stop…
With spirit and magic, of others around they’re now more aware.
Spirit knows life and begins to evolve,
with wonders and mysteries yet to resolve.

They notice things now, a rhythm, a beat they can hear;
There’s movement within, fluid awareness begins.

There are noises and smells, they feel things
And notice more, it’s like nothing before.
Now being, now joining,
Each has become, part of life here on earth.
Each morphs into a part of the soul of a child.

Each has one life and each grows to a person…
with love and with needs, and all that should follow.

What was that fire? Where did it start?
Both still in the universe, but no longer apart.
Each gradually feels more awake, more abiding,
Each strives on and on, to be with one who is living.

People and places and sights and sounds.
Emotions and tastes and the hearing of life.

The specks found common goals, one mission in life,
to find something missing, the whole of it all.
Through the eyes of their hosts, each speck meets the other.
Instantly their kismet arrives, as love for all their lives.

Their kismet has sent them to be as they are,
from that moment on, they’re forever together.

Now fully aware of why they are here,
the hosts of the specks become a great couple.
In love and now bonded together as one,
they move through this life, both sharing a fate.

A journey of eons with circumstance shared…
the past has been long, their future’s eternity.

Has coincidence brought two lovers together?
Or was their kismet at work without a conclusion?
The humans may pass, but the specks live forever.
Their love will go on, into ever and ever.

 

What is our kismet?
Seek your destiny — but look both ways, and mind the gaps.

The universe is important. Click here to learn all you need to know,
in about four minutes. It’s well done and funny.

 

Understanding Poetry

Let’s face it. While poems are to express a feeling or an idea in a certain style, we don’t always understand them. I love poetry. I try to write it. I admit that it can be more complicated than we prefer, and perhaps more than this Old Texas Aggie’s gray matter can process.

poetry-2

Sometimes, as with music, it just sounds so damn good, even though I have no clue about the subject or purpose of the piece. Poetry sounds especially wonderful when read by the right, good voice. It works for me, even with my uncertainties about understanding the art.

I like the synonyms for poetry, chiefly versification, metrical composition, balladry, and the archaic (and perhaps politically incorrect) poesy. Occasionally, I run across a fine piece of balladry that I not only enjoy and understand, but I also relate to with some internal passion — Hell Yes!

I love irony in life, in writing, in humor, and in verse. It strokes my silly ego to find others who give a pass to the literal minds of the world, and share my ironic reality. Last week I was handed a poem that was published in Stanford Magazine (Jan/Feb 2017), written by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin, titled: Alma Mater.

poetry-5

For me, this poem glorifies the wonderful simplicity of ordinary lives, and it resonates in me the value of things like freedom and love and family and friends. All of which wear the tag: priceless!

ALMA MATER

My apologies for using a link, but the publisher is unable to grant permission for me to republish at this time. Please click here to read the short poem from the Stanford Magazine page.

Because this is from the magazine of a prestigious American University (Stanford, I did not go there, but she did), I think Mary is referring to her alma mater. But, she could also mean any parent, friend, or muse who we believe had greater material expectations of us. It reminds me of that meme, “How do you measure success?”

poetry-3

Here are four lines of my own poetic dribble. I have been massaging this clunker for a while, there is more, but it’s nowhere near finished. I wonder if it conveys the right emotion.

Always, you’ve been here with me,
As children, we survived my foolish resistance.
While we ponder our thoughts, I sense yours in me,
As we bind together, into one two-sided life.

 

poetry-1If you wanna write some, there are on-line poetry challenges, such as NaPoWriMo during April (sign ups begin 1 March 2017). You will be challenged to write a poem each day. I do the A-to-Z blog challenge during that month, so not sure that I could keep up. Maybe.

…. Great love. (In tribute to Pat Conroy)

Poetry or prose, mind the gaps and look both ways.

Our Struggle with Love

valentine-2

Mom frequently told me that she loved me. I don’t recall Dad saying it. If he told me, it was seldom. They both loved me; and while I loved them back, the feeling that I had was not the same for each. What was that? One word with so many meanings.

We even manage to say love to express approval of inanimate objects, “Oh, I love that pizza.” Or, as my young grandchild copied from his mother, disapproval: “I’m not lovin’ it!” He was too young for such a trendy (now trite) phrase, but he understood it.

If we considered all the meanings we have for the word and lined them up on our continuum of human emotions, the variety would defy any logic we use to keep saying it. Fortunately, context helps us out and we socially understand each other’s intent. We would need to invent too many new words to replace love. Someone once told me, “I love you, but I’m not in-love with you, if you know what I mean.” I understood and welcomed the explanation since the first three words could be concerning, but still not necessarily unwelcome.

valentine-1Regarding romantic love, it is one of the most fantastic feelings we can experience. We can even see that love feeling in friends who have fallen into love, head over heels. More evidence for the wonderfulness of amour is that the love and lust emotions get us in so much hot water, but we seem to dive right in anyway. It’s such a good thing. Would we be human without it? Barring some interfering DSM IV, mental problem diagnosis, we all love someone, and usually many people. And each feeling of love will be different from person to person, but it’s still love.

All love makes this world a better place. We’ll never have too much love in the world, but we seem to have too little of it. We have faced that since the beginning of time – too little caring about each other.

Enjoy The Youngbloods as they sing one of my best-liked, hippy love songs from the 1960s: Get Together. I’ve provided the lyrics below, as well as links to two other love-tunes.

The Youngbloods – Get Together lyrics

Love is but a song to sing//Fear’s the way we die//You can make the mountains ring//Or make the angels cry//Though the bird is on the wing//And you may not know why.

Come on people now//Smile on your brother//Everybody get together//Try to love one another//Right now.

Some may come and some may go//We shall surely pass//When the one that left us here//Returns for us at last//We are but a moment’s sunlight//Fading in the grass.

Refrain//refrain//refrain

If you hear the song I sing//You will understand (listen!)//You hold the key to love and fear//All in your trembling hand//Just one key unlocks them both//It’s there at your command.

Refrain//refrain//refrain

Right now…

Right now….

Also, Haddaway’s is a more erotic and fun video of What is Love (click here); and Dionne Warwick finishes up with What the World Needs Now is Love (click here). None of these songs have many lyrics, but I love them anyway.

valentine-3

Happy Valentine’s Day.
Remember, love is a two-way street.
So, mind the gaps and be sure to look both ways.

Morality, Sin, and I over E (I/E)

Disclosure: I’m of the there are no gods variety of atheist. Consequently, there’s no sin. Since we can’t have one without the other, sin is a word I use only because the majority use the word, even if they’re agnostic. But, there is some general agreement about what is or isn’t moral behavior.

 

morality-1

The past few weeks, I’ve posted about the seven deadly, and predominantly Christian, sins of greed, pride, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. I also provided a brief contrast with an opposite word. My approach was based on the source of our behavior, our human mind and emotions. Each of the seven begins with an emotion that may later be manifest in behavior – we act based on how we feel.

Writers have a phrase: show me, don’t tell me. In movies, the words and actions of the actors are used to portray thoughts and feelings. In my opinion, we cannot choose each emotion. Happiness is a little different. We can be happy people and still experience dark-side emotions. Furthermore, we can usually choose our behavior. Some comments have implied that we’re in total control over emotions, and then control our actions, as well. While I don’t share that opinion, my behavior is based upon my emotional state has led to more apologies from me than I care to admit – slow learner.

As a society, a nation, or arguably, within a religion, we subjectively decide what’s moral. It changes over time, and we routinely disagree about what’s unacceptable (political-type disagreements). While we don’t always agree, often we do.

In the title equation, I = intellect, and E = emotion. When we experience emotions, we follow that feeling with behavior. To the degree that we can, ideally, we choose the behavior we morally and intellectually we want to display. For example, if someone elicits our anger, jealousy, or some other feeling from our complex emotional spectrum, we then pick our next move. I over E implies that we select our words or actions based on our intellect (good judgment, wisdom), rather than the emotion we feel. It’s not easy to behave contrary to how we feel. Nor is it always necessary. Going with our emotions (following our heart) is very often our best and most sincere option. We love with not only our personal emotions, but often those of others. How others tug at our emotions makes life magical. Life is wondrous, but not simple.

The common thread that I’ve stitched through each of the seven is that emotions are not sins. Feelings are legitimate. Be they good or bad feelings, it’s our behavior that determines anything about moral standards. And it doesn’t make a tinker’s-dam if one believes in a god, gods, or none. Each of the seven have opposite virtues. Every good person has a dark side. Every saint has a past; every sinner a future.

Humans are very much part of nature. We are where we belong. Our greatest need is for each other. Our greatest challenge is in dealing with each other.

Our lives are full of stepping stones to make life better and with stumbling blocks that bring us incredible amounts of pain and suffering – and valuable lessons.

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Let’s be accepting and understanding of ourselves and others to the degree that we’re able. We are not static beings. We’re who and what we are, but we have opportunities and futures. We come into this world as we are – a combination of physical and mental paradoxes and mysteries. A lot happens between the average birth and death. This includes running the bases of virtuous and bad behavior, and the personal experience of staring into the abyss that is us.

Look both ways, and mind the gap.