Refuge

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of refuge – what does it mean; is there really such a thing as refuge; if so, what does it look like?  Of course, it’s a huge psychological “tell” to acknowledge that the idea of refuge has become very important to me.  I’m a 60 year-old man who has dealt with a series of challenges – some of my own making or weakness, some largely outside my control.  And now, as the security and warmth of my marriage is becoming history, of course I’m thinking about what’s next and whether I will ever feel safe and tranquil again.  And the problem is, I really have no idea. No idea whether the future offers security and satisfaction, and, no idea what the heck a “safe” refuge might even look like.

There’s a line from the Eagles’ song, “Lyin Eyes,” that I absolutely love.  It goes like this: “I guess every form of refuge has its price”.  Zing! Simple and clear.  And ain’t it the truth?  When it comes down to it, we never really get something (especially something we really want) for nothing.  Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that this wonderful thing we are enjoying was really a gift; ours to enjoy just because we deserve it or are simply fortunate – but we ARE fooling ourselves if we think that way.  It was paid for or acquired at some sort of cost, guaranteed.

I am writing this while sitting at the Seattle airport, on my way to the town to which I’m about to move.  My feelings are a bit jumbled.  On the one hand I am grateful for the opportunity presented by my new job: a fresh start, the chance to do something meaningful in more than merely a financial way (I’ve been hired to run a non-profit that is doing good, important work); the means to move to a fresh, attractive place I hope will be good to live in; the many new people I will meet and with whom I can build new relationships.  Simultaneously, I am nervous, even scared; not sure what my daily life will look or feel like and whether I can get used to it; uncertain that I will succeed, professionally and personally, as I’d like.  Oh, and I’ll miss the places and people that became the backbone of my life over the last 34 years.  You get it.

I know, I need to stop being a baby and embrace the future.  And I will, but it’s a process. That brings me back to the “refuge” concept.  Of course it has a price.  But in this case I wonder: Has the price for my refuge already been paid – it’s been a tough last 10 years or so – or, is there more, in form(s) I don’t know about, to be paid in the future?  Yes, yes, yes, obviously I am completely adept at driving myself crazy with this stuff.  I am blessed and cursed with a good, active mind.  But change is always challenging – and this monologue is clarifying for me just how big this change is for me.  I AM embracing this new life and opportunity, but it’s a huge change, with lots at stake.  A little certainty, some clear refuge (with a known price tag) sure would be nice.  Or maybe I just need to get better at dealing with uncertainty.

Thanks for listening.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  Ciao…

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Ashamed To Admit It…

But this is how I have felt throughout much of the personal odyssey I’ve been through over the last year: childlike, as in the poem I share below.  Thanks for reading…

Childlike

His fears were like those of a child

Vague, ill defined; lacking logic

But pervasive and unshakable,

Preying on his insecurity

 

A child has a blanket or toy to clutch,

Can call on his family for aid;

Be held by his father,

Reassured by his mother

Maybe distracted by siblings;

Loved ones piercing fear’s veil

 

But he was no child

A grown man now on his own

Torn from his loved ones

And striking out alone,

Solitary despite his desires

 

It was new ground,

A landscape he did not know;

A path he could not see,

Reducing his outlook to a state

Of juvenile discomfort

A vast, overwhelming fear

He couldn’t comprehend

 

But he was no child

To be rescued by loving family,

No childish talisman to hold

His only choice: step forward,

Confront his fears,

Hope they lack substance

Mere apparitions

From childish dreams

What Will They Say When I’m Gone?

I’ve been wondering lately if my self image is at all aligned with how others – in particular my loved ones – see me.  Wrote a poem about it I’d like to share with you.  Here it is….

Eulogy

Death has been on my mind of late

My age, mood and circumstances

All seem to point in one direction

Causing me to wonder about my fate

And what happens after

It’s not the hereafter that concerns me

That’s just too big a puzzle;

Completely out of my control

I think instead about those left behind

How they will feel

What they will say

The legacy I will leave

When attending a funeral

I listen carefully to what is said

About the deceased

The impact he had

The feelings she evoked

I’m often amazed by the sentiments expressed

And the emotions that are shown

Inevitably I wonder,

How will I shape up?

Will my loved ones

Speak so glowingly

And feel such loss?

More important,

Will I leave them with memories

That offer comfort and peace?

I once cared how the world perceived me

Was I successful, respected and notable?

But the world won’t speak at my funeral

That will fall to the ones I know and love best

So that has become my measure:

What will my loved ones say,

How have I impacted them?

For my sake and theirs

I pray I leave

A legacy of love and hope

Because that’s how I want it to be

And it’s all that really matters

 

Fading Away

Here’s another poem for you.  Yes, a little grim.  Oh well….

 

Faded Image

What does she see when she looks at me?

Is the image complete and true

Or does it lack detail and definition?

 

I imagine it’s like an old photo

Once clear and sharp

Now ravaged by time and neglect,

It has faded,

Losing color and clarity

Past splendor lost, irretrievable

 

Is this faded picture what she sees?

Does she remember the details

That have been altered over time,

So they are no longer obvious

But are still critical to understanding?

Or does she accept the image as true and complete,

Ignoring important parts,

Missing the context and texture of the picture?

 

I sense it’s the latter that’s true

Now when I’m with her

I feel incomplete and barely seen

An image, not flesh and blood

Familiar but very old

And badly faded

Hard for her to see

Unworthy of her embrace

 

Uncomfortably Numb

It has been a LONG time since I last wrote, and my most recent posts have largely been poems – nothing truly current and personal.  I’ve started to write on several occasions, but, honestly, had a hard time coming up with lucid thoughts or even clear emotions about things.  I’ve been wondering about this – I’m RARELY at a loss for something to say and in recent years have been much more in touch with my feelings than I used to be.  So, why the lack of material to share with you?

When I started this blog I shared the fact that I was newly on my own as the result of dealing with a divorce.  The divorce process has been fraught with strong emotions, mood swings and fear about what the future holds.  I’ve grown used to that condition.  Well, things have changed.  My wife and I have basically concluded the divorce process and are now waiting for the date the dissolution will become official.  Yeah, I just said a mouthful.  All those months of sadness, anger and fear and now, I feel…. uncomfortably numb (to paraphrase a Pink Floyd song).  There is still sorrow and anger and fear – but they have all been dumbed down; buried beneath a layer of ice or a couple of feet of water.  And I REALLY don’t like it.

You would think I would be happy to get some relief from the strong emotions associated with the divorce.  But instead, I feel like nothing is familiar and it is very hard to know what I should be doing or even determine whether I’m ok.  Honestly, I have no idea how I’m doing.  And all that really sucks.  I don’t like feeling numb.  It’s even worse than being sad.  I hope something else comes along soon.

Ok, ANOTHER thing I haven’t done lately is share any food experiences.  Here’s one, not a biggie, but quite a staple of my diet.  I have come to call it my Ultimate Meat Sauce and have been working on the recipe for some time.  You see, I use this sauce for a variety of purposes – with spaghetti or other pasta; on a meat sauce sandwich (love them!), with meatballs, rice, etc.  You get the idea.  So, I want it to taste just right – full, a little spicy, very meaty and with a taste that lingers on for a bit.  Well, I finally got it right; hence the Ultimate Meat Sauce.  A picture follows.  Can’t you just taste it? Come visit and I’ll give you some.   Ciao all.

Spaghetti Sauce

ANGER (A poem)

Not doing much new cooking of note these days, but have returned to writing some poetry.  This one’s not really new, but thought you might want to read it, anyway.  Enjoy…

 

Anger

I don’t want to be angry

Don’t want to be seen that way

Prefer to not pollute

Our beautiful love

By walking away

In anger and bitterness

I try to understand

Why this is happening;

To see from her viewpoint

I reassure myself

That things will work out,

Contrary to my great despair

I attend to mundane chores,

Lay plans for a modest new life,

Anything to stay in motion

I can’t afford to sit and think

I need to be busy

But when things slow down,

My thoughts heat up

I have to acknowledge my anger,

Own my outrage

I’m bitter that this love is over,

Angry that I had no say,

Furious to be treated this way,

Hardest to admit, I’m angry with her

For leaving me and destroying our love

But anger has an alter ego

When it ebbs, heartache takes hold

A great melancholy for a love

That once saved and elevated me

A love I believed in

And committed myself to

For all time

Yes, my anger is real

But it’s not really what I need

Anger would be fine

If it took away this angst,

This great emptiness inside

More Poetry

Hello again, sorry I haven’t been writing.  I wanted to share with you one of the first poems I wrote in the early days of my divorce.  It’s about differing perspectives and the love I’ve had to let go.    Here it is:

 

Songbird

As she goes through her day

She reminds me

Of the Monarch butterflies

That grace our yard

Constantly in motion,

Fluttering from one place

To another

In no discernable pattern

A compelling ballet

Combining art and industry

With seeming ease

Answering only to nature

And her own private plans

But she feels otherwise

“I’m like a pet bird,

Trapped in a cage”

She feels fettered,

Confined by bars I can’t see

Or comprehend

I wonder,

Is the cage of my making,

Or hers?

Then I realize

It doesn’t really matter

A cage is a cage

And not the place

For my beautiful

Butterfly

 

Love and All That

I’ve been thinking a bit about the nature of love, so I wrote a new poem for you.  It’s entitled “Love Musings”.  Hope you enjoy it.

 

“It’s your God-forsaken right to be loved”

–Jason Mraz

 

Is love a right,

One to which we are all entitled?

Does loneliness equal

Cruel and unusual punishment

For which we should be compensated?

Is God shunning me

Because I am alone?

 

Or, is being loved a privilege,

A special gift, a glorious gem

That is given, and earned?

Am I simply unfortunate

Or perhaps unworthy

When I stand by myself?

 

I want to believe the former

Hope that I am due for love

That I need nothing more than patience

To bask again in love’s glow

And have God bless me again

 

But I’m more of the mind

That love must be earned

With hard work and persistence,

Not to mention fortunate logistics

I see much pain and effort in my future

Before love will grow again,

If indeed it does

 

Don’t get me wrong, though

I’m still open to the God thing

Sometimes We Fail

I’m trying hard to come to grips with the circumstances in which I find myself – but the truth is, I HATE those circumstances and have attached a great deal of self-judgement to them.  Which, of course, makes it that much harder to come to grips with them.  I am my worst enemy and my harshest critic, so I make my situation – and my reaction to it – much more extreme when I beat myself up.  I feel bad to begin with, start blaming myself, and whoosh, right down the toilet go my mood and energy.  That same critical voice that propelled me to so much apparent success in my life has become a real adversary.

At the suggestion of my therapist, I have been reading a book entitled “When Things Fall Apart” (cheery, huh?).  It is by Pema Chodron, a Buddhist monk who herself went through something similar to my current challenge.  In the book, she makes the point that our typical behavior when confronted with pain and challenges is to either run from them or to distract ourselves (which is the foundation of most addictions).  In my case, by blaming myself, I am, in essence, turning the focus from the problem to myself – a distraction of sorts.  What she suggests is that we learn to stay with our pain, and in the process, allow ourselves to accept it and to truly learn about ourselves.  OK, so I’m no Buddhist monk and I do NOT fully understand how to do what she suggests – but something about this whole approach makes sense to me.  When I turn on myself, I’m doing nothing to address the real problem – I’m just avoiding it, and feeling worse at the same time.  I’d love to find acceptance and peace with my current issues – and with myself.  And, I would LOVE to be able to see and understand my failings without drawing dire conclusions about myself.  I’m going to give this approach a real good try.  And attempt to not judge myself if I don’t get it right away!  Wish me luck on both fronts.

Ok, speaking of failing…. I have to share a really bad effort on the food front.  I LOVE filet mignon and decided to grill some for myself.  Found a couple that were wrapped in bacon, so gave them a try, with some corn on the side.  I don’t know whether it was inferior meat, the bacon wrapping or what, but I could not get those morsels properly grilled.  Ultimately unwrapped the bacon and cooked it separately.  But, try as I might, I was only able to reach mediocrity with the meal.  Yeah, sometimes we fail.  Here’s a picture of that culinary disappointment.  Ciao for now! Filet Bacon and Corn

Progress – Of A Culinary Nature

Hi, sorry it’s been a while.  Guess I’m struggling to find something notable, profound or funny for you.  Things pretty much status quo.  Except… I haven’t shared any food forays with you and at least on THAT front, I continue to push ahead.  Two culinary masterpieces (not really) to share with you today.  Actually, both are pretty simple and fairly mainstream, but, they feel kind of significant to me.  Here they are:

First, I had a good friend over this past weekend and decided to put a real “adult” meal on the table for him.  I had a couple of beef tenderloins and intended to just grill them up for myself.  But when I brought them out I realized that would be an injustice to these little pearls of protein.  Instead, I made a very tasty marinade (following my practice of just putting in what sounded good), let it soak for 36 hours and then cooked it on my special cast-iron griddle.  Added to it some really tasty cajun andouille sausage, some very special early sweet peas and a salad my friend brought over.  Voila!  It WAS quite adult, but even better, it tasted great.  The steak was tender and very flavorful and everything complemented it perfectly.  A year ago, I doubt I would have taken that one on.  This year, a meal I’m proud of.  The picture is below.

Ok, much more minor in scope, but still kind of special to me, I decided to make myself some curried chicken salad for lunch.  No clue where to start, so I just dove in.  Once again, the curry was, to say the least, a unique combination of spices that I like and hoped would work together.  Add raisins and some sweet crispy apples… and it worked REALLY well.  Honestly, one of the best curried salads I’ve ever had.  And even better because it was mine…..

All in all, a good week for my efforts to be happy in my nutritional self-reliance.  I’m encouraged!  The pictures of the two dishes follow:Curried Chicken Salad

Steak and Sausage