Saturday, November 05, 2016

15 months later

A lot has happened
As it should

At least one friend fell off
Culled by my indifference
And his wisdom

There was
Another conference of 800
Women religious

There was

And between those
There was a baby

Not mine
But mine enough

Happy hello niece person

I wish I could say she
Made all the difference
But nothing
No one can or does

A whole winter was
As undocumented
As the people fleeing here
Have been
And treated as pawns

A cat died
A snake was found in the bedroom
And several dozen other things ensued

What I'm here for today
September 3
A Saturday
An accident
And now
Two months later
I am confused.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Right shoulder

After being inundated for days by the presence of 800 women, gathered for an annual meeting, I found myself flanked by three males, in succession, in the space of a single day, at my right shoulder.

It's nothing really, but it strikes me now as funny, how this one deltoid could have been so socially engaged in such a short span of time.

Wednesday night, after dining on the second of what ended up being three ocean-based meals that week, with two female colleagues, at a restaurant enclosed by the thick concrete walls supporting a parking garage above it and painted in a very bad shade of blue, where the server brought us water but offered no other beverage, I took a social plunge and sat myself at the short end of our hotel bar.

Quite a feat for an introvert, the move did show calculation: no one could sit next to me, and I watched the baseball game and could see all the other people lined up with their backs to the tables.

My closest neighbor was reading a magazine. He was about 35 and married. He did not say anything or acknowledge my existence in any way.

It's an uncomfortable thing to be alone at a bar, for a woman who doesn't have a book or magazine, and whose hometown team is playing on the TV she can't see, while the game on the nearby screen is a languishing 11-0 in the sixth inning.

Drinking alone, exposed, it's not something I'm at used to at all.

I don't go to bars. My younger colleague laughed when I told her I had Googled "liquor stores." There apparently is only one in all of downtown Houston, though, and it was 15 minutes away on the other side of an interstate.

And bar drinks are expensive.

And bar-ing alone sends one of two bad signals: "I'm here to get drunk," or, "I'm here to get laid."

Or both -- though for a man especially it could also just be, "I'm here to socialize with whomever else happens to be in the mood and here to do so."

The man with the magazine paid and left. He didn't even finish what he was drinking, something in a highball glass, cherry-tinted amber, with ice that never melted.

His replacement turned out to be someone similar, without a wedding ring.

He ordered a Sam Adams beer and bantered a bit with the bartender.

My position also gave me full view of a rather large group of women from the conference who were gathered in the corner of the lounge, a square open-view area in the center of the lobby, itself open to the roof, 30 floors above.


At some point, a large man took up in the middle of the bar. He was about 46 and he did make eye contact. He proceeded to drink his face red in short order; later he would openly glower as another man, younger and more attractive, started in with this long-haired woman who was chipper, pretty and amenable.

Suddenly the women in the back corner burst out into applause. Everyone at the bar turned around. I barely had to turn my eyes to see what was going on; they were congratulating one of their leaders, a slightly stooping white-haired woman, who had just walked in from outdoors.

"She's a famous Catholic sister," I told my closest companion.

That broke the ice, so to speak, and we chatted off and on, then generally had a nice conversation,  about the hotel -- he had been there many, many times, as it was a layover spot for his airline; work -- it was his last day as a flight attendant, after seven years of seeing the world, having his housing provided in Dubai and saving up a good deal of money; politics -- he is Canadian and took interest in the whole Donald Trump phenomenon; his Malaysian girlfriend from New Zealand, who also worked for the airline, had had a difficult childhood and whose parents stereotypically were anxious for her to marry and have children.

We shared an interest in the drama playing out between the pick-up man and the long-haired woman next to him.

I explained why there were 800 Catholic sisters at the hotel and why I was there, too. "I'm well-chaperoned," I said, jokingly.

He asked intelligent questions about what it's like to edit material for a religious publication.

We became Facebook friends.

The next afternoon, my colleague who had run the booth with me in the exhibition area for the conference and I were picked up by the shuttle van to the airport.

Another sister got in at our stop. A man got in at the next, and he sat next to her, behind us, though with a space between. Another man was picked up, and he got in the front seat.

The next man was tall and from another country -- and seemingly an other era, with his perfect teeth, small round glasses and tight, smooth afro.

No choice: I said hello, moved over and had him sit next to me.

In another culture, it would be unthinkable for strangers of the opposite sex to be so close. We were touching, off and on as the shuttle made turns, but mostly on, because there literally was no space, no place else to go.

It's weird how people will pretend in such situations that the situation is not happening. The coping mechanism for awkwardness is a polite kind of negation. He closed his eyes while we were on the highway. Sleep means you're not here.

So, our arms are touching. There is flesh touching flesh. And nothing will become of that.

In another circumstance, things would be so different. I kept thinking, "Do I feel anything?"

We finally arrived.

He laughed in surprise when I bounced out of the van. I guess it's surprising to see someone my age spring out like that. I suppose I have fun when I can. Next stop, TSA, the bodyscan and being flat-palmed on my breast that the machine flagged as "something."

The man I sat next to after that, once again in the dreaded middle seat, worse for being on an airplane, the middle seat between a woman on the aisle and this man at the window, was close enough for me to have kissed his left ear.

He kept a small computer open the entire time, even during take-off and landing, watching television shows, including "Naked and Afraid," the survivalist reality show from the Discovery channel.

He never once looked at me, and he barely looked out of the window.

The woman likewise watched golf on her phone, or swiped through a bunch of news feeds. When we landed, she did ask if I was home or going on and what was it like living downtown.

During the two-hour flight, I read a book, Milan Kundera's The Joke, and struggled against passing out from days of too-little sleep and too-long and too-social days.

Intimate proximity without actual intimacy . . . 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Someone I never met

Killed himself today.
Thank you, Facebook.
I'm not being sarcastic.
Thank you for bringing the All Our Struggles
Are Family.

By his posts, he was a Christian believer,
Someone who put up less-trite-memes than others;
I watched him "function,"
Melt-down over his relationship with his wife,
Asked him, "Are you O.K.?"


Saturday, April 04, 2015

The love of my life had a baby

With a man who is in the Navy.
It might be the Air Force.
I haven't wanted to know.
I don't find him attractive in photos.

She is complaining, in a way, that the baby girl
Who has the name I would have saved for my own,
Is suffering from colic and is too "in the way"
To be carried while she is doing dishes or

I was colic-y myself:
Now somewhat a disaster who
Wishes science etc. were better 40 years ago
And that marriage laws only a few ago were

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Veiled confessions

I like the word vein.
Vain for vanity of keeping personal xylem and phloem in working order.

What if periodontal disease, too?
Vegan poseur.

There is a wagon.
The horses are not harnessed, so it's not going anywhere.

Things keep getting worse.
"Every day that you see me, that's the worst day of my life."

Arrest that.
It's not a good sign when the dishsoap and eggs both run out.

Same clothes 48 hours and counting.
No, I do not remember Friday, except there were lentils.

Someone brought me chocolate on Valentine's Day.
Spaghetti-Os, too.

Didn't watch the SNL anniversary special.
It's snowing.

Deadlines, so many deadlines.
And repetitive-motion injuries (mind, not body).

Object at rest.
Anxiety at any action.

It's a little dark under the veil.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


For some reason, I keep chewing off half-flaked lip skin.
For some reason, it is not tenacious.
Quick to heal, it must be made of something similar to cervical cells.
My nose has been running red for at least a month.


. . .

. . . .

have someone loved say over and over
help me
have over and over grab as can hands
want to be pulled out
of bed
out of
into new plain . . .

where are meds
why not.
pain. mental. and.
the only word we have in common is
sometimes with the 'ed' part that makes it
an adjective.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Things not Facebook friendly

People with children can never believe how big / grown their once-infant / post-fetus has become.
Children are always amazing, no matter what.

There are a lot (a LOT) of lost dogs — dogs jump fences and slip leashes frequently.
This happens perhaps more often than babies are amazing.
Both of these events will change your life.

People who comment on conservative news/blog sites will say, "Can you believe that? He is such an un-American moron" as many times as commenters on liberal sites will say, "It's so sad that people are so stupid."

I am probably kind-of bored by your non-artistic snapshots of your kids.
This kind of photo quality was only acceptable when there was film and photos cost money to develop.
Even then, people only put the good ones into the album.
Even then, people only shared the albums with relatives and others who asked to see them.

I only have posted approx. 13 photos of my cat(s) and bird(s). Total.
Emphasis on blurry, poorly composed photos. Your kids can look so much better. All events are not photographic events. Choose wisely.

It is really difficult to handle the enforced obituaries.
In the recent past, only people who paid for the newspaper and deliberately went to that section learned that their friends, friends' friends or relatives (in that city only) had died.
Or they got a phone call.
Now, I hear almost daily about someone my own age (I am only barely middle aged) who has suddenly been killed in an accident or by heart disease or something like that.

I have contributed to this phenomenon by posting a few things (mostly comments, though) about my Dear Friend From College and Now who was crashed up in a car accident not caused by anything but Chance, 40 days ago. If that had been Ash Wednesday, we would be a few uncounted Sundays from Easter.

We are all watching the slowest of Resurrections.

It is harder than what my DNA ever was programmed to take in, to hear of five degrees' separation of surgery, cancer, heart attacks/strokes, parents' dying, dogs lost, babies born, disabilities acquired, and then that random fluff-joyful stuff some of you post that has nothing to do with anything you have experienced, that is just someone's pithy platitude . . . ah, but then some of us post things from the Buddha (and only some of us verify the quotes).


Where can I complain about my job.
Where can I commiserate about my friends I can't get on the phone or in person.
Where can I say that I am in a lot of anguish.
Where can I walk for hours and not feel tired or watched.
Where can I go and not think about ISIS, South Sudan, south Chicago, police states everywhere, rapists, homeless, jobless, hopeless, dirty, aching, bleeding, beaten people?

At work I read about people who live by and live well by faith.
No matter what.
Who are in trouble or who put themselves next to those in trouble and give all that they have to mitigate that . . . time, love, hugs, food, processes, political action.

That tedious line quoted ("quoted") in the Bible, whether Jesus said it or not (it was early), about how we will always have the poor makes me disappointed in both humanity and religion.

Animals do not have the poor. Plants sometimes steal resources from other plants, but they also sometimes are quite complementary in their partnering. America's first humans knew that about corn, beans and squash, (so I am told in places on the Internet).

Animals eat, eat each other and meet and eat each other based on random patterns.

But they don't seem to get upset about that. They just be.

We have Facebook, and that is an example of how tangled our brains are. We can make such wonderful and useful things. But we also make a lot of junk. Most of which is trash as far as the Earth's processes are concerned.

Don't worry; I am still looking for something lovely to make that doesn't hurt anything, anyone or anyclean.

"If you are so smart, why aren't you rich?"

Well, because I don't want to get ahead and acquire more creature comforts, even if becoming very rich meant that I "could help" others by my foundations and whatnot, by making things that people have to acquire by exchanging money (work) for things/services that, let's face it, they don't really need / (or, more likely) could get some other self-determined way.

The way we parse up our days and time baffles me. Having been born when I was born sometimes leads me to feel that I really don't belong. I can't succeed in a place where you don't chop your own heating wood, and to do so means killing trees. To eat means millions of pigs were abused and gross vast pools of unmitigated waste were filled . . . aquifers fouled, bees destroyed, wires everywhere, friends far away.

And computers. At work. Slow. Things to complain about.

No choice. Faxes are jokes like 8-track tapes. Inefficient. Letters still happen. How charming.

We play at camping.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rough field

Water galloping sea horse (sorrow) finally found
a coral reef of
grief to float within.
Tears taste like the concentrated ocean.

I called his phone; it’s in a crashed car
but still working 8 days (chanukah starts tomorrow) later . . .
I just wanted to hear his voice
because he’s silenced, and now even his eyes
are laid over with a strip of gauze.

Are others as weepful as I —
I can’t know, for I am not measuring this
except for hours.
Volume can not be counted,
and if they told me they took 4 or 40 liters of fluid from
you, I would believe it.

I lost my cousin a year ago, and an uncle this summer,
and then a friend to-more-be this summer in the desert.

2014 is not doing well.
Bird friends died;
the cat is irritating and lives on.

I got to talk to your brother more than
since ever then and 20 years ago.
So, a few good things, deep, good things —
but this price is not fair.

Not until you can talk and complain,
walk and feel pain (sorry),
I won’t be happy to be again.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Then there was December 7

Becoming infamous again.
A Sunday drive for a Christmas tree
Turned into -- is it too dramatic a word?
A tragedy.
In part at least, and how far, still unknown.
Positive things to count,
Ornaments on the darkness:
No limbs lost,
No heads split wide open;
Death, specter hovering dressed in
Blood, over and over turned away.
So far.
For us.
For her.
For us.
Hope continues to be a thing with feathers.
No one lets you bring birds or dogs (or cats, but) into the ICU.
It's scientific and clean
But it's not completely humane.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

The social life of my anxiety

It doesn't have any friends to call to go along to a music event where my husband and people who are genuine and nice (and don't all happen to be the same race, Imagine That) and who he's known for ages will be for the next four hours.

It keeps pushing little panic attacks, out of nowhere, up into the worry-receptor of my brain, the deep, sharp kind of panics that don't feel like, "Oh, God, a shark is coming at me with its mouth open!" but more like toe aches, heart flutters, dark smudges across mind fields. As if I were the loneliest person in the world, stuck forever, immobilized in my own head.

It, ma vie, and it, myself overall, appear to me, observing from within, better off than the person I was when I wrote 2014's other posts. That person seems more lost than I feel. Maybe because I'm aware of certain things I need to do -- and have actually done part-way by now. Well begun is half done, etc.

The dress I wanted to wear doesn't fit anymore.

It is enough to drive me from the burden of going somewhere people who love me are. I'm not so much afraid of hugs as of having nothing to say. And why love someone who can't fit into a dress she wore last winter?

The music is loud; I wouldn't have to talk. But you can't not say anything, and that shouting thing wears me down.

Where was the last place I was where there were just too many people, and all the interesting conversations I had imagined having (imagined in order to paint the social obligation attractive, not just an obligation, attractive so I could feel positive about going), were washed out in the din of 100-plus people without enough room to move around and who ended up having to shout at each other across round, 8-top tables . . . and then there were long speeches, long enough to last several innings of a World Series game some of us were compelled to watch . . . I didn't get to talk well with anyone I wanted to interact with. No space, no time. What was the point of being there?

That was my company's 50th anniversary dinner party. Informal enough, but terribly unsatisfying. And it was a Friday and we didn't get there until 10 minutes before buffet dinner was served due to the fact that my husband had to work late . . . and so he was exhausted and un-social himself.

I guess the only thing good is that he doesn't care that I'm not there tonight.

He went early with a co-planner/friend, who picked him up at 6:30. When I told him about the dress, he said, "Oh, you're going?" Surprised in a good way, but is not going to be surprised at all if I don't show up.

"Well [the car will be here so], at least you have the option." In a positive tone.

The both of us are really too good at not going to things. Not complementary. Rarely, even if we plan it, we both still Feel Like Going when the event comes up. Maybe plays -- theatre, opera, ballet or something that requires only observation, mental engagement, nothing "social."

So I tried all day to stay "up" and open to going out. I don't even feel as "unwanting" as I know I so often can.

But I have the option not to go. And I'm stressed out about being With People.

I've been reading blogs all day, getting into people's narratives.

And his birthday is Monday.

You would think that would make me go. Be supportive. Get over the fact that there are a couple of people there I don't like and have had real issues with. Get inspired to see a few people whom I only ever see on Facebook.

You would think.

I do like the music.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Last 39

I don't know how Google products work any more. There are members to this blog? Does that put them in a Circle? When I go to the email account for this blog, it calls me by a name I made up for logging in to YouTube.

I have acquired too many 'friends' on Facebook, so that I can't say what I feel anymore. A couple of co-workers, a bunch of artists, family members . . .

Too much trouble to create exclusive groups. What I need is a "who do you not want to see this" feature for each post. [They have that . . . ]

And someone I don't know who is around my age is recovering from a second stroke, has a half-million dollars of medical debt and whose friends are sharing one of those fundraising pages while he declares bankruptcy . . . the site mentions he's "completely uninsured." I can't be nice. Who is unthoughtful enough to, after having had a stroke in their 30s, avoid getting pre-existing-conditions-don't-matter-now insurance? Could it really have been more expensive than $500,000? With insurance, perhaps it's $200,000. I'm making that up, but not the original story.

I wish I knew more about the situation so I could be more compassionate, but I can't put questions like that on Facebook.

The things I was going to do this long weekend are not happening. I spent yesterday working anyway. I had 2 or 3 hours of work to do this morning still, so no wake up master of the day feeling there.

I didn't go to lunch with anyone.

I didn't clean.

I read too much on the Internet. I barely moved. There is laundry on the line downstairs, but it doesn't matter if I don't have anything to wear.

There is art to see tonight, as was last, but I can't walk downtown and back. Tomorrow, there's a block party, but why would I want to spend my 40th birthday with strangers?

You'd think I'd be done being so negative by this point.

Thinking is bad for you, I'm sure : )

Friday, May 02, 2014

City birds

Post-dawn and pre-dusk, a woodpecker.
Not my tree, but near enough.
A heron flew over around 5 p.m., and on
Our way home from Aldi, a peregrine battled a red-tailed hawk
In view, west of our path down Charlotte.

Robins chase each other for territory in the
Maple tree, with its half-sized leaves of spring.
Of course, there is another starling family
In the eaves three floors up; nails only
Last so long.

I think the cardinals have migrated.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Horton hears a why

This morning, before I was ready to hear anything, (even) so-called deep (much less good advice), a man who works with us in a supervisory position and who is old enough to get up around 3 or 4 a.m. every day so that 9 is up-time, unlike for me, came 'round talking about "who eats" and how the poor of the world, etc. He was inspired by thoughts and composing an essay.

In other times, perhaps when I was in college, I would have been interested. Most of the time I like what he's talking about.

Since I wasn't able to edit other essays or answer emails while he was talking, I took the opportunity to unpack a box I had loaded up in January when I switched offices; my goal was finding some white peony tea from Shang. Done.

His speech turned primarily to a woman slightly older than I am but who is as "what do I want to do with my life?" She has a master's degree, though, and has just gotten a new job prospect, which involves helping some of the poorest people in our nation, the descendants of those who were here when "we" got here.

One of the things he mentioned, in his sincere advice-giving manner, was that when something feels uncomfortable, it's probably the right thing to do, more so when the risk involved is toward something motivated from . . . what did he say . . .

Compassion? Certainly the word charity was not invoked. I don't remember. I might later. It was early. I was stressed and tired. But it was about honesty and others instead of self.

About six weeks ago I accepted a job writing art catalog essays. Two of them, and then I even said, "o.k." when asked to take on a third, the subject of which was clearly "not wanted" by anyone else.

The third artist has no website and uses Earthlink. Graduated art school when I was about three years old. Etc.

I contacted all three of them in due time and then fell into pits and broke the engagements . . . not really knowing why. Maybe three is too many. Maybe my social anxiety, or to downplay it, introverted nature, is just too real.

Or perhaps the main reason that I don't care, don't care about trashing my reputation with the entire art community by blowing a deadline or about hurting certain people's real feelings and causing major inconvenience or burning a bridge with one person in particular whom I really respect, is that I took this on — like I took on my last art-related gig, still ongoing, two years and running — mostly for money.

I think this started to happen after my last wanted paid job kind-of killed me emotionally and financially. I turned into a bad-relationship rebounder without even trying. It didn't happen before that. I'm sure seeds had been sown, but that fertilizer helped.

And now I'm in the weeds.

The last job I took on because it was my "dream" ended up making my mind-yard run wild with occluding vines.

It's more than a thousand dollars. It is a totally feasible project. Plenty of time. Plenty of capability and previous knowledge (of at least two out of three of these people's work).

Not compassion. Not making the world better. Not even passion. Just money.

I'll fix it in the short term.

Will I learn how to recognize it in the longer one, in the future, and more importantly, in advance?

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Tuesday evening, I met up with the young fellow I mentor (as part of a structured program run by the Charlotte Street Foundation here, which gives artists studio space and opportunities) to go to hear George Saunders at a book reading event.

Will, who is approximately half my age, had bought the book of Saunders’ latest short stories (required) that for $15 that includes two tickets to the talk. He was sweet enough to court me on FB indirectly / directly to come along. We hadn't seen each other since "last year."

Actually, it had been a genuine while.

Neither of us had read anything from Tenth of December, and Saunders, who teaches at the prestigious Syracuse graduate creative writing program, only chose to read from it for about 10 minutes. The fictional selection was of the thoughts of a man whose co-worker had just died, and the text included the funeral.

It was intended as humor; Saunders approaches the fact that we, in his words, are all walking bags of bones, a uniting factor that should compel us to view each other with compassion.

Will laughed at the terse phraseology, lines omitting verbs to add masculine-sounding candor to thoughts like, “Bob = dead.”

I didn’t find it funny that the narrator was making fun of the way the Ukrainian Orthodox officiant was deadpanning about how odd or audacious it was that we “all” automatically took for granted we’d live another second, day, etc.

No, I think of this all the time.


It doesn’t help that less than a month ago one of my first cousins died in his sleep on Christmas morning. He had gone to bed sitting up in a chair because it felt better. His heart didn’t make it, and he left behind a wife and three children.

He was born four months after me.


So, among the answers Saunders gave to the typical array of Book Reading Questions, is the only thing I can remember two days later, after a host of brain-scrambling, at-work, in-office meetings occasioned by out-of-town writers’ visiting, a new launch of a project I’m involved in, and an overall “new day” feeling going on at my company, is this:

“Bob walked in and sat down on the brown couch.” Is it significant that he walked in? No, well,

“Bob sat down on the brown couch,” then. Well, of course it’s “down,” so,

“Bob sat on the brown couch.” Does it matter what color the couch is? No.

“Bob sat on the couch.”

Is there any reason we need to know that?

Then, after “getting rid of all the crap,” as Saunders repeatedly characterized the non-essentials of any narrative, we’re left with “Bob.”

Not much, but it’s not crap.

He said.


This comes from an author who has stuck to the short-story form after having been an engineer and a technical writer who attempted one, Hemmingway-esque, novel back when he was first married, which was an utter failure (the novel, not the marriage, which produced two, all-enlightening daughters who have since, it seems, have given every necessary other meaning to any apparent gap in his life since, etc. and etc. and on and on).

His breakthrough moment came when he overheard his wife laughing when she had discovered some dirty Dr. Suess-style poems and little drawings Saunders had been composing to keep himself sane during business meetings.

The triumph of the kitchen table. And a contrast to her head-in-hands pose Mr. Saunders demonstrated to us that she had had while reading the novel upon request.

So, humor.

And endless revision.

One story he referred to took him 14 years to get right.

Coming from a more theatrical sense of how narrative works, I find pleasure both in reading and writing narrative that describes movement and setting. I should exercise Saunders’ extraction principle on my one, very old short story about “May in the Crescent City.” What would be left after?

May stops being described as walking in her environment? It was important to me as a writer to use that as a way of showing thoughts during the passage of time. Those moments when ideas come, those moments when whose endings' change the opportunities to change ones course's end.

Willa Cather: without talking about that landscape, where is √Āntonia?

Steinbeck: without the corn pone fried in pork grease, how would we know the direness of the Joads’ situation? What is and what is not essential detail?

I haven’t attempted a short story in approximately two decades.

Where I’d carve that time from to do so . . .

I had hoped that going to the reading would be more inspirational than it was. I do feel a little better overall two days later, but the lack of immediate uplift troubled me.

My companion was contrasting the everyday existence of workdays with a vibrant holiday experience at home just weeks ago. I remember being that age; I did the same things, but I at this point can’t tell whether our action-paths are any different or will be. I have hopes, for both, for all. I guess I will have to keep in touch with him for a while : )

Currently he’s writing 500 words a day, at the challenge of a friend who is doing the same.

Here are about 800.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014


Nearly 12 hours ago, half a winter's day and nearly half of the daylight hours, it became 2014.

It's an arbitrary marker, when Janus looks forward and back once again and we all share a sense of beginning togetherness. In spring, more holidays that are designed to draw attention to our need to start over will follow. At the winter solstice a few days ago, other rites marked the beginning of the lengthening of daylight.

In about 60 days, the season of Lent starts, its name taken from the Old English word likewise referring to the lengthening of days.

Forty days (not counting Sundays) after Mardi Gras, another opportunity to overindulge, it's Easter — new life, etc. — all over again.

Once summer hits, we're allowed to forget bettering-ness and resolution-making?

This quote from Mark Twain showed up on "his" Facebook page today:

New Year's Day — Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.

It's from a letter he sent to a newspaper. He got it right that we humans are adept at trying to start over again all the time while being terrible at self-improvement. My Facebook world is full of people running their mile-a-day from Thanksgiving to Christmas, making personal records at triathalons, dieting, making home repairs and renovations. Having babies.

The bells, always off-tone, of the nearest Catholic church four blocks away are calling the faithful to the daily noon Mass. Though I was compelled to participate in three Communion services this year and found them to be increasingly less intolerable, I'm not about to voluntarily start going to proscribed liturgical events on a regular basis. Indeed, I found the call by the Christmas homily to attend to my relationship with Jesus to be a difficult command to follow, not because of any philosophical opposition to the absurd concept that there is/was a God/man whose miraculous life 20 centuries ago somehow fundamentally changed human existence, but because being like Jesus — giving over your actions and thoughts to the self-effacing, other-centered, service toward fellow humans — is damn difficult.

Very few people I know (and I do have friends who will cite life events in the context of their being gifts from God) express any desire to get better on those terms. People I work with do, but they are a highly specialized group of like-minded peers and the cause of two of those compulsory religious ceremonies I went to. Setting those folks aside, I look out into a very secular place.

Yes, the nurse at the party last Sunday who was on Day One of being a vegan will, if it sticks, experience a healthier cardiovascular system as well as avoid participating in the death of animals, be they lovingly raised before sacrifice or treated as billions of factory products.

Yes, if my friend runs more this year, she too will be happier and able to spread happiness toward others such as her daughter and photography clients.

When you're healthier and happier, you have more resources to share.

But what do we normally share?

On a daily basis, I worry about tuna. Whales. Shrimp. Frogs. Rhinos. Tigers. Birds. The Poor. Water. Refugees. Drones. Politics. Hydraulic fracturing. Pop culture's dominance. My addictions. My health.

What I do with that worry, is another matter.

I'll continue to shuffle the ever-growing piles of paper that represent bills, addresses to transfer into electronic records, cards to write, money owed to a medical institution, a friend, the fired Internet provider, the Internal Revenue Service, state and city. Banks. Three banks.

The path to this current morass is shrouded. My past intentions got me here, and I don't remember making any decisions. I know I did not place service at the forefront. That is clear. I did not focus on accumulating wealth or goods, but I do have a crushing house and a freighter's-worth of possessions.

People who are younger than I am and closer to the (first) beginning of shaping their life's trajectory have been giving me food for thought lately. Last fall, I received the opportunity to be a mentor to a person who is half my age and also a writer. We've only met a few times, for a total of about 10 hours, and I regret the limits of my house, jobs, etc. that mean I can't plunge myself into discussions about books, thought, art, writing, life constantly as I used to back in college. (That's an idealized memory, I admit. Oh, let's not start falling into regret-pits about not having done enough when I was younger, freer and, strangely, so much the same as I am now that I don't know what.)

Within the so-called Millennial generation are subgroups, as with any other. I stumbled on a Catholic one somehow recently. After I got over their "no, you can't write here unless you were 'born during the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II'" rule that excludes me by four years, I did find an article that helps express what I've been trying to say here.

In it, Jonathan Lewis talks about why the new pope is dangerous. His slant is not about how Francis is scaring the conservatives, but that the pope's most ardent followers might sit back and do nothing — not challenge themselves, not grow — because they already agree with his message about charity, poverty and humility. Kind of like what happened to Obama supporters . . . former community organizer hasn't really gotten us to do that kind of real work . . . .

Lewis challenges himself to look at what he calls uncomfortable moments. He says that's a way to grow.

It isn’t as though Pope Francis hasn’t been trying, it’s that we haven’t been trying. He has said plenty of things that should make us uncomfortable no matter our ideological leaning or pet issues:
(Pick one and talk to God about why it makes you uncomfortable and invites you to grow.)
  • He embraces disfigured people who we would walk past every day.
  • He intentionally chooses to not talk about abortion regularly.
  • He reaffirms Pope John Paul II’s definitive statement against a female clergy.
  • He encourages us to go to confession regularly.
  • He holds the fire to an unbridled capitalism that robs from the poor, challenging even the abundance that can be found in the closets of priests or middle-class millennials!
The danger that Francis poses to each of us is the same danger that our interpretation of Pope Benedict posed as well; it is simply a different audience lulled into the complacency of a life lived as a consumer Catholic. We create memes of what we like, skim through the rest and call it the New Evangelization.

I'm leaving this post open-ended / no further analysis.

It's already "too-long-didn't-read."