The​ Living Room of an Old Person’s Home

Old persons living room V5

The living room of an old person’s home has a thing about it.  “Their thing,” to be precise.  Such a place usually has a particular feel, scent, dust/grime quotient, and a frozen in time quality, that is both haunting and intriguing.

The carpet, the furniture, and the wallpaper all have born witness to the arc of a life or lives that have gone from actively growing, reaching, and achieving to stillness, passivity, unwitting disengagement, and ultimately decay.  Once the occupants of this place were counted in the numbers of an up and coming vanguard generation.  The status quo creaked and groaned under the pressure of the change they demanded, finally acquiescing as a new world was forged by the sheer force of their will.  So it is with each generation.  Cliche warning: change is the only constant, until it’s not.

“Dad jokes,” ha!  The beginning of generational culture division is humorously summarized in those two simple words.  Dad jokes are the harbinger of connectivity obsolescence which makes them extra funny, or awkwardly morbid.  Take your pick.  

Getting older is a foregone conclusion, getting wiser is not.  Dad jokes are optional. An aging generation can opt for continuing education, the conscious act of learning about and remaining connected to the next generation, or not.  These options bear the seeds of individual cultural choice that if not planted wisely may well find their harvest in the living room of an old person’s home.  

I’m not saying that redecorating is the key to staying relevant.  Of course, such endeavors require the allocation of resources that may or may not be in short supply depending on personal circumstance.  Following trends and continually updating one’s position in this world is a slippery slope to be sure.  The justification for such efforts is inextricably tied to the end goal.  What can we expect a quest for relevance to yield?  

Social evolution is historically proven, factually undeniable.  To remain relevant one must acknowledge, embrace and act in accordance with the principles lifting that wave.  Here we are confronted with the specter of “Identity.”  The crescendo of identity formation is represented by the metaphorical “brand new living room” conceived and actualized at the pinnacle of a life where we make our victorious statement, whether we realize it or not.  “We’ve arrived,” and here’s the interior design masterpiece to prove it; insert modernist decor, steampunk accoutrements, colonial, mid-century or whatever statement seems fitting to illustrate the reaching of one’s personal triumph at the perceived summit of their material journey.  This perch is a victory that in its very achievement can, if we are not vigilant, become a living tomb.  An apex reached may by definition offer only descent as a next step.  That’s where choice, and particularly choosing to step outside the box becomes an engaging, challenging, potentially life-affirming if ego-threatening moment, and at best, a most welcome alternative to programmed obsolescence. 

I’m not suggesting that we don the sailor outfit our mother’s had us wear for our four-year-old portrait, or the nightmare ruffled pastel leisure suit style tuxedo we wore to the prom a thousand years ago.  I am however suggesting that resting on accomplishments of any kind leads to the possibility of disconnection from the inevitable; from tomorrow, the day after, and so on.  Retaining accrued wisdom while remaining open to fresh, if potentially identity challenging perspectives means we still get to be ourselves, but in liquid rather than solid form, metaphorically speaking.

Being relevant is not an inalienable human right.  Being relevant is a quest that requires constant attention, adjustment, acceptance of that we do not yet fully understand, and most importantly the willingness to allow for the possibility that identity is ephemeral.  In the game of relevance, personal commitment to evolution is the only winning strategy.  Identity, if not fluid, becomes the anchor that prevents us from riding the wave of social metamorphosis.  The real kicker is that our identity issues have the superpower of invisibility as it relates to our ability to honestly see ourselves as others see us.  Ugh!

If I find myself in the weeks leading up to my death stripping wallpaper, tearing up carpet, and fondling paint samples, it will be no more than a physical manifestation of my desire to understand the current consciousness of my children’s or my children’s children’s world.  My last valiant effort to understand and assimilate the language, challenges, and opportunities that are continuously spawning in perpetuity outside the soul prison walls of the living room of an old person’s home.

#metaphor

In The Company Of Chaos

Chaos JH

In The Company Of Chaos

Right now I am not…in the company of chaos that is. If I choose that the boundaries of my home are the ends of the universe all seems to stand in a state of relative calm. However, should I venture into the realm of online news, social media, or wander into the wrong place at the wrong time I find myself in a veritable shit storm of well…chaos.

As a rule, I choose peace. Am I in the minority? More and more it would seem that whether chosen or not, some manner of war is the order of the day.  Why?  Why stir things up? Why choose a harsh word, or a bullet instead of lending a hand, or kind word? Why indeed? Why choose to inflict harm, be it physical or psychological, instead of help or even, as a commitment to the possible benefits of non-action, resort to silence?

Human drama, a sport, a whim, perhaps a necessary evil? Is it evil?  To me, it feels that way, but I have been most fortunate in my life to always have Maslow’s hierarchy met, so who am I to say. Some in my same situation seem to feel more alive taking stands on behalf of those who sell division as a commodity.  Ego is a tempestuous mistress. I feel more alive when more people have the chance to join me in that act; the act of feeling alive that is, and at peace.

Balance is ancient.  Historically, balance seems to be the adversarial antidote to chaos. Chaos in turn, seems to be a human psychologically supported virus of sorts.  A virus by nature identifies, attacks and overtakes its host in order to survive.  Curiously when the virus has accomplished its goal the host is ultimately brought down, and so comes to an end.  ‘The virus’ having attained its goal of domination ensures by its success its own demise.  Chaos, if viral at its core is calling to the “Dionysian Being” in all those who will listen.  We cannot live in chaos for long, pursuing chaos we ensure only our own temporary fix of adrenaline, followed then by our unavoidable ruin.

Does the desperate need for meaning lead to this ‘run of the lemmings’ in our human species?  Some behavior I’ve witnessed would lend credence to this hypothesis.  Could the need for meaning instead lead to a reach for calm, peace, perspective…a pause?  One would certainly hope so. But where would we get our precious drama?

It is easy to imagine solutions when not under fire. Corrections or right answers seem so obvious in the tranquility of a placid, comfortable familiar repose.  Many people struggle in ways I cannot fathom.  Others live opulent lifestyles afforded them by hard work, commitment and no small turn of good fortune, for which they most likely take full credit.  I’m not saying these beings don’t work for what they have but are we not all members of this world, and so potentially capable of perspective, empathy, and humility?  Be these situations as they may, chaos stirs, in and around us all.

Do we look, or look away?  Hiding our heads as long as we presume ourselves safe.  If the floodgates that have until now kept chaos in check finally burst, there will be no hiding from its faceless wrath.  What then?  What solutions will we wish we had committed to when we had the chance.  What sacrifices will we wish we had made.  What courage will we muster when the gun barrel finds us, be we armed, or empty-handed?

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Aiming For A Glass Of Water

Glass of water

 

Being single at 50 something on the dating scene is like jumping off the high dive aiming for a glass of water.

Divorce is fun…for masochists. It’s that moment when you realize everything you promised will end up broken. You may be an angry narcissist, in denial of course, or you may just be angry…no judgment. You may be a giver; give, give, give never take. You may be afraid of conflict. You may be a bully. You may be a nice, well-balanced person who made a bad choice in the partnership department. Whatever your position on the spectrum of coping mechanisms, behavior patterns or denial, divorce is the shits.

Will it be hard to start over? Maybe. Are there fish in the sea? Plenty. Will any of them appeal to you? Absolutely! Will those who do appeal to you be age appropriate? Highly unlikely! Online dating: Men with their bare-chested, or fish holding pix, rock on you silly geese! Women with their rudimentary photoshop skills shouting out “look at me” from the polished profile pic saying, “no really…I’m young” looking for a second chance. How could that pool have gotten so small?

It’s not easy to find what you had looked for so many years ago. You may have kids now. If you don’t want more kids the pool narrows. You may want dogs or cats in your life, you may not. The pool narrows. You may have voted red state, you may have voted blue. The pool narrows. You may like hiking or kayaking, or wine tasting, cooking classes, running, volunteering or even knitting/gunplay…the pool narrows. The pool narrows until you look between your two big toes and see that the pool has shrunk to the size of a glass of water. Should you jump?

Are you willing to come to grips with why your marriage/relationship ended? It’s easy during a divorce to cast oneself as the hero. I was exceptionally good at it. The facts more likely point to two sides of the story, and I bring this up for a reason. If we don’t at least attempt to understand our contribution to the chaos then we will visit that same ill fate on whatever poor soul awaits us in that tiny glass of water below.

So what positives can we pull; what gems can we glean from the denouement of a primary relationship, and ensuing diminished chance of future relational bliss? What understanding can we assimilate as we stand on the platform poised to dive into the narrow cup of opportunity that awaits us? An insight gained in the sleepless hours before dawn perhaps? Appreciation for the now not so rare moments of silence afforded to one who has no other? Pausing long enough to hear a truth about ourselves whether we want to or not? If we learn anything…it is everything in that moment. A moment of victory!

 

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Stepmom-O-Rama

Here We Go Again

stripper shoes crop

Juliet zipped her dress and gave herself a once over in the hotel room mirror.  “Here we go again,” she half spoke, half laughed then took a swig of Stoli straight from the bottle.

I peered around her well-preserved, thirty-something body into the mirror straightening my tie.  “If I have to go to one more of dad’s weddings I swear I’ll set myself on fire!” I said.

“Really? Oh, that would be so sad for me.  I’d have to go to all his future weddings without my favorite brother.  Besides I thought you always wanted to die in a killer whale attack.”

“Yes,” I acknowledged, “killer whale attack has long been my preferred legendary death scenario…and I’m your ‘only’ brother.”

“Which makes you a shoe-in for ‘favorite’ you awesome man.”  She laughed.

Both of my sisters are wonderful, but Jules and I have always been especially close.   Our senior, and noticeably absent sister Samantha was supposed to be with us for pre-ceremony cocktails, but it seemed her chronic tardiness had struck again.

Juliet handed me the Stoli, “At least we’ll never have to live with this one.” She smiled.

“True.” I mused.  “I suppose being somewhat grown up and thoroughly self-sufficient has its perks.”

The door flew open.  “Sorry, I’m late!” Samantha rolled into the room like a runaway circus train, garment bag, cosmetics kit, and other undefined bits of tiny luggage hanging from her person.  “What are we drinking?”

“The usual pre-dad’s-wedding fair…vodka.”  I handed her the bottle, and as her lips touched it, we had once again closed the circle, completing a ritual celebration that had been part of the Montfort family culture since we were in high school.  Other family’s had Thanksgiving or Christmas; we had Dad’s weddings.

Sam lowered the bottle, “Well, here we go again!  How long do you think this one’ll last?”

Juliet sat on the edge of the bed pulling on her high heels. She motioned for a bottle pass.  “Her name is Candy for Christ’s sake…it can’t last too long!”

“I don’t know,” I interjected.  “Bambi lasted almost 13 months…come on…Bambi?  I give ‘Candy’ better odds.

By now the average observer may be wondering why three siblings in their late thirties to early forties were in a hotel room preparing for a wedding with no significant others in tow.  As it happens, the old expression about the falling apple and the inevitable proximity of its final resting place relative to the tree from which it came is beautifully illustrated by our family.  That’s right, my sisters and I are all divorced.

The advent of dad’s pending nuptials had Samantha in a reminiscent mood. “Do you remember the screaming red Christmas tree that Cinnamon put up my senior year?  The place looked like a holiday whore house.”

“Who could forget,” I laughed.  “How about Buffy’s pink Corvette with the heart decals?”  To this day her dropping me off at school in that thing ranks among my most awkward moments.  Idiot high school boys alternately calling me a fag for coming to school in a pink car, then saying they wanna ‘tag’ my mom.  “Ew,” I’d protest, “she’s not my mom”…and as an afterthought, “and I’m not gay you assholes!”

My darling sisters laughed.  We’re a fucked up bunch to be sure, but at least we have each other.  The shared experience of growing up in the company of a fast-moving parade of “dancers” has had the effect of “Gorilla Glue for the Soul” on us.  Jules looked at her watch and grimaced.   Then as her right hand applied deep red lipstick, her left reached into her carry-on luggage sized purse.   Without turning her attention from the mirror, she found, apparently by Braille, and produced three silver flasks.   She tossed them at me with a playful wink.  “Fill ‘em up bro; it’s go time!”  As I poured and spilled the Stoli into the unreasonably small flask openings, I laughed to myself.  Thank god for my two wonderful sisters.  We may not be well equipped for matrimonial endeavors of our own, but we make a hell of a team at a stripper’s wedding.

We raised the dripping flasks high. “To Pops and…uh, Candy is it?” Sam hissed.

Jules snorted, which turned my snigger into a guffaw.  I quickly composed myself.  Cleared my throat and in my best, if hastily conceived oratorical tone confirmed the name of the stepmom de jour.  “Yes, yes, to Pops and Candy, and the two most wonderfully inappropriate, dazzlingly witty and truly lovely siblings-in-arms a brother could ask for!”

“Goddamnit,” Jules scolded.  “If you make me tear up I’ll wipe my runny-makeup face all over that white shirt!”    I laughed.  We finished the toast with the clink of silver and a quick slug.  Next stop, stepmom-o-rama!

#fiction

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Free Fall

Free Fall JH 2

“What do you mean ‘bad’?” I asked.

“I think it’s self-explanatory.” He said.

“Nice bedside manner doc!”

He reached into his lab coat and produced a flask and two plastic shot glasses, “Cheers!”

“Ha, we’re celebrating my terminal diagnosis?” I said with a hastily shaken tone cocktail of irony, indignation and false bravery.

“We all have a terminal diagnosis, my friend.  I love you, and this shot is to celebrate your life.  The life behind you, that left before you, and most importantly this moment, when we here together face the inevitable; the heartache, the confusion, the freedom, and the truth, that we all try so desperately to ignore.”

I found myself smiling in spite of the dour news, “I love you, man.”

Doctor James had been my college roommate freshman year, and my best friend for the last thirty years of my now seemingly bookended life.  Together we had surfed the waves off the Santa Barbara coast, chased the same woman at parties and fought over the outcome, ridden a motorcycle through the courtyard of a dormitory with frantic RAs chasing us.  This was the man who knew me better than anyone on the planet.  He had supported me every step of the way.  He knew when to say “I’m sorry,” and he knew how to forgive.  He was the perfect person the usher me onto the crowded tarmac for those awaiting passage to the hereafter.

“So by ‘no’ you mean there’s no cure?” I asked.

He looked me in the eye, raised his plastic shot glass to offer a toast, I obliged with a shaky reciprocal gesture.

“There is only one cure for life, and as mortals, we will all one day be cured.  May you rock the fuck out of the days, months, or years left to you.  May you know that I love you like a brother with all my heart and will ride this last wave with you wherever it may take us.”  He held his glass and my gaze.

Damn him; the fucking bitch made me tear up.  I killed the shot and immediately put my cup out for a second.

“How long?” I asked.

“I don’t fucking know…six months, six years, it’s so fucking random.  Let’s see, no sugar diets, kale, and on the uh-oh side, hidden guilt, self-hatred, or an emerging heretofore unseen badass extreme will to live.  I could tell you some number, but then that number enters your reality and who the fuck am I to shape your perspective on something like this?  I’m just a doctor.”  James laughed as he filled our little plastic shot cups.

“Let’s go to the mountains and hike.” He said.  “I’ll clear my schedule; we’ll go to my place in the Sierras, spend a couple of days and let this percolate.”

“Are you coming on to me?”  My super thin, false bravado wavering.

“Ha, fuck you, I’ll bring coffee, be ready by 8 am.”  Doctor J. hissed with a shit-eating grin.

“Thanks?”  I had to laugh.  Hiking would be good!

#fiction

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Ya Think?

Hickey

Current front-runner for ‘line of the week’ at my house;

“I think her dad liked me a little better before the hickey!”

Ha, ya think?

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Butterfly Girl

PAPILIO MACHAON

The wooden window frame creaks gently at the caress of the breeze.  Dew drops tremble on the laden blades of grass running from the mailbox to the front steps.  Sunglow shines at the edge of the world, kissing the brickwork of the sleepy cottage, built long ago for someone’s profit, filled this day mostly with love.  In the kitchen, the faintest click signals the release of water, soon to be steam, then to become the rich black elixir that she loves with just a dash of cream.

As always the alarm is set but unneeded.  Her long lashes flutter open to the glow of this new day.  Most mornings her first thoughts are steeped in gratitude…for all of it.  For her life, her child, her present moment, and still with some difficulty she embraces and acknowledges her gratitude for the past.  Every day has lead to this moment, the aroma of coffee, the faint light filling the skylights, the peace that once seemed a phantom now seems a life.

“Mom”

“Yes, my darling one.”

“Can I have some coffee?”  Her son Jonah asks.

“Certainly, but no sugar please.”

“Nevermind.”

“Joey, have you noticed what an amazing gift this morning is?”

“Yes mom, I said my gratitudes,” his words wander naturally down this well-worn path.

“Excellent! I love you!”

“Love you too.”

Three paintings hang on the wall, across the room from her king size bed.  The painting on the left is of an intricately patterned caterpillar making its way across a birch branch in what looks to be late Summer.  The next is of a delicate chrysalis suspended from a similar branch in the Fall.  The painting on the right is of a magnificent butterfly taking wing in the Spring.  So it goes that not every day has been this day, full of comfort, and love.  But today, a few before, and many after will be very much like this one.

Discomfort, I’ve heard tell, is the price of admission to a meaningful life.  Knowing the Butterfly Girl’s story, I believe that to be true.

#fiction

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Let Go Of The Plane

16th Jump 11_20_15 With J Ivey

I gripped the frame of the exit door with Hulk-like strength, except for the Hulk-like, and strength bits.  Suffice it to say I used everything I had to hold on.  In my experience, there’s no greater motivating force within a human being than fear.  The jump light turned from “two minutes” yellow to green.  Time to go.  I don’t know if I remembered to take a breath.  Forgetting to breathe in everyday terrestrial life is an issue for me as it is, no doubt at the moment of exit I had accidentally become nearly ‘oxygen free.’  Air starved brain notwithstanding I did remember to lean out, lean in, then launch, and let go of the plane.

My body tumbled in the wind wash created by my earthward trajectory coupled with the rapid westward bearing of the Twin Otter aircraft.

“Breathe, and calm the fuck down,” I said to myself.

After a bit more negotiating my body finally arched into a V shape.  Legs up, head up, plummeting toward earth in gravity’s firm embrace.  With the flight of my person finally stabilized I could take a moment to connect with this singular experience; moving through space at over 120 miles per hours without mechanical assistance.  The sensation is indescribable, and not commonly known.  Why?  Fear? The result of good decision making?  You decide.

I can’t speak for others who choose to jump from 14,000 feet with no more than a nylon lifeline, but I have to believe that some of them leap, or at least made their first jump for the same reason I did; to slay a dragon.  To confront fear in the now, or never.  To stand over it, perhaps for the first time with a triumphant smile.  If only a smile of sweet relief once we’ed reconnected with mother earth.

One’s inaugural exit, that first jump is exponentially more mind-blowing than any of the next hundred, thousand, or infinity and beyond.  It’s a threshold that cannot be recrossed.  On my very first solo jump, I experience a minor equipment malfunction.  I say minor because in hindsight everything worked out.  However, as it was all going down, I thought I might have a one jump career, and be remembered as the most unlucky skydiver of all time.

On a first AFF jump, (Accelerated Free Fall, Category A) one exits the aircraft at 14,000 feet gripped by two instructors.  At 6000 feet the ‘pull’ sequence is initiated.  If you the student have freaked out, one of the instructors, assuming you haven’t shaken them loose in a wild tumble, pulls for you.  As for the “wild tumble” bit, youtube.com offers an endless supply of “oh shit” scenarios @AFF SKYDIVE GOES BAD.  On my first AFF jump, I pulled the ripcord, at which point I was on my own.  Thankfully the chute deployed.  I dialed my freak from 11 to 9.  Next order of business, fly the thing.  I reached for the control toggles, gripped and pulled hard to free them.  One complied, the other did not.  Suddenly I was in a death spiral; corkscrew spinning under canopy plummeting from 5000 feet.  I distinctly remember thinking, “Are you fucking kidding me???”

The six hours of ground school that morning had scared the shit out of me.  Videos and anecdotes had elaborated on everything that could go wrong, and there I was starring in a new episode.  Somehow I found clarity in this “now or never moment.”  I let go of the left control toggle and went after the right ‘stuck’ one with both desperate hands.  Eventually, it came free at which point the ocean blue Saber II canopy leveled out.  Just like that, I survived.

It’s a numbers game, skydiving.  I’ve known jumpers burned severely when their path crossed a set of power lines.  I’ve known jumpers who are dead now due to equipment malfunction.  I’ve jumped a mere fifty-five times, mostly without incident, a total novice.   I know the odds are that if I keep jumping one day I’ll end up taking “reserve ride.”  Also known as a ‘cutaway,’ a reserve ride occurs when one’s main chute fails at which point that panicked soul pulls a handle to cut/release the bad chute, and pulls another to deploy the reserve canopy.

Though I’ve not had the pleasure, I assume this operation is accompanied by increased heart rate, heavy breathing, and a healthy dose of holy FU#K style “oh shits!”  The beauty of a reserve chute is that, well, it’s available.  It’s a second chance to survive the day.  Your day.  Your kid’s day, assuming you have kids. Your parent’s day if they happen to still be with you, your friend’s day, and your life insurance company’s day.  If the reserve fails, someone’s looking at a lot of paperwork!

I’m currently on hiatus from the sky life.  That said, I know that learning to skydive has been one of the most transformational experiences of my seemingly endless life.  Seemingly endless?  Yes!  Once I entered the red zone known as midlife, time while flying by seems to have been doing so for eons.  I will go back to jumping when the time is right because the experience is life-affirming, and it gives me something I just can’t get inside “a perfectly good airplane.”

If we have roadblocks in our lives, they are most likely made of fear.  If they are in fact made of fear, they are most likely difficult, if not seemingly impossible to surmount.  We as a culture have a fair amount of shame attached to fear, and so we bury it, deny it, negotiate with it, and finally relegate it to the ego basement.  Avoiding fear is comfortable, useful, life-saving …or is it?  Nowadays when I find myself in a place of deep fear, I remember my time in the sky.  The only way forward, the only way through, is to let go of the plane.

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!