I am on a Christmas laden 2 week sabbatical going into the New Year, not of my own will nor desire nor wanting but I’ll do this.
I will, in fact, be a fool to not take advantage of this 2 week Sabbatical to pursue altruistic “hobbies” or even to take a long excursion to the glaciers in Norway and ice climb with ice pick and ax to climb out of this hole I am in. See the skies glisten and in blues, greens, whites and watch the lazy and hazy star shower.
“I think your national reputation is Smoke and Mirrors,” I was told coldly and matter of factly.
I wonder how can you be such a idiot?
For me at least, while in Kansas City, I wept outside of the University’s building and conference room that was emptied, realizing it was a harbinger to inept social and community response.
Many words were spoken. There was strange disregard of social custom and cruelty pervades with an utter lack of remorse.
These two weeks will be spent carefully and in discernment.
Spirit led examination of the facts and to foretell my own prayer done intentionally to hold peace.
I see my father this Christmas and so it opens up the idea of Family and what happened to mine?
I choose kindness, altruism, mutual respect of the Other and it is the Right thing to do.
I wonder at the bravery of people in North Carolina who are standing down and not leaving in their voluntary evacuation. 1.5 million people? How the hell? What the hell?
Are we planning on building ocean deep brakers to cut incoming water surges? Imagine the number of lives saved. Property saved.
They’re saying power will be lost for “weeks” and the Mayor of the small town being hit the hardest has an attitude of “get out now and don’t blame me if you…” I’ve friends on both poles who say, “yeah, right, go dude!” and then Quakerlike peeps who cringe at the assumption of bad will.
I had originally set out to write a brilliantly woven story or blog about the storm, set in particular people’s lives and how it manifests into multivarious outcomes and climaxes and sad points, if any at all, but here I sit with a fever from the Flu.
And yet, even so, I wonder now about my mortality. Am I dying? At this age. My age.
I have had a good life but a short one. A mere half century and some change. I have yet to walk Machu Picchu and the Great Wall (my mother’s unmet goal), and I’d like to see either the South or North Pole. Leningrad, Moscow, Poland. Train in during winter. See it like Jack Reed and Louise Bryant did before Lenin in ’17.
I want to revisit Bourdeaux where my parents and Florence (my sister) was born in 1960. Visit Alcocer with the thick white walls and cold interior lit by only the wood burning firepits they cook on there. See Toledo and have picnics in the foothills with the cactus and the pine trees and it smells like cedar. Wake up only with light beside Beloved and walk fifty feet for hot crispy oily sweet churro’s to dip and eat with cafe con leche.
I have yet to scale up the webbed care network and health home that is replicable.
I’m too young to die yet. My woman to love. My woman to love me.
Were my sister Florence actually sitting here with me she would be languid and assured, smiling as she cradles a cup of coffee and I would be touched.
I very tentatively and intentionally watched Anthony Bourdain’s PARTS UNKNOWN SEASON 10 (CNN).
Bourdain is an unwilling participant and reticently, sarcastically and often in his caustic rapid fire spitted out, “… what do you want to see?”
Waffle House fills that deep homing context and Bourdain proves it. He’s satisfied downing a pecan waffle at Waffle House with a 5 star chef. It’s followed by a t-bone and fried eggs, spearing and breaking the soft yellow orange egg yolks dripping from the toast onto the platter with hashed browns. He says one word in Japanese to the guest chef that translates into, “I’ll suck your cock for that (porkchop)” and the chef and Bourdain fall into hysterics.
Fun aside Bourdain says at the top of 10 about believing in hope over despair and I get the need to lie about one’s belief in hope when you actually don’t trust that hope will stay with you (anymore). You can’t bullshit a bullshitter, friend.
To be alone
It is of a color that
Cannot be named:
This mountain where cedars rise
Into the autumn dusk
[12th Century Poet, Jakuren]
My girlfriend asked me a few days after the Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain inundation and my comments here and there, filled with thoughts of death, dying, despair and a total acceptance of living life on life’s terms’ meanings to me. “Are you doing ok tonight?” she asked me when I laid in bed, my voice low and we were whispering together quietly now, again, in ritual and in an easy beat. I said, “… you mean, am I thinking of suicide?” and I knew full well that only I could see my face in bed, under the bed sheet. It was a hot Atlanta June night and I wasn’t smiling and I just laid in bed in the dark listening to the quiet whirring of the fan overhead. Thinking.
“No, I’m not,” I whispered quietly and I went on to describe that because I forensically and behaviorally am talky to the point of being rude while in my own parts of despair, I often resist stubbornly, reaching in the dark and groping, working to be socially appropriate.
“But it is always a question whether I wish to avoid these glooms. . . These 9 weeks give one a plunge into deep waters… One goes down into the well & nothing protects one from the assault of truth.”
Completing is one’s inherent truth to living a life that is fully cognizent of one’s mortality and living it fearlessly of death or of dying in this physical body.
Dying a good death is, “… tangent to reason and consideration and is almost always… (and) seemingly best way to end (the) pain, the futility, the voices, or hopelessness… decisions about suicide are not fleeting thoughts than can be willed away in deference to the best interest of others. Suicide wells up from cumulative anguish or is hastened by impulse,” (Jamison, K.R., 1999).
This opting-out has greater permanence because Bourdain shares death with us so publically. My fascination with death and dying has to do with my own experiences of trauma, of loss, of near deaths, of seeing people die, of holding them near and dear with the death knoll morphine drip (ICU) ending the writhing pain from invasive cancers of the body, mind and spirit.
I see that blank lie in the eyes of many of my professional Peers, Colleagues, Leaders. I’ve shared drinks and listened to birds singing at 4 AM with the sun not too far on its’ way, talking smack and ingesting anything to abate my own numbness. I’ve sat in cars listening to, “… I’m ready to go” uttered a colleague who remains a national suicide prevention expert, an innovator and leader but also painfully, a survivor lover from a long gone love and it comes out barely, quietly as a whisper.
I get it. The national Peer communities direly require all supports to sustain physically, well and to grow whole. I care for longevity in sum.
The uneasiness, the disruption, the slap in your face, the quick right to the side of your cheek will make you bleed and sweat and hurt when life happens. Discern the greater good for how you live, truly. “The meanings of life aren’t inherited. What is inherited is the mandate to make meanings of life by how we live. The endings of life give life’s meanings a chance to show. The beginning of the end of our order, our way, is now in view. This isn’t punishment, any more than dying is a punishment for being born, ” (Jenkinson, S., 2017). For Bourdain, “… having a conscience (now) is a grief-soaked proposition,” and “… Dying is active. Dying is now what happens to you. Dying what is what you do. We should be able to tell the difference between dying and being killed,” (Jenkinson, S., 2018).
You see things which you cannot unsee. Many deaths and many times later, I remain drawn to trying to make my peace with my own death and dying, an unforeseen misnomer as I sit in my mid 50s struggling to regain ground with daily physical beat-downs in my 1st year teaching in a Title I impoverished Central Georgia high school.
We will not romanticize. We must not sentimentalize. We must see with clear and bright eyes. We must be astonished when the truth of loveliness or atrocious a reality as inevitable as our walk is quietly moving on, really.
JANE: Did I hear you say commit death?
PILKINGS: Obviously he means murder.
JANE: You mean a ritual murder?
PILKINGS: Must be. You think you’ve stamped it all out but it’s always lurking under the surface somewhere.
Wole Soyinka, Death and the king’s horseman, 1975
So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love. Sometimes you want to say, “I love you, but…”
Erich Seagal, Love Story, (1970)
Listening to others, and considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space;
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.