A hug anyone?

It happens this way …

One of my fondest high school memories took place at a basketball game. Our girls’ team at St. Mary’s in Perth Amboy, N.J. had a perfect record my senior year: 10 losses. I was sitting dejectedly on the bench during another blow-out when Sister Dismas, our faculty advisor, came over and put her hand on my back. She didn’t say a word; she just transferred a caring message through her touch that I still remember decades later.

Cap Carolyn

How about those 1963 uniforms!

When I saw her ten years ago and shared that memory, she smiled and said she learned that from her father. He would ask her, “Are you touching your students? They need your touch.”

Oh, for those days when an innocent touch could speak volumes about caring and support! (I’m not going to address all the scandals in the Church and all the abuse that goes on everyday, everywhere. You and I know all about that – and how sad for all of the children who could be comforted by a healing touch.)

Two weeks ago I had coffee with a new friend, a woman from Brazil who is studying to become a therapist specializing in suicide prevention. She told me suicide is an epidemic among young people in the US.

We sat in a Peets’ coffee shop and shared our lives. Every once and a while, she’d reach over the small table to touch my hand. I’m sure her gestures were unconscious, but I was very aware of them. Some were exclamation points, some were ellipses, some were periods in our conversation. Each one was a touch of empathy and intimacy.

As a management trainer traveling the country for 19 years, I would ask approachable audience members if they wanted to share a hug. I’m a Baby Boomer, I’d say, and we Boomers hug. Never once did someone refuse.

For those who know me, hugs are a natural part of our greeting. For those who don’t, if we ever meet I’ll ask your permission and we’ll share a few seconds of human contact that will be safe and comforting. Perhaps we’ll grieve together for all the children who no longer trust an adult to put her hand on their backs and offer consolation. One healing gesture could make any losing season more bearable.

Strategic borrowing

It happens this way …

When a writer can’t generate her own words, her best strategy is to borrow from others. Here are some fun quotations that tickle me. I hope they do the same for you.

“The story so far: In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

– Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

*

“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”

– Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson

 *

“To lose one parent may be regarded as misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

– Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

*

Reality continues to ruin my life.”

– Bill Watterson, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes Collection

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“Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind.”

– Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

*

“The capacity for friendship is God’s way of apologizing for our families.”

– Jay McInerney, The Last of the Savages

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“You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.”

– David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

*

“If this typewriter can’t do it, then f*** it, it can’t be done.”

– Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

*

“There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.”

– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

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“If you think anyone is sane, you just don’t know enough about them.”

– Christopher Moore, Practical Demonkeeping

And two from the ubiquitous Anonymous:

 

 

Your favorites? Share!

The hardest battle, Part II

It happens this way …

Many moons ago I read an article by a psychologist who claimed that little girls begin to lose their True Selves about the age of 7. She didn’t mention when this happens for boys and, given the acceleration of all kinds of media, I bet this loss starts for everyone much earlier than the proverbial “age of reason.”

In any event, she said the messages girls receive from schools, parents, churches, and society-at-large, move them toward adopting identities that are not authentically theirs.

Her suggestion? Find a photograph of yourself before the age of seven and take a close look. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot the True Self you were born to be.

I followed her advice and found this photo taken in 1948 on the front porch of myScan 5 grandmother’s house in Carteret, N.J. What a revelation! Where had this feisty girl with the straight-on gaze gone? I hadn’t seen her in decades. Of course, a poem arrived to capture the photo and my response to it.

It’s your turn. Find your photo and see what it says about the person you arrived on the planet to be!

Portrait of a Cowboy as a Young Girl

 Mugging for the camera

in brand new cowboy boots,

she still insists she’s Roy not Dale,

riding down the Happy Trail with Trigger

and the Sons of Pioneers.

 

She smoothes her bronco-busting chaps,

pulls tight her white-fringed gloves,

adjusts a broad brim hat that tilts

above her bangs straight-cut

and ties beneath a stubborn chin.

 

The lens clicks up the front porch steps,

corrals her closed-mouth smile,

her arms akimbo, stance girl-proud.

It’s 1948. She’s three,

decked out in faux rawhide.

 

This day, You Are My Sunshine plays

inside her head, the words exact,

a bit off-key. You make me happy …

those straight-on eyes convey … please

don’t take my sunshine away.

 

I don’t recall who shot this frame,

or how it felt to roam the Jersey shore

as the King of Cowboys, Son of Pioneers.

I don’t recall the guns, the fringe,

the voice that sang when skies are gray.

 

I can’t recall when I was more

of me than on that sunless winter day.

The hardest battle

To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.                                                                           – ee cummings


Last month, the editor of my next poetry collection sent me her first edits. Most were spot on; a few I pushed against. One stopped me in my tracks.

About half-way through the manuscript, I read:

Something I notice throughout this collection is ego – it’s not a bad thing, but I am not used to seeing a speaker so happy with themselves, proud and aware of it. 

After a few deep breaths, I realized what a compliment this is. Of course I’m happy with myself! In some poems where the speaker is obviously me – and there are many voices throughout the book –  I journey from a scared, stuttering kid filled with blue collar shame to a confident woman who says she doubts nothing and everything. If happily asserting who I am and what I believe is ego, so be it.

My response was simply: Why wouldn’t I want to write about the importance of becoming the person we were born to be?

I haven’t heard back yet. In the meantime, I find inspiration in the wise words of those who know that importance.

No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life.      – Nietzsche

People who for some reason find it impossible to think about themselves, and so really be themselves, try to make up for not thinking with doing.   – Laura Riding

The true and durable path into and through experience involves being true … to your own solitude, true to your own secret knowledge.  – Seamus Heaney                                                                                

Here’s to each of us for who are happy with the True Selves we’ve become. May we continue to be proud and aware!