Friday, December 31, 2004

Oh how I wish I had time to think through these feelings ...

but today I'm off to drive north and must be on the road soon.

Been wondering why the horror of the Far East has almost left me mute. Couldn't bring my thoughts together into any coherent form. Then -- as is generally the case -- woke in the night with the pieces beginning to form a reaction.

I've been unable to pull it together because it's too crazy! The world, I mean. Blanking it all out then letting it back in, one thought at a time, saves sanity.

Why do those casualty figures not bring up terror for me? It's because of the weirdness that -- as has been true ever since childhood -- I seem to be alone with "truths" that no one else is reflecting back to me. It's terrifing to feel so alone.

I cannot be the only soul on the earth who sees the insanity. "125,000 bodies now recovered with the count rising every hour." That's for Indonesia. "Over 100,000 civilian deaths with more unaccounted for. That's for Iraq. Why isn't the world responding to the Iraqi deaths similarly? Why is there such a profound difference between how we see the loss of old men, women, and children, lost to the avarice and greed for power by man in the Middle East as tragic as those lost to an act of nature? Why are we not as horrified, outraged, as giving of aid from the abundance of the "free" world? Where is the international outrage? Where is ours? Where is mine?

I simply don't understand ...

But over the 3 hours it will take to reach my destination, I'll live with the puzzlement and try to find my way back to some kind of rational explanation.

Ed Murrow left us way too soon ... He would surely be asking such questions, don't you suppose?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


It took more than eight decades to see the truth. What a hoot!

Received word today from my friend that -- though the sky is filled with sunlight for the moment -- there are ominous warnings of a huge storm on the way. His words sounded fearful. I'm certain that playing into the feelings is the horror being experienced in the Far East as the result of the earthquake and tsunami. He lives at the edge of the Pacific.

I have an irrational fear of storms brought on by having lived through a major hurricane at around the age of 6 in New Orleans. Never recovered. At the first low rumble of faraway thunder, I begin to have sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat pounding in my ears, and a heightened sense of immediate danger. Whatever the time of day I head for bed, climb in and pull the covers up over my head and cover my ears as tightly as possible. It's by now a conditioned reaction and as automatic as the sun rising in the east. On those rare times when I've been caught away from home or on the highway, panic reigns!

Then I remember my grandmother's voice saying to that frightened little girl, "...climb into bed, Betty. No one has ever been known to be struck by lightning while in their bed." Wise woman. Her voice comes back even now, and as if caught in a time warp -- I'm still obeying that voice. The storms never got me, so those words above all others have proven to be true.

Today, since I'm examining that reflexive response in the abstract, I heard something else. I heard a very wise grownup creatively getting frightened little folks safely out of the way so that the big folks could do the things that must be done to protect the family from rising waters. How rational. How wise and wonderful.

Wonder now why it took so long to surface? Was it because the only time the behavior appeared were those times when the rare conditions prevailed and the psyche was on automatic pilot? Interesting... .

I think now about how many times -- when the sky's are dark and the wind rising -- whatever the time of day -- I quietly and casually climb into bed with a good book and an ear acutely tuned for the advancing storm ... still acting out of conditioning. And, when the thunder closes in -- how naturally I pull the covers up over my head, cover my ears, and cower against a terrifying world!

Makes me wonder about other physical reactions to traumatic events in life ...

...could this be what psychotherapists are ever probing for?

... one of those elegant simplicities in life?

I'm reminded again of Rendl-Nast's axiom -- "There are two forms of simplicity, one that comes before and one that comes after -- complexity."

...suppose this is an after?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

It's over ...

the much-dreaded Christmas day that has become a marker for those missing from the table. Still aware of Rick's absence, but a bit less so this year. "Family" looks so different from the top of the pyramid. Having outlived both my parents, two husbands, one sister, an eldest son, while all those "Bettys" are still so alive and functioning inside creates no little confusion these days.

Christmas was always the day we three daughters and families returned to the home of our childhood. Dad was the turkey carver while Mother (never "Mom") handed out the side dishes and supervised the children's table in the breakfast nook in the kitchen. This WAS Christmas. All else was trimmings.

This year there was no children's table. No breakfast nook in a modern condo. My three offspring and my four grandchildren plus one grandson's girl friend made up the family. Son, David, was the carver. Everyone gathered 'roun' the table, perched on a strange assortment of "chairs" from the vanity stool to the piano bench and great-grandmother's little needlepoint rocking chair. We all fit very close but nicely.

But I'm at the top of the family pyramid now. And, my mother looks back at me from my bathroom mirror each morning. And, the rebel teenager Betty rages at a profane administration and daily outrages from news sources that intrude hourly, if allowed. And the thirty-something wonders if I'll see him today, or if his own family obligations will prevent our getting together before he has to return north? The practical 50 year-old Betty hopes that the gifts were appropriate and of all the right sizes and whether or not I kept the store receipts - and just where are they anyway?

Should I tell the kids that I've found this lovely new friend, or, do I just enjoy without having to get into details better left to discretion? (Sounds a little like seventeen again, doesn't it?)

Will spend the New Year's Eve weekend miles away to the north. It's been years since I even entertained any thoughts of partying.

Brings to mind the most disappointing New Year's Eve I ever spent. It was the time that Mel (1st husband) splurged and made reservations at the Claremont Resort Hotel in the Berkeley Hills. We were dressed in formal wear for the occasion. I felt beautiful in a gorgeous red gown. There was not a single soul under those crystal chandeliers that we knew. We were the only African American couple in sight. There was a fine banquet with a gold-paper crowns and tiaras at each table -- with whistles and festive balloons everywhere. At midnight this roomful of strangers stomped and yelled and kissed -- and it was the loneliest New Year's Eve I could ever remember! The two of us were simply lost in the grandness of the occasion with no idea of why this was? We'd signed on for all of the symbols and none of the substance. The magic wasn't in the accoutrements but in the friendships. It took a few more years of living before we'd learned that. Since that night I've looked with some sense of sadness at the sight of those ballrooms shown on television -- and wondered ... .

This year there will be few symbols. There will be caring. There will be time sitting before a roaring fireplace within 80 feet of the ocean, but high on a bluff (so not to worry). There may be a howling storm beating against the expansive window walls (nature at her most dramatic!). There will be a recently-discovered rich friendship to enjoy and the feeling of being deliciously wicked to boot!

Maybe just a wee bit of "license" comes with being at the top of the pyramid ... Needing no permission but my own.

Time is now so precious ... spending it with care is a must since the supply is finite. I'm discovering, though, that one must not dwell on the truth of that statement but must continue to live as though time is irrelevant -- a paradox. To do otherwise is to diminish the richness and reduce the life experience to increasing depression over approaching end times. It helps to have developed some juggling skills along the way ... .

Happy New Year!