gas pedal’s on the right!!

giddyupSo, I’m having a conversation about tailgaters with a friend and the quasi-spouse. Close-call stories are being related that illustrate the hazards of tailgating but what I mainly construe is how slow the person in front of the “close call” was going. The loathing of people who text-while-driving obviously extends to bumper-humpers, too.

There’re many bumper-stickers about this topic:

  • The closer you get, the slower I drive
  • In a hurry? Not my problem
  • Sorry for driving so close in front of you
  • Faster than Molasses. 

My personal favorite because I’m often crabbily saying, “Could you drive any slower?”:

  •  YES, I can drive slower.

A rebuttal bumper-sticker:

  • If you drove any slower, you’d be parked.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate of tailgating, but, if I’m passing you on the right while driving the freeway, you’re in the wrong lane for leisurely travel. In Italy, it’s illegal to be in the left lane—as in the USA—unless you’re passing. Cars will flash lights, honk and tailgate until you change lanes. Those drivers may drive at speeds that some in the States feel is ridiculously fast but, over there, slower drivers are thoughtful and courteous instead of stubbornly self-righteous like here in the USA. And THEY OBLIGINGLY MOVE OVER.

I come by my feelings naturally. My mamma was a lead-foot, and I grew up with gentle verbal venting from both parents: “What?! You have cakes/eggs in the trunk?!” (mamma) “If I had that guy’s car and he had a feather up his ass, we’d both be tickled.”(dad) Next, my ex, who would regularly remark, “Green means GO in Colorado” or “Gas pedal’s on the right.”

We who listened to our adults amicably bitch about “other drivers” tend to pass this behavior on. When Tara was a toddler and we were waiting for Steve in the car, she stood in the driver’s seat turning the wheel, pretended to honk and in her sweet baby voice said, “Beep Beep!” Futching Atso!!” When Steve slid in, I said, “Hmmm, we don’t want Tara’s first phrase to be ‘Fucking Asshole,’ do we?” We probably managed about 4-5 days before ineffectively spouting some useless language that other drivers couldn’t even hear. Some years later I remember saying to Dario, “See how pointless this is? Their window’s closed; my window’s closed…Don’t do this when you drive.” Unfortunately, we often learn by osmosis.

Yes, tailgating is foolish. Texting is downright deadly. But couldn’t we all be a bit kinder? A tad more tolerant, less mean speech? At least my parents, my ex, myself and my kids are just venting. We’re not spewing self-righteous toxins at those who’re young, or untaught or just different. Nothing justifies nasty.

Which is worse, tailgating or poky driving? Both suck. Still, for me it’s about consideration. Couldn’t we all carry a bit more grace? Grace for the fearful, old or mellow; grace for those who hear a speedier rhythm and prefer to drive that pace. There is no right or wrong here, except intolerance.

 

 

mamma-land or lack thereof

me

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m not big on holidays. That doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge them; it means I don’t want others to feel obligated to participate on any set day. As my daughter Tara says, “I love you all the days, Mamma.” Yes she does, and she shows it, too.

My mamma has been dead for 17 years. I’m an orphan and regardless of how many years I acquire on my life journey—many many moons now—I miss my mamma’s living presence. Especially momentous happenings, “positive or negative”: my first published article, first essay, when I placed poems into magazines she would have read. Received my MFA. When I published Decomposition. Rant-ology!

She missed Tara’s wedding, her transformation into a fabulous, bright, kind woman (when last seen by Liliana, Tara was a tortured teen, and Dario, the son-eth, was eight), Dario’s smooth teen years, his college graduation, a creative talent in visual and musical arts, the birth of Lucas, her great-grand-baby, who just turned two.

I also miss her when my soul suffers. The poet in me, the writer—it’s what she could always understand even if she didn’t get my neuro-diversity. I was her only daughter and our skirmishes were sometimes textbook; our love, Italian epic.

The last few years of her life, my mamma and I would talk on the phone every Sunday. I lived in Washington state and she in Alabama. The night before she died, this is what I’d put into my journal:

17 November 1996  Sunday evening

I talked to my mother tonight. She’s not doing well. She’d like to die as she feels she has nothing left to do but suffer. She doesn’t understand why she must still be here. I cry with her and feel empathy yet feel helpless to soothe her in any way…The end of our conversation was telling for us both. I said to her that we might be in a better place next week. She said, “I hope I won’t be here next week.” I assured her that it would be fine with me if she is not, and that I will pray for that for her.

The next evening as I’m getting ready for my server shift, Kelly comes up having answered the phone and tells me that my mamma has died of a heart attack; I didn’t go to work. That evening’s journal entry:

18 November 1996  Monday evening

…I say, “Oh that must be what’s wrong with me.” I’d been acting unkindly all day. I was still moved by the conversation with her the night before. Kelly and I went out for Thai food because I wanted to get out of the house. Upon returning, I opened the door and I could smell my mother. I said to Kelly, “Do you smell that?” He said, “Yes, it smells like my grandmother’s house.” “No,” I said, “that’s my mother’s smell. I guess she was here.”

My sweet mother is dead…I will have to be my own mamma now. Can I do this?…

I did and I could. Mothering my own kids helped heal the “hole” of her. But my heart is never completely whole without her.

Happy Mamma’s Day, Mamma.

the reason for the season is jesus, and other lies

 

santa

Children depend upon us to give them accurate information about the world they come into. See: whispering (not so) sweet nothings. They’re so easy to dupe or take advantage of—over and over—because their hard-wiring is set to trust. This doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy a good trick or can’t distinguish between most of what’s real and what’s imaginary—if we help them. They do love to be included in any festive hoodwinking.

Jesus wasn’t born in December. That construct—according to biblical scholars—started mid fourth century and though there’s no definitive answer, the best guess is Jesus was born April-ish. Also, the main thoughts concerning Christianity’s two biggest holy days are that Christmas & Easter were taken from pagan holidays (Saturnalia & Ostara) or Jewish holidays (Chanukah & Passover). Quite a bit of evidence supports these ideas. For instance, the Christmas tree with its lights and decorations is linked to Druidic practices, eggs & rabbits to fertility.

I’ve nothing against 25 December being the “decided” date to celebrate Jesus’ birth. But then who’s Santa? He appears to be an combination of St. Nick, Odin—a white bearded god who rode the skies with Sleipnir his white horse that children left carrots for in their shoes and Odin left grateful presents in return—and the Finnish Yule Goat who dressed in a red suit and brought candy to children. Very little of the traditional icons of xmas are Christian. Sorry.

At my house, we have one solstice tree and for most of my children’s lives we celebrated a self-created solstice ceremony commemorating the light’s return by colorfully drawing on paper what we hoped for ourselves and the world in the coming year, then burned them outside. We do/did have presents, some from “Ms. Santa” which were for the whole house like games or chocolates, but the focus of the holiday wasn’t gifts.

What does this have to do with misleading innocents? Well, many people lie about Santa at the expense of naive kids. When they find out the truth, kids are usually not disappointed that Santa doesn’t exist so much as humiliated because they were left out of the joke. They’re happy to “believe” in Ms. Santa, elves, reindeer, etc. with you and the family.

You’re Ms. Santa, right?”

“O, no. Not me,” I’d sing-song.

“Come on mamma—you are, too!”

“No, no, no. I don’t know what’s in this present.” They’d just eat this up.

Then there are parents who’ll insist the holiday is really all about Jesusbirth. How do they explain all this pagan imagery? Is Jesus’ birth about a glut of gifts and a gluttonous table? BTW, Mary was a homeless teenager with an illegitimate child. These days, certain Christians wouldn’t give her a quarter let alone revere her, and they’d kick her out of the stable.

Let’s all share the fantasy of Santa and reindeer, regardless of age. Let kids in; teach them we can dress truth in fiction to burn all the brighter, but only if everyone’s party to it.


holding hands with reality

“Look mamma—a V,” says Tara at age two, loving to demonstrate her letter recognizing ability.

“Where, I don’t see it,” I ask peering down Colfax Ave, looking at all the signs, the billboards.

“Right in front of us; see it?” I scan the skyline as Tara continues to point, trying to explain. “It’s at the end of the street—there.” I know she sees something, but I’m tempted to decide she’s mistaken as to what she spies because—after all—she’s only two and just learning her letters and daily toddler-hood excitement can sometimes be taxing. But her happy insistent tone makes me keep looking. And then, I get it.

The V that never leaves, that’s right in front of us, at the end of the street. It’s the actual horizon line, not the written letter V that I’d imagined.

We all have different perspectives as to what and how we view. Each is neither true or untrue for a variety of reasons too lengthy to get into here. But the greater truth is that one vision doesn’t negate another, though it could transform it. If we gave it a chance to do so.

The famous Jain parable: six blind men are asked to deduce what an elephant looks like. Each touches a different section from trunk to tail. The elephant is like a rope says the man feeling the tail. The one stroking the ears knows elephants are like large hand-fans while the man pricked by the ivory tusk: the animal is spear-like. Each knows what they felt so they’re sure the others are wrong. Of course they’re all correct…in part.

If we decide someone is: foolish, not an expert, is an expert, just a child, just an animal, senile, too emotional, PMS-ing, a dumb jock, a know-it-all teenager, a gansta, a cracker, a hippie, a suit, a bleeding heart, an Asian, only a woman, a redneck, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, even if some part of those observations are true, we close our visionary eyes and cease to comprehend beyond the labels, the judgment. This is an annihilation of sorts as everyone becomes invisible beyond the part we “see.”

We have to realize there’s much we perceive, try hard to discern but can’t, don’t want to see so don’t, and through all this, the thing remains as it is.

The Buddhists suggest that misery comes from not accepting what is. “What is” does not alter, but our perceptions do. Maybe it’s time we listen to another’s version to understand if it can expand our own.

Sunday-driving through California wine country, passing vineyards of perfectly pruned grapevines, Tara pipes up, “Hey mom-mia! The vines are holding hands. They must be singing.” Yup.

whispering (not so) sweet nothings

Words are vehicles for communication but they don’t always go by their actual meanings. If I say, Hey, nice shirt! by intonation I could mean: I like it, I hate it, I’m teasing, I’m ridiculing, I’m shaming, I’m flirting. When someone pronounces, “let’s do lunch” we know if it’s authentic or not. While traveling—with very little effort—you can comprehend what people intend without being fluent. Tone, decibels, facial movements and body stance communicate far more.

Babies and children understand, too. Tara attended a small school in San Francisco with kids from all over the world. The birth languages didn’t matter since words weren’t important for these 5-year-olds to play and learn.

Even though I romp throughout the domain of written words, sometimes they’re bargain-basement items when vocalized. If “Joe” says something callous and is called out, he often says, “I’m joking,” when we know he wasn’t. When a child asks mom if she’s sad (when she is) and is told, “No, just tired,” this teaches kids—who look to us to inform them correctly about the world, inwardly and outwardly—to doubt what they sense in favor of what someone they trust tells them. See: wanting for want.

I live in a culture where most people’s word means very little. So, why am I surprised when people want to convince me with words what their actions don’t back up? Why do they push for my “approval assurance” for something I know is patently untrue? See: “do you believe what you’re sayin’? yeah right now, but not that often.”

Supporting someone demonstrates you care about what they do and you attempt to show up in actions as well as in words. What support is not: saying you’re “there for them” but in fact not being so. It’s not giving someone what you want to give them but providing them with what they want and sometimes when it’s not convenient for you.

If I ask for a glass of water and I’m given a hammer, don’t expect me to be thankful. It’s a non sequitur. How does your psuedo-intention trump my need? And if I request a ride on Friday but you volunteer for the second Tuesday of next week, it’s not helpful and I won’t give you points for offering something I can’t use.

My ex mother-in-law once gave her hirsute son a bottle of aftershave for xmas, then huffed,”Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” after he logically and kindly wondered at the efficacy of her “present.” Shouldn’t the gift be more about the receiver, not the giver?

Commonly, I call a company’s “support line” and am auto-told “all representatives are busy helping other customers.” Yeah, right, that huge workforce of one. Their faux-care is insulting. Hire a real staff and then maybe I’ll believe that I’m a “valued customer” and not hang up.

this old maid is a witch!

When my daughter was around four, someone gave us Old Maid. This was a card game I’d hated playing with my brothers as a child (HA HA you lose, you loser!) but unfortunately this was something Tara loved even though neither of us felt that great playing it. Reason: if I won, she was a bit downcast; if she won—even though I didn’t care—her empathetic nature would make her sigh and say, “It’s ok, Mommia, maybe you’ll win next time.”

If you don’t know the rules of the game, you take turns drawing a card from the other’s hand, laying down pairs and the one left holding the Old Maid loses. A seriously pathetic patriarchal projection, IMO, to infer that a woman would “lose” by deciding to remain unmarried. Spinster-schminster! And, BTW, what’s wrong with cats, birds and knitting ? (see image above)

One day, I suggested we modify the game so winning equaled acquiring the Old Maid and change the game’s name from the pejorative Old Maid to Ancient Witch.

And that’s all it took to make it fun! If I won, Tara could be happy for me; there was fine rejoicing and dancing when she won. It was an actual win/win.

Two lessons can be drawn here. The first is the oft discussed Buddhist thought that in order to change the world you have to change how you see the world. Straight forward and accurate.

Second: that altered vision could be to transform the divisive right/wrong, win/lose, good/bad paradigms into remembering that if one “wins” we all win. And the inverse is true, too, maybe not immediately but ultimately. It’s not about being independent vs. dependent.

Third answer: interdependent. As the bumper-sticker says: Everyone does better when everyone does better. Change is certain but—unfortunately with humans—inner growth is voluntary.

The time is here to think smarter, see deeper, act accordingly.