Belonging

three swansThree white swans inhabit the waters of the quarry stretching beneath and beyond my new office window. The other morning, the aqua expanse awash in the warm, bright sunlight of a new day, I watched the trio glide across the water just as they did the very first time I saw them.

They swim in a unique formation and always the same. Two of them remain close together while one trails slightly behind. They are graceful and lovely and a welcome distraction from the busy computer screens blinking and beeping at me with email and meeting alerts for the majority of the day.

Normally, I would think very little of the fact that there are only three. But a co-worker pointed out to me that a year ago there were four. Two pairs, consistently swimming together and doing whatever it is swans do. Over the course of time, however, the group had lost a member.

For an animal lover like me, it’s sad enough as it is without the regard for one important detail… Apparently swans mate for life. And this was a tiny bit of avian intel that I did not know. It wasn’t just that the “group” had lost a member, but one of these creatures—the one who trails roughly a swan’s length behind—had lost its partner for life.

For some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, I’ve found myself obsessed with them. I look for them every day, hoping they will grace me with their silent presence. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that one of them has lost its partner, often causing me to wonder if perhaps he or she is sorrowful or lonely? Or whether or not it’s the fascinating fact that the other pair allows the lone swan to remain a part of the group? But something about this unconventional bird bunch intrigues and inspires me.

Such has been my preoccupation with them that I have tried to figure out the source of my quite-possibly-borderline-unusual curiosity. And I think (after some excessive reflection) I’ve nailed it down. I think it’s because the behavior is so human. Their bond reminds me so much of us with our innate desire to connect with others and to forge relationships that will stand the test of time.

The mating for life thing is cool… Don’t get me wrong. I know there are a lot of critters in nature who do this. But I think what has captivated me most is how consistently they stick together. The three of them… The odd number of them.

I don’t know about you, but I take great comfort in knowing that the need to belong stretches far beyond me… far beyond my peers, family, friends and fellow human beings… and farther still beyond the edges of the quarry outside my window… and infinitely beyond any of the natural world that I can touch, feel and see.

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What’s In a Year?

holding handsKisses were exchanged as the clock struck midnight and one by one the couples announced their plans for 2013.

“We’re gonna pop out a kid, honey!” Said the couple excitedly expecting their first child in the spring.

“We did a pretty cool thing in 2012 and it looks like we’ve got an exciting year ahead of us.” Proclaimed the pair of newly-minted parents whose baby girl arrived the previous fall.

“Here’s to the first year in our new home.” One of the two newlyweds seated on the couch replied to the other.

Looking out across the snowy landscape in the wee hours of a brand new year, we couldn’t help but consider what 2013 might hold for us. “2013.” Lee said as he navigated the snow-covered roads back to our house at the conclusion of the party. “Twenty years ago…” We began to say at the exact same time. Twenty years ago we graduated high school together before heading off in two very different directions. “It’s just so hard to believe.” One of us exclaimed… preaching to the proverbial choir.

We will get married this summer. That much we know. The planning has begun and as a picture of our wedding day emerges, our excitement grows for the anticipated date. But beyond that, it is unclear where we will go and what life will look like. We have a home and friends and belong to a community. He has a real job and I am hoping that the new year brings permanent employment (beyond contract work) my way. But for the most part, we are settled. Much of our picture is already colored in.

“So I suppose they’ll have their own little club once they all have babies.” I announced over lunch today while referring to the growing enclave of which we are not a part. “There’s no one else like us, you know.” I muttered with a mouthful of food while considering what the words “like us” meant exactly. I decided I was referring to couples in their late 30’s who don’t have children and aren’t sure they want any. I suppose it is as simple as that.

“I like us.” Lee stated very matter-of-factly as he shrugged his shoulders in a perfunctory but decided sort of way.

And I was reminded—all over again—why I love him as much as I do.

“I like us, too.” I said and reached for another slice of pizza.

…and to the Republic for which it stands…

TitleI was driving to work yesterday saying hateful things to my uncooperative hair, getting stopped at every, single red light and growing increasingly impatient as I secretly cursed the slow-moving guy in front of me for consulting his dashboard GPS on his EVERY move because he was clearly LOST… when I looked out my driver’s side window toward the shopping plaza across the street. On the corner I noticed the flag flying at half-staff and thought to myself with a lump suddenly lodged in my throat: “Oh. Yeah. That’s right.” And just like that, I remembered Sandy Hook. Suddenly none of my petty “issues” mattered AT ALL.

I remembered that somewhere, not too far from here… people are deeply hurting. They are grieving instead of baking cookies and shopping and considering what to stuff inside the stockings. On the week before Christmas—a child’s most cherished holiday—parents are burying their babies instead of reading them stories and tucking them in for a brief winter’s nap. I remembered that somewhere, not too far from here… a community is drowning in devastation as they grapple with the largest, most difficult questions anyone will ever ask.

The flag, flapping silently from it’s revised position only half-way up the pole, was a solid slap in the face forcing me to gain the proper perspective about something as minor as slow-moving traffic. Yet it was an even harsher reminder that so much of what I worry about on a regular basis is utterly futile. But there won’t always be a flag flying at half-staff to serve as such a wake-up call. Eventually the flag will be raised again as we attempt to move forward and the evening news will begin to cover something else.

And while we ought not remain mired in the darkness that so often spreads from unspeakable tragedy, it IS worth pausing to remember that whether we see the flag raised high with pride or lowered with respect in mourning… it’s fabric wraps all the way around us… All of usEvery day. And well, if we can remember that we’re collectively covered by the same cloth… maybe we can remember that this life is about so much more than ourselves. And maybe that’s a start.

Virtually Dumped

Due to the rise and surge of social media, our personal lives have changed so dramatically in the last five years that it is difficult to remember what life was like pre-Facebook, Twitter or in this instance, WordPress and the blogosphere. Ahh, the unique joys and sorrows of virtual friendships… So easy to make and even easier to break.

If you’re active at all in social media, you’ll know to what I referring when I mention getting dumped virtually. Although the one-sided, electronic break up is bound to happen from time to time—not unlike a real break up—it stings a bit when it does occur. You wake up one day without a care in the world, log on to your social media site of choice and voila! You realize you’ve one less “friend” or “follower” than you had the night before.

In the case of Facebook, I’ve learned to no longer care if and when this happens. I don’t tweet, so I can’t speak to the Twitterverse arena of the issue, but I DO blog and I think it is safe to say that in the world of blogging, losing a virtual follower can often leave a bit of virtual mark. It is especially ouchy if the ex-follower in question at one time featured you and your blog on their personal page.

Sad to say, I was dumped from a fellow writer’s blogroll a week ago. And being the neurotic, obsessive person that I am… I took to Google to see if there were any articles floating around in cyberspace devoted to the matter. There were not. Perhaps I, clearly the MOST neurotic, narcissistic, obsessive blogger IN THE WORLD, should be the one to write one, lest another pathetic dumpee similar to myself takes to Google in search of some e-comfort?

What I DID find, was a general article on “getting dumped” — you know, like in REAL LIFE. To be fair to the writer of that article and the inspiration for this post, here is the address: http://fearlessmen.com/getting-dumped/. After reading it, I realized that perhaps there are some similarities between the REAL and the VIRTUAL types of dumping. Thus, the following are the reasons given in the article for why a person may have been dumped in the real world, accompanied by a few “personal thoughts” pertaining to the cyber realm.

1. BoredomOK, so maybe my posts don’t scratch where you itch. I am who I am. Deal with it. Well, I guess you did. You dumped me. I’m sorry if I didn’t sufficiently entertain you.

2. Too Needy / Too ClingyUmmm… Perhaps my creation of this post is enough to illustrate this one? I hope you don’t mind that I wrote it. I really wish I knew how you felt about this one. Maybe I shouldn’t even post it? What do you think? I miss you.

3. Too JealousWhy do you always comment on THEIR stuff and not mine!? You NEVER comment on my stuff! You must think they are cooler/hipper/smarter/prettier/skinnier/wittier/more interesting than me! Why am I not good enough for you!?!?

4. Trying too hard too soon OR not trying hard enoughAre my comments and observations too lengthy or too short? Are there too many or too few? I soooo wish I knew so I could change and make this all better. Then again, sometimes I don’t really care what you think.

5. Lost Interest / Ran out of infatuation / Honeymoon is overPerhaps you’re tired of what you initially thought were extremely astute, brilliant and hilarious observations… and have now grown weary of repetitive entries about Spanx, wrinkles, alarm clocks, ill-fitting clothing, aggressive driving, rude people and a freakishly-abnormal fear of insects. Is that it? Was that the one that put you over the edge?

7. Chemistry / Different Directions / It isn’t what you or he/she thought it wasAlright, so maaaaybe I wasn’t what you expected me to be. But please don’t give me the “It’s not you, it’s me” bit because I know, baby, it was me. Otherwise I wouldn’t be the one sitting here in sweats and a dirty t-shirt with the remote and a wad of Kleenex in my lap, watching Beaches and putting my thighs in serious jeopardy with this quart of Ben and Jerry’s.

A Penny For Your Thoughts

So I’m thinking about taking the plunge. Or thinking about thinking about taking the plunge. Or thinking about putting together my own focus group to think about thinking about taking the plunge. Obviously, I have a few details to work out first… but I am beginning to investigate <gulp> trying to get published. I realize that it is no longer enough to sit around day-dreaming about becoming a real writer who has a summer home in Maine and sits daily on a balcony overlooking the Atlantic pondering Life while dressed in ivory, cable-knit, turtleneck sweaters, sipping cappuccino from a mug made by a local artisan potter. Can you tell I’ve given the matter some thought?

No matter how misguided or overly-romantic my thinking about becoming a best-selling author one day — it’s most likely NOT going to happen if I don’t attempt to do something about it by putting myself out there. And the notion of being “out there” is as frightening as it is thrilling.

One the one hand… the idea that a real literary agent might consider my writing worthy of publishing gives me goose bumps! On the other hand — rejection sucks. And I know that rejection is a M-A-J-O-R part of being a would-be writer. Rejection, I understand, is as reliable as the sunrise in the world of publishing. You will get rejected again and again and yet, in order to be successful one day, you must keep peeling yourself up off the proverbial pavement and try, try again.

I’m joking about the actual focus group. But I do, however, covet feedback from my readers as well as the guidance of my fellow writer friends… especially those of you who have been or are headed down the road yourselves. I’ve heard it said many times that one should write about what one knows. For many years I’ve been compiling essay type writings both in journal form and here. And I’ve had, for about three years now, a few novel ideas (literally, no pun intended this time) that keep bouncing around in my brain, refusing to let go.

But the essays are something that I have NOW. They are largely written and I feel that it might well be time to put some sort of collection together and just get it out there. Here is where you, dear readers, come in. I would sincerely like to know what types of writings / entries / posts that you have enjoyed reading the most in addition to your thoughts regarding the collection of essays itself.

Were it not for you, I’d still be scrawling notes in margins and filling up journals — my writing never seeing the light of day. So I have all of you to thank for your encouragement and the incentive that you provide me in keeping my virtual pencil sharp. Please—if you feel so inclined—lend me your thoughts on the matter… It would be more welcomed and appreciated than you know.

My Flag (Pin) is Bigger Than Yours

Not to worry. You can keep reading. I’m not going to go there. I’m not going to get political and my hope is that by the end of this post—aside from those who know me personally—many readers will not know which side I am casting my vote for three weeks from today.

I simply find it amazing how, in our 24-hour news cycle, there are so many little things that seem to matter an awful lot. While watching the first Presidential debate between Governor Romney and President Obama, I noted a rather curious difference between the two candidates… and I’m not talking about their stance on tax cuts.

Right out of the shoot as they shook hands and took to their respective podiums, I noticed that there was a significant difference in the size of the two men’s lapel pins. President Obama wore his standard pin that he can be seen wearing on most occasions while Governor Romney adorned his navy suit with a much larger one.

And I knew… I KNEW that this variance would make it into the news somehow. If you don’t believe me, a quick Google search on “Presidential Lapel Pin Size” will prove otherwise. Anyway, in addition to the actual issues at hand regarding the future direction of our nation… the implications of the flag pin differential were being dissected the following morning just as I suspected.

Now, I personally don’t care about pin size, hair thickness, eyebrow shape or tie color… but the media thinks that I might. So they tell me. Along with A LOT of other things that really won’t matter in the long run. However, I’m not blaming the media for this. They are merely delivering to us—the collective “We the People”—what we seem to enjoy celebrating so much these days… Division.

It is such an easy trap to fall into. In fact, it is a cinch what with all of the commercials, the scare tactics and the cleverly and strategically shrouded truth, to begin bickering amongst ourselves about who is right and who is wrong. All the while we keep forgetting that we share the real estate and overall status of what lies within the boundaries of this nation.

Recently, while at dinner with some friends I got into a somewhat heated discussion with one of the men about the issues, the candidates and our personal differences. And during one of the debates, I sunk to putting biased comments on Facebook about the candidate who I did not prefer. In doing so I got responses from friends who happened to disagree with me, and the conversation inevitably descended into petty, misguided frustration and anger.

It was then that it struck me how “not worth it” all of this political volleying really is. And I took my slanted comments down and replaced them with the following:

“Had a momentary lapse in judgment last night and began participating on here in “debate talk.” I forgot that the consequences of that lay not in discovering who disagrees with you but in learning what everyone else thinks. I don’t WANT to know what everyone else is thinking. No one is going to change my mind — a mind I’ve made up for myself. The only thing the participation in “debate discussion” invites is division between me and people I otherwise call friends. I’m going to try to hold my breath (and my opinion) for another month and then silently express that opinion in the polling booth — the most powerful and effective forum of all.”

The comment garnered a rather large and favorable response from both my Republican and Democratic friends and family, proving my theory that before we were political rivals, we were friends and family who, at the end of the day, stand beneath the SAME flag with the SAME colors and the SAME number of stars and stripes. And that’s what is getting lost in all of this bitter fighting over the details… the remembrance, above all, of our sameness.