Joanne Simpson sat on the edge of the pew in her beloved church. Never before had she experienced the least bit of distress inside the house of worship that influenced most of the people living in her tiny town – spiritually as well as socially. A nervous buzzing, like a hive of bees trapped inside a wall echoed off the wooden walls. Some parishioners whispered to each other and a few stared intently straight ahead.
Until today, entering the church had always given her the sensation of just having been baptized in cool, sparkling water, a feeling that had started when she was only eleven and never went away. That’s why Joanne insisted that her eleven-year old daughter, Tina, attend services with her. She wanted her to have the same experience, but according to Tina it hadn’t happened as yet. Joanne had faith.
Every Sunday the minister’s simple and direct sermon brimmed with love and caring. They always touched Joanne deeply, a reminder that her fellow parishioners were like family. Her religion provided sustenance for the struggles of a single parent facing everyday life. She barely kept her head above water.
The minister, Reverend Henry Lukuns, cleared his throat. “I beg each and every one of you to welcome our new member, James Anderson, when he comes to church next Sunday. We are all about forgiveness and love. Jesus welcomed sinners and good people alike, bringing those on the wrong path into his fold. We must do the same. James Anderson has paid the price to society by serving a long jail term, and is declared reformed by the system.” The minister bowed his head. Then he looked up.
My mother is dying. There are shuffling noises overhead coming from her bedroom. She has cancer, and her death is imminent. I am her only child. We never liked each other.
I stare out the window at my large backyard covered in a crust of ice.
The bird feeder is nearly empty. I know I must replenish it, but I can’t command my body to move.
Before my seventy year-old mother moved in, I thought I’d continue working and hire a nurse to care for her. I wavered. In the back of my head I wondered if we might find an emotional connection before it was too late. In the end, I convinced the senior partners’ at my law firm that it would be better to work at home for a while and take care of her myself.
Now I see my wish to wring more from our relationship as foolhardy. It’s elusive, like an important thought I can’t recall that hovers in the back of my mind. Now I just want to get through this miserable time and have it end. I’m so tired my teeth ache.
Living in the attic of her ex-husband’s home these past two months had been exhausting. Darlene had to be so careful not to be detected, not to leave the slightest clue, and she’d gotten really good at covering her tracks. With the evening festivities approaching, Darlene felt her spirits rise.
Through the thin slatted dormer window she saw a pink streaked sky with a half disc of a setting sun on the horizon. Light in the attic dimmed, but she didn’t dare turn on the battery-powered lantern, fearing a beam of light could slip through the tiny openings between the splintery floor boards. Looking into a sliver of mirror hanging from a post. Darlene applied lipstick and fluffed her long, dark hair. She slipped on a red, silk dress. After all, she had to look good for the celebration. Justin and his wife, Lila, were having a dinner party for their first wedding anniversary. Continue reading “The Invisible Wife”
Several women of my generation, whom I admire for intelligence, independence and insight, have discussed with me how they view male/female relationships. They think they have to manipulate a man to get and keep him. Yes, they are women of my generation, but I am rather stunned when it comes from younger women who appear forthright and comfortable in their own skin.
The maneuvering is often to avoid issues that women fear might make men uneasy, like announcing your own needs and wants. Another is, even if she solves her own problems, making the man she aims for think that he solved her problem and suggesting that he is masterful and brilliant. She might try to make him feel that she is needy and dependent on his enormous abilities, and that she is much less informed about worldly matters.
What a burden to have to plan each day filled with pretense, constant editing of thoughts and creating outright lies. It is great to tell a man he is a terrific person and mean it – not as a ploy to get what you want. I would imagine that such behavior is addictive to an insecure man. The problem is that the deceit can never end. If the perpetrator of the game stops she may fear that her man will seek the “unconditional adoration” from someone else – many times that is exactly what happens.
The addiction to adoration is no different, to me, than any other addiction. Dealing with unending deceptions is that it has to be dredged up on a daily basis and near impossible to keep up indefinitely. Sadly, many times tying the knot will give a woman a rest from such tension, but it can be misinterpreted as a loss of interest.
It is best to be honest up front and to be yourself and not planting a false face all the time. Deserving compliments are very important. Deception is fatiguing.
Copyright, Frances Metzman, Progress in Male/Female Relationships, 2018
I came from being a sculptor and moving on to becoming a writer about 30 years ago. How did that happen? I always loved the arts, and had moderate success as a sculptor. The question was: if I stayed in the art world I could make a bigger impact. But gnawing at the back of my head was something that had always intrigued me – being an author. Could I make the transition from creating images with my hands to making images with words?
How does this transition come about? What I had learned at Moore College of Art as a sculpture major was that one needs discipline and structure before becoming an artist. Thirty percent talent and seventy percent work. It was a life-changing attitude learning to build a foundation in any area of endeavor. So much had to be learned, and so I applied this background to my mission to become a writer. I dedicated myself to learning the importance of techniques of writing before putting a word to a blank page. It wasn’t easy. For now, suffice it to say, one has to learn the basic elements that I absorbed before striking out on the vast road to learning my new craft.
I have been in many “discussions” about precepts of structure, but I will swear by them. It is argued that if one is passionate about writing the story will come and flow. Not really. Framed within the discipline of writing is the story told that a reader can grasp and hold on to. It is imperative to keep the reader entranced. Although it is a time to give respite to your brain and escape life’s annoying issues, it must impart deeper meaning.
I know there is applause for stories that we can’t understand but to my way of thinking, why waste my time or yours reading it? I feel strongly that it is not fair to ask someone to read something so private no one gets it, and then call it brilliant – just because it is unintelligible. The story must resonate for the reader to make it worth the effort and time it takes to read it. In kindness, as authors we must share the ups and downs that everyone encounters. There must be insights to help get through the vagaries of life.
What inspired me to write? Well, let’s leave that for the next essay.
Too many times couples and/or individuals go over the edge to create an image of being intact and well-functioning, when in fact, secreted away there is anger, resentment and unresolved problem. It is fine not to divulge personal secrets, but the effort to present an unrealistic image to the world can deplete energy. There is no emotional or intellectual quality of life because one or both partners are always scheming to make things look perfect. Couples may be complicit in producing a face to the world to show a family unit that has no flaws. Whether single or coupled one may obstinately construct an outer face while there is profound pain inside.
The characters in The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Way, have tried to mask their lives through behavior that often was destructive to them, sometimes humorously, but, nonetheless, harmful. As the author I have asked them to examine their flaws by going deep into their psyches to gain understanding from whence they came. I don’t necessarily ask them to change, but rather comprehend what has formed their adult behavior. They decide whether to change or not.
With the unending repression of emotion, how long before it wears down the mind and body? Ultimately, denial seeks outlets through other more hurtful ways. For instance, one may become angry at something totally unrelated to the real reason. Dig deep, I tell them!
Lacking Empathy Has a Domino Effect from Childhood to
It is important to examine the nature of empathy especially
as we seem to have leaped into an era where hatred of those considered different from the majority is leaching from misguided adults into the minds of children. Headlines abound about hatred of those of different faiths, race, gender or sexual preferences or any other way of life that differ from what traditionally was considered the so-called “norm.”
Are we losing the capacity to reach out and understand people?
Many issues seem to be at work. The age of electronics often keeps us from listening and conversing face-to-face with others? The other aspect comes from parents and grandparents who might tend to over utilize bragging rights. It emanates from a trend to instill intense competition into child-rearing process – be a winner they are told. That means encouraging the loss of human connection and involvement because their peers become adversaries rather than
playmates. And, most importantly, how does it impact our mental health issues? Clearly, it does.
Teaching empathy is an important aspect of child rearing.
The false myth that children will be taken advantage of if they are too kind, especially among boys, has created unsympathetic adults. Those lacking empathy usually do worse in life than children who have that capacity for caring and understanding others. For one thing, lacking empathy impacts personal relationships early and later in life due to being fraught with dissension because they don’t understand how the other person feels.
On Tuesday, December 25, 2007 in the Washington Post, Douglas LaBier, a PhD, business psychologist, and psychoanalytic psychotherapist had this to say:
“You may not realize it, but a great number of people suffer from EDD.
“No, you’re not reading a misprint of ADD or ED. The acronym stands for empathy deficit disorder.
“Based on my 35 years of experience as a psychotherapist, business psychologist and researcher, I have come to believe that EDD is a pervasive but overlooked condition with profound consequences for the mental health of individuals and of our society. People who suffer from EDD are unable to step outside themselves and tune in to what other people experience. That makes it a source of personal conflicts, of communication failure in intimate relationships, and of the adversarial attitudes – even hatred – among groups of people who
differ in their beliefs, traditions or ways of life.”
There is no question that there is a pervasive goal in society to accumulate wealth and material objects as symbols of achievement. That’s part of being a winner. When that value is introduced into a child, in the form of intense competition, it can produce young adults, unwilling to help anyone out of fear that person will supersede them in the climb up the ladder.
It’s natural to want our children to do better than their parents, but if taken too far it may well instill the opposite values needed to be a compassionate human being. Many parents push childhood sports to
over-the-top proportions. While still in utero many future children are
registered for the best private schools, particularly those schools known to get children admitted to the Ivy League colleges. Those attitudes set an atmosphere early in life that is the antithesis to instilling empathy.
We need to take heed of the different needs of all humans.
To do this we must possess the capacity for empathy no matter which field of endeavor we are in. We need to utilize the old-fashioned option of communicating face to face. Let’s go back to teaching children the Golden Rule! It was always written across the blackboards of my elementary school. Maybe it needs to be put back only now it will be shown in power point. DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU!
Creativity has an almost mythical quality to it. Everyone wants it and feels like it is incredibly hard to come by. It appears to be a rare gem that few will ever get to see let alone own. My goal, with this presentation, is to debunk the myth that creativity is for a select few.
This applies to every art form: writing fiction, memoir, visual arts (painting, sculpture), etc. I believe that creativity is 20% talent and 80% work.
Creativity is within reach of every single person in this room – it is just a matter of finding it. Let me take you on a path that will, with several straightforward steps, open a dazzling new segment of your mind.
HERE ARE SUGGESTIONS TO OPEN UP THE CREATIVE PART OF YOUR BRAIN. YOU DECIDE WHICH SUIT YOU OR YOU MAY SELECT NONE:
1. SCHEDULE: Dedicate some time each day for thinking about the events of the day. Start with 10 minutes and keep adding time within a comfort zone. As you increase the time, think about anything you like – for example, relationships, events, cooking something you’ve never done before – anything you like. It’s good to use the time to think when external pressures aren’t there like when traveling, showering, weeding, etc. It’s fascinating the thoughts that come to you when the mind is in a quiet mode.
2. REMINISCE: Try to think back to more joyous moments in your past. How did that feel? What were the happy and pleasant events of childhood? Trips? Playground? Parks? Picnics? Movies? Foods you ate? Good times with caretakers/parents, siblings, friends in your life. What made you feel safe and secure? What events made you feel good about yourself? Pick out specific examples of comfortable times. Most importantly, relish the humorous moments. Sometimes we lose the sense of spontaneity over time and we need to recapture the feeling.
3. PLAN: Utilize goal setting. What did you always want to accomplish in life that you might not have obtained as yet. Did you always want to weld sculptures or make furniture, draw cartoons or study astronomy? Even in the realm of giving back. Did you want to volunteer to help deprived children? Disabled people? Think of ways you can achieve that goal and start to work toward it. How about writing our life story? Focus on the creative aspects of that objective. Go to workshops and see how others have gone in the directions of reaching a goal. Try to focus on one goal at a time and work out how it would play out from inception to actual reality.
4. INQUIRE: Ask the question WHY. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box. Be daring and bold in your inner life and external one as well. Don’t let unspoken rules of society limit you. I don’t mean overindulging, or anything that may be harmful to yourself or others, but, for example, challenge your mode of dressing for your age. Question the concept – “Age Appropriate Behavior.” Do something you’ve never done before in your life and maybe always wanted to try, but thought impossible to achieve. Or maybe do something you never wanted to try before. I’m not suggesting parachuting from a plane, but perhaps try playing a video game (educational, of course) or camping.
5. EXPLORE: Experiment by going where you’re told it’s inappropriate. Try happy hour at a local tavern, bar or restaurant, or walk into dive type places not yet explored (and don’t worry about motorcycles parked outside). If you’ve never sat at a bar, try it and order the drink of choice. Try attending current youthful pop concerts, picnic in a park, bike ride, – and the list goes on. (There is a naked bike ride in Center City Philadelphia but (no pun intended, I’m not pushing that far). Go the distance and wear spurs on your boots. That’ll go over well at OLLI. Explore the sub-cultures that exist all around us. Observe people familiar and/or strangers and their differences. This inspires creativity.
6. DIALOGUE: Open your heart and mind. Listen and dialogue with people who have different lifestyles (or even similar lifestyles) without judgment. Express and/or record what you think and feel. Encourage two-way conversations with people, explaining your concepts about life and your life’s desires, your own experiences and listen to those of others. Take and give feedback without prior assumptions. Forget what is considered proper conversation (one size fits all is not good here) and open it up to a more worldly view – go global, if you will. Don’t limit your horizons. Just allow ten minutes to each person to talk about grandchildren.
7. REFLECT: Remember number two suggestion where I asked you to go back into nice, happy events in your life? Now I want you to take it one step further. Dig deeply into yourself in those quiet moments. What events and experiences brought you to the place where you are today? What were the more traumatic moments? What were the hurdles you had to overcome? Were you teased, bullied or ignored? Think of teen years, young adult, college era, marriage, relationships, children, grandchildren or recalling other particular time periods. Examining past traumas (if it isn’t too painful), can be extraordinarily enlightening (like inexpensive psychological therapy). I find it mentally cathartic to confront those issues and sometimes insights come to you. It is that kind of deep reflection that helps in daily living. Most importantly, how did you overcome those trying issues?
How has all that affected your current behavior? Are you satisfied or do you want to make changes? Whatever you choose, it’s a wonderful freeing experience to have the understanding of how we’ve come to be the people we are.
8. APPRECIATE IMPERFECTIONS: It is not necessary to seek perfection. Many times flaws are what creativity is all about. For example: a sense of insecurity (which we all have from time to time) may turn into something very entertaining when put into words. We sometimes think we are the only ones experiencing inner fears but it is universal. Turn the tables on those apprehensions and find the funny element buried within.
9. RESPECT: All of your ideas have validity. Don’t be put off by what you think is a bad idea. Explore ideas that society might consider silly or crass. Don’t fear what others will say about you. It’s only important what you think about yourself. Don’t be afraid to fail. The so-called failure may be judged by artificial standards that were designed by others. Set your own bar at any height you wish.
10. COMMIT: Set aside alone time on as many days as possible (hopefully, at least five (5) days a week). Shoot for a consistent routine to dwell on your thoughts and you may well find yourself in a place of creativity. Wondrous ideas may emerge. You can utilize this routine, however short, by jotting notes with whatever thoughts pop into your head. Don’t wait for the muse to strike, just do it even if it seems like gibberish. In time thoughts will emerge from within you that you never knew existed. You may also designate about five (5) minutes a day to think about one subject no matter what else is going on in your life.
11. WONDERMENT: Maintain the curiosity and delight you had as a child. Let that child within you observe the world around you without putting your adult self into it. Just concentrate on what you see, not how it would look with you smack in the middle. Keep the I and Me out.
12. EXPERIMENT: Select a scene that you’ve seen or are looking at and describe it in writing objectively. Then, if you wish, try to describe the feelings/emotions the scene evokes. Describe someone you like, physical and emotional as well. Describe someone you don’t like the same way. You may choose to use metaphors as well. In that case, don’t use the words “like” or “as” but simply use a metaphor: Example: …adrift on the ocean, or: …connected by a fragile thread, etc.