SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY PROMPT – I SHOULD STOP TRYING

SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY PROMPT –
WEDNESDAY – 2015 #5 – I SHOULD STOP TRYING

I’ve decided to do this once weekly. I will publish it out every Wednesday (because Wednesday is the middle of the week). Yes, that’s the real reason.

Please try to add your own ping back (links). If you aren’t sure how to do it, put your link in a comment. That works too.

Every Wednesday or until I throw in the towel, I’ll publish a picture and write something about it. You can use any of my pictures — or one of your own — as a prompt. If you find my subject interesting, by all means, extrapolate. Any length is acceptable from a couple of sentences, to a chapter from your upcoming novel.

Please link it back to this post (ping back) so other people can find it.

What do I mean by “story” and “pictures”?

Story. Words. Poetry, prose, fact, or fiction. A couple of lines, a fanciful tale.

Pictures. Video if that’s your thing. Scanned pictures from your scrap-book. Weird pictures from the internet. Cartoons. Pictures of your family vacation and how the bear stole your food. Any picture you ever took and would like to talk about.

SIMPLE

It sounds simple. It is simple. Every picture has a story or ought to. There are no rules. Follow my lead, ignore me, follow someone else’s idea. Any picture plus some text. Short or long, truth or fiction. Prose or poetry.

One final thing: If you want to get notices of these posts, you’ll have to subscribe to Serendipity. I’ll try to title relevant posts so you can easily recognize them.

My effort for this week follows.


 I SHOULD STOP TRYING
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Garry took the picture that first warm day of spring, the first warm day since winter. It was our first photo excursion, the first time anyone could go out in short sleeves. The snow was gone. Finally. No leaves yet, but you could see buds if you looked carefully.

Two weeks later , the leaves have exploded. Even the oaks are in full leaf, heavy with foliage. The lilacs are blooming, tulips are bright in the garden. The sun filters gently through the trees.

Garry is in New York, visiting one of his brothers. I am not invited. We will have been married 25 years this September and somehow, I have never managed to become part of the family. After all these years, you’d think it wouldn’t hurt so much, wouldn’t you?

It’s time for me to stop trying to fit in. Fit into what? I don’t even know what that means. I’m too old for this nonsense.

FINALLY UNDERSTANDING MOM

I don’t remember how many times my mother told me this story, or how many times I have told it to you. It bears retelling.

marilyn birthday writer

My mother, like many young women of her generation, had wanted to attend high school. And college. But the family was poor, and there were many mouths to feed. In the end, she had to quit school after seventh grade to take a job. She worked as bookkeeper. At 14, my mother was respectable. Also naïve and innocent.

The first place she worked was a music publishing house on the Lower East Side where she had grown up. She was there for seven or eight years and finally decided to get a better job.

Immigrant children had trouble breaking into the workforce. Of course, my mother had the additional burden of being female at a time when women were not considered equal. There was no “political correctness” to protect them.

My mother was blond and green-eyed. At 5 foot 7 inches, she was tall for her generation. Her English was better than most of the family since she had been born “on this side” of the Atlantic and had all her schooling in New York.

She was ushered into a room to be interviewed for the job she wanted. A few questions were asked. A form was handed to her and she filled it out. When she came to the box that asked her religion, she wrote Jewish. The interviewer looked at the application, said: “Jewish, eh?”

He tore the application to pieces and threw it in the trash in front of my mother. She said that from that day forward, she wrote Protestant so no one would ever do that to her again.

Finally, I made a leap of understanding. I connected this anecdote to an aspect of my mother I never “got.”


Mom1973PaintMy mother wanted me to get a nose job. When I turned 16, she wanted me to have plastic surgery to “fix” my nose.

“It’s not broken,” I pointed out.

“But don’t you want it to look ‘normal’?” she asked.

“It’s looks fine to me,” I said. I was puzzled. My sister took her up on the offer. I continued to say “no thanks” and my nose is the original model with which I was born.

Since the last time I told this story, I realized my mother wasn’t hinting I wasn’t pretty. She was asking me if I wanted to not look Jewish. Remarkably, this thought never crossed my mind. Until a few weeks ago.

I know many children of Holocaust victims refused to circumcise their sons because that’s how the Nazis identified little Jewish boys. I know non-white mothers frequently sent their light-skinned children north hoping they could “pass” for white. But never, until recently, did it occur to me my mother was trying to help me “pass” for non-Jewish.

I never considered the possibility I was turned down for a job because I was, in the immortal words of Mel Brooks, “too Jewish.” I always assumed it was me. I failed to measure up. I was too brash. My skills were insufficient.

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I told Garry about my revelation. It was quite an epiphany, especially at my advanced age. I needed to share. It left me wondering how much I’d missed.

I told him I’d finally realized my mother’s persistent suggestion to “get my nose fixed” was an attempt to help me fit in, to not look so obviously Jewish. I had never considered anyone might not like me for other than personal reasons. I said I thought perhaps I’d been a little slow on the uptake on this one.

Garry said, “And when did you finally realize this?”

“Yesterday,” I said.

“Yesterday?” he repeated. Garry looked dumbfounded.

“Yesterday,” I assured him.

He was quiet and thoughtful. “Well,” he said. “You’re 68? That is slow. You really didn’t know?”

I shook my head. I really didn’t know. Apparently everyone else got it. Except me.

DON’T FORGIVE, DON’T FORGET – HAND IT OFF

Christians have a handle on the forgiving thing. They understand there’s no “human” forgiveness involved. Your job is to recognize you can’t forgive and no one can really forget. So you say, “God? I give this burden to you. Apply your justice and take this bag of rocks off my back.” And voilà, he does.

spring woods

The important lesson — whether or not you buy into Christian theology — is you don’t have to like the person you “forgive.” You don’t have to invite him/her/them over to hang out or feed them a meal. Or even talk to them civilly.

You dump your pain, grief, obsessive reliving of whatever happened, into the lap of your higher power, Karma, or whatever you call it.

It works. You don’t have to sign up for the whole package to recognize a good concept when you see it.

Carrying around a ton of anger and pain kills you. It grinds you down, makes you obsess on injustice. Plan revenge — which most of us would never really actual execute.

The most important point is simple. The person at whom you are angry is not suffering. You are suffering. You are not beating him/her/them up. You’re beating on yourself. So not only were you wronged, but you’ve taken over their role by proxy and continue to hurt yourself.

People who’ve had abusive relationships (child, adult, both) are particularly prone to defining themselves by the worst stuff that ever happened to them. To the point where can’t remember anything good.

fuchsia and woods

You don’t need to forgive or forget. Recognize Karma, God, Allah, Jesus, Buddha, Chronos — something or someone greater than yourself. Hand off the pain, the anger, the hurt. You don’t know how much weight you’ve been hauling until you let it go.

Alternatively, you can hire a trained assassin and burn the bastard. That works too. Just don’t get caught.

GENERATION GAP – GROWING UP BOOMER

My generation — the post-war baby boomers — had an unusually high percentage of dysfunctional relationships with parents. I thought it was a self-selecting sample. I had a pretty awful childhood. My father was a sociopath who should never have been allowed near children, much less to be a parent. Maybe I was just attracted to kids like me.

1963. I'm in the front, in the middle, arm on my knee.

1963. I’m in the front, in the middle, arm on my knee.

Blogging has given me a broader perspective. Younger generations have issues with parents, but they can talk, if both sides try. In my growing-up years, not so much.

“The Generation Gap” was a laugh line for comedians, a mantra for the young. Most people blew it off as media hype. It was not all hype. My parents, Garry’s parents, most parents of the boomer generation grew up during the world wars. With the Great Depression in between. They learned to be alert, to hoard goods, and food. You never knew what might happen. Be prepared for everything.

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They believed in America. Righteousness would prevail. They were solid citizens, responsible soldiers, dedicated parents, dependable workers. They determined to pass these values to us. Working hard and doing the right thing would always pay off.

They didn’t talk about family values. They lived them. They believed. Even when they weren’t good at expressing their beliefs in positive ways — or expressing feelings at all. They wanted their kids — us — to be an expression of their lives. The work that never ended. The house they bought, even though both parents had to work two jobs each to keep it.

If they were religious, they went to church. Or synagogue. Or whatever else was their place of worship. Minorities taught their non-white and Jewish offspring to keep their heads down and fit in. Don’t be conspicuous. Talk the talk, walk the walk. Go to college. That was how to get ahead.

Racial mixing terrified parents on both sides. Terrible things happened to mixed race couples.

Our parents had formative experiences in the Depression and World War II. The emergence of my generation in the early 1960s coincided with a vast wave of change. It engulfed America. So great was the change our parents were left in the dust. Clueless, unable to understand what was happening to their country, their world,  their children. War had been the ultimate righteous cause, and now there was Vietnam.

Rebellion? At home? How could that be? “We gave them everything! We worked our fingers to the bone to give them all the things we never had.” Except we didn’t want those things — not yet, not the way they wanted us to own them.

Marilyn 6th Grade class

Many of us eschewed a safe, job. We wanted freedom to find our way. To discover values based our experiences. The world was flying by at warp speed. We boomers didn’t agree that America was on the side of the angels. We weren’t sure there were any angels.

Our music was strange. Clothing, haircuts were aggravating or worse. But the culture was the bridge they could not cross. The willingness of a generation to experiment with sex and drugs. To “try anything once” when they had been largely unwilling to try anything at all.

Some parents found a way to communicate with their kids. My mother got there eventually though by then I was an adult. A dollar short and a decade late. To her credit, she never stopped trying. If she had lived a few more years, she might have discovered she liked the new world.

96-Me Young in MaineI always told Mom I was more her daughter than she would ever understand. She was no wimp. Dutiful insofar as she gave up the education she wanted to get a job and contribute to the family. Otherwise? She did her thing. Joined the Communist Party, but the boys were cuter at the Socialist club. So she dumped Communism for a better social life.

She was an atheist and a cynic. She didn’t think much of the human race and even less of my father — the one thing on which we always agreed. She loved me, in her way. It wasn’t what I wanted or needed. She didn’t give me appropriate advice or protect me.

1972

1972

Eventually, as an adult, she supported me. I wish that support had been available when I was young and fragile.

Being a parent to adult children today is easier. We understand where they’re coming from. We may not think they’re on a productive path. It’s hard to watch them make mistakes they’ll pay for later. Nonetheless, we “get” the world they live in because we live in it too.

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There are generational disagreements (assuming there are no religious issues), but not unbridgeable chasms. I get my granddaughter even if I think she’s behaving badly. I figure we all behaved like jerks, and it’s her turn. I hope she’ll skip the worst things I did. Save herself some pain and agony, but it’s her life.

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My mother didn’t understand “it’s my life” as a concept. Most parents of her generation never got it. They disapproved of us. Their faces were wreathed in permanent frowns. We couldn’t do anything right. Whatever we were doing was wrong by their standards.

Grandpa-Samuel-Seiden-web

We couldn’t bridge that gap. Couldn’t yell across it. Love wasn’t enough to break the barrier. Not all, but most parents did the best they knew how. They were flawed, damaged, believed stuff we find peculiar in 2015, but they meant well.

I think I finally understand. It only took a lifetime.


 

When I was growing up, you wouldn't discuss anything
with a member of an older generation. Nothing was 
safe. We lived in different universes and had no 
common language. 
Polite Company

“It’s never a good idea to discuss religion or politics with people you don’t really know.” Agree or disagree?

LOVE IN OLDER WAYS

Love is a big bouquet of dark red roses on my birthday and a WRITER sweatshirt that I said I wanted.

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Love is hauling my tired old butt into the kitchen every night to make a tempting meal, even though the last thing I want to do is cook. Because he won’t eat if I don’t prepare dinner.

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Love is remembering the great times we had and being satisfied because we did what we wanted and enjoyed it completely.

Love is watching movies you don’t much like and sports you barely understand so you can have something to talk about.

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Love is him learning the new geeky computer-speak ’cause if he doesn’t, he can’t talk to my in my language.

Love is driving me all over the place because I’m not up to driving anymore.

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Love is realizing how ridiculous life is and laughing about it together.

Love is knowing you’re in the right place with the right guy. And being smart enough to realize how unbelievably lucky you are to have this man, who loves you, in your life.

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Love is being totally fed up with everything and still being happy because we are together and that’s enough.

(The dogs are great, too.)


I Want to Know What Love Is

A WORLD FULL OF FRIENDS

Daily Prompt: Cut Off – When was the last time you felt really, truly lonely?


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Until this morning when I saw this prompt, I was feeling pretty good about the friends and relationships I’ve formed during the past three years of blogging. Now why would you go and ask this question? The people who write these prompts must be very young. They are forever bringing up depressing topics that are real downers. Only the young think it’s fun to explore bad times.

But here’s a real, no kidding, response. Because Garry and I were talking about this very thing last night before bed.


Years ago, when I moved to Israel, I was suddenly a single mother in a new country with no friends, or acquaintances. Most people spoke English only a little and the customs were different. Emigrating to another country and culture is hard, but that’s what I signed up for. I wanted culture shock. I wanted something different, new. I wanted to tough it out and discover I could do it on my own. I was just 30 and I was ready to take on the world.

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It has been a long time since I felt that way. Nothing I could do in my native land and language, could match or exceed the isolation of being on my own on foreign soil.

Of course I felt lonely and isolated. I really was isolated. It wasn’t a mood I was in, or a feeling. It was reality, even though it was in a place I had chosen. With all its perils, change is healthy.

I am not lonely anymore. Being physically challenged, if this were even 25 years ago, I probably would be. The Internet lets me reach out and find friends all over the world. You — yes, you with your pot of tea and crumpets — have rocked my world. You are my friends, my support. How can I be lonely with wonderful friends like you?

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Across continents and oceans, from every corner and culture around the globe, you are my friends. I have a whole world full of friends. What a wonder this blogging thing has turned out to be!

M…O…T…H…E…R … SADNESS

Marilyn Armstrong:

Motherhood is forever. I laughed a lot when I read this, but it also resonates. I think it will feel very familiar to any mother who has raised kids.

Originally posted on Stuff my dog taught me:

sad momRemember that Mormon ad from a million years ago… A little kid is happy because he got A’s on his report card and all his joy gets sucked away by the voice of a parent, getting mad at him for some minor thing he has done wrong. Sometimes (most of the time), I feel like that little boy.

Our house is a very busy place. Everyone is juggling some combination of work, school, and social commitments (except my youngest who is only 10 and Buster the Schnauzer who is… well… a schnauzer). Emotions run high. And here I stand, rooted like a bull’s eye in the center of the madness, throwing out statements that are bound to infuriate the masses. Wild, crazy things like:

  • “put on your mittens” (in my defense, it is -14 C)
  • “wrap the cheese before you put it back in the…

View original 325 more words

HE SAID YES

In late 1979, I walked away from my first marriage. It was a friendship which should have stayed a friendship. Regardless, it had yielded a son and in years to come would produce a lovely granddaughter. Clearly, it was meant to be, even if it were not meant to last.

Off to Israel I went with my son where I remained for 9 years. While I was away, Garry wrote me. Every week, 2 or 3 letters arrived in my mail box. Fan mail. As that second marriage fell apart, I lived from letter to letter, carrying the most recent one with me until the paper on which it was written fell apart.

I wrote letters to Garry too and when I got back to the States, I found he had saved them. He had a drawer full of my letters. I don’t think either Garry or I has written a letter to anyone else since.

August 1987.

I’m back. I landed at JFK Airport on August 11, 1987. Just a couple of days later, I headed north to see Garry. He would be on the Vineyard where he shared a place with work colleagues. I would join him there.

It was a magical week.

me martha's vineyard stairs

There had always been something between us. That special something had been there before and during my first marriage. While I was overseas, that something had grown stronger. Apparently absence really can make the heart grow fonder. It did for us.

Last night, Garry and I were watching a new episode of NCIS. Garry is a devotee of the show and was enthusiastically looking forward to a brand new show on which Gibbs was rumored to reconnect with another of his former wives.

Gibbs is often described by Tony (in the show) as “a functional mute.” A man who can give a monosyllabic response to even the most complex question. Garry greatly admires this quality and last night, I had a revelation. Garry really IS Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Even though they do not look like twins, they are twins of the heart, manly men who believe apologizing is a sign of weakness.

We were on our way back from a magical week on Martha’s Vineyard where we had reconnected. Reaffirmed our attraction whatever that thing was — dare I call it love? — we had between us. Both of us had survived a horrible decade. Bad choices, bad relationships. Problems at work. The years had taken a heavy toll on us.

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALLAnd here was Life giving us a rare opportunity to “pick up each others’ option.” It had always been possible, but for one reason or another reason, including a whole host of hard to explain stuff, we had never done it. If ever an opportunity had “last chance” written on it, this one did.

On the ferry ride back from the Vineyard, we talked. Or, more accurately, I talked. He listened and occasionally commented.

I pointed out we had tried pretty much everything. Our relationships had failed. Some quite spectacularly. Remarkably, we had continued to find pleasure and comfort with each other. Despite the crap we’d gone through and having been separated for nearly a decade.

“We’ve tried everything else,” I said. “Maybe this time, we should try each other?”

Garry looked at me. “Yes,” he said.

One word. Gibbs would have been proud. Any woman worth her salt would have needed a full afternoon to respond to that question. I might have required a whole weekend. But he said “yes” and he meant “yes” and about a year later, we were married and have been ever since.

So I ask you — was that not worthy of Leroy Jethro Gibbs? I think it was. Give that man his own television show!