Tag Archives: ego

Suspended Saints

Now that she’s arrived, was there anything else to it?  A life summoned itself and paused for a while.  Yes, there was always a pause, Larisa noticed; a breather in between the chapters.

She never imagined her death, never was the type to bear the hubris of planning her own funeral.  Like weddings, death demanded metaphors.  To capture oneself, to be summarized, direly:  But how can one not be so many things at once?  Besides, the way she felt, ceremonies strived for a shared experience; not a centralized meditation that treated the self as the object of all other events; that separated and sought how different one was from the rest, taking for granted the universality of it all.  She didn’t have the ego for it.

Larisa had been living for others, certainly:  a symptom assigned mostly to her gender.  In her family, she had witnessed the earlier generations of women lose themselves in sacrificial love.  For the sake of their children, their husbands, their aging parents, they carried on serving; until they found themselves having a hard time remembering what they themselves had wanted, originally, all along.  Remember those days?  How many times she’d heard the mournful reminiscence in a woman’s voice:  Those days!  What happened since then, Larisa wondered, herself still a young girl; what force of obscurity slithered itself in between and demanded for a retraction, or a delay at least.

Definitely, she wouldn’t lose the sight of her own purpose, she thought!  Yet, the loneliness came scratching at the backdoor, becoming louder as she compared the things other women claimed as accomplishments:  dramatic courtships, the victory in which meant expensive weddings and doting husbands, as one could only hope; then, the automatic events of pregnancy and nest acquiring (building, building, gaining weightiness); the demands of a chosen lifestyle, or in the cases of the less fortunate — merely survivals.  Every woman she knew had leapt into all of it without ever questioning the reality of her expectations.  How could their husbands — the equally unknowing human beings with a whole other set of expectations imposed onto them — keep up?  They too, when young, once dreamt of following the call of the world’s magnificence.  But lives demanded to be defined by success; and what others made of success — was not at all what she’d imagined.

There was love, of course.  There would always be love.  Beyond her own anxiety and self-judgement, she could see that a life was only as successful as the love one projected.  Still, in the beginning, it was loneliness that determined the pursuit of it; and loneliness made things more urgent, non-negotiable and somehow crucial.  It conformed the shape of love, so it could fit into the missing parts; make-up for the previous mistakes of others; fix, mold, make it better.  Because in a person, there were always parts missing:  from too much love, or not enough of it, from the prototypes of our lovers (god bless our parents!), who couldn’t possibly step up to what love was meant to be, as she thought of it:  all forgiving, non-discriminating, fluid.

And what about the needs?  One had to have needs.  It was a path of nature.  Larisa found the balance between the self-fulfillment of those needs and the ones she could hand over to another — unpoetic and stressful.  So, she chose to handle all of them on her own; not with any sense of confrontation or showmanship, but with the esteem of self-reliance.  And surely, Larisa thought, it would only elevate the love.  Surely, if one handled the demands of one’s survival with this much grace, there would be more room for the beauty and the compassion; the reflection of the self in the suffering of others and the almost rapturous feeling of knowing exactly how it felt to be another; for such a love lacked fear, and it could take up spaces with its tide-like tongues, and whenever it retracted, one only had to wait for its return.  In light, in easiness:  What surrender!

 

Larisa wasn’t really sure how or where, in the self, the unease began.  On that day — a day unmarked by any significance — she’d gone into a church.  With her head bowed and eyes half-closed, she didn’t seek answers or help, only a space from which to observe the ways her thoughts moved, sometimes birthing moods, sometimes — nothingness; and she watched herself alter, even while in stillness, mind creating matter; thoughts becoming intentions; and she cast the net into the endless vagueness and brought them back into the very is-ness of her:  Into what she believed the most.

This church appeared make-shift, marking a spot where, under an influence of a former fanatical thought, an ancient Russian cathedral had been burnt down over half a century ago.  A modest wooden building, unheated, undecorated, in a shape of a polygon, sat in the shadowy corner of a square.  The country was living through an era of resurrected gods and revalidated heros, often dead by now, having been taken for granted for the sake of simplifying a former common ambition.  Things crumbled.  Alliances turned chaotic.  And when everyone woke up to amended history — figures worthy of worship long gone and nearly forgotten — a common panic ensued.  For even if it weren’t the ego that made a people matter, it had to be their spirit; a common memory of a civilization.

The roads had frozen overnight; and at first, she had snuck-in to thaw out her stiff toes.  She purchased a candle at the door, mostly out of habit.  She didn’t even know how that particular ceremony worked.  Two side altars, with figures of crucified saints, sat against the walls of the church, opposite of each other.  Standing there for a while, still and unnoticed, she studied the other women who moved like ghosts across the dirt floor.  Everyone was fully clothed.  She looked down at her feet and shifted:  There was little hope of her finding much warmth there.  Still, she stayed.  She paused, and in the growing shadows of her memories, she waited.

Older women in head scarves, with histories written across their tired faces, were crossing themselves at their chosen mantels.  Some moved their lips in prayer, repeatedly lowering their heads in a manner that came after so much practice, one was no longer moved by it.  What misfortunes had brought them here?  Loss required humility, otherwise one was consumed with fury.  Her country had lived through tragedies with a numbness of habit.  Resignation was often advised by the elderlies, yet she found herself incompetent at it.

She took another look at the suspended saints and walked over to the side alter with a Christ whose eyes were semi-open.  A little girl in a rabbit fur hat clung to the leg of her grandmother.  Larisa looked down at the child and without raising her hand, moved her fingers inside the mitten.  The child, sensing an interaction, got shy and clutched the old woman’s leg with more zealousness, for children often appeared overwhelmed with the energy of living.  Their egos struggled with the life force they had been granted (what were they supposed to do, to be?  how did they matter); and juxtaposed against the even flow of hours — one’s magnificence was only seen in silence, she believed — the egos expanded; for surely, they had to become something better.

(To Be Continued.)

She and His

Be kind, be kind.  Must always be kind.  Be kind onto others.  Which is not the same as being kind onto yourself.

The silly self:  It’s like a whimpering babe, looking at her with confused eyes.  Why aren’t you coming for me?  Don’t you know how much I need you?  Poor thing, so dumb and innocent, it knows not its ignorance is bliss; but need, need, need.  I need you, need you, need you — to be you.

But she forsakes it.  It can make it on its own.  That’s the Darwinian rule that she had obeyed for years; the rule that had been done onto her, when her mother fled her marriage and parenthood in the family’s fourteen-year old Honda to live in Portland, with a lover — a vegan milkshake store owner.  For her, it wasn’t:  Do onto others as you do onto yourself.  (Some people can be so selfish, mother!)  But she had had a life-long history of being better to others — better for them — than to her whimpering self.

There’s time enough, she thought; and maybe later she could retire to finally tend to her needs.  By then, the self would be so tired (although she swore she had been tired ever since she was thirteen).  But she would tire herself out enough to retire, with babies and her future husband’s nightly strewn socks all around their bedroom.  Until then:  She had to be kind.

A decade ago, she used to be angry.  At all times, at nearly everything.  “It’s my prerogative!  I am what I am,” said the ego.  Except that it was all wrong:  She was kind.  Always kind.  She was the daughter of her father — a gentle man who, despite the damages done onto him, had never done it onto others; and being his next of kin came with the same unbalanced, unjust genetic mechanics of selflessness and never knowing how to ask for a favor.

But even though, in her youth, she would hold onto the anger, she felt it falling flat every single time, after the initial sensation in her body.  Like an off-key tune, it was uncertain and wavering; blue and slightly disappointed.  Like a story without an arc:  Who needs it?

“This is how I’ve always fended for myself,” she would defend the anger to her departing lovers and move the hair out of her eyes with a furious head shiver.  The lovers couldn’t understand why she insisted on living her life in so much difficulty.  Not everything had to be understood so thoroughly, so completely.  She “should learn to let go”.

Fine by me!  Go!  Go on and leave!

But they would miss her, she was sure of it; because in between all those hollow spaces of anger, she always offered kindness.  Kindness pro bono.  Kindness at the end of every day.  And besides, she had always made it clear they were never the point of of her unrest.  Instead, they could revel in her love, her compassion or her charity — all depending on the degree of availability of her kindness.  So, how difficult could it be to be loved by her?

But you should go!  Go ahead and go!

In those moments, she recalled an actress in a film that her mother seemed to be watching every single time she’d walked in on her.  The actress was good at crying well, with no resistance in her face.  And on that particular line, “Go!  Just go!” the actress would close her eyes completely, like someone aware of being watched.  And she, catching a glimpse of both actresses in the room, would always wonder:  “Why the fuck is she wearing full make-up, in a heartbreak scene?”

The departing would never find another her, she thought to herself; and she was right:  They wouldn’t.  But with all the others — who weren’t her — things were slightly easier and more vague.  Others left room for misinterpretation, so that the lovers could live out their love in mutual illusions, until the first point of cross-reference.  Hearts could be broken then, expectations — disappointed.  But they would’ve had some wonderful times by then.

And yes, with time, easy became boring; but boring — gave room to calm.  And into the calm, it was easier to retire.  Because in the end, we were all simply so tired.

So, be kind.  Must always be kind.  She almost terrorized her lovers with kindness, which was shocking to the recipients, in every beginning.  It made her unusual, unlike all the others.  The lovers could not have suspected, though, that she was merely collecting a reserve of it for when the going got harder, because it always would; and because the first time the anger came up in each affair, it stayed.  One note.  No arc.  Just co-habituating with the rest of her, not necessarily parasitically.

Some lovers would attempt to rescue her from the anger.  (Sometime, infatuation liked to pose as love.)  These more ambitious ones would suffer the most, from her resistance, from the complexity of her constant devotion to truth.  And only when they, finally tired from it — or of it — raised their first objections, she flaunted all the moments of previous kindness in her self-defense.

How she hated herself for turning calculating, pitiful and shrill!  After those endings, she would have to find healing in closure that took more time; because self-forgiveness was harder to summon by someone who did onto others better, than she did onto herself.

But they all would remember her kindness at least, she told herself.  In the end, they all would.  And, again, perhaps, she was right.  But no one could ever survive the lack of self-love.

 

I could do this one, why not?  She’s kinda cute.  Hot, actually.  She’s hot, and that’s so much better anyway.  She’s not one of those gorgeous girls who thinks she’s outta my league.  Fuck those bitches!  They get too expensive, anyway.  But this one is not like that, man.  I wonder if she’s the type that doesn’t think she’s beautiful at all.  Which makes it even easier.

I should ask her out.  ‘Cause I could probably do this one, easily…  Hands down!

Okay, maybe not “easily”.  She called me “Patrick” last night.

My name is Dave.  

Shit, man!  Just look at her!  Leaning over the edge of the bar, so obviously flirting with Stan.  Stan is old, but he can get a girl nice ‘n’ liquored up, I guess.  I tolerate Stan.  And that’s as far as I go with people.

Stan is, like, seriously deprived of love.  His woman is a total bitch to him, you can tell by the way he cranes his neck whenever he talks to a broad.  Any broad.  Like a fuckin’ abused dog that expects to be hit between his eyes for chewing on her slipper, just ‘cause he just wanted to taste the sweat of her feet.  Stan’s woman must castrate him every day, for breathing too loudly or for not looking the part, or some shit.   And I bet she thinks she should be with someone better.

Look at him!  Just look at him now!  God!  He’s shaking just ‘cause this girl is nice to him.  God…

I hate dogs!

Maybe Stan’s got a giant one.  Chicks always say that it’s not important.  But that’s just bull, if you ask me.  I’ve seen ‘em looking at me when there is no point of going back and I’m staring them in the face, erect but less than a handful.  Nerve-racking enough to shrink anyone.

“Ohm,” they say and look up at me with that face, as if I got them the wrong thing for Christmas.

I wonder if it’s those fuckin’ pills.  I told John, I’d rather be bald.  But then, his woman chimed in:  “Jenna”.

“I wouldn’t fuck Prince William, with that hair of his,” she said.

First of:  Who wants to date a chick called “Jenna”?!  Or “Trisha”?  “Trish”.  Sounds like a diner waitress with three grown children by another man, at home.

Anyway, “Jenna” has this habit of going out to our fridge, in the middle of a night, in nothing but John’s wife-beater.  She’s a bartender, comes over after her shift.  Drunk.  I hear them fuck.  I try to tune ‘em out, so I blast some ESPN, or fucking Transformers 3, I don’t care.  Whatev.  But it’s like this chick’s got police sirens for her moans.  And the really fucked-up thing is:  They really turn me on.  It’s like having a live porn sound-feed from across the hall.  So, I’ve started waiting for John to finish his first round; come out to the living-room, turn on the TV and I watch her, as she runs to the bathroom.  (Why do chicks always have to pee after sex?  Does urine kill sperm?  I fuckin’ hope so!)  But then, she comes out, all flushed and glossy from splashing water on her face and thighs; all the fattier places bouncing on her body.

“Jenna”.

…Frankly, I don’t like fat girls anyways.  Fuck ‘em!  I’d rather keep aiming high.  But the skinny ones are always meaner.

John told me “Jenna” likes big ones.  Makes her ears plug up, she says.  And she’s got this vein that pops out in the middle of her forehead.  Makes John worried she’ll hemorrhage to death on day, if he keeps winding up her sirens like this.  So yeah, it matters, he says.  Size matters.

“Jenna” lies to my face.  Says it’s all about the man’s hair:

“I’d rather fuck a bald guy than Prince William.”

So, these days, whenever she comes over, I watch TV with my cap on.  “Jenna” has these sick nails and she always paints them red; and she likes to rough out the top of a man’s head, then pull his face into her breasts and smother his silly grin with them.  But not me!  Not this guy!…

Ah, shit!  Just look at this one though!  She’s still talking Stan up and I can see that jittery part of her thighs from the way she hangs on the bar.  This one is hot.  Kinda like “Jenna”.  That’s the problem.

And I can tell she is not like one of those chicks back in college who liked to brag about sex all the time and confuse the attention they aroused — for being liked.  Those chicks had seriously low self-esteem.  But this one doesn’t talk sex.  She moves sex.   And we are all deprived.

I blame our mothers.

(To Be Continued.)

“Don’t You Know: They’re Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution? It Sounds — Like a Whisper!”

“People are not good to each other.

People are not good to each other.

People are not good to each other.

I suppose they never will be.

I don’t ask them to be.

But sometimes I think about it.”

Charles Bukowski, The Crunch

There is a passion, in all of us.  It boils.  It protests:  In Rome*, Yemen, Africa**.  It pushes to break us out of our skins — out of our boundaries; shackles, limits, laws; cowardice — and to rebel.

Some have chosen to live quietly, getting by.  They seem to cause the least conflict.  And if on occasion they hurt one another — it will be most likely by accident.  A tiny demand will rise in their souls — a tiny rebellion against obedience that has seemingly earned them nothing.

“So, what’s the fucking point?!” I ask.

And they reach for something that the rest of the world won’t miss much.  They reach with passion.  There may be an accidental victim:  He’s gotten in the way of their reaching.

But what’s a little hurt — against a lifetime of groveling?

Nothing.

Others manages to tangle up their egos in the chalk lines of the score board that keeps track of the rat race.  They are a special clan:  They measure life in numbers.  In things.  In values.  Passionately.  To them, there always seems to be a deadline in life, called Work Until:

Work Until:  They get tired of playing.  Work Until:  They gain a debt, then pay it off.  Work Until:  They have a piece of land, for a house or a deathbed.  Until they pay off a palace, a chariot, a marriage, a child’s tuition:  A Happily Ever After.

Work Until:  They never need to work again.  Work Until:  They can rest.  Work Until…

Nothing.

Their days turn into discardable minutes:  Five minutes — Until.  Thirty years — Until.  Another person’s life — Until.  Until, Until, Until, Until.  They pump themselves up against the lackluster crawl of the minutes.  They lose themselves — in things, in numbers.  In scores.  With passion.

Some actually manage to get there:  God bless ‘em!  They get to their anticipated Until, for the sake of which, they’ve sacrificed so many minutes.  And some have even sacrificed their truths.  Their passions.

That’s when the real horror happens:  At the end, they soon discover that nothing, in life, lacks a price.

Nothing.

And they find that the price of Until usually turns out to be gastronomical:  Greed.  Sacrifice.  Health.  Denial.  Nothing.

And that shit isn’t refundable!

“So, what’s the fucking point?!” I ask.

And:

What happens to LOVE — I ask — in such a lifetime of Until?

Find me a man who knows the answer to that.  For I have asked too many men who’ve given me mere accusations in return.  Something about time, or timing.  Readiness and plans.  Something about their Until.  I couldn’t really stick around for their explanations for long:  Their fear was eating up their faces — and my time.  So, find me a man who knows the answer to:  What’s the fucking point?!  I find me one who answers with passion.

Oh, and don’t discount those poor suckers born with extremely sensitive souls.

“It’s okay.  They’ll grow out of it,” pediatricians tell their parents.

Most actually do:  Innocence is rarely immune to life.  

But what happens when they don’t?  Well, then:   Please, say a prayer for those poor suckers:  A Hail Mary for the Sensitives.  For they are stuck here, among us, with no delusion to save them from the ache.  And no Until.

“Oh, but everyone aches!” the others object.

Still, the sensitives get the worse of it, in this life.  They stumble around, among us, like unwanted orphans.  Like innocents.

“But do YOU ache?” they ask.

Poor suckers!  They insist on hitting the truth on the nail.  It’s so annoying!

“Everyone aches,” the others object.

The sensitives study our faces for signs that they aren’t the only ones feeling this much.  It’s innocence, at its worst.  It’s passion.

“Then, what do you do — to cope?” they ask.

“Nothing.”

So, they devote their lifetimes to taking notes.  They write down our words, then regurgitate them, in a prettier form:  Poetry.  Others jot down their sketches, finding beauty in our fear-eaten faces.  And innocence, or whatever is left of it.  Passion.  Some put on reenactments:

“Wouldn’t this make for a better picture, in life?” they ask.

The others scoff, look away.

They do not have the time for truth — Until…

They do not have time — for a revolution.  

No:  They would rather spend their lives suspended until the arrival of Until.  Or, they spend their lifetimes — groveling.

Surely, there will be small griefs that happen until the Until, and they’ll complain and demand attention.  They’ll demand a change, but only enough of it — and only if it’s convenient — and never for the sake of others.

Because everyone aches.  And there is nothing to be done about that.

Nothing.

But what would happen if we gathered our passions into a fist and planted a punch?

* Rallies Across the Globe Protest Economic Policies.  New York Times. October 15, 2011. 

** “Occupy”Protest Turns Violent in Rome.  Al Jazeera.  October 15, 2011. 

“Steadily Rewindin’, Tryin’ to Make Some Hot Shit… Oh, What a Job This Is!”

Trying to write at a coffee shop:  This nomadic lifestyle of mine is slowly taking a toll on me.

The joint that I’ve chosen is not on the beach, but it carries the name of one.  And it comes with a specific array of noises.  Noises and egos.

They aren’t corporate egos, thank goodness.  They belong to life-long outcasts and beautiful, quirky kids who are stubborn and mad enough — to keep at their stories:  At their art.

Like this tatted-up boy right here, with bleached hair:  He is smaller than me.  He walks in through the glass back door, smiles sheepishly; grabs the handle before the door slams and shuts it, slowly.  Quietly.  He knows there are others here — stubborn and mad enough to keep at their stories.  To keep at their art.

Just look at him!  I betcha he’s got a story or two, and he’s most likely figured out his medium by now.  So, he’s certainly gotten himself a hefty ego.  And that ego nags — until each story is told:  on paper or on his skin, or braided in between the strings of his guitar.

The boy leaves.  I notice that the bleached hair is actually brushed into a well-sculpted mohawk.  He does the handle thing again, looks at me, from the other side of the glass door; smiles sheepishly.  Thank goodness — for his specificity!

Shit!  I’ve gotta focus.  I still haven’t written, this morning.

I walk over to the counter.  I can tell by the way one barista is bickering at the other, under her breath, that the two ladies aren’t really getting along.  This one:  brown, pretty, with striking gray eyes is yanking the handle of the espresso grinder like she means it.  I catch myself wondering if her wrist hurts at night, and if that shoulder of hers needs healing.  Does it makes her moan, at times, about “her fucking day job”?  Does it fuel her stubborn madness — to keep at her stories?  To keep at her art?

Just look at her!  By the way she arches her eyebrows and tightens her mouth, I know she’s been doing this gig for a while.  And she’s really good at it.  There is a routine in her movements:

Yank, yank, yank, yank.  Swipe across with a single forefinger.  Press down the tamper, tap the side with it.  Press down again.  Brush away the loose grinds.  Get ready to brew.

This girl is a virtuoso!  She’s found art in the most mundane of occupations.

Okay.  Shit.  Focus.  I still haven’t written, this morning.

The girl taking my order is also the one working the milk steamer.  She is a bit bossy.  Some may even call her “bitchy”.  “Tightly wound”.  “With prickly temperament”.  (I would know:  I get called those things — all the fucking time!)  I watch her maneuvering each pot of steaming milk above a paper cup.

She reminds me of a woman conductor who has once taught me music:  That older creature of grace was an untypical occurrence, an exception in the world of classical music.  This one — must be some sort of an artist as well.  And I wonder if she’s got the balls to be a pioneer, in her very specific thing.

“Hey, now!” she says to a young skater boy who struts into the joint, through the glass back door.  He has a headful of African curls tamed with a backward turned cap.

The counter girl lights up:  She still knows how to adore…

Shit!  Focus, focus, focus!  Still haven’t written!  And it’s already — an after-fuckin’-noon.

I wait for my latte:  It’s being made, with such specificity.  They never serve watered down coffee here, with an aftertaste of burnt espresso grinds.  Timing is very important.  So is taking the time.

I pass a row of tables.  Each is occupied by a youth at work.  The girl at an aluminum table is wearing orange earplugs:  This joint comes with a specific array of noises.  Noises and egos.

“Yank, yank, yank, yank,” — is coming from behind the bar.  “Tap.  Pause.  Tap.”

And on top of that, there is a hysterical rockstar screaming over the radio speakers.  I’ve been in enough of these joints, over the course of my nomadic lifestyle, to have learned good music.  This — is not good.

The radio goes silent.  I look back:  The bossy counter girl is messing with the radio stations.  A sweet reggae beat takes over.

The boy in a hoodie, at the table next to mine, starts nodding his messy head.  His face is wrinkly with pillow marks, but it’s intense.  He is so young, yet already so specific.

Just look at him!

Shit!

Focus!

Write!

The tatted-up boy with bleached out hair returns to use the bathroom.  He does the handle thing.

The bathroom door opens:  A youth of about twenty rolls out of it, in a wheel-chair.  Damn!

He passes me.  His face is kind.  He smiles.

The girl with earplugs gets up, packs up quietly.  Leaves through the glass back door.  Does the handle thing.

A Mexican stunner walks in:  Long black hair, butterflies instead of eyelashes.  She smiles at me, full heartedly.  Does the handle thing.

There is so much beauty in specificity!  There is so much beauty in compassion!  And it makes it so much easier — to keep at my art.

“Shit!  Let me get this for you!”  I leap out of my seat, to help a lovely young mother who’s trying to get through the glass back door, with her hands full.

I smile, hold the door; say:  “No problem!”  And quietly — do the handle thing.

“Don’t Need No Hateration, Holleration: Holla, Holla, Holla!”

How about:  I start with gratitude?

There are days when the ego wakes up early on me, and like a petulant child nagging his mother for junk food in line at a supermarket, it gets going before I decide to open my eyes and admit to the start of a new day:

“But, but, but…” it whines, throws fits and manipulates itself into more convenient emotions — the junk food for the human spirit:

–  Contempt:  That one always promises to be easier; but so obvious its wastefulness, I haven’t tried my hand at it — EVER!

–  Anger:  A real dilettante, claiming its expertise when leading to solutions; but then, it always runs out of air on me, long before the finish line.  Oh, but it has tempted me enough times to have learned my lesson, by now; so, I don’t follow its lead.

–  Expectation of justice:  I might as well resign to never allow another human to affect me, because such an expectation — is a moot point, fo’ sure; and it certainly cannot be an objective in any of my actions.

–  Self-pity:  I’m altogether allergic to that sucker, so I haven’t seen its face around here, for ages.  Same goes for jealousy:  In my universe, it’s a leper I prefer to keep at ten-foot distance.

But take this morning:  I woke up tired.

“First of all:  I am tired.  I am true of heart!

And also:  You are tired.  You’re true of heart!” *

So, that must be a starting point, for most of us.  A common ground, eh? Perhaps, that is why many prefer to be in love; for in those glorious beginnings of an affair, it gives you reasons to get up.  Exhaustion does not seem to matter.

(The work?  The work surely comes later.  The ghosts come out to play:

“Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man…”

The patterns play hide-and-go-seek for a while; but when the lovers lose their libido at trying to impress each other, the hidden qualities crawl out:

“You’re it!”

So, in comes the work.)

But take this morning:  I woke up tired — and not in love, with another.  For a while, I tossed my exhausted limbs in bed and dismissed the temptations of the ego to start weaving its through-line for this new day.  I checked the phone:  No visible commitments.  Where to start, I thought.

How about:  I start with gratitude?  

So, I got up, mostly out of habit, got the coffee going.  The first obvious choice of action — was to clear the space.  I’m in control of it, this year — my space; but even that takes some discipline.  Because I no longer can blame any outer — or inner — clutter on my bunkmate.  My space equals my freedom equals my problem.  My responsibility.

“It’s a question of discipline.  When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet.” **

And so, I did that, mostly out of habit, but secretly letting the faces of my beloveds slip into my memory.  Perhaps, they were in the things that I shifted around my space.  These things either tended to originate from all my loves or to lead me back to them, in unpredictable ways:

There was that one, on the furthest coast, who mattered the most — she was heard from, yesternight:  She always justified my love.  My brothers, scattered all over the continent because they are that much restless of a kind — they all came forth throughout the last few days.  The lovelies in this city, where, for whatever reason, it’s much easier to get distracted:  They too made their adoration for me audible.

And then, there was a boy:  A boy from last night, who with his youth and beauty, insisted that even though I was tired — I was true of heart:

“I thought you were really cool,” he said, sitting underneath a yellow light on the floor of his hallway.  “But I didn’t know you’d be so different.”

(He would later make me laugh, make me lighter; tease me, teach me; make me sit still — underneath the yellow light, on the floor of his hallway — while respecting my tiredness.  He was not a love.  Not yet.  But oh, so lovely he was, in this city where, for whatever reason, it’s so much easier to get distracted.  Perhaps, it was the late hour of the night…  (Or was it the early hour of the morning?  I never know the difference.)  Perhaps it was the late hour of the night, but the mutual ghosts did not come to play:

“Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man…”

But I was already too tired and true of heart — too wise, beyond my years — to not notice the patterns peeking out their turned-up noses from underneath the door of his apartment.)

But take this morning:  I woke up tired, not in love with another, but slowly, seemingly in love — with so many.  I continued to shift things around, organizing the space, getting ready to do my daily work.  Slowly, the sleepiness evaporated.  The exhaustion — suddenly didn’t matter.

I was loved, I thought, or at least adored — by many.  And they were all so magnificent:  These hearts, equally tired and true, searching for something just a little better than survival.  And whenever they chose to remember me, they gave me reasons to get up.  My tribe.  My comrades.  My witnesses.  My better selves.  They made me matter, rebuilding me every single time I was too tired to start a new day:

“You are fabulous creatures, each and every one.

And I bless you:  More Life.

The Great Work Begins.” ***

With the space cleared, it was time — to do the daily work.

“But where do I start?” I thought.

How about:  I start with gratitude?

 

*  Dave Eggers, A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius.

**  Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.

***  Tony Kusher, Angels in America.  Part Two:  Perestroika.

“I-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t: Do You Know What That Mean?”

There is a poem by a dead comrade from my Motha Land dedicated to us, Russian broads.  It goes like this:

“She will stop a galloping horse and walk into a burning house.”  

We are like that, the broads in my motha’s family:  Never the tall or skinny supermodel types, we’ve been known to have smaller frames, upon which some have packed on curves, especially after carrying their firstborns.  For a couple of centuries, since a gypsy entered our family and genes, we’ve been strutting closer to the ground; and, as in the case of my motha’, have learned to sway our hips with enough gusto and sex to keep us better balanced in our short bodies.

But you would never call us “small.”  Even these days, most of my comrades are confused when I climb off my Femme Nikita heels and start standing a lil’ bit over five feet tall.

“You’re so short?!” they say with a sincere wonderment.

“It’s my ego,” I’ve learned to explain.  “It makes up for my height.”

From what I’ve overheard of the fam’s mysterious history, the broads of my motha’s clan have always had some serious temper on them.  Blame in on the Romani blood, but these wild cats have been known to intimidate their husbands and children into life-long submission — and heart-altering love — while getting shit done with the assistance of their famed sexuality.  Oh, yes, siree!  Hot-blooded, stubborn and messy-headed, these creatures have granted me their fearless make-up.  Especially when going through hell — when right in the very midst of it — we aren’t the ones to show fear.  And only when alone or in the arms of a man privileged to have tamed us into quietness for a while do we become the scared little girls every woman should be allowed to be.

All this preface to say:  I don’t need help!  Whenever lugging heavy loads in life, I don’t ask for assistance.  I can handle it on my own, thank you:

“Pleeze, dan’t khelp me!” I always shoosh away my comrades’ helping hands, in my motha’s thick Russian accent; and while I proceed with my stubborn struggle, I watch their beloved faces crack-up in recognition of my authenticity.  “Yourr velkom!”

Yesterday, after the expiration of the bloody tax deadline, I’ve finally ventured out to my local post-office with a couple of accumulated care-packages for my beloveds on the East Coast.  Typical to LA-LA’s fashion, this particular USPS location didn’t come with customer parking (shocker!); and after circling the neighborhood and deconstructing its street cleaning signs for nearly half an hour, I finally squeezed into a slot between the tank of a Hummer and a clogged-up sewage drain, about five blocks away from my destination.  Other than the reek that surrounded my car and reminded me of my Motha Russia’s cow fields, I didn’t mind the walk.  So, off I went, balancing in a newer pair of Femme Nikita heels in my best runway walk, while lugging my boxes.

Needless to mention, no man has offered to help.  Actually, there is a need to mention that.  I know the lovely creatures of my gender have made strides in pursuit of their equality; but until we are genetically predisposed to pack on muscles equal to those of men, chivalry should NOT be off the table.  Fuckin’ pussies!  Ball-less weaklings!  Call themselves “men”…

Oh, sorry.  Where was I?  What did I tell ya:  I’ve got quite a temper on me!

Actually, there was one creature who seemed to empathize with my load:  a drunk homeless man who took a break from vomiting out his morning meal, wiped-off the foaming saliva off his crooked, toothless mouth and slurred out:

“Getchaself a cart!”

Thanks, buddy — for this life-changing piece of advice.

Still, I remained un-phased.  But the weight of the load must’ve had some effect on my face; because by the time I reached the damn post-office, a Russian compatriot, who was meditating outside with a cigarette in his right hand, said:

“OH.  SHIT,” — and hurried to open the door for me.

Inside, it would’ve been a normal occurrence of events — unworthy of my rant blog — if it weren’t a handful of construction workers holding hostage one of the windows for the entire duration of my waiting in line, then my lugging struggles to the window, then what had to be a somewhat amusing attempt to lift these fuckers onto my clerk’s counter.

I’ve been a woman for long enough to know when I’m being stared at.  With every follicle on my skin, I can usually feel a stranger’s eyes on me; and despite all of my temperamental huffing and puffing at the window, I knew the brothers were watching me.  So:  I shot ‘em my askance look.

There was a beauty in their dirty faces, an unexpected type, and it caught me off-guard.  In mismatching overalls and torn-up frocks, with unbrushed locks of hair or long strands of dreadlocks, they had to be independent contractors on their way back from building a stage at Coachella.  Or something like that.  And despite the heat of my temper affecting my better reason, I immediately wanted to know their story.  But still too pissy to soften up, I barely nodded in their direction and pretended to be consumed with comprehending the shipping rates my clerk’s mouth was now spewing out.

On my strut toward the exit and past the still staring brothers, I felt an extra spring in my step:  I just did that, my comrades, all on my own!  And now I was heading back out — to hustle and survive! — while looking pretty damn good for a broad who hasn’t rested since the beginning of the year.

With the corner of my eye, I sensed one of the workers jamming his elbow into his colleague’s ribcage; and he, in response, slid off his camouflage cap and with enough selfless innocence to make me wanna adopt him said:

“You’re beautiful.”

Phew.

Yep.

Da.

Time-out.

It was merely impossible, my darlings, to keep putting on my front without tearing up.  I nodded and thanked him, all kinda off the cuff.  Yet, I could feel my heart skipping a beat.  And in that moment, unmarred by the man’s further pursuit of my name or phone number; in that moment that a woman can never expect a life to grant her — not in this day and age! — I knew that the struggle of self-possession and the high price of independence have been worth it; even if — just for that moment.

From a Happy Ending — to Ending Happily

With some couples, it just doesn’t work out.  That’s the sad and unfortunate tale, my darling boys ‘n’ girls — a tale as old as civilization itself — that some relationships never reach their Happily Ever After.  Scratch that:  Some loves don’t even have a remote chance to reach their mid-way potential.  They’re just never meant to.

Because unless a love is on its very first round for both participants who are completely innocent and unscathed, someone steps into it while carrying a load or two of baggage.  Someone’s father didn’t love them enough.  Someone’s mother was a fuck-up.  Someone’s ex mistreated them.  Someone else had a history of settling for less than what they deserved.  She got cheated on.  He ended up not trusting humanity and fearing the vulnerability of love.  Oh, the reasons for the baggage are endless, my darlings!  I had seen enough of them to start believing that that very baggage is pretty much a permanent part of the process; and if not that, it’s an unexpected third character.

I mean:  Look at Romeo and Juliet.

Those two kiddos were lucky enough to experience the rare coincidence when both parties love each other equally and, what’s utterly amazing, for the very first time.  But even in the case of these two “star-crossed lovers,” they did not start-up their famed affair without a couple of issues in tow.  Even though their baggage didn’t originate from previously failed affairs, these two teenage lovers had inherited plenty of it from their families.  And once there is baggage — the affair cannot remain light.  Sooner or later someone’s gotta start reshuffling their shit, impose some transference upon their new lover, repeat a pattern or freak-out entirely.

And sometimes, a love affair is predetermined to not work out.  Back to our unfortunate kiddos in Verona, their Happy Ending was doomed from the get-go.  As for the rest of us who have lived — and loved — enough, we can’t even figure out if we’ve chosen our future beloveds to fit the pattern or to escape it.  Because when it comes to one’s history and one’s future — they are two codependent aspects.

“Damn, V!  That’s a grim outlook,” you may say.

Well, there is hope in it yet, my dear comrades.  With the help of some therapy and mutual communication, a love has a chance of surviving being bashed by egos.  But it takes hard work, of course.  However, I never said that the hopefulness came at a reasonable price.

But today’s rant blog is not even about love:  It’s about the loss of it.

Allow me to ask you this poignant question, my dear comrades (for such is my destiny — to be poignant; and “yourr velkom”!):  Why must we insist on making each break-up messy?  What’s with all the finger pointing, and the issue having, and the claims of righteousness, and the entitlement to justice?  Besides the reshuffle of things and bodies that must naturally occur when a Happily Ever After doesn’t work out, most failed lovers refuse to walk away without pulling some final punches.  Whatever happened to calling it quits without losing the grasp on grace; if not for the sake of the two people that the lovers have grown to become, then for the sake of the initial more smitten and kinder players they were in the beginning of the affair?

This has been puzzling me lately, I must confess, my comrades.  In the light of my recent willingness to make my new love story work out while simultaneously seeking my forgiveness of the previously failed ones, I’ve been rewinding some of my past break-ups.  (So, okay:  I’m masochistic a lil’!)  It’s like a bloody home movie marathon in my head these days!

And what I’ve discovered was that regardless the promises of kindness and the vows “to love and to hold,” in the final chapter of my every love story, shit got messy.  Even after I’ve wised-up enough to stop confusing screaming phone calls and slammed doors as an expressions of that same love, the drama (for the lack of a better word) didn’t stop.  Because even if I’ve decided to walk away without losing my graces, the other — often poorly chosen from the start partner — made it messy.

In the end, my darling boys ‘n’ girls, it all worked out, of course.  The broken hearts healed.  New loves eventually arrived.  In some cases, there even blossomed a lovely friendship between my exes and I.  But the residual guilt or the overall heaviness from an ungraceful break-up hung around for a bit; slowing down the process of healing and imposing itself onto the next affair.

So, why, I must repeat, this “much ado about nothing”?  Why can’t we, lovers, agree to depart without leaving each other undamaged?

Isn’t there a way to call it quits without the two prizefighters trying to pull those final punches that would knock the wind out of their opponent?  And instead of utilizing the energy of all that anger and mourning toward inflicting pain, may I dare suggest redirecting it toward summoning some gratitude for the obvious privilege of having loved at all?  And if a Happy Ending is just not meant to be, can an affair’s ending happen with some contentment, at least?

Grace: Unlimited

Heya, Sleepy Heads!

While you’re dreaming out your dreams and rebooting before the start of yet another day — god willing! — I’ve been greeting the sun for you.  (No worries:  It’s not up yet; but when it is, I shall relay the tales of your magnificence.)

And when you do wake, my lovelies, I hope you take the time — I pray you have the time — to tread the ground with baby steps:  rediscovering gravity and balance, not anticipating the next footstep and never missing the ones you’ve already left behind. Hold the ground, my darlings, with every step.  Hold your bloody ground! Hug it with the arches of your soles and it will return you — to your self.  But then, with the next footstep — let go! Somewhere in mid-flight, each foot may find the thrill of courage, and you just may grow a little.

Baby steps, babies!

May you have the patience and the surrender to move at the speed this day will ask of you.  May you keep your eyes on the horizon — for your dreams also arise there, slowly, like the sun, while gradually granting more light to your path.  But if today, you must trip or fall down — no biggie!  Tell your ego to hush-up with its routine embarrassments and other gratuitous tortures, dust yourself off, and keep on — with baby steps.

(Look at that!  The sky is fully lit by now, but the sun is still coyly hiding behind the mountain.  It’s taking taking its time.  Baby steps.)

There was a girl the other day — a woman stranger — who walked into a cafe like any other in LA-LA-LA; but the familiar moves of opening the door, stepping in, negotiating her space in line — she committed them with awareness and authenticity.  Oh, she was luminous!  With not a touch of make-up on her calm face, with her liberated, shoulder-length hair and a simple black jumpsuit that hugged enough of her curvatures and hid the others, she was reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn’s grace and Diane Lane’s sexuality.

The line-up of anonymous writers typing out their dreams at the wall-long booth of the joint stopped in mid-action:

“Who in the world is that?” — we all wondered; then proceeded rummaging through our scripts to fit her in…  Well, at least, that’s what I did.

But the girl remained.  That’s just it:  She remained.  (Baby steps!)  Patiently, with her hands in the pockets of her jumpsuit, she waited for her turn; then for her drink, then a table; then for her girlfriends, who arrived in a pack, with confusion and noise in tow.

“Oh my gosh, hon!” one of the creatures whined, refusing to adjust to the general volume at which the rest of us operated there.  “You look so… cute!”

My Diane Lane was already standing, sincerely leaning into the other women’s embraces while letting the loudmouth to henpeck at her appearance.  “Thank you,” she said.

“What’s this you’re wearing?” the whiny broad insisted on being loud.  “Is this — OH MY GOSH! — is this a jumpsuit?!”

“Yes.  Yes, it is,” the Diane Lane reminiscence said and smiled, ever so lovely.

Wow.  Mesmerized.  I was utterly mesmerized.  All of us were.  The gray-haired Morgan-Freeman-esque writer next to me scoffed, and at noticing my gaze, shook his head and hung it low:  Alas, humanity.  The other women in the group reshuffled either themselves or the chairs around the picnic table; but the loudmouth was still on a trip of her own:

“I wish I could wear that!”  She obviously had some beef with the injustice of her life, her body — her self.

With not a hint of bitchiness or self-defense in her voice, “You can,” said my Lane.

Okay.  Hold-up here!  Is this:  GRACE?  Well, yes.  Yes, it is.  The grace of self-awareness and forgiveness…  Actually, come to think of it (come to recall it), my Diane Lane moved as if she had nothing to forgive.  The pebbles of insecurity that the other woman hurled at our lovely girl bounced off, seemingly leaving not a scratch behind, then obeyed gravity and landed at her feet.  And my Lane remained unscathed, unaffected, unbruised; even lovelier after having to insist on her kindness.  That’s just it.  She remained:  light and weightless, causing no damage on Earth.  She held herself up, never bracing herself out of fear or injustice; treading carefully and kindly, as if this day — was the very first for her to discover.  Baby steps.

Aha:  The sun’s up.  Shall we?

Pardon You?!

Dear Ex-Whatevers:

I’ve had you on my ego’s mind lately.  Blame it on the current era of my life in which I’ve finally stepped up to my self-copyrighted standards and reached for what I’ve deserved all along; but my ego’s little trip these days is to be witnessed by those that have tripped me up before.

“See!  I’m still walking!” it wants to throw over the shoulder at those I’ve left behind.

While I was never the one to lack dreams, these days I’ve finally harnessed the courage to get me to them.  Although the manifestations of success are still audible primarily to me — there are no manuscripts published yet, no dream jobs to speak of, no gypsy journeys committed around the world to reunite with my heritage — but oh how close I am to becoming what I was always supposed to be!  (The bitchy irony here, of course, is that my lacks, my insufficiencies were self-manufactured all throughout.  I am the reason I’ve slowed down before.  I am the one to trip myself up.)

“See:  Still standing!” my ego wishes to telegraph to the past players who had no comprehension, patience, or — let’s just be honest here! — acceptance for the girl I was always becoming.

But why?!

“Why the hell are you dwelling on the fuckers?” the stronger, wiser girls of mine bitch-slap my slower Self who, truth be told, can be a real sucker.

They are correct:  The memories of the past losses — and the last asses — tend to slow down my step.  But there is “a method to my madness,” I realize:  FORGIVENESS.  Fucking forgiveness!  The bitch is high-maintenance, isn’t it?!  One can earn herself bloody blisters and very high bills from her shrink when chasing it.  Forgiveness demands work, and it is the type of work that comes with no owner’s manual.  It is only between you and you; and despite your girlfriend’s or mother’s endless advice, only you can do the heavy lifting of brutal honesty and self-knowledge.

But what even I didn’t comprehend, despite the three decades of fucking around and being fucked with — is that forgiveness is a bloody chameleon.  Not only does forgiveness vary depending on its owner and that owner’s past; not only does it take an encyclopedia of diverse methods to access — but it changes along with you. If, immediately after the loss, it feels right to be angry while maintaining a distance between you and the wrongdoer — then, at that moment, that is all forgiveness is meant to be.  After months of copying, it may change to a feeling of lightness (and maybe an occasional nausea at the sound of your ex’s name) — then, that is forgiveness at that moment.  For some, eliminating all contact with an ex is the way to go; and that little imaginary death is their way.  I always aspired to be the fuckin’ Mother Teresa with my ex-fuckers — tending to our friendships for the sake of the lessons, and the stories, and the blah-blah-blah.  No matter how idiotic it appeared to my girls, that — was my forgiveness.

Oh sure, I wish I were the type of a girl to let Beyonce simplify my emotional baggage via her lyrics of arrogant feminism or angry regret:

“And keep talking that mess, that’s fine!

But could you walk and talk at the same time?!”

Uhm-hmm:  to the left, to the left!

But you see, though, my comrades:  I like digging through the mess for answers — sometimes doubled over because the pain has taken the wind out of me — and get my hands nice ‘n’ dirty.  I’m more of a Nina Simone gal:  well lived-in, well-used, wrathful, self-sufficient and little bit insane; writing her lyrics with a nose-bleed and a foaming mouth:

“I hold no grudge

And I forgive you your mistakes.

But forgive me if I take it all to heart

And make sure it doesn’t start again.”

But alas!  Here is a little “aha” moment for V, as of very recently:  Despite the ego’s desire to be witnessed by those whose mistakes have gotten me here — I want no part of them. For a change, I’ve lost all desire to carry the baggage.  Can’t I just check it in somewhere?!  Yes, I can:  on my bloody pages!  Commemorating my exes on the blank canvases of my own is my way of honoring them; and I may even feel a pinch of gratitude for those tales of defeat — but that, my dear ex-whatevers, my fuckin’ ghosts, is as far as we go.  I’ll let the ego telegraph my successes when the unconscious is activated at nighttime, behind my closed eyelids; but those smoke signals shall be the only ones sent your undeserving way.

So, take it away, Nina:

“I’m the kind of people

You can hurt once in a while.

But crawling — just ain’t my style:”

Boy-Crazy

Balls out, comrades!  My man met my boys!

Our magnificent rendezvous was purely accidental yesterday, yet perfectly timed; because right around now have my friends began to wonder about the player smooth enough to keep V intrigued and ballsy enough to make a regular appearance on this “little rant blog” of mine.  (Special thanks here to my ex-fucker for belittling my writing with the above-mentioned tag.  Wait until my boys flip it and berate that arrogant twat!)  Anyway:  In all reality, it was no surprise to have all my favorite men of LA-LA-Land gather at this casual Brazilian hangout; for way too many mutual tales spring out of that joint.  Boo and I, however, are still in the midst of writing our memories, stamping them with the places we’ve explored together.  Yet in that vicinity, we’ve met for the first time, years ago.

Unpredictably, in the midst of yesterday’s casual afternoon with boo, one of my boys stormed in from behind me, swept me off my feet with his wings—and I was airborne:

“V!  What are you doing here?!”

Defying gravity on the neck of this 6-feet-plus soldier, in an embrace of overgrown children, I could not be happier.  But then, for a split second, I began to wonder about the reaction of my partner; so over the shoulder of the only man in my life I’ve called “my brother,” I looked for my man.  Quietly, he held his ground while waiting for his introduction, allowing for this love to unfold in an uncensored manner.  The introduction did follow very soon, after my petite body was released from the soul-recharging embrace.

“I’m Freddy!” my brother thrust forth his strong brown hand, his always genuinely smiling face and his grace that, as I’m convinced, springs from the lullabies he whispers to angels every night.  In return, my man—did his man-thing:  the nod, the shake, the name.  He didn’t need my help here; and suddenly, I got hit with the realization that I was being granted a rare privilege to watch grown men in action.  They were men when it came to negotiating the ways of the world; yet each of them I’ve witnessed in their Peter Pan modes—but this was not the place to get into my mama-V mode.

“Rara!  Where have you been?!” the runner-up favorite male creature of mine has arrived late (as fucking usual!) and repeated the whole V Hangs off the Neck of a God in a Homecoming Embrace routine.  For hours, this Latin boy child—my darling “Jaime” Dean—has delighted me less than a week ago (https://fromrussianwithlove.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/zen-and-the-art-of-going-down/).  Yet, as always, he acted as if distance and sad marriages have separated us for years—so child-like was his thrill to see me! so deprived and hungry was his ear!

The negotiation of a shared meal happened right out front of the Brazilian joint, with the dust of the perpetual Sunset constructions and mid-day heat of the sun getting in our eyes.  Soon, I realized that my place—was to hang back; because when in the company of these world-treading, motorcycle-riding, women-worshiping, art-creating, ground-breaking power-players-in-the-making, I was no longer taking the lead (as I do when navigating in the company of women).  Here, I was meant to lean back and watch shit be taken care of.  So, in surrender, my comrades (a speed that took me three decades to learn), I followed my tall, exotic creatures to our table, assumed my seat, tangled up my feet in my boo’s thighs, and got ready:  to watch, to study, to lap-up these new memories in creation and to re-fall in love with my loves.

Comrades!  How do I describe the utter delight in the stories of my ever-so-cool gypsy brother visiting our formerly shared city for just a few hours en route to his spontaneous trip to OZtralia?  And where in the world do I summon my Shiva for the dance of gratitude; because my brother, my witness, my spiritual equal has seen me both fallen and resurrected—yet he never judged?  And how do I paint for you my spit takes as Jaime Dean repeatedly broke everyone’s composure with his breathy delivery and authentic metaphors that only foreign-language speakers can master up (because we don’t give a damn about the rules)?  And pride with which I watched my man hold his own, funny and at ease—how do I write that, when it fails in comparison in all my former experiences?  Because truth be told, this astonishing young creature is the first to teach me about the natural pacing of relationships and the mandatory checking-in of one’s ego.  (I mean, the player gave me a book titled Zen and the Art of Falling in Love!  And I thought I knew everything.)  And how do I voice my heart’s aching in a silent prayer—for all of them—for their guardian angels to shield them from the nth losses of love or inspiration?

The event—was life-changing.  Picking up on that?

Half way through the meal, our table was crashed by yet another gypsy:  an Israeli bad-ass sporting a shaggy look of someone who doesn’t follow everyone else’s clock-determined schedule.  But by that point—V was just a pussycat, purring and arching her back in the company of the big, cool cats who have already sized each other up and reclined in a manner of having jack shit to prove.  And it made me wonder:  How do men learn to navigate the world?  Who teaches them to accept a woman’s chosen family and behold their dignity with such calm esteem?  Is the responsibility of fathers to teach their sons the healthy competition sans having to overcompensate for their lacks and lapses? I knew no answers; for despite having claimed my expertise in gender relations, yesterday was the first time I was humbled by the beauty of men.  I knew:  I’ve outgrown my grudges toward the other gender.  I have forgiven the mistakes of the unknowing few.  And I have surrendered to my curiosity toward the source of their grace; and, for the first time—became their equal.