Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

A Life In Letters

Wax seal and old lettersWith the advancement of new technology, there is also loss. Today I mourn the demise of the letter. Yes, I know that email is faster and more efficient. I also know that you can get easily addicted to checking your phone every 10 minutes to see if someone has contacted you. Facebook has replaced the intimate chat once provided by letters with a very public façade of the personal life. Facebook and other social media have become the mask of happiness and rainbows that we wear for the world.

A few days ago an old friend, Kitty, emailed me that she was cleaning out a file cabinet and had found several of my letters. She scanned and attached two of them. And when I read them, I cried. It was a glimpse into the anticipation we held in our younger selves, and of course now, I knew how all of it had turned out.

I was punched in the emotional gut by those letters written in 1989. I’d just moved from Los Angeles to Boulder, Colorado. I was the in my thirties and in the midst of two enormous life-changing events. I’d become a college student, finishing up what I’d left behind. It was making me into a different person. AND I was falling in love with the man who would become my husband. Simultaneously my best friend, Kitty had recently given birth to a son. Her life was in a great state of change too.

The record and account of all this was documented in a series of long-distance letters in which Kitty expressed to me the fears and joys of being a first-time parent, the angst of wanting to do it right and how the ups and downs of all of that was affecting her.

I wrote about how getting a college education in my mid-thirties was giving me a sense of confidence, a sense of pride for going back and turning around something that for the longest time I didn’t believe I could fix. And then there was the tenuous narrative of my love life, words revealing the most cautious of hopes. I was in a relationship that I desperately wanted to work and feared might not, so I tiptoed around how I wrote about it. Of course looking back, I can see how much was said in what I chose not to write down.

Checking the mailbox to find a letter from Kitty brought me a rush of excitement. Her musings were a thoughtful deliberation on life, often accented by newspaper clippings and photographs from days when we were much more cavalier. I sent her short stories I’d written in school and a running commentary on my adjustment to Colorado. The letters reveal the depths of a friendship between two young women growing into their potential and purpose.

I appreciate that I can email a friend across the country and get a response in the same day, but emails are never as thoughtful as my letters once were. The anticipation of an email is more habitual than the delight of the ongoing dialogue contained in letters which were more emotionally honest. I miss that.

I am fortunate to have received many letters in my lifetime. I believe that their legacy can be found in my heart-felt love for stories. As a child traveling between divorced parents, my affection for the one I wasn’t with found expression in letters. And the connection I had from the absent parent was made up by hand printed reassurances. In my jewelry drawer, I still keep a letter from my husband, written to me one anniversary. It is a meaningful conveyance of his love and unwavering devotion to me. That he took the time to commit it to paper makes it a treasure.

When did Kitty and I stop writing letters to each other? It wasn’t a decision. It just unfolded that way. We are still in touch all of the time, but there is a sense of rush and hurry that was never in our letters. Our email sentences are shorter, and there is no longer the salutation of “Dear.” Many of our sign-offs are a promise to talk soon, knowing that the email was squeezed into a too-busy-day and that what needs to be said, what wants to be said does not exist in the paragraph on the screen.

I miss the letter. I fear that it is an art form that has met its death. I can’t imagine a title like Rilke’s Emails To A Young Poet ever gracing my bookshelf.

What about you? Have you kept letters from a friend or family member that you revisit from time to time? Do you still write letters? And like me, do you miss the delight of a letter in your mailbox? I’d like to know. Please share with me in the comment section.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Donald Trump, Blue Beard and the Feminine

Warrior womanShakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” As a writer, I see it this way: all the world’s a story, and all the men and women merely characters.

I recently talked with a friend who is a Jungian analyst and has spent many years collecting fairy tales and myths. “What is the story that can show us some hope about the election results?” I asked him. He told me that he sees Donald Trump as fitting into the archetype of Blue Beard (dark and destructive). At first glance, that doesn’t sound very hopeful at all, yet the tale does resolve on a high note. If you are not familiar with the Grimm’s fairy tale, it goes like this:

Blue Beard was a wealthy aristocrat, but he was ugly and was known for his strange blue beard. The people in his village were impressed by his wealth and happy to attend the lavish parties he threw. And they were willing to overlook that all of Blue Beard’s wives disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Of course, that didn’t stop Blue Beard from getting married multiple times. At one party, he met a beautiful, young woman to whom he proposed marriage and she accepted.

Blue Beard traveled a lot for business, but left his new bride with keys to all of the rooms in his castle and told her that she had the run of the place while he was gone. The young woman enjoyed looking through many magnificent rooms. One day she found a locked door. Trying the keys that Blue Beard had left her, she opened the door to discover Blue Beard’s previous wives, dead and hanging from meat hooks. She was shocked and afraid. Running out of the room, she tripped and dropped the keys into a pool of blood on the floor. She tried to wash the keys, but the key that opened the room of death would not come clean.

Before Blue Beard came home, the wife had stationed her two sisters in turrets on either side of the castle. Upon Blue Beard’s return he discovered the bloody key and told his bride that now she too would have to die. His young wife said the she understood, and begged him to give her a little time to prepare herself. Blue Beard told her that she could have one quarter of an hour. She went to the window and signaled her sisters. They in turn, alerted the brothers who were waiting down the road. The brothers rushed into the castle and killed Blue Beard before he could kill his bride. ~~~

Here is my interpretation of the story as it applies to Donald Trump and the feminine. Trump, is of course, Blue Beard. He is symbolically the ugly man as evidenced by his crude rhetoric toward women. His beard is not blue, but his skin is orange. His wealth and power are seductive to a lot of people who confuse being rich with being great.

The dead wives hanging on the meat hooks represent Trump’s disdain for women. The bride in the story represents the strong, smart feminine, who resists being battered and killed. Blue Beard’s bride steels herself and lies to the liar. “Let me prepare for my death,” she asks of him. Unbeknownst, to Blue Beard she has called in help from her brothers, symbolic of conjuring her male energy and becoming the warrior. This is the hopeful part of the story: The feminine becomes the warrior and destroys the aggressor, saving the day.  And peace fell over the land. Well, at least that’s what like to think will happen.

Here’s what is happening: All over social media, we see the presence of the feminine, coming forward. Trends toward positivity and gratitude are everywhere. These are the receptive parts of the feminine. Too, we are seeing the woman warrior who is both receptive and strong speaking out in resistance to the orange man (Blue Beard).

All the world’s a story and a good story can change the way  we see the world. I am always looking for the story I am in. It gives me context in which to hold certain life experiences. We are connected by our stories, the collective of our conscious and unconscious, and in these stories are we able to assign meaning and find hopefulness and transformation. Steel up, ladies. Stand in the light of your truth. And never forget that strong, smart women do prevail.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

The Last Belgium Blog

My retreat partner Susan and I with a statue of a Beguine.
My retreat partner Susan and I in Luven, with a statue of a Beguine.

It is the work of women to balance the world, to know their strength and stand courageously in the light of their truth. A patriarchy without the balance of matriarchy creates an uneven playing field upon which women are subordinates rather than leaders. You don’t have to look too far to see how out of balance institutions and governments create both a physical and spiritual poverty when they do not include the voice of women.

Traveling in Belgium and learning about the Beguines, I was inspired by the this esoteric group of women who sought to remedy the corruption of the church in the 12th century by living an example of spiritual and financial independence at a time when women did not have such choices. For a short period of time, they brought about a reverence and a station for women before their ideals and actions were again muted and absorbed by church and state. So, what did they teach me? How have I changed?

I walked the same cobble stone roads that they walked. I sat in churches where they prayed. I brushed up against the places and times that informed them. I listened to lectures about them, read about them and wondered about them. What all of that ignited in me was strength, the strength of standing strong in the light of my own truth. I have dug for examples in my life and I have found that all throughout history there were women who walked before me who had the same desire to live full and equal lives. I came away from Belgium with newly found and newly reclaimed inner strength to move forward in confidence and respect for myself.

The images of old-world northern Europe delighted my senses and reminded me that the world is a big and diverse place. Still, I doubt that I will ever become a world traveler. I am more of a Hestia, the Greek goddess who found satisfaction in tending the home fires. I am so happy to be home and so happy to have made the once in a lifetime journey. I met wonderful people, taught good writing classes, learned a lot . . . and made sure I did a little shopping.

The charm of old-world northern Europe.
The charm of old-world northern Europe

Now at home, settling into the autumn, I will begin my next novel and spend the winter months holed up in my office creating. The Beguines were creators. They made art and music and I see those things differently now. I see making art as a worshipful thing, a praising of all creation, a joy created in the heart, mind and spirit. My writing is an expression of love through creation. It’s good to be home, slightly altered and deeply grateful for where I ventured out,  and also for the return.

With Mathew Fox, who traveled with us for two days and taught us wonderful thing!
With Mathew Fox, who traveled with us for two days and taught us wonderful things!


Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

It Was The Cardinals That Got Me Going

iStock_000013167147XSmallWhat do Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Catholic cardinals and Fifty Shades of Grey have in common? They all seek to define women in ways that lack equality, balance or common sense. Other people, mostly men, have been telling women who they are ever since the apple incident in the garden. What men seem to forget is that there were two sets of teeth prints on the apple, and that should have made us equals right out of the gate. But we have come a long way, baby. Unfortunately as with all fights for equality, extremism rides on the fringes of a movement, a fact that especially now, we would be wise to remember.

This year a group of Catholic cardinals will meet to discuss women. There will be no women present for the discussion, though a report about who we are and who we should become will be made available after the meeting. And, in the spirit of liking girls too, the Cardinals have created a little contest whereby you can make a one to two-minute video of what you think to be an important women’s issue and send it in to the Vatican for review. I kid you not!

If you know Christian history, you can attribute the exclusion of women in the all male hierarchy of the Catholic Church to Thomas Aquinas, whose document Suma Theologica is the basis for a catechism that teaches women are temptresses and seductresses. Therefore they should never be allowed to preach the word of God or hold any leadership roles. The translation of that holy diatribe indicates that women are sexually insatiable, asking for it all of the time, sucking every good man she meets into her vortex along the way, and well, they just shouldn’t be allowed to join the club, lest they create disaster in the form of a world-wide sexual implosion.

It’s not just the Catholic Church that keeps women, second-class citizens, it’s that the military model upon which this big church was built, is still evidenced in corporate hierarchy and structure. Business as usual is also a boys club, but with an occasional “some girls allowed” mentality. Though a woman doing the same work as a man is worth only .73 cents to his dollar.

Some have argued that Miley Cyrus makes a feminist statement with her unabashed sexuality. I don’t particularly like her. I think she’s gross and while I support her right to express herself as she sees fit, to me there is nothing about her that demonstrates competence beyond self-promotion. That makes her less of a heroine and more a part of the problem. Yet like Miley, I believe my body is my own. I don’t want a government in my uterus and I don’t want to explain myself for how I choose to dress.

That brings me full circle to that meeting of cardinals. It’s not news, really. Only a short time ago, Congressman, Darrell Issa paraded a group of all male religious leaders before congress to discuss women’s birth control with nary a woman in sight. The fight for equality takes a long time and it is going to be tinged with extremism on both the front lines and on the opposition’s push back. Women wanting to be seen as strong, confident, smart leaders have difficulty getting out the message when Miley Cyrus is over in the corner humping a wrecking ball with her tongue hanging out, all the while postulating our empowerment through slut-dome. Push back to that example is the congressman from Montana who wants to ban yoga pants in his state because they are too suggestive. Suggestive of what? Oh yeah that “we are so insatiable” theme. To my first point; extremism rides on the fringes of a movement and if we are honest, we have to admit that we are all trying to find the line and the crossover.

Between prude and slut is the line of my comfort zone. For instance, I won’t go see Fifty Shades of Gray because it’s about a rich white guy who thinks it’s sexy to tie up women, employ enough force to result in bruising and once again underscore the myth that we need to be oppressed because of our imagined sexual insatiability. I fear the truth about Fifty Shades is that it normalizes violence against women by dressing it up and calling it erotica. I refuse to be a sheep and go “Oh wow, what a cultural milestone.” The film is a microcosm of the macrocosm: Rich white man, proliferating the subjugation of someone for personal use or pleasure. I won’t buy into marketing that tells me I’ve missed the point and that Fifty Shades of Gray is about something else. It’s not. A hundred bucks says that both Cyrus and Kardashian will tweet what an “amazing” film it is, and of course will taint the word “amazing” for me forever.

While women have made great strides in the past hundred years, we have a long way to go. Genital mutilation, honor killings, sexual exploitations and a gender biased worker compensation that keeps women poor, continues around the globe. Women in the United States rank only 27th in the world when it comes to health and well-being.

Kim Kardashian has a right to stick her naked butt into the camera and call it art if she wants to, but I don’t think she helps the cause of moving women forward. I guess I stand somewhere between the right to wear yoga pants and Kim’s right to be an ass.

I could be wrong, but most of the women I know think as I do about this: Kim’s ass pointed at the camera, Miley’s permanent tongue hanging out to the world and the cardinals video contest for women are not symbols of liberation anymore than Fifty Shades of Grey is a symbol of erotica. These are symbols of stupidity, a far swing in one extreme direction while we continue to search for and create an authentic equality based on intelligence, competence and kindness. Until women gain that stature, we will continue to be a world out of balance.