Wake From Dreaming

“There are some who dream, some who realize those dreams, and some who never wake from dreaming.” ~Theodicus

The very first poem I ever wrote was about dreams, how they were the subconscious’ way of identifying the inefficiencies in ourselves and giving us notice. Of course, we don’t always remember our dreams so sometimes it is wasted effort. It was a simplistic poem, based as it was on something that cannot be measured, and the form was four-line stanzas that rhymed in turn.

But it was my first. You always remember your first, right?

The most recent poem I wrote was about Catholic constrictions, how the church isn’t catering to its new constituents, instead choosing to lean on form and ancient religious constructs beyond all measure. It had no rhyme scheme, although every once in a while a natural sort of rhyme appeared from thin air. That’s my favorite kind anymore, although some can write entire poems without it sounding forced. I am not those people. But I am content with who I am and the words that flow through me.

Then last night I was at a poetry reading and I’ve taken to sharing a piece of prose before my second round of poems. The one I shared last night was very well received, and I was hard pressed to figure out why. It’s because I talked about love — lost love — but a love that was fresh at the time and so full of promise. That’s what we connect with, and it’s why love poetry is still all the rage even in our society that promises flammable marriages and quickie divorces.

So, on the spur of the moment, I shared a poem called “Breathe Me” after my bit of prose, not willing to lose the connection I had forged through common experience and sympathy. And it resonated, the idea that we are two souls fighting for a place in a crowded world full of desperate souls, and that’s what solidifies love — not how we choose, or even who we choose — whether or not we are desperate enough to give the other soul a chance. It’s a heartbreaking poem with a hopeful ending. Which is all I can give, you know?

And I dreamed last night. I dreamed of the silence in my own head when I was up there ready to start, that moment stretching out forever, a companionable feeling that didn’t feel empty in the least. I dreamed of the noise of dozens of hands clapping interspersed with the clinking of silverware on china, a sort of ritualistic providence, an assurance that my words were not in vain.

But I can’t help but look back to that first poem, even though by now I’ve realized how futile it is to try and capture the essence of dreams, if not for solace at least for a baseline. It’s where I started from, and even though I would never share it with another person now, I recognize it as my younger self crying out for an acceptance that took an eternity in coming, but one that is so sweet now.

And it’s no longer lost in dreams. Because I’m tired of sleeping.

Sam

To Be Understood

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” ~Lucius Annaeus Seneca

smileyI’m used to qualifying what I say. You know: “What I meant was…” or “I hope you know… wasn’t what I meant.” That’s because too often I’ve been misunderstood. I think it has something to do with expectation. If the other person assumes I’m saying one thing when I’m really saying another it can be incredibly difficult to change their mind. This is especially true in writing, but it can happen anytime.

So it’s ridiculously rare to find those who understand what I mean without the qualifications. That’s why when I do locate them I hang on for dear life because it’s hard enough living day to day when everyone else doesn’t “get” me. Don’t get me wrong. I know I’m not the only one in the history of this world who feels misunderstood, who doesn’t live life in a zone-free bubble. But because it’s a recurring them with me I’m thinking maybe I should change how I interact with others.

My wife says I have a unique sense of sarcasm that is hard to spot because I do it so often that it can seem authentic. Maybe I’ve convinced myself that I’m really good at it, but saying something and then laughing at my own unique sense of sarcasm is a no-no. It’s like texting “I hate that color on you :)” The presence of the smiley, or of the laugh, means absolutely nothing, even though I think it means everything. I force myself to remember that the words are most important.

Perhaps the reason I’m often misunderstood is because half the time I can’t even understand myself, or at least understand my reasons for what I do and say. That’s where it really begins. If I want to be understood I need to analyze myself and my rationale. Before I paste a smiley on the end of a sarcastic statement maybe I need to think about whether or not the statement truly is sarcastic. I might just be saying what I mean, and hoping that others don’t take it seriously by tacking on a laugh.

But I’m not fooling anyone, not even myself, not anymore. And my wife is right, of course. She can understand what I really mean, and she wants me to understand it for myself. But she could never make me see it. She could only take the picture and turn the camera around to face me. I had to see it for myself, in my sad smile, and in my vacant eyes. Now they’re wide open, and I’m finally willing to second-guess myself. It’s a first step.

Sam

Two For Tuesday

“This simple life, this little wonder, expanding and contracting with each rising of the sun on a new day, makes me appreciate each breath that slides in and out of my lungs, and prepares me for night’s embrace and the start of a new day tomorrow.” ~Theodicus

tuesday2It doesn’t feel like a Tuesday. I mean, usually Tuesdays exude this feeling of accomplishment, like, “Dude, we’re almost halfway through the work week!” or “Man, it’s not Monday anymore!” But not this Tuesday. Maybe it’s because I had a bit of a long weekend, with a family trip capping it off yesterday, so today feels more like a Monday to me. Friday should be extra-special then, eh?

My mom just left yesterday. I took her to the train station in the morning after what was as usual a brief visit, but maybe any visit would be too brief. My children don’t get to spend nearly enough time with their grandmother, so it was good to have her here for four days, but those days went by like the wind and we’re back to our regular routine, like it or not. And part of my regular routine is making sure I dig deep into my soul to come up with more reasons to be grateful. It’s amazing how even the small things seem big when I take time to focus on them instead of dismissing them because they’re always there.

So here are two more:

1. I’m grateful for persistence. It’s not even just my persistence I’m referencing, but my wife’s as well. Ever since we found out Madeline had Down syndrome, and then when Alexa had that collapsed lung scare (and the subsequent surgery), Heidi has been like a dog with a bone finding any and every possible assistance for both girls. Madeline has been getting assistance since she was 6 months old due to this persistence, and just this past week we found out that a special machine that Alexa has been utilizing to help her airway was finally approved by the insurance company. All because of dogged persistence.

2. I’m grateful for blogging capabilities. When I first started writing in the late 80s there weren’t such things as blogs. Hell, there wasn’t even a world wide web that could spit out information faster than I could think of topics from which to search. Everything I wrote was captured in thick notebooks, and scribed with pencil, and I was the only one who ever read any of it. Funnily enough, back then I wondered what it would be like if my writings, my scribblings as it were, ever had more than just an audience of 1. And now, here I am with a readership approaching 2 thousand, all because of this little thing called the blogosphere. All hail WordPress.

I’m listening to David Bowie this afternoon as I wait for the laundry to finish, which does curiously enough feel like a Tuesday activity. Or maybe it’s just an every day activity.

Sam

‘Sup?

ojigi
They do this in Japan.

Most styles of greeting depend on the other person in the exchange. For instance, I see this one guy nearly every day, and each time we see each other for the first time he says, “What’s good?” To which I guess I’m supposed to say, “What’s good?” in return, but I always say, “Nothing new,” every single time. Another man greets me with, “How’s it hanging?” and I have absolutely no idea how to answer that one, so I just nod my head and say nothing. But there’s a woman I see every once in a while who tells me, “Nice smile,” by way of greeting, and I reply, “Nicer smile.”

These greetings aren’t like holiday greetings when we all get overly verbose (or the greeting cards do for us) because they happen often, but over time we’ve cultivated them until we know what we’re going to say depending on the person we come in contact with. The only troubles come when someone new enters our world, and we’re usually content to let them lead and we’ll follow, so if they’re doing the tango we’re doing the tango. At least until we feel comfortable enough with them over a period of time. Of course for some people it’s always awkward every time we greet them, but that’s life.

There are five distinct styles of greeting that I’ve noticed most people use when first spotting someone else…

  1. The Head Nod. Again, it depends, but generally anyone greeting me with a head nod is male. And usually if it’s anther black guy the nod will go up, while white guys tend to nod downward. I’m not sure what the difference really is in going up or down, but I usually let the other guy lead. If he juts his chin up, I do the same, like apes in the wild, and if he nods down I do the same, but I do feel like that way might as well have us bowing at each other, you know, like they do in Japan.
  2. The “‘Sup?” When I was coming of age the phrase was “What’s up?” but I guess these days we’re shortening everything else, so why not two words that were relatively short to begin with? And while this is technically a question it really isn’t, not when it is here in the form of a greeting. It means “Hi,” because, you know, “Hi” is a bit blase these days. I find that when I do answer the question all I get in return is confusion because they assumed I knew what the “‘Sup?” meant, and I’ve just disabused them of that notion. They don’t know how to handle it. The only correct response to a “‘Sup?” is a “‘Sup?” in return.
  3. The Bear Hug. The previous two greetings are generally for when I see someone often, but this one is usually reserved for people I haven’t seen in a month of Sundays. Oh yes, and this is usually a guy thing too. Not sure if it’s about the bone-crushing propensity of the bear hug or what, but it’s always been that way. The day a woman gives me a bear hug greeting is probably the day the world ends, but maybe that too will change. A bear hug signifies that maybe we weren’t friends when we knew each other back in the day, but the time in-between has made it so, at least for this one moment when we smush our bodies together in what passes for a greeting because we usually don’t know what to say to each other. Grunting should accompany the bear hug.
  4. The Choreographed Hug. While the bear hug is reserved for men, the choreographed hug is a female thing. I can see it coming a mile away. It starts somewhere in the eyes. Honestly. Then it spreads to the mouth — a brilliant smile that means something this way comes. Then the arms part and I know it’s unavoidable, whether I want to avoid it or not. Most times, though, the choreographed hug is a welcome one, either because my day has been going poorly or because the person offering the hug is a dear friend who understands that my day has been going poorly. Semantics, I know, but it’s good all the same.
  5. The “How are You?” Some people use this as interchangeable for “‘Sup?” where there is no response necessary, or even wanted. They don’t really want to know how I am, but they still can’t bring themselves to say “Hello.” It’s anathema these days, and I miss it. Sometimes I answer a “How are You?” with a “Hello,” and watch their faces squinch up, trying to make sense of it. But the “How are You?” is probably the most common greeting I get anymore, and it bores me to tears. I guess I like creativity in greetings, but as long as I’m the second person in the exchange I can’t say much about it.

So maybe I should lead the exchange sometime.

Sam

“Shared” Experience

first-date-at-cafe“That which we call shared experience is never truly shared. We see the world through a lens constructed from individual prior knowledge, and therefore it colors even those times when we are not alone.” ~Theodicus

I love that saying about there being three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth. But that statement is inherently incorrect at its core. The truth is always shaded by personal experience, and your truth is not mine, but does that make yours any less valid than mine?

A boy and his father went fishing at the lake one summer day. They caught three fish and drove back home in silence. To the father it was a companionable silence born from a bonding experience between the two. But to the boy the silence was fraught with accusation because he knew his father’s expectations, and he felt like he had messed up several times that day. They had gone through a “shared” experience, but each of them took something different away from it.

That can be both a blessing and a curse, though, having an experience that cannot ever truly be shared. It’s a blessing because even if one of you takes it as a negative, you can see the positives in it. It’s a curse because no matter how special the experience might be to you it could be unsatisfactory to the other person involved.

Jessica and Tommy went out on a date tonight. They had dinner at a nice Italian place, saw the latest romantic comedy, and he walked her to her apartment. They kissed goodnight and he started walking home, analyzing the date as he went. It ended with a kiss, so he figured the night went well. Jessica closes the door and hopes he doesn’t call because to her the date was a disaster. The goodnight kiss, to her, was a kiss goodbye. They had the same experience, and did the exact same things, but they reached entirely different conclusions based on that “shared” evidence.

Truth is variable. The truth in every situation is a fluid construct, shifting to accommodate individual thoughts and previous experiences. But can we still enjoy these shared experiences? Definitely. We just need to be honest with each other instead of trying to spare feelings, or assuming that the other person feels the same about the experience that we do. It all starts with communication, just like everything else, with a real sharing of ideas and feelings. That’s what can transform those “shared” experiences into actual mile markers on our road to understanding each other.

Sam

The Ones Who Talk

thYou know “that guy?” He’s the one in the movie theater who can’t stop himself from yelling at the characters on screen as if they’re friends of his who are making a mistake. The one on the bus staring at his iPhone, whispering to it like it’s an old friend who’s done him wrong. “No!” he says as the screen goes blank for no good reason. He’s the guy who interrupts every conversation that goes longer than one exchange because he “just has to” interject something that is of a life-and-death importance. Yeah, I used to be that guy.

It all started with books, innocently enough. I was probably five or six and reading was what I lived for. Of course we didn’t have that many age-appropriate books at home, so I would read through the ones we had multiple times, like they were going out of style. The characters in those books became really good friends of mine, so I would begin imparting knowledge to them over the course of the book. “Don’t open that door!” I would say, knowing that behind the door was nothing good.

Then it moved on to movies. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Back to the Future and I kept telling Marty, “Your plan’s not going to work!” but he just wouldn’t listen. Luckily for him, even though his plan didn’t work, everything still came together in the end. If he had only listened to me it would have been a lot easier, though. And when the one scientist said, “They’re all engineered to be female,” in Jurassic Park, I yelled at the screen, “Hell no. They’re smarter than your science!” Look who was right.

But not everyone saw it the same way I did. In particular my sister would tell me to “pipe down” when I would get out of control responding to things that really were just one-way communicators. She would pound on my door while I was narrating my baseball games, and when I was proposing to Samantha Micelli (I guess I was loud) and tell me to knock it off. Apparently “nobody” wanted to listen to me profess my love for a fictional character. Of course, though, that didn’t stop me. Continue reading “The Ones Who Talk”

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