Precision

I bit into the cheese pastry. Not the same, sweeter and denser this time. Little strange fleeting feeling – can’t call it disappointment. Surprise? Hmm.

As I looked at the not-so-sweet peaches and the rather mushy blueberries in the bowl next to my coffee cup, a thought came to me, sharp as never before: I expect them to be just as I ‘know’ them. MacDonalds kinda thing. I have this clear ‘elaboration’ in my head which mixes shape, colour, taste – indeed, anything pertaining to the respective senses. And it applies to almost everything – alas, it applies to people. To every-body.

Has it always been like this, I wonder. Possibly. But it must have taken a turn for the worst at some point. Was it with the advent of clocks? Yes, it must have been. And machines. The same recipe, the same time, the same soul-less machine, the same bread as a result. Nothing left to ‘chance’.

And then I wonder why I get angry if people don’t give me the ‘right’ answers, if they don’t behave by my assumptions. I expect them to perform, to know, to care. Wrong – the last bit is long gone. The dead don’t care. They are not free to care. You either serve the devil or you serve the Lord. Perfection can only be found in imperfections. Please notice the singular and the plural, grammar is important- after all, as living souls we deal with Words.

So is math – important, I mean, and sometimes absurd. My breakfast is not just the sum of the blueberries and calories from the pastry. It is the joy in being grateful for eating these now and remembering that empty fridge in my childhood. These blueberries, farm-produced and machine-harvested as they may be, are simply wonderful – precisely because they include the paradox of life.

As for the pastry, oh well. I really wanted it to taste like that. Better luck next time, maybe?

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Description

“Who are you?”

“I am the one born one beautiful May day from two beautiful, faithless, weak people. I am the one whose alcoholic father eroded her confidence with carefully placed comments about my inability to shine. I am the one whose kind innocent mother kept encouraging to succeed – possibly to redeem her inability to cope. I am the schizophrenic one who forged on to ‘show them’ and who told herself she’s not worthy of love and yes, I am the one who’s ended up living in one country while mourning another. I am the one who fought for every bit to the point that any bit of ‘love’ equaled ‘struggle’.

“I am the one who badly wanted to touch and read a bible; the one whom God answered by sending this Book as soon as political freedom emerged in a country defeated by decades of communism; the one so loved by Him that, throughout the years, He sent encouraging old and new friends, gentle or harsh teaching, and finally His own Resurrection light all the way from His tomb to reach me on my very birthday. I am the one who discovered love is not struggle. Love is God.

“I am the one who made things happen. I am the one who lost an icon, then a lover, then a house, then another house and yet another house and another, then a country, then friends, then parents, then brother… and somewhere along the way, love. Yet, since love has a way to reinvent itself, to resurrect, to resurface – love found its way back to me. And, indeed, I made the impossible happen.

“So I am the one who has been raised from the dead. I am the poetry of precision, I am a little shinning light. I am the one who has taught others and will continue to do so. I am the one who empowers the bullied and the abused. I am the one who speaks the truth because nothing else is worth speaking. I am the one who fights for freedom of mind and spirit. I am the one who succeeds. I am the mother with a voice of her own. I am the invincible one because God Himself is my ally.

“I am the one who is His. And precisely because of that, I am who I am.”

They

King was locked away probably. There was no other valid explanation for his prolonged absence. He had been missing for years. At first, Queen – dutiful and energetic as she was – had searched everywhere. All the rooms, the throne, under the throne, the garden, the garage, the parliament and all the beaurocratic institutions in the country. As far as she knew, he didn’t have a mistress. Maybe he had more? Oh, maybe one of them would hide him. (That worried Queen, a lot – and then only somewhat.) Well, why would she, the mistress, kidnap him? A king without a job and a treasury doesn’t make much sense. So no, not plausible.

The first few days, Queen was frantic. They didn’t exactly get along, she and King… but, really, to disappear like that and leave her to deal with a whole – rather decaying, mind you – kingdom, it just wasn’t fair. Not to mention legal – she really couldn’t do much, nobody would take her seriously as long as he wasn’t declared dead or something. At least, those were some thoughts she had. After crying and crying her head off, seeing that tears could bring only as much comfort, she sat down in the Council room and thought some more. By herself. She thought, well, for one thing, she had always been good at planning and organizing. Wasn’t it her who raised those princes and princesses? (Sure, some governesses and tutors, too – but then King didn’t hire those either.) And who had reviewed each menu with the Chamberlain? She wasn’t too bad at politics either – that time when King had been so sick she didn’t think he was gonna make it, and nobody knew so she had to write up all those three treaties… she kinda saved the day, and King, and kingdom, and posterity. How about that.

So hey! Let’s get some balls rolling here, Queen decided. The next morning, she woke up, dried her remaining tears, got up and dressed in her best royal outfit. To impress, obviously – whatever they say, a proper dress always helps a good judgement, in all respects. After breakfast, she went straight to the Council Room and this time she called all the key staff, told them to sit down and plainly said, I won’t lie to you, we have a situation here. King is absent, I would like you not to comment or ask questions, I’ll carry on instead, you report to me, business as usual, thank you all, dismissed. She then met with the Privy Council and saw that they carry on with politics etc. and inform her of all moves in the country and abroad. She made sure the Privy didnt have many questions either. Yep, she did get organized.

In time, Queen made a fine ruler. She had a quick mind, was a fair lady and could even take a joke. The kingdom flourished. She was starting to enjoy her position and people did like her. Almost everybody agreed things were better under her rule and their memories of King gradually faded away.

As it happens, one day she wandered into one of the eastern towers to look for something, I don’t know what but it wasn’t a spinning wheel for sure, Queen was too aware of that story. She looked and looked and just when she was about to give up, she happened upon a small door. When she opened it, she had the surprise of her life! You probably guessed, King was inside. Lying on the floor, deep asleep. Oh no, cried Queen – it was more of a scream, actually, as she had gotten quite over the lonely bitter sad tears of her former years. You must be kinging me, pun so very intended!

Still incredulous, Queen approached the body and saw King was breathing all right, was peaceful and had a content smile. You son of a bitch! – she muttered. You son of a bitch! – she screamed.

What? Who? … King awoke with a start. He recognized Queen – though she was quite a bit older by now, but even more beautiful (see, power gives you a certain air of confidence you can’t fake).

He said: wow, so pretty, I missed you.

Did you now? – said Queen and smacked King in the head. What the heck were you doing here and don’t you dare tell me you needed a rest.

Well, said King, I always thought you were a clever one, that’s why I married you in the first place.

No, you didn’t – Queen retorted – you married me because my dowry saved your pathetic kingdom! So you mean to say you just took some time off? You report to duty pronto, darling.

Yes, of course – King said. Actually, I can’t wait. A tea would be lovely. So would a fresh outfit, this one is stinky.

Queen gave King a loooog look. Then she smiled broadly and said in her sweetest voice: my King, you were gone for a good while. Allow me to prepare you for a proper arrival back Your subjects have missed you. Our children have missed you. They will want to see you at your very best. You know a proper outfit helps a good judgement…

In all respects, smiled King.

Indeed, said Queen. I shall be back in no time.

They kissed fondly and King said: I think I missed you a lot. Queen added: you have no idea.

These words should have worried King a bit, if only he had been alive and kicking lately. Alas, he was out of practice. So he smiled prettily and said: be swift, my dear.

Queen slipped outside, closed the door and locked it with the very key she had unlocked it – how fortunate that the door had had a key in the first place! That very moment, all of Queen’s fears, doubts, insecurities and the like vanished like a pouff! She thought: now all I’ve left to do is forgive myself for being stupid. Hard, but I’ll manage.

She climbed down the stairs, went into the Council Chamber and summoned all key staff, the Privy Council and her heirs. She gave precise instructions as always, nothing out of the ordinary if one didn’t count her desire to redesign the whole eastern part of the castle – but then she had been known to have decorating whims every now and then, so they didn’t think much of it, just carry on. That very afternoon, she left for a well-deserved vacation which she had postponed for too long.

Isn’t this a wonderful and moralizing story? Yep, I thought so, too!

Worth

She … didn’t know. She just couldn’t think. Why did it feel so wrong? What was the logic in it?

There had been a time when things made sense. There was a trajectory, a life plan, ideas, action. She’d done it. She knew. And when she didn’t know, she paused, gave it some thought, came up with plan B and C and D and E, and forged ahead.

Now … there was no end in sight. No trajectory, no will to explore. She looked outside at the flowers in the garden. So pretty, despite the sunless days. It had been a very harsh winter. Nice to see some colors. At least it ain’t no rain, Paul Simon said and he was damn right. A good day.

What am I good at? The thought came into her head out of nowhere, like all thoughts seemed to these days. I don’t want to know. This is depressing. What? Start whining again about how unfair life is? No, be logical about it. Your life is good, no diseases, no huge issues. That is, of course, if you don’t count the abuse, the shit, the failures. But hey, those are gone, we’ve overcome them, we’ve changed countries and luck. Really? Who’s we?

Pat yourself on the back, sweetie. Let’s think positive a bit here. You can cook well. 23 years of daily experience, including weekends. How much does a chef make yearly? She googled it. As an Executive Chef for my family, I’d go with the average base salary of $68,009. Times 20 (assume first 3 years were probation, even if they weren’t, really).

You can clean well. Say $35,000 a year.

You can teach both elementary school and university level. That’s like two other salaries right there: 70,000 + 100,000 (we’re talking Ontario, unions and all the she-bang).

You can design well. Now, this earning is tricky, depends on the company. Suppose it’s doing well and you’re appreciated (that’ll be the day – stop! Just for the sake of the argument. Right.) $80,000? Bonuses included.

You can communicate – what big deal. Yeah, it is a big deal. Psychological big deal. Sales and marketing big deal. Shall I include the salaries for a psychologist, a salesperson and a communication officer? Why not. Average all, though it’s almost impossible. 80,000 + 50,000 + 55,000.

Now let’s add them all up. Wow, $538,009. Round down that chef’s average to the nearest thousand, for goodness sake. Hmm, even to the nearest hundred of thousands and that’s a decent CEO salary. Naturally. What’s a mother if not the CEO of her family. In practice of course – on paper, that position is already taken; because that’s the breadwinner’s who gets to part the shares. The Voice.

I’ll think about my voice tomorrow. Scarlett O’Hara kinda thingy. After all, both our dads were alcoholics.

The sun was out. Let’s enjoy, who knows how much it’ll last. As she passed the hall mirror, she caught a glimpse of her reflection. And not bad looking either, this Scarlett. Worth the hustle.

Escape

I was not born blind, I’ve become so.

There was a time when the world was good. I laughed and I trusted. Love was everywhere, engulfing me, present on the inside, undeniable, undefined yet very real. I loved. I was loved. It was enough – before “enough” even had meaning.

This light came to be patched by darkness. I’ve often wondered why. It didn’t feel good or right, this darkness, yet I accepted it, over and over again to the point it started to truly overcome the light. I cried every time darkness crept in – that’s how bad I felt. Despair, weakness, uneasiness, doubt, helplessness. All begged for tears. And tears were plentiful, washing the dirt, indeed doing their task as cleaning agent. Detergent for the soul.

Light… I sort of remember it. It had joy. I miss that. I miss seeing. Maybe God can help if I ask him nicely.

Maybe tears are the key to breaking free and be made whole again.

Our Masculine World

The only social media I’m still on is LinkedIn. I won’t elaborate why. Suffice it to say, I haven’t yet figured out my identity career-wise. A few weeks ago, a guy who is one of my connections posted some advice on how to prepare for an interview. I read through it and, all of a sudden, there was this illumination: all the advice was written from a masculine view point for an exclusively male audience. Of course he didn’t mean it – actually he’s a government employee in Canada (which is enough to say he would do anything to keep at least the appearances of being politically correct when it comes to women’s place in the job market, bla bla). I was so struck and angry that I replied saying just that: this is not how you’d interview a woman. Well, I actually said it in a more elaborate way, which prompted him to subtly attack me by asking: so please enlighten us and explain how is it that a woman needs to be interviewed.

I thought for a moment. Then I thanked him for the opportunity and promised to come back with a detailed answer, after which I erased my first comment altogether (and if you know how LinkedIn works, all his and my ensuing comments got erased, too). That doesn’t mean that I completely backed down. I simply realized a second thing: that my first reaction had been masculine too – in a warrior way, I struck back. And I didn’t want it to stay there, online, like that. The tone defeated the purpose of my argument.

I gave the matter a lot of thought afterwards and it is probably the theme for a book. But I’ll start with a blog post for now, to underline a few issues.

We’ve lived in a masculine-defined world for so long, that we’ve grown quite accustomed to its masculine tone and we hardly notice it. Carthesianism: this is which defines our world, still. We categorize to make sense of things, situations, tasks, positions. The logic of the head. When there’s a bit of heart in the concoct, there are immediate cries about “bleeding hearts”, “weakness”, “feminine/gay”… you name it, to the point of fiercely imposing the emotional stance. In any argument, either logic or heart must prevail. One or the other. We’re back to the classic versus romantic debate a few centuries ago (hmm… have we ever gotten past it, I wonder). Stupid. We’re not either or – we’re both. And yes, both men and women are both. Guess why: ’cause all human beings have a heart AND a brain (well, at least anatomically speaking).

In this masculine world, women have been either confined to the home sphere (or they’ve accepted it, sometimes gladly only to discover, some time after, there’s some other kind of life out there – see Betty Friedan etc.), or they’ve rejected the homemaking model and turned to careers to fulfill their longings. For centuries, women were either females dominated by males (hint: it is hard to dominate in a money-driven world when one doesn’t make her own money), or females competing with males on males’ terms. There are cases of those who have both of best worlds – sometimes, successful stories; and, what wonder, full of sacrifices too! Overwhelmingly though, it’s still either/or. And definitions are always required. Why the heck??

No. No. No. No. This must stop. Or shall I out it in a feminine way: people, kindly make this stop. This craze leads to frustration, lack of love and understanding, blame, rejection of truth – eventually, war of all kinds.

So many books have been written. How come we still do not see the forest from the trees? Men do this, or this, or this. Rarely do they do more than one thing at a time – this is how their brain operates, and I presume their hearts too. Women do… kinda everything. Women juggle life. It’s a fact. Whether mothers or not, they also juggle men. Men are usually lost without a woman by their side. “Behind every successful man is a strong woman” – they didn’t come up with that from nothing. And then of course “behind every successful woman is herself”. OK… but then this begs another question: what’s a man for? Lesbians would probably say: sperm. Sometimes, that’s not exactly far from truth. Guess why, again: ’cause men don’t have to worry about it? Why would one worry if terms are defined in the only way he can understand? Take a man out of the man’s world and… back to square one: he’s lost without the translator: yeah, that… woman!

Things are quite tangled in our world today – most of the time, whether they admit it or not, men and women are both lost, trying to figure out how to go about it and onwards. And I shall resist the subtle temptation of proposing a solution to the masculine-world crisis. But if we are to trust (at least some of) the advice nowadays, it might not be a bad idea for both sexes to live in the now and to appreciate ourselves and the ones we come in contact with, for shorter or for longer periods. To appreciate their gifts, their other-side-of-the-moon, their different approach, the wisdom which comes with their advanced age. To trust them and their life experience and their darn intuition. To ask reasonable questions about their private lives and hobbies, and take some time to analyze how these fit into the “career” picture. Makes sense (and sensibility)?

As for interviewing women, I’d suggest stay away from “what’s your career goal / define your career arch /give me an example of a challenging situation in which you managed admirably”, if you’re not prepared and willing to hear how your female candidate wrote a Ph.D. thesis after giving birth to a third child in her forties, while also raising her other two pre-teens, holding a job and, of course, performing those neverending household duties, cooking and cleaning – yes, all at the same time. Oh, not to mention overcoming the undiagnosed yet obvious depression (duh!) – without pills: just by faith, love and comedies. I challenge any man counter-candidate to beat that – and decidedly continue with their (career-) life upon rejection.