Saturday, June 6, 2020

Questions White People Should Ask Themselves

This came across my Facebook page and it spoke to me: During these trying times, in recognition of George Floyd's murder as well as many others, what can we do as White People to support People of Color?




Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Cat Routines

Gigi (l) Emma (r)

It is bedtime. I am snuggled in with the lights off and the white noise on. The feather comforter is pulled up to my head, a pillow cushions my knees; my pillow is fluffed, crisp, and cold.

Sure enough, as I am settled in, Emma arrives. I know it is her because she is the heavier one. She steps her front paws onto my hip and waits there. I slowly pull my arm from under the covers, stretch it back, and pet her head.

I pet her in a vigorous fashion because of her weight. Gentle petting doesn't seem right and she doesn't complain.

After a while, I withdraw my arm back under the covers and she hesitates a moment or two longer then steps down. I can feel her circling the bottom of the bed around my feet.

Eventually, Emma finds her just perfect space, lies down, probably head on paw but I cannot see this to be sure, I can only feel her purring which in her particular way is more like a rumble.

Emma is ready to seek a night's sleep. Every now and then, as she is drifting off to sleep, she will shout out. I cannot spell the sound she makes, but I believe it is to let me know she is content.

Not too long after, I feel another set of front paws on my hip, only this time a lighter pair, they signal Gigi's arrival. She jumps completely up onto my hip and then slowly walks up my rib cage, crosses my shoulder, and steps gently over my neck and past my head, onto her pillow/nest space to my right.

I welcome her with a whispered, "Hi!" I pet her from head to tail as she stands there enjoying the massage. I do so gently if only because she is slight in weight and vigorous petting doesn't seem right. She seems to agree. Of course, she purrs, which for Gigi is more like a vibration.

Next, she needs to clean my hair a little, with studied licks with her raspy tongue. What makes her choose one section of my head to clean tonight over another I do not know, but she seems to know and that is enough for me.

After a few licks, I stop her by putting my hand in front of her head which causes her to pull back a little, and I gently move my hand in a counter-clockwise fashion which causes her to shift in the same direction.

Once facing 45 degrees away, I run my hand down her body which signals her that it is time to lie down, which she does. I tuck my hand behind her hindquarters as she continues to purr. She wiggles around a bit as she settles in.

Then with a kick of her hind paws, she moves herself into position to lie down completely, with her head nestled into my open hand. The vibration continues until she is asleep.

This happens, almost like clockwork (pun intended) every night and I love the attention and the intimacy of my relationship with my two kitties (now going on eight years old but I still call them "my kitties.")

Good night. Now it is my turn to drift off to sleep.




Monday, June 1, 2020

BLACK and BROWN LIVES MATTER


I do not want in any way want to undermine the "Black Lives Matter" appeal but to me, "All lives matter!" The difference is in the disproportionate number of Black and Brown Lives which are lost every day to violence, murder, brutality, etc not only by the police but also by family members, strangers, or as collateral victims. It is in the disproportionate number of Black and Brown people who are incarcerated for minor offenses or the number who fill our jails.

I got to thinking about how I figure into all of this, what I can do to protest and to support others and decided to write this piece.

I ACKNOWLEDGE that I am a Caucasian, not black or brown-skinned and therefore cannot really understand what they go through. For that matter, I will never really know what it is that they experience!

I ACKNOWLEDGE that I do not live at the poverty level. I never have experienced it and most likely never will.

I ACKNOWLEDGE that I do not have to worry about where I will sleep tonight. I am grateful for my comfortable condo, bed, clean sheets, blankets and pillows, airconditioning during the summer and heat during the winter.

I ACKNOWLEDGE that I do not go hungry. Never have and probably never will. I can afford to eat out and to cook healthy, delicious meals at home.

I ACKNOWLEDGE that I do not have to worry about paying my bills. I pay in full, on time, and am not in debt to anyone. I own my condo and my car.

I ACKNOWLEDGE that for the most part that I do not have to worry about what others think of me. This is true if only because I am 75 years old this year and have learned to not give a crap about what others think about me!

I ACKNOWLEDGE that for the most part that I do not have to be afraid to walk down the street. Of course, danger exists in all cities and potentially on all streets but for me not to the extent that it does for so many (and especially for women; Black, Brown, or White.)

I ACKNOWLEDGE that I do not face discrimination, in action or verbally, because of my skin color or financial status. I have faced some because of being Gay and some because of being Jewish but never like so many others suffer day in and day out.

I ACKNOWLEDGE that I do not need to face stares and hatred in the eyes of others as I walk by them. I am a little old man and most likely am not a threat to anyone.

I ACKNOWLEDGE that I do not have to face discrimination in being served in a restaurant, staying at a hotel, and although being retired now, in being hired for good-paying jobs.

I ACKNOWLEDGE that I had an education, that my parents were able to support my education, and that I was fortunate to have been successful in my career which is providing well for me in my old age. So many without an education cannot get good jobs and do not have the training or background to do well in high paying jobs.

I ACKNOWLEDGE that in the younger years of my life I lived in fear of criticism and bodily harm because I was not mainstream, because I was Gay, but while I resented it, I was able to hide myself away and pass for "straight," while Black and Brown People cannot hide anywhere. While being Gay is much better today then it was when I was growing up, there is still a lot of difficulties out there for the LGBTQ Community but at least progress continues.

I  ACKNOWLEDGE that I have a number of Black and Brown Friends but for the most part, they are similar to me in socio-economic measures, and in my mind they think, act, live, and react in the same way I do. In other words, their skin color disappears for me and I perceive them the same as me with the same concerns, worries, joys, and successes. Maybe my perceptions are incorrect but my relationship with and actions towards them are not influenced by skin color!

I ADMIT that when out and about, I often fear and avoid "rough" looking Black and Brown People, but I also fear and avoid "rough" looking White People.

I ADMIT that I fear and avoid homeless Black and Brown People, but I also fear and avoid homeless White People.

I ADMIT that I fear and avoid street people who are unkempt, poorly dressed, and dirty but I also fear and avoid White People who are the same.

I pride myself in acknowledging a homeless person or beggar on the street even if I do not give them any money. I say "Hi," or "How are you doing today?" I do not pass them by as if they do not exist and my acknowledgments usually are appreciated.

When someone approaches me for a handout, if I have the time, I ask if they are hungry and offer to go with them to the nearest fast-food restaurant and buy them lunch or dinner. I wait with them so the employees in the restaurant do not kick them out, tell the person that they can order whatever they want, pay the clerk, and wish the person well before I leave. Unfortunately, sometimes my "being in a hurry" causes me to rush on without recognizing the request for help. In hindsight, I feel bad about my behavior.

Other times, I get a "gut feeling" that the person on the corner, asking for a handout, really is in need and I will hand them a $20.00 bill. My gut tells me that they will not use the money to buy drugs or alcohol, and I might be mistaken but it feels like the right thing to do. 

Gregory used to call these street people "Harijans." The use of ‘Harijan’ to refer to Dalits (Indian People of the Untouchables Class) goes back to the 1930s. ‘Harijan’, meaning ‘children of God’, was a term first used by Gandhi to refer to Dalits in 1932. The term has since come into repute but Gregory meant it with love, "Truly a child of God!"

When someone is selling "Streetwise" I give them some money and do not take the paper telling them that I already read that edition. I do not want to undermine their determination to earn a living by just offering charity.


When I see someone else behaving poorly towards Blacks, Browns, Immigrants, Street and/or Poor People, women; I try to defend them, speak up for them, protect them if I can.

I am aware that so many people begging on the streets are mentally ill or physically compromised. So many services for them have closed or are not as available as they should be. Or are out of reach financially for the person. Often the mentally ill are ill enough that they do not know how to seek help.

So what can I do to help make the United States a better place for people who are different in color; or for that matter different in religion, beliefs, ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, sexual preference, and probably so many other classifications? How can I make a difference in helping these classifications go away?

The expression "Black Lives Matter" has always made me wonder about all lives mattering. I, in no way, want to diminish the tragic situation in which so many Black People find themselves but I do value all human life and so many people who are experiencing a tragic life instead of a fulfilled one!

So what can I do? Continue to do what I do, try to be more aware of the needs of others (in my life and strangers on the street,) try to act with kindness, generosity, and compassion. Try to put myself "in their shoes" even if I can only approximate an understanding of the "path they are walking."

Perhaps changing the world happens one person at a time. After all, I am the only one I can be in control of, and for which I can be responsible. Most of all I can hold empathy in my heart for my fellow human beings.














Monday, May 25, 2020

Happy Memorial Day

But what does that really mean? Happiness? Bar-B-Ques? Picnics? The beginning of Summer? Families and friends? Memorial Day is celebrated in many ways but often the intent, the importance, and the pain and sorrow it has brought are often avoided or forgotten!

Memorial Day, begun in 1868, is a federal holiday in the United States for honoring and mourning the military personnel who had died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.



For many years I would post a photo on Facebook trying to commemorate the day and make a comment or two. But it took many years and perhaps a maturity that comes with age, to be able to say (hopefully without offending anyone) "I support our troops and those who have sacrificed their lives on our behalf ... but I DO NOT support war in any way for any reason."

Last night I got to thinking as I drifted off to sleep, and I get most of my ideas for these posts from that period of the day, about the number of deaths due to war, not only soldiers but also civilians. This thinking is paired, I am sure, with all the deaths we have been hearing about due to COVID 19 and more to come.


What is war? War is defined as an active conflict that has claimed more than 1,000 lives. Has the world ever been at peace? Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history.

Why do we go to war? A question well worth asking but not going to be addressed here :-)

How many people have died in war? At least 108 million people were killed in wars in the twentieth century. Estimates for the total number killed in wars throughout all of human history range from 150 million to 1 billion. 

To use a comparison I previously used in a post about COVID 19, the common yellow school bus we are used to seeing holds approximately 100 seats. To transport the dead of twentieth-century wars, it would take a line of one million and eighty thousand yellow busses. 

To transport the dead from the high range of people killed throughout all of human history, there would be a highway of ten million yellow busses.

And that is not to count all those who died as civilians or not directly but as the result of war.

Again, I say, "I support our troops and those who have sacrificed their lives on our behalf ... but I DO NOT support war in any way for any reason."







Monday, May 18, 2020

Unable to Fathom What's On The Other Side of the Window

This is yet another essay on COVID 19. Sitting here at my computer writing this essay, for the most part I am not affected by what is going on outside the windows of my condo. I am enjoying my empty days filling with peace and quiet without obligations to anyone but myself. But I also carry a heavy heart for those not as fortunate as I. This is what prompted my writing.

In bed early last night, after yet another fairly empty day, afternoon, and night; I had room to think about our current life situation with COVID 19 and I was blown away by the statistics and their implications.

Today, I did a little COVID 19 research to see what the current figures might be since February 2020. 

The population of the world is +/- 8 billion. There +/- 5 million cases of COVID 19 worldwide with +/- 315 thousand deaths. 0.0039%

The population of the U.S. is +/- 328 million. There are +/- 1.5 million cases of COVID 19 nationwide with +/- 90 thousand deaths. .027%

The population of Illinois is +/- 13 million. There are +/- 95 thousand cases statewide with +/- 5 thousand deaths. 0.038%

The numbers boggle my mind. While the number of deaths, when compared to the populations, amounts to .038% of the population of people living in Illinois, my thinking went this way.

Where does one bury or cremate close to five thousand people in three and a half months?

How does one console four thousand families for their tragic losses, especially when you cannot attend the funeral and cannot offer a hug let alone a greeting handshake?

How many doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, businessmen, artists, business owners, etc have died?

How many grandparents, parents, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins have we lost and do families mourn?

Moving away for a while from just the deaths; how many jobs are dormant or ended with the close-downs, how many businesses have closed temporarily, and possibly forever at what loss financially to the owners let alone the economy?

How many conventions, concerts, plays, musicals, theme parks, shopping malls, movie theaters, shopping trips, and vacations are not happening, putting more people out of work and more venues in jeopardy? 

How many people are not able to pay their rent, other bills, medical costs, food bills, etc? How many people do not have a place for their family to self-isolate comfortably? How many people, before COVID 19 arrived were already ill, medically in need, financially in need, mentally ill, handicapped, homeless, hungry?

The latest statistics say that +/- 30 million people in the United States have filed for unemployment support.

With the protests against self-isolation, with people refusing social distancing, and refusing to wear masks; what further repercussions will happen when the virus picks up again and increases the speed of transmission and death in its wake? 

Some lessons learned are that we are almost totally dependent on each other not only at the family level but also the neighborhood, state, nation, and world levels. Food chains, manufacturing of goods, economies and more are all connected.

Another lesson we have learned in the United States is that a disproportionate number of blacks and Latinx and working-class poor have contracted the disease, have lost more jobs, and therefore are having a more difficult time with the aftershock and continuing shock of COVID 19.

As human beings, I believe that we are not able mentally and/or emotionally to think in large visual or sound bites and if able, often we choose to not. We live in our home, in our city, in our state, in our country but cannot comprehend the nature of the huge population of which we are part and how that affects us, our families, our social groups, our community, our world.

We can imagine what it is like to be stuck in a rush hour, creeping inch by inch on the highway home, but rarely are we able to think of the 6 million vehicles on the road in Illinois, 254 million vehicles on the road in the U.S., and 9.9 billion vehicles on the road worldwide.

This overwhelming example can be used with almost every statistic: meals consumed, gallons of milk purchased, dollars spent, McDonald's and Starbucks visited, people who catch a cold or the flu, motor vehicle accidents, movies watched, people murdered, people who die of old age, and on and on and on.

One way to visualize the toll of COVID 19 is to look think of school busses. Depending on specifications, those familiar yellow school buses we know are currently designed with a seating capacity with up to 90 passengers. Can you imagine the State of Illinois needing +/- 55 buses to transport those who have died from the virus, the U.S. taking +/- 1,000 busses to transport people, and in the world +/- 3,500 busses filled with people who have died from COVID 19!

Finally, yes if you compare daily deaths at the state, nation, and world levels to those from COVID 19, the latter pale by comparison but that does not make the impact of the virus any less. If anything the deaths from COVID 19 are worse because of the insidious nature of how the virus spreads, being passed invisibly by sick people as well as those showing no symptoms and the hideous, painful death that the virus brings to its victims!

Recently, AMAZON PRIME released a movie called "Samsara," which takes us to sacred grounds, natural wonders, disaster zones, cities, towns, and countrysides in the world, visiting 25 countries and taking five years to complete. I watched the documentary eyes not blinking and attention riveted to the screen for one hour and 42 minutes. The documentary gave me the ability to see the magnitude of life, the plight of fellow human beings, and made me realize how small I, one person, really am in the total picture of life!

This too shall pass. We shall overcome. But at what expense and who will we be and what will our world, local and worldwide, be like on the other side of COVID 19?









Monday, May 11, 2020

A Chilling Story

She was just humming away doing what she had been doing for years, protecting those put in her charge. She was able to do this by nature, by habit, without needing to think about the details. Knowing that she could fulfill her responsibilities so easily gave her a certain peace of mind. She did what she had to do and she did it well.

Suddenly, maybe only in her imagination, she skipped a beat. Then another. Then she stopped altogether. Damn, it wasn't her imagination. Something inside was happening and it was bad!

It was another electrical outage and her motors slowed to a stop.

This had happened several times before and she and those for which she was in charge survived. But she was still worried about the frozen items below and the refrigerated items above: on the shelves and in the baskets, on the door and in the drawers and bins.

If the others trusted her and didn't open the door to see how she was doing, they could make it. Several times before it had been a close call but there had been no fatalities. Everyone had been saved. Would she get through this time and would all survive? Only time would tell and as usual, she was nervous.

In the darkness, here and there, she could feel a drop of water fall. A little loss of moisture would cause no harm but too much and it was doomsday for so many of her constituents, her wards, what she affectionately like to call her children.

They were all so susceptible to change. She knew that if they stuck together, huddled closely, they could keep each other comfortable and free from falling apart. It was a physical feeling, not emotional, but none-the-less, her emotions ran high at the potential for failure.

Suddenly the door opened and the light from the kitchen poured into the view. It was only a second so the milk could leave for someone's coffee and the door closed quickly afterwards. It opened once more, milk was replaced, and quickly closed again. They were being smart about the situation and that would help the outcome.

An hour or two went by without any more light disturbances. Actually, who could count the minutes or hours in the dark? Then there was a flicker of light, a spark of a motor hum and then nothing.

Again a few minutes later there was that familiar, hopeful flicker and spark. And sure enough, things began to run and she was able to get back to normal, on target.

She ran her motors in the dark to regain the lost degrees and eventually was able to stop. Some time passed and the door opened again briefly, the others were checking to make sure everything was OK. And it was.

Cooperation, community, intelligence, and stick-to-it-ness won the day and all were back where they needed to be. Ah, cool, calculated relief.

Time is Efficiency, Or Is It?

One would think that having a lot of time available would mean great efficiency in living one's life. Not true. With my COVID 10 Self-Quarantine in its 57th day, recently I came to a re-realization that I experienced many, many years ago while I was still teaching and administrating the Gifted Education Program for Glenview District 34 schools: "Handle each item only once!"

At that time, I came across an article that dealt with the efficient handling of tasks in the office. ONLY HANDLE EACH MAIL ITEM ONCE. Open it, read it, take action, ignore it, and delete  or file. This was true for e-mails as well as snail-mail received.

I have found at home recently, I have been handling many mail items as well as non-mail items any number of times. And am finding this disturbing. Let me give you a few examples.

Items accumulate on my desk. I will move them from place to place, sort them, make piles, partially deal with whatever needs dealing with, and go through the process again before handling, completing, filing,  or tossing. My desk is rarely empty!

Also, the items for filing go into the filing drawer before actually being filed in the filing cabinet below. There is a drawer for items I need to "hold" for future handling and a drawer for items with which I do not know what to do but do not want to toss. I go through these drawers now and then and rearrange, remove, deal with, finally file, toss, or just leave in the drawer to be handled over again.

Regarding items around the house when putting things away, whether recently having used them or having newly purchased them, I tend to leave them close to where they belong but not exactly where they belong.

For example, when returning things to the kitchen from elsewhere, I tend to leave them on the island counter corner at the entrance to the kitchen. Next, they are moved into the kitchen and placed near where they are stored. Finally, they are stored.

When emptying the dishwasher, I empty it by placing things on top of the counter across the width of the back kitchen wall near one of the six cabinets above, six cabinets below, or four drawers under the counter where the items live. From there, they eventually are put away in the place they belong.

If the item in the kitchen is dirty, it may be soaked in the sink and then put in the dishwasher where items are stored until the dishwasher is full and ready to be run or they may be hand washed and put onto the silicone mat to drain and dry before following one of the paths described above.

Items leaving the kitchen are placed on the kitchen island near the wall which leaves out into the living room and therefore headed towards the rest of the condo. From there they go in the general direction but most often not the final destination.

Groceries are emptied onto the kitchen island and the end closer to the windows. From there most are put away into the pantry in the hall which leads to the guest bathroom and laundry closet. But often some are dropped off on the guest bathroom vanity, or the pantry floor, or the laundry closet floor. Some are just left in the kitchen, pushed out of the way until I can get to them.

I put things on the guest bathroom vanity sink top if that is the general direction for which they are headed but not into the linen closet or the one cabinet or two drawers that are part of the vanity there where they belong. This happens later.

I leave things on the corner of the master bedroom vanity sink top but not placed into any one of the two cabinets or four drawers that are part of the vanity. That action is taken at another time. Sometimes I toss them into the sink if I am afraid that one of the cats might knock them off onto the floor.

I stack items coming into the bedroom and headed for the closet on the bookcase top outside my bedroom closet, next they are moved into the closet and often instead of being hung up on hooks or rods or put into one of the floor-to-ceiling cabinets or drawers that line the length of the closet, they are placed on the stool just inside the doorway.

If they are headed to the back of the closet with sports coats and more storage shelves and drawers, they are placed on the four drawer horizontal filing cabinet at the back of the closet before they end up where they are destined.

If they are headed to the bookcase just inside the bedroom and its shelves or three drawers or into one of the two bedside tables, I put the items on the leather bench between the bathroom and closet or in front of the books on one of the shelves on the bookcase itself.

I pile items leaving the bedroom on a difference shelf of the bookcase just inside the bedroom door where I also empty my pockets each night. Then they make their foray into the rest of the condo at a later time.

If the end destination is the guest bedroom with its clothes closet, five-tier shelf sored in the closet which contains excess kitchen/ cooking/ baking items, or the hobby closet and shelves above; they get tossed onto the guest bed, put on the luggage rack inside the closet, are placed on the hobby closet desk and sometimes more than one place as they make their way to find the place in which they are stored.

So what I am trying to say is that with all this additional time at home, by myself with only my two kitties, with nowhere to go and for the most part nothing urgent to do ... I am being so inefficient that I feel guilty about it!

I have been trying to get better at only handling each item one time, from pick up to delivery to destination, and am getting better but have a long way to go.

When many things have gotten out of place and living in limbo, I get the condo organized again by going in circles. Pick up an item or a few from here drop them off on the way to another place, pick up items from there and carry them to the next place in the continuing circle of the condo, etc untill everything is at least back in the correct vicinity.

If I am feeling really ambitious or if the piles of misplaced objects are beginning to tip and almost fall over, I start in one location finalizing all item placements and then move on to the next area. Sometimes this takes a few days but there are times when NOTHING IS OUT OF PLACE! Feels great when I accomplish this.

And sometimes I just say, "Fuck it!" figuring that I could also become obsessive and/or anal compulsive about how I live in the condo.

My preferred action is: Fuck it!




Monday, April 27, 2020

COVID 19 or ALLERGIES?

Tree Pollen? Grass Allergies? RagWeed?

I had already been experiencing some mild COVID 19 “symptoms” and was working at not worrying myself to death (literally.) The last two nights were difficult with a mild sore throat and some tickle and cough. Other times feeling heavy in the chest.

This morning it dawned on me that I might be experiencing allergies and sure enough, this article shows up. I am much relieved. So while one must be viligent, also take into account your usual bodily ailments and reactions. I do not want to think how it might feel to have a cold or the flu and to differentiate! 

As far as I can see, the main factor is the fever!

The article can be seen at this link:

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Getting Through COVID 19

A Beautiful Message from White Eagle
Hopi Indigenous Person
03/16/2020

“This moment humanity is going through can now be seen as a portal and as a hole. The decision to fall into the hole or go through the portal is up to you. If they repent of the problem and consume the news 24 hours a day, with little energy, nervous all the time, with pessimism, they will fall into the hole.

But if you take this opportunity to look at yourself, rethink life and death, take care of yourself and others, you will cross the portal. Take care of your home, take care of your body. Connect with the middle body of your spiritual House.

Connect to the egregor of your spiritual home. Body, house, medium body, spiritual house, all this is synonymous, that is to say the same. When you are taking care of one, you are taking care of everything else.

Do not lose the spiritual dimension of this crisis, have the aspect of the eagle, which from above, sees the whole, sees more widely. There is a social demand in this crisis, but there is also a spiritual demand. The two go hand in hand. Without the social dimension, we fall into fanaticism. But without the spiritual dimension, we fall into pessimism and lack of meaning.

You were prepared to go through this crisis. Take your toolbox and use all the tools at your disposal. Learn about resistance with indigenous and African peoples: we have always been and continue to be exterminated.

But we still haven't stopped singing, dancing, lighting a fire and having fun. Don't feel guilty about being happy during this difficult time. You don't help at all by being sad and without energy. It helps if good things emanate from the Universe now.

It is through joy that one resists. Also, when the storm passes, you will be very important in the reconstruction of this new world. You need to be well and strong. And, for that, there is no other way than to maintain a beautiful, happy and bright vibration. This has nothing to do with alienation. This is a resistance strategy. In shamanism, there is a rite of passage called the quest for vision.

You spend a few days alone in the forest, without water, without food, without protection. When you go through this portal, you get a new vision of the world, because you have faced your fears, your difficulties ... This is what is asked of you. Let them take advantage of this time to perform their vision seeking rituals.

What world do you want to build for yourself?

For now, this is what you can do: serenity in the storm. Calm down and pray. Everyday. Establish a routine to meet the sacred every day. Good things emanate, what you emanate now is the most important thing. And sing, dance, resist through art, joy, faith and love.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Gregory Lives in My Grief

Last night before bedtime, while listening to a guided meditation podcast on grief by my guru Corinne Peterson, I arrived at this thought: Gregory lives in my grief. Therefore I will keep it.

At first, this didn't sound right. Shouldn't he live on with thoughts of joy and memories of all the wonderful, loving times we spent arm in arm over the 71 years we were together? 

I can easily pull up the milestones of our relationship which far outnumber the millstones, but somehow when I am thinking about him, he arrives with feelings of grief. This sounds so negative and shouldn't our relationship provide so much more than grief?

With being so isolated during this COVID 19 Pandemic, having chosen to keep to myself in the condo for the last 37 days, going out only a few times (for groceries, to pick up a prescription, and to go to a doctors appointment) I have been missing Gregory even more than usual.

The isolation has provided a quiet, peaceful, still space for me to be with myself. My "voices" are not being as loud and my daily activities are not being as active so as to distract me from my being able to hear and feel who, intrinsically, I am inside. So, I have been thinking about and missing Gregory more than usual.

Who I am inside is the pure, essence of who I am and not necessarily any of the roles or visions I hold for myself. We so often believe we are who others tell us we are or should be, or by making comparisons to others in our life.

From the time we were children, important and powerful people in our lives have been shaping these thoughts and most often they are not true. But as children, we did not realize that we had any power let alone the power to disagree with our parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, relatives, teachers, religious leaders, neighbors, and even strangers when we heard comments they made about us.

Part of growing up is visible in the "power struggles" we have as tweens, teens, and young adults, with the sources of authority in our life. As adults, we forget about these power struggles, some of them have been successful and others not. As adults, most of us do not conscientiously think about these thoughts about the self we have been handed. What we need to do is begin to triage which thoughts do I no longer believe and therefor chose to toss out, which thoughts do I continue to believe, and which thoughts do I need to reconsider and think about some more?

To become a self-actualized adult, one must thoughtfully triage our ideas about ourselves, especially those based on the opinions of others. Many adults continue to live their lives with the old, often outdated ideas of self and like the child who wasn't even aware of having any power, the adult may not be aware that they have the ability to change the beliefs they have about themselves, again many of which are not true and based on the perceptions of others!

So here I am, thinking about my essence and the "pure me" in relation to why, when I think of Gregory, he "lives in my grief." 

Probably the most important lessons I learned from Gregory in our relationship were 1) respect for each other, 2) the importance of communication, 3) over time negotiating and renegotiating roles and expectations in the relationship, 4) having compassion for each other, others, and self, 5) keeping aware of gratitude for the good that comes our way, 6) while we cannot choose what comes our way, we can choose how we respond to them, and 7) when possible ... choose JOY over SORROW!

These lessons are all so important in the moving forward of successful unions between two people and without them, the relationship is doomed thus accounting for the high percentage of divorce in our society. So many love relationships never get past the passion, lust, and sex that first brought the two people together which is why those relationships fail.

But if you look closely at these lessons, you can see that they are all active, changing, and future pointing. Gregory, now gone from this physical plane, is no longer active, changing, and future pointing, he is static. I am still active, changing, and future pointing!

Yes, I am the sum total of everything I have thought, experienced, witnessed, learned, felt, and more and owe so much to Gregory and to our 41 years together.  We had so many loving, fun, exciting times together but I can no longer be with him, or hold him, or share with him, or talk to him. For sure I cannot bring him back and given the circumstances under which he left, I would not want him to come back in that condition. That would be selfish of me!

So the sorrow of his having lived with Dementia/Alzheimer's for 12 years, and the sorrow of the ordeal for both of us as I walked this path with him, and for the insidious nature of that journey; I grieve at the ordeal of waht we went through, at his being gone and at missing him painfully. I continue to love him dearly and he figures into most everything I think about, what I do, and who I am ... but he is gone. He is in the past. I continue on in the present and into the future. 

So where does Gregory exist for me? In my memories and while that is wonderful, and while I am grateful for the time we were together, I grieve his having left and will probably grieve for the rest of my life. That does not mean I am depressed, or that I have given up, or that I am any less of me than when I was with him ... but he is gone ... and I miss him ... and continue to do so almost every moment of every day.

So Gregory lives in my grief and while I will not let the grief control my life, I will not let go of it either!


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

It Is Mostly in The Knowing

I wrote the poem below in 2005 as I was anticipating my father's death. He had a rare blood disease which was diagnosed when he was 60+ years old. The illness was described as "something that could kill you in a month or one with which you could live well for twenty years before it killed you."

Either way, it would kill you but there is quite a difference between "imminent" vs "in the future." Fast forward twenty or so years and after having lived very well, the disease once again took hold and more or less set its date for my father's soon to be passing at 88 years old.

There are so many things which can occur in this life we most often take for granted and in a moment they can turn your life around. We expect and live as though the details of our lives are "permanent" when in effect they are "impermanent," always changing. 

The change could be a car accident that would change your life forever or an illness that could end your life after months of suffering or in a few days or weeks with little or no notice. The change could be about you or about someone you love.

As I was pondering my father's impending death years ago, every time the phone rang, I realized that without the knowledge of an event that already happened, your life stays the same as does your level of happiness and fortitude in life.

Then a call comes in, information is shared, and with the knowledge imparted you cry, are sad, freak out, get depressed, or feel (or know) that your life is basically over (or the one of someone you love.) Also, the "knowing" could be good news!

I got to thinking about all of the situations in which the "not knowing" could be going on and then "knowing" arrives and changes everything. I reflected on the idea that some things in life change and you will never know about the change and therefore never have a negative (or positive) reaction to the change.

Just for example in a long shot, your favorite university professor which whom you have lost touch since you graduated many years ago has died. You have no way of knowing that he died so you do not grieve his death. In this situation and the end of the story: no knowledge, no reaction!

In thinking about the period of time between the "knowings vs not knowings" of my life I came up with waiting to hear about these good things: receiving a grant from the Chicago Council of Fine Arts for my Maybe the Clown performances, receiving a fellowship (two years in a row) from the State of Illinois in the area of Gifted Education, acceptance to a juried application for a residency in the area of creative non-fiction at the Ragdale Foundation, acceptance of Michael's Museum by Chicago Children's Museum.

On the difficult side: news of my mom's passing in 2010, my diagnosis of Lymphoma in 2003, my life partner Gregory's diagnosis of Dementia most likely Alzheimer's Disease in 2005, the news of Gregory's death in 2015, and others.

Recently I had several tests for some gastrointestinal problems I had been having. All tests returned no cancer and therefore I was relieved. Working on other possibilities of gluten and/or lactose intolerance I have been working on the problems with success.

Currently, with a lymph node in my neck swollen for approximately 6 weeks and no sight of its getting smaller (or larger for that matter,) I am keeping optimistic and positive knowing that "what is, is" and what is, is already going on. The only difference is that I am unaware of what the "it" is!

I received an e-mail announcing that my health organization has the results of the new tests so I logged into the site only to find that it is under maintenance until tomorrow at 2:00 AM. So again, the knowledge is there but unknown to me so I can be scared and depressed or happy and relieved, the decision for now of how to be is up to me. The power is there but the knowledge isn't. At least until 2:00 AM tomorrow morning! 

I was able to sign in sooner so bravely did so. Wishing, praying, hoping no longer were viable. The results were in and totally out of my control except how I might behave if the news was CANCER! And I am not sure that I would be able to control my behavior since the last time I had to deal with cancer was in 2003 when I had a Lymphoma and literally lost a year to Chemotherapy. At least then I had Gregory to be with me and to support me. Let me say I made it through but it was HELL and I do not know if I could do it again, especially without Gregory here to help.

And the news is: 

CASE: SHP-20-00210
PATIENT: MICHAEL HORVICH

Nature of Specimen: Neck Soft Tissue, Left, Ultrasound-guided Fine Needle Biopsy


Gross Description: Prepared 1 slide(s) fixed in alcohol, 2 air-dried slide(s) and a needle rinse. A core biopsy was collected and submitted for histologic processing. A cell block was prepared and submitted to surgical pathology for processing.

Clinical History: Solid left neck soft tissue mass (2 cm). Left supraclavicular enlarged lymph node. History of parotid lymphoma.


Total Number of Slides: 3 + core biopsy + cell block

DIAGNOSIS:
No malignant cells identified. No cancer! Looks like a benign lipoma - we will have you come back to the office after Covid 19 to follow up for minor removal process!


• • • • •

FEAR 2010

There is a fear
That lurks just behind
The awareness of your thinking
Hiding

The next moment
Will not be like this moment
Or the one before
Different

And with a comment
Or the ring of a phone
All will change
Forever

Life, Death, Grief: An Uplifting Look



Thanks to my friend Jane Alt for this:

“Death is a great mystery. It’s wild that we have our personalities and bodies and full lives and families and then, poof, they’re gone. We look for a story and understanding in our lives, but first we’re faced with the mystery of death. 

What I know from 50 years of meditation and doing hospice work is that we are not just this body. You are made of spirit. And the spirit makes it so that even if people have died, we’re still profoundly connected to them in love. 

In that sense, they haven’t exactly died. They are in us, not only in our hearts but also somehow in our very being. Knowing this does not take the grief away, and it doesn’t take away the power of that grief to shake us to our roots, but it lets us know something bigger than all of that: "Who I am is not just this body. We are consciousness.” 

- Jack Kornfield, NYT magazine, April 11, Things Keep Getting Scarier. He Can Help You Cope.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Writing

Anaïs Nin

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”


― Anais Nin

Monday, April 6, 2020

A Night Maire

Last night I had a night Maire. No, not a nightmare, a Night Maire.

I was in bed sleeping. I felt someone come into the room and sit on Gregory's side of the bed. The weight pulled on the blanket. I slowly woke up. Panicked, feeling pinned down.

I felt his arm reach out and touch me and my fear multiplied. I fought to get away, to run. My fear and panic brought on my fight or flight. But I was pinned down and could do neither.

He was strong and I could feel his strength, his corporal girth. And I panicked and feared.

And then I woke up and realized that with my reaction, I had made Gregory leave. He was so real, so in his body, and so with me and I scared him away. I cried and sobbed. I repeated over and over, "Wow! Wow! Wow! as part of my awareness and my crying.

Gigi, my kitty, came to comfort me as she always does when grief overwhelms me.

I apologized to him and heard him apologizing to me. Then he said to me, "No need to apologize," as I said to  him, "No need to apologize." And I cried and sobbed because it was so real and I missed the opportunity to really hold him, and feel him, and love him.

So instead, we were able to each other in the spiritual world and cried on each other's shoulder. There was some comfort in this but still I was sad.

Post Script: Gigi continued to help me calm down and before dozing off again, I remembered how Gregory helped his brother and wife, Mark and Diane, name their black cat: Night Maire.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The World Today


In its most basic terms, Enso is the Japanese word for ‘circle’ or ‘circular form’. Think of a regular circle. You could choose to see it as a representation of nothing (that is zero)
On the other hand, the circle could be a form that encompasses everything within it. Perhaps you see it as both. In a way, that is the epitome of a Zen state of mind, where nothing and everything exists. Form is void and void is form.
I wrote this to a friend on Facebook in response to his difficulties in facing the "world" every morning even though he has so much to be grateful for:
• • • • •
So beautifully and heartfully articulated. You could be accused of being too emotional or sentimental, but I believe that is your strength. You have the right to your tears, they are well earned during today's battles.
I do believe, and I'll mention his name, Mr. tRUMP has done us a service by making all the difficulties of the times so transparent. I believe that the destruction of America has been ongoing, we just have not been aware or have avoided awareness.
The good that also comes out of the (pre-COVID 19) is that maybe we have learned to not only listen but to hear, to empathize, and maybe to begin to change those negative ideas around us and behaviors that maybe even the "self" has not been aware of. 
In many ways we all want security, we want our stories to have happy middles and endings, we do not really want to acknowledge how ugly people and the world can get. By really seeing that, I believe we can begin to change. When we are blind to the reality around us, nothing changes, it just accumulates and multiplies.
Also, (with COVID 19) we are in the middle of a Buddhist lesson (for which we most likely have not yet established a strong practice) EVERYTHING CHANGES. Nothing stays the same. We are not the same people we were this morning, at the cell level and at the intellectual level (hopefully.) 
I believe for a long time now (maybe since the beginning of time) we have been lulled (or allowed ourselves to be lulled) into a false sense of security that it will all end happily. Maybe some of it will but for the most part, there will be happy and there will be sad, there will be joy and there will be sorrow, there will be life and there will be death.
This is one of the great lessons Gregory taught me as we traveled together on his journey through Alzheimer's. Life just is and is the total of all the details, wanted and not! 
Love you, John, Cry if you must, but don't forget to laugh. (You do list the things for which you are grateful in your wife and children, and that is good!)
PLEASE leave a comment or some acknowledgment that you have been here. It can be totally anonymous. You do not have to leave your name. You could use your first name only, your initials, or nothing.

Under each new post you will find the word COMMENT. Click on it and a window will open where you can leave your comments.

It asks you to SIGN IN, but you can also click on ANONYMOUS.