Saturday, March 10, 2007

Squeeze A Grape (The Finale) ~ Early Morning Thoughts

The Finale (Chapter one) (Chapter two)

Our train car still overflowing, was beginning to settle down. We were still crowded beyond belief, still trying to find ways to get comfortable and the village was still encamped around the bathroom. Evidently, my maneuver with the drag queens had given me a small bit of notoriety, and there were no longer complaints or grumblings when any of us had to use the bathroom. And the car was still connected very close to the engine. A coal fired engine.

At this point, some of the negatives of the situation were becoming very overwhelming - especially to the students. They had put up with the train station upheaval, the conditions - and all the people. However, even their willingness to be adventurous was being tried to the limit.

The train pulled into a station for a quick stop. That was when we discovered that the Cirque De Woodystock was about the enter the free market zone. From that point on - until we reached our destination - the wheels of commerce had joined our group. I think I would have welcomed the dancers back. During this time we were treated to vendors getting on at a stop and getting off at the next. We were all wondering why the passengers weren’t doing that as well.

We had booze sellers - of both the hot and cold variety, no ID check required. My immediate answer was no - which had to be repeated several times to the older students. The villagers in front of the bathroom were very glad to see that vendor. We had people selling various food items - some identifiable and some (most) not. Roasted nuts proved to be very popular among everyone in the car. At some point two fruit vendors got on the train and walked the aisles with bananas and such. We had vendors with dishes, cooking pots of all sizes. We had someone selling a rubber band ukulele and something I had not seen before nor since - a tin can guitar. There were at least two booksellers, I think. (Remember, at this point we all have been without any or much sleep, food had been sporadic and no one had been near a shower for awhile. We were “the sweaty unwashed masses.” ) One of the booksellers realized the breadth of his audience ages. He tried to sell children’s books to the students and to the adults - in full view of the students, he offered a selection of adult books. The covers of some would have been cause for immediate arrest in the US.

While the phenomenon went unnoticed at first - a couple of the more alert students picked up on it, and acted accordingly. At some of the stops, passengers were getting off along with the various side-show people that had made our long night more interesting. As this occurred, more spaces became available around us. Students and adults would gradually move into the available spaces and could actually begin to move limbs that had been immobile for the entire evening. A few changes in luggage placement and several more could actually stretch out and attempt some sleep.

Eventually, the vendors seemed to be gone. The sun was coming up over the horizon, and with it the new day - surely our stop couldn’t be too far from now. More and more of the puppy-pile bodies were disentangled and finding spots to claim as their own. The last vendor, I remember was selling a new invention: the safety pin (!?), and had gone to…wherever these vendors were going. Not, I’m sure where several of the people in the group had wished they would. At last, I thought I might have a chance to get some sleep - in relative peace and quiet.

Any chance of that was abruptly ended by a very loud, repetitive “alms for the poor” type chant/song from the other end of the car. And I do mean very loud and very repetitive. When there was a pause for breath, the chat was punctuated by the “tugga-tugga, tugga-tugga” of a damaru. (A small hour-glass shaped drum, with a hard object attached to leather or such, allows the drum to sound by moving one hand back and forth.) Some damru’s are very lovely and sell for quite a bit of money. In this case, the drum was home-made and had a very distinctive sound…”tugga-tugga-tugga-tugaa” followed or preceded with the very loud, very repetitive “alms for the poor.” I was convinced that I was going to be trapped forever on this train, in some kind of Twilight Zone existence, doomed to repeat all the nights activities - over and over.

As the alms seeker made his way toward us, I realized that he was “blind” or so I thought. When he arrived so I had a closer look … he gave the appearance of having had some terrible problem with his eyes. They weren’t clouded by cataracts or such. They were covered with a very white, somewhat wrinkled film. It had small folds in it, and covered the entire eye - something he made sure that everyone still left on the train had a very good look at.
Then, I remembered a piece of trivia I probably would have been better off forgetting. When I was in college studying drama in all its forms. We had gotten an article about Lawrence Oliver and one of his earlier performances of Oedipus Rex, the great Greek tragedy. He was looking for a way to make coming onstage after blinding himself more real and horrifying to the audience. Evidently, he did some experimenting and took the inside membrane of a chicken egg and put it on his eyes. It was translucent and allowed light and some shadow in - and gave exactly the same appearance as I was now looking at. My suspicions were confirmed when we reached the next stop and as he was getting off, he reached up and pulled the membranes off his eyes and walked away having had a “miracle,” and made money in the process.

The next stop would be ours, and we began the process of gathering up what was left of our energy, relocating luggage and preparing to get off the train. The schools auditor/financial officer was to meet us.
He and his wife had left after we did and were flying to meet us before they left on their vacation. By now, we understood what being in a car close to a coal fired engine meant. We were literally covered with soot. It was in the hair, clothes, on the skin. I felt as if Sherman’s Army had “marched to the sea” barefoot in my mouth.

We got off the train and gathered on the platform looking, I’m sure, as a very dispirited band of ragamuffins setting out to the new world without a penny to their name. We were met by absolute visions in white. Absolutely blinding white. The financial officer and his wife - who had spent two very relaxing days waiting for our arrival - were walking toward us with big (rested) smiles on their faces. Their clothes were crisply white, their smiles glistened with white - I think even their hair had turned bright white. I will not repeat what one of the students said under their breath behind me, but suffice to say I didn’t correct her either.

“And so, did you have a great trip?” were the first words out of his mouth.

For the first and only time in my life I contemplated murder most foul.

“Squeeze a lemon and you don’t get apple juice” was a popular saying a few years ago. The meaning was quite simple - whatever I am inside, is going to come out during stress and strain. Whatever masks or identities I wear -- when the going gets personally tough, whatever is within - whatever I hold as “me” is probably going to “shine” when the push becomes the shove. Miss Marley (an elderly lady who lived at the school - and was the oldest resident of the school) always told me - “When you squeeze a grape, you don’t get wine. It’s got to be mashed around a bit first.”

Friday, March 9, 2007

Real Books - Real Titles - Real Award

I do love interesting awards - and this annual event will become one I follow - imagine a book contest where the content doesn't matter - only the title. Some of the titles make me want to go explore the non-fiction section of Half-Price Books!!

LONDON (AFP) - Industry magazine The Bookseller has opened voting for the oddest book title of the year, some of which suggest that nothing is stranger than non-fiction.

Readers of the magazine's website are being invited to vote on a shortlist of six non-fiction books in its annual Diagram Prize for the Oddest Title of the Year.

The nominations are made by publishers, booksellers and librarians from around the world.

The nominees are:

-- "Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan"

-- "How Green Were the Nazis?"

-- "D. Di Mascio's Delicious Ice Cream: D. Di Mascio of Coventry -- An Ice Cream Company of Repute, with an Interesting and Varied Fleet of Ice Cream Vans"

-- "The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification"

-- "Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Seaweed Symposium"

-- "Better Never To Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence"

Joel Rickert, deputy editor of The Bookseller, told BBC radio Friday: "It's the only literary prize where the content of the book doesn't matter a jot.

"So, there's still hope for Salman Rushdie or Martin Amis if they're worried about the Booker (prize). All they've got to do is give their books an odd title and they're in with a shot."

Last year's winner was "People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves To Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About it" by Gary Leon Hill.

The competition has been running since 1978, when the winner was "Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice"

Squeeze A Grape (Chapter Two) ~ Early Morning Thoughts

--Chapter Two (Chapter one here)

We are squeezed into a train car along with a lot of other people, and the train is heading down the track. Normally, there would be the soft lulling sound of the train, the track and the gentle rolling of the car. This time, I’m looking over at bodies of students, and adults looking like some kind of huge puppy-pile - involving arms, legs, heads and luggage. The group camped in front of and around the bathroom were highly protective of their space, and resented having to move for anyone. But, at least, with some grumbling they were willing to eventually move. And the train continued to head down the track. I mentioned earlier that we were one of the cars close to the engine. A coal fired engine.

As the late afternoon turned into evening, people had made peace with the situation - somewhat, and were beginning to settle into a resigned manner of getting as comfortable as possible for what was obviously going to be a very long night. I looked around and realized that if someone were to take a picture, we would look as if we were advertising a multi-cultural performance of “The Lower Depths” (a play by Maxim Gorky). I didn’t dare chuckle about it too loudly, as trying to explain where my mind was wandering unaided would be too difficult.

A few hours passed…

I started to come to the realization I was about to “lose it.” As in - completely lose it. I felt I had reached the end of my patience, understanding - you name it. Something had to happen, or something was about to happen. I think almost everyone has reached that point at some time. In this case, the idea of losing it was actually quite a delightful idea. I had this crazy picture of a madman (me) tearing through the train compartment luggage and all flying in my wake. At that moment, there was a commotion from all those camped in front of the bathroom door. They were actually laughing and whooping and such…and pointing to the door of the bathroom. I found this interesting, as I hadn’t seen (or heard the loud complaints about) anyone going in - let alone coming out.

Imagine my total shock and surprise, when two VERY lovely Indian ladies came (evidently) from the bathroom. And I do mean lovely. They were in beautiful sari’s, jewelry with their hair impeccably done and make-up absolutely perfect. Bollywood (Bombay) film actresses was my first thought, which was immediately followed by the question of what would film actresses be doing on THIS train and that was followed by the thought that I must have lost my mind, or gone into total hallucination. These lovely ladies gently moved their way through all the encampment and ended up in front of the first compartment and myself. At that point, they leaned over and put on their dancing bells. These bells are wrapped around the legs of dancers and the legend has it that a superior dancer is able to ring each bell individually.

By now I was sure I was suffering from a gigantic hallucination - however, the students continually asking me what they were doing and/or going to do, convinced me that this was NO hallucination.

The attaching of the bells finished - the two began to sing a Hindi film song, and to dance (well, dance with as much room as was available). The “encampers” had reach a state of almost football game excitement. As in, they were shouting and being very loud - with much shoulder and back slapping. The students and adults (to say nothing of the rest of the train car) were now completely awake, and all thoughts of how uncomfortable they might have been - had been forgotten as they watched this performance.

I thought that this interesting tamasha (a Hindi word that really has no easy English translation) might simply be moving down the car - a sort of impromptu entertainment. But, it soon became apparent that they had no intention of moving…until they were paid for their performance. As I was looking at the ladies, I made other discoveries. One of them had 5 o’clock shadow beginning to peek through the make-up and the other had a bosom that seemed to be moving in different directions - and slipping slightly -occasionally. Of course, the adams apples should have been my first clue. And the students - who are never as naive as people think they are - had begun to figure this out as well. Now, I was in a quandary. There is no set price for these performances, and it’s true - they will not stop and will not move on unless they get what they think is a good price. As I had mentioned earlier, the trip was tightly budgeted - and there was no money for extraneous performances such as this, which I wasn’t sure I would be able to explain with any degree of rationality to the administration.

So, I did the first thing that popped into my mind.

I got up, and precariously stood on the bench I was sitting on, and began to imitate them. By this time, our entire end of the car was in complete uproar. To say nothing of the students and adults. However, I was now committed - and there was no turning back. I tried to match them gesture for gesture, hip bump for hip bump. I guess that one of them decided to humiliate me by reaching over and grabbing my rear end. We used to refer to that as a bah-poo (accent on second syllable) . As I was told, that’s the affectionate pat one gives a baby’s bottom, and in the wonders of Hindi - it can also be a term of endearment (and you thought English could be difficult). So, there I was trying to keep from being a total fool (probably too late for that) and was having my rear bahpooed by a drag queen in a crowded train in the middle of somewhere.

Again, I did the first thing that popped into my mind.

I whirled around, stuck out my hand and demanded 5 rupees. I repeated it several times (each time pointing to my rear). “Five rupees.” They finally figured out that I was either 1) completely crazy or 2) completely crazy and serious. They gently took their leave of the first compartments and moved on down the train car. And I was five rupees richer.

--the finale tomorrow

Thursday, March 8, 2007

An Elegant Time Waster ~

The purpose of this game is quite simple. Balance and collection. No, really ... it's very simple. OK, really - it's simply interesting.

It's called Tilt - And you can play it here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Squeeze A Grape (chapter One) ~ Early Morning Thoughts

Chapter One ~

Earlier this week, and again today - I was asked about various happenings to me during my time in India. I was there from 1971 until 1978, teaching at Woodstock School, an international school. At the time I arrived, the school was over 100 years old, and when I left I’m sure the school felt it was over 300!! The school is located in Mussoorie , U.P. high in the Himalayan mountains. The school was a boarding school/day school for grades 1-12...with about 450 students in any given year. The school had expanded it’s “junior or senior year abroad, ” and dual diploma program, so as a perk, the school decided (well, leadership actually decided) in 1974 that taking those students on a circle tour of India for about 6-8 weeks would be a very educational and interesting way to fill the time between semesters and keep those students out of everyone’s hair.

The trip was carefully planned, budgets calculated and everything was going according to plan. The trip was going to consist of 28 students (all high-school) and 5 staff. There were a couple of school families added to the mix, so we made a rather large contingent. By now, reservations at the hotels were made, train tickets were purchased and the reservations reasonably assured to be reserved.

During the 70’s and I’m sure today as well, India was highly dependent on trains. It was said during that year at least 10% of the population traveled on trains every day. Also, without the network of trains manufacturing, transportation of food and such, would be completely impossible. Three weeks before the Cirque de Woodystock was set to leave, the entire train operation came to a complete halt, due to one of the largest strikes in India’s history. As in - nothing going anywhere. A few commuter trains within certain areas supposedly were still running, but nothing else.

And now everything seemed to be unraveling. However, there were assurances from all over that the strike would be settled very quickly, so we went on as if nothing had changed. I’m not going into the historical or political ramifications of all that occurred - that’s not the story I’ve been asked about. Finally, five days before we were to leave, the strike was settled and we were going on a wonderful tour. We packed, laughed - checked tickets and headed out - yes, it felt like a cattle drive at times.

There were many adventures along the way, but one of several highlights has to be leaving Calcutta (now known as Kolkata). The trip into the train station was a small tip of the iceberg as to how this trip was going to go. We arrived in Calcutta to make the connection onward. With the tie-up of trains due to the strike, literally thousands of people were trapped within train stations. Now, add those people to the people who actually lived in the train stations (no different then people who occupy spaces here in the states or Europe)…and it made for every crowded conditions. There we stood, like a crowd scene from some Broadway show. After a rather tense 6 hours - part of the sporting events we watched from a distance included an attempt to burn the station down - we were lead to a portion of the platform to await the arrival of the train from the round-house. Which arrived from the round-house completely full. As in packed.

More adventures (for another time) and all of us were on the train. Perhaps saying we were in the car would be a better description. The conditions of that train car made Dr. Zhivago’s train trip seem like traveling on the Orient Express. The car we were traveling on had open compartments on one side, with facing single seat benches on the other - and an aisle dividing the two. There was a bathroom on the end of the car where we were located. The car was designed for a maximum of 72 people. I counted over 150 when I decided that I wouldn't count any more, and I couldn't see beyond about 1/3 into the car. Normally, this would be a fairly comfortable way to travel - but given the fact that as many people as possible were in that car - comfort was not going to be an option. The students and staff were in the three compartments designed to hold four to six plus luggage - now were wall to wall people and luggage. An entire fishing village were camped in front of and around the bathroom. I and three staff were occupying the benches (along with the overflow of the fishing village). Oh yes, important to a later part of the story, there were no closable windows - and this car was one of the first behind the coal fired engine.

“Squeeze a lemon and you don’t get apple juice” was a popular saying a few years ago. The meaning was quite simple - whatever I am inside, is going to come out during stress and strain. Whatever masks or identities I wear -- when the going gets personally tough, whatever is within - whatever I hold as “me” is probably going to “shine” when the push becomes the shove. Miss Marley (an elderly lady who lived at the school - and was the oldest resident of the school) always told me - “When you squeeze a grape, you don’t get wine. It’s got to be mashed around a bit first.”

--Chapter Two tomorrow

Beyond Bumper Stickers ~ Mid-Day Thoughts

Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue.

Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

Drive carefully. It's not only cars that can be recalled by their maker.

Eat a live toad in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.

If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.

If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

Never buy a car you can't push.

Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you don't
have a leg to stand on.

Nobody cares if you can't dance well.
Just get up and dance.

The early worm gets eaten by the bird, so sleep late.

When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

Birthdays are good for you; the more you have, the longer you live.

You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.

Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.

Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened.

We could learn a lot from crayons:
some are sharp,
some are pretty,
some are dull,
some have weird names,
and all are different colors;
but they all have to learn to live in the same box.

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

Happiness comes through doors you didn't even know you left open.

--detour from collage by L. Michelle Johnson

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

F.Y.I. ~

There will be no post tonight (3.6).
I will be back tomorrow (3.7).

Monday, March 5, 2007

Carousel Of Life ~ Early Morning Thoughts

I'm continually amazed at what can come my way at a time when I need it most. As I was pulling together a business idea today, I came across this wonderful story - with a wonderful depth of meaning and hope...but above all hope.

The Carousel Horse

It's been so long now; it's really hard to remember or maybe it's because of the way I feel or have always felt. when was I born? I could say when they carved me I guess or when they finished painting me, or when I was mounted on the carousel. But if I'm really honest about my feeling I'd have to go back even further, to when I was a part of a beautiful tree in the Black Forest. Oh so long ago. I have fond memories of my growing years. I learned to deal with the elements that are. I learned patience and I learned that you can be taken away from everything that you love and know, and be put into, oh such totally different circumstances and still live. Why even thrive. Yes, it's been a good life. I wouldn't say easy, but well on to my tale.

I'm proud of the way I look and I must say my life before I was injured was full of compliments. Even when I was being carved, the expert woodsman remarked on my quality. "Now this is what I call a perfect piece of oak." Yes, I remember it so well. The man who carved me was quite old. His hands were rough but I didn't mind because he touched me so lovingly. He was constantly caressing me as he sought out the perfect horse that was captured inside.

He worked slowly, puffing on his old pipe. The smell was delicious. I can still smell it, even now. It kinda permeated my whole being as he carved and puffed for all those months. "Say, now that's a pretty one, Joseph." the man stood, hands on his hips, and scrutinized me closely. "I like the lift of the head and the way you've raised her front foot in the air. She's a real beauty." Joseph puffed on his pipe and looked at me as he ran his gnarled hands over my now almost completed surface. "Yes, this one's special", he mused. I was so proud.

Joseph's wife was to paint me. I liked her. She would come into the studio always wit a a smile and a jolly laugh. "Oh, now that's real nice, Joseph. I love her big thick mane and her wonderful tail. I like the way it lifts and curls. Why Joseph, she's just beautiful." She always smelled like fresh baked bread and she always made Joseph happy. When she'd leave him he'd hum away and I could feel a kind of new energy through his hands.

When it came time for me to be painted I couldn't help being excited and could hardly wait to find out what color I would be. White, black, chestnut, it was all I thought about for days. They chose golden palomino with a glorious antique white mane and tail. My saddle was burgundy with gold trim, and the draperies that graced my sides were rose and cream with dark green trim. I looked wonderful.

I was installed on the carousel in early spring. It was all new and boasted rabbits and pigs and birds along with its many horses. I think it's only fair to say though, that, well I could hold my own. The children flocked to me. Even grown ups. I remember once a man lifted this pretty girl up on my saddle and as the music played and I moved rhythmically up and down as we turned, he proposed. she said yes. But ah, it was the children, the wide-eyed, happy boys and girls who wrapped their arms around me like they would never let go. I carried them gently up and down as we moved along the crescendo of sound and lights.

As the years moved by I began to feel my age. My paint was cracking here and there and finally I got pretty crackled all over. I had dried out some and there were even hairline cracks in my wood. Who'd of ever thought it. The carousel was getting older too and it creaked a bit and groaned at times but we all kept going rain or shine and the kids kept coming. I wasn't getting the compliments I got when I was young but I knew they enjoyed me and that was the most important thing. Then one day the engine quit. The children were very disappointed. I remember the little boy on me kept kicking me and beating me with his fists. I was more hurt than hurt, if you know what I mean. This engine trouble became pretty regular, then the trouble with the gears or something. Then it was just trouble, trouble and pretty soon the kids didn't come anymore. I felt terrible but that was just the beginning. they took us apart and discarded us like old worthless junk.

I was thrown , yes thrown, they broke my neck, into an old dark warehouse. I laid there for years in the dark and the roof leaked. The rain would drip down from the high, dark ceiling and run in cold rivulets over my exposed side. It was awful. My paint, well, let's not even talk about it. I was a mess. Then one day they opened the warehouse doors and started looking through the piles left from so long ago. They laid all the carousel horses in one place and they looked us over. They inspected me. "Might as well burn this one. I think it's hopeless. Look, it's neck is even broken." a young man looked down at me. He touched my neck. Oh, it felt good. It had been so long. He ran his fingers over the cracked neck. His companion shook his head. "forget it. Come on let's check out the rest." He left.

They spent about a week selecting the chosen ones and they put me in a heap, and not too gently, with the other rejects. I heard what they were planning for us. They said old oak made a great fire. I just couldn't believe what was happening to me.

Then they drove the truck into the warehouse. It was one of those cold, wet mornings. The sky was dark and I felt a chill run through me. They started throwing, yes throwing, us into the back of the truck...then the young man walked in. He walked over to me just as they were grabbing me by the tail. "Wait, I think I'll take this one home." "fine with me but I sure don't know why. It's a wreck." "I know, I know, but there's something about her." He reached down and picked me up and I fell in love. He carried me to his van and gently laid me down inside. I could have wept. He drove me to his home and took me inside. His wife opened the door. "Oh my, it looks like she's been through a lot." She touched me and I knew I was finally safe.

He worked on my neck. He sanded me and polished me and rubbed oil on me night after night. I was beginning to feel pretty good, and oh his pipe, I loved his pipe. It reminded me of, oh so long ago. Then it came time to paint me. I had heard them discussing it. They were going to paint me exactly like before when I was young. I was thrilled and what a job she did. She couldn't have been more careful. I knew she liked me.

They placed me by the window in a large kitchen and I look out over rolling hills of oak. The sunsets splash the last light of day on me every evening and I am content. She polishes me a lot and I'm constantly complimented. But Joe's my favorite. I mean, he saved my life but, I don't know, I just love him anyway. There's something about him.
His wife walked into the room. Joe was reading at the table smoking his pipe. She walked up behind him and ran her hand through his hair. The sun was setting and cast a golden light on the carousel horse. "I just love that horse" she said. He nodded, "Yes, I know. I've always wanted one. My grandfather used to carve them. Did I ever tell you that?"

---Tom Voiss
Quiet Moments
painting of horse by Nancy Glazier

Toxic Waste ~ Early Morning Thoughts

There is a fallacy that I have to like everyone. That I have to find some reason or way to enjoy every person that I come in contact with. Aside from being a very pollyanna view of life, it is an impossibility and an impossibility that, if followed, could bring harm to me - to myself as a person. There are just some people that are not going to get along with me or I with them...even though I will try.

There is also another group that can really cause problems - especially with friendships or relationships. These people I refer to simply as toxic. When I open the door for friendship at a level beyond mere acquaintance, I am opening a door for possible hurt, harm or pain. There can be an emotional price for being open, caring and honest. However, toxic "friends" can be among the most damaging, harmful and painful people to deal with. A harmful friend or a toxic friendship can be one of life's hardest relationship tribulations to forgive and forget. Toxic friends often come back to haunt you for a long time.

Sometimes I know beforehand what they are or can be like. Sometimes, there is a mask that can hide very well what is beneath the surface. And just as a toxic substance barrel can begin to leak - the mask can begin to slip and reveal what's underneath.

I noted a few types of toxic friends--some of these people were those whose friendship hurt me eventually. Knowing the categories of toxic friends helps to avoid them. However, becoming friends is risky and there is never a guarantee you will not be hurt by a toxic friend. The only way to avoid any kind of hurt or pain in this journey of life, would be to become a hermit and deny all contact with any human at all.

The User:
This person only has friends as long as they can be used for some purpose or goal of their own. This person could be one of the most harmful of toxic friends as the purpose of the friendship doesn't become easily seen. However, after the purpose has been accomplished, then the reality of what's happened becomes crystal clear...painfully crystal clear. I've seen careers halted and marriages literally destroyed by these people.

The Betrayer:
Nothing hurts more than a friend who betrays you. The betrayal can be as simple as gossip or as deadly as character assassination. It can be tied to broken promises, harmful revelations or taking someone that you thought was yours.

The Control Freak:
The control freak is a friend as long as they are in control. The control freak only wants to help you. With a smile on their face and the right words on their lips, they have the plan that will make it all better. Or, they simply know the better places to eat, live and ways to think. Refuse that help or break that control and find out what toxic control freak friendship really means.

The Judge:
Ever judgmental, ever critical, this friend can erode your self-esteem. The judge is a fault finder. You can rarely do anything completely right with this toxic friend. I sometimes refer to them as people that 'should' all over me. You know the type: "Well, what you 'should' have done..."

The Promise Breaker:
This person rarely does what he says he will do. If you have a date, the toxic friend is often a no-show. If you have a serious agreement about something, they either will break the agreement or find a way to pretend it never happened. A general lack of dependability makes this person completely toxic and can be very wearing, frustrating. It also, sadly, shows how little regard they have for the person they treat this way.

The Gossip:
The gossip will eventually betray your trust and become a toxic. Gossips are easy to spot so beware friendships with them. I used to joke: "If can't say anything nice about anyone. then come sit by me..." I don't anymore. These people are especially toxic when what they don't know - they make up, and pass off as truth.

The Self-Centered Person:
Someone once wrote:
When the center of the universe is discovered some people are going to be very disappointed to discover they were not it. Self-centered people can't think of you as they are too busy thinking of themselves. The conversation almost always swings their way - and what they are doing or want to do will take center-stage and be what others are expected to talk about and/or acquiesce to eventually (and for them, the sooner the better).

The Competitor:
The competitor is always looking to be "one up." Although competitiveness is normal, fun and healthy in friendships, it should never be carried to excess. No one in a friendship should be made to feel "lesser" or "less than important" in a friendship. These are the people who have always done something a little more than you have, have a better ending to the joke you've told, takes your date and the brother as well...and probably knows someone who died from the cold you have. These people are toxic.

The Leaner:
The leaner is a very needy friend who clings and may be at your doorstep every day. They usually want all of your time and can become extremely jealous if you begin to have plans that do not include them, or that will cut into the "hold" they have on your time.

Sometimes people we know are combinations of these types and I'm sure there are types I haven't listed here.

Also, very important, is that these types are toxic only when it is something that is continual, ongoing or never ending. Each of us has at some point been a gossip, leaned far more on someone that we needed to,etc.
But I need to be careful I don't make a condition out of an incident. While I was working for a major airline, I was appointed to a committee (now there's fertile ground for toxic!) to deal with an attendance policy over 50 single spaced pages. That's right - fifty! The reason it had become so bloated? Each time something unusual would happen, it found its way into the policy. Even though no one could remember if it had happened more than once - it happened, therefore it was a condition.

Sometimes I can be friends with these people on a less deep level or a very surface level. This leaves room for them to change - or me for that matter. And with all friends I have, I also work to make allowances as I hope they do with me - for those times when any of us behave in a manner that's not really how or who we are. I have a saying that I love to remind people of in those moments (I've posted it here before): If I can't accept you at your worst, I have no right to see you at your best.

After a while you learn
the subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn
that love doesn't mean leaning
and company doesn't always mean security.
And you begin to learn
that kisses aren't contracts
and presents aren't promises
--Veronica A. Shoffstall

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Something Fun For The Afternoon ~ An Elegant Time Waster

I found this little quiz on a blog I had never read: Squirl's Nest. It only takes a few moment, but the results are quite fun!!!

Click HERE to start the quiz ... it will only take a few moments....

ColorQuiz.comwd took the free personality test!


Emotional Bill Of Rights ~ Early Morning Thoughts

I have talked about Jesse and Yen from Two Lucky People before. These two people, so deeply in love, epitomize the kind of relationship - regardless of orientation - that is powerful, fulfilling and (I'm probably embarrassing both of them) an example to others of just what can happen if a relationship is worked both people.

A quick history - Jesse has an aggressive form of melanoma and has undergone some serious treatments. The last was a series of highly toxic (read deadly) infusions. There were to be 15 of them, but only if his body could handle it. It couldn't. At one point Jesse was "out of it" ...
...the disorientation from the drug has intensified, cheating him of present reality.

Boxed in a hospital room at New York-Presbyterian, he thinks we are in North Carolina, at an elaborate, colorful circus show...
But Jesse is a fighter, and with Yen's love ...
When I rouse from my sleep next to Jesse’s hospital bed this morning, he is already awake.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, my love,” I lean across and kiss him on the cheek. “What day is it?” he asks. “Wednesday.”
Along the way, both had to learn and relearn some important lessons...
When hope to rekindle memories starts to wane, when your lover is changing, deteriorating, it becomes a challenge to keep loving. Every day is a lesson in patient loving. Every day you relearn how to love again(emphasis mine).
Finally Jesse was released from the hospital cage and came home...when I write about their home, I almost feel it should be of the first posts I read showed part of their apartment - and it is more than just home ... they and their love have turned it into a Home.

They took some time and went on a vacation. While Yen wasn't sure it was a good idea ...
We were both angry with ourselves, and with each other...So while a vacation away from New York seemed like the perfect solution to two cramped, stretched souls, it also seemed to me the worst thing we could do for our relationship...
Then I was blessed to read a post by Jesse. It was the first time I'd had a chance to "meet" him, and I was so impressed and pleased to "sense" that what I had thought of his character and love was not wrong...
I was sick all day yesterday and as a result, just sort of sat there during dinner, only able to eat half the bowl of potato soup I ordered.

This once again is contributing to Yen becoming more and more frustrated about everything.

Hell, if I can’t even enjoy a decent meal with him, then it’s like he’s taking care of an invalid, isn’t it? Thanks to everyone who reads Yen’s blog. He’s such an amazing person that I wish everyone of you could meet him in person. I’m so proud to have him as my boyfriend...
And, when someone least expects something to happen, in a small moment...
...In that moment, I briefly forgot my anger and smiled at Jesse. In that moment, sweetened by the rarity of street dessert, the same light that first revealed his face to me, shone in my heart again...The turn was immediate, unexpected, and perfect in its ordinariness.

We were sitting in the lounge, on separate day beds, each with our own books...Jesse asked me to come sit by him. I agreed. It was not long after that we were both lying in a comfortable tangle of limbs - his legs stretched over mine, my arms wrapped around his thighs.

Resting so, we continued to read, my head slack on his stomach as his fingers caressed the side of my head. Once or twice, he catches me biting my nails, and smacks me disapprovingly, but gently. We continue to read like this for two uninterrupted, beatific hours.
As I have said before - these two are an example of: "for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness AND in health..." But while on this roller-coaster of illness - they also show another important point that I have touched on in others posts here - love IS a choice and is not without an emotional price sometimes.
Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love
--Ranier Maria Rilke
However, shining through the blog, is the amazing truth that is so often is forgotten. Emotions are neither right nor wrong...they just are. It's what we do with them that creates the right or wrong. And, since it hasn't been that long ago I climbed out of the cave of feeling nothing and caring about nothing - that's a liberating statement.

Many people are under impression that they should be happy all of the time...that if you are not happy then something is wrong with you. To quote my Father: Horse feathers! That is not what the human experience is about! Happiness is only one of the many emotions we are meant to experience. Many children are not taught how to appreciate the beautiful emotional self or how to be with feelings. As children most of us were not given an emotional vocabulary, a way to talk about our feelings. Instead we are handed a set of "standards" that have little or no relationship to the world - or emotional health: “It is weak to show emotions … Real men don’t cry … It’s not o.k. for girls to be angry.”

To re-quote what I said earlier: Emotions are neither right nor wrong...they just are. It's what we do with them that creates the right or wrong. And if people have no life vocabulary to deal with emotions, then how are they going to know what to do with them? When my Father was ill, my Mother had to develop more than just a new vocabulary for emotions, she almost had to come up with an entire new language. As I read Jesse and Yen's experiences, there is a sense of the emotional vocabulary that is growing and becoming part of the love and life experience. Would I expect all to be perfect and "wonderfully solved in 10 minutes" kind of existence? No, that kind of life exists only in TV sitcoms and Lifetime movies. But as I've learned through some spectacular personal failures, when two people are working on something, it becomes a lot easier to deal with.

Go back and re-read Yen and Jesse's blog. The emotional is there - but the solutions and/or understandings of the emotions are there as well. And I am grateful to be a small part of their life, love and emotions. To be able to share in my own small way their journey together. That's a wonderful phrase isn't it - journey together. The transparency that is there is a strong reminder to me about being transparent to my friends - and hopefully, eventually to someone to love - for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

But in the long run -
shouldn't we do that with everyone we care about?