Friday, March 27, 2015

Me I've Got to Find the River

"I was powerful glad to get away from the feuds, and so was Jim to get away from the swamp.  We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all.  Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't.  You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft." (Huck Finn)

I guess any boy growing up in the South is drawn to Huck Finn.  Certainly given my many experiences in and around and up and down the Mississippi, it's easy to understand why I have such an affinity and understanding of the novel.  I feel like Huck, the rascal that seems to be so embedded in the action and yet can't help but to just want to sit outside, analyze, and understand the world and why people do things and why things happen in such a way.  In my world it's important to be civilized and in the know.  And yet so often I feel the desire, like Huck, to avoid all that "'sivilizing." In all that thinking I always come back to the desire for peace and tranquility and the desire to just be; be in the moment.  And no other place is better for being in the moment than on the river.

Here in the Greater DC area we similarly have a wonderful, navigable river.  She was named Patowmeck "something brought" by the Algonquian natives of the area.  The area above Great Falls was referred to as Cohongarooton ("honking geese") by those same natives.  Much like the Mississippi, the great Potomac River has breathed life to the area.  In colonial times and during the era of our "Young Republic," farmers from the great Shenandoah Valley (America's breadbasket at the time) shipped their goods up the Shenandoah and then down the Potomac to the population centers further down the river.  As the Mississippi traverses America from it's north in Minnesota to it's deep south where it meets the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana, the Potomac runs from America's colonial frontier where it's headwaters are formed in what is now West Virginia and runs between Virginia and Maryland and empties into the Chesapeake Bay.  The two rivers thusly travel not only ground but the history of this country.

I love the Potomac, I love running along it's adjacent paths on a calm spring afternoon.  When I am with her I think of the history that has transpired along it's path.

I also think about how it's path has traversed through my history.

Just the other day I looked up to the sunny sky and felt the warmth of that sun reaching around the tree branches and breathed in the fresh air.  I realized the river gave symbolism to my life similar to how that Mississippi River affected Huck's life.

You see Sandee loves the river as well, perhaps even more than I.  It has provided a story board for our lives in those few moments we get to share together.

For Huck and Jim the Mississippi River is their symbolic freedom.  Throughout the novel their time upon the river is tranquil and gives them that peaceful time that allows for slow reverent thought.  In that time they learn to respect and trust one another.  Huck evolves and comes to see Jim as a friend and vital partner in life.  But whenever Huck and Jim leave the sanctity of the river they get into trouble.  Off of the river they meet people like the Duke and the Dauphine who are selfish and have no interest in helping or understanding others.  Upon the river Huck and Jim can think and feel they way they wish, away from it's currents they are affected by the troubling currents of society's unfortunate mores.

For me life stops when I'm on the river with Sandee.  Conversation is as slow and easy as the gentle currents we float upon.  The air we breath when we walk along it's course is clean and unfettered from that which we breath in our "real" life.  The river is a safe haven for us to be "in the moment" or rather "out of the moment" that that "sivilized" society is living just around the bend and over them yonder hills!  On the river our "odyssey" is not to get somewhere but rather to not get anywhere in particular other than to continue the journey together.

In the end I find the ending of Huck Finn somewhat anti-climatic.  For all of the pursuit of freedom the ending is unresolved for Huck and he may still get "sivilized."  For Jim, he had his freedom all along.  It was outside parties (Tom Sawyer) that failed to reveal this for their own enjoyments.  In the end the beauty and meaning of the novel is not a beginning or an ending but the journey.

It's funny, now that I think about it my favorite times of a vacation or big event are always the time leading up to and during that first night when the experiences lay ahead of me.  For it's the journey that is the fun part, it's the journey that yields the reverence not the denouement.

Sometimes now I fear that I am rapidly approaching the denouement of this part of my life and I just look back and smile at the journey just as I did the other day running along my Potowmeck and feeling like Huck navigating his way to Jackson's Island at the onset of the story.

"And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time, in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind." (Huck Finn)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Here Comes the Mirror Man, Says He's a People Fan

My Experiences on Ashley Madison

Just in case you have not picked up on it there are two things I'd like to tell you about myself today:  1)  I have a high need to be needed and love giving my opinion, 2)  I have just a bit of an ego.  Really, I think it's just those two combined that have always produced a need in me to be recognized for thoughtfulness or simply producing something worth reading.  I love the Ben Franklin quote, if one wishes to be famous "write something worth reading or do something worth writing."

I always got a big kick in high school and college writing for the school newspaper.  Even when pledging a fraternity I had the unique goal of getting an article published in the national magazine which I eventually accomplished.  That idea of writing something worth reading and doing something worth writing has probably been why blogging has been such a joy.

OK, one other thing about me, I often segue.

"Here Comes the Mirror Man" is a 1982 release by the Human League.  It hit #2 on the UK charts and was a minor hit in the US.  The beat is a tip of the authors hats to their love of Motown, as you can hear those influences in the background vocal "ooohhhh ahhhs."  The Human League's lead singer, Philip Oakley, later revealed that the "Mirror Man" referred to in the song alluded to Adam Ant and the song was a cautionary tale warning one to not lose touch with reality.

About a month ago I was approached, as were a lot of you out there in the blogosphere, about producing an article or simply answering a series of questions about my experiences on Ashley Madison for a new sexuality blog/platform.  Of course when you start the introduction to me with

  "We are constantly on the lookout to feature interesting and talented guests on our magazine to promote their work and have them share their opinions with our readers."

you kind of have me at hello!  :)

Wow, that really does look like me!  :)
The Managing Editor sent me a list of questions and I said I would get back to him in a few days.  Of course with me I couldn't just answer the questions, I needed a theme.  Luckily XM radio came to the rescue as it always does.  On the way home one afternoon I heard that Human League song "Here Comes the Mirror Man" and along with some sports analogies I had my thoughts in order.  There is no sense in me re-writing those thoughts here so please click on the link above at the start of this post and read the article for yourself along with the other many interesting articles in the on-line magazine.  I believe one of our friends Kitty produced an article as well for us to enjoy!

The one other thought I will leave you just to elaborate here a little on that article is this:

"you can always trust a dishonest man to be dishonest.  Honestly it's the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they are going to do something incredible stupid!"

Now I've used that quote many times but it does sort of coordinate with the message of the "Mirror Man."  Or to quote Shakespeare, "to thine own self be true."  As odd as it might be to say in the murky swamp that is Ashley Madison, there is no better place to be honest with others but more importantly to yourself.  Ashley Madison can provide validation, brutal honesty, a referendum, and/or many other things that can give you a healing band-aide for a few moments or perhaps to just look into the mirror and see what the world sees in you.  You can get that vision and perhaps begin a healing process or a transformation but that can only start with being honest with yourself.  If you try to be a mirror man that thinks the world will be enamored with your bo-flex chest and abs you are likely to just get back the false light of hubris and a lot of read and deleted messages.  But in those murky waters of AM honesty is likely to yield the affirmation you seek.

As the song says:

"the water shines, a pebble skips across the face....  a dozen times then disappears, not a trace left behind.  The thrower turns and walks away.  A change of mind another start, a brand new day...."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ryan's Repeats - the Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway

And yet this time of year the cold really does start to bother us doesn't it?  We start to long for the gentle warmth of spring.  Driving to work yesterday I got that first hint of the spring that might be on the way as the sun started to warm the ground and rivers of melting snow found their way across the road and across the fields I drive past each day.  I started to realize how much I now looked forward to lazy spring days.   Listening to Lithium on XM radio a song then came on that took me to a memory of warm and slow spring days gone by.

Back when Shannon and I were first married, back when we thirsted for one another, we lived in a very small town.  We both worked in that very small town and could literally walk to work.  Shannon was also in school but often at this time of year on a day when she was home she might call me in the afternoon to see if I might be able to "take a break."

Of course I knew what that meant.

I would of course get things in order at work and briskly walk back to our house.  At that time Shannon would often lay waiting for me in the upstairs bedroom.  As I reached the apex of the stairs I would glance to my left to our bedroom.  At that time of day the room would be bathed in the afternoon sun cascading through the window.  And now those shards of light would be dancing through Shannon's brilliant (then) Auburn locks gently floating across her soft milky shoulders.  We smiled together as our eyes would meet, her Carolina blue eyes would sparkle with a sexy provocative and yet innocent charm.  My eyes would then, of course, chart that course down her naked back with its beautiful arch towards her dimples of Venus just above her soft round and shapely cheeks.  Those cheeks were the immaculate intersection of long sexy sculpted legs and that elegant back.

I couldn't get my clothes off quickly enough in order to dive into the pleasure of her body.  Once on top I would automatically bury my head into her hair and breath in the floral softness as my torso and my hips tasted of the feel of her lithe body.  I would kiss my way down her body to her hips as my fingers reached under her body and into her.  I would then gently coax her body over.  Once on her back I moved onto, over, and into her.  If I wanted to give an objective assessment of sex I would say Shannon was not the best I've ever been with and yet no woman ever fit better.  It was as if our hips were meant to be conjoined.  Her legs wrapped neatly around my waist and her head perched pleasantly below mine.  Propped up on my arms I could gaze down into her eyes or look further down and see myself entering her.  Then I could drop down and her head slightly below mine was in perfect position to kiss.  I loved that feeling of being connected at the mouth and the hips as stomachs sliped together across the sheen of sweat between out bodies.  Shannon was never very vocal yet I could tell when she was close.  She moved into me and I felt her muscles tighten and pull at me at a quickening pace.  At most she would sigh.  I always tried to time it together.  For me getting to climax was often difficult even though the process was so pleasant.  Often the effort pushed me and by the time I came I would gasp loudly as if I was back in the pool gasping for breath at the end of an arduous 500 meter freestyle.

After the sex was over often I stayed on top of her as we rested in place.  The act of penetration was elating and yet the feel of our bodies together was the thirst that couldn't be quenched.

At some point my body would fall away.  Drenched in sweat we would simply lay there together side by side now both warmed in the shower of afternoon sun.  Peacefully resting, perhaps a bird singing in the distance was a peace I'm not sure I've ever again felt.

This was the glory of reawakening from winter in those springs gone by.  Or perhaps it was the naivity in the newness of spring before the coming winters of our life.

For now I choose to enjoy just the memory of those lazy spring days.

A year ago I wrote what I think may have been one of my better posts.  It certainly was one of my most difficult posts.  I have to confess when reading it before publishing a tear came to my eye.  I'm not sure it was a tear of sadness for the realizations I had come too or a tear one gets when one sees a cold crystal melancholy truth.

Regardless, I have to admit that writing these days is getting harder and harder and on this rainy night after a day of sunny elation this is the best I have to offer.  A warm memory and a cold repeat.  Perhaps not so bad for a post written in 20 minutes in the lobby of my gym as I wait for my daughter's pick up time at ballet.

Ryan's Repeat
from March 20th, 2014......

"There are known knowns...., there are known unknowns....., and there are unknown unknowns..."
A. Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense

Wow, as a left of center guy I feel rather odd quoting a member of President Bush's cabinet.  However, that is just the type of quote I love.  It seems so ridiculously silly and obvious!  But as one columnist said in response it is "in fact a brilliant distillation of quite a complex matter."

Actually, I was at a conference this weekend and someone used the quote and I just liked it!  But the quote ties into something else I ran across recently that is at the heart of today's post.  Johari's window is a simple and very elegant way of self assessment, understanding your relationships to others, and most importantly how others see you.  To look through Johari's window is to look into the knowns and the unknowns and it can, in fact, be quite scary but quite illuminating.

I rather think this is why blogging, and perhaps Ashley Madison, are so enjoyable to us.  By blogging we get to stay within our Facade and only allow others into our Arena.  On the blogosphere we don't have to worry about our blind spots and those scary unknowns!

But as I thought of Johari's window I began to realize that a marriage is the ultimate Johari's window.  There are things we both know; he watches too much football, she love's to plan vacations.  There are the things we suspect; I know he hates it when I crack my knuckles, I know she hates that I leave the bathroom light on.  But then there are the true unknown unknowns (our "Bling Spots"); he is on a "married dating" website because he needs to be needed and she hasn't needed him in years, she has connection issues formed out of issues she had with her parents that may mean that she will never be able to be emotionally connected to someone and bring down that titanic sized cognitive brick wall that stands between them and being physically and mentally connected.

I tend to be a zealot at self assessment.  Perhaps that is why I started these "Shannon Stories."  Or perhaps it's just story development because I like to know what characters in a story think and feel, even the one's I may not like.  Anyway, as I look back I think these "Shannon Stories" may be my own Johari's Window and maybe through wedging myself through self discovery I've forced myself to look into those unknown, unknowns.

My Shannon story starts here.
My Shannon prequel starts here.

Shannon speaking......
Something about Disney's Frozen has really spoken to me.  I think at first I was simply delighted that a Disney movie was out for the holidays.  But lately it seems every time a new Disney movie comes out I'm anxious to see it with my girls because I think this might be the last one that's magical to them.  I remember taking ******* to Brother Bear so long ago now.  It was her first movie.  Disney has been very special to us, I hope for my girls there will always be something magical in life for them.

But as I watched the movie I began to feel connected to Elsa.

"Don't let them in, don't let them see be the good girl you always have to be.  Conceal, don't feel; don't let them know," Elsa sings.

As a girl I always tried to be a good girl.  But looking back my parents did very little to make me feel validated and they certainly were not very loving.  My mom went through erratic mood swings and when she was mad at me she simply wouldn't talk to me for days.  My dad had the quick temper and would yell as I played the piano on a Sunday afternoon when he was trying to watch the NFL.  I felt emasculated.  However, I do have to say that dad, while hot tempered, always cooled off fast and apologized.  Yet, still, he is not an affectionate man and never has been one to compliment.

Still I tried to please but over the years I became evermore used to being disappointed.  I won prizes as a pianist and was quite a good dancer.  But my dad was more interested in golf or whatever game he had bet on, he was not often at my recitals.  My mom on the other hand was always there but not really in spirit.  I always knew she was living vicariously through my sister and I.  My mom too was not close with her mom and I'm sure felt inadequate.  My grandma often spoke poorly too her in front of us.  I'm not sure if it was because of that treatment but for whatever reason my mom was for all intense purposes a hermit.  Yet living vicariously through me became an immense burden.  My mom was delighted when I was a cheerleader in high school.  However, when I tired of the drama during my senior year she was infuriated when I quit.  She wouldn't talk to me and said she was embarrassed. How do you say that to a child, what damage does it do?

When I met Ryan I felt I could escape.  Yet soon I felt alone again.  Ryan was always nice enough but his distance was one of career focus.  I don't think Ryan is a bad person he is just unable to see the reflection of his hubris through the brilliant glow of that ego.  To Ryan life is a succession plan where priority one is career aspirations.  I was just along for the ride.  He treated me conscientiously but more as a pet than wife.  

"A Kingdom of isolation and it looks like I'm the Queen," yeah sing it Elsa; I'm with you!

I don't think Ryan ever really even noticed as I drifted away until I was too far gone.

Work for me has been a love-hate relationship.  It has torn me from my girls too often and that is a fate I will always suffer interminably.  But as I have fought to preserve my sanity and fought to be a good mother I have realized freedom through my own success and from gaining recognition from people I admire and care for and who care for me.

I soon found myself in Elsa's place "the fears that once controlled me can't get to me all.  It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through."  While my travels have often been a burden I've gone places, met people, done things I scarcely could have conceived of back in school.

As I had success I didn't have to count on Ryan or my parents anymore.  I could lead life my way.

And it's true "it's funny how some distance makes everything seem small."  As I fly through the air each week to another destination I find the weekly battles with Ryan so small.  What matters is my girls and the magic of now.  I want to live for now!  "Here I'll stand, let the storm rage on!"

But if inside my love of my girls warms my soul, I fear, like Elsa, on the outside those icy blasts crystallize my soul.

Elsa sings "the cold never bothered me anyway."  And now I identify with that.

The other day I was sitting in a crowd at my daughter's basketball game.  There were a lot of people there, sweaty people who had probably just come from Wal-Mart.  I realized and even exclaimed to Ryan "I don't like being touched."  Obviously in those situations not many people would wish to be touched but later that night I thought about that statement and why it seemed to traverse my whole psyche.  In fact, I don't like to be touched anymore or perhaps never did.  Now that doesn't involve my daughter's who I could cuddle with all day or my little kitten cat who I love as well.  But other's - not so much.

Has a feeling that started out as a child branched out in "frozen fractals" within my soul?  I don't know.  I do know that often, after my travels, all I want is to be alone in my chair and at peace with my New Yorker and a glass of wine.  The peace of that solitude and the tranquility of the slow pace is a spa treatment for my mind.  What I also know is that while on the one side I am warmed by the magic of seeing my girls enchanted I easily turn away from the others in my life because as I've learned

"the cold never bothered me anyway."

"The snow glows white on the mountain tonight,

not a footprint to be seen.

A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I'm the queen.

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside.

Couldn't keep it in, Heaven knows I tried.

Don't let them in, don't let them see.
Be the good girl you always have to be.
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know.
Well, now they know!

Let it go, let it go!

Can't hold it back any more.

Let it go, let it go!

Turn away and slam the door.

I don't care what they're going to say.

Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway.

It's funny how some distance,

makes everything seem small.

And the fears that once controlled me, can't get to me at all

It's time to see what I can do,

to test the limits and break through.

No right, no wrong, no rules for me.
I'm free!

Let it go, let it go.

I am one with the wind and sky.

Let it go, let it go.

You'll never see me cry.

Here I'll stand, and here I'll stay.

Let the storm rage on.

My power flurries through the air into the ground.

My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around

And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast

I'm never going back; the past is in the past!

Let it go, let it go.

And I'll rise like the break of dawn.

Let it go, let it go

That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand, in the light of day.

Let the storm rage on!

The cold never bothered me anyway..."