Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lord Montaigne

Dear all,
I was re(re)-reading some of The Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying this weekend.  I was looking for references to the concept of bardo.  I've written about this before and won't say any more here.  But, as I was searching through the text, I came across this passage:


There is no place on earth where death cannot find us—even if we constantly twist our heads about in all directions as in a dubious and suspect land . . . If there were any way of sheltering from death’s blows—I am not the man to recoil from it . . . But it is madness to think that you can succeed . . . Men come and they go and they trot and they dance, and never a word about death. All well and good. Yet when death does come—to them, their wives, their children, their friends—catching them unawares and unprepared, then what storms of passion overwhelm them, what cries, what fury, what despair! . . . To begin depriving death of its greatest advantage over us, let us adopt a way clean contrary to that common one; let us deprive death of its strangeness, let us frequent it, let us get used to it; let us have nothing more often in mind than death . . . We do not know where death awaits us: so let us wait for it everywhere. To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave. 
Rinpoche, Sogyal (2009-10-13). 
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: The Spiritual Classic & International Bestseller: 
Revised and Updated Edition (p. 15). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

In the passage above, Sogyal Rinpoche quotes Montaigne.  And thanks to my google and wikipedia machine, I discovered Montaigne is Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne the 16th century French statesman, essayist, and philosopher who apparently had much to say about life and death.

Back to the quote -- It's the last part of the quote above that catches my attention: We do not know where death awaits us: so let us wait for it everywhere. To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave. 

Montaigne doesn't use the word "fear" anywhere.  He uses other words.  But what I hear in my mind as I read this passage is about fear.  Fear of death.  And how that fear prevents us from living fully. Fear of death prevents us from living life fully. 

Easier said than done, of course.

I've let my mind wander about this word, fear. Fear in its many manifestations. How often fear of something held me back? Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of loneliness. And perhaps the most insidious: Fear of losing what I love. That fear thus preventing me from loving fully. It's a clever defense mechanism, really, to limit my imagined, future pain of that loss. To negate the storms, cries,  fury, and despair. It's a pain avoidance rather than pleasure seeking. But to dull that pain means I must dull that pleasure. That's the devil's bargain.

As I enter into a new primary relationship I feel that fear more acutely. Reminders of our fragile lives are everywhere: A shooting at a high school in Ohio; war in Syria; an auto-accident on the beltway. One moment it's all there, the next it is gone so swiftly. But it isn't always so dramatic: a disagreement, an argument, a mis-communication, and the fear wakes up and I retreat from love to my imagined safety. 

When my own fears return, being reminded, by Rinpoche and Montaigne, of the universality of this fear and reality of my own mortality, comforts me. And reading again Montaigne's words, as I write my words, inspires me to flip Death the bird.  "Fuck you, Death," I imagine Montaigne would say if he lived in a different time and place. And it feels good to say it that way. 

Moments.  These moments of clarity and courage are what I'll hold onto. 

But I know, as sure as this new day begins in front of me, that fear will return in one form or another, subtle or profound, and instinctively I'll look for a place to retreat.  Until then, for now, I have Rinpoche's and Montaigne's wisdom to lean against. 

Thank you.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Little Kitty


One of our pets, Lori's kitty cat, Little Kitty, died last night.  She was small and frail and of unknown age.  She showed up at the doorstep of one of Lori's sister's clients about two years ago and Lori eventually took her in.  Little Kitty was little, very little, and was never in great health but was cute and adorable.  She seemed not well starting a few days ago and Lori took her to the vet yesterday.  They did some tests and gave us meds but she didn't last long enough to for us to try.

Last picture of Little Kitty eating food on February 12, 2012.
Photo courtesy Bryan Robinette (age 6)
Little Kitty had a little bed in our home office.  At about 11:30 last night I shut down for the night and said goodnight to her.  I scratched the top of her head and she looked towards me.  Her breathing was rapid and shallow.  She did not look well at all but I had no idea how close to death she really was.  At 2:00 a.m., Lori woke me up and told me Little Kitty was dead.

We cried and held each other then took to the practical matter of taking care of her little body.  We wrapped her in a couple towels, set her in a box, then put her in the basement on a table where she is right now.  I woke up the boys for school and told them first thing.  They were sad, of course.  I contemplated waiting until after school but Adam has guitar lessons and Bryan would likely find out first and that wouldn't be so good.  And they knew Little Kitty was sick so there was a good chance they'd have asked where she was anyway.

We'll miss you Little Kitty.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Paper Tears


“Daddy, what are we doing on May 13th and June 17th?”

My younger son is a big calendar fan.  We had just talked about the dates for a summer vacation.  He had run off to his room to presumably mark off those dates on his calendar when he returned into my home office with that question.

It took me a moment…

“Oh, you mean Mother’s Day and Father’s Day?”
“Yeah!”
“Well, we are going camping on the weekend of Father’s Day, so that is taken care of.  For Mother’s Day, well, we can let go of purple balloons like we did the past two years.” 

He nodded his head.  

“Daddy, can I have a piece of paper?”
“Uh, sure.”

I pulled a sheet of paper off the printer and handed it to him and he ran off into the dining room.

This sort of exchange with my 6-year-old and his apparent non sequiturs are reasonably common.  But there was something.  Something different.

***

In the first days after Amy died, our church’s former minister of Religious Education spent a lot of time with the boys and me.  She helped keep me going.  She checked in.  She sat and listened.  She was just there for us.  I love her for how she helped us. Beyond her many visits, she brought a copy of the book Tear Soup.  Without giving away the plot, it’s a beautiful book about loss and how this special, magical soup requires our tears.  Along with the book she brought a glass jar with tears cut out from paper from others who were sad.  They were starter tears for our soup.  I set it near the fireplace and grabbed a pot from the kitchen and dumped some of the paper tears into the pot for the soup.  I explained to the boys that when they felt sad they could take tears from the glass jar and add them to the soup.  It quickly became an important ritual for us.  One of us would start to cry and we’d go to the jar.  I’d tell the boys I was sad at work and would go to the jar.  We ran out fairly quickly and we took blank paper and made more.  Many more.  At some point, after a year or so, took all the tears from the pot and put them back into the jar and returned the pot back to the kitchen. And occasionally we add new ones to the jar.

***

I walked into the dining room.

“What are you drawing?”
“Tears, but they’re not very good.”

And that is when I understood.  I took a deep breath as real tears filled my eyes.

“I’m sad too – can I draw a tear?”

He handed me his pen and I drew a tear.  He followed with a few more.  I fetched some scissors and he cut them out.  He put his in the jar, then gathered up the rest and distributed them through the house.  One to my girlfriend at her computer, one to me, and one to his brother in his bedroom.  After he finished, I put my tear in the jar then picked him up and held him as long as I could.  

There are moments – occasional and fleeting moments – when grief and sorrow and love and joy all collide into some indescribable emotion.   I think of our loss, his loss, but I also marvel at his capacity to comprehend something so incomprehensible in simple ways.  I try to imagine what a 6-year-old must think and feel to have lost his mother when he was only 4 and it breaks my heart.  We hug for a while.  Then I feel him start to squirm.

It’s getting late.  I set him down and tell him its time for bed even though I’d really just like to hold him forever.  I nudge him upstairs and call down the hall to his brother that its bedtime.  I tell them both to brush their teeth and go pee and put on their jammies.  I go back downstairs and hear arguing.  I go back upstairs and there is some dispute over who owns a particular game. 

We are back to normal again.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bird Seed and Squirrels


Sparrows, cardinals, a woodpecker, a pair of gray doves, an occasional catbird, sometimes a blue jay, and Carolina chickadees. And squirrels.

From my home office I look to our small inner-suburban backyard and two bird feeders. We get a good flow of birds in the early morning. It’s interesting to watch. The doves eat from the ground the fallen seed from the feeders. The woodpecker perches upside down about 15 feet up a nearby oak then flies in, snatches a seed, then flies back. It does this a couple dozen times then moves on. The sparrows and chickadees come in groups of 4 to 8 and flutter around the feeder for a few minutes then move on.

Then the squirrels.

One feeder sits on top of a metal pole about 7 feet off the ground. It is a square hopper style feeder with a perch on a spring. Anything too heavy on the perch will close the mechanism and cut off access to the seed. On the pole, about two-thirds up, is mounted a black metal tube, open at the bottom, through which the pole goes. This device is called the “squirrel baffle.” Any critter that tries to climb the poll will enter the tube and not be able to climb any higher.

The other feeder hangs from a “Shepard’s Hook” style metal pole. It hangs about 4 feet above the ground. That feeder is a rectangular feeder with several openings at different levels. It is enclosed in a green metal cage and only animals that are small with beaks can get at the openings.

These feeders are 100% guaranteed squirrel proof!

After the birds have mostly moved on, the squirrels move in. They start on the ground and nibble up the seed that fell to the ground that the doves left. That’s easy. But then one hops onto the Shepard’s hook, climbs out to the end, hangs upside down and pulls seed out with its little claws. Some it eats straight away, but most lands on the ground where its accomplice eagerly waits.

Last summer I unwittingly moved an outdoor citronella torch on a pole to within about 3 feet of the other feeder - the hopper style one. The black metal pole has a small holder at the top which contains a black metal canister of fuel. The squirrels shimmy up the torch pole and fling themselves from the top of the torch to the top of the baffle then easily climb the last couple feet to the hopper. Since they can’t stand on the spring-loaded perch, they climb all the way to the top of the hopper, hang upside-down, and pull seed out with their claws.

At first I was angry at the goddamned squirrels eating up my goddamn birdseed. Goddamn squirrels!  But now I’m amused in a strange way. They are definitely working for it. I could move the torch pole, but it’s almost fun watching them make that leap. It appears to be just at the limit of their range but mostly they make it. Sometimes one misses and has to try again, which it does with no hesitation.

It’s funny how our culture rewards the individual who rises from nothing to greatness. The underdog.  The “little guy.” Yet when it comes to birds and squirrels, we’ve stacked the deck. We create feeders that are easy for the birds. Exclusive in fact. The squirrels are given no chance but that does not deter them. They don’t seem to care at all.

When we use “squirrel” to describe someone, it’s not usually a compliment.
“He’s acting kind of squirrely.”

You don’t really want to be referred to in this way.

We may say someone “squirreled” away something, remarking on that person’s thriftiness or how he or she saved things. But we wouldn’t use that to describe a thoughtful or noble effort.

“Yeah, grandpa squirreled away all these cans of pinto beans he found on sale at the Piggly Wiggly.”

But no one uses “squirrel” to describe the behavior I most see from squirrels: Their dogged determination, perseverance, and cleverness. You never hear a parent from the sideline of a soccer game mention that the undersized kid who never gives up has “a lot of squirrel” in him. At best you’d get sideways glances if you try that.

Which is too bad because I think our suburban squirrel deserves a little more respect. I could take additional measures to keep the seed from the squirrels, but they’d eventually “out-squirrel” me. So I’ll continue to feed the birds, and the squirrels. And for now, I think I’ll leave that torch pole where it is providing them a launch pad for the hopper feeder. At a minimum its fun to watch them attempt that leap.

Especially when they miss.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Shortcuts


I have short commute. 4 miles. It’s great. Especially in this town with its typical 60-minute commutes. I can’t complain. And I’m not. But even with a short commute I look for short cuts. Along the 4 miles there are a half-dozen or so stop lights, it’s mostly neighborhood and secondary roads, and nowhere is the speed limit greater than 35 m.p.h. So the 4 miles can take 15 minutes. And there is one particular intersection that is troublesome, some days it can take several light cycles to get through, and can add 5 minutes to the commute. 5 whole minutes! Sometimes more on a Friday afternoon. I can avoid this nasty intersection by turning right, down a side street, past the post office, then left onto an unnamed access road that dumps me out between two strip mall parking lots, then back onto the main road. I take this short cut all the time.

Yesterday, on my way to work, I was behind a truck at the light where I’d turn right onto the side street. The light was turned red and the truck stopped. I couldn’t make my turn right on the red! I was losing precious moments! Goddamn truck! The light changed and the truck ever-do-slowly accelerated and I was finally freed from my red-light trap. I passed the post office, turned left down the unnamed access road, between the two parking lots and, … , and, what’s this? To my dismay it was … That Truck! I sat there slack-jawed as it passed in front of me. It had taken the “standard” route and beat me to the end of my shortcut! How could this be?

Well, it’s simple really. I developed that short cut a couple years ago when I was working a standard 9 to 5 schedule. Now I work a modified schedule and don't have to drive through that intersection during the rush hour crunch. And when not rush hour, apparently, traffic through the intersection moves just fine. During non-rush hour, my shortcut is not really a short cut at all. Additionally, they’ve also modified that intersection in the past 12 to 18 months. There is an extra left turn lane on one side, I think the light timing has been changed, and they’ve put up fence barriers to reduce pedestrians crossing the road all over the place. And maybe some other things too. I knew this had happened. I knew about the construction and the changes. The intersection flows better. Combined with my changed driving habits I should have reconsidered my route. But I didn’t. It didn’t even occur to me to reconsider my route. I just kept taking my secret shortcut because that is the way I go. I no longer took my shortcut because I thought it saved me time, I took my shortcut because I knew it saved me time. And it was just the way I went to work. I didn’t think about it at all. But now I know. My way takes longer. Maybe not a lot, but it’s certainly not shorter. And traveling down the main road to the intersection requires fewer turns. Regardless, now I know, there is no advantage, I can tell, to take my shortcut anymore.

So this morning I left for work at a non-standard time again. It was about 10:15am. Not rush hour. I drove to that point where I would turn right for my short cut. And for a moment I thought about it and thought how silly it is that we are such creatures of habit. How things change around us and we barely notice. And things change and we keep on with our ways because that is just what we do. We do what we’ve done because it is comfortable and familiar. It’s what we know. And even if we are aware, when presented with data or even direct experience to refute what we know, we choose to ignore it, or worse, fight against it. I thought of this for just a moment. Then turned right and took my secret short cut. I laughed at myself as I passed the post-office then shook my head, as I turned left down the unnamed access road.

I wonder which way I’ll go tomorrow?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How Our Weekend Started


At first it looked liked a sweatshirt or a jacket. Typical. We play in the street a lot. Wiffle ball, basketball, bikes, scooters, hockey. A kid leaving a jacket in the street is hardly unusual. My neighbor’s younger son standing over it and just staring at it –looking down at it – not moving. That seemed unusual.

As I walked closer it became clear something was unusual.
I called out, “Stephen, what is that?”
“A cat.”

I hurried over. I bent over to make sure. The lifeless eyes of the poor animal stared to nothingness. Sure enough. I exhaled and sighed.

“What happened?”
“The bus hit it.”
“The school bus? Really?”
“Yeah, he was just coming across the street and the bus hit it.”
“Did you see it?”
“Yeah.”

The gray and white cat rested in the street right in front of our house. The bus had just dropped off the posse of neighborhood elementary school kids at the corner and continued down our street like it does every Friday afternoon. Except today it ran over a cat.

I reached down and turned the collar around. The tag confirmed what I feared. It was Amigo. Amigo belongs to the family a few houses down the street. Kids started to gather around. Then word got out and more kids started to gather. I ran inside and grabbed a towel, ran back and covered the poor animal.

There was no blood. Hardly any, actually. The animal looked fine, otherwise. Blunt force trauma? I had to hold back the tears. Anything being killed by a vehicle is too close to home for us. And in front of our home is certainly too close to home. My older son ran inside and started crying.

We had a minor spectacle forming and we needed to move the spectacle off the street. I gently lifted Amigo’s lifeless body, now wrapped in a towel, and carried him to our porch.  I ran down to the neighbor’s house with my other son. They weren’t home yet. I called their number and left a message to call me back.

As I walked home I started to rehearse how I’d tell them when they’d call. Would I tell them come over so I could tell them in person? How would I get Amigo back to them? Simple things, but important things. Then I remembered when the DC Detective brought Amy’s personal affects to our home in a big red biohazard trash bag. I remembered how horrible seeing that was and wishing they’d had the foresight to at least put that horrible red biohazard trash bag in a box. So I went back home and found a cardboard box and put Amigo, still wrapped in the towel, in the box. I wished I had a better box. Not an empty brown moving box with tape remnants and Sharpie marker announcing it was ‘Office Supplies.’ Something plain or white. But that is what I had and it did make carrying the poor animal easier.

As I picked up Amigo a second time I was startled how heavy he felt. Ten pounds? Less? I couldn’t really tell. We had a dead raccoon on the front yard once. I picked it up by the tail to dispose of it and remembered how heavy it felt too. Something lifeless ought not feel heavy. It should be light. That the life-force or soul or whatever it is that is life has no mass is perplexing sometimes. And I remembered gathering Amy’s remains from the funeral home and being startled by what that box of ashes weighed. And then the tears came.  I heard somewhere recently that each joy is its own, independent, joy but each sorrow is the accumulation of all the sorrows before. I remembered the time when my Aunt died. My dad’s sister. Later that same week one of our pet cats was hit by a car. My dad found it. He had been stoic up until then, but finding that poor helpless animal was that straw. And that is how it is sometimes.

About an hour later the neighbors called. My mind had wandered and I had forgotten to rehearse. So I just told them. Told them Amigo had been hit by the bus and didn’t make it. It was the same way a cop told me Amy had been killed. He never said “died” or “killed.” Just that she had been hit and didn’t make it. That’s how you say it. It’s hard to say the real words around death so we use other words: passed, didn’t make it. I walked down the street with the box with Amigo wrapped in a towel. I knocked on the door. They answered and I walked inside and gave them the box. She didn’t want to look. He had to make sure and looked. I understand that. I’m glad they were both there. And I’m glad their daughter wasn’t yet. I told them again what happened. I told them I don’t know if the bus driver saw him. I kind of doubt it actually. It just happened. The neighbors kid saw it. It happened very fast. We talked a little about what a great pet Amigo was. I learned Amigo was only three and had been a Humane Society kitty. They thanked me, and I left. It was sad. And as I walked the short distance home more tears came.  And I started to wonder what it’s like for a cat. What is that last moment of life like for a cat? Does it have some awareness that what is going on or is it really like falling asleep forever?

And then shouts and screams of the neighborhood kids startled me out of my thoughts. They had moved on from the street and were in another neighbor’s yard playing tag.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Learning to Say Yes



“Daddy! Is he going to break the ceiling?”
“No,” I said to my older son, “He’ll probably break his foot first.”

I didn’t know what would happen, or what to do, honestly. I had tried physically restraining my younger son at other times and that was no good. And now he was out of control. Physically, emotionally. And at some level I felt he needed to let it out. Get the anger out. He had good reason to be angry. Life had gotten complicated really fast. Though it had been more than a year since Mom died, it takes a time, sometimes, to access that anger. Plus in August, when this all started, we had just moved out of our house, into a rental, and my girlfriend moved in. Our house was being renovated. School was starting. A lot was going on.

So I just sat there and watched him. As he lay in his bed, with the sloped attic roof just above him, he methodically and loudly pounded the ceiling with the heel of his foot.

“I hate you!”
Pound
“I hate you!”
Pound.

It was a bad night.

Then, to my dismay, I watched him kick a hole clean through the ceiling. I really didn’t think he could. He is strong, but only six. And plaster is pretty tough, but it turned out to only be fiber board. It was thin. We were in a circa late 1950s house, in an attic turned bedroom, and that is what it was made of. And pieces of it and blown-in insulation fell on his bed and onto the floor.

My son was angry. Very angry. And would rage at times. He would make serious threats about wishing someone were dead. He’d beat up his brother, throw and break things. In general he was very difficult to be around. Constantly argumentative and contrary. It bled over into school. Fights, arguments with the teachers. All our normal tricks stopped working. Rewards for good behavior were of no value. Time-outs, losing privileges? He didn’t care. We were all walking around on eggshells waiting for the next explosion. That a six-year old could command that much respect and control from the whole family was, in hindsight, curious, at a minimum.

We started family counseling and that seemed to be helping some. I met with the schoolteacher and the guidance councilor at his elementary school. That seemed to help. Some.

But one night we were all home and I was sitting at the computer doing something, I don’t even remember. Work? Email? Facebook? Idle surfing? My son comes up to me and asks me if I wanted to play with him. Play? ‘Play’ was no longer the word with my son. In was not ‘play’ but an ordeal. He had to win or he’d throw a tantrum. If something didn’t go his way he complain we were cheating. It didn’t matter the game. Uno, checkers, ball, board games. It was hardly fun. And I was tired. I just wanted to sit there and stare at my computer. It was evening, I’d poured my scotch and I just wanted to sit there. Not be bothered. And the words were forming in my mind, “not now, I’m busy, maybe later,” when something jolted me. Another thought pushed through the fatigue and frustration and alcohol.

“John, you say ‘no’ a lot to your boys. A lot.”

And that is when I first became aware. Really aware of the distance between my boys and me. I had always prided myself as being an active and present father. I was always there for my boys. Present. Really there for them. But then flashbacks awakened my dulled synapses – ballgames when I’m checking email on my iPhone, pushing them on the swing while I run through the list of things I ought to be doing, at work, at home, moments of resentment when I wasn’t really able to enjoy being with them because I thought I should be doing something else. Just being with them turned out to be hard. I realized how much of the parenting, the close emotional parenting had been done by Amy. I was there, of course, but not really there.

And then I came back to the moment, staring at the computer. I exhaled and turned to my son, “yes, sure, let’s play something.”

Since it was dark, so we opted to play catch, inside, with a beanbag. He sat at one end of the couch and I sat in a chair across the room. And we just sat there and tossed a beanbag back and forth, back and forth, for about an hour and a half. Through that time I kept having these moments feeling I should be doing something else. Reading something, writing something, cleaning something, making a list. Something else. I realized I was perpetually distracted and how difficult to be in the present moment with my sons. My own children. It was easy to say they were truly the most important things in my life. Of course they are. What else do you say? But I was noticing the distance between saying it and living it, every moment.

And it was that day when I realized I needed to learn how to say ‘yes’ to my boys. Whenever they asked. The answer had to include ‘yes.’ Somehow, someway. I gradually became aware of the pattern for me – end of the day, getting ready for dinner, pour myself a drink, and let the warmth of the alcohol fill in the cold places. It was simple, really. And it made it easy to just slip away to somewhere. I could still function, and help with homework, and get them to bed. But I wasn’t really there. Not really. I was somewhere else.

It’s been about three months since that game of beanbag toss. I think we are doing better. We are back in our house, my girlfriend is steadily integrating herself into our family, and we into hers. Family counseling is helping. But I now see myself differently than I did before. I see a man who had become distant from his children. I wonder if I would have realized this had Amy lived. And that makes me sad. I don’t know the answer to that, nor do I think I ever will. I suspect, and it pains me, but I fear I would not have. At least not when I did. Maybe when they were older. Maybe all grown up with children of their own would I realize how little I really knew them. How emotionally distant we had grown, and how little I was really there for them. Amy would have continued to be the primary emotional connection for the boys. And I’d been there, mostly, physically, in the background. Ready to drive them somewhere while I thought of other things.

About a dozen years ago I went to a weekend seminar on Buddhism. There were teachings and meditations. One of the teachers remarked, “When I cook my rice, I cook my rice. When I eat my rice, I eat my rice. When I clean my bowl, I clean my bowl.”

I understand that differently now. And I see how hard that is. We are still stepping out into our new lives and it is a constant struggle. I still want to have that sip of scotch, or two, or three. I still feel the tug to all the things I “ought” to do. It’s still there. But there is something else there now too, competing for attention. I sure hope it wins.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Self-ish


I lie in bed with you next to me. I turn to the window and see the first pinks and oranges of the morning just now visible through the leafless branches of the neighbor’s trees. It looks chilly outside, even from this warm place. With my glasses on the nightstand, and somewhat myopic eyes, the rising sun blurs through those trees and for a moment I imagine the whole neighborhood on fire.

Then I imagine my death. Not “how I will die,” or “why.” But the moment of my coming death. Someday. Slipping into nothingness. I wonder what nothingness feels like. Is it truly a nothingness? And I recall something I read recently about the question of what happens after death – the same as before birth! And I chuckle at the absurdity of the question itself.

Self.

Such a strange feeling, sometimes, this feeling of self-ness. Self. I let my mind wander a little more about how this otherwise random collection of atoms has self organized to create this feeling of itself. This awareness of me.

And then I remember being a young boy. Maybe eight or nine, or maybe ten. About the age of my older son. I remember being that young boy and lying in his bed and wondering the same thing. Who is this person I am?  How is it that I am? That was nearly forty years ago and that strange, fleeting feeling, the awareness of self, has changed little. And I say “little” really to hedge my bet on the chance that it has changed at all. It’s probably mostly unchanged.

I become aware of the time and take a deep breath. My mind nudges me away from my self and on to other things.  Kids, school, work, email, coffee. I hear your breathing as you sleep, and the sound of warm air shushing through the heating vents.

This morning, I am still alive.