Archive for personal accountability

CAN’T BUY ME LOVE

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2012 by kimmy

If you had to tally it all –time, money, effort, heartache- how much have you spent just to possess it?

Sally and Tom were the type of couple that, in my estimation, would surely beat the odds and have a reasonably happy future together. They were in their early fifties when they met and presumably long past the impulsiveness of youth. He was a retired union pipe-fitter who had just opened the business of his dreams, a café; she was a speech therapist dividing her time between several local elementary schools.  Both divorced and familiar with sting of being deceived by others, they were as brutally honest as possible with each other.  This transparency worked well for them, as they both had considerable baggage from the past.  Tom was a recovering addict, a 12-Stepper, determined to start his life anew.  Sally struggled with co-dependency all her life, but after jettisoning a long-absent husband and spending countless hours in therapy, she too was ready for a brand new life.

Initally, they were only friends and spent most of their time hanging out with mutual acquaintances.  Before long, they discovered they had more than intellectual interests in common and became lovers, much to Sally’s delight.  It was, for her, the end of a years-long sexual dry spell and she welcomed her newly found womanliness with enthusiasm.  Tom, being handsome, fit and middle-aged, never experienced such a famine and had his pick of many eager ladies.  However, he was honest and respectful of Sally.  The numbers of interested women gradually dwindled to only one, and within a few short months, he moved in with her and they began a quiet domestic life.  Content at last, the years passed in serenity…

…until Sally sent me a blunt message on Facebook a couple of weeks ago saying that after four years of apparent contentment, she had ended the relationship.  We met over breakfast last Sunday.

“He finally moved the rest of his stuff out of the garage,” she said calmly, taking a bite of omelette.  “… and I’m only forty grand worse off.”

The restaurant was crowded and noisy.  “Forty what?”  I asked.

“Thousand dollars,” she shouted.  “With all the back rent, groceries, utilities, dinners out, plus all the money I gave him to keep his business afloat, I figured he owes me about forty thousand dollars.”

I nearly choked on my egg-whites.  “You can’t be serious, Sal.”

She was.  She had bankrolled him, personally and professionally, for years and was uncertain when, if ever, he would repay her.

“He gave me a check for fifty dollars last week,” she said with a sigh, “only after I hounded him and threatened to get an attorney.  At this rate, I’ll be dead before it’s all repaid.”

For a woman out 40k and her man, she was remarkably dry-eyed.  Over the next hour, I learned that Tom’s money management skills were almost as bad as his weakness for women.  He had never turned a profit from his business and relied upon Sally’s monthly handouts to pay his employees and supplies.  She, being a generous soul, gave freely and didn’t even ask him to pitch him for their home expenses.  He, being a consuming soul, took freely and never volunteered to split expenses.  Neither would he follow Sally’s business savvy and did nothing but watch his business founder and eventually close.

It was only after months of idleness and unemployment did he finally return to pipefitting.  His union paid him well, but he never offered Sally a penny.  And so it would have continued indefinitely had not Sally wearied of the burden and demanded that Tom pitch in for their mutual expenses.  He decided to move out instead.

“He said his mother needed him, but I suspect he needs her more,” she said with a wink.   “I found some cancelled checks in the trash piles he left; his mother has been giving him money, too.”

Her remark was cavalier, but I’ve known Sally for years.  She has a big heart and it’s easily bruised.  “Your attitude is amazing.  You seem so calm.”

“I wasn’t always like this,” she admitted.  “I spend a lot of time drinking wine at night.  But I heard a song on the radio when I was driving over this morning and it really made me smile.  Remember that Beatles’ song, Can’t Buy Me Love?”

Of course I did.

“I think I was trying to buy Tom’s love and look what it got me.”

I reflected upon her words during my long ride home.  Did Sally think so little of herself that she had to purchase companionship, or was it symptomatic of a deeper ill, maybe a collective fear?  Who among us hasn’t gone above and beyond for someone who wasn’t worthy?   We’re hurt, we’re ashamed, but the fault does not lay with our exploiter.  Until we truly believe we merit the very best, we will be confounded by the less-than.

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MARK OF THE BEAST

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2011 by kimmy

I saw the devil the other day and it did not look like popular depiction.  Instead, it wore the scariest face of all… that of an ordinary person.

Not being high up the spiritual food chain, I never expected a personal visit.  I mean, why would the Trickster be interested in my life?  I don’t have dominion over anything but myself, and am hardly the kind of person to lead the righteous into battle, so imagine my surprise when the placid matron in front of me suddenly morphed into the Lord of the Flies.

She didn’t look particularly evil -aside from the usual middle-aged vanity-, and her intelligence seemed only average at best.  Yet as she turned to leave, her eyes flashed a sickly yellow and her sword found its mark.  Its blade was only sharp words, but they cut deep and I found myself spinning helplessly in an eddy of self-doubt.

I tried to disguise the pain by plastering on a benign look, but she knew it was false, and even smiled as she left the room.  I tried not to think about fangs, but her shiny porcelain veneers covered more than uneven canines.  I didn’t realize until later, after I had sorted through my anger and discarded the theory that she was just another bitchy female, that I had been ambushed by Old Scratch.

At first I was alarmed.  Presbyterian horrors flooded my mind:  Fire!  Brimstone!  Pitchforks to the heinie!  I was gagging with terror.  The theoretical clash of Good versus Evil was making real contact with my own life and it almost paralyzed me with fear.

Almost.

What if the Adversary had actually done me a favor?

I realized that I had a chink in my armor.  I was still holding onto ideas that, if challenged, could trigger fear and doubt.   And what were those ideas anyway… self-importance?  Achievement?  Could I truly be damaged by another person’s poor opinion and careless words? Only if I think acknowledgement confirms my merit.

What’s more is that I discovered a chink in the Fiend’s armor, too.  No matter how many millions he terrorizes, he will never be satisfied because he is as entangled in the Original Error as any of us.  If it’s true that Lucifer was cast down because he wanted to be like God, then his punishment was due to misperception and not ambition.   You cannot covet what you already have.  If God created everything, then everything is of God and cannot be separated from Her.  Acts of cruelty and violence upon another become self-inflicted wounds that fester and cannot be cured from without.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2011 by kimmy

Why do we allow ourselves to be held hostage by the blatant rudeness and self-advancement of others?  Are we afraid of offending them?  Have we become a nation of those who observe social order and those who don’t?

These phenomena are not limited to the surly 20-something bagging your groceries, or the snotty 30-something who can’t be bothered with responsibility if it interferes with her plans for the evening.  Consider our elected officials, corporate honchos, celebrities… all of whom have no internal conflict with elbowing their way to the front of the line.  Did Goldman Sachs wring their hands with humilation before extending them for a handout?  No.  They paid their directors fat bonuses with the windfall.   Are the Bickersons in Congress fighting about solutions to our national debt, or are they fighting for pack position?  If you think they’re working for you, think again.  The only thing driving these self-seekers is self.

Shouldn’t we organize a revolt and throw out all the miserable parasites?  Sure, but what explanation will you offer the constituents who voted them in, or the stockholders who are dependent on the actions of the board?  Yeah, nobody likes BP drilling in the Gulf, Exxon puking crude across Montana and AIG reneging on their federal bailout… but nothing is actually done about it.  Congress offers a rebuke and lawsuits are filed, but we all know the end to that particular story.  Litigation will continue for years and those immediately effected will lose their homes, businesses and lives in the interim.  It’s just collateral damage, but within acceptable limits for those who don’t really care what happens provided their agenda are met.

Just like that bully on the playground.  You remember him, don’t you?  The savage who stole money and doled out black eyes for fun?  Everyone tiptoed around him for fear of being the next target, or became toadies to get a piece of the action.  As much as he was loathed, he was useful to some.  He was the hammer that broke the nuts and took the best -but not all-  for himself.  The rest was divided among those who feared association with him as much as losing the benefits rendered by such association.  As long as their hands were not used to punch your face and swipe your wallet, they could plead innocence to the crime and still enjoy its perks.

Which is why nothing is done in Congress or in court to curb the behavior of monolithic bullies:  Someone is benefitting from their actions.  Maybe that someone is your neighbor, co-worker or Facebook friend… someone who publicly condemns the savagery yet is privately dependent upon it.  Stock porfolios, 401ks, retirement funds, business investments and Social Security benefits all depend upon the bits gleaned from the nutshells.  Could that someone be you?

THE HOLE TRUTH

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2011 by kimmy

 

Action is often at odds with words.  The reasons for this may vary, but in general the discrepancy occurs when truth fails to meet expectation.  Excuses are made and the myth perpetuated lest opinion be shifted unfavorably.

Social standing can be more important than truth, and often is, especially when assets are involved.  Better to be considered a model citizen, parent or spouse than to admit to friends or self that more lurks under the surface than appearance.  It’s easier to lie and conduct a parallel life than to freely profess one’s intention.

Why is this?  Usually a social no-no is involved, one that is irresistible yet proscribed.  Temptation invariably wins out because human nature is such that interest always trumps self-denial.

This begs the real question:  Where lay one’s real interests?  We might profess agreement with social constraints knowing they are the glue which binds us into orderliness, but secretly indulge in its prohibitions because they, and not convention, are our true interest.

Yet flagrant disregard of social norm brings more than disapproval (or punishment depending on the severity of transgression).  It defies the authority of human society, or at least the society to which we aspire, and to question this authority is to challenge those precepts to which we voluntarily abide.

No one is forced to be a good husband, mother or soldier, but actions are taken if one is not.  And therein lays the loophole:  If one is not discovered misbehaving, one can pretend to be good and not face consequence. 

Obviously the more solitary the forbidden pursuit, the less likely the discovery.  However, since humans are social creatures, it’s more probable that others will be involved and the risk of discovery grows exponentially.  Participants, therefore, must agree to covert action and trust that their fellow sinners will do the same.

But where is trust among thieves?  If one places their happiness, security or life in the hands of the admittedly deceptive, what chance has the whole truth to be known?  It will be jettisoned, along with everything else one holds dear, to protect the honor of the undeserving.

APOCALYPSO

Posted in rants, social commentary, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2010 by kimmy

Why the secrecy?  Why don’t they just line us up and shoot us, throw us in mass graves, raid our homes and bank accounts and be done with it?  There really isn’t any need for formality; we all know that we’re at the mercy of monolithic corporations.  Pretending that we have feelings and rights just makes it worse.

Of course once we’re all dead and all the world’s resources safely tucked away, there will be nobody to wait their tables.  Or mow their grass, watch their addled-brained children, sew their couture fashions or buy their wasteful products. 

Slave labor… now there’s an idea.  Don’t think it hasn’t been discussed in the boardroom at Haliburton.  They’re just trying to frame it in such a way that we’ll actually ask them for the shackles and thank them when they turn the key. 

It’s not preposterous; it’s happening now.

YOU allow elected officials to turn over millions of tax dollars to private business.  YOU allow representatives to wage war in foreign countries.  YOU permit off-shore drilling and deforestation.  YOU refuse to vote out incumbents.  YOU turn a blind eye to misdeeds provided YOU are not inconvenienced.  And now YOU are appalled by the physical and fiscal disasters that pock-mark the world.  What did YOU expect, the return of Eden? 

The world is not run by charitable foundations.  It’s time to turn off the Barney tape that’s been endlessly playing and distracting you from behaving like an adult, and assume responsibility.  That is… if it’s not already too late.  Those who have been busy profiting while we slept are unlikely to graciously withdraw.    The only safety measures they are truly interested in are the ones that keep money flowing… to them.  

There will be no clean-up, no compensation to those adversely affected.  Those funds will be tied up in litigation for years… another safety contingency designed with corporate interest in mind.  We will however be treated to expensive media blitzes full of pacifying sounds and colors, à la Barney and Friends, which will lull us back into collective stupor and free them to conduct business as usual. 

Don’t weep for the ocean and its living creatures; weep for yourself and your inaction.  The mess you see without reflects the mess within.

PINK FLAMINGOS

Posted in social commentary, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2010 by kimmy

My neighbor has pink flamingos in her yard.  Not the feathery kind, but the plastic version stalking through the grass on thin metal spikes.  They’ve faded somewhat, looking a bit forlorn on her tidy Midwestern lawn.  And when I passed by yesterday, I swear they were crying out.

I shrugged it off.  Why would ersatz birds seek attention?   I continued down the street, thinking about the consequences of lawn decorations coming to life, wondering if they would seek revenge on their keepers, shredding them with sun-bleached plastic beaks and demanding better habitat than the Chem-lawn poisoned grasses that have etched holes in their aluminum legs. 

Would they laugh at us, prissy suburbanites hellbent on killing every living thing and replacing them with petro-chemical copies?  What would they think about lawn deer, lawn jockeys, plastic squirrels and chipmunks, garden gnomes and whirlygigs occupying the space that was once held by their living representatives?

As I mulled the possibilities, I crossed over the ditch that lamely passes for a creek in these parts.  How many of them crisscrossed this former wetland, draining off the land for eager Dutch farmers?  I remember the smell of their onion and cabbage fields in the summer air of my youth.  Now the fields are gone, replaced by tract housing and pest-free yards.  All the snakes, turtles, fox, beaver, racoon, songbirds and deer are crammed into tiny strips of land that border the waterways and interstates.

And I have been part of the great industrialization, the enormous paving-over of the land and its inhabitants.  Fifty plus years of having my way without any thought to the beings that share my space.

It made me feel ashamed.

Am I so special that all things must make way?  Is my species entitled to mastery over the earth because God declared it so, or does guilt make us seek justification? 

I wondered about the hierarchy of life that had been the mainstay of my Presbyterian upbringing.  Was human life really more valuable than the humble creatures that struggle without complaint to survive?  Have we misconstrued their silence as evidence of soullessness?  Or is their apparent lack of senience the reason we grant ourselves license to behave as gluttons.

What does it mean to have dominion over the earth and its creatures?  Stewardship?  Mastery?  I thought about the origin of the word dominus and what time and perception have done to it.   With lordship comes immense responsibility, not just entitlement.  A king might have first pick of money and resources but he does so because he is servant to his people, and in theory so busy with the task that he cannot look after himself.  

Strange how we remember only the perks and not the burdens of the office.  A master who has forgotten to shepherd because he is occupied taking the best for himself is no master, but a blight.

BRING THE HAMMER DOWN

Posted in social commentary, writing with tags , , , , , , , on May 26, 2010 by kimmy

Turning a blind eye to someone committing a wrongful act is not discretion.  It is collusion.   Failure to speak against it is not being polite and politically correct.  It is tacit approval.  Whining and complaining about the outcome is not a right.  That was forfeited when your balls fell off.

If you think this Republic asks nothing more of you than to pay taxes and keep your mouth shut, you’re mistaken.  It cannot survive unless people of good conscience take a stand and bring down the gavel. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re dog-tired and broke; everyone else is, too.  Waiting around for some do-gooder to wander by and pick up what you failed to grasp ain’t going to happen because they’re all waiting for you.

If the world is not to your liking, then change it by changing yourself.  Otherwise stay at the mercy of those who do… most of whom do not care about you or anything else.  But remember that inaction has serious consequence.  You are either part of the problem or its solution.  There are no free rides for those who hedge their bets.

I’m just a little guy… what can one person do against rampant hate, crime and corporate greed?  Not much.  But a billion of them can move mountains.