Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

LIFE…..on Facebook.

 

I’d crawled out of bed, after sleeping long enough to face another day.
.
Following twenty five consecutive years of hitting the ground running and crashing after midnight this had, for the past six or so since early retirement, become the new normal – and, far closer to “normal” than its previous incarnation.
.
Yet, on that particular morning sometime last month I’d padded over to the laptop to log in –  and, a startling announcement appeared.
.
It was Facebook.
.
They were posting to say “Congratulations!”
.
I’d been on the site for ten years.
.
.
It only took that moment. I stopped breathing and sat, motionless. My eyes went into my head. Searching, almost frantic. Ten years. A whole, God forsaken decade of……what?
.
And so, in some pathetic attempt at justification, I began to catalog those ten years.
Herewith, the results of one, peculiar life on social media.
.
1.) OLD FRIENDS.
.
I’d never been a very good friend. At least, not the kind one learned about in first grade. I’d not been particularly friendly. I didn’t do things for other people. I wasn’t thoughtful. Oh, I was full of plenty of thought – just, not the kind which included other people unless one could count mulling over why boys farted for fun and girls laughed at other girls, categorically speaking.
.
And, I wasn’t naturally social. Friends, to me, were best selected one at a time, and I chose the kind who had the patience to listen to my unending prattle. The Apple Jacks Club comes to mind. Held at my house, on my turf, complete with instructions on where to sit and what to do next, I can recall only two meetings before the whole thing was suspended indefinitely (with tears, and mum’s irritated declarations). Or, I picked the loner, the one for whom nobody else seemed to have any interest or time. Was this instinct? I prefer to think it just selfishness. Or, maybe I’m just depressed today.
.
But, dejected or hopeful, I had to admit: Facebook had put me in touch with: a.) scores of former classmates, teachers, and colleagues; b.) dozens of relatives, scattered across the country; c.) those from the old church fellowship, also living in just about every state in the union and, best of all d.) a still vastly incomplete list from among the four.thousand.former students. In total, having been careful to accept the connection of only those known personally to me (or, to those known to those), I had amassed, to date, over thirteen hundred “Friends.”
.
2.) NEW FRIENDS.
.
Remarkable, however, were the number of new friends. These were those known to others, who would join a conversation thread. Many a long, healthy debate would ensue, the same enjoyed to this day. In fact, several have become confidantes, one or two especially so. (Interestingly, these have proved the most loyal, as well.)
.
And, this is true of every Facebook addict. Oh, yes. We are.
.
But, beyond the obvious dependency, there is something else.
.
3.) PUBLIC IMAGE.
.
Whether any of us realize it or not, the most transparent among us are become subject to a rather insidious force.
.
Because, by its design, all members being encouraged to post, like, and comment, the most vulnerable are exposed. Bare.
.
I’m talking about those of us who, whether by nature or intent, have no filter.
.
Maybe it’s because of being deeply committed to the truth, our own truth, and the truth as it is capable of being apprehended. Granted, there have been times when I have spoken merely from belief, rather than fact; and, ready and waiting, there has always been somebody quick to correct me.
.
But, over time, this kind of interaction has chipped away at something. And, that something is rather critical to human perception of human relationship. I think that, without having been able to predict it, we have subjected ourselves to public scrutiny. We have been silently assessed, even judged. And, those of us who have said too many unsettling things, alarming things, or just said them too often, have also been silently rejected.
.
In short, the image we have portrayed in print has become the essence of our alleged character. There is a Scripture: “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.” But, is what we say in print, minus any tone or inflection, not profoundly subject to the interpreter’s own, inherent biases?
.
I used to write Letters to the Editor. But, our local newspaper was bought out by some conglomerate, the new panel of editors also bought by those intent upon monopolizing public perception of relative value and I cancelled my subscription. Left without that vital vehicle, with all my unfiltered flaws there has been only one intent on my part, that of using Facebook to play the role of public protector. And, I know exactly what has motivated this.
.
But, those who prefer to live in denial may have been offput by one too many words of warning. And, a smaller subset of readers might have concluded that I am just a completely unpleasant person.
.
In person.
.
Am I?
.
Apart from the bad breath, thank you to the boyfriend for so thoughtfully pointing this out, am I really the world’s most rejectable creature?
.
Just how much has Facebook contributed to self – perception?
.
How many suicides have taken place, predicated by preambles on…..Facebook?
.
I mean it. Let’s get off.
.
Can we remember the week we sent the laptop in for an overhaul? I can. I think I stocked the entire larder and cleaned the whole house. I might have even spent time with actual, live, in person humans.
.
Maybe it’s just because I am a writer. Perhaps this propensity carries an inordinate, uncommon desire to say it all on virtual paper. But, do take this as my closing warning, and accept it from somebody who really doesn’t want anybody to be rejected in person for any reason: pick up the phone, and call somebody. Get out of the house, and go do something just because, today, it isn’t burning fire or freezing snow.
.
If we don’t, another decade might pass, and we might not live to see anything else but the next Facebook post.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
© 12/3/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Please visit littlebarefeetblog.com, when you have nothing else to do. And, thanks.

Euphemisms.

 

“I’m treading water.”

“We could both use a break from the ‘unhealthy pace’.”

“I need space to process feelings, desires, choices and goals.”

And, to add, the operative noun:

“Imperative”.

 

All euphemisms.

For never coming back.

.

 

The tenacious ones always get hurt.

Being a barnacle. Hanging on, trying harder, being mindful, vowing to practice good listening skills. Harvesting scraps, from dinner.

Denying how much the one so loved wants to leave.

He’d been talking about “incompatibility” for months. Good listening skills notwithstanding, I’d refused to hear it. Compatibility was a small thing; heck, I’d been “matched” for it at eHarmony.com in 2006, spending three weeks with a bona fide, raving psychotic. You laugh?

I thought that really caring, providing nurture, being helpful around his house, thinking of his needs first whenever I entered a store, trying to find solutions to an endless litany of problems, and being willing to drive the twenty three minutes each way to his place three, four times per week were the ways to show love. Oh, and, the big one: forgiving him all his sins. Past, and present. Repeatedly.

I was mistaken.

In the end, everything I said or did, and how I said and did it, drove him away. He couldn’t stand being around me. He only wanted me there when I wasn’t.

And so, he treated me in kind. I often found my words dismissed – grammatically and syntactically correct texts, each one requiring an intolerable twelve seconds to digest – deleted because there were just too many of them; my overall behavior frequently subjected to declarations tinged with sarcasm and outrage; sweeping generalizations about what was “normal” regularly put up as the barometer against my every act. And yet, to sum it all up, this was “just me”, and who was he to try to “change” me?

By now, with the single exceptions of downhill skiing, skydiving, scuba, performing surgery, and giving birth, everything about life had happened to me. There’d hardly been an experience to which there hadn’t been at least some tangential connection. I’d hiked to the top of Mt. Washington, reeled in a mahimahi off the Honolulu coast, and played on stage with YoYo Ma. Taught competitive marching band (not very competitively, being a poet and aesthete), choir, chorus, hundreds of strings, scores of private students, and coached/produced/directed childrens’ drama ten times in ten years. In 1984, traveled alone to Scotland, England, France, Germany and Switzerland. Written and illustrated three childrens’ books. Bought my own house at age 29, my own cello at 28, and my own Steinway at 57.

But, being dumped as a single woman, at age 61. That smelled more like terror. Who wanted an old woman, for a partner? Surely not an old man. Men were largely unteachable, to begin with, unless groomed by a registered Suzuki instructor by age 4; how could they be expected to adapt to anything, by this time?

I suppose that, just like I myself declared in the musings of a prior piece, beginning again at age 61 might entail going more solo than ever before. That multiply published author, as she traveled the college keynote circuit, never made mention of either a husband or even children. But then, the tiny one, in the bookstore. Carefully laying out all the major novels as her world for the remaining winters of her solitary existence.

So, what did I want? And, what would it be? Serving at the soup kitchen, on Christmas day? My own mother had regularly helped do the very thing, every week in the final few years of her life. She died, anyway, at age seventy six, not a day older than she was at seventeen.

Ask, and ye shall receive. But, isn’t it better to give?

Well?

I’m tired of giving. Giving up, that is – most of my entire self, for another (but, keeping the house, dammit. The only thing I hadn’t done was build it, for God’s sake.)

Maybe spreading love around is the secret. I’m a sprinter anyway, after all – good in short, intense spurts. For the long haul? The biggest load since the space shuttle crossing country on a flatbed.

No matter that the shuttle altered life on the planet as we all knew it. The shuttle was never intended to win friends or influence people, or get tucked into bed at night between the dogs and the warm, familiar embodiment of romantic idealism.

Even as a child, I was not well liked. My own mother found me irritating. And, she was quick to say so. I bore every, single trait inherited from her husband which she never knew until after he’d married her.

So, time to go.

Or, stay.

Tonight, I’ll be at my house. It’s warm, inside. Been mine, for thirty years. Plenty of space, to fill with perpetually collecting reminders of everyone who’d ever been next to me in the room, now to sit alone and think.

But, just don’t ask me to feel.

For that, I would need a really exquisite, carefully selected, and truly exceptional metaphor.

.

.

.

.

© 11/26/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   All rights those of the world’s most rejectable woman, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for stifling your self satisfied derision.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

Covering the Mirror.

 

The henna tinted haircut had become oily and matted. Clothes, twice worn, and I’d missed the shower in the a.m. It was nigh on 5:37, and the service was to begin at 6.

I looked a sight. Yet, the temple being a scant four minutes from the house, my heart told me that missing their open invitation would be the greater regret. Dabbing some under eye concealer, a bit of pink powder and a neutral lipstick, I fluffed what remained of the haircut, grabbed the short raincoat, and headed for State Street.

Turning left at the top of Cherry Street, my Pontiac soon joined a steady trough of traffic. Parking at the temple’s Jefferson Society lot was limited, and street options could extend north all the way down the hill if we didn’t get all the greens heading east. I wondered how many from as far away as Fairview had also accepted the invitation?

West of the stadium, cars were already lining the curb. But, two schoolbuses were also present, next to the academy. The stream of drivers was intended for their evening football game. My thymus relaxed, a little.

Reaching the temple, I was relieved to see a spot up from the Jefferson entrance. People were still walking from lot to front, and I joined them, hugging the mustard yellow rainjacket around my jeans to cut the wet chill. Sure enough, ladies were in mid calf skirts, men in dark dress, and then Jack, looking pensive, the news cam man who’d taken my one and only career black and white decades earlier. I resumed my customary cringe. Find a seat in the very back, slide in swiftly, say nothing. Stepping past the security guard and the packing, body armored special agent, I entered the foyer. There was Charles, standing at the door.

We greeted, me offering the self deprecating reference to shabby attire and he quick with the witty retort, something about God not caring and me hoping so. He, with his hearty, reassuring laugh.

My seat awaited, one of four in the far right rear row, two fellow Gentiles on either end. I sat beside Maria, who looked as Bavarian as if she’d just arrived from northern Minnesota.

The room was filling, rapidly. I recognized several, from various stages of my own history in our ageless community. The men, in their yarmulkes. A respected surgeon, in his, plus blue scrubs. An extremely tall gent, in his, ball of the hand curved over a carved walking stick. The current Erie County Executive. A former Mayor of Erie. At least two Mizrachi, with stronger noses in profile than hardly anyone saw anymore, likely never in a fashion rag. And, me, feeling every percentage of the Persian/Turk in my Ancestry.com DNA reveal.

I missed, quietly, Rabbi Len and Faith Lifshen, and their son, Moshe. This had been their temple, prior to the move south and Rabbi’s subsequent death. Turning to Maria I made mention of them, and pointed out the Ark of the Covenant glass encasement in the center of the altar. After my lengthy paragraph, she mentioned the Torah scrolls, me realizing that, yet again, I’d presumed the role of teacher rather than learner.

One of the last to enter was a short young woman, who chose the remaining seat beside me. She was the only female in a yarmulke within my sight line, and I hadn’t remembered ever seeing a woman wear one. Just as she became settled, removing her coat, around the aisle came a slender man who extended his open palm to the Gentile on the left end. He took the hand of each one of us in the back row, introducing himself and asking our names. He was the new Rabbi up from Pittsburgh, where he lived, to conduct the Shabbat Kaddish at Temple Brith Sholom.

This was my second Jewish service. At Yom Kippur, several musical colleagues and I had been invited to the other temple, across town, by another of us who, being a Jew, was slated to play the Kol Nidre on her flute. The rabbi that night was a woman, a guest from New York, and the remaining four vocal musicians and their pianist were all Gentiles but one.

The music at this Shabbat was all vocal. It was produced by the Rabbi, and his seasoned congregation.

After an earnest and warm welcome from, surprise! Doris, a retired teacher with whom I had worked nearly thirty years earlier, the rabbi explained in detail what we as the guests could expect from the service. He encouraged us to select a prayer book from the racks attached to the chairs in front of us. The prayer book pages were turned briskly, from rear to front, as the rabbi chanted in fluent Hebrew and the congregation sang along. I was reminded that, let alone a language strange to my tongue, unless I could see the notation my ability to retain a new melody was woeful. We sat, and stood; remained standing, and sat. Stood. Turned; bowed; sat, again. At each rise and return, a room filled with slightly damp athletic shoes squeaked, in chorus.

The Kaddish, Rabbi explained, was the congregational prayer, uttered in unison aloud. Some Shabbats were mourning Kaddish; this one would have two aspects, the first for private mourners and the second for the victims of the tragedy at Tree Of Life.

Just before the time had come to offer up the Kaddish, the Rabbi spoke in short sermon. He described the innumerable traditions which were the foundation of conservative Judaism. One point in particular spoke to me, as an aspect of mourning.

He said that Jews, by their nature and by their tradition, are open. They encourage emotional expression. Crying during mourning is a given. But, he also insisted, mourning was to be embodied. There would be no preparation of fine adornment; instead, Jews were to begin by eliminating bathing. They were to immerse themselves, entirely, in grief. And, to render this practice intently selfless, they were to cover all the mirrors in the house.

My eyes opened, wide. I looked at the Rabbi.

For that moment, and in the moments later, I stood in solidarity with God’s chosen people against both the recent horror and an entire epoch of vile hatred which had wrenched their global family. Soiled, unkempt; unclean, I was right there.

Out of body, present in spirit, I no longer saw myself.

Only Adonai.

.

.

.

.

© 11/2/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.       littlebarefeetblog.com