MATCH MAKER MATCH MAKER MAKE ME A MATCH

My Dear Friends and Readers,

Three years ago, I desperately wanted to get married. More than not wanting to be alone, I wanted to be a part of a” power couple”. I wanted a partner that could understand all of my nuances and complexities. In truth, I wanted my  future imagined life with my third husband who at that time had been dead for almost three years.

Three years  after an self-imposed two years of celibacy and of living alone, I tell people that I don’t want to get married. This statement is not a 100% true, but  maybe 95% true .  If I meet the right guy who wanted to get married, sure. However, marriage is not something I long for, like I used to. In the two years of learning to live alone,  fighting  daily fear and anxiety, I realized I was fighting society’s definition of what it meant to be unmarried at 53. My prospects for a relationship, much less marriage were not plentiful. At 50+ most men are married and settled or newly divorced or widowed and like me facing an  uncertain future.  My friends who were all well-meaning set me up with men who but for their age (and race) had nothing in common with me.  I actually joined a dating website and was surprised by the kind and number of men who responded, but I never went on a date or had a conversation with any of the men who were interested in me.  I think on-line dating is risky, at least too risky for me.

I cannot recall exactly when  I started to enjoy the luxury of doing exactly as I pleased when I pleased.  In retrospect, I realized that I did not reinvent myself,  instead I began questioning society’s definition and role for women after age 50 and  the role of women in general. If not nurturers and vessels from which babies are born , then what is our role?  If not a wife or mother then what?

When I was growing up the terms “captain of industry” and “world leader” did not come with a picture of a woman, especially not a woman of color. Thankfully today they do. I have found that unmarried and women without children are viewed as not fulfilling our  roles. Successful, independent  women  who make themselves a priority are sometimes seen as selfish- as if by mere biology we should be caretakers who  prioritize  husbands and children over ourselves.  I was taught to believe that I needed a “help mate”.  This kind of unconscious,  thinking and believing led me to perform countless  things to please or keep my mate. These acts included wearing my hair the way “he” preferred it. Wearing clothes that “he” liked or wearing or not wearing make up- the list goes on. I even once pretended that I liked animals- which I do not- I am allergic to them. I watched a lot of football, basketball and baseball games as if they held the code to life or the secret to keeping my man.

Fortunately, for me I thought, at 51 I had  beat the ugly odds of finding a man and had married a  successful banker who shared the same gusto for life as I did.  Two years later he was dead and I was a “widow”. It was a word, a  condition that I knew nothing about and one that I  thought I had years, at least 25,  before I had to contemplate what that status meant. Before becoming “a widow” I thought it was similar to being single or divorced. Nope, it’s neither.  The worse part for me as a widow at age 53 was my own  unconscious, accepted belief that my window of opportunity for snagging another man had closed. I would spend the rest of my life alone. Alone, unmarried and 53 is not a status that most people want to find themselves.

So what becomes of us women who are biologically unable to reproduce whether by choice or age or who choose not to? Society’s expectations are limited and whatever those expectations might be, I find to be undesirable and unacceptable.  I was not interested in being a cougar- a woman interested in younger men. I was not interested in being a “sugar momma”.  I did not want to join a women’s book club, travel club, bridge club or any other club for that matter. The truth is that I don’t want to be identified by my martial status or my age or my gender or my race.  I want to be an evolving full expression of myself without restriction. But first I would have to learn to do all the things that my version of man would have done for me. These were stupid things- change the oil in the car, take out the trash, mow the front lawn (if I had a front lawn). I would also have to learn not to feel uncomfortable going to events by myself, spending holidays alone and being fully responsible for every aspect of my life. At the time when widowhood forced this upon me, I did not believe that I could do this.

Fortunately I had the means emotionally, financially and physically to do the these things. This is not always true for widows or widowers who depend physically or financially on their now deceased spouse.  It wasn’t easy, but it was not as difficult as it might have been. When I had “found” myself, some people both male and female did not like how I presented myself or how I interacted with them or the world. Too bad. It is freeing to finally accept myself and to live unapologetic and on my own terms. After my friends and family stopped feeling sorry for me, and when I started to do things that were not expected of me for my age or race or gender, I was called materialistic and vain and  “kooky”.  I was not graciously living out my role as  “widow”. None of this monikers bother me. I have other values, core values such as education, health, beauty and being of service, but I am materialistic and vain.

During those years, that I longed to be married, I once posted  on Facebook a picture of   the ring pictured above.  My status update read something like this”my fourth husband would not need to buy me this ring, but he would have to be OK if i bought it for myself”.  It’s my truth. I want what I want and I don’t need a man or another person to obtain anything for me. I don’t need a travel companion. I do not fear venturing out by myself whether it ‘s to a club or war torn country that I have always desired to see.  I have learned to be me. I am not lonely and I  am not looking for anything but adventure, personal growth, fun and contributing wherever I go.

So on this long weekend, I have happily watched the last season of “How to Get Away with Murder” and “Scandal”.  This has been a fun indulgence.  For my readers who live else where in the world, for women and men everywhere who are trying to fit and where today is not a legal holiday,  I say find your own niche or create it. Have the courage to live a life that expresses who you are. If a brood of children bring you joy- go find some even if they are not your own. If fixing cars or tending a bar or growing flowers makes you happy ,do that. Find your “roses” and inhale deeply.

To all of us in the United States, Happy Memorial Day! I wish everyone a day of full self-expression that does not harm anyone else or themselves.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark,
The Addict Writes .

BORED TO DEATH

Dear Friends and Readers,

I bore easily and I now understand why.  Boredom requires a heightened state of arousal and an inability to engage.  Arousal in psychological terms is the state of being physiologically alert, awake and sensitive and is controlled by a part of the brain called the reticular activating system. The reticular formation is a portion of the brain which  is located in the central core of the brain stem. Its functions can be classified into 4 categories: motor control, sensory control, visceral control and control of consciousness. The other component of boredom is the inability to engage which really means the ability to focus.  Critical to understanding boredom  is  the  element of  control associated with boredom. In other words we feel that we are unable to remove ourselves from the thing or environment that is boring us. To me the most dangerous aspect of  boredom besides what we do do to counter it is that we blame our environment for our boredom, rather than understand that it is our brain dysfunction.

The key to understanding boredom is to understand the reason that we cannot or do not engage is because we believe that the activity we are engaged in will not benefit us. So, in other words when we become bored in a relationships we have internally and perhaps unknowingly made a decision that the other person in the relationship is not beneficial to us. But wait, you say at one time this person appeared to be beneficial or attractive to us so what happened?  One, our lives have become more enriched. In others words as we experience more in life it is harder to impress.   With this insight it becomes easier to understand why we get bored- but we don’t have to.  Focusing on that individual as someone who is beneficial and supporting them in enriching their life experiences will aide tremendously.

Unfortunately, some of us are more likely than others to suffer boredom or the effects of an un-engaged mind. Boredom is closely connected with people who have chronic attention problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder- which is an inability to focus. James Danckert, PhD. a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the the University of Waterloo found that people highly prone to boredom perform poorly on tasks that require sustained attention are more likely to show increased symptoms of ADHD and depression. In fact chronic boredom can look a lot like depression, but they are not the same emotional experience, Danckert says. Boredom and depression are highly co-related, but distinct states. More research needs to be done, but doctors speculate that boredom may be a risk factor for depression.

When people are bored, they’re disengaged from satisfying activities and are more likely to become internally focused in a negative, ruminative cycle, says Danckert. Also, people with a high sensitivity  for reward are also at risk of boredom. These are the sensation seekers- like sky divers or any high risk activity that includes some degree of danger. At the other end of the spectrum are people who are overly sensitive to pain and punishment. This group is more likely to be people with high anxiety who are more likely to withdraw from the world out self-protection. Being bored can be problematic in other ways because boredom is correlated to drug abuse, gambling and over eating.

It gets worse, There is even evidence that people who reported experiencing a great deal of boredom were more likely to die young than those who were more more engaged in the world. The researchers theorize that boredom was probably a proxy for other risks factors such as drug or alcohol use. And we know that people who are bored tend to make more mistakes and this becomes serious if you are a pilot or surgeon or air traffic controller. On the other hand, boredom can cause people to create new ways of thinking and behaving.

So here’s the bottom line:  if you don’t have the inner resources to deal with boredom constructively, you might do something destructive. Those who have the patience to stay with that feeling and the imagination and confidence to try out new ideas are likely to make something creative out of boredom.
This insight has given me a new lease on life. Change or be creative or die of boredom- literally.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

HAPPINESS IS…

Photo taken by Johnny Slaughter, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

My Dear Friends and Readers,

There comes a time when as human beings we realize that we must accept our present circumstances in order to change them. A part of the acceptance process is assessment. At the  top of my assessment list is whether or not I am happy. This begs the question how do I know when I am happy? (I know, you just know. ) But, my role as blogger is to create a foot print upon which, if you choose, create your own emotional foot print for  happiness.

Often times when I wake up and I’m happy, I rub my hands together, in the way a hungry person might do before they devour a delicious meal. When I am happy, I can devour anything that comes my way. More importantly, I transform anything which happens as a benefit to me. I mean anything.

Sometimes, when I am happy and the day is mine to with as I please, I lay in bed  reading, which is one of my favorite things to do. Or I watch my favorite morning talk show as I eat my organic oatmeal with raw flax seeds. Or I flip through a magazine of beautiful things of any kind as I savor my one cup of   Italian espresso creamed with soy milk.  Or I  spring from my bed because I am unable to contain my enthusiasm to engage the day. Happy.

When I am happy I see beauty every where and where there is none. This is because when I am happy I am engaged in my surroundings rather than being engaged in a conversation in my head, of which often times the conversation has nothing to do with my then current reality. In fact, that conversation usually blocks my access to my current reality.

The next items on my assessment list is whether I am being of service; teaching in a healthy way that inspires me and those around me. But since this is my criteria of happiness, it usually only has to inspire me.  If the answer is yes to all of the aforementioned, I move forward choosing actions and words that are effective, decisive and hopefully will contribute to the greater good.

When I am unhappy I focus on myself  in a negative way, more like what’s missing or what did I fail to do or what did I do wrong?  Focusing on myself is a bad place to be. When this is where my focus is turned, I engage in the most brutal forms of self-criticism. I depress myself and I find myself in confusion and unable to act with conviction. I am a hollow being,self-centered like a baby.

So what makes you happy? How do you know you are happy?  Make your own list of happiness criteria even if it simply begins with the gratitude for being alive for another day.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

MY GRANDMOTHER AND ME IN PARIS

My Dear Friends and Readers,

A couple of nights ago I dreamt that I was in Paris with my Grandmother and my Mother. There are two things that I distinctly retained from  this dream.  One was my  image of my elegantly dressed grandmother as she  peered out of a window from our Paris hotel. She wore a mohair coat that was golden at the shoulders and collar and then gradually darkened to a moss green  hem. The second element of the dream that stayed with me was that I  had an apartment in Paris!

When I awoke from the dream, I knew that it was an important dream. My grandmother died almost 30 years ago, but she was the most significant person in my life. Her unwavering love for me overcame, overcomes any bad that has happened to me. She is my talisman. She sang into my ears and into my consciousness that “I would have music where ever I went.”

During this dreary spring of rain and tornadoes and Donald Trump, at times I have had not heard the music.  I became unfocused and drifted into complaining.  I   was complaining because I was doing things that I felt I should do, but didn’t want to do. I  did not say no, but  I performed my tasks as if they were drudgery.  I did nothing. I did not take action. I did not make requests. I was cranky.

The truth is that  I do not have a lot of practice in asking for my space. I don’t tell my handsome boyfriend  that I don’t have time for that block buster movie. In fact I don’t tell him to go to his home, so that I can enjoy mine by myself. I get cranky.

It’s taken me a long time to learn how to choose myself over competing wants and needs and loved ones, but I am getting better. As I maneuver my way into the solitude of writing, I am at peace and I feel that I am doing what I was meant to do.

On too many days in the recent past,  I have forgotten to  seek the beauty. I have failed to see the sun in the grayest of days. I  have failed to be my best self- and I didn’t care that I had. For me, this is a place of disquiet. I right myself. I remember  why I love the man that sometimes I want to choke. I remember the beautiful kind people that are in my life and that make my life.

My fingers touch the computer keys and that in itself centers me and forces me to choose each word so that it rings with truth.  I seek a personal truth and take you on the journey with me. Thank you for joining me.

I will try ever day to laugh more and love more. I will choose only that which truly fulfills me and  ignore that which does not work.  This is life. Thank you for sharing it with me.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

 

AN IDEA THAT WENT BIG- AND MADE THE FOUNDER REGRET THAT SHE HAD THE IDEA

ANNA JARVIS FOUNDER OF MOTHER’S DAY

My Dear Friends and Readers,

She died penniless, childless and in a Philadelphia Sanatorium. Many women celebrate the day that she created, but Jarvis spent her life trying to keep it intimate and private. She failed. Yesterday was Mother’s Day and for many it was a joyous celebration for Mothers and Motherhood. However for some women it was a sad day.  A number of my friends remarked upon this national and international  celebration which did not include them. These are the women who chose not to have children; who couldn’t have children or lost children to miscarriage, sudden infant death syndrome, suicide and homicide. Some women didn’t become mothers because they never got married  and although they dearly wanted children, did not want to be single or foster or adoptive mothers on their own.

The origins  of Mother’s Day began in West Virginia in the 1850’s when women’s organizer Ann Reeves Jarvis  held Mother’s Day groups to teach mothers about how to prevent milk contamination in an effort to  lower the rate of infant mortality. Ms. Reeves Jarvis was also a pacifist. During the U.S. Civil War Ann Reeves Jarvis would encourage women to tend to wounded soldiers without regard to whether they fought for the Confederacy or the Union Army. This was remarkable and out of the box thinking for those war torn days.

 

JULIA WARD HOWE

After the end of the Civil War Reeves Jarvis continued to hold  these Mother’s Day meetings calling them picnics to unite families torn apart by the Civil War.  Reeves Jarvis’s friend was Julia Ward Howe, best known as the composer of The Battle Hymn of the Republic,  Howe was a pacifist and  in 1870  read a widely read document called “Mother’s Day Proclamation” which urged women to take on a greater political voice for peace.  Howe wanted to use Mother’s Day as an International Day of Peace. She made that suggestion in 1872, but the idea did not take hold. Howe went on to be the head of the American chapter of the Women’s International Peace Association.  In 1905 Ann Reeves Jarvis died and would have probably been forgotten but for her daughter, Anna Jarvis.

Anna Jarvis never had children of her own, but after her mother died in 1905, Jarvis created the first observance of Mother’s Day in 1908. On May 10th of that year families gathered in Jarvis’s home town in Grafton West Virginia in a church  which was renamed as the International Mother’s Day Shrine. Gatherings were also held in Philadelphia where Jarvis had moved. According to Katharine Antolini of West Virginia Wesleyan College, Jarvis’ idea was to create a day of intimacy between mother and child. It was to be Mother’s Day (singular) and not  Mothers (plural) that a child could privately thank his or her mother for being the best mother. However, Jarvis wanted this day of honoring one’s mother to be nationally observed and she petitioned to do so. In 1914 she got her wish (sort of)  when Woodrow Wilson declared  that the second Sunday in May would be a national day of observance called Mother’s Day. From that time Mother’s Day began to be celebrated world-wide.

To Jarvis’s dismay Mother’s Day began to used by various groups whose intentions differed from hers. The day became commercialized and cards and flowers and gifts became a part of the celebration. The single carnation that was to be worn- colored if one’s mother was still alive and white if your mother had died- turned into a bonanza for  florists. The intimate hand written letter turned into greeting cards and gifts. All of this made Anna Jarvis very angry. So angry that she disrupted confectioner conventions and was arrested for disturbing the peace at a Mother’s Day Convention where women were selling carnations for peace.

I am not sure, why Anna Jarvis got so mad that her Mother’s Day celebration became a Mothers Day  Celebration. I think its a good thing that mother’s are honored, I think it’s even a better thing when women are honored. I don’t have a solution or an answer to this day where women who are mothers are celebrated while those who are not mothers are not… I have no answers for the heartbreak and unmet desire of childless women or women who have lost their children. I do like what Julia Ward Howe and Ann Reeves Jarvis wanted- women who were politically active to promote the  overall societal wellness of women.

Next year all my  Mother’s Day flowers will be carnations and all the women who have loved and supported me will be acknowledged regardless of whether they gave birth because I have been mothered by  women unrelated to me by blood or marriage. I will make Mother’s Day a day of peace and  I will make a pilgrimage of peace even if it is only to my own mother’s house. So, to you mothers who were not women or women who never gave birth but mothered others as teachers, nurses, doctors, friends, I salute you. Happy Mothering Day.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

UNDERSTANDING MY CHINESE MOTHER/AND WHY LAW SCHOOL LED ME TO BE A FICTION WRITER

My Dear Friends and Readers,

I cannot lie. I hate Mercury Retrograde. This is the time when the planet Mercury moves backwards. According to astrologers and others this time is a time of frustration because nothing seems to work. This morning for instance my relatively new- 5 month-old laptop refused to work. I felt like throwing it against a wall, but that certainly would ensure a failure in workability. But enough about Mercury in retrograde which will end on May 22, 2016.

I have pursued writing in some form or another ever since I was a child old enough to write poetry- which was when I was  about nine years old. I would often draw a picture to accompany my writing, because I think pictures help tell stories. I love to read and write. In the past I loved to read more than I wrote. It was in law school that I really learned to write and to love writing. I wrote one of my best short stories, “The Kiss” while in law school.  My law school Doctoral Thesis was  to write four chapters of fiction based on a legal theory  and an actual state statute. For my  non-lawyer readers this meant that I was allowed to merge everything that I had learned and loved into a required document that allowed me to graduate from law school.

Over the past  five days I have read a book called “Shanghai Girls” by Lisa See.  The book is about two Chinese sisters born in Pre-Communist China and who must marry to pay off their father’s gambling debt. This story is not unlike stories I have heard about my own Chinese mother- whose father was a gambler.  My mother still speaks of her father’s gambling which she intimates was legendary in the small town in which she grew up.

I began writing this blog when I returned from Paris last August.  I was overdrawn and had not worked in a couple of weeks. I had to borrow $30 from my sister to restart my cellphone service. It was in that moment,  I realized that I had inherited a version of  my grandfather’s gambling addiction.  I would spend beyond my last dollar into overdraft- which was a very expensive way to borrow from my bank. It was a lot like gambling. Thankfully because of this realization and writing this blog my relationship with money has greatly improved.

What I learned from the book, “Shanghai Girls”  was that like its main characters, my mother was taught to be obedient without question. She was also taught  that loyalty to family is more important than loyalty to self. Knowing these two facts helps me  understand why she remained faithful to an unfaithful man and why she defended and protected him even if it meant not protecting herself or her children. It was the Chinese way.

On the surface, it appears that I share very  little with my mother. Dig beneath that exterior and you find that we share  blunt honesty and our quirky sense of humor -one  of the aspects that I love most about my mother.  However, the truth is that she has influenced me in many ways. It is from her that I learned my  incredible work ethic. It is from her I learned to love flowers and plants. She is the source of my  fascination with jewelry and makeup. It is from her I have a fascination with Chinese astrology and Astrology in general.(She has no interest in either of these things, but I find it odd that I love studying both. ) She is frugal, loyal and dependable. She loves fiercely and without pause.

For all of her failings and there are many, it was my desire not to be like her that made me physically take care of myself; go to college; leave a loveless marriage and ultimately go to law school.  In fact, it was my desire to be educated that led to my legal emancipation at 16 and college at 17.

I don’t have anywhere near the normal mother- daughter relationship- that was never possible from the facts that shaped our lives. She chose to be with her husband instead of her children- me and my sister. She spent the rest of her life trying to make up for those years that she left us alone- as if that was possible. She was a striver. She wanted all of her children to see the world, understand the finer things in life and most of all be happy.

She and I look at each other as two members  of the same species and yet do not recognize the other as being alike.  She is my Mother; I am her Daughter. This will always be so. As the years have flown by I realize that my unwillingness to forgive and let go is  also  a mimicry of my Mother. With time- lots of time I have learned how to forgive and let go and still know that we are still connected. I am happy and know what the finer things in life are for me.

Happy Mother’s Day Everyone!

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

IT TOOK ME A LONG TIME TO FIGURE THINGS OUT

 

Dear Friends and Readers,

This weekend I viewed a fascinating documentary of the life of Gloria Laura Vanderbilt.  For those of you who do not know who she is here’s a thumb nail sketch of her life. She was born to Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt the only heir to a railroad fortune and Gloria Morgan a 19 year old. Within a year, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt was dead and baby Gloria Laura Vanderbilt inherited her father’s fortune. Gloria’s mother, also named Gloria became dependent on her infant daughter for support.

The story gets trickier. By the time Gloria  Laura Vanderbilt was nine her grandmother, Laura Kilpatrick Morgan filed suit against her daughter, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt saying that she was an unfit mother. Are you lost? The bottom line was that Gloria’s birth mother lost custody of Gloria Vanderbilt and  Gloria Vanderbilt became the ward of her Aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney until she was 17.  Then Gloria married her first husband Pasquale di Cicco who allegedly beat the heiress and verbally abused her. Gloria divorced di Cicco, turned 21 inherited a five million dollar fortune and the next day married Leopold Stokowski who was 42 years her senior. Gloria Vanderbilt would marry Hollywood film director Sidney Lumet whom she would divorce to marry Wyatt Cooper who was the father of Anderson Cooper, the television journalist who was the impetus to create the documentary that I watched yesterday afternoon.

I write about this woman because in some ways she is a tragic figure. Despite her money and her fame and her beauty by the end of her life she seems lost and unfinished.  Married four times and the mother of four children- one who committed suicide in front of her by jumping off of her penthouse terrace and another who for the past 35+ years has not spoken to her- at 92 Gloria Vanderbilt seemed to have regrets. In a perverse way this unfinished  aspect of her life cheered me.

As I turn 60 this summer, I have at times felt that I have not accomplished all that I wanted to achieve  by this milestone. I have been told by many that I should not be so hard on myself. Yet, in the wee hours of the morning, I am reminded that I am still editing my first novel. My children do not speak to me and I live from paycheck to paycheck. However, now I have a bench mark with which to gauge my life and my incomplete achievements.  I will not likely create a 200 million dollar fortune by putting my name on the back pocket of jeans. I will hopefully not have a child commit suicide in front me and hopefully I will complete and share my first novel.

But here’s the thing- Gloria Vanderbilt’s financial success in the jean industry was not what she had aspired to.  Like her Aunt Gertrude she aspired to be a painter- but from what I could see from the documentary this skill was left to wallow. I never knew that Gloria Vanderbilt had once been an aspiring artist. I have never seen, except for the in documentary, her work. This is true, despite the fact that her Aunt was one of the greatest art patrons of living American artists who would  open the Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.  What this documentary taught me was without work and aspiration opportunity and access and money  means nothing and creates nothing.

I must confess that I have often, without good reason or no reason disparaged the rich. This stemmed from my  incorrect belief that money can fix almost anything- except death and old age.  At the end of the documentary the viewers see Anderson Cooper and his mother Gloria Laura Vanderbilt -Di Cicco- Lumet- Cooper crying over the graves of her last husband,  Wyatt Cooper and her son  Carter Cooper who committed suicide. My heart went out to this fragile old woman who in the end says “It took me a long time to figure things out.” Yes, Gloria it took me a long time as well.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes