reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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in half and in half again. [merely-a-thought monday]

anna quindlen writes about it in “a short guide to a happy life“. the dividing line between before and after. we all have them. though mathematically incorrect for this lyric, as “sawed in half” only leaves the other half, many of us have more than one dividing line, more than one qualifier of our lives, more than one change agent.

i remember my first apartment. it was on long island in a basement partially paneled and partially wallpapered with red brick wallpaper. my dog missi and i moved in with my old piano, a convertible couch, beanbag chairs, a bookshelf and a bistro set. i had free bank-account-giveaway plates and cheap silverware my grandmother gave me, forks, spoons, knives still in my drawer to this day. i had a tiny kitchen in this studio and, though i cooked often, missi and i both ate plenty of cornflakes for plenty of meals. it was not fancy but it was mine.

after i was sawed in half i had to move and, ultimately, found myself in florida, seeking safety from a man whose aggressive pedophilia was predatory, for whom vengeance was foremost. everything was different. from those moments on. there was no going back, no return to innocence. the dividing line was stark and, in 1979, there was no real resource for processing it.

since then i’ve had a few more dividing lines. but, i have found in many purposeful meanderings through my lifeline in recollections and in much intentional parsing out of cause and effect relationships, that many of them relate back to the first sawing-in-half.

having children did not ‘saw’ me in half, but it indeed sawed time into before and after, for nothing would ever be the same and all my after has been waking and going to sleep thinking about them and wishing for their good health, good relationships, good work, love. there can scarcely be a parent who has not been profoundly changed by having children. before. after.

the loss of my big brother came as a mortality-blow. i had lost grandparents at that point, but their lives had been full and eight and nine decades long. my brother had merely reached his fourth decade – forty – an age twenty years ago now for me – and it was premature and devastating. he had been a stalwart rock for me in my years-post-first-sawing and to lose his wisdom and strength had me questioning how the world could go on without him feeling it. it divided time – from a more casual look at life to a more intensely emotional connection to those around me than i already had. if i am needy, emotionally, it is grasping on to beloveds. though i know i must not hold too tightly, i have likely not always succeeded at that, but i try to be at least close enough to always at least feel the wind from their wings. it’s not always possible and it’s sometimes impossible, and i yearn to have my family right close to me as many friends have, but i try – that word again – to trust life and its gifts.

the day i realized that there was no one left to ask questions of my birth, my childhood, my teenage years, the intrepid and enduring memories moms and dads have, i stared at lake michigan. i won’t forget that moment. i was wondering about my first time on the lake on a sailboat and i suddenly was aware that, without my sweet momma and poppo still here, there would be no answers that i could not remember myself. it came with intensity and orphan-hood surprised me – even then, at 56.

there are other lines in the sand, other befores and afters. relationships, jobs, places, mistakes and learnings, successes and failures. they all count, like every slice of blueberry pie making up the whole, even every rich ingredient making up the slice. the passage of time is a vast bakery of experiences, some more contingent on others, some more independent.

so when the song “life is long” came on at the end of the grace and frankie episode while i was on the treadmill and david was on the bike i was struck by the lyric “sawed in half by the passage of time”. i spoke into my phone recording the words i had just heard, words that made time pause like the button on the netflix video.

and i stared into the timeline in my mind, thinking about life sliced up like pie – a little less vigorously than a saw – but with just as much impact.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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love. no caveats. [merely-a-thought monday]

in a few weeks i will officiate a wedding. a gigantic honor, it is the wedding of dearest friends’ son. though i have known him over a decade, we sat in their backyard and he and his fiancee told the story of their romance, sweet and full of lovely vulnerable anecdotes. i asked a lot of questions and we all laughed a lot. there were a few tears – joy does that. they left it up to me to write the ceremony. gigantic honor. celebrating love.

in the weeks since our backyard circle together, we have wordsmithed and finessed, added ritual and music and i’ve reminded them to take their time, to not rush through this ceremony – that which is most important – to give themselves the space to be able to memorize each second of it. i want them to be able to see in their mind the look in each other’s eyes as they exchange the vows they have written, the scent of flowers on the breeze in the outdoors, the way her dress moves as she moves, the way he grins at her. slowly, deliciously, celebrating love in front of family and friends.

i have participated in so many weddings through the years. i have played pipe organ or piano or guitar and i have sang. i have run wedding rehearsals and i have offered thoughts on pieces of music that express what a couple might want expressed. celebrating love for each other, love for the unconditional support of those present witnessing their marriage.

i have also participated in many funerals through the years. again, playing or singing. again, offering thoughts on music. always celebrating love for the person no longer on the earth.

i read a disturbing account of a funeral this morning. the comments that followed were even more appalling. completely filled with -isms of all sorts, i was dismayed at pointed comments made toward the mayor of chicago, a woman of color, in a same-sex marriage, a different religion than the place of the funeral, attending to show her condolences. she was given communion and all hell has broken loose. the comments by hundreds of crowing allegedly-well-studied and righteous folks were enlightening. there was no love expressed here. only pious opinions, statements of judgment and wishes for her conversion, declarations of ‘faith’ rules, but no love.

clearly the people responding to this post about this funeral have not read anne lamott, “the movement of grace toward gratitude brings us from the package of self-obsessed madness to a spiritual awakening.” “…try(ing) not to feel and act so entitled” was apparently not in the wheelhouse of those writing. and, taking a breath before spewing, they clearly did not pray the words, “help me not be such an ass,” which, as anne writes, is “actually the fourth great prayer” after ‘help’ and ‘thanks’ and ‘wow’. i was utterly disgusted. celebrating love?

i keep learning. the lessons come each day. a little progress. i try to remember the movement of grace, try to express gratitude, try to let go, try not to be an ass. i check in at the end of the day and realize, once again, that sometime in that day i failed.

but the words of raymond carver (in his poem ‘late fragment‘) remind me of something: “and did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? i did. and what did you want? to call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.” love.

all around us, people are celebrating belovedness – the challenges and the blisses. in new commitments, longheld relationships, new babies, children flying, new adventures together, routine days, mistakes, forgivenesses, long nights, new days.

“grace, progress, blessings continue to be given to you, because god gives. it’s god’s job.” (anne lamott)

no matter who or what deity in the universe you feel connected to, no matter what you call this supreme being, no matter your religion or not, i personally believe this. goodness pretty much is the bottom line.

when it was time to leave a visit together, my sweet momma would say, “be kind to each other.” she had no caveats. neither does love.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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at the door. his angel-cat. [d.r. thursday]

dogdog does not live his life expecting grandeur. he does not look for the secrets of the universe nor does he try to reach the pinnacle of success, whatever that is. his riches are right around him – his shredded toys, his bone, his food and water bowls, his treats, his people and his beloved cat. he lives each day, seemingly, without the emotional chaos we get embedded in; the view from his amber eyes is simple and they reflect back a love of living, of those things he cherishes. he does not try to be anything; he just is. “when you seek to be special, only a few things in life will measure up,” writes sue bender. he does not seek to be special, yet he is magnificently special.

it was very very quiet in the house last week. i played no music. i watched no tv. i barely read the news. together, dogdog and i were almost silent. my dear and wise friend wrote, “sometimes silence allows us to conserve our energy to go on.” together, dogdog and i stepped in our days, the padding footfalls of babycat’s sorely missing from our mix. yet we continued on and the earth spun through the galaxy and the sun and the moon did that which they do, nevertheless.

“i learned to love the journey, not the destination. i learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get,” pens anna quindlen. dogdog’s journey sans destination – for without the same human parameters that make us measure our lives, his is simply a journey without a destination – included babycat. and now, in his quest to find his cat, we can only hope that babycat sits by his side and reassures him, in his gravelly babycat voice, that he’s right there with him. our journeys include the angels all around us; they are right there, quiet and steady.

“get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger,” recommends anna.

i’d add, get a life in which you take moments to be very quiet – silent, even – and in which you can see the dim outline of your angel-cat sitting next to your dog at the front door.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

AT THE DOOR ©️ 2017 david robinson & kerri sherwood


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“not the same.” [merely-a-thought monday]

the dog hides in the bathroom when there is even the hint of a disagreement, an argument, any kind of underlying tension he senses in his sweet and highly intuitive body. he slowly rises from the old wood floor in the living room or the tiled floor of the sunroom or sprawled on top of the raft and tiptoes down the hall to lie down out of the fray, even if it’s a quiet fray. he can feel it – the tension – and it makes him feel angst.

this year. angst. how can any of us be without angst this year? it seems that things in the universe have spiraled out of control, things are afire and we drop-roll in anxiety. we succumb, in pain, to the extreme pressures this year has presented and sometimes we direct it at each other. ptsd is alive and well and will likely prevail past december 31, rolling its tentacles into the new year.

“things will not be the same because we will not be the same,” 20 texted us, having stumbled across this quote. he captured, in his passing on of these words with no attribution, the truth of it. things will not be the same. and neither will we. we will not be the same. and neither will things.

so i guess the question is this – how do we all rise from the ashes of this year? how do we “live above the circumstances” as jonathan texted? how do we drag our tired bodies and minds and hearts into 2021 and have hope?

though, decades ago, i was granted a master’s degree in counseling and i try to incorporate the methods of communication i learned, i still fail miserably in the middle of spatting with d. i try to resist my and his laundry list of what-happened-last-times or i-remember-you-saids or i-remember-you-dids. it is to no avail. somehow we end up tiffing not-so-much only about now, but instead, about all the back-thens up to now. i don’t think we’re alone in this. and i suspect that this year has burdened us all with so much stress and insulated time together that it is inevitable. there has been so much; confusion and anger and grief and sadness wash over us all. we are all exhausted. we are forever changed.

but i hope we can also take away from this year that we survived it. broken wrists, pandemic fears, covid-lost jobs, a city stricken by violent social injustice, a country in chaos, chasms of relationship differences, isolation, suffering a firing, losing a community. we will not be the same. things will not be the same.

and yet, we are here…on the doorstep of 2021…in the tiny liminal space between the holidays, rapidly approaching the new year. the bootstraps call our names and, again, we bend, like rugged, ragged reeds in the wind, and tug them up. we try, once again, to remember that we have somehow gotten through 363 days – already. we are changed. things are changed. i heard myself saying to a dear friend, “yes. you are made of every single thing up to this very minute. but now you are here and your next step is in now, not in then, not in all that.” i need remember. we need be in now. in spite of and because of. looking forward, stepping forward. ever slowly, but doggedly forward. tripper would celebrate this phoenix-choice.

two wise women offer these words:

“the life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” (anna quindlen)

“tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (mary oliver)

alike. and different.

things will not be the same, yes, because we will not be the same.

maybe that’s ok.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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“← →” [merely-a-thought monday]

anna quindlen, in her book a short guide to a happy life, says this: “yogi berra’s advice seems as good as any – when you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

we have arrived. it doesn’t come with directions. no gps. no warranty. no guarantees. no table-of-contents-glossary-index-laden information booklet. nothing. just a choice. well, always a choice.

there’s something amusing about signage that points both ways. there aren’t a lot of things making me giggle right now. but, although we have passed this spot on the trailhead many times, this signpost made me giggle the other day. i am at a crossroads. we are at a crossroads. which way?

“…a dividing line between seeing the world in black and white and in technicolor.” (anna quindlen) i suppose the spectrum is meant to be seen in its entirety. all the colors. not a flattening out of the incandescence of life. i suppose it’s not as scary as it seems. i suppose luminous scrappy will rise up, face the signpost and decide.

it’s all fluid. we are all fragile seedlings bending in the wind. invisible forces, gravity, dark, lost-ness, steadfastness, weightlessness, light, found-ness buffet us and brace us, both. and we orient. we stand at the signpost on the trailhead and choose, knowing there will be another moment when we will choose yet again.

“and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” (max ehrmann)

either way. either direction. either path. i just start. we just start. again.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY