self-determination

“Lovers” by Pablo Picasso

How can twins with identical genetics and environment become so different and tolerate these differences so well? J. David Smith suggests that conjoined twins demonstrate an important aspect of human differentiation: intentionality. He notes that the role of self-determination has been lost in the “nature-nurture” debate about whether heredity or environment rules our lives. These two perspectives may appear to be complete opposites, but they share a common deterministic outlook. Even a compromise position still ignores how self-direction shapes our destinies. When we ignore the role of free will and active participation in our own lives, we damage and discourage ourselves.
~ David Schnarch
(Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love & Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships)

It was perhaps fifteen years ago when I read an excellent book, Passionate Marriage, quoted above, back when I was very interested in the balance between autonomy and intimacy in marriage and other relationships. And the gist of the above paragraph was etched into my mind as I embraced the idea of self-determination playing as much of a role in the course of our lives as heredity or environment.

Ever since I started this blog I have wanted to find the quote to add to my collection here. But memory is a funny thing. About the same period of time I had read another excellent book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon. I was certain I had read that paragraph in this book! Self-determination can definitely apply to will in the fight against depression, a very cruel disease. Who knows how many times I thumbed through The Noonday Demon, looking in vain for the desired paragraph? Eventually I abandoned the search.

A couple of weeks ago I happened to be rearranging my daughter’s bookshelves when I came across my old copy of Passionate Marriage. I started leafing through it, looking to see what ideas I had underlined all those years ago, before passing the book on to her. Voila! There it was. I was dumbfounded.

Tim and I often joke about our ever-changing memories. I’ve taken to saying that the more certain I am of something I remember, the more likely it is that I am totally mistaken! This was certainly a case in point. 🙂

white flowers of the night

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“Ukrainian Night” by Mykola Pymonenko

But here there was not a sound, and the air was scented with the white flowers of the night. It was a night so beautiful that your soul seemed hardly able to bear the prison of the body.
~ W. Somerset Maugham
(The Moon & Sixpence)

Night, the beloved. Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again. When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of a tree.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
(Flight to Arras)

rapture in the lonely shore

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5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is rapture in the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet can not all conceal.
~ George Gordon Byron
(The Complete Works of Lord Byron)

making sense of my life

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“Woman at Writing Desk” by Lesser Ury

If I could, I would always work in silence and obscurity, and let my efforts be known by their results.
~ Charlotte Brontë
(The Life of Charlotte Brontë)

I’ve acquired many labels in my sixty years: highly sensitive person, introvert, obsessive-compulsive, painfully shy, homebody, bookworm, social phobia, agoraphobia, chronic depression, chronic migraine, chronic anxiety. But none of them got to the crux of the matter more definitively than autism.

Feeling like an odd-duck for all of my life I started suspecting autism (or Asperger’s syndrome) a few years ago. Little hints in the occasional magazine article. (Caring for elderly relatives for most of my adult life I’ve spent countless hours in medical and hospital waiting rooms reading magazines.) But last October I read an autobiography written by someone who had been been “diagnosed” late in life. His experience compelled me to read a few more books on the subject. And then a few more. My curiosity finally led me to consult with a neuropsychologist who confirmed my suspicions in December, one month shy of my 60th birthday.

Talk about a paradigm shift! The news actually came as a huge relief. So many things about my life until now are finally making sense.

It can be harrowing to see life through the surreal lenses that warp and tangle and convolute the most simple of activities; activities that the neurologically typical consider ordinary, things like shopping and driving and studying and keeping a job and paying bills and visiting with friends. It can be sad to find that no matter how deeply committed the effort, tenuous results may be all that follow.
~ Liane Holliday Willey
(Pretending to Be Normal: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome)

Reading the above quote for the first time deeply resonated with me. I’ve often tried to figure out how most people can simply hop in the car and run out to the store. For me it is a major and exhausting expedition that needs careful preparation and planning and a lot of recovery time afterwards. I’ve never been able to explain why this is to anyone — and still can’t. For me, so many things don’t respond to the ‘practice makes perfect’ philosophy. Now I know why. Now I can make the allowances I need without feeling so badly about it.

No doubt I will be writing more about this astonishing discovery in the coming months.

enjoy the ride

“Self Portrait” by Zinaida Serebriakova

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain’t nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to
The top of the hill
But since we’re on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride

The secret of love is in opening up your heart
It’s okay to feel afraid
But don’t let that stand in your way
‘Cause anyone knows that love is the only road
And since we’re only here for a while
Might as well show some style
Give us a smile

Isn’t it a lovely ride
Sliding down
Gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
Now the thing about time is that time
Isn’t really real
It’s just your point of view
How does it feel for you
Einstein said he could never understand it all
Planets spinning through space
The smile upon your face
Welcome to the human race

~ James Taylor
♫ (Secret o’ Life) ♫

James Taylor in the 1970s.

The other day this song came on the radio — I hadn’t heard it in ages and found that it has even more meaning to me now than it did in the past. Lately I’ve been so at peace with the passage of time… Even often ‘feeling afraid’ isn’t spoiling the ride. James Taylor was the first singer-songwriter I followed with passion as a teen. Since he was about 9 years older than me I often found his songs expressing and reflecting feelings I’ve had along the way.

He’s going to perform with Bonnie Raitt at Fenway Park in Boston on August 11. Not sure I could handle the traffic or the crowds but it is so tempting to dream about! Live music is always amazing…

answers are not the point

“The Sunflower Galaxy from Hubble” by ESA/NASA/Hubble

We’ve all been on this spiritual path looking for answers, and the joke is that answers are not the point at all; the point is to have a blast with the questions. The point is not to hold back from the Mystery just because there is no final understanding. Along the way, incredible understandings come out of the Mystery, but the Mystery, itself, will remain a mystery.
~ Nirmala
(Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self)

hanging garden of bottle gourds

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9.25.16 ~ Holmberg Orchards ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut

As we wandered around a corn maze on a perfect autumn day, we came upon an enchanting gourd tunnel.

Gourds are natural born climbers. They seek out anything they can reach to climb closer to the sun. They grow so quickly it can become a daily task to move the vines away from some places you don’t want them to climb on. And once a tendril gets itself wound around a hold nothing short of breaking the tendril off the vine will get the little curlicue to let go. Not even the death of the vine will loosen their grip much.
~ Karen Hundt-Brown
(American Gourd Society)

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9.25.16 ~ Holmberg Orchards ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut

While I looked, my inner self moved; my spirit shook its always-fettered wings half loose; I had a sudden feeling as if I, who never yet truly lived, were at last about to taste life: in that morning my soul grew as fast as Jonah’s gourd.
~ Charlotte Brontë
(Villette)

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9.25.16 ~ Holmberg Orchards ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut

Yet poetry, though the last and finest result, is a natural fruit. As naturally as the oak bears an acorn, and the vine a gourd, man bears a poem, either spoken or done.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers)

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9.25.16 ~ Holmberg Orchards ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut