Good and Evil


A recent post of mine addressed the momentum of accusations of sexual harassment and abuse. Daily we are learning of others, men so far, who have used their power to take advantage of women and men in a sexual manner. Once one person speaks up, then usually other victims chime in.

Overall this seems to me to be a good thing. As actress Emma Thompson told The Guardian, ““Does it only count if you have done it to loads and loads of women, or does it count if you have done it to one woman, once. I think the latter.” If our culture can reduce harassment and abuse, hurrah for us.

However . . . .

Physical touch has tremendous power for good, as well as for evil. Just think of times when a partner’s embrace comforted you in times of pain, or when a hug with a friend lifted your spirits. We can’t swing the pendulum entirely away from any physical touch between individuals.

Now that I’m widowed, I don’t touch anyone with regularity.

I miss it, so when the opportunity arises, I am grateful for the warmth given to me. One of my woman friends is struggling in her life, as I have been in mine. After a recent dinner together, we parted with a good long hug, bringing smiles to our troubled faces. There are two men in my life now who also have challenges and we are secure in sharing casual hugs of support when we meet. A final example are the hugs my stepdaughters give – making me feel cherished in their love for their father and now for me.

Years ago I conducted sexual harassment training for my employer. I was specific and strict in the organization’s expectations for proper behavior. A year or so later, an older manager told me how my training had affected his behavior. His young secretary’s husband was dying and when she could manage to come to work, she often broke down and sobbed. One time he wanted to give her a hug as she cried, but didn’t because of my admonitions. I felt badly – I do want people to touch one another in a positive way and I have to believe that can happen organically between/among people with good intent.

This past summer I attended a group’s national convention. On our name tags we had the choice of using green, yellow or red dots. A green dot meant we would accept a hug, yellow was a caution to ask for permission and red signaled no desire for physical contact. I think if we simply assumed that everyone wears a yellow dot and we ask permission before touching another, we’d make great strides in our culture.

“One is Silver and the Other Gold”


Yesterday morning I put my on “big girl panties” and dragged down all the Christmas decorations from the garage attic.

The second Christmas after Rick and I married we were in Michigan, living in our first home together. He was working and I had not yet found a new job – and we were just a few miles from a topnotch mall. I decided our tree would be mostly golds and whites and at the mall I found dozens of beautiful ornaments for our live-cut tree. As we traveled to various countries and regions over the years, I looked for commemorative ornaments to personalize our Christmas trees. Once we began to spend most holidays with my parents and then just with my father, we bought a large artificial tree which dwarfed our living room.

That big artificial tree followed us to Florida. Here’s a tip for people moving to Florida – no one, not even a thrift shop proprietor, wants a used artificial Christmas tree! We tried three nonprofits before we gave up and trashed the thing.

The last Christmas Rick was alive, in 2015, I bought one of the very skinny artificial trees that is only about 2-feet in diameter. It is bizarre looking, even covered with ornaments, but easy to navigate as it takes up such little space. I didn’t worry about all the holiday decorations not used that year, and last year I was too bereft to decorate — so this time I went through every box and tossed unused items. As I was on a roll, the tree is now up and perhaps today I’ll set out my grandmother’s crèche set. No one is due at my house until after Thanksgiving, so we’ll just keep my early decorating a secret, all right?

Last night I cried. This morning I cried. If Rick was still here my world would be full of gleaming gold; now it is streaked with silver threads of age and loss.

Timing is Everything


Here in Florida I have friends from several worlds:  bicycling, dragon boat racing, my neighborhood and other activities across the county.  There is minimal overlap among these worlds, and I navigate them comfortably.

At this stage of life and in this retirement-oriented community, there’s no predicting who will connect with another.  Relationships are developed without regard to geographic origin, career or financial resources, but rather for common interests, life experience and even simply proximity.  Rick and I biked alongside a few men for years and now I also dine out with them and their wives.  A single woman in my dragon boat club has become a good friend with whom to have fun evenings out and about.  A neighbor hosts the best mahjong gatherings.  Another woman has helped me develop contacts for writing assignments.  Before this time in life I would never have met them; today they are important to me.

I don’t, however, expect these people to be lifelong friends.  There are people in my past who were there when I needed them.  Aging and health, interests and other demands on our time will erode some of the friendships I so treasure now.  Other friends will surface when they are wanted in my future.  I hope I have served as a trusted confidante for other men and women in my life, and currently have some acquaintances for whom I provide support.

Sunday I several hours conversing with a wise friend.  Through her mindfulness practice, she has noted that when she remains in the present, without regard to the past or the future, she is not only balanced and serene, she is nowhere.  True present is elusive; once you give your mind permission to focus on the present, it is already in the past.  Friends may come and go, yet their value in our lives are memorable and immeasurable.

Wherever you go, there you are.  ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn