A Half Century

Today is/would be my fiftieth wedding anniversary if I hadn’t been divorced after the “standard” seven years of marriage.

Still, that divorce was probably the most painful and devastating thing that ever occurred in my young life. Well, it’s “young” from my vantage point now. I wasDivorce Decree Royalty Free Stock Images twenty-nine at the time and my former husband was killed the next year when he was thirty. All in all, such young people, we were, he, forever young, me, not so much.

The thing is, for most of the years in between that divorce and this anniversary I couldn’t release all of the pain and anguish it cause me. It felt like if I did, it would tear me apart in such a horrendous way that I’d never recover, if I didn’t actually die. Suicide was not an option but if some careless driver took me out, it sounded fine to me. Of course, when something like that is buried it festers and any “explosions” have a chance to grow in something even huger than they seemed at first.

And so, over the years I stuffed and pushed and couldn’t rise to the level Blood drips oozing Stock Photoneeded to let whatever was to happen, happen. But when I crashed and burned about twenty years ago, now, I began to journal and to write personal essays and such. That turned out to be a way to sort of “lance the boil” of pain so that it could drain out without exploding. Even so, it took most of that twenty years to ooze its way out in various forms. If you’ve read some of my previous posts you might have read some of that pain.

Then this anniversary came around yet again, as it hasHeartache Royalty Free Stock Photo every year, and I discovered that I still have the memories but I no longer have the pain. It’s not as if there’s no residual scarring or leftover deformity, but the acute pain that was there for most of my life is now just an occasional ache of sadness. Not a pleasant ache but not such a pain that I feel the need to ameliorate it by writing about it. Now it’s just a reminder of what once was that is long gone and with it – finally – the agonizing pain. Now the ache signifies a healing process and for that I’m grateful.

So, on this anniversary I finally say good-bye to the unfaithful husband and Thank you Stock Photographywelcome the special man who has stood by me for over thirty-seven years – without the “requirements” of marriage – who has accepted me for who and what I am, a flawed person but someone who’s loveable. For many, many years, for most of my life, for that matter, and long before the divorce slammed home what I’d long accepted as the truth, I’d believed that I was unlovable.

He proved my belief wrong.

Thank you, babe.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking for the past weeks. Am I a racist or not? I’ve long believed (for over 50 years) that I’m not, although I might have a leaning toward “my own kind” just a bit. I suppose that’s normal for someone who never met or even (except on TV) saw a person of African-American descent until I was nearly twenty years old.

Then I came across this test put out by Harvard University. It’s called the Implicit Association Test (IAT). It assesses associations between concepts associated in memory by measuring how quickly a person associates certain words with White faces and Black faces. I don’t know how accurate this test is but, if nothing else, it helps to reassure me that my concept of myself is not too far off target.

It stated, “Your data suggest a slight automatic preference [from choices of slight, moderate, strong, or little to no preference] for European American compared to African American.” It emphasizes that “how implicit associations affect our judgments and behaviors is not well understood and may be influenced by a number of variables. As such, the score should serve as an opportunity for self-reflection, not as a definitive assessment of your implicit thoughts and feelings.”

Since I’ve been doing some self-reflection, indeed, had been, which is how this subject came up in the first place, I don’t intend to agonize over whether or not I truly am a racist in the worst sense of the word. No more agonizing, not any more.

I’m not.

I’m A Racist – 2

I don’t often make posts this close together but I have something I need help with.

My last post offended some people because they saw it as humorous while the subject was not something to be taken even light heartedly. I agree that it’s not a humorous subject. I wasn’t trying to be humorous.

I’m assuming my writing style or choice of words was somehow at fault. If any of you that haven’t commented or responded were also offended, my deepest apologies. I’d appreciate it if you would be willing to point out the specifics of style or usage that made my post appear other than it was meant.

I was trying to get across my horror at discovering that I might be a closet racist, though that’s rather a misnomer since being in the closet about anything is usually a matter of choice.

I’m not given to florid writing but perhaps I tend to be too much understated instead. There is nothing worse for a writer than to not be understood or to be misunderstood. Any insight you could provide that would help me become a better writer would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

I’m A Racist

“Let’s be honest: For a lot of well-meaning, open-minded white people, the sight of a young black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear. And news reports about poverty and crime and discrimination evoke sympathy, even empathy, but too rarely do they spur us to action or prompt us to question our own assumptions and privilege.” – Hillary Clinton

I came to the realism of my racism quite some time ago. I thought I’d gotten past whatever might be involved in that racism, whether it was the color of skin, the sound of an accent, whatever made “the other” different than I was. Actually, I’d never thought much about it except to be curious.

I was always more interested in what made the other “other” than in trying to find what made them the same as I. I grew up in a small northern “white bread” town, with everyone having the same color skin, the same basic hair color, and even predominant eye color. It was boring. Even now, I prefer whole grain bread to white bread.

I loved it when I went away to the city to go to college, knowing I’d finally meet people with a different upbringing, a different way of seeing the world, a different way of being. And I had no bad experiences that made me feel that being different than I was a bad thing, it was just exciting. At least for me.

The only people that caused me great pain were just like me, white skin, brownish hair, hazel/green/blue eyes. Getting divorced was the cruelest thing that ever happened to me. And yet, I didn’t blame all white people. I didn’t even blame all men.

And then one day, many, many years later, after I’d lived with my beloved SO for 30 years or so, I suddenly became aware that when I saw a group of unruly young “others” on the street, with black skin and features, it made me uneasy. Shock! I’m a racist! And this after the requisite “having black friends,” etc.

Well, it took me a while to get over the shock of that realization and actually think about it. Eventually I realized that a group of brown skinned young people speaking a different language could also make me uneasy. After 30 years with my Spanish-speaking SO, of all things. Oh, God! I was a racist!

But then an unexpected thing occurred at some point. If there were a group of white youngsters with loud radios or skateboards and behaving rowdily were to appear, I felt the same uneasiness. OK, was I a racist against my own “kind?”

Maybe I was just an ageist – in reverse, of course.

I’m working on that. It’s more difficult for me to understand teenagers of any color than it is for me to understand the sorts of things “others” are discriminated against for. (Bad sentence but you get it.)

One other thing, I’m a woman. By virtue of my genitalia I experience much the same things as others do by virtue of their skin color or accented speech. Only it’s couched much more slyly, as “protection” or some such thing. It’s still discrimination.

So now I have to figure out a lot of things. I don’t think I’m a racist basing things only on skin color and such. I’m still more interested in “others’” experience than I am frightened or turned off by any appearance or speech. Maybe I don’t understand teenagers or teenage behavior or speech because it’s been a long, long time since I’ve been one and since I never had kids I never had much experience of them.

But am I a racist?

This might not be a very satisfactory blog, at least considering the stage I’m at right now. I hope, though, that I might start come questions, for myself as well as readers, if I just go ahead and blog without trying to arrive at answers right now.

In the last blog I wrote about how I came to identify myself as I am now, or at least how I came to the conclusion that the identity I was eventually given was more acceptable to me than those I’d previously been given. In any event, no matter how I came to this identity, I have been satisfied that it pretty well represented me.

And since I wrote that blog more stories have cropped about how peopleGender and relationship issues Royalty Free Stock Images identify themselves. First, an erstwhile 1976 Olympic Decathlon winner, a man often described as “the world’s greatest athlete,” has declared himself to be a transgender woman. Even in today’s world of growing greater acceptance of LGBT people that was a surprise for most. Still, after the initial uproar, it’s just pretty much accepted that it’s his choice. People may not like it or understand it, they may even deride it, but they can accept that it’s his choice.

Then, more receAfrican American Woman Businesswoman Writing Stock Imagently, a woman who has been considered African-American or black for at least the last decade has been shown to have two very definitely Caucasian parents. The story around that is still being developed so I won’t make any guesses as to her reasons. Her background seems to be based in a family raised as extreme creationists as well as other claims by her that are still to be determined.

The thing that struck me – eventually – about all of this is that suddenly identity and how it’s determined seems to be a big story, both personally and otherwise. When similar items like this “gang up” it seems to me that I need to pay attention, to delve deeper.

One thing that struck me about both of the above cases is that the individuals Businessman VIP Royalty Free Stock Photoschose to identify as other than their skin color or gender that might give them some sort of privilege. I mean, a man choosing to become a woman and a white person choosing to be seen and accepted as black could be seen as a sort of slap in the face of “white privilege” and gender privilege. People who have that do not seem to take kindly to having it repudiated.

Why is that?

Is white male privilege so puny that it can be damaged by these two persons? One might hope so. The reactions to their choices seem to suggest so. However, those reactions don’t suggest any answers.

Since this blog is about the search for soul, might there be some answers in that? Since we all are souls and not just the bodies and skin colors that we as souls don, could these actions be about soul expressions? Not that mistakes were made when thoseThe soul Royalty Free Stock Image skins and bodies were donned, but that the choices at the soul level were deliberate in order for the choices to be differently expressed later in life to draw attention to the fact that the soul has no color or gender and therefore, we should not judge based on those? And what would be the purpose in that?

Maybe what you see is not really what you get.

At this point my strongest belief is that, whatever their reasons, the fact that they chose to be other than a socially higher class than they originally were seems to cause more anger and vituperation than anything. It seems to me that there’s where any questions should be aimed. Why should the fact that anyone might choose to be a “second class citizen (female and/or black),” instead of the “ruling class (white/male)” one might be, be so offensive to those who are not at all affected by those choices?

So, I have much thinking to do. The thing that’s most important, I think, is that what these people did is not so important as what emotions their actions call up in others.

Sam, I Am

I was born Sandra Kathleen Mullett. I didn’t know for almost twenty yearsGrey mullet Royalty Free Stock Photo that mullet was a fish. A bait fish, to boot. I actually got selected for a laboratory medicine internship in Florida because the folks there wanted to see what a "fish out of water" looked like! (We’ll skip the hair “style” that’s called a mullet.)

But it wasn’t my last name that I hated, it was Sandra. I had no idea where my mom had come up with that name. Years later I looked up the meaning of the name and discovered it meant "helper of men." I didn’t realize at the time it could have been phrased as "mankind," but to me it really didn’t make any difference. I had no interest in helping men. They were doing fine on their own.

Why couldn’t I have been a Linda or a Janice or even a Phyllis? The names of popular girls in my grade school class. Sandra made me want to grind my teeth. I’ve since come to terms with Sandra but I still don’t prefer it.

But even woAnnoyed girl covering her ears loud noise upstairs Royalty Free Stock Photosrse was being called Sandy. It was inevitable, of course, totally unavoidable. And Sandy I was for almost twenty years. There is nothing like having your self esteem torn to pieces when you cringe every time someone says your name. I’ve never come to terms with Sandy.

Something that just occurred to me in the last few years is when my childhood BFF neighbor (a girl with the nice name of Mary) suddenly decided she wanted to be called Dusty. Well, now! Maybe people actually could change their names! Gee!

Then, of course, I had to come up with my own new name and I chose Rusty. Because I admired Mary as a person so much and if she could change her name, well, so might I. And Dusty and Rusty just sounded right together. The name changes didn’t last very long, though. Whether we liked our new names or our old names, our old names were how our families and friends saw us. It wasn’t until over sixty years later that it suddenly occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, Mary somehow admired me, too, and so she wanted to be "Dusty" to my "Sandy." I mean, Dusty, Sandy, they both call to mind similar conditions.

And I went on being the hated Sandy until I went away to college. I started outGroup Of College Students Walking Along Corridor Royalty Free Stock Photos there as Sandy, too, but then someone whom I admired (but whom I can no longer call to mind) said that he’d never known a Sandra/Sandy that he didn’t call Sam and when the other Sandra graduated, I became Sam. Now that was a name I could happily claim. Sam! Strong, powerful. Ungirly! And I’ve been Sam ever since.

Now there are several meanings to the name Sam. My first and earliest one found in a search was that "God heard." I didn’t know how that applied to me but it felt immeasurably better than "Sandy," which felt mewly and pewly.

Child holding a sun Royalty Free Stock ImagesI’ve since found another meaning for Sam that feels like it fits much better. Here it is: The name Sam is a Hebrew name. In Hebrew the meaning of the name Sam is: Sun child; bright sun.

It also has other connotations that appeal to me: People with this name have a deep inner desire to have personal independence. They would rather focus on large, important issues, and delegate the details. They strive for harmony and balance in their lives, and respond positively to beautiful things. Yeah, that works.

When I got married I got rid of the fishy last name and got a Norwegian one. Most people who only hear it think it’s the Irish Hagan and I always have to spell it for them. Even when I do, you’d be surprised at how many people can’t get it right. I’m still searching for the meanings of Heggen but here’s the one that’s first on a search list: Norwegian: habitational name from any of several farmsteads so named, either from the dative singular of hegg ‘bird cherry (tree)’ or from Old Norse Heggvin (see Hegge).

I’m more comfortable with the Norwegian background but even so, there’s lots of search engines that manage to backtrack to the Irish.

Even when I was divorced I kept the Heggen name. Over the years it was who I had become, the name my credit cards was in, the name I’d had when I got hired, the name I’d absorbed, that had absorbed me. It had become who I was. Who I am.

So here I am, in the flesh, an entirely new person, from Sandra KathleenHuge Single Oak tree in spring Stock Photo Mullett, a helpful but fishy person, to Sam Heggen, an independent person somehow connected to a Norwegian cherry tree. My mother-in-law told me there was a connection to oak trees, I believe, but I haven’t found too many connections to oaks when I do searches.

But one connection that comes up is to Thomas O. Heggen. He wrote the novel and play, Mr. Roberts. Maybe he isn’t any blood relationship to me but I can claim the connection of author and writer, can’t I? Anyway, I do.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

RIP Spock

Spock died today.

Well, not Spock, exactly, but Leonard Nimoy, who embodied him in many ways. ILeonard Nimoy Royalty Free Stock Photos don’t often get upset over celebrities’ deaths because I don’t know them and have no connection to them.

But Spock is different. I have more of a sense of emptiness than a sense of sadness with Mr. Nimoy’s death or, rather, Spock’s. In some ways I felt that Spock was me. His daily operating method was one of logic and analysis with any emotions deeply buried and often denied. His sense of war between his Vulcan and human sides was generally a lonely battle that he waged internally.

I believe that in a sense Spock was more of a human than his human counterparts. They might have had struggles but even as the struggles seemed to be deeply human they were as often, if not usually, rather shallow compared to Spock’s.

Spock, on the other hand, had no one he could turn to when he struggled with the parts of himself and therein lay his real strength and, ultimately, wisdom. No one else could understand what it was like to be of two disparate parts. He managed to meld his head and his heart when it really counted and that’s what being truly human is all about.

Vulcan greeting, isolated on white Royalty Free Stock PhotosSo maybe Leonard Nimoy is dead but just as maybe, maybe Spock will live forever because he showed us the way to be the best humans we can be.

Live long and prosper!


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