Monthly Archives: April 2024

Balancing act

The portion of my mind which functions on automatic pilot this week  addresses the balance of joy and practicality .  Specifically, I find myself ruminating over catch-phrases that people use almost without considering their impact on others.  

A couple of folks explained decisions to me this week with the assurance that their choices weren’t personal.  They don’t really mean that what they impart has no bearing on me as a human being.  Instead, they excuse any such repercussion with their pursuit of their own ends.  In effect, this explanation tells me that the potential impact on me weighs less heavily in the equation of their calculation than the potential benefit to the speaker.

In short:  Is it personal?  Of course; I’m a person.  You’re taking something away from me; terminating my right to do something; or imposing a requirement on me.  How could that not be personal?  I listened to these people sputter into silence.  In one case, the pronouncement came by text and I just ignored it.  I responded to the substance but not the vapid excuse.  But later the motor hummed, the wheels turned, and the grains of rust drifted to the ground leaving behind the strong steel of cogent contemplation.  I’m sorry but I don’t buy your glib recitation.  It’s personal, of course it is.  But you want me to let you get away with it.  Does that really matter?  You’ve put so many pebbles on one side of the scale that my small stone cannot outweigh them.  It’s personal, all right; and most especially personal to you, because you prefer a course of action that punishes me.

I am, in fact, a fairly practical individual on many levels.  I recognize the selfish motivation with which most of us regulate our lives.  But I have also found myself deliberately cultivating a joyful spirit.  That gentle overtone led me to a softer understanding of these people.  I might not lightly reconsider placing my trust in them down the road.  But their actions are not personal in this most critical sense:  Their choice reflects on them, not me.  I can, therefore, give them no small measure of grace.  I can even forgive them.

It’s the twenty-third day of the one-hundred twenty-fourth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


by Sara Teasdale, 1884 – 1933

It will not hurt me when I am old,
A running tide where moonlight burned
Will not sting me like silver snakes;
The years will make me sad and cold,
It is the happy heart that breaks.

The heart asks more than life can give,
When that is learned, then all is learned;
The waves break fold on jewelled fold,
But beauty itself is fugitive,
It will not hurt me when I am old.

This poem is in the public domain.

Full Moon over the California Delta, 22 April 2024, c. MCC, the Missouri Mugwump(tm) 2024

How Could She Have Known?

Perhaps a half-dozen people know about my gnarled feet:  A few doctors, a couple of ex-husbands, and my son.  I keep my feet covered at all times.  No sandals grace my shoe bench; though I used to get pedicures, I always went to the same woman.  Shortly after moving to California, I tried getting my toes done and encountered not one but two shocked pedicurists.  I abandoned that luxury.

Imagine my surprise when a box of presents arrived from a friend in Kansas City.  I drew each item from the tangle  of confetti.  A candle, a small silver necklace, a velour throw.  A hug on a mug.  

And the softest socks that anyone ever gifted me.

When darkness falls, I strain to embrace sleep.  The tightness of my spastic feet and legs overtakes my weary spirit.   Pain overwhelms me.  Most of my life I would struggle from bed and spend long chunks of time pacing the bedroom floor.  Now, in my tiny bedroom, I can only stand at the rail and stretch my calves.  Tears flow.  Thirty minutes of jagged rest yields to long segments of wakefulness saturated with barely tolerable agony.  In my son’s childhood, I would summon him to bring a pair of his thick white cotton socks.  I drew them over my cramped toes and settled my feet within their comfort.

How could my young friend in Kansas City know?  She could not have; and yet, here is evidence that some angelic hand guided her to something that would ease my particular pain.  I press their silkiness against my cheek, where tears seep into their delicate fiber.

It’s the thirteenth day of the one-hundred and twenty-fourth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


In My Tiny Kitchen

In My Tiny Kitchen

I scoop beans
from a canister
rescued by my mother
from a junk store
not long before her death
in 1985.
Its lid had not survived
but my mother’s vision
put my father’s skill to work.
I miss her more than I can say.
The coffee that I make
in my tiny kitchen
tastes like home.


©  poem & photo 2024 M. Corinne Corley, The Missouri Mugwump™