Monthly Archives: June 2012

Long and Winding Road

Sitting in the doctor’s office the other day with my brother, I watched as an elderly couple emerged from the examination area and headed toward the door. They moved along slowly, but with a certain rhythm that indicated many years spent together. I smiled.

I then sighed and wondered what it would feel like to have a life long companion. As they reached the door to leave, the woman said something to the man about getting the door for her. It was obvious her sight was impaired and she was a little unsteady on her feet. To her comment, her husband replied with a rather abrupt growl, “I know to get the door! I was going to get the door!” In that moment, my smile faded and I felt all the romantic air leave my heart.

By all rights, sitting here right now, I should have no belief in true love. I don’t mean companionship. No, that’s not the type of union for which I speak. Companionship is inherent to true love. However, true love is not inherent to companionship. Many couples sign on to be together and move through their days knowing that they have someone to call if ever they get a flat on the freeway or someone to fill their house with activity. My parents had that. I don’t want that. I want the kind of union where kindness sits at the core of words shared, respect is mutual, and both would rather harm themselves than the other.

I’ve never viewed myself as a romantic. I am, without a doubt however, passionate. I’m passionate about my children, my friends and my writing. I’m passionate about this thing we call life. This does not mean that I’m a Cuckoo bird or a nut job. Or that I run through fields naked. Not that I’m ruling that out, I just haven’t ever felt possessed, as of yet, to do so. Being passionate just means that I absorb life more than most. My lows are felt harder and deeper. Yet my highs reach unheard of levels. Middle of the road just isn’t how I roll. Instead of floating slowly down the center of the river, I tend to pinball around a bit, cascade down unexpected rapids and also rest at the serene spot where the water is like glass and the reflection of the trees can be seen like a painting upon the bend where the water isn’t captive to movement.

I think that is why I so often listen to music. Song writers and musicians are by nature, passionate people. They write words that cut through the heart, much like how I write. They write with brutal honesty; their pain and their joy are expressed equally and without concern for appearances. I find harmony with them; a certain resonance. In fact, music feels spiritual to me. The energy of music is the stuff of the heavens, the stuff of God and love.

Do I believe in star-crossed love and Kismet souls uniting – yes. But just as two middle of the river lovers are sure to have a certain subdued love. You can bet when two passionate lovers come together, its one hell of a ride. There are ups and there are downs. But there is always respect and an undeniable need to be with one another. If I’m blessed to finally have this most precious of unions firmly in my grasp, I will cherish it, nurture it and I will write about it. I won’t look for it, of course – it will have to find me. But once it does, I will give it my best, expecting the same in return. When I need the door opened, I hope to find my husband already standing there with the door lovingly pulled wide. God knows, I won’t travel down the river otherwise.

Your Nearest Exit

It’s funny how when happy where we are, we never think to look for an escape; an out that will bring us to freedom.

When on a plane, about to embark on a new journey, like everyone else, I patiently and quietly wait while the Flight Attendant motions to the nearest exit located closest to my seat. The same happens when I am in the theater. Each and every time, it is told to me that an exit rests on either side of the room, and one in the back. I listen, without listening. But there is always someone who asks for the Attendant to motion for a second time where they need to go, if things go wrong.

I suppose if I were looking for a way out, I too would have a piqued ear when the available exits are shown. But never once while happy where I am, do I make a point to ensure there’s a door offering my safe retreat.

When all seems well, one’s attention toward an escape reveals their feelings regarding the moment. I sat next to someone once during a play; their movements, fidgets and glances at their watch showed their desire to be anywhere but there. I’ve also had a person at a dinner party reveal through peppered words and body movements that they wanted to leave. The body and words spoken, are all codes to one’s true feelings. Even when everything seems wonderful, once a guest asks for me to show them the way in which to leave, I make a point to also hand them their coat. Their question reveals their desire.

I have to wonder what my body language and the words I speak and write reveal. They are so incredibly singular depending upon with whom I am speaking. I tend to be a bit more direct than most. I know this also shines through my writing. But if you were to speak with me, you’d notice, my spoken words are just the same. I write in the same manner in which I speak.

Sometimes though, words and body language reveal that one wants to stay. They linger, long before all else have gone. Not only are they not looking for a possible escape, they are hoping to never be shown the escape. They know that should disaster strike, they will look with wide eyes and find their way to safety. But in the meantime, their thoughts, their words and their body want only to remain. We all know how to read these codes; these sentences that are camouflaged to hide their meaning. I say once your eye searches for the exit, then its time to go. But if you find yourself hoping a way out doesn’t exist, then please, by all means, stay.

That’ll Be Optional

Its not lost on me how some of the very best things in life, are optional. Not required for existence, yet for those that know the secret to happiness, these things are truly the gateway to what animates life.

Life lives and breathes all on its own. One would think, and believe, that it is animated just by virtue of its existence. I don’t believe that to be so. Instead, so easy it is to walk through life without living; to live without any real life; with only the mechanical functions orchestrating our movements.

These optional items are often downplayed. We strive for functionality and logical thinking. It is, after all the sign of wisdom, or so we are led to believe. But the wise know that life lives in these optional choices. Like choosing a sun roof on a new car. At first it seems like something that isn’t necessary Yet, every time upon entry, its noticed, appreciated, and the new owner smiles. Not because of the new car, and its ability to move from point A to point B, but because when they look up during the night, they can now see the stars. They allowed themselves this thing that was meant only for joy.

Love is an optional component. True love, I feel, isn’t an option. It happens, without our consent. But what we do with it, is solely within our control, how we tend to it and care for it are completely deliberate decisions; whether we choose to pursue it or let it go. My logical mind always let’s it go. Always. Yet, doing so causes the heart to collapse within itself. Every now and again, I choose from the heart. I have done so twice in my life, and both were not within the confines of my two failed marriages.

Standing on my balcony moments ago, I rested my hands upon the rail and allowed the strong Lake Michigan breeze to push hard against my body; all the while, the sun drenched my soul with its warm glow. In that short moment, I felt the energy that is Life. As a whole, it moved across my body. I thought about how hard it is to choose those things that seem optional. Yet how, in the end, we come to discover that without them we struggle to survive.

I can’t control all of the options in my life. Some, I may let go of – purely because I feel that is what should be; that is what’s wanted. I won’t hold down a bird, that wants only to fly. I won’t hold on to anything, actually.

Alone, I find myself, but I’m beginning to believe its inherent to my journey. I will let go of the desire to make it otherwise. One day I may have to let go of this beautiful place that I call home. But know this, wherever I settle, I will be sure to choose those frivolous options that make life worth living. And when strong enough, if ever offered, I will choose love.

A Simpler Way Of Things

Somewhere along the line I stopped loving the trappings of life, and started loving life – just life. There is a profound difference. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy nice things. In fact, I’d rather have a few nice things, than a large volume of mediocre things. But what I consider nice and of value may not be what others consider nice and of value.

I like things that are made with thoughtful hands or hold the invisible essence of history. To know generations have sat at a table, somehow gives the table an energy it wouldn’t have otherwise. Having been touched by many souls, the wood takes on an intrinsic beauty.

As I’ve logged year after year, I’ve grown less impressed with material objects. That may be in part to having had two failed marriages wherein both men viewed me as either solely one of life’s trappings or as a vehicle by which to obtain said trappings. Please know, I’ve never once been dripping in wealth, but it doesn’t take much to strike the interest of a parasite looking for a new host.

Shortly after having married my first husband, I discovered in his bedside drawer a platte mat of the area. A platte mat is a booklet published by the state showing the different counties, the land parcels and who owns what parcel. I thumbed through the book, not thinking much of it, until I saw that my family’s land had all been colored in with a yellow highlight marker. At that time, my family owned a reasonably large amount of valuable land. Like a vulture circling the skies, this man, he thought, had circled his next meal. In the end he didn’t get any of my family’s land. His motives were never forgotten, however.

My second marriage, surprisingly, was to someone with even worse motives. Apparently I had learned nothing from the first. I know why I married this person. My motives were fine, not idyllic as far as true love was concerned. But sometimes we give up on such a notion. And we look for other things that we hope will fill the gaps. I don’t believe those gaps can ever be filled except by what is missing. I cared about this person, and provided him the best life I could. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I was devoted and faithful. But a loveless marriage will either die on its own accord or kill the soul of the one trying to live the lie. I opted for life and asked for a divorce. His reaction to having his lifestyle altered, gave me a front row seat in human dysfunction and soulless behavior. I never felt heartbreak over the end of the marriage; his affairs helped in that respect. But I was heartbroken over having been used.

Some people are in awe of beautiful objects; diamonds, cars or homes. I’m in awe when I see a beautiful hearted person helping another. I’m in awe of the sunset when I watch it set each night or the gentle voice of my beloved when he says he loves me. Those are the things of life that manage to trap me. It may sound like a simple way to live. But simple has always provided the best lighting by which beauty is illuminated.

Its A Marvelous Night For A Moondance

Have you ever considered for what you would ask, if given three wishes? Today, after a very empty day, I considered such a fictional idea. Like all of my blogs, my deepest thoughts are shared here with you; those living only half a mile from me, and those living halfway around the world from me. I value you all, regardless of distance.

If ever I were to stumble upon that mythological bottle consisting of a genie wanting only to grant my deepest desires I would first wish for peace and happiness for those I love. As this is an all-encompassing wish, it would ensure that a smile rests upon their faces and contentment fills their hearts regardless of how it got there. For some, it means the release from disease, for others it means the appearance of a true companion, for others it means freedom from financial worry. I don’t care in what manner it arrives. My only wish is that it finally does. My life is made better when those I love are happy.

Second, and this one sits quite deep, I wish for my one true love. It’s a fanciful notion but one that rests within my being on a cellular level. A man who is beautiful in mind, character and deed. One that loves my children without limit. One that wants only to see me smile. I’ve never had anyone want to fill my life with happiness, but I have to imagine it would be nice. Selflessness sits at the base of true love, and that is what I would want, and that is what I would give. To know that I am no longer alone in this journey, that I have a friend, a lover and all that rests in between.

Third, I would like my work shared with those for which it was written. On days like today, I contemplate never writing again. Only because it has lost its fun and value. Its like deciding to never love again though. It’s a decision made out of disappointment and pain; not from a lack of desire. So if that genie looked me hard in the eye and asked for my deepest desire, it would be to write without worry. I am at the tipping point, so how nice it would be to find that bottle when I take my sunset walk tonight.

I want everyone to find this bottle and have a chance to live the life of their deepest dreams. It seems only right. I can’t imagine why we are here, if not to be happy. As superfluous of a thought as it may seem, it is actually very important. It pulls the mind back onto what is truly wanted out of life. When all is said and done, I don’t want all of my days to have been frittered away; senseless and without meaning; to make a dollar only to spend a dollar. I want to have at least tried to live out my desires. I can’t say I will be successful. In fact, today isn’t a day where I will be betting on my outcome. But the desire is still there, regardless of my mind which urges me to leave it all behind. I have one of those minds; the kind that balances precariously between the heart, spirit and mind. When there is balance, I am in heaven. But when down, and the scales tip, it’s an unhappy place. Hence, the second wish, someone to help balance my scales.

If ever you feel lost within yourself, take the time to think about these three wishes. Go beyond the tangible items that are of no value. If anything they cloud our existence. Instead, think of what rests deep within. Ask yourself, if given the chance, for what would you wish?



All Things Considered

This morning, standing in the shower: I lifted my foot to find one lonely, out of place, plastic, googly eye staring back at me from the bottom of my foot; a remnant from one of my daughter’s craft projects. But a reminder of the comedy that is life.

If I’m addicted to anything, its to the feeling that pushes the body to laugh. The child in me is always peeking around from behind the adult that I’m expected to be. If I did not possess this lively inner child, I could not write my children’s books. I need the young at heart flame, to think like a child, and therefore write the words a child would say. When the adult dominates, the writing is stilted and dry.

It is the child in me that has caused me to don a gorilla suit and drive, with my daughter in tow, to my father’s house last spring and huddle under his front window, with hopes of scaring the living daylights out of him. It is that same child that also sees a way out of most any situation. Kids, generally, aren’t wounded yet to the point of hopelessness. Hopelessness is an adult conclusion. Kids still possess the energy of the universe. Anything is possible to a child.

Its odd how to a child psychics seem completely possible. But an adult will view it as a dubious claim, at best. Yet the same adult will easily hit ‘post’ on their smart phone, believing completely in the plausibility and reliability that their photo will within seconds be seen on their friend’s Facebook page. Unseen energy, transmitted along an unseen frequency. Energy is energy; frequencies are transmitting whether we believe it or not. Like a bad internet provider, there are bad psychics – times a thousand. Yet, the basis of this hard to comprehend truth, is just as real as this blog post moving from my laptop and landing on someone’s laptop in Sweden, which it will do only moments from now.

It is the child in me that looks at life with awe and wonder. I’m amazed by every day miracles. I’m amazed by the human spirit. I’m amazed by the unfathomable talent I see in others, and the courage shown by one indomitable spirit when everyone else runs for shelter. If I had a dime for every tragedy through which I’ve lived – I’d be a very wealthy woman. Serious has found me even when I was hiding from it the hardest. Whether as a small child, or as a mother, it has found me. And yet, I’ve survived. Life’s too short to take myself or anything else too seriously. Doing so has only smothered the joy of living. There is this surreal place that sits just above the mundane, and all the seriousness of this world. It is the place children go when they dream with eyes open. It’s the place I too go, whenever given the chance.

When looking in the eyes of another, I can sense their inner being. Some of the oldest souls have the most childlike inner voices. The child in me, is what moves me forward to age another year. The adult in me has given up many times. But that little voice, that says, “Maybe. Just maybe this time we’ll get it right,” is the reason I’ve made it to 42. And mostly likely it will be that same voice that accompanies me when I am 89.


Chasing the White Rabbit

Tomorrow is my father’s birthday. He hated birthdays. Each one represented another year of life he didn’t want to live.

He died three days after his birthday last year. A massive stroke. I’m told, he felt no pain. If so, then that marked the one moment in all of his years when not engulfed by pain. Sitting here now on my deck, listening to the birds; the breeze putting a chill on my skin – I’m forced to consider life – the absence of it and the presence of it.

We do this thing called living, each and every day; often, without consideration. I see life in all things, even within those who refuse to live. I tend to see the energy swirling in everything. I notice when souls feel the expansive fullness that is living well, and I notice when a soul is tightened and restricted. Most, seem to live nestled in between.

My father longed to feel expansion, yet only knew the tightened feeling of discontent. It’s a painful thing, when seeing that in a loved one’s eyes. Like walking through the halls of a hospital, late and after all have gone home; within each room is someone wanting to live. Some are afraid to do so and have resigned to death, others stand at life’s gate, pushing hard for its release. All of it is felt by me.

I am told often that my characters within my books feel real, and intense. I have to believe it’s because that is how I absorb life – real and intensely – I don’t know how to do any other way. And I don’t really want it any other way. A lukewarm existence may sound like a welcomed reprieve, but I know it isn’t the life I’m here to live. And when a soul isn’t living the life they are intended to live, there is imbalance, disharmony and discontent.

There are many roads that appear easier than mine. Loves that seem smoother, careers less stressful, futures more certain. But that’s not the road I’m meant to walk – at least not today. I have felt great tragedy, and I have felt the unfathomable, wordless joy of miracles. Two extremes. This breadth of emotion has enriched my life. And I intend on taking all that it has given me, and pass it along to others. We aren’t so alone as we think.

I possess a very colorful emotional palette. I can’t look at it without a chuckle. I will not claim one color as better than the rest. I won’t treat it as a portrait that is without flaw. Instead, I notice the colors that take my breath away, just as easily as I notice the dark colors that used to make me cringe. I no longer deny those darker colors, as I now know they are what give me depth. Without those darker colors, my lighter emotional colors would not stand out. I used to view my darker colors as the undertow; I now view them as the current.

My father had a colorful palette, but he never knew how to appreciate his many different emotions. I saw the beauty in them – he did not. I see everyone’s colors. And no color is without beauty and purpose. No emotion should be denied or smothered; give all colors a place upon your canvas. You might be surprised to find that when you do – you finally become a masterpiece.


Full Disclosure

I have two thoughts on relationships. First: as much as disclosure brings intimacy; complete disclosure can be near catastrophic. And secondly: early within a relationship, one would do well if a calamity were to arise.

Let me further explain. When a couple first happily trots down the path of romance, there is often the desire to inquire about things they would be better off, in the end, not knowing; past sexual relationships being first on that list. When drawn to another there is an almost undeniable urge to gather all that can be gathered about this exciting person that has magically captivated one’s thoughts. Add to that, the fact that it seems almost a sign of a promising future when both feel freely to share all that was in the past; innocently hoping that by doing so they’re building a better future. To an extent, this is true – in essence. But in my humble opinion, let the past be the past and let the future be the future. It is the one and only way to create a pure, unadulterated relationship. Create your own memories. Leave the rest, at least the sexual ones, behind.

Someone from my past once told me how he and a woman had once done wild things with eggs – sexually speaking. To this day, that image still has a place within my mind. As an inquisitive gal my mind has and would wonder how they did what they did without the egg breaking, and more so, why they did what they did with an egg, of all things! There are far better, far more structurally sound food objects to be found – a plump radish for one! And didn’t they factor in the chance of broken shell fragments?

Lastly, it’s too easy to worry about measuring up to past lovers; the insecurity of which can easily inhibit one’s free spirit in the now. So I say, focus on the person that lives in the now – it is, after all, the only one that truly exists.

As for the other point. I feel one’s true colors come out during the worst of times. Anyone can love easily and with joy and kindness during the good times.

But when the world is thundering and it’s pouring hard, does the one you love provide shelter, or do they vacate; leaving you standing alone in the rain. While we live on this planet, in this particular time space dimension, there will, inevitably, be times when it not only rains, but pours; of that, there is no escaping. When my eyes are squinting from the battering winds, I want to look over and see that I am not alone. Because chances are, that person, if willing to stand by my side when soaked and wind whipped, will also be by my side when the skies clear and the sun shines bright. I know where I would be for those I love. I’d be holding the umbrella.

Maybe its my age, but I’ve been thinking a good deal about these things over the last year. Maybe its due to having witnessed human behavior at its worst. I would have made so many different decisions regarding that person had I only known. And God knows, I haven’t looked at an egg the same since.


Looking Back

In the end, when all is said and done, and I glance back over my life – I hope to have loved-well. I hope to have been loved; truly, deeply, madly. But more so, I hope that when I finally opened my heart to another, I did so beautifully, freely and with no regrets. And when I did, I filled crevices within their heart for which they never knew they had.

As generation after generation finds themselves single, it becomes apparent that loving-well is a lost art. I can’t say I’m masterful at it, but I can say I am purposeful and sincere. Never once have I cast my net so wide that my love was thin and without meaning. My circle is kept small – intentionally.

Love with ill intent or even just careless, can be life changing. There is the damage we have all endured, caused by the selfishness of others. And then there is the damage brought about by our own hand. The repercussions of both are staggering. But often those that have carelessly damaged, damage only those that so often pull back before damaging others. They move through life with one single aim; with a target that serves their own needs. I have no idea how to move through people toward my own gain. I once was both the target and standing in the arrow’s path.

Due to all of this damage, loving with pureness and beauty seems, more often than not, a thing of the past. With words that hold meaning and value, lovers used to find nourishment in the arms of another. Now there is need. Often, there is greed. I spent a decade with someone where need and greed were the invisible meaning behind his words of love. Nothing was sacred. It is unbelievably difficult to love, once someone has marred that which was supposed to be beautiful. Once defaced, it is near impossible to believe that it can ever be beautiful again.

I’d like to say I love easily. Loving easily sounds like actions of an enlightened soul. I haven’t advanced that far. But I do know that when I look back, there will be no one left stumbling to recover from my selfish aim. I hope those that are not still with me in the end, will be, at the very least, enriched from our time together. That, is the gain with which I hope to provide those that have been loved by me. Doing so, makes love beautiful.


The Doctor Will See You Now

S. Hoffman personal archives

Soon it will be a year since my father’s passing. When I think of it, without exception, my heart twists softly with grief; pain from his absence. And behind my eyes, rests a stream of tears I refuse to release. I’ve talked with my father many times over the last year; asking for advice, help and guidance. I can’t say I’ve ever heard him answer. Yet today, as I took my Harley out for the first time in three years, when I said, “Hello Dad,”  I felt him smile.

My father had one comfort while on this planet, and that was riding his bike. Whether as a teen breaking all the rules on his full dressed Indian or as a man of age on his Harley Davidson, struggling to make sense of a world that never felt right – there was no better medicine for his troubled mind and soul than that which he found on two wheels and an open road. I too struggle. And I too find comfort when two lone wheels take me through winding corner after winding corner. Even when surrounded by friends, numerous bikes swarming the road in a tight-knit formation, I still receive therapy.

To ride a bike, one must balance. If they don’t, they’ll fall. No questions asked. So when life has left me unsteady, uncertain and out of synch, once I sit on the seat of my bike I’m forced to find balance. And I always do. I wonder if that was what my father felt, and was that what kept him coming back time and time again to the place where he was forced to find balance in an unbalanced world. When on a bike, moving forward is required to remain steady. For the most part, unsteadiness happens when still. Perhaps that is why so many who are uncertain and have lost their way seek the kind of treatment a bike provides. Balance doesn’t just happen; it requires that we take a risk, move forward and lift our feet. And for many of us, its one of the only ways in which we ever achieve perfect balance.

When I sat on my bike earlier, it felt as though I’d come home; to a special place; the familiar well-worn seat that belongs in the wall-less office of my doctor. No longer inside, held behind glass or walls, I’m open, balanced and steady – I feel Life, and I’m pretty certain Life feels me.

My father used to say, “There’s no law governing how quickly one reaches the speed limit.” And with those words, I moved through the gears like a trigger-finger emptying a clip. In those few seconds, I tried desperately to let go of all that troubles me. After backing off the throttle, I listened to the pipes crack in protest; the sound of a motor content running hard, now harnessed into submission. I soaked in the familiar rumble as if it were the voice of a gentle, yet strong friend, reminding me to not give up. I find a kindred friend within the voice of my bike. I wonder if my father did too. Maybe that was why he always rode alone, so he could listen to that voice. I never got the chance to ride with my father – not, that is, until today.

In dedication to my father. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.