With God as my Plumber

Last night God appeared in my dreams as a plumber to fix the drip under my kitchen sink.

Decades earlier I found God in a dream as a paraplegic on a raised cot in an old damp stone basement, dependent upon humans to do everything. Great mind and all that, but humans had to do all the work. It was revelatory, but God as plumber?

The question of the dream was not would there ever be world peace but would He use a mat to protect his elbows and shoulders as He scrunched under there to check the curved P-pipe. If you’re wondering what He looked like, He looked like a stockier version of His son as portrayed in popular movies, i.e. Jewish by way of Norway.

He wore white, but not a robe. It seemed to be a long smock over loose matching pants. Probably cotton, maybe linen.

We didn’t talk. It was about fixing the leak.

Later I dreamt of a large late-18 c. painting of commerce in Piazza San Marco in Venice as these words were said: New money buying out old money? Old money buying out old money? Old money buying out new money?


The painting could have been by Canaletto or Francesco Guardi, though I guess it was by me. No plot, only the painting and words. On the surface it has to do with the power struggle between entrenched long-term privilege and brash new energy, a topic that interests me both about money and society. (The painting looked most like this one by Canaletto, though mine had more people and was a diagonal view.)

Why Venice? I suppose the dynamic of old families with palatial houses on the sands of intrigue, upstarts, and betrayal. It is both established and collapsing, stratified and shifting. And, since money never means just money, this probably has something to do with my internal psyche.

Several times I woke giggling from dreams I don’t remember. They must have been doozies.

Point is: in the past two months, I lost my wonderful mother and I presided over her arrangements and estate, I swam with a sea lion and watched giant land turtles mate in the Galapagos, I was ill for nearly two weeks and am still physically depleted, I saw an exhibition of exquisite violent porcelains that nearly did me in, and I had a Valentine’s dinner for my adored women friends where we discussed the seeming conflict of privacy and transparency over good wine and truffles.

Alongside this, the world is erupting into new geographies of violence next to ongoing conflicts and brutalities. Our collective hearts are breaking.

Yet, we live and our souls claim their right to joy – and my mind seems to answer to that right by entertaining itself grandly.

I owe it to my mother. As she lay dying on the last day of 2013, I sat alone with her in her room at the nursing home. The room suddenly filled with the energy of a young woman whirling and laughing. She was free, celebrating, happy and wanting me to be happy. I was stunned, having never met that young woman before in all my life. And, yes, her energy was golden.

Her laughter cascaded into me as she whirled through the open spaces above me – a true trickle down effect.

And so I wake, laughing as God tends the leak, the tears, under the sink – ah, so that is the metaphor. Now I know.

I Want to be Johnny Depp

I want to be Johnny Depp. Period. No qualifiers, no “on the days I’m feeling wild.” No, I want to be Johnny Depp every moment. I want to walk as Johnny Depp, I want to scare people as Johnny Depp, I want to sleep as Johnny Depp. Not with, but as. I want to wear a dead crow on my head and beads to my naval over my bare chest. image

I don’t want to be a man, that’s not at all the point. I want to be me, female, but as Johnny Depp, not Juanita Depp, or Janice Depp. Johnny Depp. Totally.

I want talent that makes my teeth sharp and other people quail. I am the bow and arrow, they are the quiver. I want to step out of the ordinary and walk down city blocks in leather pants with ferret fur wrapped around my arms. I want to look out at the world through a mask of colors, eyes of a hawk, mouth as a line. Missing nothing.

I may not want to live off cactus juice but I would know that I have and that I could again if needed. I would have the paw or claw of my vision quest animal in a purple velvet bag held closed by a porcupine quill.

I want biceps that don’t show that I’ve ever been held by a man, I want freedom from having to please, needing to be pretty. Johnny Depp is all the pretty I need. I want to eat cuteness for lunch.

I want politeness to fall off behind me like old tin cans tied to a Model T. One clang per tin, and each gone forever. I want the Model T to fall off behind me, too. The wedding of niceness is over, my divorce from propriety finished. I won’t look back.

Not that I’ll ravish others, not that I’ll not abide by my code of what’s proper and just, a frontier justice nuanced by years of observation of the animal life of humans compared with wild gardens, sweet with compassion that is held in check by fatalism. But only I would know I had compassion, and I would do secret things to up the quotient of good in the world. And then walk silently on in my moccasins. I won’t look back.

Or maybe I’d just be the Mad Hatter, looney as a rainbow captured in a bell jar.

Or Sweeney Todd as a vegetarian, killing innocent broccoli.image

I want to be the Mad Hatter going into restaurants, a pirate going into business meetings, a maniac with scissors as hands going into the wilderness, and Tonto going into love affairs. Love me, love my dead crow. Humans fake a lot. My crow knows.

But I wouldn’t freak out at being larger than a house or smaller than a dope-smoking caterpillar. It would just be another day.

Yes, I want to be Johnny, crazy, but I’d have damn good beads, and my make-up would be stunning.

A GUIDE TO LIARS: living well is the best . . .

This is the final post of the series. Part 1 focused on that you are surrounded by liars and they are well-disguised. Part 2 examined the mental-emotional processes of deceivers, scammers, and narcissists and how their minds work differently than ours. It looked at delusion, empathy, guilt, entitlement, and conflicting impulses of superiority and inferiority. It touched on how liars project their qualities onto you, allowing them to blame you and fight dirty.

This post focuses on you and how to recover from injuries by deceivers. While it is not necessary to read Parts 1 and 2 to appreciate this post, you are encouraged to read the entire series – and file it nearby, just in case.

Part 3 of A Guide to Liars

Reality #9: your right to joy is inviolable

You have a right to joy. No one has a right to take that away from you, and you should not let them. I am not talking about fighting for goods or reputation. I am talking about your happiness.

Your first duty is to yourself as a miraculous creature on this earth. This is different than an aggrandized sense of your importance compared to other people’s importance. Your joy is intricately tied in with the joy and care of those around you. They are inseparable.

Your job is to sort out how best to care for yourself in relationship with others. That includes sorting out who supports you and your happiness and who doesn’t, and if any one person’s support matters or doesn’t, and, consequently, who should then be in your life and who shouldn’t.

Your job also includes protecting yourself in ways that will not set up or continue cycles of damage, i.e. the boomerang hit me in the head again effect. Winning battles with liars is seldom a productive goal, or realistic. Winning the battle to return to joy is both productive and reclaims – or perhaps claims for the first time – the golden chalice. It is realistic, and it can expand you into new levels of compassion, greater understandings, and more nuanced relationships. It also gives you the muscle, experience, and desire to help others.

Besides, you’re too good to keep down.

Reality #10: betrayal demands grieving

Betrayal is a kind of death, whether of your plans for your future or as the end of a relationship. Especially painful is to be betrayed by someone you loved and were, or are, committed to, someone you identified, or identify, your being with.

Betrayal by your mate can be as painful as a physical death. I have had recent widows say to me, “This I can survive, it is easier than betrayal would have been.”

Your trusted mate slipped away, abandoning you to face a stranger who is willing to harm you a lot and who, unfortunately, looks exactly like your missing mate – has the same gestures, same mannerism, same hands. Love does not turn around quickly. You stand, grieving the loss of your dearest friend as you have to become a warrior against a sudden enemy. It is immensely confusing.

And it will have the same grieving cycle as for a physical death even though you try to fast forward it because of the circumstances, even though people may not understand why you don’t instantly hate your betrayer. One day, months or years later, the grieving will be over. There is a release. It may be quiet, but you know when it happens.

I’m just acknowledging that for those of you to whom it has happened or are in this process; and I am telling those of you it hasn’t to remember that when this happens to a friend, male or female, that love isn’t turned off by fraud or savagery by their mate. It takes time and the grieving process is mucked up.

We have to learn to save ourselves with as much elegance as we can muster.

Reality #11: even stunned, you need to do some things immediately 

So, you’re reeling, your world has been turned upside-down, your money was scammed, your spouse blind-sided you, the child isn’t yours, the list goes on.

Gather your team immediately. Contact your friends and ask for support, secure your funds, get therapeutic help if you need it, find a great lawyer, make a budget, change your will and estate planning if pertinent – and start preparing yourself to walk away if it comes to that.

My double-life husband who never expected me to leave nonetheless had a lawyer by the next morning. A really nasty lawyer. It foretold what was to come. Do NOT expect deceivers, once exposed, to play nice. They might, I’ve heard some do, but for most you have become an obstacle to what they want now.

That said, do not engage in tit for tat. It is bruising and he or she is the pro, not you. I once watched a self-made Park Avenue lawyer swear under oath the truth of a story he totally fabricated, complete with detailed conversations, time and place. Now, he was a pro. You, however, whether in court or other conversations, need to rely on truth. It has to do with your relationship to yourself. It has to do with honoring your future.

Regarding your lawyer (if that’s where you are): check and re-check that they are doing what they agreed to do when they said they would do it, change them if necessary, see them only with a note-taking friend if you get confused, micro-examine and negotiate their charges, and strategize with them when to be tough and when to be yielding because most lawyers are stuck in either being “tough” or “compromising,” which can be another word for “giving in,” sometimes too soon.

Your lawyer is not in love with you, and he or she has other cases. You know better than they what might be best in dealing with your “adversary.” Trust, with scathing self-examination, your intuition. You get to mix it up, gentle one day, unyielding the next.

With your “adversary” – mate, business partner, other – save records of all communications, past and on-going. I advise witnesses. Taping conversations is allowed, just not as evidence in court if you didn’t tell the person you were taping that you are taping them. Reasons to tape? Liars change their stories, deny or forget what they said, renege on promises, and set you up.

I personally have never taped anyone without their knowledge, but I have refused to have conversations unless they were taped. It brings some element of carefulness and rationality to a conversation.

While it may feel weird, even alien, to strategize against someone you may have loved and/or trusted and/or worked with, get it though your head that he or she is strategizing against you. Get clear that someone who deceived you does not have your interest at heart and does not have a viable concept of justice. Instead of seeing their culpability, most liars blame you (specifically or as a representative of humanity) and they want revenge. You’ve messed with their projected happiness, you caused their troubles. She or he will not wake up tomorrow and stop lying because it seems like a nice thing to do.

Other concerns: eat well, dress beautifully, exercise, dance, change your hair, take a shower or bath very single day at least once, cry often, hug, don’t drink too much, never ever listen to sad music, and watch only happy movies – or movies where good conquers evil. I watched the entire seven year series of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in two months. My daughter brought the set over as immediate first aid. It was a brilliant move. Little girl kicks the crap out of evil non-dead people. (I love Angel, but ultimately preferred Sting.)

Reality #12: revenge is a two-way sword

There is fighting to reclaim – material goods, reputation, and other losses – that might have been taken away from you or at least to get some recompense. Then there’s “getting even,” which is about your anger and hate. “Getting even,” as usually used, means deliberately injuring the other person, business, corporation, or organization for personal vengeance, as a vendetta.

I believe that people are accountable for deception and calculated harm – rape, scamming, fraud, all of it. I also believe in going public, which you may have noticed. That is, I am not willing to cover up for liars, deceivers, bad actors. The shame is not in being deceived, it is in being a deliberate deceiver. I believe in holding up mirrors because I believe people should act decently towards others. If public knowledge, transparency, helps stop that, then good. Note: people who deceive, like other abusers, usually continue unless revealed.

That said, I’m not an expert on hate or anger. Fewer women than men are. It is men I hear say “I’m going to get that s.o.b.” and “(S)He’s gonna wish (s)he never messed with me.” Problem is, you can’t cut others without inflicting self damage. Hate corrodes. Revenge gives away your moral core.

I’m not saying women are nicer than men. Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t. What is sure is that we have learned that the court system is weighed against us, we are physically weaker than men, and society is quicker to condemn our bad  behavior, i.e. we have training in anger management and creative solutions in order to survive.

But let’s say you, male or female, are in a rage and feeling hate. (Hate is the hard top coat over the “softer” and more “vulnerable” emotions of grief, fear, and humiliation.) Therapists, friends, time, exercise, and art are aids to get past that, but first you must be willing to get past it.

Important: to get past rage and hate, to reclaim your right to joy, you must recognize that actions by you with the goal of doing harm, even in exchange for harm done to you, makes you (also) an aggressor. They change you in negative ways, and will cling to you through your life. Anyone can do harm. It takes more courage to find and walk the path where you receive justice as best possible without perpetrating gratuitous cycles of damage.

What you want is an end to it, what you want is to live well again, which is, after all, the best revenge. But you want to live well on your own, reclaiming your joy without constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure your injurer knows you are living well. Move on.

Now, this does not mean you can’t have some fun in the “make it public” area. A woman I knew in Brazil took out a huge billboard on the busiest street of Rio near her husband’s office that showed a photograph of his fancy sports car with its license plate. It said the person driving that car was having an affair. It was the first he knew she knew.

A woman I don’t know did something similar with a huge photo and announcement at Times Square in NYC. There are ways to vent and regain a sense of personal power that expose but are essentially fair. As one of my husbands said, you shouldn’t do anything you don’t want on the front page of The New York Times.

Reality #13: trusting again is a choice. Choose it.

Trusting again is a decision. You can, if you wish, stay outside of humanity and intimate relationships and never invest again, financially or emotionally. But do you want to live fully or not? Do you want to be creative or not? Do you want to be juicy or not? Do you want to dance or not? Do you want to expand your life and work and contributions or not? Do you have the courage to trust yourself to trust?

Will you answer to your fears or to your right to joy?

Now you’re older, wiser, have more compassion, and have learned what matters most to you, what is to be cherished and celebrated for its rarity and beauty. Cherishing and celebrating require sharing yourself and that requires trust.

Trust and gullibility are not the same thing. Enlightened trust is not gullible, it is grounded and watchful and does due diligence. It looks carefully, and checks for discrepancies. Not everything, every proposal, every person is to be trusted. Now you know. You know to look for the gems, usually people, and savor them more than you did before.

And now, when you do trust, you understand in advance that there may be a gap between what you prefer to happen and what may actually happen. But understanding that the gap may occur, you are prepared to leap over it or go another direction. Your trust can be both adventurous and flexible.

Without trust you cannot experience the warmth of people who want to be with you, who want to be nearby, who want to know about your life and be, in one way or another, loved by you and to love you.

Reality #14: you can forgive if you want to

Yes, I know forgiveness is essential to happiness and good health. I also know that so long as you don’t forgive, whoever abused you by any kind of deception has a hook in you. They may or may not care, but you sure feel it.

I’m not airy-fairy about forgiveness. For me it is somehow irrelevant. I just don’t want bad behavior to continue, and I think people should be accountable, but I’m used to that many liars appear to get away with deception, and I’ve made my peace with that. I don’t find these people very interesting. I find people of truth and courage to be interesting.

I also probably don’t like the exchange of deceivers owing me an implied apology. It leaves a kind of connection while I prefer neutralization.

If, for you, neutralization includes an internal act of forgiveness, then do it the quicker the better and again and again if you need to. Work it out. Come to it. Bring your full self back to joy. Don’t leave part of yourself behind, snarling in the dark.

Reality #15:  . . .  just to know, deceivers don’t get away with it

Even when liars appear to have gotten what they wanted, they are, unavoidably, alone. Surrounded, they are still alone. It’s unavoidable because they are not really there. There’s only a stand in, a fake, a deceiver, a pretender. People lose their own good company when they deny their authenticity. They sacrifice their right to joy, which always comes from inside, from the honest place, the hard working place, the place of love with others and recognition of kinship, the place of “two or more gathered . . .”

Reality #16: honesty

No one hasn’t been hurt. No one hasn’t lied. Most of these hurts and lies have been, or could be, laid to rest. They don’t need resurrection. They are compost.

Having free will, we make choices. Honesty works best over time because it keeps our own good company and, by processes I could not possibly explain, celebrates our right to joy.


A GUIDE TO LIARS: how a liar’s mind works

Part 1 (previously posted): you’re surrounded
Part 2 (below): how a liar’s mind works
Part 3 (coming soon): living well is the best . . .

Part 2 of “A Guide to Liars” 

The mind of a pathological liar has a sub-terrain with shifting plates of distorted perceptions and assumed privilege that split the worlds of the rest of us, our sense of what is real and what is the order of things. Their fault lines turn our lives upside-down. Whether that is through a Ponzi scheme, infidelity, false claims of expertise, embezzlement, or other frauds the patterns are the same, both of us and for them. In part 2 of this guide, we will look at them.

Reality #3: liars lie because they want to

In most societies we no longer need to lie to save our lives or remain healthy. Chronic liars choose to lie because they feel it serves them better and faster than honesty.

Yes, there may be differences in the brain structure of some pathological liars from that of the rest of us, specifically a lack of development in the area that differentiates truth from fiction that usually matures around age six; and pathological liars have been shown to have more white “wiring” matter and less grey matter in the prefrontal cortex of their brain than other people.

Nonetheless, the primary differences between chronic deceivers and the rest of us  is not our ability to tell reality from fiction but between our levels of greed, capacity for empathy, sense of privilege, and concern for “right” and “wrong.”

The interior fault lines of frauds have them experiencing inferiority and superiority at the same time. Their sense of superiority tells them they are above the normal rules while their sense of inferiority urges them to disguise their inferiority by acting above the rules.

Reality #4: liars and narcissists experience themselves as the center of the world

A subset of the colluding delusions of superiority and inferiority is “power corrupts,” where wealthy or other powerful people feel exempt from the rules (honesty, fidelity, paying taxes, for example) and they feel that what they want should be theirs because they are a “cut above.” Ethics and morals are revised to support an isolated life of privilege. Erasing the poor and deprived from your mind and actions is, by the way, moral deception.

Wealth is a test of character. I’ve lived around rich people. Most are deeply caring, welcoming, and generous. But I’ve heard others actually say they deserve whatever they want because they’ve worked so hard. Never heard a single mom working two jobs say that.

But not all frauds are wealthy and not all work hard. Most want fast and easy rewards and deception is the tool of choice – identity thief, scamming the elderly, faking resumes, embezzling, having affairs.

It’s easiest to do this when you experience yourself as the center of your world so completely that you feel yourself to be the center of THE world. Self-delusion, deception of others, and narcissism are the holy trinity of liars.

Narcissists have diminished empathy. They do not have a mature compassionate interior self. They lack the “ping” of relationship. They do not viscerally feel others as completely real. This makes deception of others easy.

As a character disorder, narcissism is notoriously difficult to treat because 1) narcissistic liars are not motivated by caring overly much about anyone else, 2) they get their way often enough that they have little incentive to change, 3) they are not troubled by their consciences as much as the rest of us, and 4) they feel superior to therapists. One study I read boiled down to “If you’re involved with a narcissist, turn around and run. Now.”

Reality #5: liars have skewed guilt meters

Most liar’s ability to cipher out what they should or should not feel guilty about is non-functional and nonsensical. One can have sympathy when this condition came from horrendous early experiences, but be careful. That was then, this is now.

Liars may or may not express remorse, some even beg forgiveness, some make promises, but there is an agenda behind it that is not about taking care of you or changing. (Did I mention the other ex-husband, the one who was physically violent? That’s how I learned that begging for forgiveness, even on your knees, and making promises can also be calculated lying.)

Reality #6: some liars lie as a way of life, or just to do harm

While most liars want to gain something – status, money, sex, admiration – others lie out of habit and/or the desire simply to harm others. One woman in the San Francisco Bay area is infamous as a broadband liar with a specialty in gratuitous character assassination. She convinced many of us that one ex-husband was so crazy and violent that for years I and others assumed he was in and out of institutions. In fact, he is a mild-mannered expert in the Far East, retired professor, world traveler, and author of many successful books.

She tried to destroy another man’s reputation by starting rumors he was a pedophile, and fabricated a case against another ex-husband as a compulsive spender buying wine at $1000 a bottle and suits at tens of thousands. Swearing to this under oath, in order to get special financial consideration in their divorce, didn’t faze her.

Often people who lie specifically to do harm also use “suck up” techniques on people they perceive as powerful or “above them.” It is two sides of the same coin used to climb an imagined ladder. Bring some people down, get other people to lift you up.

Reality #7: liars are usually very angry and almost always fight dirty

When most of us “try on” the feeling of lying – whether overt, covert, or by omission – we become uncomfortable because to deceive others is to alienate ourselves from our integrity. It separates us from our core being. We betray ourselves the instant we betray someone else. We lose our mooring when we lose our morals.

That is, bastardizing your integrity to deceive or do harm exacts a heavy price. When you are not honest with yourself, self-delusion, dissonance, and confusion move in. Your internal mirror is broken, so instead of seeing your shadow side, you project it onto others. What you unconsciously or only semi-consciously don’t like inside yourself you see as the qualities of other people, i.e. Pogo: we have met the enemy and he is us.

This projection makes deceivers formidable enemies because in their minds it gives them license to fight dirty. They see you as trying to cheat them, feeling entitled, and not giving a f**k about them. Their projection is seamless and may feel like the most real thing in their world. They can smolder in righteous indignation and rage to take you down. (Did I tell you about the former employee who cyber-stalked me and whenever someone wrote an article about me, she contacted them to tell them the “truth”? She had fabricated vital points of her resume, read and sometimes kept my private mail, and . . . so it goes.)

As projectionists, liars blame. As narcissists, they do not make mistakes. Failures in business, life, marriage, and family are caused by someone else, by the people who were supposed to do their work for them.

Mix together projected demons and narcissistic privilege. Stir in that even honest people who substitute short-term rewards for long-terms gains are usually disappointed.

And that is how chronic liars become so nasty.  I hope you never need to review this material.

Reality #8: liars’ abilities to perceive and grow are compromised

The dynamic is: once you’ve compromised your integrity, your capacity for self-examination is compromised. Your interior mirror is foggy if not outright splintered. You have no true way of seeing yourself, even the good parts, which everyone has somewhere.

In any case, most deceivers are so heavily invested in fooling themselves there’s no incentive to look deeply. The mirror, splintered or not, is not looked into or missed.

Now, everyone wants a sense of self. This desire is so strong that in order to grow – that is, to change ourselves – we feel we must have something to hold onto during the transition. For most of us that “something” is a baseline belief that we can trust our integrity. We feel our core essence will stay true even as we change. We believe we will find our way to larger truths and nuances and complexities and relationships, even if a tad wobbly. This allows us to mature and develop, have sophisticated beliefs, and nurture multi-level evolving relationships.

Liars, not sure their centers will hold through uncertainty, tend to freeze in place, clutching the same perspectives, worldviews, sense of privilege, and belief, usually that they are more clever than the next guy.

IMPORTANT: I can think of few things more courageous than a chronic betrayer or deceiver owning up to himself or herself to do the work to rebuild authenticity, to peal back the layers, to distrust his or her personal story. It would take such courage of self-examination, deconstruction, and reconstruction! The initial work is so important that the secondary work of personality reconstruction and of any recompense or apology to others is … well, secondary. Necessary, but secondary.

Part 3: living well is the best . . . will be posted soon. Learn the principles of recovery and why honesty is the best policy.


A GUIDE TO LIARS: you’re surrounded

 Part 1 (below): you’re surrounded                                                                                    Part 2 (tomorrow’s post): how a liar’s mind works                                                             Part 3 (following soon): living well is the best everything

Liars lie, some of them big time, some with the intent to damage others, others to aggrandize themselves, and others to gain perceived or real leverage in life situations. This “Guide” is not to take revenge on liars. I leave them to their own devices.

Rather, it is for those of you, the majority of us, who don’t lie big time and who chafe at deceiving others. It is intended for those of you who are unprepared and ill equipped for scammers and liars who have you in their sights or, if you have already been victimized, to help you understand what hit you. I recommend filing it under “emergency help.”

Why me?

Those of us whose spouses led double lives should have bumper stickers – I Climbed Betrayer’s Mountain or Honk If He Cheated. We are a large special interest group without social status or recovery programs. If your partner is alcoholic or a drug or sex addict, you have a 12-step program. Why not one for those of us were lied to, scammed, diced, and sliced?

As it was, I relied on my daughter and friends – and three medications and two therapists. Or the other way around, I’m not sure. I have only chards of memory like flashes of lightning against black from the first two years after my partner and husband of 18 years guided me into our garden and handed me a 3-page letter telling me of the other woman and their apartments in Beijing and San Francisco, and that from then on he would be spending half his time with her and half with me. I would always be the love of his life and soulmate, of course. She was mundane, really, and it had only been about sex but, alas, they had fallen in love. What could he do? He understood I might have “an initial period of upset.” He said so in the letter.

I was out of the house in 20 minutes with one suitcase that included, I swear, a cooking pan. That was six years ago.

I landed in an empty house we bought five months earlier that was under renovation. His vision, it turned out, was that she would stay with us often and teach him Mandarin script down by the Potomac River. Delusion and duplicity are intricately woven.

It also never entered his mind I might leave. (More on delusion and duplicity in Part #2.)

Over the next weeks, my hair went from straight to wavy, I lost 15 pounds, and one day I woke with the nose of a hunting dog. I could discern the separate smells of grass, dirt, rotting wood, and the river. I could smell a used washcloth across a bathroom. Grief and shock are physical.

We were written about as a “renaissance couple.” I believed he was the most honest man I knew.

People who have been betrayed become researchers. We are archeologists digging up ancient bones, historians of old letters and photographs, bio-physiologists of human development and sexuality, and amateur lawyers. We do research because we hope never to go through this again.

Reality #1: liars, liars, everywhere

Scientific reports show that one in every ten people is a liar on a scale unimaginable (taboo) to the rest of us. Even when secret, they are betraying our trust, and their integrity, routinely and deliberately. We do not suspect because things that are foreign to us do not enter our heads. This gives liars and cheaters free reign in the world of the unthinkable. (Prime example: Madoff.)

Now, when I go into a restaurant, a theater, any large group, I scan. Her? Him? I put a face on the statistics. I imagine every tenth person as a fraud. Who is betraying the person sitting next to them? Embezzling in the office? False resumes? Identity thief? Using their professional position to take advantage of others?

This practice keeps me alert, I recommend it.

Now, you and I lie. We all lie, but our lies are usually small ones and are usually meant to make other people feel good: “You look just like you did 30 years ago!” Or we smooth over an awkward situation: “It’s fine, no problem, really.”

But ten percent of us practice large-scale calculated deception for our perceived personal gain. We scam, cheat, betray and use others. We manipulate reality.

Of this ten percent, two-thirds are male and most of their lies are to enhance themselves to the world and themselves, or to conceal something from the world and themselves. That is, approximately half of all lying is fueled by the male ego’s desire for status and power. There’s no softer way to state that.

What is a “purple lie?’

Besides white lies, there are “purple lies” said by basically honest people who believed what they said when they said it. Usually spontaneous, “purple lies” often infer a commitment to the person they’re talking to: “doing lunch,” calling soon, being in love, going to Rome together. We’ve all been on both sides of “purple lies.”

The crucial difference between fraud and a “purple lie” is that the person who tells a “purple lie” wasn’t lying at that moment. They just should have thought more before speaking. Many lovely things said during passion fall into this category with the light of day. (On the other hand, passion is sometimes the only way to get to the truth, but that is different, possibly future discussion.)

Also, a basically honest person who tells a “purple lie” usually has some relationship with their conscience. He or she may then feel guilty and act weird. It’s a bad way to lose a friend, and happens too often.

My own code is that people prone to exuberant “purple lies” deserve leeway while deliberate strategizing liars are not entitled to leeway. Most, though not all, know they are deceiving. They seldom feel guilty. They seldom care what happens to others. They feel entitled to having advantages over the rest of us.

And they seldom give themselves away by acting abnormal. Lying is their normal.


Reality #2: good liars are, by definition, well disguised

A very successful friend of mine did not know for two decades that her husband was gay. She knew he was alcoholic, she knew he relied on her to make the money, she knew he could be nasty, but she had no idea he was having serial homosexual affairs. She’d never checked his porno sites. Now he lives with a man who matches my friend in size, color, and nationality, just not gender.

(Do you see the word “Liar” composing the face at right?)

Liars are everywhere and the best are indistinguishable from you and me until after you’ve already been had, whether by a mate, scammer, colleague, or stranger. The best liars are deceptive beyond your ability to perceive or anticipate.

Another friend was financially ruined when her prominent husband, whom she trusted with everything, was exposed in a multi-million dollar fraud. Public humiliation was poured on top as she lost her home, finances, and spouse.

My favorite example, however, of living with a fraudulent spouse is a male friend who found that his husband of many years had not been raised by an eccentric great-aunt backstage in Paris theaters after his parents were killed in a car accident. Nor had he been taken under the wing of Marlene Dietrich, despite the book he wrote, and that was published, about their relationship. One day an unknown woman showed up at their home outside Las Vegas, a woman who had finally tracked down her brother. His very alive parents, who had raised him quite ordinarily in middle-class society, turned up shortly after. My friend was not charmed, and the marriage was over. It also had something to do with the life-shortening illness that didn’t really exist.

Part #2 of the Guide to Liars will be posted tomorrow. Find out why liars lie and why they fight dirty.

A Valentine to all my lovers, ever

There was the lover who wrapped me in grape vines, another who sent me poems written in his blood, another ran with me in large intertwining circles in the cold of winter in a Tennessee valley under a full moon, another made me dinners and cleaned up afterwards. Even swept the floor.

Then, there was the husband who after 18 years of more or less ignoring Valentine’s Day changed his pattern and reserved the best table at a French restaurant and had roses waiting. I found out six months later he was living a separate life with another woman and apartments in Beijing and San Francisco.

And, there was the husband who was violent, and the one who brought a custody suit against me. These are three different men. Each injured me, and each has been overcome, and each taught me that love is too precious to be thrown out because some people aren’t good at it.

As a woman of a certain age, romance still matters, more precious than ever. Catastrophes still bruise but less than before – and my women friends are pros at care and tending.

I have had a pendulum swing towards where I forgive flaws knowing that otherwise there would be no one in my life, and “forgive” is not the right word because it implies I hold a balance to determine good and evil, and I do not. Life is an unfolding story, not a legal case. No one doesn’t mess up, even as some mistakes are inexcusable. And the people who did inexcusable things maybe shouldn’t be in your life or mine but we can get on with our lives because we are terrific.

I have had a pendulum swing towards where being loved is a gift that thrills me as an aurora would thrill me, as chocolate truffles thrill me, as Maria Calos thrills me. Love is our natural condition, but it is still a gift. We could have all been reptiles and missed out on love.

Love is the light. Love is when someone touches your lips and you are suddenly no longer in the nitty-gritty of life, death, and taxes. Love is when your grandchild says almost anything and your heart dances. Love is tending your parents when they forget your name. Love is why we keep going.

To all my lovers, ever, and I’m sorry if I don’t remember your name – being in my twenties during the sexual revolution means I can never run for public office – to all my lovers, ever, some of you were good and some of you were not so good, some of you I think about and some I don’t, some of you were older and some of you were younger, some of you were poetic and some of you were not, some of you were rich and some of you were poor. To all my lovers, ever, I wish you to be loved well, even superbly, this Valentine’s, with or without grape vines, but surely with a sharing of household chores and a cleaning up after meals.

Galapagos birds: by land, sea, and air

pelican with marine iguana, pelican, marine iguana, Galapagos

Pelican with marine iguana.

The birds of the Galapagos were far beyond my ability to comprehend in a week. There are nineteen species, five of which exist only (are “endemic”) to the islands. They vary from the brown long-necked flightless cormorants to blue-footed boobies, miniaturized penguins, and the varieties of Darwin finches from island to island that led the good man to contemplate “survival of the fittest.”

How did any of them get there? The Galapagos are a thousand miles from anywhere. Fly, glide, ride vegetation rafts, swim up the Humboldt Current?

And what were the odds of a male and female bird of the same species getting there at the same time? What does that mean in terms of all the other birds that launched off deliberately or by accident and perished mid-Pacific Ocean? The Galapagos are small, the Pacific Ocean is large. Sighting land, eden ahead? Let’s go there and evolve into a new species!

Given the magnitude of questions, I am simply going to show you some of my bird photos in the hopes you can catch the wonder without the scientific data. Enjoy!

Immediately below are a lava heron and the famous blue-footed booby:

lava heron, bird, Galapagos

blue booby, Galapagos, birds






Here, the flightless, swimming birds, little penguins and cormorants:

penguin, Galapagos penguins, Galapagos

cormorant, Galapagos, bird

cormorants, Galapagos, birds

Darwin’s finches: yes, beautiful

finch, Darwin's finches, Galapagos, birds finch, Darwin's finches, Galapagos, birds,

And, signing off, with a couple of brown pelicans:

pelican, Galapagos pelican, Galapagos


Galapagos: turtle and tortoise (lack of) romance

She was young and he was old, a mere toddler when President James Garfield was shot in 1881. To be specific, according to our guide, the male giant land tortoise was between 130 and 140 years old and approximately 800 pounds while the female was one-sixth his size and 30 years old at most.


To be more specific, male giant land tortoises do not lose virility or impulse with age. Nor do they care if humans surround them and take photos. Male giant land tortoises, when in the mood, have only one thing in mind. ( . . .  and they achieve this by a sex organ in their tails. Don’t ask.)



The female, however, wasn’t on with the same plan. Escape under his fore flipper was her only chance. We women silently encouraged her despite our mutual concern for land tortoises as an vulnerable species.

(They arrived 2-3 million years ago by drifting 600 miles from the South American coast on vegetation rafts or by floating and swimming. Once numbering between 100,000 and 200,000, now 20,000-25,000 tortoises live on the islands, up from a low of 3,000 in the 1970s.)

If impregnated, our female would spend 3 months walking across the island to dig a deep hole in the beach sand, lay her dozen or more eggs in it, and then spend 3 months returning to the center of the island. And then she repeats this for a hundred years.

Tortoises don’t do much else. DSCN3452DSCN3468They hang out in shallow ponds or stroll and nibble cactus pads, grass, and low-hanging fruit. They don’t have to eat or drink for up to a year.

Actually, not needing food or drink worked horribly against them when whalers, fur sealers, and buccaneers realized they could chuck live giant tortoises in the holds of their ships to kill whenever they wanted fresh meat – though the tortoises did have distinction of having the islands named after them. Galapagos means “saddle” in Spanish. The giant land tortoises come in two main groups: the smaller saddleback with a shell that curves downward in the middle, and the domed back with a shell that is domed. Our May-December couple was domed.



Sea turtles, on the other hand, have their own mating issues. An adult male, about 2/3rds the size of an adult female, climbs on top of the female at sea while his buddies or rivals push in. The female holds both herself and the mating male up, trying not to drown. Below you see the male on a free ride while another male is coming in from the side. The female? … well, she’s under water.


Turtles are reptiles, they have lungs, they need oxygen. Not much, but if they are active, they need a good intake every few minutes. Each mating season there are drowned females at the bottom of the coves.

I was, by chance, on site for each mating session. Like the other women, I identified  with the females and their plight. The men mostly went silent.

There was not a speck of pruning, preening, giving of gifts or flowers, no dances, no “aren’t I the cat’s meow?” Nothing. Turtles have existed for 200 to 300 million years. Evidently the need for spectacle and seduction evolved later, was only needed later. Maybe style entered in with species complexity, i.e. awareness of difference and self. My feathers are brighter than yours, my mane is bushier than yours, my Armani outdoes your L.L. Bean. I like seduction, I like gentleness. Yet . . .DSCN2452

All said, the sea turtles and giant tortoises were marvelous. Snorkeling with 12 sea turtles at one time was thrilling. They swan six inches under our bellies and slept below us. (At rest, they can go without breathing for a couple hours.)

Yes, tortoises by day, and a great chablis by night. Each to his own species.

DSCN3222 (1)


More tortoise and turtle photos: they pretty much all look alike.



DSCN3443 DSCN3206


Galapagos: Sea lions, oh my ….

sea lions, Galapagos, beach, lava

Enlarge all photos for greater impact.

An endangered species, Galapagos sea lions breed exclusively in the Galapagos – or on little Isla de la Plata off the coast of Ecuador. There are 20,000 to 50,000 of them, down about 50% from 30 years ago.

They are threatened by el Ninos, which are expected to increase with global warming, and sharks and killer whales when they venture far out in search of, yum yum, sardines.  . . . not to mention fisherman nets and poachers looking for a profit on bull penises sold as aphrodisiacs.

sea lions, Galapagos, beach, sea lion group


Otherwise, their lives consist of swimming, sleeping in the daytime sun, lolling on and over each other, mating, mothering, and being cute or elegant (take your choice) furry bags of blubber.

sea lion, Galapagos, lava beach, lava, sleeping mammal


sea lion, Galapagos, lava beach, sleeping mammal

sea lion, sleeping sea lion, sleeping mammal, Galapagos, face of sea lion, baby sea lion, baby mammal

Why they are called sea lions, or sea wolves (“lobos marino” in Spanish) instead of sea dogs or sea bears makes no sense.

Look at this face. Their faces convince you they are safe even when you are warned to stay 12 feet from the bulls.

sea lion, bull sea lion, Galapagos


(Bull to right, not quite as cute.)




But what’s important is: I SWAM WITH A SEA LION!

Sammy, the guide, ever vigilant to my happiness, tapped my flippered foot and pointed. Fifteen feet away, among the rocky crevices, was my new dance partner. As I approached, she came towards me and began to whirl, twirl, and make loops and circles with her body. It was I who backed off. Less than three feet between us crossed my comfort zone.

She broke away once to chase off two smallish sharks 12 feet below (oh, yeah), then swam back, looked me in the eye, and we danced again. Later she danced with others, and that was okay because we danced longer, and she loved me more than she loved them, and I think of her every day. And I miss her, and I hope she thinks of me, and . . . and . . . .

Reality: the mothering aspect of sea lions is peculiar. Once a baby is a week old, its mother returns to the sea in her daily (nightly) food search. Things happen. She might not return, in which case the baby is doomed. It will not be adopted by another mother.

sea lion, sea lion mother, sea lion cub, nursing sea lion, Galapagos


Mothers identify their babies by the sound of their “bark” and their smell. It works both ways. Babies sniff their way across piles of sleeping seals to their mothers where they attach themselves to a teat and suck loudly as they too fall asleep.


sea lions family, sea lion, Galapagos


In sum: sea lions are sculptures in fur, varying in color from gray to gold. They cannot be awkward, though . . .

sea lions, Galapagos, sleeping sea lions

young sea lion, Galapagos, running sea lion, sea lion, beach

. . . the sight of a sea lion scrambling across sand has cognitive dissonance to it. How does that work?

They flipper to everywhere – to a pier bench, a tubular slide of a children’s playground, to the top of the stairs of the first leg of the climb to Darwin’s Lake.

sea lion, Galapagos, sleeping sea lion, sea lion on park benchsea lion asleep, Galapagos, sea lion in child's slide, sea lion




sea lion at top of stairs, Galapagos, sea lion




Sea lions just are. They have no appointments and not much to say. You want them to be here forever, to loll, sleep, mate, and swim in loops and whirls, and circle 8’s for flabbergasted tourists.

You want, actually, to lie down next to them in the sand, to see their dreams and just be.

Galapagos, sea lions on beach, Patricia Smith, Patricia Smith Melton, beach, sea lions

Galapagos: iguana ravings

marine iguana, galapagos, iguanaIF THERE ARE PEOPLE who can talk rationally about the iguanas, especially the marine iguanas, of the Galapagos Islands, I am not among them. Neither was Darwin, nice polite young rich guy that he was.

marine iguana, Galapagos, lava rock

I encourage you to enlarge all photos for close up inspection.



The iguanas are too freaking weird. Jurassic weird. A thousand-minds-working-as-one weird. Stare you down weird. My great-great-grandmother was a dragon weird – and she flamed people like you for dinner.

marine iguanas, Galapagos, iguanas


There are two major groups of iguanas in the Galapagos. See photos (right, above, and throughout) of marine iguanas finding you only mildly interesting.

Land iguanas tend to be somewhat larger and more colorful than the marine iguanas, which are unique (“endemic” is the word) to the Galapagos and swim in the ocean next to your rubber panga (dinghy) alongside sea turtles, miniature penguins, sea lions, pelicans and other birds, and various fish, and the occasional shark.

Land iguana, which stay high and dry, are in two photos below only.

Galapagos land iguana, iguana, Galapagos

galapagos land iguana, iguana, Galapagos






How iguanas got to Galapagos is also beyond my rational thought. Land iguanas on a floating tree trunk traversing more than 500 miles of open sea from the coast of what is now Ecuador? Then, over thousands of years the low-life, early-adaptor cousins branched off to get fish from the sea while the patriarchs held command of the high ground of lava and ashy sand? And it would have had to be more than one iguana on that log. Life is two by two, after all.

I mean, it must be possible. It had to have been. The penguins had to have arrived via the Humboldt Current from Antarctica. This is 6000 miles, shortest route. Were they looking for better prospects? Escaping religious persecution? Or did a couple just go out for a romantic evening swim and get carried away for, like, forever?

galapagos penguin, Galapagos, penguin

Then, once to the barren lava islands, their offspring became smaller and smaller until they are now only 50% larger than a football. I’d guess it has to do with keeping cool at the equator, which is why they are in the water a lot and why when on land they tend to hold their flippers out to protect their feet and why they pant.


Returning to iguanas: marine iguanas are charcoal color for the most part and  camouflaged on the lava rock and sand. They hang out together. See photos, and squirm.

marine iguanas, Galapagosmarine iguanas in groups, marine iguanas, Galapagos




marine iguanas in sun, Galapagos, marine iguanas, sun worship



And they are cold blooded – but you knew that – so they like the sun. Sammy, one of our guides, calls them the original Aztecs, sun worshippers. And who wouldn’t be, waking up on cold volcanic rock at the equator where you would have assumed, wouldn’t you, it would be warmer?

See photos, and imagine basking, surviving the cold.

Marine iguana males are vaguely territorial, probably heightened by it being mating season for reptiles and amphibians in the islands. See photos, but do not replicate.

fighting marine iguanas, galapagos, mating, reptiles

fighting marine iguanas, Galapagos, mating ritualsI

I saw mating sea turtles, giant land tortoises, and Galapagos lizards. None of it romantic. Galapagos male lizards try to eat the females while mating and sea turtle males don’t care if the females drown. See my comments on that and photos at blog titled “First Thoughts on Millennia of Lava.”

Marine iguanas hang out with their own, but have a symbiotic relationship with birds that can clean ’em up, are benignly curious about sea lions, and can’t avoid the ubiquitous red crabs. See photos, but do not imagine warm fuzzy friendships. (Look closely for black bird on back of iguana.)

marine iguana with bird, marine iguana, galapagos Galapagos, marine iguana, sea lion

marine iguanas, red crabs, Galapagos, lava rock

I saw a 1000 marine iguanas, surely. They are everywhere, ignoring you while submerging you in primal recollections. I envied their communal life, lack of responsibilities and of guilt, and their sense of being present where they are – and their fearlessness even if not because they are courageous but because it doesn’t enter their group mind that anything would harm them.

marine iguanas, Galapagos

galapagos, marine iguanas


That said, probably better to see one than be one. They can’t read and they can’t laugh. They cuddle, but do they love?

Galapagos, marine iguanasmarine iguana, Galapagosmarine iguanas, Galapagos, lava sand

(See photos below. Enter the silence.)