We Are Not All Created Equal

Despite what the U.S. Declaration of Independence states, all men are not created equal. Nor are all women. Ideally, people are equal under the law, but even that is a specious claim since so often rich folk who can hire high-priced attorneys with dozens of partners and associates are more equal than those who have to make do with overworked public defenders.

But this bloggery isn’t about such grand matters. It’s more about the little things that makes us so very different from one another.

People who love Mexican food are often perplexed by my dislike of cilantro. “How can you not like cilantro?” a friend asked me in accusatory tones, as if she thought I were being contrary by choosing to dislike something most people loved. I retaliated by asking her what cilantro tasted like to her. She said it tasted citrusy, slightly bitter and very refreshing. But that is not how it tastes to me. To me, it tastes like soap. Cilantro contains chemical compounds called aldehydes, which are also present in soaps and other cleaning agents, and apparently I don’t have the enzyme that breaks down the soap-like compounds of the herb into a tasty seasoning, so I get the full soap taste.

Regardless of what she seemed to think, I was not being contrary. Just unequal.

A similar situation happened when I drove a friend to her mountain home this weekend. In a couple of instances, I had to drive down very steep roads that made me feel as if I were free falling down an elevator shaft. She made a few comments about my nervousness, and she didn’t seem to believe me when I told her I wasn’t nervous, that it was a physical reaction. I explained it using the example of a level. Some people are born with something similar to the bubble in their center, so they always know where they are in relation to the earth. These people can turn cartwheels, ride roller coasters, descend steep slopes, and never lose their equilibrium. I on the other hand, have no bubble, so I never know where I am in relation to the earth. (It’s an inner ear thing, or so I have heard.) I remember once as a very small child, maybe 5 or 6, I took tumbling lessons, and I couldn’t do what the other kids did. I got too disoriented, and feared I would break my neck. (They always say kids that young don’t know there is such a thing as necks breaking, but I bet others who lack an inborn plumb bubble also were aware of the possibility.)

Again, I wasn’t being contrary by repudiating her calling me nervous, I was simply explaining our inequalities. Some things I can do, others can’t, and some things others can do, I can’t. It’s that simple.

I’m not sure that being equal is an important matter, anyway. We all wish to be treated the same as others in similar circumstances, and we should be. But other than that, it’s the ways we are unequal that make us who we are, and that is something to celebrate.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Few Moments in an Unsettling Dream

I woke too early this morning and a hard time getting back to sleep. When I finally dozed off, I dreamt of my deceased life mate/soul mate. The events in the dream must have taken place at the end of his life when he was so often disoriented, because he was trying to cook something, and he continued pouring whatever it was into the pan after the pan was filled, getting the food all over the stove, him, the floor, even me. I tried to catch his attention so he’d stop, and when I couldn’t, I slapped him to bring him back to reality.

I don’t know where that dream came from. I seldom dream of him, and never once did I slap him in real life, especially not at the end when it took all he had just to get through another hour — or even minute — of life. I never even considered slapping him. I hate women who slap men. If it’s not okay for men to raise a hand to women, it’s just as not okay for women to raise a hand to men, no matter what the provocation.

During those last weeks of his life, I was so eaten up with sorrow for him and for me, so focused on him and his well being, or rather his as-well-as-possible being, that I found infinite patience. (It was the year before that, when I didn’t know what was happening to him, when he became a stranger I didn’t even particularly like, that too often I found myself impatient. But even then I never raised a hand to him, though I did sometimes bristle and clench my fists in frustration.)

Still, whatever the origin of the dream, it’s left me feeling teary and even ashamed as if I really had slapped him. Although I always miss him and never forget him, I sometimes forget that once I lived a different life — a life with him — and the dream reminded me of that life. I do know that if he had continued to live, life would have been pure torture for both of us, and the dream reminded me of that particular reality. But oh, it was so good to see him, if only for a few brief moments in an unsettling dream.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.