sani-white smiles

Back in 2009, when I was hanging out a little farther uptown on the UWS, I stumbled on a small, old fashioned, shoe repair shop. Eureka!!!! The boots in the trunk of my car whose heels were so worn down I was practically walking on my ankles could have that well deserved make over! So I seized the opportunity, ran back to the car, and carried them in to meet their re-maker.

As I opened the door, the aroma of shoe polish and leather catapulted me directly back to scenes of childhood in Jersey City and visits to Presto Shoe Repair shop. Going to Presto’s was one of my favorite errands. Bill and Whitey were so nice to me, always took extra special care of our shoes and always put a smile on my face. The store was warm and had an interesting vibe. It was long and dark with a bank of cushioned seats against the wall that looked a little like a series of church confessional boxes. There were small kneeler like things inside each box where I rested my little bare feet or sat on while patiently waiting for my repaired shoes.

And that aroma … I’m not sure why but the combined smells of leather and shoe polish have always been a favorite to me. And climbing into one of the high sided box like seats always felt like tucking into a fort where I could secretly listen to conversations and the whirring sounds of the machinery and crinkle of the paper bags that contained the shoes being picked up by other customers. But Bill would always come over to find me and we’d laugh and talk for a bit. He was the first African American man I’d ever met and was one of the kindest adults working on Central Avenue. I liked him a lot. He had a beautiful smile, a soft voice and I always enjoyed talking and listening to him. Such wonderful memories.

Well … here I was, not in Presto’s … no Bill, no Whitey … heck, not anything CLOSE to being in Presto’s but that smell and the sounds and, OMG, ONE BIG WOODEN CUSHIONED FORT!?!?!? In my imagination it WAS Presto’s all over again. I was in awe. And I sat, smiling inside, waiting patiently for my boots. I didn’t try to hide, though. Damn maturity.

All of a sudden I spied … WAIT … can it be? There. In the display case. Looking exACTly the same. BOXES OF … holy moly … *SANI-WHITE*!?!?!?!? Magic again. Hollywood sani-white, the chalky white polish for keeping nurse’s shoes clean AND “Excellent for Sneakers Too!”

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Now, new memories flooded in of PF Flyers and always having a box of sani-white in my gym locker for those random gym uniform inspections during which the drill sergeant gym teachers graded us for a nicely kept/ironed uniform and crisp white socks and sneakers. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. No kidding … we had a specific line up, too … and it was RIDICULOUS … and just thinking about it again makes me laugh. Memories of the urgent whispers in the locker room warning us of the inspection AND the rush to slap sani-white onto grimy sneakers before sliding into my spot on the gym floor while trying to smooth out the wrinkles on the uniform AND hide the white on my fingers … just. priceless.

The man at the counter woke me from my memories and, to my delight, the make over was a major success. My boots were better than new and he’d even given them some extra care by nicely polishing them. Just like Bill and Whitey. I walked out onto Broadway, a huge smile in my heart, and met my “bello” with tales from the shoe repair store (and Hollywood sani-white) flying out of the snow globe as if it was a snow blower. That Christmas, tucked in among his gifts to me, was my very own box of Hollywood sani-white. I was THRILLED (it really IS about the little things, you know)! And, until today, it stood unopened amid the other fun things in the shrine on my desk.

Today, as I got dressed to meet a friend for brunch, I pulled out my cute, springy, girlie Chucks and noticed that they needed to be cleaned up a bit. Rather than use Soft Scrub or a little Comet, for some reason I was drawn to that box of Hollywood sani-white. Should I open it? Should I disturb the shrine? YEAH. I carefully opened the box (as if not wanting to disturb the nurse if I could help it) took out the bottle (which, of course, is now plastic) and shook it to mix the contents. Then, at the bottom of the box, and to my sheer delight, I found the cheesy rectangular applicator pad that always left as much product on your fingers as on the sneakers. I cracked open the bottle and got down to business … and smiled with a heart full of memories …. that included him, and the boots, and the shoe repair store on Broadway, and gym inspections, and Presto’s and Bill.

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So grateful, grateful, grateful.
Peace ❤️

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breakups and black tuesday

After four years I’m still trying to navigate the waters of rejection that rose after a breakup I didn’t see coming; still in pain over something I felt so securely invested in and still wondering why it happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve healed quite a bit. I’m not sitting around with my thumb up my a** … I mean … in my mouth … pouting. That part has eased off … mostly. And, honestly, the intuitive me is so very grateful to him (and my yoga practice) for throwing me into the deep end of the pool and being the catalyst for this latest spurt of spiritual growth.

During these years I’ve developed a deeper curiosity about myself as seen through the lens of relationship. I’ve been reading the books, participating in workshops, journalling until my fingers turn blue, listening to enlightening webinars and, through the work of wonderful guides, have spent quality time looking inside for clues to unravelling my knotty “patterns” of being. Ironing my wrinkled “love imprint.” Nursing my “core wounds.” Rolling in the mud looking around for the lotus. Weeding my overgrown garden. Hmmm … maybe a little medicinal “weed” would’ve helped. 😉

On occasion, though, I wonder why it’s taking so farkin long to completely disconnect from the unrealistically hopeful longing for a renewed “us.” After all, I’m not a kid anymore. HE walked away. HE didn’t want that “us” anymore. At first it seemed a little muddy but now, when I’m in my “right” mind, and after all this time, it’s very clear that hope has no place in this picture. The adult me recognizes and can even list all the hunches she had that it might eventually end. But, would also argue, what relationship is smooth? Isn’t a relationship about teamwork in the inevitable tough times and the beauty of subsequent growth together? Isn’t this just a tough time? Well … Leaning in to the tough times together was never on the table. So … Game over. Right? Nope. For me it’s lingering doubt, hope and confusion. So, what the heck? What’s this attachment; this long term internal nagging about?

The deeper psychology of the attachment could be a story for another day … or maybe not. Ever. But this week, in the shower as usual, an odd but interesting little idea of an answer floated up into the snowglobe. It was during one of those “you can’t tell the tears from the shower droplets” moments when my inner comedian raised an eyebrow and yelled, “THIS MUST BE WHAT IT FELT LIKE AFTER BLACK TUESDAY … THE STOCK MARKET CRASH OF 1929!” What?!?! I mean …. WHAT?!?!?!? The thought poked fingers in my tear ducts and made me laugh for a moment (oh the brilliance of humor and the intuitive will to get out of one’s own way). I got it. And the idea was worth exploring to see where it would lead.

So Black Tuesday actually showed up as telephone call on a Black Friday … having NOTHING to do with Christmas. Essentially, in that call he crashed the relationship. Everything that had been freely and optimistically invested in our world and its future, my exclusive heart, mind and spirit, was suddenly lost. The ensuing “Great Depression” left me feeling mentally and emotionally bankrupt and vulnerable in the love department but hanging on tenaciously to crumbs of hope for reconcillation. Recovery from loss takes time. Sometimes it takes more time than we think. But this isn’t death and it can’t take ten years like the actual Great Depression, can it? So how much time is enough time for sudden breakup recovery? (Hint: the answers are all inside of us, just ask your inner comedian)

In his book, “The Cause and Consequences of the Great Depression, Part 1: What Made the Roaring ’20s Roar,” Richard M. Salsman states, “Anyone who bought stocks in mid-1929 and held onto them saw most of his or her adult life pass by before getting back to even.” YIKES! “Most of his or her adult life???” Finding that quote was an eye opener! If it took that long to rebuild a stock portfolio, would it take that long to renew and recover our fragile emotional/spiritual portfolio? NO … (“as god is my witness”)it will NOT take most of my adult life … or what’s left of it. It just CAN’T. Truth be told, the currency of our hearts, minds and spirits is self renewing; deeper, richer, stronger, more malleable and more abundant than our money. Our precious portfolio is ours to steward and not at the mercy of economic indicators. We, alone, decide how full or how empty; how tender or how armored; how open or how constricted it is. We, alone, decide when enough time is enough time.

If I’m willing to say so, and given everything I’ve experienced on this journey so far, my precious portfolio is full enough, rich enough and strong enough to be reinvested right now.

The trickiest part, as I see it in this moment, is moving through the pervasive fear of another Black Tuesday. There are no guarantees that it won’t happen again. I have to find a way to trust that I’m not in the same place I was four years ago. I’ve grown. This time I’m intuitive enough to reinvest *wisely* AND resilient enough to land on my feet if necessary.

peace ❤

lessons from the train

A homeless man boarded the Express 2 train at the far end of the car I was riding in. I wasn’t paying much attention to what he was saying because my mind was resting in that “ok I’ve heard this all before” mindset so he sounded a little like Charlie Brown’s teacher. As he worked his way closer and landed near the door across from me, though, he raised his voice and said, “You know, people, that was a joke and it’s okay to laugh. Just because I’m homeless, it doesn’t mean I don’t know how to laugh and tell jokes. If I got on the train and just told the joke you’d probably be laughing but, because I told you I’m *HOMELESS*, you’re not laughing.” Well, he’d grabbed my attention and I was laughing and nodding with him. It was all so true.

Then … he looked around, lifted his hands up and began to mimic all the folks who were busy with their gadgets and sneered, “You’re not even paying attention. Too many distractions. You don’t know what’s going on in the world around you … you’re not even listening ….. too many distractions … you’re too busy with your distractions to even pay attention to what’s going on right in front of you … iPad, iTouch, iPhone, iTunes …. I … I … I… I … It’s all about *I* and you forgot all about *WE* … too many distractions … I … I ….I … I.” And, as quickly as he got on, he slipped off the train at 42nd street.

His riff was brilliant. And left me speechless but buzzing with curiosity about this man’s background and the effect of technology on human nature. He was gone and headed across the platform to the 1 train. But as the doors of the train closed, I looked around to see the profiles of EVERYONE in the seats on my side of the train busily tapping away on their gadgets, ear buds tucked in tightly with the wires cascading down along their shoulders. And EVERYONE in the seats opposite me was either tapping on a gadget or reading something. NO ONE on those benches was looking up or around and I felt such an immense “don’t bother me” kind of distance between all of them. I’d noticed this before but this time, with the homeless man’s words in my heart, it was at once fascinating and a little sad.

While I understand and celebrate, to some degree, our technological advances, I often wonder: Is it possible that our worlds are shrinking down to the size of the faces of our gadgets; that technology is serving to further separate us by skewing what it means to be connected? Am I missing something or is it very odd that people cry and wail about events happening in remote parts of the world while using the same technology to ignore hardships happening in the train or on the streets at their feet? Is it possible that the faces and the sounds of our gadgets are beginning to have greater value to us than the faces and sounds of our fellow humans and our immediate worlds? Are we becoming addicted to *I* and missing out on the *WE?*

I whole heartedly believe that we are all teachers for one another. So, after connecting with this beautiful teacher on the train, my lesson arrives in the form of a reality check…

Where do I land in the midst of my observations on the train? How addicted am I to the *I*? Am I listening and paying attention to life around me? Am I making and taking enough time to nurture connection, compassion and humanity with other beings who share the wide open spaces with me? Or am I allowing the allure of my gadgets to incrementally usurp my attention and pull my gaze down into that hard little surface? I’m not completely sure of the answers at the moment but it’s worth the self study. There’s nothing like a little awareness to recalibrate your life.

With all humble gratitude to the trainman for poking at my mind and heart today.

surrendering soulfully

So as I continue to play in the mud of my life on a quest to reclaim “me,” the latest teacher on my nightstand is Panache Desai’s Discovering Your Soul Signature: A 33 Day Path to Purpose, Passion & Joy.”  It’s a wonderful book if you’re ready and willing to explore some of life’s “stuff.”  Plus, Panache has a terrific way of framing concepts we searchers have repeatedly experienced in other works.   I’m in day 13 and it’s been quite a lovely and gut wrenching ride. 

This is how it works.  Each chapter of the book is focused on one concept and divided into three segments, Morning, Noon and Night, designed to be read at those times of the day.  For example, Chapter One’s focus is on Fear.  The Morning segment sets the stage, posing questions to ponder around fears.  Noon introduces suggestions for identifying and working on fears throughout the day.  Night provides a nice release of the concept, before bed, in beautiful and loving language.  The thought in my mind at the moment is that, each chapter is almost like a yoga class that includes all the components of yoga except the “exercise” (which would be the reverse of the structure of our studio based yoga classes).

But this isn’t a post designed to promote the book.  

As I said, I’m now in Day 13 of discovery and, after exploring Fear, Sadness, Anger, Guilt, Shame, Self Judgement, Patterns, Addictions, The Ego, I’m Not Good Enough, Shattering Inner Sabotage and Triggers, the focus is on “Soulful Surrender.”  Soulful.  Surrender.  Surrender is just that, isn’t it? Surrendering your entire being to the disturbances and being willing to ask for and invite in help from whatever you believe to be the divine source.  “I’m here.  I’m tired of struggling on my own. Please help me.  Whatever it is, I’m ready to accept it.  Please show me how to play differently.”

As I was reading the Noon segment and the suggestions for mindfully moving through the day these words leapt from the page:

“What would happen if you were to move through your day as if you’ve already lived it?  If you’ve already lived it, then you can glide gently through each hour as it unfolds.  Everything has already happened.  You don’t have to press.  You don’t have to fight.  You don’t have to assert yourself or your will.

You don’t have to control anything.

All you need to do is be present.”

The first thought that came to my mind was, “in an odd way, that’s like watching “Amelie” (my favorite film) over and over.  Each time I watch it, I always find something new!  When we see a movie we like, we don’t get it all the first time.  The mind is too occupied with other things on that first viewing, like figuring things out ahead of time or critiquing the acting/directing, popcorn, etc.  But, once you’ve already seen it, all that need to know ahead of time has been dissolved and, in each subsequent viewing, you see something new … something that was always there but, somehow, you missed it.  You’ve simply become more present to the movie as it is.  You’ve seen it already and can now relax into each moment.  

So, YES.  This idea made complete sense … consider moving through the day as if I’ve already lived (or seen) it …. diffuse the need to know or to control the events or figure out how the day is going to go and, rather, really just experience the beauty of the ups and downs of the day.  By being present to what is.  And why not? It’s already been lived.  Been there, done that, the edge is off.  I surrender to what is … help me. 

As I’m writing, another flake that’s popping up into the snowglobe is that it’s also like finding something you’ve lost.  How often has it happened that, after searching through the same places twelve times like the tasmanian devil, you FINALLY give up … SURRENDER … completely!   And curiously, once you’re back to breathing normally again, you get an image in your mind.  You see that thing clearly hiding in one of those obvious places where you frenetically and mindlessly “looked” twelve times?  (Honestly, did your eyes even really settle on those places?  Or were you actually rifling through each place with your attention onto the next possible place?) And doesn’t it feel as if the object was laughing as it hid in plain sight, watching the comedy show of YOU frenetically searching but never LOOKING, gently, mindfully and presently, in those nooks and crannies. 

Imagine what could be possible if, instead of struggling, we opened our souls and surrendered to a situation, especially a crisis, with a pause and a sense of spaciousness … an “I’ve got this, I’ve lived it already.”  Imagine the peace that would frame each day.  Imagine just enjoying the ride, no matter what, because we’d lived it already.  And hey, actors, isn’t that sense of letting go the reason for some auditions being more fruitful than others?  Perhaps it’s in those moments of complete, soulful surrender that we’re a little less likely to put on our armor and judge, fight, clutch, contract or lose and more likely to remain pliable and accept, let be, let go, open up or find.  Perhaps.  For that fleeting moment. Or maybe seven.  And we always have the opportunity to surrender again … to a new situation, or the same situation … with new help. 

About two paragraphs up, in the midst of writing, I entered what has regularly been a pattern of crisis and a trigger of sorts.  Today however, as I began to feel the change in my breath and the tightening in my solar plexus, I paused and thought, “been there, done that, not today, I surrender to something new,” and gracefully disconnected from it.  Today … that was a really good thing.  Maybe tomorrow will bring the same response.  I’ve already lived it, right?  Whatever comes, it is what it is and I’m enjoying the process of trying new things as a means for learning *ME* … taking small steps forward and backward along the path of growing my soul and being human. 

As I see it, the beauty of surrendering to what is, soulfully, allows us an opportunity to gently, gracefully, move through the events of our lives and experience glorious dives and divine miracles.  Those miracles can be as simple as suddenly finding that lost object, or as complex as discovering an entire new way of being.  Whatever the miracle, we always have the opportunity to achieve greater awareness of, presence toward and compassion for others and for ourselves.

 

And, then, the movies of our collective hearts & souls take on IMAX proportions.  

 

peace.

❤ 

the real him … into the great wide open

Image  With Father’s Day looming large, I came across this wonderful photo of dad. He was off on his own on a Windjammer cruise that he took from time to time with a couple of his buddies (I still wear the bracelet he brought home for me) and I’m drawn to this one because his expression is so different from what I was accustomed to seeing.  Dad was was a little guy with a commanding presence; a jokester who was always “on” wherever he was. He had a twinkle in his eye and was always teasing someone about something.  At family gatherings, without fail, someone (usually my Aunt Margie) would ask him to tell one of his “dirty” jokes.  That was the cue for the kids to leave the room and he’d be off on a roll.  Even when they relocated to Florida, their friends AND even the waitresses at Bob Evans Restaurant would tell me how funny he was. Made me feel good to know they had a good support system down there.

Fortunately, unfortunately I only know beginnings or punchlines of some of his best jokes and, honestly, wouldn’t think to tell them.

He was always busy with something … a do-er and a fixer.  Painted our apartment/house several times and put up wallpaper himself.  And he worked …. a lot.  More often than not he was working double shifts at Colgate Palmolive with an occasional triple tossed in (no exaggeration).  His plan was to buy a house and send me to college.  And even after those two milestones had been completed, he continued working those long hours.  Exhausted from the long hours at work, when he wasn’t on the job he was sleeping either in bed or in the living room chair while “we” watched Soupy Sales and Dark Shadows together.  So any time we had together on the weekends as a family was, I suppose, quality time.

Crumbs of time.

He was quite the bowler, was part of a couple of leagues and painted a picture of himself onto his bowling bag.  He loved music, our record collection was vast and varied, and he had a beautiful guitar that sat quietly behind a chair in the living room for years.  One day it disappeared.  He had bongoes that he kept in his closet.  He bought a small Emenee organ for me as a Christmas present one year and we both played it for a while.  That disappeared as well (my mother tossed out anything she felt was clutter except the 900 pairs of shoes and bags she had stuffed into a closet).  He was certified as a beautician and only worked a short time because it really wasn’t a good fit for him (any of this sounding familiar?????).  There’s a not so funny funny story attached to how he eventually left the business that could be a story for another time.  He cut my hair once when I was around 7 and he was quite good.  He built furniture.  One of his pieces is here in Lilliput with me.

So now … this photo.  Taken when dad was away, on his own, out in the great wide open … on the water, fishing.  Something he loved to do.  Unburdened by the labels of “dad” or “husband” or “brother” or “breadwinner” or “employee” or “shadow artist” … Free.  His face is so soft and relaxed; his smile is real … not created as a result of a joke or a zinger landing the way he wanted to or because of a job well done …. a peaceful smile from deep within his soul … at peace with himself, just as himself with no pressure attached.  As if he just had the best exhale of his life.  Curiously, I’d like to know who he was looking at and what he was thinking.

While I always got a smile and a “hello my darling” … this soft expression lands on me in an entirely different way.  It’s an expression I never saw in quite that way but an expression I’m meant to see at this moment in this way.  And I think this was the “real” dad.  And I believe this is how he, ultimately, jumped off at the last stop on the train and went into the great wide open.

There were some turbulent years between him and mom before my brother came along and, perhaps, some ambivalence afterward … maybe a ton of ambivalence.  This photo leaves me wondering if all the shifts at work resulting in the subsequent sleeping marathons were his way of escaping from a structure that wasn’t completely fulfilling his soul.  I wonder if he really wanted to play guitar and sing and paint but got caught or trapped in the daily life of domesticity with no way to negotiate a healthy balance between all the wonderful aspects of life and love.  And I could write a similar story on mom’s side of the equation.

Of course, whatever the issues were, it’s all a narrative that I’m spinning as I continue to intentionally notice, consider, pick apart and try to release or reform childhood patterns that have shaped how I’ve chosen and entered into relationships along the way.  Patterns that no longer serve me as the years go by.  It’s a fascinatingly rich hornet’s nest to untangle and it’s leading to the development of a “three little pigs” theory of relationship bouncing around in my snow globe.

Amazingly, each time a new piece of the puzzle falls into my space, I get a little closer to the fully revised “story of me” and heal a little bit more.

And I’m grateful.

And that’s that on that.

 

Peace ❤

love is …

an essential nutrient

a ladder to the stars and a bungee cord back

a buoy on rough seas

the smile that appears out of nowhere

seeing and being seen

my reflection in your glasses

your smile in my lens

the tourniquet to stop the bleeding

flame retardancy in the face of fire

cool water during a hot flash

the bridge between rocky shores

the guest of honor in a circle of friends

leaning in during the hard times

alive in conflict

making amends

present in forgiveness

staying

leaving

in the stillness of the space between us

all that remains in the final moments

homemade cannoli

fuzzy slippers and an electric blanket on a cold night

pulling the plug and putting it back in again

finding the last chair in the room

a warm hand on the small of my back

the sparkle of sun on the water

percolating in the mud

new blossoms and autumn leaves

twolips

a heart as wide as the sky

an umbrella on a rainy day

missing you

faith in something bigger

light at the end of a tunnel

the movie that makes you cry

the movie that makes you laugh

your laugh my laugh our laughter

purring in my ear

warm skin on skin

understanding and kindness

admitting

surrendering

compassion and vulnerability

cultivated by gratitude

stepping in and standing back

holding on and letting go

ebb and flow; yin and yang

hearing your music and singing together

louder than sound; closer than air

the whisper on the wind

the ground for growth

the balm for grief

resiliency

the glue that binds the broken pieces

a precious gift

what saves us

who we always are

who we always were

a current under our fear

what saves us

who we always were

who we ALWAYS are

all there is.

peace ❤

“jeriba lineage”

My dad was a jokester; a “ball buster” to most people.  He lit up the room.  Life of the party, loved to dance, sing and play with all the kids.  He was like the Pied Piper.  And more like Danny Kaye than Danny Kaye.  More like Bobby Darrin than Bobby Darrin with a little Ricky Ricardo tossed in for good measure.  When I was a little kid, I remember watching him sneak up behind mom and blow cigarette smoke into the hole of her beehive hairdo, turning it into what looked like a smoldering volcano.  Visiting relatives would laugh hysterically and mom would just smile and roll her eyes.  He constantly took the floor at family gatherings to tell “dirty” jokes.  Usually the cue was one of my aunts giggling out of nowhere and saying “Hey Jeep,  Dictaphone 2-2-2.” I don’t know the whole joke but it must’ve been one of his best because my aunt was always laughing so hard that she could never get the whole sentence out.  I do know it involved dad talking as if he had a “harelip” and that was the signal for us to leave the room and “go play”somewhere else.   Dictaphone 2-2-2.   Two, two, two.  Oddly, their room in the assisted living facility in Jersey City they never made it to was a corner room … room 222.  And even more oddly, he died on 2/22.  Isn’t life’s symmetry a wonderful thing?

Saturday, 2.22.03.  6:10pm …. wow, I’m now noticing it was the same time as my last edit of this blogpost.  More symmetry.

Eleven years ago to the date and, this year, the day, I was charged with the biggest decision of my entire life; one that would drastically begin to open a more tender, more resilient place in my heart.   At the end of this day, eleven years ago, I would sign a form to have dad removed from life support, watch in disbelief as he took his last breaths and then be rational enough to make the necessary phone calls   That awful and unexpected ending would be the beginning of a period of my life that would seem to have quicksand for a foundation and not many branches to grab onto.   I’d be on the same slippery slope with Mom who would be gone  a month later and all of it would tear me apart for several years.  Nothing would ever be the same.  Ever.

Life.  As it is.

Although this time of year is always difficult, I’m much better at floating along with it these days.  Wonderful memories have expanded to occupy a much larger place in my heart than the echoes of loss.  But it’s eleven years later.  ELEVEN.  Why is there still any pain at all?  Shouldn’t it be, I dunno, gone by now?  Nah.  That’s other people talking.  There’s no timetable on, or recipe for how to manage, grief.  And anyone who insists that you should “get on with life” or “get over it” or “snap out of it” isn’t really thinking of the grieving person.  They’re just uncomfortable with THEIR own inability to simply be still, say nothing and be *with* someone in pain.  They’d rather YOU smile falsely and make them feel better than be uncomfortable in the silence.  I suppose it’s a little like the fear of public speaking … I’m not sure exactly how, and I’m not going to process it here but intuitively it seems to have a similar crunch.   Or maybe not.  And that’s all okay, too.  We all handle things differently; all have different comfort levels.

Here’s the thing, though, if we’re ready to receive them, pain and loss can teach us the biggest and richest lessons on both the grieving end as well as the observer’s end.  We can learn so much about ourselves, the human condition, each other, about compassion and about the beauty of standing in the fires of discomfort until there’s a transformational shift.  And there always will be if you’re willing to wait for it.  I’ve felt it as sure as I’m sitting here writing this.  As Pema Chodron beautifully recommends: Don’t run away.  Lean in.  Sit, stay, heal.

In this eleventh year, I’ve been given another opportunity to more clearly explore my grief, especially since I’m no longer overwhelmed by the emotions.  So in THIS round of sadness, I’ve allowed my curiosity to play in the mud and ask some questions: Why am I still holding on to this sadness?  What am I really holding onto?  I was kind of okay until I realized that this year the DAYS were the same as back then … it’s as if I was looking for something to trigger an emotion.  Why am I NOW choosing to romanticize these dates?  Do I NEED to feel sad?  What is it providing for me?  Why am I still telling this story?

At first I started thinking that it was some kind of guilt that was making me hold onto the sadness … some punishment or suffering I subconsciously needed to exact on myself.  No.  That’s a stretch.  There’s nothing to punish myself for.  Then I thought, maybe in my subconscious I’m thinking that if I’m not sad I’ll lose them and it’ll be like they were never here.  Oh Lord no.  Too much psychology.   Fact is … they’re NOT here anymore.  Not physically, anyway.

And then an odd thought entered my mind.  If you’ve ever seen that odd sci-fi film “Enemy Mine,” you know that, during an interesting sounding scene, Louis Gossett’s alien character, Jeriba, sings his lineage for his earth friend Davidge and teaches it to him while they are trapped together.  Jeriba dies after giving birth to his son Zammis, but before that happens he makes Davidge promise to take care of Zammis, teach the lineage to him and return him to his Drac homeland.   Here’s the clip from the end of the film in which you’ll hear the sound of Dennis Quaid “singing” (gurgling) the names of all of Zammis’ ancestors as he presents the child to the council of elders:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsxFQHWUxnU

AHA!!!  I recite the story and access the emotions to remember and to keep my lineage alive!!!   And THEN … It occurred to me that there might be more to it.  Perhaps, I recall the events and the subsequent emotions  every year not so much as a means of remembering my “lineage” but, also to remember and assess the strength of my own evolution through the fires and quicksand of grief.   This lineage, coupled with the connection to my inner self, is what has moved me toward continued evolution.  Dad and mom, while not here physically, haven’t really gone anywhere.  Their physical walls might have collapsed but their spirits reside deep within me, informing me and challenging me on many levels every day.  Before he died dad said, “Don’t worry, Daddy will always take care of you.”  And he truly has over these eleven years.  His spiritual presence makes itself known often. Mom, not so much.

So each year, late in the winter, I choose to take the pilgrimage to the altar of mourning, loss and memories.   And if I lean in, if I *Sit* and *Stay* … I can access and marinate in the juices of my own vulnerability which will allow me to continue to *Heal.*   My heart, shriveled and frozen by the winter of life’s trajectory, has the opportunity to melt again and is refreshed, ready to blossom.   I revisit the story as the means of preserving and protecting the depth and breadth of my tender, loving heart.  And  during the winter when everything is a little icy, that’s a really good thing.

One fine day, I’ll no longer need the teachings found at that altar.  But, until then ….

Thank you, dad and mom, for leaving during a winter storm and preparing me for the spring thaw and new blossoms every year.

Thank you for shaping and polishing my “jeriba lineage” … the story of ME.

Lucky me … so very grateful.

“that’s our loopy”

Eleven years ago my mom and dad were hanging onto life by threads.

Eleven years ago tonight, to the date AND day, I had what would be the last conversation with my dad. He’d suffered a heart attack earlier in the week, was rushed to CCU and had been placed on a respirator.  Mom, meanwhile, was back in the nursing home room they both shared while we made plans to fly them back to New Jersey; plans that were postponed when a blizzard blew in and blanketed the northeast.   So, rather than being back with family in New Jersey, we were stuck in sunny, humid, Ocala and dad was now in CCU being kept alive on a respirator …  Something he never wanted if his life was in the balance.

Mom was very frail so we were advised to tell her that dad was in the hospital simply to have some additional tests.  As usual, she DEMANDED that I stay at her bedside until visiting hours ended so my brother sat vigil in CCU.  Being “daddy’s girl,” my heart and soul wanted to be at his bedside.  Repeat after me: Consequences.  Since we kept the gravity of the situation under wraps, mom had no idea and just wanted what she wanted, as usual.  So I wasn’t “allowed” to leave, couldn’t say anything and couldn’t get mom upset.  So at around 9pm each night my brother and I traded places at the bedsides.

The nursing home was a very busy place and couldn’t leave dad’s bed empty so a new patient was admitted into the room with mom.  She was a very large African American woman who was suffering with complications from diabetes, was always in pain and had a very loud family.  Although there was a different vibe in the room, I was glad to see a patient being cared for by family.  That was a very unusual occurrence.  Most people were alone which was especially heartbreaking around the holidays.

Mom and dad couldn’t move very well and were confined to bed.  So when he was in the room with her, I’d positioned the beds so that they could look into the mirror on the dresser to see and talk to each other rather than turn their heads all the time.  On Friday night, February 21st, mom looked into the mirror and tapped me on the arm. This was the conversation:

Mom:  “I don’t like the way he looks.”

Me: “Who, mom?”

Mom:  “Daddy.” She pointed at the mirror.  “I don’t like the way he looks.  He looks ….. so …… DARK.”

At that moment my eyes almost popped out of my head.  I covered my mouth and laughed so hard I could’ve peed my pants.  I leaned in closer and, still laughing, whispered, “That’s not daddy, mom.  he’s in the hospital, remember?  That’s a black woman. Your new room mate until daddy gets back.”

She opened her eyes in recognition and brought her hands up to her mouth making that “oops” gesture and expression.  We both laughed.  And then it was time for the changing of the guards.  I kissed her goodnight, repositioned the dresser to avoid any future mistaken identity issues, and headed over to sit with dad.

I hated that he was on a respirator but when I tried to set up a DNR, as I KNEW he wanted, several doctors actually chastised me and shamed me for those actions.  How could I dare to prevent him from getting the things that they needed to provide in order to assist his healing?  I knew better.  We’d had long conversations.  He never wanted to be on life support and I had power of attorney to make their medical decisions … a horrible position to be in but it sure does grow you up.  And yet, I was shamed enough by the doctors and resting in my own sense of hope, to leave the respirator in place.  I’d apologized each night before leaving his bedside and, on Thursday night, had whispered in his ear, “I know you don’t want this and I’m so sorry.  I just don’t know what to do.  Please help me out, dad.”

Imagine my surprise the next day when my brother called from CCU to tell me that dad was awake and off the respirator.  Had he heard my request?  Could he be getting better as the doctors hoped?  I couldn’t wait to visit and, as I’d imagined, it lifted my heart to see him smiling and sitting up watching Steve McQueen in “The Sand Pebbles” on his CCU TV.  It was such a gift to be able to talk to him and watch TV with him the way we used to.  I stayed as long as I could and knew he needed to get some rest.

When the movie ended I told him that mom was really concerned about him and then shared the story of what happened earlier.

He laughed, and with that twinkle in his eyes said, “That’s our Loopy!”

“Loopy” … his pet name for her in recent years.  That just tickled me.  We both laughed out loud.  “Loopy” for sure.

It was late and we all needed to rest so I said goodnight, kissed him and said I’d see him tomorrow.

I had no idea that, in less than 24 hours, I’d be making the biggest decision of my life …. and he’d be gone.

valentine on 105th street

For many of us Valentine’s Day is one of those “artificial” fair weather holidays; when it’s good it’s GREAT and when it’s bad, it’s shit storm ROTTEN.  It all depends on whether or not your see saw is balanced.  When it’s balanced, there’s somebody to play the cupid game with and the sun shines.  Not balanced … nobody to play with, it’s  rotten, and the in-your-face onslaught of hearts, flowers, candy, diamond/jewelry advertisements that begin as soon as we step into the new year adds fuel to the bonfire.  And THIS year (and the next two) folks were calling it Valentine’s Day WEEKEND.  Yippee.  THREE days of moping.

So, yeah, sour grapes.   Once again, my seesaw has no one on the other side and every day closer to VDay I’m sitting a little lower.  Sure, there are other people upon whom to shower love on this designated day of decadent love and sparkly things.  I have wonderful friends and family who I love dearly.  BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT THE CUPID THING IS ALL ABOUT!!!  CUPID IS THE GOD OF DESIRE, EROTIC LOVE, ATTRACTION AND AFFECTION.   And Valentine’s Day just serves as a reminder of being “less than” in the realm of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection … a reminder of being somewhat broken when it comes to intimate, spiritual love.

And so, in preparation for the big day, I normally make plans to stay in and dive under the covers for a day or two until it blows over.  NO walking around amid the lovers on the streets for me … not no way, not no how.  Misery loves misery.  Just stay in the house, under the covers, listening to love and anti-love songs.  And dredge up memories.  UGH.  This, too, shall pass.  It always does.  And when it’s all been said and done, all I’ve lost is a couple of days in the world.  Has anyone noticed in the past?  Nope.

But … What the WHAT?!?!?!  And WHY the drama?!?  At my core I don’t believe in the need for a specially marked day or a big spectacle of a gift to demonstrate one’s guilt, I mean love.  I feel the same about mother’s day and father’s day … EVERY _ DAY should be spent showing love in small ways to all the people we cherish.   That’s my take on it.  And this year the plans were the same … stay in.  Under the radar; under the covers.  Maybe some wine.  Maybe some whine.  Maybe lots of hibernation.  And then, when it was over, back to life.

But, as fortune (or the universe) would have it, my plans were changed.  A dear friend had foot surgery a few weeks earlier and was holed up in her apartment recuperating.  I’d been spending Friday nights hanging out with her watching movies, eating good food and chatting.  She texted and asked about the soft plan of getting together on Friday as usual and, Valentine’s Day be damned … movie night was back on the schedule.

At around 6pm, I headed uptown with the intention of stopping at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts to pick up coffee and some treats.  Fortunately, they were out of the special donuts but I did leave the store armed with a large coffee in each hand.   The streets were still a slippery mess from the snowfall and finding a clear corner was sometimes like finding a four leaf clover.  But the corner of Amsterdam and 105th street was clear so, rather than walking through the slush and snow to 104th, I stayed on 105th and made my way across to Broadway.  As I walked along the snowy path that was carved only wide enough for one person, I noticed a large, older man walking toward me.  His beautiful white hair was alive in the street light but his legs, which were quite bowed, were giving him some trouble walking.  He listed slowly and carefully from side to side while navigating the tricky sidewalk so I stepped off the path and onto a snowbank to allow him the right of way.  As he passed he looked at the coffees, smiled at me and said,  in a beautifully resonant voice, “You’re SOMEBODY’S hero tonight!” I smiled back and out of my mouth popped, “Yes, I guess I am.  Thank you!”

In that nanosecond, on Valentine’s Day evening, his sweet words and his acknowledgement were like a Valentine’s Day kiss from the universe to my heart; one of those “cosmic winks” I used to experience regularly when my heart wasn’t so crusty.  In that nanosecond, my heart softened.  It was so good to be out in the world and NOT losing days under the covers.

As I continued walking a collage of images rushed through my mind.  I smiled and thought, “Yep, I am a hero.” And, for once, I truly believed it.

Peace & ❤

 

 

 

i am my journal

Have you ever looked back into an old journal and marveled at what you’d written?  I mean, actually wondered if it was YOU who’d written what was between the covers and not someone else; some ghost writer?  Yep.   Lately, as my interest with writing has grown, I’ve also been looking back at some old journals.  On many levels, the exploration has been very enlightening and often ends with “Did I really write this stuff? It sounds too good to be me.”  Those self deprecating questions, their source and reason for existence could be the subject for another exploration … but that’s a story for another day.  Back to the journal.  Most of my exploration has been in one journal, in particular.  It’s this really cool, thick journal that contains an interesting selection of writings from an intense segment of my life:  summer, 1999 – early 2013.  Included among its leaves are additional random selections and documents that I stuck in it as if it was my drawer for very special “junk.”

The journal’s life began as a homework requirement for a program of study at the Globe theatre in London in the summer of 1999. Earning my masters degree in theatre while on a year long sabbatical from my job was a BIG thing, especially at age 42, and a two week intensive course in London to round out the year was quite an adventure.   At the end of the course, I’d only used a fraction of the pages for my writings so, after the trip, the journal became my “go-to” place for benchmark meditative reflections recorded, in the earlier years, under a tree at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. That journal saw me through my parents’ illnesses and deaths, rocky roads travelled with close friends, emotional ups and downs as relationships came to an end, collecting my thoughts about odd and random dreams and, most recently, movement toward a blossoming understanding of change and the human condition.

I’ve been reading through this 13 year history a little each night, sometimes giving it the “stink eye” but always knowing that what I wrote was in direct response to something going on in my life.  Communication skills were never a strong suit in my family and, as a result, things that needed to be said aloud were internalized; repressed.  This journal was the first place into which I spoke freely.  Its  poetry (should really publish those 120 haiku), coherent stories, incoherent blasts of random entries, notes from webinars focused on self compassion, free flowing “grammar (almost) be damned” entries, some phone numbers and addresses that I have NO clue about and art work have been shedding wonderful light on my habits and patterns through the years; providing insight into my inner heart and soul.

FASCINATING stuff. And, did I say art work? …

I’m a doodler from way back.  Oh, you TOO?  What a surprise … not.   Always liked to put pencil to paper and just let it rip and, maybe, develop into an artist someday.  But THAT was another one of those places where where my head was at odds with my soul.  My hand (my soul) seemed to always want to draw and, if it had a mind of its own, it thought it would’ve been a wonderful artist.  But my head always got in the way and said “NO, you’re not an artist.  Look at that silly thing you just made.”  So I stuck to “just making doodles.” But, let me tell you, if there was a blank piece of paper and a pencil nearby, some doodles appeared. Paper bags ended up having faces and becoming puppets for a day.  Most of my high school and college notebooks had lots of doodles in the margins commensurate with my level of engagement in the classwork. And as an adult I found doodling to be especially therapeutic during faculty meetings as a means for preventing random scatological phrases from exploding out of my mouth.

Well … on the last page of my cool journal … I found a MAJOR doodle.  Did *I* really doodle this?  YES. *I* DOODLED it.  I don’t think I doodled it in one sitting … I started with the circle and ended with the shading.  I believe it was a work in progress for a few days (could’ve been a faculty workshop) and I WISH I’d written a date on it or could remember why/where I started it.

All that really matters is that this is the artifact …

Image

Pencil. And. Paper.  Although I like the paper and pencil-ness of it, time has moved on and it seems to want some color now.

New colors as life continues to ebb, flow and take on new beautiful forms.

Just like me.   I am my journal.

Peace, always.  ❤