not funny

Saturday.  I was up and out unusually early to make a 9am vigil visit with an imminently dying patient at the nursing home.   By 9:55am, I was on a bus sitting in a single window seat heading home.  The patient passed peacefully while I sat at her side and the sound and vibrations of the bus engine felt like a sweet, peaceful massage.

As we made our way south, the bus stopped at 84th street to let passengers off and was detained there by a red light.  Sitting in the bus shelter a group of young boys and a man who appeared to be their “chaperone.”  I’m guessing the boys were around age 10 and it seemed they might be on some kind of outing with the man in charge.  As we sat waiting for the light to change, I watched as one of the young boys pointed at passengers to get their attention and, when he did,  shrieked in terror as if horrified by the sight.  Encouraging his little buddies to join him in the fun, he and one other looked me square in the eye and pointed at me shrieking in terror as if I was some hideous monster.   And, surprisingly, it made me feel awful.

I didn’t respond, just stared expressionlessly into the eyes of the mean spirited little boys.  And they locked their gaze on me while continuing to shriek.  But under my gaze was a mixed feeling of heartbreak and anger, and in my head a blizzard of questions:  They appeared to be having a great time making fun of people so did they think that was all in fun?  Who taught them that that kind of behavior was okay?  Did they not even think for a minute that they could be hurting someone’s feelings?  Why wasn’t the man with them making them stop?  Had he also been one of them when he was their age; did he think they were funny or that they were just being kids?   Kids develop these mean tendencies and grow up to be adults with that same kind of attitude toward others.  What had they learned in their homes that made it okay to treat other human beings like that?  And how sad is that.

The adult man who was with them said nothing, did nothing to make them stop.

You might be thinking, “Oh, they were just being kids.”  And I can partially accept that.  However,  kids learn those attitudes from adults and cultivate them as they grow up.   Yeah, in their world they might have been playing a game; might have been having fun on a Saturday morning.  They might have imagined us as a busload of zombies at that time in the morning.  Maybe we even looked a little like that.  But in that short span of time, after witnessing the passing of a beautiful human being who had no family,  I was not having fun being one of their targets; not enjoying their little kid playtime in the bus stop.  In that short span of time I remembered dating someone who was ALWAYS making jokes and I was the punch line far too often.   And I smiled through it while my guts twisted.  I remembered my dad saying things he BELIEVED  were funny but were NOT really funny for the people to whom they were directed.  They smiled through it and I’m SURE their guts twisted.  I also remembered a day, back when I was 10, when one of my classmates, Scott Albrecht, pointed at me after school and said, “Dirty babies are gonna come from there.”  I remember feeling diminished and belittled but thought I’d let it go.  It’s curious to have THAT thought float up for inspection all these years later.

The adult man must’ve been or, rather, must BE a “Scott Albrecht.”

Nothing that diminishes another human being’s existence is never funny or EVER a joke.  Nothing that hurts another human being physically, emotionally or spiritually can be done in fun.  EVER.

Children are our most precious gift and are born pure, curious, creative and loving; little lumps of clay just waiting to be shaped and molded.  Unfortunately, not every adult is a mindful sculptor so we all end up a little bumpy.   But everyone is a teacher in our lives.

I’m never too old or unwilling to lean in and find the lesson.  I thank those boys and their adult male chaperone for shaking out some uncomfortable memories that have shaped some aspects of my sense of self.  I’ve had some interesting moments of clarity as a result.  I thank those boys and their adult male chaperone for reminding me why always creating integrity, respect, mindfulness and love around my words and actions is so very important for my own health and well being and for the health and well being of every other human being in my orbit.

My hope is that those young kids find their way to a kinder way of being.

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hand over hand

Hand over hand…….

Hands have always fascinated me as being a source of a person’s self expression and energetic power and so, as a means of avoiding eye contact with anyone on the late night train, my eyes were drawn to his hands.

He was sitting across from me at midnight on the 1 train heading downtown.  His body slumped forward, face down, gray hood spilling out from his red jacket and over his head.  Baggy gray jeans and boots completed the outfit.  His body swayed gently in rhythm with the rocking of the train that seemed to be nursing his nap.  My first instinct was that his sleep was drug or alcohol induced.  It could have been attributable to something else, though.  Perhaps he’d worked a long shift at his job and was so tired that he fell asleep on the train. Or maybe he’d been taking care of a sick loved one and was so exhausted and, perhaps, depressed that he simply didn’t want to connect with anyone and the train-nap was his conduit to disconnection or a much needed rest.

I was curious.  Lately I’m always curious about the human condition.  Living in NYC and spending ample time on buses and subways, as well as on the streets, can raise an acute awareness of others, I suppose, if you allow it to.  And unless I was willing to step into my curiosity, muster up the courage and ask him, I could never really be certain of exactly why he was nodding.  I’d simply continue to be a slave to making assumptions.  But that was okay.  I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t ask … and didn’t dare wake him to engage in conversation.  What was certain, though, was that he’d boarded the train before I got on at 103rd street and would stay on after I got off.  What was also certain was that, at that time of night, there would be at least a few other people on the train who were also in that land of “nod” but their hood-covered heads were all up and leaning on the train walls.  What was certain was that I was actually the only person awake in that car of the train.  What was certain was that something about that young man sitting across from me held my attention hostage.

He seemed young but it wasn’t his age that drew me in.  I sensed he might be in his 20s but it wasn’t until the train lurched and his head popped up for a minute that I was sure about that.  His condition?  Still assuming that the nod was precipitated by drugs/alcohol after seeing his face and, if that was the case, I wondered what circumstances brought this handsome young man to this place in his life.  But that was MY “story” about him.  This could easily have been a one-off for him … or not … I just didn’t know.  And, while all that sketchy evidence was fertile ground for growing a sad and assumptive story, it still wasn’t what held my attention.

It was his hands.  They captured my attention like beacons demanding to be seen and were strangely beautiful; incongruous, as if a sculptor had crafted and attached them. They were gracefully lying in his lap, palms down.  Left over right.  Relaxed and, at the same time, strangely energized, seeming to have a beautiful light emanating from them.  And they curiously stayed where they were, like anchors, as his body swayed left and right; backward and forward.  There was something compelling about those beautiful hands and how they seemed to ground him, preventing him from falling over when the train lurched.  I could neither avert my eyes nor stop my mind from chattering on about him … and them.  And I’m sure the 7 or 8 sleeping men in the train car had NO idea I was staring at this kid’s hands.

His fingers were long and smooth and his nails were clipped and clean.  I wondered who he was and how he’d been raised. I wondered what he did for a living and what his dreams were.  I wondered if he played piano or guitar.  If not, he seemed to have the hands for it.  I wondered about the nature of his spirit and who he was when he wasn’t nodding in a car on the 1 train.  I wondered if his beautiful hands held and warmed the hands of someone he loved.  I wondered if his hands comforted and caressed the face of someone who was special to him.  Did he love anyone?

I wondered if he even had someone to love; someone whose hand he held or face he caressed.

I wondered if anyone had recently, or had ever, loved him enough to hold his beautiful hands or caress his handsome face.

And then we reached my stop.  I silently wished him love and peace as I left the train.  I didn’t know how far he’d ride the train or whether he’d wake up in time for his stop or if he’d just continue to ride all night.  I’d never know the answers to my questions and I was okay with that.  It was simply his presence that was most important.  And if I believe that everyone on our path is a teacher, then there was something to take away from the experience.

As I walked alone along a very quiet 72nd street, I considered the possible lesson.  We exist not to live in a vacuum but to make connections with each other; to create relationships so that our hearts can grow and our wounds can heal.  At one time or another, however, we all find ourselves riding through life alone.  Disconnected from each other and our own hearts.  Some of us numb ourselves and sleep through the ride shutting down the pain and confusion; others of us stay awake on the ride swaying and lurching in the heartbreak waiting and hoping for it to end.  It’s only when we establish connection with the soft heart and strong, loving hands of another human being that the doors of that solitary ride open, reconnecting us with our own hearts.  We can then regain our sense of humanity; our sense of belonging.

That young man’s presence and his hands touched me deeply.  Since that midnight ride on the 1 train, I still wonder about him riding on the train numb … and alone. 

There but for the grace of …………

the “greed of humanity”?

Lately I’ve come across a few videos that were “scripted” with the intention of pointing up the chinks in human nature. The most recent was a scripted video depicting the year long arc of an abusive relationship.   It seemed to be thoughtfully produced and had validity as, perhaps, a public service announcement.  The video below,”the greed of humanity,” is another and has agitated some flakes in the snowglobe.  Interesting? Yes. Valuable? Yes.  And, as a mirror for behavior, it has serious merit.

NOTE:  You can’t hear it on this version of the video but, once the crowd gets into the warehouse, Alexander Wang tells them they can take whatever they want FOR FREE; there are no bags or boxes, they can carry as much stuff out in any way they want.  For FREE.

First let me say that I’m NOT condoning or excusing the behavior at all. I think it’s reprehensible to fight and hurt others over “stuff.” But of COURSE this would happen. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU EXPECT?  Feels like a scripted, directed video but, even so, he’s giving away designer clothing for FREE???? F.R.E.E.  People act that way “for CHEAP” as evidenced by the bedlam that ensues on Black Friday. Folks aren’t like that under “normal” circumstances but bargains and/or the degree of perceived need seems to ignite the Illness of ” *I* want and must have” rather than the Wellness of ” *We* can share in the experience.”

Is this “The greed of humanity?” OR Are we just initially built this way so that we have a place from which to evolve as part of our spiritual quest?

During my high school and college years I worked in a well established children’s clothing store. It was back in the days when folks shopped in the mom and pop shops on the local “main street” or, in this case, Central Avenue.  For Jersey folks, it was back before Garden State Plaza had a roof.  Meyer’s Youth Center had GREAT inventory and much of it leaned toward the higher end of the price scale.  Every year, after the holidays, we’d close for a couple of days and prepare for the HUGE annual sale.  Every year our steady customers, and their friends, would crowd into the lobby eagerly waiting for the doors to open.  BTW, none of us inside the store wanted the dangerous job of opening the door to the onslaught of the drooling mob but I usually braved the consequences by opening the door and adroitly leaping out of the way.  It WAS both dangerous and oddly funny to see regular customers who were normally lovely people transformed into tasmanian she-devils as they ran around, willy nilly, dragging the kids, picking through and tossing things while looking for the best buys.  Leftover snow suits were usually the big seller … folks would buy them a size or two bigger for use next year.  You’d think we were “giving the stuff away.” There was never any pushing or shoving, though, and no one ever got hurt or fought but the transformation was clearly insane and would be the topic of conversation for weeks after.

Fast forward a bit to when I was a newly married Jersey girl, back when dirt was invented, I think.  Someone clued me in on a FABULOUS place where one could buy curtains, draperies, etc. for REALLY deep discounts. The place … Marburn Warehouse. So I went. Once. There was no special sale going on, no special event, it was just a normal day at Marburn. And it was crowded. And I was IN the crowd of tasmanian she-devils.  There were, indeed, very deep discounts and TONS of home decor hanging on racks, from the ceilings and packed into laundry bins along the floor.  It was a big overwhelming and I was pushed and pulled and knocked around by women grabbing over and around me for various items.  As if I was invisible or, worse, insignificant.  And when I got knocked INTO one of the laundry bins …. I decided that NO discount was as deep as that bin OR my humiliation.

I left with nothing and never went back. I’d rather pay more money to shop quietly, like a human being, in other home decor shops.  To this day I steer clear of places like Marburn and huge sales events.

Light and dark.  We are both of them together.  So, whether it’s Marburn back in the early ’80s, or the bedlam that ensues on “Black Friday,” the prospect of deeply discounted goods seems to tap into the darker side of our species in varying degrees.  Shopping excursions turn into wars into which we march, armed and dangerous … fight or flight (or, in my case, freeze) response engaged.  My war, the time I was always at my worst, happened while shopping for groceries needed for holiday meals.  Amped up by our desire for THINGS we become completely disconnected from and blind to each other; shopping at the expense of others rather than sharing a beneficial experience with others who, like us, would like to save a couple of bucks.

So, back to the video.  In this case, we see tons of young folks, TONS of ’em, enticed to attend a “secret” event at which they’re presented with the task of competing for and collecting as much Alexander Wang clothing as they can handle … for FREE … cause and effect produces reflex and the aggressive, compulsive reptilian brain springs right into action to the exclusion of all reason.  I WANT … I WILL HAVE (7 of them) … IT’S MINE … I WILL FIGHT FOR IT.    Greed of humanity?  OR Simply … Human?  Fascinating?

I wonder …

In that moment, at that event, what would YOU do?  Who would YOU be? How deep is the root of your greed weed seed?

And where, in the big picture, is the parent root of the greed weed seed?  Is it another “chicken or egg” dilemma?

Is it in our culture, creating the false impression that the more nice/prestigious “things” you have, the more successful/happy you are?

Is it in the designer/artisan/store/theatre/concert arena/sports venue, etc. who CAN command sooooo much money for their merchandise because they KNOW we will move heaven and earth and people aside for that bargain, or to have that thing/service

Is it in the simple desire in each of us to have those “things” for the perceived happiness/success they supposedly bring  …. at the expense of others?

Hmmm … at the expense of others.

As Leonard Cohen so beautifully wrote in his “Anthem,” “There is a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.”  Human nature is, by nature, cracked.  We are NEVER not broken.  And it’s in the cracks and breaks, in our darkness where we can find our light, our strength and vulnerability, our uniqueness and connection.

We ALL are THEM at one time or another.  And as a mirror, each dark experience provides “teachable moments” if we’re ready to receive them.  When we’re open to fully seeing, embracing and exploring our own cracks at the expense of the darkness of others, we become more compassionate, more loving, more present to others and to ourselves.  We learn to stand in our own ground, or in our own mud, more firmly.

And perhaps, while shopping for those bargains or accumulating things, a little more mindful of everything and everyone around us.

Peace & blessings

tv or not tv

Today CBS programming is gone from my cable line up.  Whether this is temporary or permanent is a mystery for now.  And, while that fact does nothing to alter the quality of my life, there are some flakes that have stirred in the snowglobe.

As I hear the thoughts in my head, it seems I’m (unhappily) stepping into the role of a member of the older generation but I can’t stop it so here goes anyway  ….

When we were kids, TV service was … FREE. We watched commercial programming, and plenty of it (including lots of baseball), on ABC, NBC, WOR, WPIX, WNET and CBS. And we were happy.  Wrapping foil on the antenna and twisting it six ways to Sunday was part of the game.  And, come to think of it, we saw news only a few times a day (NOT bombarded by mindless, repetitive, hypnotizing blather) and programming STOPPED at around midnight with the National Anthem giving way to that test pattern, if I remember correctly.  No TV to be used as an excuse to keep us awake through the night.

Somewhere along the line things changed.  As technology advanced, we were sold on the idea that the BEST way, the ONLY way, to watch TV was to pay for it. And the bonuses were that we could get a gazillion cable channels and premium programming that was COMMERCIAL FREE, plus get clearer programming on ABC, NBC, WOR, WPIX, WNET and CBS!!!  WOW!!!

Wait … AND I can PAY to watch sports, too?!?!?!? WOW!!!  SIGN. ME. UP.  Take some more money for TV.

Having gotten used to the comforts of cable TV, when I moved to NYC I signed on with Time Warner Cable.  It seemed the easiest way to go, friends had it and the package seemed like a good deal.  Of course, I HAD to upgrade to HDTV as well. Recently, in addition to suddenly tacking on a charge for using their cable box, I was informed that a $5.99 charge would be added to the use of the cable modem.  WHAT?!?! AFTER TWO YEARS!?!?!?  That wasn’t part of the deal.  Should’ve read the fine print OR the charges should’ve simply been on the bill all along.  Rent them NOW?  Ridiculous.

AND today CBS, one of those “in the beginning” stations … CHANNEL 2 … is missing …  MISSING … from my cable TV lineup and my head’s gone upside down. Well, OK, CBS is still listed but its data is unavailable because there’s a dispute, anchored in money of course, going on between the CBS Corporation and Time Warner Cable. TWC decided, in its infinite wisdom, to remove the programming while “negotiations” for how much more money we’ll pay for these services (because that’s ULTIMATELY where this will go even though TWC swears to have its customers’ best interests while taking this action against *CBS Corporation* … point one finger and three point back at you, right????) continue.

The CBS Corporation counters that it’s not their fault service isn’t available because THEY gave TWC the opportunity to keep programming up and running during said negotiations (into our pockets).

*CUE:  image of the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” pointing in two directions here* 

Image

AND we’re being needled by posts from CBS programming sites and SHO series sites asking us to CALL Time Warner Cable to INSIST they resume programming before the new seasons begin or, as in the case of Dexter (my FAVORITE) before the FINAL season comes to an end.

And they say they are looking out for the best interests of their customers.

Now THAT’S a big glass of BULLSHIT with an *ARE YOU KIDDING ME?* chaser.

G-R-E-E-D.  GREED.  Plain and simple.

CUE FILM CLIP:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONXpaBQnBvE

It’s corporations of people continuously manufacturing ways of sticking their hands into OUR pockets as a means of serving THEIR pockets; ingeniously tweaking and tapping into our own greedy needs for more and more stuff, for continuous upgrades, for bigger (or smaller), better, faster, prettier.

And they have the upper hand because when my pocket’s done, I’ll just have to leave and they’ll never notice.  They WON’T miss me when I’m gone.

CUE SONG and get the cup:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmSbXsFE3l8

So they push and suck us dry, knowing that we want to keep up with the Joneses to infinity and beyond or for as long as we can.  And then they just let us go.  Like Sparky tied to the Griswald’s car and keeping up with them until his little legs gave out.  When will it end?  Ever?  Never?

I suppose it ends when I decide it ends; when I take control and jump ship or zip my pockets shut because TV is not really a huge necessity in my world.  Since I currently only watch television on Sunday nights and maybe one other night during the week, this could easily be the beginning of some kind of *season finale* at least in my world.

Back to, specifically, the CBS/TWC dilemma.  It bugs me that, after watching “Dexter” for all these years, I probably won’t be able to see how it all ends. But, honestly, the pissing in the sand by these huge, greedy companies at the *expense* of their customers bugs me so much more and on so many levels.  The inherent issues are bigger than “Dexter” but not completely unlike being *serial killers.*

Truth … TV or not TV … while I’m grateful for the option … doesn’t matter and doesn’t influence the quality of my really cool life.

Truth … there are STILL almost a gazillion channels that I can watch, or listen to, if the boat floats that way.

Truth … losing CBS programming is seriously NOT a matter of national security; there really are more important things to grouse about.

And you can be sure that I’ll find ’em … or they’ll find me.

Peace & ♥

Winning the lottery?

Having a car in NYC means dealing with alternate side of the street parking.  Oh, yeah … In my neighborhood we do the alt side dance and, if you find the groove, it’s actually not too annoying.  It simply is part of my schedule for the day, three days a week.  Just for reference, I haven’t had to deal with alternate side on a regular basis since 1978 and in New Jersey, once the street sweeper passes, you can tuck the car into a spot and go on your merry way.  NOT the dealio here in the Big Apple.  If you’re choosing to move the car when the sweeper does its thing, you have to stay in your car until the 90 minutes are up.  Just try to leave your car unattended and a representative of the parking police will show up ticket pad a-blazin’.

Not being tethered to a 9-5 job means I can go out and look for a space any time I want.  And I’ve done that; gone out late in the afternoon and circled the blocks until something opened up.  But there was a part of me that wanted the parking thing to be more “structured” if possible.  So over time, and with careful experimentation, I’ve found it’s actually less stressful to get up, out and into the dance with the alt side parking subculture during the sweeping hours.  Essentially it comes down to virtually moving my car from one side of the street to the other after the sweeper passes and enjoying a dedicated block of time to sit in my “alternate office” reading or writing.  And the bonus is that the parking project is finished and out of my mind by 10:30a on Mondays and Tuesdays and 12:30p on Thursdays leaving the rest of the day free for work and whatever else is on deck.

On some days, it’s really interesting just to be out there, rain AND shine, watching the neighborhood come alive.  What an adventure this life is!

It might sound tedious or unusual to the outsider but trust me; lots of us are out there.  It really is a subculture.  And, until I sell the car, alt side is simply a fact of city life. Plus, on most days something really cool captures my attention, becoming an inspirational gift riff or writing seed on which to ruminate during the day.

One of my favorite alt side gift riffs showed up recently while parked on the corner of 73rd and Columbus.  
The super of a nearby building is a really nice Irish man whose brogue sounds like a song.  I had the pleasure of chatting with him last year when I was still commuting to work.  I’d parked outside the building near some construction cones at around 4:30 and he was concerned that I’d be in the way the next day when the crew came back.  Still being relatively new in the city, I was moved by his genuine concern for me.  I assured him that I’d be out of the space by 6:45am (holy crap, I used to be out and about at THAT hour?!?!) and he laughed and said, in his beautiful accent, the construction crew would definitely NOT be there at that ungodly hour.  Anyway, on this day he was hosing the sidewalk and, occasionally, the hands of an adorable little boy while chatting with the boy’s dad.  The day was already warm and I was watching the little boy having fun getting wet in the heat but not really paying attention to the conversation of the adults.  And then this caught my attention:

SUPER: Oh, it’ll be ok. Nice things will happen.

MAN: Yeah, I know.

SUPER: (nodding toward the boy) You know, like birthdays, anniversaries ….

MAN: Maybe I’ll win the lottery.

SUPER: mmm … lottery … yeah

And then my ears went dead and the judge in my head took over.  The Super was trying to make him see that, whatever it was that might be bringing him down (and I’m guessing it was some kind of money issue), there were nice things all around him to focus on at the moment.  And his response was about winning the lottery?  The lottery … nicer than his anniversary or his son’s birthday?!?!?!  What the living heck?!?!  What’s wrong with people?!?!

And then the moment became an opportunity to ruminate on aspects of money as a source of happiness and the concept of “winning the lottery.”

There’s really nothing wrong with any of us.  However, why do so many of us equate security, happiness and “niceness” with money?  Would winning the lottery really make life richer, better, happier or nicer?  Does having lots of money make us better people?  What would I do or be if I won the lottery … I always joke that ONE million would be more than enough, I don’t need 50 million.  Of course I rarely buy tickets so NO millions will ever come my way via the lottery train.

These thoughts evoked one of dad’s teaching moments.

I was in high school at the time, my brother was still in the single digits and, although it wasn’t dinnertime, all 4 of us were home at the same time and in the kitchen.  I don’t exactly remember what the catalyst was for his demonstration but I’m thinking it was the result of an argument about spending money wisely (mom wasn’t always on the same page as dad in that department). He was “vexed” (as he would say on occasion), pulled a $20 bill out of his wallet, held it up for my brother and me to see and said, “Do you see this?  It’s a twenty-dollar bill.  And it’s made of paper.”  And THEN he tore it up!  Our eyes popped out of our heads.  What the HECK was he doing?  Was that even legal?  That was TWENTY DOLLARS!?!?! And then he pointedly said, “It’s made of paper and, y ou see, it means NOTHING.  Having money means nothing.  Who you are when you earn it, how you earn it and how careful you are with it is what means something.”

Character and integrity; having clear goals and staying true to one’s spirit no matter how much money you make is what I took away from that teaching moment.  I suppose winning the lottery would be “nice” on some levels.  I do get it.  I have bills to pay just like everyone else and would always like to have a little more change in my pocket.  Especially since I’m living in NYC and am asked to pay city taxes each year.  But, does having all that money really change our intrinsic natures making us nicer people or enhancing our connections with others? Would hitting the lottery provide true, abiding happiness?  For as long as a new tattoo, I guess.

So, as I continue to process, it seems to me that the man on 73rd street sees happiness in the event of winning the elusive lottery.  The Super sees happiness all around, including squirting the little guy and making him laugh, and wins the lottery at every turn.

So in this materialistic world, where’s the balance?  Where can I take ground?

Money?  No issues at the moment.  I’m fortunate and very grateful, every day, to have a pension and medical benefits as a result of my years in education.  And all my work in previous years has brought me to a new fun freelance career that continues to blossom slowly and steadily.  Bills are paid; health is good.  Peace in the present.

The heart?  That’s the place for grounding.  Continuing the work to open up the little cave in my heart and dust out the cobwebs.  Money not required … it’s all about continuing to transcend  walls that have been built and opening up new connections; standing in awe of the present moment rather than looking back at the past or worrying about the future. THAT’S why I’m so fortunate to be on this adventure in a new home, to dance the parking ballet, liberated from a “regular” job.  THAT’S why I hear the conversations I hear; see the sights I see.  Such a blessing to continue to evolve and I’m grateful every single day.

In my soul I believe there are brilliant *lottery moments* all around us that renew our happiness and spark our hearts.  Sometimes they’re as small and fleeting as sharing a smile with the parking police on alt side parking days or fireflies coming to life in the park.  Sometimes they’re as deeply profound as providing comfort for a friend/loved one/stranger in times of sadness and need.  All we need to do is keep looking up and out with a sense of wonder; with eyes that really see and ears that really hear; touching with intelligent, compassionate hearts.

How cool would it be to wake up each day to find the little golden moments and really see each of them as joyously as “winning the lottery?”

We can, you know.

Another gift from the ‘hood to ponder ….

Wishing you millions of lottery moments every day.

Solstice

6.21.13 Solstice. The longest day of the year; beginning of the season of abundance and enLIGHTenment.
School’s out, time for spaciousness.
Holiday.
Sun on your face, breeze in your hair, water on your skin, sand between your toes, blankets in the grass, rockin’ the sundresses and shorts, sweatin’ cats and dogs.

Cats laying around, stretched and flat in the heat one eyeball on the birds, the other shut tightly continuing the catnap.  23 hours and 45 minutes rather than the usual 23 and a half hours.  Their beautiful fur sparkles in the sun as they enjoy the light.

Dad’s giant tomatoes and zucchini in numbers that could, and would, feed the entire neighborhood.

The hammock.

The oscillation of the fan; the hum of the air conditioner.  Goose bumps on the skin from too much air conditioning; sweat bumps on the skin from not enough.

The season of abundance, abundant electric bills.

Memories of summers past.  ImagePalisades Park, the Jersey Shore …  Image Lavallette, Seaside Heights, Belmar, Wild Wood, vacations on old Cape Cod, Sonoma and San Francisco, my back yard in Bergen County, family picnics on Sundays at the lake with the gravy pot on the barbecue grill as soon as the cars were parked, family picnics in the back yard on South Street and Griffith Street, Florida, other places.  Image

Sunning on the rocks.   ImageAnd now, love on the rocks.

New York City
Street fairs.
Summerstage.
Barbecue.
Fireworks.
Ice cold drinks.
Brain freeze.

Season of abundance; rich memories, a great day planned and a wide open summer sky ahead.

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I love the summer.

One More Once

Father’s Day, 2013.  Dad’s been gone for 10 years but I still feel the hole in my heart.  What keeps me going when days are rough is the sound of the mourning dove, a bird whose call he could perfectly mimic by cupping his hands and whistling through his thumbs.  The mourning dove isn’t always around but seems to appear, oddly enough, on the windowsill at times when I need help the most.  Strange.  And most welcome.

Although, overall, I’d have to say I physically favor my mom’s side of the family, I AM my father’s daughter.  I have his skinny ankles, miniature models of his hands (including the slightly twisted ring fingers), his nose, the twinkle in my eyes when I smile or laugh and his great head of wavy hair to prove it.  But beyond the physical traits, it’s his spirit that I always felt most in synch with; his playful sense of humor and gift for telling stories, his ability; his need to entertain a room, his pragmatic way of looking at things, his stubbornness, the bug-eyed thing that always happened when someone annoyed him, his wonderful resilience and his love for music.

Dad loved us, Dad loved entertaining the room with his jokes, Dad loved having conversations through cupped hands with the mourning dove, Dad loved Christmas and Dad loved music.  Dad loved music so much that it was always playing in the house. And it was always loud.  And mom was always screaming for him to turn it down.  And as my brother and I were growing up, he encouraged us to be open to listening to all kinds of music.  But he didn’t just tell us to do it, he showed us how by listening to our music as well the music he loved best.  He actually bought and listened to some of my favorite albums.

I remember days when, upon entering the hallway of the house, I’d hear “Statesboro Blues,” the first cut on the Allman Brothers’ “Live at Fillmore East,” blasting from our 1st floor apartment (cue music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNUbrhapPp4 ) in the house that dad worked so hard to buy.

I’d smile from ear to ear and open the door to see dad dancing and singing in the living room.  Invariably he’d grab me by the hand, my books would fall to the floor and we’d swing dance to the Allman Brothers.  He loved dancing, too and always looked great on the floor no matter who he was dancing with.  On most days, at the end of the song, he’d say “One more once!”  Which meant he liked the song so much, he wanted to listen to it one more time.  It made my mother CRAZY when he did that.  And, of course, he did it all the more.  Normally there were multiple “one more onces” so you could expect something like ten more onces if the song was a great one like “Statesboro Blues” and he was rocking out.  He LOVED that track (“Stormy Monday” was a close 2nd with, maybe, 7 more onces).

Then the disco wave hit and he discovered the Salsoul Orchestra’s Christmas CD, “Christmas Jollies.”  OH NOOOOO!!!  Christmas AND a “one more once?!?!?”  We. Were. Doomed.

The first track, “The Christmas Medley,” was the favorite and if you’ve never heard it, here it is … and I DARE you to sit still … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYOT6ILyypo … PS I’m listening now and I still cry when it starts playing.  During those disco days he did a mean Barry White imitation and also enjoyed AWB (the Average White Band).

Fast forward around 20 years or so.  Vinyl was quickly being replaced by CDs, I’d finally accepted that I should have a computer in the house and mom and dad had moved to Ocala, Florida home of horses and sinkholes (and John Travolta).  As part of their Christmas gift, I decided to send mom and dad a package of a few of their favorite albums on CD via Amazon.com.  The package included Englebert Humperdinck and Celine Dion for mom and, you guessed it, “Live at Fillmore East” and “Christmas Jollies” for dad.

After pressing “place order,” I forgot all about it.

Until, that is, I got … the phone call.

I picked up the phone and heard this loud, unidentifiable ruckus.  Thinking it was a prank call, I started to hang up and then heard a voice screaming “I GOT IT, I GOT IT!!!  THANK YOU!!!”  It was dad and he’d gone out to the garage to listen to “Christmas Jollies” on his car stereo.  He was ecstatic.  The volume was cranked up and I could hear him dancing (and smoking) as he listened (he smoked like a chimney but, because of mom’s COPD, he couldn’t smoke in the house).  It was hard having them living so far away but the image of him with that big smile on his face and dancing made me smile.  Mission accomplished.  And, as we talked, there was a “one more once” of the “Christmas Medley” at least twice.

Fast-forward a few years to 2002.  Mom’s health had started to decline.  She’d had several stays in the hospital followed by rehabilitation in a nursing home and her prognosis wasn’t very hopeful. Whenever mom wasn’t home, which was becoming more frequent, household chores fell to dad who also had some health issues percolating.  I tried to convince them to hire “Merry Maids” to help out but, being as stubborn and private as they were, there was NO way they’d allow strangers in to clean the house or take care of things so, when mom wasn’t around, dad did the cleaning … or not.  As things worsened, I started making more frequent visits to Florida to help pick up the pieces.

In the summer of 2002 my visits would start to become more frequent; mom was now “on borrowed time.” In July she was back in the nursing home for an extended stay, Dad was on his own and school was out for summer so a trip south with some new music in hand seemed to be “what the doctor ordered.”

The new music that summer was Norah Jones’ first CD, “Come Away With Me.”  It was one of my favorites and I had a suspicion that dad would like it too.  He liked Ravi Shankar so Ravi’s daughter should be a hit.  Plus the vibe of the music seemed like a fit.

As soon as I got to the house we shared hugs, I got the run down on the situation and then dad and I went to visit mom with me in the drivers’ seat; dad needed a rest. After telling him a little about Norah Jones, I popped the cd into the player.  The first track, “Don’t Know Why” started playing and dad started screaming “OOOOOO I LOVE THIS SONG!  I HEARD IT ON ‘THE WEST WING’ WHEN CJ WAS GETTING DRESSED FOR THE PARTY!  THAT BASTARD IS GORGEOUS!  AND THAT WAS A GREAT SCENE!  I WAS TRYING TO FIND OUT WHAT IT WAS!  I LOVE THIS SONG!”

I knew exactly what scene he was talking about.  I’d seen it as well and it WAS a great scene.  But I’d forgotten “Don’t Know Why” was the background music until he was screaming about it.  By the time he was done screaming, the song had ended and, as I expected (since he’d only heard the introduction) he said, “One more once” and I smiled. Mission accomplished.

We had as many “one more onces” as could fit into the 30-minute drive to the nursing home AND on the way home after the visit.  And every day after that for my weeklong stay. I’m not sure that we ever listened to the rest of the CD.  At one point, having grown really tired of that tune, I remember softly saying, “You know, Dad, the 2nd song is really nice, too.”  It worked for a minute before we were back to “Don’t Know Why.”

That was the last “one more once” we shared but, as I said earlier, I am my father’s daughter.  I have my own list of “one more once” tunes here in my little place in NYC and when I do the replay thing the words “One more once” in his voice, happily ring in my ears.

Thank you, Dad.   For all the wonderful moments and the stories I can tell.

Epilogue:  Dad was a practical joker.  After he died and mom and I returned to NJ on the air ambulance, I brought the two CDs, “Live at Fillmore” and “Christmas Jollies” home with me.  As I made arrangements for his wake and funeral I toyed with the idea of slipping a cd player in the casket and having a loop of “The Christmas Medley” playing during the visitation.  I can only guess where that idea came from … and it made me laugh a little in the midst of the train wreck that would continue for the month ahead.  I didn’t do it.  But Dad would’ve loved it.

I AM my father’s daughter.

Six and a half avenue …

Looking forward to Yin Yoga Flow with Eileen at Devotion’s Urban Sanctuary, I made my way on foot to the PATH station at Herald Square.  It was a beautiful Thursday afternoon and I was running a little later than I wanted to but still had ample time to get to Hoboken.  On the bonus side, the need for “a spring in my step” would assure a nice little walking workout as I ticked off the 40 blocks and 3 Avenues to the Jersey bound train.

Columbus Circle was buzzing at 4:00pm as I rounded my way onto Broadway at 59th Street. Completely forgetting that Broadway would run diagonally into 6th Avenue right near the PATH station, the “all around the mulberry bush GPS” in my head took over and I meandered through the streets and avenues inventing what I believed was the shortest distance between here and there.

Everything happens for a reason and it was no coincidence that I wasn’t intended to follow Broadway to my destination.  I was intended to find this little gem of a location:

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Yes, that’s right, it’s SIX AND A HALF AVENUE!

This was only the second time in my life that I’d bumped into 6 1/2 Avenue but, as happened the first time, I found myself laughing out loud. 6 and a HALF Avenue?  I would love having an address like that.  Imagine how funny it would be to tell people “Yes, that’s right, 6 and a half Avenue.” Seizing the moment for both a photo op and a writing seed, I snapped a few and started shaking the snow globe for some flakes of inspiration as I continued walking.

Given that our brains are hardwired along a negative bias (ultimately designed for protection), at first 6 1/2 Ave seemed the perfect metaphor for sitting on the fence; for being resigned to hiding in the in between and not fully jumping into things.  And I thought, “That’s it!  There are so many things I’ve not followed through on.  I’ve lived most of my life on 6 ½ Avenue!  I’ll write about always being “stuck.” I can’t stay on “7th Avenue” but it’s such a long, hard way to “6th Avenue.”   Sooooo … Why not just stay here and hover on 6 and a half. Given how avenues can angle sometimes, maybe the distance to 6th will just become shorter somewhere and the journey will be easier.”

It’s fascinating how strong the pull toward negativity can be.  At first, the concept of writing about a 6 ½ Avenue kind of life first appeared with a negative tinge manifesting as partially doing legwork but then sitting in limbo, waiting and/or hoping for the universe to magically deliver the rest of the journey or just giving up.  With that thought, and once again, I was willing to minimize my whole life as being in the in-between rather than consciously acknowledge it as a fascinating journey of adventure.  Why do I do that?

The good news is that, rather than immediately record or write my thoughts, I continued walking and “meditating” on and ON 6 and a half Avenue, allowing the ideas to play and broaden.

Meditation is a wondrous thing.  One thing it can do is create spaciousness around an event.  And as I walked and watched my thoughts, I started to see 6 ½ Avenue not as the metaphor for stalling an action but, rather, as a metaphor for the beauty of pausing in “the now.”  Not being stuck but, rather, allowing for time to hover and just be.  The wonderful balance between the past of being on 7th Avenue AND the possibility of things to come on 6th Avenue but not attending to either of them.  Like hanging out in a great Warrior 2.  That beautiful “space between;” the elusive gap between the thoughts.  Bliss.

There I was barreling toward the PATH trying to “make good time” and not really paying attention to anything other than time and direction.  I actually bumped into a former colleague and passed up the opportunity to chat a moment because I was in “such a hurry.”  Then, just seeing this sign …

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… forced me look up, pause and laugh out loud.  Be present to opportunities.

And like that great Warrior 2 and our micro-minutes of really just being in the present, my stay on 6½ Avenue lasted one block.  At 51st street I was forced, and ready, to turn east and continue toward Avenue of the Americas.  But I took that present of presence with me with the intention to call on the 6 ½ avenue state of mind more often.

And to find Vivian so I can tell her that it was really great to see her in NYC, to apologize for not taking the time to stop and find out what she’s been up to.

Epilogue:  Of course, I needed to find out a little more about this crazy little avenue.  I know NOW that 6 ½ Avenue is a series of public pedestrian plazas stretching from West 51st to 57th Streets between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. The 6-block-long “avenue” is part of the Department of Transportation’s efforts to maximize the use and safety of the multiple public plazas that were created when the buildings were erected. These public plazas have served as shortcuts for pedestrians. Crosswalks connecting the pedestrian plazas are also in place.

 

6 1/2 Avenue … definitely a place worth re-visiting.

Peace ~

Worth the wait?

Waiting is a part of life.  Sometimes waiting is forced on us and other times we choose to wait.   And when I’m waiting, sometimes I wonder, “Is there anything that’s worth waiting for?  Anything that’s worth putting other things on hold for?”  There are a number of deep thoughts behind the waiting thing but today, we’re just gonna float a little and leave the deeper diving for later.

Standing on a ridiculously long line to get into a restaurant is not high on my list of priorities.  Unless I’m with exceptional company who INSISTS on it, you won’t find me choosing eateries like Carmine’s or Shake Shack any time soon.  A Disneyworld (you pick the attraction) sized line as the pre show for…. lots of spaghetti or burgers, fries and shakes?  Nope. Not me.  We can get just as good somewhere else.  And as for standing on a similarly long line to get jelly donuts in a BAKERY?  Definitely NOT something that jazzes me, NOT even if that bakery is the focus of a hit cable TV show.  There are plenty of other jelly donuts in the sea.  Not worth waiting for.

When I was a kid, Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken was one of several possible bakery stops made by family members who wanted to bring a “nice piece of cake” to someone’s house when they went visiting.  Each branch of the family had their favorite stop; each bakery had a specialty.  Judicke’s in Bayonne had “the meltaway,” a delicious type of crumb cake that literally melted in your mouth (one of Aunt Margie’s favorite “brings”).  Paris Bakery, in the Greenville section of Jersey City, had a fruit and custard tart (Aunt Jenny loved it when one of those showed up but I hated the slimy fruit on top).  Monteleone’s, in the Jersey City Heights, was the stop for Italian pastry, cookies and cannoli (and that grumpy old lady who sat in the window).  And, if anyone wanted the BEST lobster tails on the planet, a trip to Carlo’s was on the itinerary.  The sweet little spot, like all the good bakeries in and around the ‘hood, had a wonderful aroma and was always filled with delicious baked goods and samples of the beautiful specialty cakes.

We were a cake, buns and pastries kind of family so, if we weren’t swapping home made holiday baked goods (our plate of struffoli, assorted taralle or easter pie for yours), the ubiquitous white bags and boxes from local bakeries were familiar sights in everyone’s kitchens.  You could find them, most often, on top of the washing machines.  And it’s no wonder that those bags were such a staple in the households.  Mom and dad each came from large families.  They didn’t have a lot of money so, “to get the best bang for their buck “my aunts and uncles said when they were kids, they’d go to the bakeries late in the day to get bags of leftover buns for a nickel.

As I got older, went out on my own and became a little more health conscious, bakery bags were no longer a standard part of the kitchen décor.  If there were baked goods around, they had the Entenmann’s label on them.  But, from time to time, after having dinner somewhere in Hoboken, picking up a couple of Carlo’s crispy, creamy Lobster Tails was a nice way to end the evening.   They really were special favorites, sometimes serving as “pick me ups” on drab days.  You know how that goes … eat and you’ll feel better; eat good sweets and … well … the sky’s the limit.   For a minute.

Time moved on, life changed and trips to Hoboken were few and far between.  Parking was becoming ridiculously difficult and, after finding a space, there was usually a long wait to be seated in any of the nice/fun/hip restaurants (remember from above that I’m not a fan of standing on long lines waiting to eat).  As collateral damage, the trips to Carlo’s stopped as well.   The last intentional trip I made to Carlo’s was in 2007 to order a special cake in celebration of the civil union between two of my most wonderful heart brothers.  And as I think about it, the only lobster tails that occasionally enter my mind are the ones that start out in the ocean rather than the oven.

Fast forward a couple of years.  2009.  “Cake Boss” hits cable TV and what a nice surprise!  Carlo’s bakery with its own reality show letting us see the shenanigans that go on behind the scenes while Buddy, his family and his artistic team create their delicious specialties for various occasions, charities, events and celebrities.  How cool was that?  And, of course, the crowds went wild!  And what a boon for business!!!

At around that same time I’d moved back to Jersey City and started practicing yoga at Devotion studio located just around the corner from Carlo’s.  So late one afternoon, before a class, I thought I’d head to the bakery to reminisce a bit and grab a snack to take home.  BAD IDEA.  The line of people heading to Carlo’s was about two blocks long and three people deep and they were taking pictures!  Hmmm … Times Square in Hoboken … all they need are a few Elmos, Sponge Bobs and a Naked Cowboy.  I thought OK … it’s becoming “famous” and attracting more business including tourists.  I’ll come back in a couple of hours after class, the line will be gone for sure.  BAD IDEA AGAIN.  The line was STILL just as long.  Newcomers replaced those who’d been served.  What the heck?!?!  The stuff is good but, SERIOUSLY?  Do they know that, once they get inside, it’s a little bakery that smells really good and has the same good sweets that the best (Italian) bakeries in their neighborhoods have?  I mean, seriously.  Giorgio’s Italian and French Pastry on 11th and Washington may not have the ambiance but the baked goods there are delicious, too.

I honestly “get” the crowd drawing power of celebrity.  I “get” that excited people think they might actually see Buddy or some of the other folks who are on the show.  I “get” that it’s important to people to visit that place that’s on TV.  My friend Lorraine, had folks visiting from Missouri and they INSISTED on going to Carlo’s, big line and all. What I don’t get is that, if I just wanted to buy one lobster tail or a jelly donut, the only way I can do that is to stand on that long line.  There’s no express service; no foot through.  Locals for whom Carlo’s was the regular stop for a donut and coffee on the way to work or on break from work were boxed out of doing that because of the crowds.  Doesn’t seem right.  I’m not sure if that’s changed; if there’s been some alternate way of serving the “drive by” regulars, but it would be nice if that happened.  Or maybe it was time for the regulars to change their stop and shift their business to other establishments who needed it … after all, there are many other places to get “coffee and” in Hoboken.  Why not spread the wealth around?

Over the course of a couple of years I tried getting to Carlo’s before or after a yoga class but there was always that crazy crowded long line; rain or shine.  YES … they stand on line in the rain, too!!  One night, though, while walking back to the PATH after a class in the uptown studio, I noticed that there was no line in front of the bakery.  How curious?  And how cool!   Maybe this was the right time to get here.  Maybe a Napoleon!  NO too rich.  My heart started racing a block away from the place.  Would I finally be able to pick up a cookie or that jelly donut I always joke about?  NOPE … To my dismay, as I got closer, I realized OF COURSE THERE’S NO LINE.  Carlo’s was closed for the evening!  And I laughed.

So fast-forward again.  It’s 2013.  I’m living in NYC now, haven’t been back to Hoboken much and haven’t really thought of Carlo’s.  I stopped watching “Cake Boss” after the first season because reality TV just isn’t my thing.  Then, just before a rehearsal at a little black box theatre on 42nd street, I looked out the window to see THE CAKE BOSS CAFÉ!!!  Holy crap! He’s HERE!  Of course … Bring the mountain to Mohammed, too!  I laughed, took some photos and let it go … I couldn’t get into the *original* bakery so there’s no way I’d be stopping in at this tourist trap.

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Well …. Never say never, right?  A month later, after a day of back to back appointments and constant rain, I was on my way back uptown, wet and hungry.  As I walked toward the C station on 42nd street I passed The Cake Boss Café, and then … doubled back.  No line outside. Just a few people standing at the counter and folks sitting at the tables.  Hmmm.  Smells good.  Looks good.  OK … just this once because I KNOW there MUST be a line out the door and two blocks long on a regular sunny day.

Out of all the delicious tempting baked goods and pastries, including lobster tails,  I chose a simple piece of crumb cake.  It was really good and I enjoyed every bite.  But would it be worth the wait on a line two blocks long and three people deep either in Hoboken or NYC?  No way.  And I’ll stick to that story.  I’m sure there’s really good crumb cake out there somewhere else minus the wait.

And apples are really good, too.

But who knew I’d have to move to New York City to finally get into Carlo’s Bakery without a wait?

So what is the value of time spent standing on lines that seem to be pointless.  Maybe I’m missing the point.  Maybe it’s not about *wasting time* on those long lines, it’s about sharing the experience of that long line with someone you love and punctuating it with something you might not ever do again.  Thus creating a new story to add to the Life Book.

At the top I hinted this could get deep.  And I’m going to continue to shake the snowglobe.

You can be your own judge.  What’s worth waiting for?

Love & Awe

Once upon a time, back in the days of being forced to attend dreadful faculty meetings and workshops, I heard a wonderful speech.  The woman delivering it was a superintendent, one of two with whom I’d had close contact and for whom I had deep respect.  The kernel of her speech was that life wasn’t a restaurant and no one was going to serve you.  Life, she said, was a buffet and it was your job to get up and go get what you wanted.  It made complete sense, has been reinforced by other speakers through the years and stayed with me for a very long time, perhaps even up until this moment.

Today, it’s floating around in the snowglobe asking to be played with because I think I have a prologue for that concept.

Currently my philosophy has me thinking life is simply life and it’s ALWAYS delivering delicious meals and snacks right to our doors (feel free to think Jenny Craig, if you must).  The trouble is we’re too cluttered or clouded to see it coming.  Either we’re not always paying attention and miss the meal or we’re too busy doing something else and don’t come to the table or we think it’s the same old stuff and we don’t want to eat it, or we just don’t want to taste “that stuff.” Consequently, we miss out on getting up to get something that could be delicious.  Well, since last Sunday, several delectable morsels have come into “kitchen little” here in NYC.  And, after receiving today’s “snack,” I have a really cool “Chopped” mystery basket waiting to be turned into a meal.

Lately, I’ve been drawn to watching Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” during which she has terrific dialogues with amazing and inspirational thinkers, writers, speakers and healers.  Although I’ve been pretty much bed ridden due to some weird flu bug for the past couple of days, I had to peel back the blankets and pop one eyeball out into the air to see what this week’s pearls of wisdom would be.  Having come out of the broadcasts with a necklace worth, and unable to give words to all of them (as usual), one pearl stands out for me.

During today’s broadcast Oprah’s guests, Rev. Ed Bacon, Elizabeth Lesser and Marc Nepo, were focused on discussing their “big picture” ideas around issues such as gun violence, prescription drug use, religion, etc.  One of the last, if not the last issue in question revolved around why we spend so much money on our pets.  Of course the bottom line was that it’s because we love them and they love us back unconditionally.  Interestingly enough, one member of the panel also suggested that we could also be using pets to hide from our fear of deeper, more complex love on the human level.  And, given all the listening/watching/reading I’ve been doing lately, those ideas made sense.

What was *literally* eye opening for me was that, in addition to talking about how unconditionally pets love us, one of the guests also said “animals have never forgotten their first set of instructions … love is constant and unconditional.”   My other eyeball had to emerge from under the covers with that thought.

Animals have never forgotten their FIRST set of instructions.

Hmmmm … aren’t WE, the humans with the big brains, part of the animal kingdom?

Not coincidently when I dragged myself out of bed to get some circulation going and check on the status of the rest of the world, I found a lovely e-mail containing adorable photos of babies and young children hanging out with their cats and dogs.  You’ve seen those photos.  The ones that make you smile or tear up like an idiot … little babies in the catbed with the cat or using the pup as a bed and the pup totally enjoying it, etc.  As I looked at these photos I thought, “AND as babies and young children, we are EXACTLY the same as our pets.  Of COURSE we come equipped with the same first set of instructions … nothing else exists but pure and constant love.”  So animals and children have never forgotten their first instructions.

And, facetiously, my next thought was “and then we grow up.”

Tragedy + Time + Distance = Comedy.  And although I crack myself up from time to time, I’ve started looking at how I use humor to avoid painful conflict; to make things okay when they’re really not.   So, rather than just letting the joke land and moving on to whatever was next, I decided to sit with it for a moment and look at what was fueling my flippancy toward the constancy of love.

What came to mind first was a beautiful link, focusing on *Awe,* shared on Thursday by a really interesting Facebook friend who I think I’d like to meet someday:  

Awe … an experience of such perceptual vastness you literally have to reconfigure your mental models of the world to assimilate it. 

And I pondered:  ADULT humans have to reconfigure mental models of the world to assimilate awe.  Given the imposed constructs of our daily lives, we have neither time, nor patience nor the tools it takes to be in simple awe of anything in our environment, let alone things with which we’re familiar, like our loved ones or the pasta we eat every Sunday.  BUT our animals and our young children …. they’re so open and in awe of every moment that whizzes by.  Just watch a baby play with its toes, the same toes he had six minutes ago, over and over and over.  Or watch my beautiful little cat Maya who, after 7 years, is still chasing her shadow tail or my shadow finger and having a great time (and in the moment I’m wagging my finger, casting that shadow and giggling, I am awed by both of us).  Animals and kids are the poster models for the awe factor.   It’s simply the way they roll.

And, again, my next thought was “and then we grow up.”

Ok. So I continued chewing on the sarcasm to see if I could spit out the bitter part.

From the depth of my soul, from my wounded heart, and even beyond my own experiences, I wondered again about those “first instructions” and the beauty of constant, unconditional love.  “What the heck goes so wrong that, in the face of tender love, in the grace of warm love that asks for nothing in return, in the place of love that seems to be mutually agreed upon, fear can bubble up like a volcano and change everything.  How can we let fear be stronger than love?  How can love be so frightening that fear becomes a better choice?  How is it possible that, rather than enjoy waking up in total awe of a loved one every day, warts and all (theirs and yours), it’s easier to fear experiencing the full capacity of love and just be done with the meal?  Why haven’t my cats chosen hiding places instead of glueing themselves to me whenever possible?  I’m not “Miss Mary Sunshine” every moment.  My cats must simply reconfigure their mental model of the world every night while they sleep and the “awe factor” must also be part of their “first instructions.”   So … animals and children never forget their first instructions: constant and unconditional love is tempered by a sense of awe.

It’s interesting to consider that, somewhere along the line, we start surrounding ourselves in protective armor that renders us love and awe-deprived as well as amnesiacs of our first instructions.

And then my mind landed on last week’s interview with Dr. Maya Angelou (who I named my adorably wise and peaceful little cat for).

For her final question in this wonderfully enlightening two part interview (and I could listen to Maya talk for….. I don’t even know how long, but a long time), Oprah asked Dr. Angelou, “What do you know for sure?”  And with only a nanosecond of thought, this brilliant beacon of light, love and enlightenment answered:

“I know for sure that love saves me.  And that it is here to save us all.  I know it’s a sense.  It’s more close to us than air … more loud to us than hearing.  I know it.  I know that we can sit in it.  Yes.   Love, honey, and you know by that I don’t mean mush or any romance or sentimentality.  I mean something … It’s so … It can raise the dead.  It can make a mountain move.  I KNOW it.  I haven’t DONE it.  But I know it as surely as I’m sitting here.”

Dr. Angelou’s beautiful sentiment was filled with reverence and awe for the depth and power of love.  It was clearly all over her face as I watched her create the thoughts.  And it was beautiful.

Somewhere in the depths of my soul, in the greenest place in my heart, I KNOW that love is all that.  And, as that, pure, full love cannot exist without the child like presence of awe.  And love lets go and forgives so that more love can fill in the spaces.  Children and animals totally “get it.”  Watch them.  Something happens to interrupt their joy (a playground fight, a whack with a newspaper), they respond, and then they’re right back up on the love train.  Made of teflon, they accept the interruption and let it go so that love and awe can flow back into the space.  The first instructions:  Constant and unconditional love must be tempered by a sense of awe and forgiveness.

Love is all there is and it carries the day; it saves them every time because every moment is new even if it’s old.   And it can save all we adult “know it alls/seen it alls,” too … if we stand in the space of of awe and forgiveness every day.

So, like the pizza man, life delivered morsels for a meal and my “Chopped” mystery basket contained First Instructions, Awe, Animals and Children and Love.   The taste of this meal, Constant, Unconditional Love Bathed in the Breath of Awe and some Forgiveness (from the pantry), is very familiar and worth having on the menu every day.  As breakfast, perhaps.

Before I make that decision, though, I’ll need to play with my toes for an hour or get Maya to play “Whose Tail is it Anyway?” for a while.

peacefreak