REPORT A PROBLEM
Fool? Don't call me by your name. No one knows the soul of another and there is such thing as self-preservation. If only it wasn't Easter Sunday and the backs of heads in church remind me of humanity, vulnerability and of innocence. Maybe they ask for forgiveness, for direction and for cries to be heard. Where is the genuine understanding and care? Forgive them, they know not what they do. Tears fall for the grief that surfaces on holiday mornings. The broken connections and distances. WWJD? This man that sees the gold in hearts and not the gold plated.
There are times to be up on the beautiful balcony looking down at a complex problem or the family stage or a work dynamic and just leave it be. Breathe. Let it play itself out. Let things just be in development. Let the players take their places and we need not be producing or directing or playing a role. There are times there is no role to play, and the curtain falls, rises and the stage set changes. Trust is required. The wand is put away. Quietly, one gets to hear the right call for action way before curtain call.
Name that tune. The tune played in times of longing. Simon and Garfunkel speak the words that we canít be spoken. "Away, I'd rather sail away, like a swan that's here and gone, A man grows older every day." Growing older is happening without a word, not a word and all we hear is the sound of silence. One might say it is a necessary silence. "Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again, because a vision softly creeping." Pretty soon there will be no shallow notes. Instead a deep dip into the reservoir of truth.
Why might the universe be plopping folks in front of me that are my biggest fears realized? Like the arthritic fibromyalgic depressed lonely pet therapy addicted cynical dark jittery eating disordered chronic complaining narcissistic dramatic terrified paranoid harsh critical client who wants someone to cast a spell to heal them in an instant so they donít get evicted. Or the elder who falls, is lifted by a stranger, wobbles to the side of the road to catch a breath, and has no emergency contact. Answer - preventative medicine my dear, and an opportunity to serve in this tragic gap, my dear.
Paper and pen. Type. Say thank you. Thank someone today. Take out a pretty pen. Write something. An example -- start now -- it takes a minute, literally, time it, here goes: Hi ladies -- my heart keeps bouncing back to the beauty of last Sunday and the warm, loving, healing hands, and voices around me. Welcomed tears after an Easter Sunday of some family losses kicking me around, and thanks for holding the space for some, and that aching shoulder. It is what we do. I am blessed to know you and be part of this larger tribe. See? Easy. Please write.
What time brings to a couple is familiarity with quirks, habits, peculiarly sweet patterns. This is it. Calling him "sweetie" and never by his name. Never less than 4 blankets on a king bed. No piles of laundry would feel too organized. Missing Saturday Night Live sitting on that long couch is unacceptable. We may outlive the lives of the cats and maybe be at the birth of a grandchild, maybe get a dog and new habits and patterns, baldness and grayness and memories. Travel or no travel, jobs or no jobs, this is it, the this-ness of love.
A loss is an odd thing that comes on a random Monday, not always convenient for a life to pass before my eyes. Elder friends are supposed to die, of course. But Vincent? Yeah, Vincent too. 89 years of living as a mentor to many, guide, dancer, wisdom seeker, and connector. Decades of sobriety, shepherding many to church basements, Penn Craig/Hamptons, a ski house in Vermont for my first-time ski, proud smile at my UC Berkeley graduation, an expedition to Ireland tracking down roots. Lots of coffee. Black. Flashes of that smile, his complexity, and charisma, twelfth step magnified.
Dark sunglasses hide eyes that see, but she pretends she is blind. I play along and guide her describing the chair just to her right as she settles herself sporting the usual layers of blackish gray clothing, frayed. Her smile shocks as it reveals rotted teeth, and no shame. I know she is evaluating me behind the dark glasses, and makes sure I know her role is to help me. All the while, I feel her gaze, and I can see the smile in her eyes, even though I don't see her eyes, the eyes of my mom long gone.
When I was young I wore a purple snorkel coat with a furry hood that caused a massive knot in my hair. I was more concerned with being out to play in my young teen life with games like "cork cork alevio" or "mother may I" or "hide and seek" or "ring and run" or building a rugged fort back weeds with walls of twigs and dirt. I wore the same dirty jeans and sweatshirt daily and didn't care about boys or love, or unknotting my hair, until one mischievous day, I took a scissor and cut the knot out.
If there was a universal search done on every scrappy journal I ever kept throughout a lifetime of journal scrappy-ness, what would the most used term be? "I feel fat" - perhaps. Now? The best news: the journal entries going forward read more like, "whilst bike riding in Central Park among bursts of color of purely surely spring, a slight breeze blew pink petals along the loop and I people smiled at me as I glided by. I wondered why, until I realized my bright brimming grin and not a thought of plumpness, even though it existed. Pure glee trumped it.
For some, a birthday might be just another day, and for some, it is a national holiday where the world needs to stand still and celebrate, commiserate, coordinate, calibrate, capture -- claim -- and center on ME. No breaking news other than birthday news. Please. It is 4/11 and here's the 411: Please just take a moment, stop what you are doing, and shout, whisper, nod, acknowledge, give a little nudge, a smile -- but don't ignore that it is the one day that is mine. So just in case it slips your mind, I won't let it. Happy Birthday to me.
It took some time to lean into that inner guru, guide, therapist and bestest friend inside vs people assigned and handed a magic wand. No more magic mojo needed. Yes, there are folks that are brilliant with an experience level that wows from time to time, but over the long haul of life, the inner belly dancer is the most compelling, wise, emotionally intelligent, kind, fabulous source of strength. When listened to closely there is a peace that no outside DJ or guru can offer up -- because in the long run, know thyself, trust thyself. If no answer comes, wait.
Poetry in motion is set up on NYC subways aimed at the cynical strap hangers. Meant to annoy the cranky and motivate the spiritual. Except that most everyone underground does not meet your gaze and are engrossed in their own brain. I force myself to be grateful that I know enough to stand in front looking like that stalker freak while reading a poem on a poster over a stranger's head. Like one called "Dew"- "as neatly as peas in their green canoe, as discreetly as beads strung in a row, sit drops of dew among a blade of grass..."
It is 8:07 in the morning, a rain like a sheet. He climbs over the curve at the foot of the king-sized with four layered blankets. I hear the shower. 30 years of coffee and a satchel of stuff to keep him company on the train that is just another room in his house because if he thought of it in any other way, it wouldn't be good. I love this man, this forward-thinking, humble man and will always love this man, and that is the claim here today because the thought of life without him makes no sense.
Even though it takes a half tank of gasoline, lugging a pile of laundry, packing a green striped refrigerator bag, lugging a carry-all with the carry-alls: computer, books like The Alchemist or that article about boomers and seniors. The various chargers for iPhone, Bluetooth and the all too important hot rollers for the hair -- even though packing is part of the journey - it is worth a two hour country caravan commute to sit in the stillness of a messy house, with a fat cat on lap and the quiet of the quiet room with a sliver of sky vs brick.
Some days have to simply come to a close and there is no figuring out why, and no counting blessings and a list of gratitudes or platitudes or attitudes. Just let it all fall away when it was a bad hair day from inside out. Clients that were wildly insatiable and incurable and inconsolable. There is not enough listening in a lifetime of listenings to guide their way. No quick fix. If their lives creep into your own life uninvited, the only real cure is a new day. No magnifying glass. No drinking from a dry well. Sleep it off.
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Gratitude for a warm coat on a late April day as winter still blows through the trees and a cold rain falls. Not a time to expose ankles or forget that scarf on a day when you wish the hat was in the left pocket. Tell the truth and there is no sunshine to figure out, but a chance to look around and see a doorway to a warm bed, a dish of warm egg and avocado with a splash of sweet corn. The veil lifts and life becomes a bright thing again.
Stillness is where the sweetest sounds live. Having no where to go is a most enjoyable thing. An open window watching the cat roll over on her back bathing herself in the sunlight. Binoculars on a cardinal as we listen to the serene sound it speaks and wondering why not let that be a little visit from my mom who likes to send a nudge and a sensory something or other. So I just say hello. Hello. Because this is the sweetness that comes from still moments on a spring day when there is nowhere to go but here. Here.
All this fretting about old age, the thought pops into mind that we might not even have an old age. What is the beeline balance between planning and playing? Live now. Nothing really matters. Live in the day, and live in the moment, and live in the reality that old age is a privilege we might not ever have. If we do, what is the worse case scenario if there is nothing tucked away for rainy days and Mondays? Homelessness? Maybe. Illness? Maybe. Prison? I doubt it. Even that wouldn't be the end of the world. So, have fun. Now.
No wonder people get stage fright. The hope is for a forgiving audience and not the persnickety, judging, finger pointing brats who scrutinize, judge and poke. Of course, the mind creates these characters in the room with magnifying glasses on every imperfection, especially in pre-presentation mode when you don't know that you will hit it out of the park and realize that all the projection was for naught because really the faces staring back from the crowd are friendly and clearly absorbing and eating up the words and not the woman spewing them. Instead, you realize you really got this.
Stuff. Enough is enough of too much stuff. Then I remember I am not the only one with too much stuff, and this is what we do in this world. We collect stuff. How do you throw away handmade tools of a dad, or the alligator with a moving tail, or a gnome even though there are a trillion gnomes? How do you throw away the bowling ball, blue, engraved with your name, the ball that tossed a game of 236? Or the green massage chair from a business you once built? Or the sketch made in your Picasso phase?
Quoting from NYTimes Social Q's because it is that good when pondering forgiveness: "To everyone sitting around waiting for an apology: Learn a handicraft! Try knitting or carving rosettes out of radishes. Then, at least, youíll have something to show for your time when the apology never arrives. Some people simply wonít say, ďIím sorry.Ē This doesnít excuse the omission; itís a character flaw." Well, this certainly frees up time in life. Time to create something like an essay or planting flowers or tomatoes instead of sitting around wondering when an apology might suddenly sprout.
Seen on a baseball cap: "Think outside. Box Not Necessary." Well, give me fresh air in between my ears any time, and you will receive a few dozen creative thoughts. Put me in a room with heated bodies and personalities and clinking teacups and that girl that eats apples all day and the speed typer in the corner and the breathing and dropping of pins and there is no clear thought that enters the brain, not one clear thought, so it really comes down to this, and this only: get the hell outside and breathe, return, and stop even trying.
Who we see in ourselves and who we don't all matter -- but it is the unseen, the unwritten that beckons me. In the words of Diane Arbus, The Full Circle: "there are singular people who appear like metaphors somewhere further out than we do, beckoned, not driven, invented by belief, author, and hero of a real dream." We are made up of cells, thoughts, feelings. Sculpted from beliefs of others, and of how we grow, or not, because you might read a journal entry from the 80's and realize nothing changed, feelings remain, and one must smile at this ridiculousness.
Something as simple as pink flowers on a windowsill even on a gray day can take a trouble or two away. The way the agave plant cascades and frames the glass. Knowing this is a precious piece of that tall tree that leaned against the landscape of the ocean of a home that mattered. I have a piece of this fallen tree, and it is no small thing to see a world of sky above it. Whether it is city or mountain, up and away from the traffic of the mind and sit grounded in nature with this rectangular sky.
Silence is a quiet color. When there is nothing to figure out with words but a golden shade of questions that are bubbling up and no need for fix-it paragraphs or monologues. The verbal is too verbose because all the answers come from silence. Rumi says, "A great silence overcomes me, and I wonder why I ever thought to use language." So please get overcome amidst the chaos of a life with silence and figure out the luxurious madness of the mind. Get quiet. Most of the time words are just words with ribbons and bows and no endings.
Just because someone invites you onto the monkey bars, you don't have to climb to the top. It is okay to sit on the bench and watch them climb. If ever there is a moment when you think they might fall off, move in close enough where you can shield them from falling, or give a shout, but you do not have to climb on. Remember there is rubber matting on the floor, and everyone has their own climb. You have yours, they have theirs, and stay humble because at one time you were in your own crazy jungle gym.
What matters doesn't matter especially when you put a chunk of time in the middle of what you think matters. Time takes away the matter. Like every bit of sweat that goes into those stupid papers needed for that MSW. Who cares. Then you get the job and you have to satisfy funders who pay your salary. They are either going to pay it or not. It is not a moral issue. It is never a moral issue when you know in your heart you have good morals. So when life is just life, a shrug is just a shrug.
Pajama days and Mondays always get me.... When there is nothing but hanging out with the all of it, and the tall of it, and the thick of it. Just following self-made lists and not caring too much if the checkmarks happen because Tuesday is the day of checkmarks and lists. The wise Thich Nat Hahn knows more than me, "go back and take care of yourself. Your body needs you, your feelings need you, your perceptions need you. Your suffering needs you to acknowledge it. Go home and be there for all these things." What this requires? Pajamas.
Confidence is the best lipstick with just a touch of rouge. It doesn't matter if the hair is on the fly. Or a good night of sleep was a bad night of sleep. If one sings from inside their heart, the sound is grace, people stand in awe and reverence. So shine inside. Don't let grime dull your light. As Elizabeth KŁbler-Ross said, "people are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within." Shine.
The Tip Jar