Questions unanswered

There is something buzzing in my head since yesterday and I was not going to write about it. However, this is my place to put my thoughts so I am going to put this into words and see what happens.

I was having a discussion with someone who is studying to become a minister. She is very serious that this is her calling and I applaud her efforts. I usually do not engage in conversations about religion or faith with people because it is one of those topics that can spark a fight or lecture. This conversation just rendered me speechless.

It is her intent to minister to people who are in poverty. I applaud the effort but then I am wondering if this is such a good thing. What is the true intent; to help or to control? This is why I do not like to get into these conversations. Religion or faith is such a personal commitment but too often it becomes a big stick which people wield over other people’s heads. “Walk my way, it is the only way!” I so disagree on this.

She went on to explain her stance on Christianity and that she had no tolerance for non-Godly people. What? I thought to myself, these are the people who need love and comfort the most. She went on to explain that she believes in evil and that there are spirits that are demonic. She has no tolerance for those who worship evil. Again, thinking to myself that those who practice a satanic cult usually are people who need to obtain some control in their life and this gives them a sense of power. I make no judgment on whether there really is anything to it as long as they harm no one or anything. My confusion exists only because in my thinking, Christian doctrine states love everyone. I have had conversations with fundamentalists who claim their Christian sainthood only to then list off the people they say are worthless and infidels.

So much of my thinking has radically changed recently. However, I have never thought myself as being grounded in one form or another of a religious practice. I think that is because I have never been able to be in total agreement with one specific way or denomination. I have sampled from many practices and encompassed many traditions of my own making gleamed from various rituals of faith. I am asking questions now, which is how I got this proselytization from my acquaintance. I think her passion is fabulous and there are a whole lot of worse things that she could be passionate about.

But this is the comment that buzzed around and I cannot find peace with. She said, “I cannot accept anyone who does not embrace MY God.” Holy smokes, YOUR God? Unfortunately it threw me when she said it and she went on to say a few more things that I totally lost track of because this was stuck so predominately in my head. It saddens me to think that this is really not such an uncommon connector for people. “Their God.” The one and only take it or leave it one size does not fit all omnipotent being. I understand that this if often a product of pack mentality but the world has suffered forever with that concept of my way is the only way. People have died because of this thinking.

I sat for a few minutes and we slightly switched to talk about a class I am taking. I said the only way this method works is that you have to take your ego out of the equation. She stopped cold. “Ego?” she asked. And then it hit her. Ego, when you become more important than the lesson. Both of us are educators and this is a lesson I try to teach new teachers. You have to be less important in the classroom than the topic and your students. If you are there to pontificate and demonstrate that you are so knowledgeable on the subject you will not be an effective teacher. You are only a vessel of knowledge, that you are an instrument of application. The students are not there to be dazzled by your brilliance and a teacher will be less effective as an instructor if you are a sage on stage. She has learned this lesson in our classroom and I have seen her become a better teacher when her passion is about the material and not about her always being right. Allowing her vulnerability to be exposed has brought her to a better level of teaching. She now learns from her students as well. That is effective collaborative learning.

I only hope that as she travels down this path that she can bring some of this concept into her ministry. Unfortunately, this is one of those no win situations. The minute I say something about this to her, I am doing the same thing. I am saying this is the only way to be, even though my thoughts are totally the opposite. So I will not say anything and I will continue to ask questions. Because I truly believe there is not only one way to do anything.

 

 

Dickering with thieves

Last night, my husband and I drove out to look at a car he had spotted on the Internet. Car shopping is a whole lot different than when I bought my first horseless carriage. It almost was painless. He has been in search for the best deal for only a week or so and when he spotted his target, it was a simple quick email and off we went to look at it.

My first car was a 1960 Ford Falcon. I bought it off of someone’s lawn for $50.00. It was the coolest thing in the world to have your own car. I do not remember all the messing around with titles and paperwork. I gave the guy some money and the plates I got and off I went. The steering wheel on this dinosaur was at least three feet in diameter. In the trunk was a set of snow tires that were brand new. Gives you an idea of how big the trunk was and this car was considered a compact for those days. My girlfriends and I tooled around in this baby and my boyfriend and I used it as a private get-away. I taught him how to drive in that car and he went on to try semis.

One day as I was on the expressway and I went to brake. My foot went to the floor. The car did not even attempt to slow down. I still remember the helplessness and yet, I figure it out enough to get off the road to the shoulder and coast to a stop. Once I turned the car off, that is when the real panic hit and I burst into tears. This produced a fellow traveler to come to my aid. We did not have cell phones in those days and I do not even remember how, but a flatbed truck came and took my bomb to the garage. There it was given last rites. The front end was barely attached in the carriage of the vehicle and the car would not pass inspection again. They put new brake lines in and I drove it until I sold it for $25.00. I sold the tires for another $50.00 making me feel like I winner.

The next car was the first in a long line of semi-luxurious used cars. I like big cars and always will. I learned to drive on my father’s 1968 Pontiac Grand Prix. It was his menopause car. It was considered for its time the hybrid of a sports car with a luxury car. It was hot. His next car was a Buick, a sign of passing in my eyes of male aging. My husband made some comments about  buying a Buick this time, and I realized he was reaching that age where black knee socks and plaid shorts was a rite of passage. My favorite car was a Ford Grenada which was a version down from the Lincoln Town car. I would get into that baby and my world would be transported to a sense of extreme opulence.

At one point, when we were in college as returning adults, cars took a back seat to tuition. We drove our cars until they fell apart literally. He had a Malibu which we had to replace as it just died on me one day. That was when I bought the car I have now, and absolutely love. He drove my old car until we replaced it because it was time. I got my money out of that Saturn. It was 17 years old. Great car.

Cars are more than just something to drive around. They are memory makers. We have our favorite routes we spend Sundays traversing on. We have our paths that take us to our favorite place to relax; The River. I have enjoyed many activities in cars. From bygone days, my friends and I used to spend weekend nights parked at the drive-in. The movie was not always the highlighted feature of the night. Cars offered freedom and lessons in responsibility. I drove in conditions that no one should drive in and I am not talking about the weather. The car is an extension of your home and a place for privacy and relaxation.

So my husband has a new car and it is not a Buick. It is jet black with heated leather seats. He is jubilant. I am glad it is what he wanted and I do not have to do anything more than just sit and enjoy it when he drives. Gone are the days when buying a car is a traumatic experience. I did not hear anyone utter “does the Little Lady want to try driving it?”  The salesman was hardly sixteen it seemed. But he was very pleasant and took my snarkiness in stride. We got to the dickering and even that was painless. He sat us his booth area and off he went. He comes back beaming with what he thought was a good deal. He did not know me. I had to counter and off he went to haggle. I got my deal and I have to say, it was a good one. My husband lets me handle anything with money and purchases as he is too kind hearted to deal with thieves.

He picks up his new baby this afternoon. It was actually a pleasurable experience. The only thing left to fight over is the radio.

Sleep Robbers

Sleep robbers

There are pesky little gremlins that arrive at your bed in the middle of the night. You can go to bed, sleep like Rip Van Winkle and then they surreptitiously creep in. Sleep Robbers. They come in all sized, shapes and forms. I was plagued with them over the last months in the form of charlie horses. But those evil beings seem to have left for other shores.

But early this morning, I was force from my slumber by the arrival of a small but nasty sleep robber. It came in the form of a racing heart and anxiety attack. This little fellow is not foreign to me. I have a bad habit of worrying over things. I know all the responses that I should be saying. “Can’t control the future, live for the moment, the present is all we have…yada yada yada.” If I could do that, why in hell would I welcome this little brat at 3:00am? If it was truly in my control, I certainly would rather sleep.

But he snuck up and whamo: the eyes flashed open and the race was on. I know the thing that I was worrying about is totally out of my control and in the scheme of the world, it is not earth shattering. The worse thing is I could lose my job, the best thing is it will be accepted as a good event and life will move on. It will be the second, but I had to play the parlay on the first for a while.

I tried all the tricks in my tool box to calm myself. It worked to some extent. I did not get to the point of no return as I have in the past where my thoughts circle so quickly I cannot stop them. Then I thought about what was happening physiologically and sensed that this was where I would focus my thoughts on. I captured my breathing as a rhythmic panacea and started to drift back a sleep.

But the cat then decided to bath herself. How can a small cat shake a large bed with two people in and make it feel like a small earth quake?  I’ll get her later when she is sleeping…… just kidding.

Messages

I am still stunned when something happens and is put in place for me to see and get something from. Today’s stunner is from an email. I have been getting an email a day  since the beginning of February for a Book called The Course of Miracles. This was the second time I attempted this book but again was turned off by the highly prophesizing tone and heavy duty Christian theories.  I am not saying they are wrong, but was not something I was ready to accept completely. But every day I got an email from Chris Cade who gave you an exercise to do to help assimilate the daily reading. I tried some and again could not embrace it totally. I copied the emails and stored them. I just receive number 100. I had gotten to the point where I did not even read them but this one I did. I was meant to as it was a sign. I am pulling pieces from the email. Some of my friends who read this blog will flip out with the religious theme, which has never been something I do, but I do not really need to worry about that either. It is a message only.

It began: “God’s Will for me is perfect happiness.”  Perfect happiness has not ever been something I thought was obtainable. But why not? Why would I be excluded from being happy? I deserve to be happy along with everyone else. There is no contract written anywhere that says I am destined to be miserable and guilty all my life. This is not my destiny. “You still believe it asks for suffering as penance for your “sins.” This is not so.”  Phew, really? I do not have to feel bad about not feeling bad? What a relief. The piece goes into a long explanation about sin and suffering and why would anyone think or desire to obtain salvation if it meant that you had to perpetually suffer? I got that and I think that was the turn off for me in my life about religion. The fire and brimstone burn in hell salvation crap. It never fit well. It also still does not fit well with me the “I am perfect ‘Christian’ and you’re not” crap either. I was raised in a Christian practice and if you knew my past you would see the hypocrisy. But this is not a discussion on those issues and if you read on, you will see that whatever you call yourself, it does not matter. Also, I embrace the man given names for the Creator/God/Devine is also not important, but for discussion we need names.

This is where he got me: “Your joy must be complete to let His plan be understood by those to whom He sends you. They will see their function in your shining face, and hear God calling to them in your happy laugh.” Of course. It all makes a whole lot of sense to me now. Why would anyone seriously go through months of agonizing pain and suffering? To release it. He does not want us to spend any unnecessary time in our lives suffering for mistakes of our own doing and the mistakes of others inflicted on us. To my friends who at this point are freaking out, I am not going to turn out to be a Bible toting aberration. I am not turning my back on my own practices and I think that is the point. I am still who I am, just with a whole lot less baggage. But I am a teacher and how can I teach if I do not understand the lesson?

This next piece is a bit hedonistic at first glance. “We will not let ourselves be sad today. For if we do, we fail to take the part that is essential to God’s plan, as well as to our vision. Sadness is the sign that you would play another part, instead of what has been assigned to you by God. Thus do you fail to show the world how great the happiness He wills for you. And so you do not recognize that it is yours” I think this is the place where many get on the Jesus bus and start to preach. Whoa, not for me. But when you read it several times though and take the fear out, it speaks of a softer approach to life. It says that if you embrace the peace in your heart, and live your life as it was destined to be, which is of small victories and joy, you cannot but help to influence others to want it too.

There was a lot more to the email and I have attached the link. The words felt like a hug in my heart. It was a sign, I am sure of that. Why in a 100 emails from the same person would this one pop out? I never completed the book. I did not go through the old emails and I am not sure if I will. But these words will stick with me forever.

The Course of Miracles

 

Like a Motherless child……

little girl

I came to an impasse recently. A true bottle neck of my own making. Problem was I did not know what it was, what was causing it and since that information was missing I had no clue how to get rid of it or go over the wall. Two guides had sensed and had attempted to help me eliminate this issue. I was the only one who could take care of this block and I knew I had to do something soon as it was undoing a lot of the work I had done. Seems the block was visible to some people in my life, and their gift was to make me aware. But it was mine to figure it all out and work to get rid of it.  Not a small task by any means. I am writing about it in hopes that maybe someone else might get something from it. I am also writing because writing has become crucial in my healing process.

Yesterday I went to see my new friend and teacher who is a Healing Touch Practitioner. She discovered something that was apparent and discovered a while ago by another dear friend, teacher and therapist in my circle. Something was amiss on my left side. He discovered it when he walked to the left side of me and saw my face change. He said it is my most vulnerable side for taking in cues. Most of my pain manifests also on my left side. I have struggled mightily to figure out why that side and yesterday we figured it out. The rest of my story takes a huge leap of faith to accept and I do. It was a true ah-ha moment.

This new practitioner is able to see when she is doing her therapy. She sees energy fields and other images about the client she is working with. She explained what she saw after I related what I felt, which was profound. She had been into the session for a bit when she placed her hands on my chest. She had done this before but yesterday the effect brought tears to me. I was very under and my eyes never opened, but the tears rolled out of the corners. I felt very deep sadness, like someone was gone. When it happened she left and she moved on to do other things. She came back to my heart chakra and I felt I could not breathe. There was a lot of small details that were happening, but the gist of this is not relevant to the outcome I am writing about. I had to open my mouth to get air but it was in the same deep rhythmic cadence I had set when I went under. She moved up my head and again, the tears flowed. She came over to my left side and cupped my hand in hers. She did this for a long time. She then hand over hand went up my left arm and stopped with her left hand on my shoulder.  Usually her hands exude large quantities of heat when she does her work. But when she got to my shoulder, her left hand was ice cold. I felt cold on my left side as well but it was short lived. She continued on to do some more work and finished with her grounded of me and the session was over. It took me a long time to come back up to the current world.

We sat and I related how perplexed I was about the crying. I told her I felt grief and then when she walked to the end of the table I thought she had left me. She had actually never left me. She said when she first met me, she thought that my energy sphere around me was off kilter. She explained yesterday, there was actually another being or energy incased with me. It was attached to my left side. She had severed it. Hence the cold.

Purposefully, we have not talked about my past. She had never been privy to the dark secrets that I have uncovered recently. She knew little of the relationship with my parents. She does that on purposed. She talked about how this being was attached and not necessarily for good. She sensed jealousy or envy is a better word. She said this person had loved me but had a lot of remorse. She also said this person was a negative influence on me.  She also said this person needed to go and so she severed it from me. She said more but it is personal. The tears again welled up in my eyes and they began to flow again. I knew exactly who it was. It surprised me because I never would have thought it. The right side of your body is the paternal side, the left is maternal.  The energy being was my mother.

My friend had no idea who the being was and had no idea my mom was gone. I am not going to rehash my relationship with my Mom. It was not good. She did her best, but I have been carrying a lot of anger. I was still listening to her harping and negativity, her incessant complaining about my imperfections.  How could I avoid it? She was right there. She literally was the voice in my head.  I have sensed for the longest time a sadness about something that was not my doing and did not fit in my history. I cannot explain it more than that. Her father abandoned her and the family when she was in her teens. I felt the emotion of being abandoned by a male but was always confused because I was not abandoned by my father. Oh no, I had to take care of him until he died. It was a relief when he left this world. When I started therapy and meditation, I struggled with breathing. I could not take a deep breath. I can now, but during the session, I could not. My mother was a heavy smoker and died of lung cancer.   I also was feeling other issues from her childhood which she never resolved and made things a bit confusing for me. I think if I had the where-for-all to dig, I would find much that would explain things. But I am not going to.

The one thing I did have to do was deal with the anger. I have dealt with other issues quite successfully and thought I was pretty much set on the big anger issues. I have been blocked and unable to release this chunk of anger because I had no idea what was the cause. And I was blocked because if I had released the anger on my own, I probably would have severed the attachment on my own but I did not know it was there. Not being good at releasing anger, I am doing it in small bits and by hand writing it on paper. I will burn the paper soon when I feel I have completed the exercise.

There is already a sense of freedom and relief. Because I am still working on my anger, I am not going to say my world is suddenly glowing and daisies are popping up. But I do sense less negative talk. I have been shocked by the veraciousness of my words on the paper. I also have switched from just spewing my anger to including forgiveness in my handwritten words. I know this is where the real healing comes from. So I am beginning to feel some peace. I also feel more mature as I have felt often like a very young child and did not understand why. During the session after she released the attachment, she said I stretched my head up and smiled. She said I had grown up a bit.

For those who are into numerology or just coincidence: My other died at the age I am. It is 36 years ago she died and she was 36 when she gave birth to me…. for the first time.

Dinner with a child

I had the honor last night dinning with a friend and her small charge. I have to tell you about my friend first to understand why the small dinner companion was so charming. My friend has a tendency to pick up and become involved with people who she who would do better to run from. She wants to fix things and will aid almost anyone who asks no matter the consequences to herself, which is usually disastrous. There is no saving her from her misfortunes. I have learned to separate my own desire to fix and only offer an ear for her to bend and some opportunities to help me around my house in order to earn some income. She will never change and although I feel bad when she is in the clutches of a self-made catastrophe, I know she will move on only to perpetuate the cycle. Her latest endeavor includes a man living in her house that has multiple children all over the place but is in partial custody of a five year old. Hence, my dinner date.

This little peanut of a girl has seen more than I have in my life. She has eleven siblings, all who are scattered and in the system. I do not come from this culture and I have great difficulty with accepting it. These young people will grow up in most cases only to continue in this world very troubled. So is the little one who graced my world yesterday. She is about four feet tall, wiry in stature with a sweet smile but eyes that hold secrets. She instantly took to me as she hid behind me to meet Bishop. They were eye to eye and Bishop barked his deep hello and scared her. I forget my dog can be intimidating to someone her size.

We went to one of my favorite restaurants that have high wooden booths to sit in. Once sequestered, the world disappears and you can really talk and enjoy your company while savoring a nice meal. This little one busily colored while my friend chronicled her latest disaster. Her current involvement, the girl’s father, was involved with another female and my friend was crushed. The man has thirteen children and three are only siblings of this little creature. I was so confused as my friend tried to explain the family dynamics. I do not get it and I certainly do not see this as a good situation. But then my friend accepts this as a natural state of cohabitation; the procreation of children with multiple partners. I have nothing against having children by any means, but I totally slip off the non-judgment bus when these offspring are in foster care of some sort. You want them; you made them, take care of them.

While my friend went through her misery of her situation, our conversation would be broken by some little recant of a serious issue with the coloring. She slowly warmed to me as I sat in rapt delight with her sweetness. She will do fine in the world with the right guidance. She could charm a snake and probably learned already to do this for survival. My friend was telling me she is going for intelligence testing and is already ADHD. I saw none of that. She is a little girl, full of energy and brimming with smarts. She only needs the right direction to get her out of the world she may end up in, the right challenges to overcome and the right support to help her grow. I pray she finds them and is not boxed into some category and labeled. We do that with brilliant children because they are so charged with energy it takes a ton of adult energy to keep them going. It is easier to medicate them than to work at developing challenges and tests that bring them success and a sense of accomplishment. Such is our education system, a world I had to leave.

She has a wonderful appetite and wanted to taste everything that was on the table. She sat and smiled, relishing each morsel of her chicken fingers. Her face was focused on the task and remnants of her meal remained on her cheeks and shirt. As she sat back, her chocolate milk entrusted to her small hands, she looked satisfied. Then she knew as we munched she would have our full attention so she began to entertain us. This young thing is not any of the labels so hastily charged to her.

But when my friend leaned over to cut her chicken for her to cool, there was a huge shift on her countenance. It was startling. My friend had her dinner knife and was wielding it fairly close to her nose. And this was only because the little one had leaned in to smell her food. Without looking up she uttered in a voice not of her own temper, “You better not be waving that knife in my face.”  She looked up only to see my startled face gaping at her. I asked her to repeat what she said, and sure enough she did, her nature completely changing to a deep serious tenor. Then she popped a piece of chicken in her mouth and returned my stare. I looked at my friend who acknowledged what I heard with, “she has seen and heard a lot.” She is five years old and a little pixie.

We continued our meal, dotted with the small voice who chimed in with great proclamations of the immediate surroundings, the food and her thoughts on the world. I never heard the common decree of small humans; “when I grow up I am going to be….” I did not ask either. She recanted her numbers and letters, done with enough confidence that I know she will be fine in the arena of academics. That is if they take the time to listen and work with her. But she comes from an environment where school is a burden; a world that is not embraced by her family.

She will succeed if they allow her to.

The Garden part one.

Last night was such a gift. I was totally relaxed and enjoying the evening in my garden. I have written about my private spot before. It changes every day and every night. My thoughts last night were randomly swimming by with the moon glowing to my left and lightening to my right. But with the warm air last night, and the impending thunder storms, it was even more so inviting and comforting. It made me ponder the past months and what was it all about. Because  I am in gentle mood this morning and unable to articulate all that I was rummaging through in my head last night, I decided to do a pictorial depiction of what I am feeling. The garden below is the transformation that took place this year and I think it is in direct correlation of how I am feeling.
garden pathway

This is the garden summer 2012

My old garden was not bad. It had vistas and places to sit and many flowers. We had tended to some of the beds and I always added two flats of impatiens for color. In the far back was an old pool. I had only opened it once. The surrounding decks were rotten and crumbling. They did not look too bad but upon closer inspection, there was a dangerous amount of rot and collapse was eminent. torn apart pool

Removal of old structures

So when the weather broke this winter, I had the worked started. All the old rotten stuff was removed. Things were piled all over as my storage shed was also removed. I battled with the decisions and actually was not on board with many plans the designer wanted to do. This is indicative of the struggle I was going through also in my life.

no pool

Pool hole in backyard

There was an emptiness that I felt through much of my life. Going through all the work made the hole in my soul deeper. I felt disconnected and disoriented most of the time. As I uncovered my self and reached in I discovered a lot of garbage which I had to remove. Some of it was buried. The structure that I had in my life was gone and I had to learn to grow and change. It was and remains hard work.

better view

Early Spring 2013

This is the new garden. There are places to grow  new plants and shrubs. There are places to sit and relax, to have conversation or to share a meal. As soon as the deck in the back was completed a rabbit family moved it. The yard has many visitors and I welcome them. It is not a finished production. This is only the basis from which things will grow. Much as my life.

A raging case of the

Yesterday was very interesting at work. My fellow employees all had a case of the F**K-its.  Fill in the ** with UC and you got it. I do not like to use that word in my writing here. But it truly is one of my favorite words to use as an adjective or verb. I do not use it to tell someone to go perform the act on themself, however, as it is a strong word in the right context.  It has caused me some anguish too in my life, so I try not to pepper my articulations without great caution. But when I get on a roll, I do. In the work environment,  it is in reference to a choice to not work. “Ah, F**K-it, I am not doing anything.”

I started my day with a huge case of it, which was not smart. I had forgotten I had a workshop and when I calmly strolled into the lobby fifteen minutes after I was expected I realized my error. But then, I grasped the concept of “Ah, F**k-it” and it was fine. It went off without another hitch. I proceeded to go see my friend and direct report so I could catch her up. She too had a case as she was returning after two weeks away and was still in vacation mode. We ended up gabbing for three hours and realized it was lunch. “Ah, F**K-it”

For lunch, I went for my walk with another co-worked and it was hot outside. When I came back, I had to cool off for a bit but I actually did something productive for about a half an hour. I then had a meeting with someone and discovered that she too was experiencing this phenomenon. Our brains were massively fried and could not think of even why we called the meeting. We called a committee member who came over to her office to help sort us out. She was truly suffering from a raging case of the F**K-its and at that point we just leaned back and talked about our plans for the upcoming weekend for an hour. The day ended with a visit from one of our quality nurses who usually will stop to gab for only a moment. He starts out by saying he  was just trying to fill the end of the day with something as he had accomplished little all day and he sat down to gab for a while.

There must have been something in the air. I do not think it is going to any more productive the rest of the week. My team mates work very hard. There has been so much going on and so many changes that now things have settled everyone is stepping off the merry-go-round dizzy and distorted. We need a break. Summer in our area is short lived and people tend to pack a year’s worth of activities in the three good weather months. I think yesterday was everyone catching their breath and preparing for the next onslaught of activities. But it amused me that so many of the most nose-to- the grindstone employees were kicking back collectively. They should have just brought a beer truck in and some music for all the employees to dance to. It would have been the balm for the raging case of F**K-its.

In honor of Mr. Whump

One of the hardest things I ever have done and will continue to do is say goodbye to my furbabies. My dear friend had to say goodbye to her Willie Whump cat yesterday and my heart breaks for her. The Whump was a special boy. He dominated the room when you entered and if you were blessed enough to be allowed in his presence, you better pay full attention. Showing devotion was mandatory.  If you thought you had paid enough homage to him, but he disagreed, you were keenly aware with either a paw or full body approach in your face. He was a charmer, all dapper in his tuxedo. But the Whump had a lot of personality to match. My favorite image of him is where he is propped up in a chair, belly exposed, looking like he is watching TV and expecting my friend to fetch him a beer. Such was the life of the Whump.

For those of us who did not have children, our lives often revolve around our animals. I feel for those who for whatever reason choose not to have pets. I was in a meeting where we were planning a party at work and we were deciding who would host. One of the women popped up and said, “I do not do animals, especially dogs!” In all honesty, it said volumes about her and validated why I do not particularly like her. I get it that some people are allergic, and there is nothing much they can do about that other than take shots. And I know people who do that so they can have the love of a pet in their life.

I understand the fear from some experience can prohibit someone from enjoying the presence of a beast. I was once challenged and almost bitten by a black lab and for a long time, I said I would never have a lab of any kind…..until Bishop of course who is half lab. I have learned they are wonderful animals.

I also know that some people should not have pets. There is another person I know who got a puppy for her children to help them overcome their fear of dogs. It was not a good idea as she had never owned a puppy and could not stand the baby’s constant jumping as it demanded attention.  The animal spent its day, the whole day, in a cage in the basement until someone came home and let it out. The children had no interest. I was so relieved when I heard she gave the dog to someone else.

I accept that people have the right to feel as they do. And although I know I should not pass judgment, I fail at it in this case. (Sorry, I had to pause in my typing to pay attention to my cat who just jumped up and placed herself between me and the keyboard) My world is so much richer for the love of my animals. They prove every day my worth. They show me what acceptance is and what faith and love can do. They ask very little but demand what they need with no worries about how I feel about it. And I acquiesce with love. They teach forgiveness. No one can come close to the power of control against the abilities of a dog waiting for the right moment to chase a squirrel. They wrote the book on how to relax and are masters of joy. And nothing sooths a wounded soul like the embrace of a dog in your arms or a cat purring in your lap.

So to you Mr. Whump, your Auntie Jane will miss you. To my friend, you are in my heart. There never are the right words for this. For those of you who have pets, gather them close and tell them you love them for the time they spend with us is never enough.

 

And the band plays on

This weekend was one of small but significant triumphs for a friend and also me. Nothing earth shaking, nothing monumental in altering the course of destiny, but small victories that took courage on both of our behalves.

My friend accomplished participating in a 5K event and finished. She may have not been the fastest but she is a winner in my mind for even attempting such a thing. It was not her idea but came from her best friend and she fought daily with herself for agreeing to participate. We talked about stopping saying no to things we really don’t want to do. In this case I am not sure she was more victorious because she did and then won on two fronts. She should celebrate the accomplishment of completing and she should rejoice in not letting her ego talk her out of not trying.

You may wonder why I chose the villain to be the ego. I did so because the ego does not always say good things to us. Matter of fact, it often is the red devil on your shoulder that convinces you to give up. She had listened often to the pleas emanating from this scourge to contrive an excuse and I admit, I was in cahoots with authoring a few for her, too. I laugh at our conversation now because the result was such a better place to be. I congratulate her for attempting the event, not choosing the easy way out, and being courageous.

My event was the culmination of something I started a wee five months ago. I went back to playing music. Like my friend above, the idea came from my dear friend and we were going to do this together. We decided to take a beginner recorder (a woodwind instrument often associate with medieval music) class. Every Tuesday night, no matter what was going on in my head, I would trundle myself off to participate with two other girls and our instructor. There were days I would start creating excuses to not go very early on and but only once did the weather keep me home. I always felt like it was a small notch in my belt to attend. I did not particularly enjoy the instructor at first, but towards the end I became a devoted student. The other two women varied in ability, but it was nice when everyone was having a good night.

But about a month ago, the instructor announce our recital. I began my generation of excuses for not playing. My friend had retreated to a home project in attempt to complete it before summer. We were going to play a piece with the big ensemble of about forty players and then our group would perform two pieces. Our quartet was me and another lady on soprano and the instructor and the fourth player on alto. As we got closer to the event, my desire for participating in this test abated reinforced with the voice I have listened to too often. The voice said; “you cannot do this, you are not good enough.”  I was not accomplished by any means, but I had held my own in class. I came into the beginner class with more skill than the other ladies but they had four months of working with the instructor before me. And unfortunately, their abilities were not evident many nights. One lady had not even been to class for three weeks and truly needed the practice.

I decided that if one woman did not show up at the last class, I would tell the instructor I was not playing. I know he would be upset because he was counting on my to carry the soprano line as he supported the other alto player. I walked into the class last week, and there she sat. She was so excited about the recital; I knew I could not disappoint her. She was counting on me for support. I was toast because I know how important it is to have someone support you.

I started to perseverate on the exposure that this event would cause. I knew I was not where I thought I should be in my abilities. I started the, “woe is me” sound track and it looped continuously in my head getting louder as the date approached. My creativity in excuses went from car trouble, cat trouble, illnesses of varying degrees……to just being a coward and not show up. I knew I would not be able to live with that. And I kept picturing the sweet face of my fellow player. The morning broke with no increased confidence and by the time noon struck I was in a full blown panic. I went out to my garden and ask for help and guidance in finding a lesson in all this. I do well with myself if I frame things as lessons. I calmed and changed the tape playing in my head. It worked.

I got to the church where we were to perform. The woman was already in our practice spot with our chairs up. Her faced beamed. She tells me, her excitement not contained, “this is the first time I have ever done anything like this in my life.” She had called her son to tell him of her achievement only to hear his lack of faith in her. This was what this was all about and my fear was gone. GONE. We practiced and I patiently guided her on some of her fingerings. It was not about anyone’s ability or even musicality. It was about showing up and being there for each other. She has many years on me and a life full of accomplishments, but this event was a personal milestone and I think there had not been too many centered so squarely on her before this. She was a supportive wife and mother and had devoted herself to others. I have no doubt as she is a nurse by profession.

I will share that we got through the practice and I was keenly aware that it was not going to sound very good in the performance. I did not care. We practiced with the large ensemble and the conductor asked us to rearrange ourselves in an attempt to put a stronger player next to her. She did not move, she was next to me one side and the closest player to the audience and the mic on the other side. She told me she wanted to be seen.

And it was over in a flash. All of a sudden the first piece began and we played through. It is very hard to hold your own when you have someone in one ear that is playing a completely different note and rhythm. This is one of the challenges in playing in an ensemble. Unfortunately her playing was not a sound that was supposed to happen and she played the whole way through loudly. Not a note was even close. But she was happy and I could see on her face it did not matter. She showed up and performed.

Next came our quartet. We ascended to our seats placed up in the sanctuary and we were totally exposed, just the four of us. I looked at the instructor with a panicked grimace and he just smiled. And it was over. It happened in a flash. Two songs. Done!

I do not remember feeling any anxiety once I got through the first very high and difficult run. Somewhere I closed off to my hearing to the dissonance coming from the other players and focused on playing with the instructor. The other players held their own and I think at a couple of points it was just the instructor and I playing. We got the very easy part at the end of the last song and I had a thought hit me hard. Sadly I should have stayed focused because I blew the last three measures and but ended perfectly. Think of someone doing a really poor cartwheel and then going “ta da” at the end. The instructor beamed. I felt my skin twingel, as I call it when I have a rush of chemicals and thought, “crap I am blushing.”

The thought that distracted me was…”I am enjoying this.” I remembered that I actually relish performing. I had been performing since I was eight. I sang solos, had my own folk group and performed in a variety of styles of music from Broadway to madrigals.  And then those measures came up and I missed them.

I closed the day as I have been when it is warm. I sit in my chair in the garden and I breathe and I let the thoughts flow and I listen for answers. Music was so much of my life. I am grateful for my friend who often kicks me where and when I need it to do something. To continue on in my remaining years without music would have been an amputation of my being. I am no virtuoso by any means, but I do have ability and it makes me whole. So I will be back in rehearsal next fall. Matter of fact I have decided to look for an opportunity to get back into singing also.

But this is the thought that made me smile. Life is like music. There is a chart with a structure pathway. There is measured time. There is harmony and discord and it as it should be because the Creator is the Maestro of all the music in life. You have the choice to play or sit back and listen. If you take the challenge, play fully and loud. If you mess up, it is totally fine. Most often, no one is aware except you. The music does not wait for you to grieve over the mistake, the band plays on whether you are on board or not. Pick up the tempo and get back in and play your best at all times. Finish with a flourish and a smile. Be grateful for the clapping of the audience and acknowledge the Conductor. Congratulate your fellow players. Then turn the page and start all over on the next piece.