A Silence Of Wonder

Gaps in my days, long silences waiting for a mind message to finally sort out the muddle.  If you are a Gentle (and Faithful) Reader, you know that I am an old woman struggling with change.  Not the usual changes of aging; diminished physical capacity, acceptance of specific family distancing,  facing the mirror,  assisted living facilities, but a change that feels far more invasive and profound.

For many of my years, I have searched for the perfect religion–the one that allows us to love one another rather than those that prompt us to hate any religion different from our own.    Wars are fought, people destroyed, hatreds cemented in the name of a group god.

Looking at religion of history is a curiosity.  Men have conjured gods by the hundreds, one for just about every need or passion.  Often religion has been more a matter of justifying disputes than a search for spirituality.  Any era’s current world view alters concepts of gods and justifies purging those viewed as different.

Why are matters of religion a source of controversy?  Why are doctrines of so-called faith and morals put ahead of caring for and loving the life we have?  Why is it so easy to justify shunning on the basis of “My God of Love finds fault with your God of Love”?

We are a curious thing, we humans.  The force of finding our spiritual piece is strong.  We search but we find so many dark and hurtful places along the way.

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A Scrap of Paper

“Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.”
Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

Found this quote on one of my mini-mountains of paper–those scraps where I scribble random thoughts.  Other scraps told me that I was thinking about evolution when I started clipping these bits together.

Evolution in the natural world created the perfect match of trumpet flower and hummingbird. The giraffes’ size and neck allow the animal to eat what other animals can not reach. Adaptations of the physical world–adaptations that are ‘finding voice’ of survival.

Finding our emotional and spiritual voice is more difficult. Finding that voice is a level of self-direction, of becoming our own ideal. Matching behavior with the values we want to emulate is a daily challenge and, like Anne Tyler’s character, we might turn into the wrong person..

Our lives take us into places we had not imagined, with people we would not choose and in we ways we could not have predicted. The becoming is the challenge. Our evolution can get bogged by the weight of circumstance.

With will and spirit, we choose self-direction, supported by a circle of friends, enriching one another with strength of purpose and the courage of truth. Finding the group that nourishes where we hunger can help us become the right person–the person we choose to be.

Fall From Grace

Combinations of words become cliché when they are close to perfect in concept.  Very quickly, after being deemed perfect, they are relegated to the delete side of grammar check.

Damaged beyond repair is a cliché.  As I think about a relationship, the hopelessness of repair forces the ‘beyond repair’.   It is difficult to get my head around this one, this damage, this inability to repair what seemed so strong.

Years and years of wonderful history gone, of no consequence.  Standing together, supporting one another  during some of the most difficult years doesn’t seem to matter.  Holding one another close, guarding secret pain, complete trust in that protection doesn’t seem to matter.

Confidence in the relationship was a given.  Always.  Together, trusting, supporting, understanding, loving each other was so simple, so easy.  We are broken and the why of it seems insignificant when stacked against the loss.

The advice people would hang this on misunderstandings, would say that honest conversation would repair and reestablished.  Not so.   It will never again be the same.  I know.

It is not possible to explain how I know that we will not repair our loss.  If I try, I will cross a line of privacy.  It would be a betrayal of the other person through venting my perception of this death.  What I long believed to be as inviolate as our shared lifetimes is now no more sacred than any other discard.  The fall from loving grace is a whoosh— and gone.

Facets Of My Prism

Never met a half full glass that didn’t belong to me.  Those half empty ones are not on my table…well, most of time anyway.

If you visit with me often, you know that perception is a major player here.  Each of us can twist the kaleidoscope by emotion.  The facets of the prism change.  One persons ho-hum turns to another’s oh-no.

Bordering on half empty is the flashing blue light in the rear view mirror of my ’99 Buick granny-mobile.  The important back story is that I am the single most annoying slow driver in this state, never giving myself the 5 mile over leeway.  The speedometer needle is right on the mark.

Bob and I complain about the 55 to 65 mph drivers that stir the dust on our 30 mph country road.  Recently added intersection double roundabouts have added to the number of cars breaking the law on my turf.

And now?  Now I am among that number thanks to a very efficient and friendly Platte County Sheriff Officer who forgot the first rule of efficient and friendly treatment of old women in granny-mobiles…the warning ticket.  This citation is the real deal. I can never say never again.

Carpe Diem still possible?  It is.

A Man I Know, unemployed for over a year, phoned to say that the first day on the new job was great.  Why?  Because every worker seemed to have a work ethic that got the job done with care and efficiency…no slackers, no one hiding from work.  Rather, this was a group of blue-collar men doing this job without complaint.  That glass is brim full.

Not a total vegetarian, I tend to avoid meat if possible.  Yesterday, seizing the day required eating a hamburger simply because a gentle old man handed me this gift of his generosity, saying “No mustard.  No catsup.  Didn’t know what you like.”  Thank you, Jake.

Finally, my prism includes Missy, an email correspondent.  We connected through a mutual friend and I shared information requested.  The generosity of her response reminded me of important issues.

We, women, need/treasure one another.  We slip in those moments of grace in the 1,000 ways we seize each day, Carpe Diem.  When we take the time, develop the trust, share illumination through our stories we validate the ordinary to an extraordinary level.  Thank you, Missy.

The facets of my prism are pretty amazing.

Smiles In The Fog

One of my sisters, 18 months younger than I,  has detail memory that is beyond my understanding.  We lived the same day-to-day from birth to our high school years yet our recall is light years apart.  My sister can pull up a conversation from elementary school.  Her high school memories are names, dates, lunch food and who won what games in gym class.

My school memories are more like smiles in the fog, knowing how much I loved school but wondering if she and I attended on different planets.

Another sister and I went to daily Mass for many years. At this moment, I can experience the ‘feeling’ of the 6:00 A.M. walk to church, the time in childish prayer and the immersion in belief. Feeling, a sense of belonging, is what seems to matter most.

When my family gathers for holidays, there is that inevitable conversation peppered with ‘remember when’–some laughter, some tears. Much of the detailed picture isn’t there for me.  The feelings are there and I am often overwhelmed by those feeling yet uncertain of what words triggered the quiet gasp.

Gatherings of retired teachers are huge store houses of what-we-should-have written-for-a-book moments. Again, the details give way to emotions…and I have over 25 years of teaching/feeling-storage. Often another person’s words do bring up some specifics, but I usually have to work at finding them.  I remember the children, names, faces and parents but I have lost the faculty meeting type details.

Grief and memories are not good companions.  Grief distorts and memory cannot be trusted when grief is overwhelming.  Difficult passages in my life are gently remembered because I absolutely know that what I felt was very different from reality of fact.

A friend speculated that I lived too much in the moment…that savoring the now kept me from holding the parts of the whole. This friend also said that I operated more emotionally than rationally so the rational details slipped away. Maybe…but I think of myself as rational and I know I deeply miss what seems so elusive–my life.

Successful Dieting; Stop Eating What Is Eating You

Walking at the park and shamelessly eavesdropping whenever the conversation is close, snippets because the see-saw of passing keeps contact to a minimum. Couples sharing a story and parents laughing with the kids are my favorites.  I listen and we smile when they look my way.

Today was different.
A young mother needed something…some comfort, some pain relief. And it was pretty obvious that food was her pill of choice. Dad and kids walked together, but several steps behind mom as she struggled to carry her weight. They seemed to be giving her space. When Dad and the kids laughed, Mom angrily shouted for them to keep up. One of the girls asked if they could stop on the bridge and look at the water. Mom’s sigh let everyone know the depth of her annoyance.  She stopped dead-still, back to the family, foot tapping, and waited while they interfered with her life.  They looked at the water.

No way for me to make this my business. None.
I could smile and say something inane…”beautiful day”…but it wasn’t a beauty she could see. So I just said, “Hi. Cute kids. Nice day to be together in the park.”

And I moved down the path, helpless.

This young woman reached for the comfort of food–the comfort of eating and the comfort of suppressing what was eating her.  That comfort is vital but her choice is deadly.  To sustain we have to find some wiggle room–a way to get out from under the pain.

Sometimes, the comfort is food or drink…or both..fleeting comfort that adds new layers of need.

Realistically misuse of food and drink lead to a new guilt, but a guilt that is easier to handle than the guilt or shame that triggered the pain. This new guilt is one that masks the hopelessness and one that we say we can control. We just need to stop.

That isn’t the key.  Dieting won’t open the guilt and shame to the light of freedom.  Dieting is the twin of drinking/eating for oblivion, another broken crutch that won’t hold the weight.

Risk.  Risk trusting someone, an individual or a group with whom to share what needs to be spoken.  Risk opening up what festers so the healing can happen.  Imagine the joy of no longer needing the false comfort because we faced the real pain and we understand.

Heritage

This isn’t a ramble, Gentle Reader.  Rather I need two stories, the telling of which will avoid a ramble.

Scott Simon of NPR published Baby, We Were Meant For Each Other. The book allows the reader to share the adoption journey that he and Caroline traveled as they found their beloved children.  Consistent with the honesty and talent of Mr. Simon, Baby has many layers.

While discussing the challenge of guarding the ethnicity and heritage of their children, Scott Simon told the story of the adopted son of a prominent political figure and a misperception that became a fact of the boy’s life.

The boy grew with the belief that he was Native American, Cherokee. Friends, relatives–everyone–accepted and honored this heritage.  His father became involved in Indian Affairs in his determination to protect that heritage.

Years later, the boy met his Scandinavian birth mother and they began to share  history.  Of course, the young man asked about his father, assuming that the Indian part of himself came from that man.   No so.  When  asked about ‘ethnicity’ for the birth certificate, the young mother said, “All American”.   Thus a Native American child was born and lived out the perception.

Scott and Caroline Simon have a beautiful and powerful story that carries a weight not given to my second bit of perception awry.

Growing up in Wyandotte County, Kansas City, Kansas enriched my life and I have treasured that experience in Four Ordinary Women and in this blog.  During a marathon volunteer session preparing food for a festival in Wyandotte County, the subject of early years had the usual prominent place.  “Remember when we…”   A large number of the volunteers shared most of their lives with one another, attending grade school in the building where we were working.   Seventy to eighty years in the neighborhood supplied laughter to enjoy over and over.

Bob and I are late comers to the group.  We work hard, smile often and listen with interest.  We are wise enough to know that our stories are not part of the fabric here.

Someone working nearby spoke of my elementary school located less than five miles away.  The person said, “Everyone from that school was ‘snooty’, thought they were better than everyone else.”

“Really?  Do I seem snooty to you?  Do I act better than anyone in this room?  I certainly do not feel that way…have no memory of ever feeling that way…have no memory of any classmates expressing that perception of being better than.”

The woman and I have lived full lives for over seventy years.  We worked side by side, spending hours preparing food, cleaning, volunteering for the success of this event.  Perception, snooty and better than, trumped the day.