Sitting

I sit in Ridgen shrine room

I sit, I breathe

I scrawl words on paper

I feel happy and peaceful

I sit, I breathe

It begins to snow outside

I sit, I breathe

I write word after word

I feel sad, so sad

an old wound exposed

Snow falls

I sit, I breathe

Machinery hums outside

out of sight but still with me

I sit, I breathe

My hip aches, my nose is numb

I sit, I breathe

and wonder, why numb?

the pitch of a roof outside

catches my gaze

I sit, I breathe

My hip aches

I breathe with the ache

the hum, the roof

Snow falls

I sit, I breathe

I feel hungry

the hum, the ache

and the roof go on.

What’s Your Line?

If you were to choose one phrase that describes your life, what would it be?

What’s your Line?

 
These days, every corporation has something called a Tagline. A corporate Tagline is a short phrase that’s supposed to make all of us want to buy their product. Ideally, a Tagline is a catchy slogan that defines the business in a unique way. Think of Nike and “Just Do It”. Or Wheaties, “The Breakfast of Champions”. Join the U.S. Army and “Be All That You Can Be”. Remember DeBeers slogan; “A Diamond is Forever”? Of course you do! A great corporate Tagline is catchy and memorable.

Every person I meet has a personal Tagline, whether they realize it or not. The difference is your personal Tagline is not really about selling yourself. It’s more about consciously defining yourself and what you choose to create in your life. You may call it your creed, your motto, your philosophy of life. A consultant I know calls it defining your True North. Whatever – your have one whether you know it or not. EVERYBODY has one. Kids seem to absorb and live by their parents’ Tagline until they consciously create their own. So, even if you haven’t consciously thought about it, you have a Tagline buried in your psyche that is influencing how you look at life and what you think is possible for you.

So, I think it’s important for each of us to spend a few minutes thinking about what our personal tagline might be. I don’t know about you, but my parents’ tagline is DEFINITELY NOT the line that I want defining my life! My dad’s Tagline goes something like, “Life is a struggle. You have to work really hard just to survive.” Wow – what a downer! Can you tell he grew up poor and hungry in the depression? And in his late 60‘s, even after making piles of money, my dad would NOT stop working. Work defines his life – he has never created much room for hobbies or goofing off – or even traveling for pleasure. His motto doesn’t allow for much fun or ease in life, does it?

When we met, my husband’s tagline was, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.” Lucky for me his overdoing includes fun stuff and not just work! This man has taught me the value of having fun. And he’s a complete hedonist about food. 🙂 I actually think my hubby may have shifted his tagline a bit – he’s not quite so intense in his approach to work or play anymore. Maybe living with me all these years has mellowed him. LOL – He will find it hilarious that I’m wondering if I mellow HIM out!

Remember Dory from the movie Finding Nemo? Dory’s Tagline is:
“Just Keep Swimming, Just Keep Swimming.”

And who can forget Ferris Bueller In the movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?? Ferris’ Tagline is one of my all time favorites. It’s funny, catchy, thought-provoking, irreverent… It truly catches the essence of who Ferris is:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Great words to live by.

・・・
So, what is YOUR Tagline? What phrase defines you and your philosophy about life? Is it the same as your mom’s or your dad’s? Or completely different?

And does your Tagline define the life you desire, the life you crave? Hopefully it doesn’t describe a life that’s not working for you!

What would happen if we each created a personal Tagline that describes the life we crave rather than a life we feel stuck with? What would shift inside our world then?? Food for thought…

I’m still crafting theTagline to define my life and my future. It’s a work in progress. I guess I REALLY should decide what I want to be when I grow up! But maybe a Tagline can change and morph over time – God knows I certainly keep changing with the years. Today I’m mulling over three or four possibilities;

I could keep using my favorite Joubert quote:
“You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some of it with you.”

I could try my favorite Bill Murray (Tripper) line from the movie Meatballs:
“Repeat after me – it just doesn’t matter!”

Or how about something short and to the point:
“Life is Good”

Last but not least, I wonder what my life will be like if my line becomes:
“WoW – What’s Next?!”

Fading Away

Today’s blog entry is dedicated to my mom and to all the other families out there dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia…

Mom’s name is Eve and she was born in 1925. Even now in her 80’s, living in a ‘memory care unit’ and suffering from Alzheimer’s, even now my Mom is still feisty and opinionated and a bit of a rabble rouser. My mom may have been born in 1925, but she really resonated with the feminist ideals of the 1960’s. Even though her career was staying home and raising 4 kids, Mom instinctually understood the basic feminist message. Women need choices about how to live their lives, Women deserve choices. My mom understood that even as she allowed herself few of those same choices.

My mom’s name may be Eve, like the first woman in the Bible, but the name NEVER fit her. Mom never fit the mold of the “little woman” who is made from her husband’s rib and is subservient to her man and lives to serve him. No way! My mom complained about the silly rules that dictate proper female behavior from the very beginning; as a kid, she demanded to know why her 5 brothers never had to do housework while she and her sister were cooking and cleaning every week. And how come the boys got to swim in the creek, but she and her older sister couldn’t? Apparently it wasn’t proper in the 1930‘s for teenaged girls to swim in the creek, even when southern Illinois was 95 degrees in the shade. Can you imagine??!

Later on as an adult, my mom wondered aloud why men got to do all different kinds of work while women were expected to marry and become homemakers. And she thought it very sad that an intelligent and beautiful woman like her sister who never married was labelled a spinster and considered broken by this society!

No, my mom was NEVER a mild mannered ‘good little woman’. And I mean that as the highest compliment. Mom was actually more like Adam’s first wife, Lilith. You may not have ever heard of Adam’s first wive Lilith, but she appears in the Jewish Talmud and several other sacred texts. Most references to Lilith were stripped from the Bible. And what, pray tell, was Lilith’s crime? Well, Lilith refused to be subservient to Adam. She refused to “lie beneath him”. And when Adam balked at treating her as his equal, Lilith up and left Adam and went to live by herself. For refusing to cleave to Adam and do what he said, Lilith was condemned by her culture and turned into an evil demoness that ate newborn babies and sucked the virility right out of men. For “misbehaving” Lilith was rejected and labelled an uppity bitch. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I picture a mix of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan when I think of Lilith.

Lilith is the original feminist archetype; she’s a powerful female who KNOWS she is complete unto herself and she needs no man to define her or validate her existence. Lilith resonates with that same powerful anger that drives modern feminists like myself; we feminists look around and see how women allow themselves to be treated and we roar with rage.

Unlike Lilith, my mom never left her husband. She never left, but she roared with rage at the inequities of her married life on many occasions. She roared but she really never figured out how to make her own marriage less traditional. It took me years to realize that Mom was actually raging at herself and her own decisions as much as anyone else. I think Mom craved a small space of her own without the needs of a husband and kids drowning out her own desires. Like millions of women before her, my mom craved a space of her own, but never figured out how to take it for herself.

When I asked my mom in her late 60‘s what she had dreamed of being when she was a girl, she had difficulty even answering me. Is it any wonder? Didn’t 1920‘s society just assume that girls would want to grow up and be a wife and mommy? Give them dolls and teach them how to cook and clean, right? What a waste!

My mom must have felt such a conflict within herself for so long. She resonated with the feminist ideals of finding yourself and building a meaningful career and yet stayed in a traditional marriage and spent her days taking care of 4 kids and doing mind-numbing secretarial work.

Please don’t get me wrong; my mom adores my dad. She always did. But she dreamed of something more than marriage for herself and for her daughters. She cajoled and encouraged and pushed me to take a different path; to be more than a wife and mommy, to graduate from college and find work that I could make my own. I have her to thank for this career that I love.

So, after decades of denying any part of herself beyond wife and mommy, my Mom is slowly losing her mind. Is that just coincidence? I don’t think so. Ironically now as the Alzheimer’s progresses, she becomes a lot less like feisty Lilith and more like docile Eve with each passing month.

Today I watch my mom’s brilliant wit and intelligence fade away and I am sad. Sad for the loss of the outrageous woman who was my mother. I am sad that my opinionated mother cannot figure out how to hold onto herself and her opinions any longer. And I am very sad that my 11 year old daughter will never really know her grandmother’s strength or her powerful presence.

I am also sad because I look around the “memory care unit” where my mom lives and I see what the future holds for her. I do not understand why she clings to a life that consists of eating and sleeping and not much else. She is kept safe and fed as every week she fades a little further away, like an old photograph fading over time. And I wonder what the point of this slow fade to death is. Years as a healer have taught me that God always has a good reason for everything. But I really cannot figure out the point of Alzheimer’s.

I watched “You Don’t Know Jack” a few weeks ago on HBO; it’s a movie about Jack Kevorkian, the euthanasia doctor that the press nicknamed Dr. Death. I watched that movie and I puzzled over how some people could condemn and despise Jack Kevorkian for helping suffering people to die. Granted, Jack is an opinionated old coot and he does not make it easy to like him. But his heart is huge and his intent seemed pure to me. I wonder if anyone who has watched a loved one suffer on the edge of living for months or years could condemn Kevorkian?

Is keeping my mom’s body fed and alive while her brain slowly dies a noble, caring act? Or would helping her to die quickly be more noble? At this point, I certainly don’t know what’s more right or more noble. Ironically, my mom was a big proponent of euthanasia before Alzheimer’s set in. She had a living will drawn up years before her illness became apparent. Yet today if you ask her, she will say emphatically that she wants to be resuscitated if her heart stops. Even as barren as her days seem to me, my mom still wants to be here.

Here she stays. I have trouble killing a bug, so there is no way I’m going turn into Kevorkian here. All I can do is watch her slow decline with sadness. I wish that I could somehow make it all better for her – and for me and my siblings. But all that I can really do is turn Mom over to God again and again and again. And try to remember that God has it handled.

Here and Now

Here and now it is sunny outside

I chop carrots. Mince garlic.

Heat oil. Salivate.

Inhale the aroma.

 

Here and now I am sad inside

I grieve. Shed tears

Ponder death. 

See pain all around.

 

Here and now I sit with it all

Breathe pain. Breathe sorrow.

Breathe garlic and sun

Open to life.

Finding Ground

Foggy Foothills
     Yesterday the dogwood tree in my yard was covered with green leaves; this morning all but two low branches are deep maroon. Amazing how fast that shift happened. Autumn has been whispering its way towards Kansas City for weeks. The wild rainstorm yesterday seems to have signaled its official arrival. The air is cooler, crisper today. And I notice leaves turning yellow, orange and maroon everywhere I look. Changes in my personal life are like that; little hints of change and subtle shifts happen that I often miss or ignore. Then, wham, a storm blows through and in the aftermath I look around surprised to see profound changes in myself or those around me.

I took a walk down the creek path this morning. The day is gorgeous; sunny with a cool wind and high wispy clouds in a bright blue sky. Jacket weather is here. Quite a contrast with yesterday’s cold gray skies and hours of torrential downpour. The heavy rains left the creek high, very high. And the storm water has noticeably altered the creek in just one day. In one spot, long hairy orange tree roots dangle in mid-air over the far curve of the creek bank. Yesterday the roots were encased in dirt; today they dangle free and unsupported. I have had days like that – I wake up to discover that the very ground I have been rooted in and attached to is suddenly gone.

Most humans are not very good at handling change and I am no exception. With change comes fear; that feeling of the world shifting out from under me, of dangling in mid-air without support is very scary. Sometimes I get stuck in that state of fear and I start to worry that problems and instability are all I have to look forward to.

I say that I believe in a benevolent God; a God who takes care of the earth and all living creatures; a God who it omnipotent and all-knowing; a God from which all of life flows. And yet when my path gets rough or the world seems dark, I have trouble trusting that God truly does know what she is doing and all is well.

Any change or shift in my life can trigger the fear. The shift can be something as simple as a change in my schedule or diet, or as profound as divorcing my first husband. The size or importance of the shift does not necessarily determine how well I cope with the change. Any shift, big or small, can be difficult.
The trees on the creek bank seemed to handle change better than I normally do. Trees instinctually know to lean away from instability and sink new roots into whatever ground is left to support them. In contrast, I flounder for days, feeling angry and off balance, bemoaning whatever changed in my life. I grieve for the support I lost. I forget to breathe and lean into the support I still have.

Trees have a visceral trust in the Universe or Earth to support them and provide for them no matter what happens. I have trouble trusting in the good of the Universe that profoundly in the midst of change. I get caught up in grieving what I have lost instead of opening to what is now possible. I forget to pray or meditate and I lose my connection to ground.

Faith and trust in the good of God is my ground, the core bedrock that won’t shift out from under me no matter what. For me, faith and trust come from cultivating my internal KNOWING sense of God as good and benevolent rather than mean or indifferent. That loving essence of God is always with me, around me, within me. I sense it when I work with clients, when I pray, when I watch children play, when I hug someone. And yet I also forget it again and again. I lose my connection to God and I flounder.

Buddhism tells me that I suffer when I cling and grasp, when I try to keep things from changing. Nothing is permanent except Buddha or God. And Christianity tells me to build my faith on the rock of Christ. Judaism implores me to trust in the Lord. Peace of mind comes from letting go and trusting that God or Buddha is in charge. Letting go and trusting in God to handle the affairs of the world is the only answer.

I find that I must tend to my trust and faith like a tender young seedling in my garden. My faith needs to soak up the sun of other people’s loving, positive energy. And then I must water it with prayer and meditation; and trust that it already knows how to grow;

I must feed my faith by actively noticing the good in people, the love in the world. Water and feed, water and feed until my tiny bit of faith and trust in the good of God grows stronger, more resilient, more certain. Water and feed my seedling again and again until one day I discover that my seedling has grown bigger and stronger and is deeply rooted in all directions. Then every little shift no longer throws me into doubt and fear. I can be as calm as the trees on the bank of the creek. I can remember that all is well.