Thursday, April 28, 2011

Compassion ain't just for Bullies

I remember the undesirable response so clearly. Like it was yesterday. I had come home tear streaked and dirt caked. I had been pushed by a terribly vicious mean girl and my face and ground had become one. My Mother while cleaning me up was trying in her Jackie O. way to enlighten me on feeling some love towards the offender on the playground.

I was having none of it.

"But...but... but..." was all I could stammer forward. Didn't she get it?! Didn't she know what had just happened??
Of course as a Mother now I understand. Understand what Mom was trying to do. I can also pretty much bet that even though she was calm and still as lake placid she was also doing her best to stifle her "hand that rocks the cradle" rage too. All in an attempt to instill in me a different vantage point to consider.

Again, having none of it.

Which begs the question; how do we teach our children and for that matter ourselves to have compassion? Especially in those sticky situations where all you really want to do is go Soprano's on their ass? I used to think it was stuffing the anger like a sausage and channeling Gandhi. But now I am not so sure. I think it's more about Milk and Dark chocolate. Doesn't it always come back to Milk and Dark chocolate?

Everyone has some 90% cacao bitterness to them. Everyone. We also have our light, fluffy Milky Way side. Most of us walk around each day with a little bit of both. Some of us hide our bitter side well, some not so much. The trouble comes in when we get hurt, betrayed, generally disheveled and we start looking at everyone like they are one flavor. We start crying, ruminating, venting dark chocolate morning, noon and night. We see only dark chocolate for miles and miles, stretching out before us.

Where compassion comes in and makes an appearance is when we see both sides of the fence. Where we try to do the "walk in their shoes" motto. You know, what Mom said. We don't know why we are being pushed in the dirt. Is it because they are being pushed?

It's really hard to hate someone when you feel for them. Try it. It's hard.

We can't make what happened to us magically vaporize, can't set the fracture, can't unring the bell. But where we can sufficiently save ourselves is when we can compassionately look in their direction. When we give them a second glance and forgive them their foibles. Forgive them their need to push us down to a stumble.

I imagine if they could do it for themselves they would. All they can really do is push that pain out and away, like vomit. Give it to them they say to their inky hearts. They don't know what to do with it.

But we do. We know. We just have to have the courage to take that step, make that pinky finger motion forward. Clean up our faces, lick our wounds and do what Mom told us to.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A teacher's spirit

Come, take my hand. I am going to greet you with the BIGGEST hug, more of a tackle really, I am ready to go! (All before 9:00 am) I am going to tell you that I had pizza for dinner last night, how my Brother pulled my hair and how I read that new book you told me I should check out. I read it after I was supposed to be asleep. Don't tell my Mom though, O.K.? Thanks!

Come, take my hand. I am quiet this morning as there was too much noise in my house last night.
My Dad is really mad, he left for awhile. He wasn't there when I woke up this morning. I am glad to be here. I am glad for your smile, your touch, the way you really look at me to see if I am doing O.K. You see me, and that, shapes my world.

Come, take my hand. I was on the playground this morning and my friend wouldn't talk to me. She like, always talks to me but today she didn't. She likes her new friend better. They don't include me and when I said I liked her new skirt she kinda just looked at me and didn't say anything but I know if her new friend wasn't there she would have like, totally said something back to me. There is nothing as important to me as this is RIGHT NOW. My Mom, she kinda rubs her forehead and says "O.K. enough conversation about this!" But you, you are always interested. You ask me questions like, maybe my friend is having a bad day, and do I ever have days like that? And even though my Dad said kinda the same thing like 100 times, I listen to you.

I am not so upset anymore.

Come, take my hand. I am nervous to be here today. I don't always understand my Math work. Sometimes, I get embarrassed because everyone else is doing so much better than me.
Sometimes I don't want to try anymore. You come over to my desk and help me. You explain it in a new way that I get now. You tell me everybody gets stuck on something sometimes.
Maybe I'm not so bad at Math, after all?

Come child, take my hand. I have been here since 6:45 this morning and my 3rd cup of coffee is making me shake. I was up way past when I should have been last night, but I just couldn't sleep thinking about how I could: Help you. Guide you. Care for you. How I could explain something differently to keep that spark in your eye lit. How I could quietly feed you a little something extra because I know you didn't get enough to eat today. How I could celebrate with you on the triumphs, both big and small, that you accomplish each day. How I could comfort you when you stumble.
I was overwhelmed, thinking, how right before my eyes you grow so much each day, how you get on surer footing, with every step that you take. How humbled I am knowing each day together brings our time closer to an end. But I know when I see you in the hall, we will smile at each other. I will know that you carry a little sliver of me in yourself that will be there when you walk into your first job, or read to your child. I will remember what you were like when you were eight when we see each other when you are twenty. I will never forget, because that is the gift of my time with you here, that we share. So come child, take my hand and we will start our day together anew once again.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Coming around the mountain

I've come to realize that aging is like September. One minute you are basking in the glow of Summer, the next you are hugging the sweater around your shoulders. It's still lovely out, still warm, but something has changed...the climate is not the same, there is definitely a chill in the air.

This is not to say we don't love September. There are many, many wonderful things about September. It's a gentle time, kids are back in school, days are slow and after an activity filled Summer it's nice to take some time for you. Instead of sunbathing you take a picnic to the beach. That walk on the shore, now more empty and still, brings out it's emerging Fall face. The beach is longing for not just the pitter-patter of little feet and plastic toys, chicken salad sandwiches and umbrella's. It is sentimental for the richness of a peaceful moment, the stretching out of solid feet.

I get it. I know we don't go from puppy one minute to hag the next. It's truly wonderful to fit into yourself like an cozy sweater. When you understand why you do what you do, why you feel how you feel. The liberation, the joy. Got it.

What I don't get is the crack in the tea cup. That one hurts. Big time. What starts as a tiny hairline fracture blossoms into a full on break.

I know what you are thinking-- that I am talking about my boobs again. Wrong.

I am talking about my bones, my hips, shoulders, arches of my feet. I'm talking about going from running 40 miles a week to my knee starting to ache a bit to surprise! not being able to run at all. For six months. I'm talking about running a mile now and having it hurt. No injury here; my body is just talking to me.
As in, what the hell are you doing woman?? Don't you know I don't move that effortlessly, completely, heartily anymore?? Actually, no I don't. I have selective amnesia as to what my body can do. My brain thinks I can still rock climb like a twenty-five year old.

 My body laughs at my brain. Silly, silly brain.

I think that it happens this way to humble us. To remind us that the endless Summer is not ours to keep. That's O.K. I've had too much time in the sun anyway.

I have just over a month left being 39. Holding up all right thank you very much. Except my boobs (you knew that was coming) and my saggy tushie. I can still rock a pair of jeans but my bikini days are numbered. I would really like to know when I went from accenting with lipstick to needing it to flush out the color in my cheeks. Oh Well, I hear the vampire look is in now anyway.

So I take my supplements and get lots of sleep. Drink red wine and laugh everyday. Say a prayer to my knees before I run and pinch my friend who says it only goes downhill from here.

All the wisdom I have gained is in my laugh lines. My boobs fed my kiddos and my tushie was never my best feature anyway. I wouldn't trade to be twenty again.

 I'm looking forward to September.

Monday, April 25, 2011

At the end of the day it's just a plastic egg.

How to manage disappointment. Tricky thing. Whether you are eight or eighty it is something we all struggle with.

Yesterday was Easter. We do this insanely wonderful thing year after year; we fill anywhere from 800-900 plastic eggs with chocolate, invite upwards of 60 family/friends/neighbors over on Easter morning and watch the kids devour the hunt in a minute-thirty, tops. We lollygag and hang out with coffee, mimosa's and ridiculously yummy food all the while enjoying the Spring morning. Most kids walk away with 20+ eggs. We have been doing this for a decade and it is great fun. Chaotic, chocolate dripping from the ears of the kids, fun.

I only have two rules: don't trample the emerging flowers in the garden and share.

If you are older and have more eggs it is your moral duty to share with the younger kiddo's. Over the years there has been little drama, the hunt has gone surprisingly without incident. No"but she has more than me or I wanted that egg!!"

I think it is because of my T.I.H.I.I. policy--This Is How It Is.

Haven't heard of it? It's my lifeline in the world of parenthood. Such a secret is worth millions, but I am feeling especially generous today, a bit of mimosa haze from the holiday is lingering so I will spill it.


With everything.


Hair products.

Dinner fare.
Especially dessert.



Mom's energy level.

and most definitely all life lessons.

Did I mention plastic eggs?

 Yesterday my Isabel came rushing up to me telling me her baby Brother smashed (gasp) her favorite shiny green egg!!
Now granted it was an accident (her words not his) but still! The injustice! The horror! The world is not spinning correctly- hello- he broke her shiny green egg!!!!

Now what to do, what to do... insert empathic look. Hand to the shoulder. Apology. Yes, that was a terrible thing that happened.
But, and here it's just a plastic egg.  T.I.H.I.I. Baby.

She got it. After years of Pavlovian-like training, she got it. All was right again, she forgave the crime and moved on with her day. There would be other eggs.

I like to think I have just saved her thousands in therapy bills.

So much of my disappointment and anger in life has been centered around the "unfairness" of my situation. My Mother's brutal end. Not getting to Grad school. My Italian hips. But what if instead of focusing on the road that led to these things I just- after many good cry's and a pot of chamomile tea- looked at it for what it is.

As in: this is how it is.

Life is not fair and eggs are going to get smashed. But what we can give to ourselves and others is the gift of resiliency, willfully keeping calm and carrying on as the Brits used to say. It's what generations before us did, it's entirely what Annie did.

I'm thinking there is a roadmap here.

I'm thinking I'm going to see where it takes me and my lovely Italian hips.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


No Olivia, I won't color my hair.

I won't mask the silvery glitter, the thick, curved strands of time that refuse to be tamed.
I will let them be who they are; full, like my life has been.

No, Olivia, I won't sit in a chair for hours on end, debating color choices named for lattes, filling my lungs with a smell of a factory not yet shut down...but should be.

I will be in the woods. I will be dreaming, conjuring up who I will be. Next.

No Olivia, I won't pull or tug my face into the face of someone else.
I will hold on to each line, I will kiss them with fingertips each morning; grateful for what they have taught me, living with them like the companions they are.

No Olivia, I will not mourn or cry for the body I don't have.
I will not curse my thighs or the way my hips sway. My thighs root me, holding me up when the world seems determined to keep me to a stumble.
I will not have the breasts of the latest model, and Olivia, I will not care. I will look at my breasts with their gaze downward, with awe and gratitude of a Mother, that the first taste in your mouth; the milk they miraculously provided.

No Olivia, I will not starve myself to shrink my stomach.
My stomach carried you suspended in air for so long; I still remember what it felt like to have you stir within me. Why would I ever want to make that smaller? The softness reminds me.

No Olivia, I will not look at the magazines in the grocery aisle. I will turn from them like Brussel sprouts.
I will not believe their lies that my world would be better if I was:
Taller. Thinner. Bigger in my lips but shrunken in my soul.
No Olivia, I won't let them get through, they will not have me.
I will wear jeans that don't crush me.
I will wear red lipstick that is way too much for me.
I will sleep even when I know I could be doing
I will tell people what I think. And sometimes, with no trace of a diplomatic smile.
I will be outside everyday no matter how chilly, how hot, how rainy, how fierce.
I will believe until I know I shouldn't. Then I won't. It won't take me years to figure it out.
I will remember time is short.
I will not wish away ANYTHING.
I will not put up with any crap. From anybody.
I will saywhatIneed. saywhatIneed. saywhatIneed.
I will remember my purpose in this world is not to be endlessly beautiful, captivating, "interesting" or good in bed.
I will stand on my Mother's shoulders, her tiny, fragile, weighed down shoulders that could not support her frame or her spirit and I will,

I will do something, different.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Someone has to say it

It needs to be discussed. I will do it in my most tra-la-la voice bringing on the high pitch to accentuate the positive, but cheese and crackers, it needs to be aired in the light of day.

Fairly confident we have what makes good friend covered.
Now lets talk about what...doesn't.

Again, skating by the snark deftly with precision, we all have been there haven't we? You are having coffee, feeling a bit low, kids are going wackadoo again, tween's head is spinning around ala' Linda Blair and you need...reassurance. You need support. You need a cocktail.

You think you are going to get it from your pal, your neighbor, your kid's teacher, the mailman for Christsakes, but noooo, sadly, you are not. You are passing the poopstorm baton and there is nobody there to give you the high five and run with it.

Here are some of my most favorite baton dropping scenario's:

Silence is a good one. When you pour your heart out and get the look. Somewhere between complete condescension and out and out scorn. Or maybe it's whatever. Hard to say.

Or you: OMG can you believe this is happening?? Has this ever happened to you??!! (insert dire look to friend's eye) Them: Golly, no, My -insert name- kids/husband/mother-in-law/boss never does that. Must be something you are doing. 


There are some real hum dingers, but the basic line is that you are not getting that loving feeling back from someone who you thought was going to be the Hall to your Oats.

Well dear ones, this is a cautionary tale. Do not do what I did. Do not pour loving kindness in, do not explain yourself more (because they must just not understand that is why the uncomfortable, deafening silence really! really!) Just let the sentence die midstep, curtsy and exit the stage.

You can still be friends, sure, but it's never going to be the same again. Know that. Much like losing your virginity, you have crossed a bridge that you cannot uncross. Ooh-I almost forgot, rule #3- don't be delusional and tell yourself what happened didn't happen. It did. It wasn't just a bad day, it just is what it is.

Listen, there are friends you can laugh with, some you cry with, some you drink copious amounts of alcohol with. Your drinking buddy is not going to bring you dinner when your dog dies. Not going to happen. Accept it now, you will feel better. All friends were not meant to fit all purposes and all friendships were not meant to last forever. Saying goodbye to them or even taking that step away can range from feeling like when your first boyfriend dumped you (gut wrenching despair) to getting your ears pierced (hurts like hell but over quickly). At the end of the day we need to do what our Mom always told us to. End the day, end the chapter, close the book and look for a brighter morning. That may mean many things in our complicated lives: to look for meaning, look for purpose or look for the friend who says Honey, I have been there--- emergency dark chocolate and cheap red wine comin' up. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Someone to watch over me

It's crucial that someone has your back. When the doo doo hits the fan you need to have that person or person's in your corner.  It's the essence of who we are.  Of what family is.  Community.  When we are rocked and thrown by the waves in our lives it is these brave souls who put us back together, patch us up.  I say brave because devastation ain't pretty.  It takes a strong stomach to watch it unfold.  We all cringe when we recall the harsh lessons of when someone wasn't there to catch our fall or perhaps when we were pushed.  I don't think I have ever experienced a more painful time (including natural childbirth!) as when I thought I had a friend, only to realize I did not.  Ouch.  How many of us have had that painful moment when you discover all is not right in Denmark?

It's the ones who say they will be there and aren't that sting the most.  Or perhaps the ones who love you just to the point of knocking you flat on your face.  So many of life's lessons give us the opportunity to see.  A lost job.  Scandal.  Ruin.  Whoever stands by us in those moments are our family.  Be it neighbor or lover.

As far as I am concerned they can pull up a chair at the Thanksgiving table because they are my Sisters now.  I bless and let go of the ones who are not.  First curse them, then let them go.  Bye, bye.  Then kiss the ground in thanks that this experience-job loss/divorce/ miscarriage/betrayal came into my life.

Thank you,  thank you,  thank you  for showing me who is true.

Thank you for showing me the creme rising to the top.

Because if I wake up with a lump in my breast I want to know I can call on you.  If my world implodes I want to know I won't get a polite smile and a too bad dear, I'll get you crawling  into bed with me to pull the covers up, cry with me, yell with me, eat chocolate with me until it gets better.  And it always gets better.  That we know.

Perpetual Winter is not for us.

Bless and let go.  Look for the ones who stay.  Look for the creme in your cup.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Oh no. Mommy's got the bottle again....

Sometimes I feel like I am the lady in the 1970's Calgon commercial. The baaby! The doooorbell! Camera cuts in to the anguish and despair on her face and then, just in the nick of time--ahhh-- the soothing voice of let it all goooooo... surrender. Calgon take me away!!.....Yeah. Whatever. Give me a big honkin glass of red wine and a mound of dark chocolate and leave me the hell alone. That's what takes me away. That and locking myself in the bathroom with the fan on yelling into the wooden door "I caaan't heaar you because of the fa--an!! Sorry! Oh so sorry!! I'll be out soooon. About an ho-ur!"  (please note I am sing--ing all this so it doesn't sound negative!) Snow white. You betcha.

You HAVE to laugh at the absurdity of it all. That or you would be rocking in a corner with your thumb planted firmly in your mouth. I laugh so much with and at my children and their all consuming hilarity, focus and wild raucous love they throw at me, sometimes I cry. The crazy cry, or what Oprah calls the "ugly cry."

All. The. Time.

 My emotions are so much on my sleeve I might as well start a clothing line.

Remember when you were a teenager and everything was so incredibly intense and magnified and real and tingly? On a good day you could practically touch the sun and on a bad day you were one move from the fetal position. But that was so you oriented. Cue the kiddo's and suddenly they are on your sleeve, your heart, your mind, your entire being. How could they not be...they are everything that is wonderful, fragile and sacred in our world. They drive you mad, rob your sleep, scream and roll on the floor flopping and crying like fish out of water over the wrong kind of toothpaste. Sag your boobs in your mid thirties until you cry.

They are without a doubt the greatest anything you will ever do.

Saggy boobies and all.

On those days where I can find a thought, follow a conversation, put my mascara on without smudging it down my cheek looking like I was just beaten by my pimp, I laugh. I have this friend who is so innately wonderful. I can call her and just start laughing into the phone and the next thing I know she is laughing too. Her crazy manic laugh matches mine and we don't even have to speak. She knows. She gets it. Our kids don't. They just think we are bonkers and that's OK. I want my kids to think I'm wacky. It will give them  more to talk about in therapy and give me the air of being really dramatic and cool. Maybe even playground talk fodder..."did you hear what she said to her kids the other day??!" 


When I was first a Mommy I was all about getting it right. Exactly, completely, achingly perfect right. Now that my oldest is a teenager and I see what a disservice I've done, I'm going for a different angle. Better to be Bette Midler than Julie Andrews. At the end of my life I think I would much rather be remembered for my raucous laughter and fierce love for them than a Jackie O. package all neatly tied in a bow. It's time for us all to loosen the bow. Just a little.

Give our kids something to talk about :-)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A wee bit lighter...

Day 9 and I have to admit I feel... better.

Kinda like when you assess the stomach flu was horrendous but now your jeans fit again!...That kind of weird/wonderful tangle. A change in energy perhaps?

I don't feel as petulant. I have more space in my little brain to move about my day. How much of my day was taken up with this silliness? I wonder. I'm sure along the ride I have massively tanked in ways I can't count, letting the negative ship ferry along without me noticing. But I have tried. Lordy, lordy, have I tried.

I think I am laughing more. Yep. Lighter.

When we get caught up in something, whether it's the bloke who yells at us to move our car or the dirty look at the grocery store, we carry that around, wearing it like a shawl. Hashing and rehashing, being pissed and thinking of all the things you could have said, or, did say. Or in my case, three days later when I finally think of my fabulous comeback only to realize I am yelling it to the bathroom mirror. That'll teach 'em!

I have been oh so silly in this arena. At different points in my life I have gone from all sides of the spectrum- from raging to Mother Teresa. Mostly raging when my kids are not around and Mother Teresa when they are.

Annie certainly had this one down. She did a funny little dance with it though. How to explain her dead eyed aim at her libel cases? She was taking those newspapers down. I can only imagine she was saturated with anger and negativity at first; but in true Oakley style managed to turn it, hold it up to the light- and deal with it.  She wasn't taking any guff but she wasn't letting it consume her either. As I have said previously, she readily admitted that the talk swirling around her nearly killed her. But where she gets the glory is when she got back up on her proverbial horse and was so darn proactive about it--instead of ruminating, marinating, she got to work; not focusing on the negative talk but somehow gracefully, forcefully, rising above it. Maybe that's the sustaining the task of keeping negativity at bay, it can only be achieved if you roll with it.

I always think of Annie as in the world but not of it. So I beg the question: can we follow her lead and be able to dislike without getting personal?

Now you could have knocked me over with a feather telling me I would ever quote John McCain, especially from a time when he was wearing his "I'm going to be as nasty as I can" hat for the 2008 election; but here we are.  He said something really poignant that sticks with me to this day and may be the key to all of this...
He said; "Never get in a wrestling match with a pig, you both get dirty and the pig likes it."

If we are rolling in the mud of negativity can we see we are just as dripping filthy as the person who threw the first mudpie?
Better to roll out of the pen, take to the road and see where it leads you.

To a lighter place I imagine.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"I feel now and then as if I could not miss." ---Annie Oakley

What gives us the confidence to go out on that limb? With so many remarkable heros in our midst both past and present, what can we glean from them as to how far to reach? So many historians, sharpshooters and those who knew her tried to explain Annie Oakley's talent. I wonder how much of her skill was her scrappiness, her hard won belief in herself.

When failure is not an option does it change the game?

Surely she didn't have any options, it was do or be done with for her. I think that can apply to many of our most famous inspirations.

Today I watched the Boston Marathon. As a runner myself I was glued to the screen in awe of the hard work and skill of these athletes. I could not contain my excitement, caught up in the race track moment, screaming at the T.V.-- GO! GO! GO!! when the race was too close to call for an excruciating three blocks. What separated those two racers, the one who won and the one who did not as they crossed the finish line? Was it luck? Destiny? Did one train harder than the other or was it that one was just unwilling to give up to the point of no return. As I watched the winner collapse to the ground, looking as if she would expire with her next breath I realized one thing. She was not going to fail. Failure was not an option. To me, she was going to win that marathon and if her leg fell off in the process, so be it. This is not to say that the other runner did not want it as badly, far from it, but to me there was a consuming desperation in that runner's eye that the other runner did not possess.

Maybe that is what draws us to our icons. We look at them and marvel at their sheer force of will. Their heart beats so loud we can almost hear it in our own ears. How truly magical it must be in that moment to cross that line, achieve that goal, hit that glass ball. It takes our own perceived limitations and shakes them from the ground up. You mark my words, you will see more runners on the road tomorrow, myself included. Each one of us thinking somewhere in our unconscious "if they can do it, I can do it."

What a delicious invitation.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Perseverance moves the world

When Annie Oakley was reported to have been arrested, disheveled and "destitute" by newspapers across the country the news "almost killed her." For someone who had worked her whole life, doing something that women did not do and no man could beat her at, she was not going to be taken down by scandal. Nope. That was not how she was going down. She demanded all newspapers retract the falsehood, telling them quite plainly that "someone will pay for this dreadful mistake"- and that a burlesque dancer claiming her name was the woman in question. Newspapers quickly retracted the story, many apologized. But that was not good enough for Miss Annie Oakley. She had come too far scratching her way up for air. She went after no other than William Randolph Hearst, mogul, larger than life American publisher, suing him for a whopping $25,000. Hearst came after her like a wild dog, even going so far as to send a detective to dig up dirt on Annie. He found not so much as a speck. Annie spent the next six years of her life not performing but travelling the country taking no less than 55 newspapers to court. When she would take the stand she was said to have "an air of perfect refinement." Of course she did. Would she approach it any other way?

Annie won 54 of the 55 lawsuits and Hearst had to pay her $27,000. In the end she lost money, most of it going to attorney's fee's but she didn't care, not one bit. That wasn't what it was about. She set her eye on clearing her name and to her nothing else mattered. Annie once again hit her mark.

I am fascinated by this part of her history. I think it shows what Annie Oakley was made of more than any tale of her sharpshooting skill. In the beginning of the 1900's women did not even possess the right to vote, but Annie Oakley takes on one of the most powerful men in the country. She dares to not only speak up but do it with a clear eyed iron fist in velvet glove style.
I love this woman. I want to be this woman.

Have you ever set your eye on something with this much intensity? Ever had a goal that was so clear to you that you would not part with it for anyone? -- Knowing your life's path so completely that no one could dissuade you from it?

I imagine she was mocked and misunderstood, downright ridiculed for taking such a strong stance to guard what was hers and hers alone; her name and what it stood for. I almost see the scorn, hear the whispers--- "She got her apology, what more does this woman want?"

Annie was one of the first American women to publicly say that she was going to write her own destiny, no help needed thanks. She would decide what it would be.

Man or woman I wonder if I would be that strong, focused, steely eyed. It is said that 80% of success is just showing up. I think it goes farther. What Annie showed us was that if you truly believe in what your given path is you will not only make it happen but you will do it in a way that sets that path on fire, announcing your arrival.

What if we all did that?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saying Goodbye

I went to a funeral today. It was for a beautiful lady who lived her life until the ripe old age of 87. She was the Mother of a dear family friend and she I can say without hesitation will be missed, mourned and remembered. Her daughter read the most extraordinary poem at her graveside about April, about it's flowers and new beginnings and how even amidst all that the poet's only want was to be by her beloveds side.
I peered behind a curtain and caught in motion the most profound love, devotion and grace today. It was raw, heartbreaking and devastatingly lovely. The way this woman's children cared for her until she took her last breath was nothing short of a living testament to what love is, what it can be.

Funerals always awaken a 'time is of the essence' feeling in me. When you look into the faces of those who have just lost someone you forget about the petty deadlines of your day, the errands that you just can't seem to get done, the stupid thing that was said. You forget it all because bearing witness to loss makes us take notice, puts us on notice that time/is/short.

And what of that time? How are we using it? Are we moving through our world with negative apron strings streaming behind us? We have a legacy that we will leave behind us, for each person it is theirs to create.

 Today I saw a legacy of honor and sacrifice, compassion and loyalty. The simplicity of it overtook me. Watching the last remains of a family huddled close, sharing stories, laughing and being stoic took my breath away. The black and white photographs of the once vibrant woman in love, in life, seemingly without a care in the world; her smile knowing, full and electric.

In the end the things that define us seem to fall by the wayside. Even Annie's perseverance did nothing for her as she lay dying. Love was the only thing that mattered. We all know this sentiment. It's the equivalent to having diamonds lay on a sidewalk in plain view. Our family, our friends, our connections are our treasure.

Our treasure in plain sight, there for us everyday.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A little bit of sunshine is a good thing

Warmth does a lot of things. Heal. Connect. Open. When feeling shut off from connection in our lives we tend to isolate, hunker down-- ala' December in full tilt. I am so grateful for the people in my life that bring out my inner Spring. The ones who make me laugh/heal/connect/open. One way to banish the blaah blahh's of negativity is to seek out those who get us, complete us and make us giggle like a five year old.

Annie had that with Frank, of that I am convinced. He got her. I find it amazing that this man, an immigrant to this country coming from such a different place could not only love Annie, but get her. Picturing how he must have looked at her, full of love and pride, gladness and grace makes me happy. How she, like a lost traveler found her way to him and stayed. What an incredible example of what the human heart is capable of. I think she felt safe with him. And unlike the fairy tale where the prince rescues the maiden she did the unlikely thing;

She rescued him right back.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Loosen the girdle.

For the girl who starts most of her conversations with her friends "Have I got a story for you!!" I'm feeling a bit disorientated. Little by little though I am realizing that things are not that different.
However, just the fear that things will change- dynamics, bonds, is enough to make this girl quake in her boots a bit. But little by little I am easing into Annie's world.
I know right down to my core that I am at the beginning of the tunnel, all I see is inky black in the distance. But somehow today I felt a little shift occuring. I got off my Budda on the mountain top aim for perfection, lost my tension and stepped freely into conversations. I didn't cover my ears internally, didn't feel my Catholic guilt creeping in for not getting it exactly right.

I feel it only fair to disclose that I am using lots of loopholes. Oodles of them.

My new favorite one is saying something not entirely pleasant but doing it with a smile and a little lilt to my voice.
See! I am being positive because I sound like Snow White!

There needs to be a little caution here don't you think?? Stepford wife could be around the corner if I am constantly channeling my inner Heidi on the mountaintop scene.

So... to feel the ick, acknowledge the ick, and then move the thoughts out and away from the ick...that is what I'm going for.  But it's going to take practice, discipline, patience and awareness. And probably not in that order. Add in heaping tablespoons of failing, flubbing and screwing up. Yes, I said the big one- failing, which is a big scary no-no in my repitoire. I think there is a sense, like when starting a new health regime, that you will be immune to illness, to the pratfalls and pain of life's situations because you are taking a new path. But healthy people still get sick. And our brains are wired to problem solve, so it's gonna go out to the store looking for problems. The million dollar question is; how do you think it feel it and steer away from the ick? Feels a bit like juggling.

I am lousy at juggling.

So here is my latest daydream. Annie, awakens slowly in her hospital room after the train wreck. Doctor by her bedside, ( he sounds like Jack Klugman's Quincy in my dream ) "You are paralyzed Annie, you may not walk again, you certainly won't shoot again and all I can say is I am so very sorry." She listens, feels the weight of his statement and smiles. Inhale in, steely look out. I dream that she makes her choice right then and there.

It's her ballgame and she is going to play.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pretty sure smug counts as negativity...

Day 3.

Even though I basically moved through the day with my lips pursed, carefully sidestepping any negative impulses, my brain had other ideas....I literally could not shut the gerbil brain down. And I'm pretty sure that counts. But hey, gotta learn to crawl before you walk right? I have been so busy carefully dissecting all my interpersonal conversations that I have virtually ignored all the ones that happen with those near my proximity -and sometimes not even in my proximity-note the rather terse commentary I had with the beer truck blocking my car today,  for 10 freakin minutes!!!! Breathing...breathing...

My rambling point is, what of those conversations?

This experiment of sorts is rapidly becoming like the attic clean up; at first you think you will be up there an hour- tops. Then you start going through the boxes, toys, oh and remember this cute little outfit the baby wore!! Oh my goodness time does fly and next thing you know you are sitting around a pile of crap wondering how you acquired all this stuff in the first place. The 17 layer onion, that's what this is.

And what of those near and dear? I am seriously questioning my authenticity when I fight the urge to let the snark fly at my eye rolling 13 year old. Or when my hubby after being cruelly, savagely, persnickety to me  gathers himself enough to tell me his head is spinning from all the things he is doing. "We all make our choices" I say in a sing-songy voice with an awful smile. Yup. Pretty sure smug counts.

I wonder how Annie did it.

Did she go off somewhere pleasant in her mind, leaving it all behind? Or did she just say to herself, Could be worse. Even though she was not a New England girl I can almost picture her saying that, all New Englandy with a wonderfully unaffected gaze...can't you?
Maybe I am putting her on a pedestal but I really think she just let it all roll off her.

I'm trying Annie. Really, I am.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Aim at a high mark and you will hit it" - Annie Oakley

OK. I am aiming. But by 9:00am this morning, day two, I had already missed my mark. Not in large way, more of a stumble than a fall I guess, but realizing this was not going to be a cake walk in any way, shape or form. The slip went down this way: I was talking to my friend on the phone and we were recalling a conversation that had happened to her. The outrage I felt for her was just tempting the chocolate I had sworn to keep in the back of the pantry at all costs. "That's not nice!" came flying out of my mouth, like a tube of toothpaste, there was no way it was going back in.

This is gonna be hard.

I'm thinking though, to truly take all the negativity out is to not just keep my mouth shut continuously (you might as well ask me to fly) but to change the thought pattern, the perception, the clinging on the judgement; the "OMG did they really just say that??!!" thoughts in my head. Like my kids, I think I am going to try and pack them up, kiss them goodbye for a little while and send them off. I know they will be back, just like my kids, but I won't greet them with a healthy snack when they come through the door.

So why Annie Oakley? Simply put she was one tough cookie. And a graceful one at that. She had balls of steel, fire in her belly and true grit to transcend the awful things in her life. She did it all, not for glory or praise, but to survive. And she wasn't just content with surviving; she was going to live have fun, with joy and fullness; wringing every last drop of life out, just like the smiling ruffles cascading from her famous skirts.

Coming from a destitute childhood she overcame much. Her Father died, she was taken from her family to live and work at the county poor farm, and she endured terrible abuse. She also persevered. She worked and dreamed and worked some more. She started hunting at age six and by the time she was fifteen she was supporting her reunited family and had paid off her Mother's mortgage. This was the late 1800's and this girl was making her own rules. She did it for the good of her family, she did it to make a life for herself.

By all accounts she was a lovely person. Her life story is interesting enough, but what got me completely hooked on Annie was how she responded to all said people and events that happened to her. She started to work at Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and as history tells us, was the first American woman celebrity.
Enter Lillian Smith, the decade younger upstart who openly taunted and criticized Annie, mocking her, telling the world in essence she was a younger, better version of Annie.
Annie, full of grace and dignity, held firm, held her tongue and kept doing what she did best- hitting her mark. Lillian, so busy talking smack neglected her sharpshooting skills and performed badly time and time again. After much rebuking from the public, she faded out of view and left the show.
Annie went on to endure a train wreck that left her paralyzed, multiple spinal surgeries, and a terrible car accident. She kept on, with a steady gaze that would make a sailor cry. Kept on with a smile on her face and a skip in her step. Kept on, hitting her mark. She transcended her abuse in her early poor farm years to open her heart and find love. She organized (quietly) women to learn how to shoot so as to support themselves. She was very much a feminist (quietly) feeling that she and any other woman with a strong mind and backbone to match could dream and do anything a man could.

I look at her pictures and try to see the spark that lit her. She looks sly to me, confident, humble, grounded and...happy. I try and imagine how much she and her husband must have loved each other, devoted and connected all those years of marriage. How Frank simply stopped eating when she unexpectedly died. He had had enough of a world that didn't have her in it. He died 18 days later.

So Annie Oakley. Guiding Saint in finding my way through life without taking anyone down the negative slippy slide. I'm in.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hang on to your hats, it's going to be a bumpy ride...

Often late, I am cementing that reputation and two and a half weeks before Easter I am starting my Lenten sacrifice. What is it you ask? To give up all the negative talk in my life. All the blah blah blaahing about who did what and how mean or mannerless it was. From the mundane and meaningless to the things that matter most. I am thinking that this may stick awhile. I am thinking, hoping, that it will be the experiment, meditation, and journey of my life. I am excited to see where it all lands and the dust settles. Should be fun.