Monday, September 29, 2014

A Mind of my Own

The mystery within . . .

Growing up I was not permitted a mind of my own.  And if I did express an idea or preference for anything it would invariably be met with ridicule.  No wonder I am reticent to speak an opinion or look forward to engaging conversation.  So when I was presented with an invitation from a friend, an invitation I knew I would rather not accept, I was anxious about my response and initially said nothing.  A week or two went by without a word or even an acknowledgement from me.  My inability to speak my mind gnawed at me.  I thought maybe I could respectfully write my decline in a note since the written word is a safer way for me to communicate.  Ironically, my early conditioning made me a clear and concise writer, a gift for which I am grateful.  But now writing a note felt cowardly and awkward.  I decided a phone call would be more personal and felt less threatening.  When I got the answering machine I was relieved.  I could state my reason for calling and wait for the call back.  It came, and I respectfully spoke my mind.  My friend became ever more dear to me when my words were met with acceptance. That acceptance lit a light inside me and I basked in its glow knowing I do have a mind of my own and can speak it.

My anxiety over responding made me very aware of how much my early conditioning still affects me, but I want to continue my growth in my spoken words that reveal the light within me. 

I know I am not alone in my previous conditioning.  What if we could all know the light within when speaking our own mind, or be the accepting listener?                          

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Conundrum 1) and its Complicity 2)

The Mystery within

1) a confusing and difficult problem or question

2) the state of being involved with others in an illegal activity or wrongdoing

Richard Rodriguez – The Fabric of Our Identity, was a Krista Tippett On-Being program.  I identified with Rodriguez’s eloquent praise for his Roman Catholic upbringing as a foundational gift in his life, especially his participation in the Mystery of the mass.  And yet it is this institution that denies him the right to openly love his long-time male partner.  Rodriguez praised women, and their fight to win the right to vote, with his freedom to be who he is in society.  That surprised me since I suspect gender inequities will be the last discriminations to disappear.  But nevertheless I was pleased he credited my gender with such an important step forward.  Rodriquez also expressed concern for immigrant families wanting to come to America because he sees the American family eroding, with its emphasis on wealth and individuality, over society and family.  He said every thirty years we should all be sent back to where we came from to keep America healthy.  He closed with a poignant vision of a drunken priest slurring the words of consecration at mass, “This is my body, broken for you,” and concluded it is all about growth through trials and forgiveness.  And he asked, “Why don’t we talk about difficult things?”

It’s not easy to talk about difficult things or write about them.  I related Rodriguez’s words to my struggle with abuse; my aging parent’s care needs, and my decision to leave the church of my birth at age 60. I felt compelled to tell my story but I didn’t want to focus on the abuse, only the help I encountered throughout the long struggle to free myself from it.  I too valued the Catholic mass and attended frequently from a very early age.  It continued to sustain and comfort me after losing both my husband and son to suicide.  But once I saw my complicity in my family abuse, and its relatedness to the discriminatory teachings of my church, I then began the long and painful process of separating myself from it.  In my memory’s eye I can still see my favorite priest raising the host high in the air and reverently proclaiming, “This is my body...” His words triggered in me a sudden hollowness and a voice within saying, “God is in all things and everyone.”  So I went looking, and found God everywhere, as well as finding myself.  Amazing things happen when looking for God in each day, especially when you are desperate.  They arrive in the form of Synchronicities in landscapes, animals, weather, books, radio voices, and encounters with others, successes, failures and more.  And when reflected upon, they all point the way.  And I too was shown it is all about forgiveness.

What if you read my memoir, “God Never Hurries,” and had some difficult questions.  Would I welcome them?

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Supple Heart

The Mystery within
I heard a supple heart in a quiet, calm, most soothing voice, of a man I didn’t know while I sat in my ophthalmologist’s waiting room.  At first I thought he was speaking to his wife sitting next to him but later realized he was on his phone talking to a service provider who makes corrective shoes.  I never want to forget the softness in his patient voice when it became apparent the person on the other end of the line was not being helpful.  I sensed within him a very healthy ego, one that didn’t need to get upset with the incompetence of another because he was not getting the service he respectfully requested.  His was not a milk toast response, but one of enviable acceptance and control worthy of emulation.

Parker Palmer’s On-being reflection, “An Invitation to Heartbreak and the Call of the Loon,” states “the heart can break open into new life or break apart into shards of sharper and more widespread pain.”  Clearly my waiting room teacher demonstrated a heart broken open--one that did not need to retaliate and cause more pain.

I am also remembering now the kindness I heard in the voices of others that encouraged my heart to refuse the victim role when I struggled with abuse and my aging parent’s care needs—a hospital volunteer, social workers, a nurses aid, friends, and sometimes family.  Simple kindness, heard in the voice of another, can transform us.  So I have been listening to my own voice lately and have found myself responding with more thoughtful words, acceptance, and patience.

What if we could all hear the supple heart of another and let it soften our own?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Long-term Side Effects

The Mystery within

It’s harvest time and a time to be grateful.  But I also feel overwhelmed this time of the year with the bounty of fresh produce from my Springdale Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share.  Getting a box of more produce than one can reasonably use in a week before the next box comes along, and also finding ways to prepare, and learning to eat some vegetables I normally would not buy, can be challenging.  So I am blanching and freezing some things, preparing whole meals ahead, freezing those, and investigating new recipes.  It can be exhausting, even for me, who generally likes to cook.  In my memoir, “God Never Hurries, I wrote: “Cooking is sometimes soothing ritual for me.”   

While preparing stuffed peppers for the freezer I listened to Krista Tippetts’ On-Being guest, Chef Dan Barber, who extolled the many blessings of cooking locally grown food from great taste, to real nutrition, to environmental sensitivity and feeling a connection to the land of which we are a part.  I understand the good sense he made but admittedly was surprised by his optimism when he said the movement to eat locally is just getting started.  In the future, people will demand more health from the foods they eat.  I hope he’s right.  And I am wondering, how different would our world be if everyone had the opportunity to eat nutritious food?  Healthy food is medicine for the body, mind and soul with wonderful long-tem side effects.  Sadly, the evidence for not eating well is all around us.

But I found it very hard to stay in the kitchen this weekend with fresh sun bright air outside and a bike trail beckoning.  So I took a long break from my cooking and a long ride.  When I get on my bike its like subtracting twenty years off my age for I can bike much more easily than I can walk.  Dusk is my usual time to ride when I finally put an end to the days work and few others are on the trail.  On this sunny Sunday afternoon there were many people out riding.  I felt to be in good company when bikers, looking close to me in age, zoomed past.  I rode the trail to the new park in Port Washington that juts out into Lake Michigan where white boats of many different sizes and shapes moved in and out of the deep blue harbor.  There I lay down on a picnic table to dangle my legs to stretch the muscles I would need for the upgrade and headwind I would face riding home.  I was soothed by the wind-rustled leaves in the young tree above me that was back dropped by a bright blue, near cloudless sky.

The ride home was much more work than I imaged it would be.  But after changing into dry clothes, and a brief rest with more stretching, I was back in the kitchen invigorated and ready to cook some more.  It occurred to me that even though cooking and biking can sometimes be very hard work, most worthwhile things are.  Chef Dan Barber said, “Cooking is a contribution to the betterment of the world.”

What if we could all cook and bike our way into a better world and a better us?                   

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sparks and Synchronicity

The Mystery within...

Allowing myself three weeks off from my Monday blog routine would not have happened without attending an early August weekend retreat titled “Listening to Your Journey.”  It helped focus me on knowing and listening to my true self, my life, and practicing good self-care (which oddly occurred to me, only I can provide.)  I pared down on preparations and expectations for the rest of August’s major activities that followed--primarily my brother’s weeklong visit, and then getting ready for, and spending a week at a family cabin in the north woods with my daughter, three grandchildren, and two puppies.  It was a very active month.

I entered my retreat with the specific intention that I know, and remember, I am not responsible for others’ happiness.  It was a most appropriate intention for the family gatherings that followed.  It focused me on being an observer of what was going on around me rather than trying to please or placate others.  And because of my observations I became aware of multiple synchronicities occurring in each day, for which I was truly grateful—from my daughter-in-law driving my brother to the airport, to alternative meal plans and activities with the children in the north woods’ soggy weather.

I have been visiting my late in-laws cabin, tucked in a woods on a lake, for 53 years now starting back when the main amenities were kerosene lanterns for light and an outside pump and privy for plumbing.  It is where my late husband and I honeymooned and later became an annual trip with our three children.  My visits there have become much less frequent now and are filled with nostalgia for all those who had enjoyed this rustic beauty and now somehow seem to live on in the pines, sunlight’s sparkle on the water, patter of rain on the roof, multiple hued sunsets, dark, sparkling night sky, and heady clean air.  I became aware of the many long-term synchronicities, born out of trauma and tragedy, which grew me.  And it occurred to me that I could be next in line to become a nostalgic memory.

Coming home to ankle high grass, loads of laundry and stacks of mail, I half considered prolonging my time off from my Monday blog one more week until there was a knock on my door.  There a friend stood with a small gift and card in hand for me.  She had just finished reading my memoir, “God Never Hurries” and told me her light had gone out but my words rekindled it.  On her card she wrote the following Albert Schweitzer quote:  “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.  Each of us has a cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”  She wrote:  “You are the spark!” and she sparked me back into blogging.

What if we all became more observant of synchronicity that sparks gifts and growth in our lives?