Saturday, December 29, 2012

The past is past . . .

All your past 
except its beauty 
is gone,
and nothing is left
but a blessing.

A Course in Miracles, Chapter 5

One of many quotes I have saved. Don't remember where I first saw this, but it spoke deeply to me. At the time, I was in a very dark place. Full of condemnation and self-loathing. Looking anywhere and everywhere for some piece of verbal light and assurance. I needed to know, or at least to acknowledge, that somehow everything I had experienced had some meaning in my life . . . that these things, however heavy, or hurtful, or terrifying to revisit, had somehow brought me to be who I am. 

While rifling through murky memories of times long gone, it has been a comforting surprise to find that during sadness and suffering, light and beauty have kept my soul safe.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Daughter's Love

Yesterday marked seventy-seven years since the passing of my maternal grandmother, Mae Blanche Hazelton Main Hargrave.  On the day of her passing, my mother was just three days past her 13th birthday.  My grandmother became ill on Mom's birthday.  She had been tending to others who were suffering from a flu and pneumonia outbreak and  the weather had been cold and damp.  In addition to her own mother being seriously ill on her birthday, my mother started her period for the first time.  My Great-Aunt Clara told my grandmother about it, and my mother was called to my grandmother's bedside.  She took my mother by the hand and said, "I don't have any more babies . . ."   The house became busy with nurses tending to my grandmother and the doctor stopping by to check on her.  My mother remembers she couldn't stand all the activity.  At some point the doctor announced there was nothing more to do but wait . . . my grandmother was dying.  Mom remembers carolers singing, "Silent Night, Holy Night" and to this day cannot hear it without remarking, "I hate that song."  
A few days ago I spent several hours with Mom, just listening to her talk and tell me the same stories I have heard my whole life.  But this time she told me something new, something different.  She told me that she can remember the funeral as though it happened yesterday.  She remembers standing by the graveside and holding her father's hand . . . and her eyes were closed.  She said she didn't want to see her mother there . . . in that coffin . . . knowing she was to soon be buried . . . and physically gone from this world.  She said she didn't want to believe that it was real.
Mom has been remembering her mother a lot these days.  She said that not one day goes by that she doesn't think of her mother in some way.  Mom has told me that her mother was vivacious, fun-loving, kind, gracious, and never spoke a harsh word.  She has told me how when she or her sisters did something wrong, that their mother would call them by their full name and tell them to take a seat in the parlor.  And their mother would calmly and lovingly address their wrongdoing, her disappointment, and then tell them to go upstairs and think on what they had done.  Mom has spoken of her mother having bridge parties, telling jokes, making beautiful clothes for her daughters, wearing pants in downtown Petersburg, and even smoking cigarettes in front of the grocery store.  
So today Mom and I marked today as a day of remembrance by visiting the graves of her mother, father, and aunt at Blandford Cemetery.  We left a single red rose on each grave.  
My mom's life changed forever in many ways the day her mother died.  She remembers with great fondness her life up to that day, and I hope she remembers how much her mother loved her then.
And I hope she knows how much I love her now.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Teeth and Applesauce

It's Friday night, and so my daughters and I went out to dinner at our favorite local Italian non-chain dining establishment.  We're just sitting there, enjoying our salads, well those of us who were having salads, and just chatting . . . and somehow Daughter 1 is describing someone with no teeth, or who has questionable orthodontics . . . let's be straight here -- the person being described is lacking some key teeth and rather noticeably.  Daughter 3, out of the blue, says, "You don't need teeth to eat applesauce."  Rather droll, matter-of-fact, actually quite serious.  There I was, engaged in serious salad mid-chew, thinking that was the funniest thing I had heard all day . . . "You don't need teeth to eat applesauce."  And now, the more I think about that casual, off-hand remark, the more I truly believe it can be applied to life.  Think of all the things we tend to overdo, over-plan, over think that really just need quiet meditation, or introspection, or just a few moments of reflection before we start . . . chewing . . . masticating . . . sinking our mental teeth into something that just needs to be . . . taken in slowly, savored,  mulled over lightly, with little thought or question.  Too often we jump the gun, taking offense where none is intended, assigning blame where there is no wrongdoing, casting aspersions on those who are just trying to be the best they can be given a finite set of circumstances and experiences.  Much like using teeth to eat applesauce . . . more work, and thought, and emotion than is really necessary.
So the next time something is said, or written,  especially in a casual exchange, that leaves you feeling a little . . . sideways -- stop -- and before you fire off a regrettable verbal round or volley, think to yourself, "Do I really need teeth to eat applesauce?"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Give me . . .

. . . love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope with this heavy load
Trying to touch and reach you with
Heart and soul

My Lord

Please take hold of my hand
That I might understand You

Won't you please
Oh won't you

Give me love . . .

Such a simple, and simply lovely, sentiment.  Loving-kindness in word and practice.  
So pure and sincere.

Thank you, George . . .

Namaste ~

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Light a candle, curse the glare . . .

"It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."   

Peter Benenson, Founder of Amnesty International

Personal introspection is hard work.  Relationships are hard work.  Being human is . . . hard work.  One of the hardest things to do in order to bring light and understanding into any of these arenas is to bring those parts and pieces of our psyche, which we would much prefer to keep hidden away,  . . . out . . . into the open . . . exposed . . . It's uncomfortable to see, or hear, long forgotten memories, dreams, experiences out in the open where others might see, or hear, them.  We become afraid, anxious, insecure . . . but why?  

Perhaps these things that have caused us so much pain and anguish throughout our lives have become comfortable to us.  Perhaps some of these things have been shared with others only to result in our being ridiculed, or humiliated, or worse, to have those feelings, those memories, those dreams, those experiences, exploited or held against us in some way.  

In order for us to continue to grow, and evolve, and heal, we must allow for light to come into those dark places we all seem to have.  Those painful memories, those questionable experiences, those long lost (perhaps just misplaced) dreams, need some light, and air, in order for us to lose the fear, the anxiety, the insecurity.  Bring it up and out, let it surface, hold a candle to it,breathe on it,  name it and know it for what it is . . . something that is holding you back.   Reach in . . . reach out . . . learn . . . grow . . . heal . . .

And try to keep a little grace. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mama . . .

My mom and dad on their wedding day 68 years ago.  Mom will be 90 on December 19!  Aren't they a striking couple?  Hard to believe that my dad was once so vain as to have his military uniforms professionally tailored to fit him perfectly.  He passed away 21 years ago.    Mom had long, dark, deeply wavy hair, and her dress in this pic is so very stylish even by today's standards.  Mom lives alone in a senior apartment community, and still does her own housework and cooking.  She no longer drives, and really isn't up to going out much.  She spends a lot of her time reading Nora Roberts books, and she cannot understand why I don't . . . but that's okay.  She has started getting a little confused by some things, like her cable bill -- "Why do they keep sending this?"  And she has given up on keeping up with her meds ... that's okay, too, because I can do that for her.  My job is to check on her, take her to doctor, get her groceries, take out her trash, talk to her, and listen to the same stories she has been telling for all of my life, and that's okay, too.  Some days she makes me crazy, and that's okay, too . . . she's my mom, and I love her.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Be still . . . be vibrant

You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.
Indira Gandhi

This takes a lot of work!  When working on some things, I do tend to be very focused, and working only on that one thing.  If someone comes along and distracts me from that work, it takes a second or two to switch gears and re-focus, and I can be a bit blunt, something I like to refer to as "speaking in bullet points."  A few people have had their feelings hurt because I'm not my usual convivial self, and then I have to try and explain that is just how I am when focused ... "it's not you, it's me."  
Ah, but repose --- my greatest challenge!  Even when my body is not in motion, my mind is full-steam ahead.  Thinking of a million things, making lists, looking around to see what to do next.  But then a funny thing happens ... I begin to question myself, wondering why don't I just get up and do something, why I'm not getting the laundry, or cleaning the bathroom (which is something that actually delivers a decent feeling of accomplishment ...), or dusting the credenza (don't have one!), or spanking the tapestries (don't have any!), or taking care of something ... or someone.  And then, nothing gets done and I castigate myself for being lazy, or yes, lethargic.
However, there have been times when I do feel a great sense of peace and stillness within my self during times of great activity ... or challenge.  And for those times, I am grateful.
And there have been times of repose during which I have felt so alive ... and joyful.  And for those times, I am grateful.  
Breathe . . . be still . . . be vibrant . . .

Friday, December 7, 2012

Giant steps . . .

As part of my quest to not be so lethargic, and as part of a promise to take better care of myself, I have made an appointment to see a primary care physician!  It's been a long, long time . . . I know there will be other appointments to make . . . and not looking forward to any of them . . . cold stirrups . . . cold hands . . . cold stethoscope . . . cold -- well, you get the picture.  Oh!  And let's not forget the booby pancake photo shoot -- what fun!  Anyway, as someone who is hardwired to take care of others, it is now time for me to take care of me . . . physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  For how can I care for others if I do not care for myself first?

Let the katharsis begin . . .

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Be soft . . .

Stumbled upon this gem by Kurt Vonnegut . . .

"Be soft.  Do not let the world make you hard.  Do not let the pain make you hate.  Do not let the bitterness steal away your sweetness.  Take pride that even though the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place."

I am grateful for the people in my life who help me to stay soft and to keep the hard edges away . . . who help me to not hate . . . who help me to keep bitterness at bay . . . who help me to remember how beautiful this world can be . . . who help me to love . . .

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Preparing the way ...

Today is the first Sunday in Advent as celebrated by Western Christian churches, specifically Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Moravian, Methodist, and Presbyterian.  It marks the beginning of the liturgical calendar for these denominations.  For believers, it is the time to prepare the way for the second coming of Christ.  Bright, vibrant colors are used in the church, and there is a spirit of hope in the air.  Here's a link if you want to learn more:

I was raised Methodist, which became United Methodist during my childhood.  As an adult, I switched to Presbyterianism.  The two are similar enough, though I'm sure someone would love to discuss the finer points  that divide and differentiate the two.  Quite frankly, both have redeeming qualities, though I no longer attend church anywhere.  However, I do miss some things about attending church -- the music, the cadence of a well-read verse, the responsive readings & chants from the Methodist church, the occasionally inspiring sermon, the people (some, not all).

One of my favorite hymns of all time is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, the music of which I recently learned was arranged by Thomas Helmor from a 15th century funerary processional by French Franciscan nuns.  The words date from as early as the 9th century.  The tune as sung in Methodist and Presbyterian churches is so haunting, and redolent of the mourning of the exiled Israelites as they await their messiah, their deliverer:

O come, O come, Emmanuel, 
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

The historic and current applications of these words to the state of affairs on this earthly plain remain relevant.  Whether you believe in God, or Christ, or any particular faith or creed, to hear this hymn well sung is deeply moving.  We have all felt lost at some point in our lives, waiting for deliverance, hoping for rescue, desiring relief . . . lost . . . waiting . . . mourning the darkness . . . praying for peace and light in our lives.

We have work to do.  We must prepare the way.

Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel