Favorite Things and Cultivating Detachment

Thirty-five years later, I can still hear my roommate’s tragic voice and pronouncement: “That was my favorite bowl.” Linda enjoyed eating her salads and soup from the over-sized blue-glazed, handmade piece of pottery I had just accidentally shattered to bits. Apologizing profusely, I guiltily attempted to match the largest shards together. There was nothing to be done. While saying she forgave me, her big sad doe-eyes told me otherwise. I felt terrible. I also hated her a little for making me feel so awful. Perhaps it’s my guilt about being angry with her that keeps this memory so fresh in my mind.

Since then I have suffered similar losses of ‘favorite’ mugs, books, bits of clothing – ruined or lost by others. I always remind myself to try and let the thing go and not to amp up the guilt the way Linda did. Accidents happen. I live where it’s easy enough to shop for a new ‘favorite’ to fall in love with, to infuse with new memories and tea stains.

These musings were brought on by hair-line cracks I recently discovered in my favorite tea pot. My attachment to this thrift-shop find is merely that it is beautiful and made in Italy near where Molly was born. See how lovely it is?

teapot 1

It’s so easy to infuse meaning and sentiment into anything. While this is a nice pot, I have a back-up, Less charming but certainly as functional for my morning brew.

teapot 2

I remind myself not to get too attached and yet, surrounded as I am by so many things, sometimes that’s a challenge. But definitely not as hard as it once was.

According to Buddhism, the origin of suffering is attachment. I railed against this non-attachment stuff as a twenty-something woman living in Kyoto and longing for love. I associated this way of being with lack of passion. Of course it didn’t help that I had an unrequited crush on a strapping, young, handsome American man who had just emerged from a year of living in a monastery. I really wanted to crack his detachment…

Decades later, I get it. After a while, accumulated losses gave me a new appreciation for non-attachment. Eventually, these kind of scars turn into well-worn tracks of the heart, weirdly making it easier to navigate the next time. And there will always be a next time – be it large or small. Broken bowls? Cracked tea-pots? Eh.

The beautiful teapot does not seem to leak – not yet – but I’ve stopped using it since discovering the cracks. But why should I? Without use, it will become invisible to me, it’s importance will fade. I know I could put a plant in it, turn it into something else. I never really do those things – it would sit and gather dust and be forgotten.

I think I’ll just keep using it until one day, the boiling water seeps through and floods the counter. It won’t surprise me – not really. Until then, I’ll work on letting go and have another cup of tea. And if it cracks on R or Molly’s watch, I won’t blame them.

Posted in Grief and Healing | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Embracing Doubt

During this terrible week of murders in Paris, massacre in Nigeria – more chapters added to the growing tome of senseless killings by extremists around the world, I’ve thought about how embers of belief can be fanned into flames of terror. Even traditionally peaceful Buddhists are not immune to extremism as we’ve seen with the violence perpetrated by monks and their followers in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. How does this happen?

How can religious ideology become warped into motivation for such horrible behavior? How can faith turn into terrifying righteousness?  How can an individual ever be so sure that the way they have chosen, is the right way? I don’t get it.

The seeds of doubt were sown early in my childhood and continued to be fertilized throughout my life.

I attended Catholic School through the 3rd grade. When we moved to a different Bronx neighborhood I entered the glorious freedom of the NYC public school system. Preferring to sleep late rather than shlep to the new parish church for mass, everyone else in my family abandoned Sunday rituals. But loathe to have a mortal sin (as opposed to venial – think felony vs misdemeanor) on my soul lest I die and immediately be sent to hell, I continued going to this new church by myself. Imagine a 4th grader sitting self-consciously alone in the back pew, bored stiff.  By the time Easter rolled around, my routine had lapsed and I needed my tainted soul to be absolved in order to receive communion again.

When I admitted to my missed masses, the priest behind the screen in the coffin-like confessional box, barraged me with questions including the rather invasive (since confession is supposed to be anonymous) “Where do you go to school?”  I slunk out of the box up to the altar to recite my long penance. With knees pressed into velvet, hands clenched together against the polished wood bannister, I peered up at Jesus on the cross and completely blanked on the words of the prayers I’d been assigned to recite multiple times. I’d forgotten how to say an Our Father or Hail Mary so abandoned my post. To this day, I don’t really remember.

Instead, I cleansed my own soul on that walk home from St. Margaret’s Church, leaving my belief further behind with every block between me and that 1960s edifice. And over the years, nothing, including this new, admirable Pope, has enticed me back to the Church. Yes, you might argue, that was an unfortunate experience with just one asshole priest. But what clicked for me at that tender age, was a conviction that I needed no intermediaries in my spiritual life. And that is where I stand today. Not even the Dalai Lama – as much as I think he’s a very cool, enlightened guy gets to stand between me and my not-knowing.

More so than ever, as contradictory as it sounds, I trust my doubt. I am less righteous than I have ever felt before and that feels right. I have lived too close to the destruction caused by those convinced that, in the name of their religion, their ethnicity, destruction, murder – war – was acceptable. Four years of living in what used to be Yugoslavia where cousins killed each other mercilessly was all I needed to feel clearer about my uncertainty.

To some extent, I understood how hatred came to combust in hamlets, villages, towns and cities across the Croatia, Bosnia. I experienced the power of oral history growing up in very Irish-American home. Repeated tales of injustice left me with no love for the British. My animosity was further fed in the dark years of the Troubles and the death of Bobby Sands and other hunger strikers of the Maze prison in the early 1980s. A decade later, I met and fell in love with my husband, a Brit who’d been a soldier in Northern Ireland during those years I was hating his people. His perspective, his stories and experience including shame, anger, compassion, laid my righteousness to rest. We loved traveling together between the torn communities of the Balkans, happily flashing our Irish and English passports at checkpoints, like some poster-children of reconciliation. We married during the siege of Sarajevo – our personal gesture of putting ancient ethnic hatreds to rest.

This same feeling extends to patriotism. I do not have it. I do not believe the United States is the number one country in the world and that we are better than other places. Yes, it’s my home and a beautiful, lovely country full of wonderful opportunities and benefits but so are other places I have also called home. I do not fly the flag outside my home and though I will stand respectfully for any anthem, you will not find me with my hand on my heart pledging any allegiance.  Rituals like this were banned in other places because of the atrocious destruction caused by nationalism. I do not participate in any kind of chauvinism.

When I lived in Japan in the 1980s, I rarely saw the Japanese flag – certainly not in classrooms, never outside a private home or flapping from cars like the ubiquitous display of the American flag here in the States. Nationalism was a prime ingredient used to inspire the Japanese to commit atrocities during World War II. The Japanese haven’t forgotten that shame and a commitment to never repeat history.

Don’t get me wrong – I respect others beliefs, pride in their country.  But personally, I am at peace with my not-knowing. I am at home in this corner in the country of my birth where I landed but remember well, and still long for, other lands where I was also home. If a label is necessary, I pick – agnostic citizen of the world with allegiance only to love and justice for all. Anything else feels dangerous.

Posted in Seasonal Musings | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Spinning with the Earth on the Last Days of the Year

DSC_1138

Just as the wild waves of holiday madness began settling into a manageable surf, a spinning undertow sucked me in. This is my dramatic way of telling you about my latest adventure with vertigo set off simply by turning my head on a pillow Monday morning.

images

Best laid plans for pre-New Year cleaning and organizing, yoga and writing – dashed. And yet, these past two crazy kaleidoscope days delivered me right where I need to be: looking inward. Being quiet and moving slowly works best to keep the spins at bay. Nature is physically forcing me to do just what I psychically need.

Quiet is exactly what I’d been craving – usually my preferred state and the place from where I write. With barely a glimpse of silence these past 6 weeks during these busy bookstore days, I’ve spun right out of control and I appreciate this strange, if uncomfortable manifestation.  Forced to slow,  become more conscious and to literally, keep my head down.

DSC_0009

Ironically, the post I’d been working on before this one was about the joy of looking UP. Simply turning my head whether to the ceiling or the stars – expands my lungs, my heart, and my spirit – something I’d written about before here during another holiday season. A wonderful, simple exercise that never fails to calm and inspire me. Except when experiencing vertigo. Looking up sets off an intense bout of whirling.

So today, like yesterday, I stayed low. I managed to scrub the bathroom – the lower fixtures, back around porcelain fixtures into those frightening corners. But the shower curtain switch will have to wait for another day when I can lift my gaze.

For now, for these last days of the year, I am forced within. To stay steady, I must move carefully and consciously to find my way again, to match the wild spinning of the days as we hurtle towards another year.

Somehow, even in my discomfort, this feels right.

In what direction are you looking?

Whether up or down or all around, warmest wishes for 2015!

Posted in Seasonal Musings | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Stuff

Rob with Stuff 1

Here’s my handsome fellow at a flea market last summer. He left the album and hat behind after our photo shoot, but I’m sure we walked away with other goodies purchased that day. I can’t recall what. Nor can I remember the gifts I received last Christmas although there was plenty under the tree for me. Do you remember what you got?

We’ve agreed that this is the year we will rein things. College bills are daunting, cars need new tires and it’s really time for us to buy a new bed. Besides, we’re all grown-ups now. If we want it, we can figure out how to buy it for ourselves. The point is, in our house, we do not need more “stuff”.

But it’s Christmas so that’s what we do. It seems, impossible to ignore tradition and not get a tree, not put presents under it, not get up in the morning and cover each other’s laps in wrapped goodies. Not quite yet. But Molly, now a worker-bee as well as a student, gets that it’s tough to both pay bills and buy stuff (or eat out) willy-nilly. She has also discovered the joys of thrift shopping. We’ve agreed this year, to only buy each other second-hand gifts.

I’ve already scored some real gems.

glovesI haven’t quite decided who will get these wooly gloves ($4) but I’m thinking my sister will appreciate them. (you can let me know, A)

Although I appreciate how Goodwill Stores sort clothing by color (easy to pass by those salmon colored slacks) the amount of stuff is just too overwhelming — a bit like going to Kohls. I prefer smaller, church thrift shops usually tucked into basement rooms and run by women whose average age is 75 who lovingly price and merchandise the fantastic goodies donated by surrounding communities. In this neck of the woods, often very wealthy residents – resulting in some great finds.

For $4 I bought these cool lights I’ll hopefully get around to hanging from the porch before January. I can be a crank about a lot of holiday-hoopla but love Christmas lights – brightening up the long winter nights. R suggested these look like meatballs but I think they’re funky.

lights

In that same shop I also found this beautiful frame for $2 – a keeper. I turned it over to R who will fill it with just right (probably zany) photographs. Not bad, right?

frame

Of course, I do work in a bookstore and receive a lovely, extra employee discount during the holiday season so I will be buying new books for presents. But books don’t count as ‘stuff’, do they? We can never have enough of them.

2014-05-18 16.30.14

Where will you be shopping this year?

Posted in Seasonal Musings | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

I’d Like to Walk (More)

tet

In this car-dependent community where I live, walking is something I do with intention. I walk my dog Tetley before and after work. More ambitiously I walk with my friend Chris. We walk fast and far and sometimes with weights – for the fresh air and exercise. Where I live, like most American communities, walking is not a viable way to take care of daily business. I miss that.

I did not own a car until I moved to Connecticut in my 30s. I lived in Kyoto, Japan; New York City; Zagreb, Croatia; even Cincinnati, Ohio (I lived in the city) and never owned a car because I didn’t need one. Stores, markets to buy food – were in every neighborhood. And public transportation was accessible and good. Or, I rode a bicycle with a basket big enough to fill with groceries. I knew the fastest, scenic, safest routes to work.  I became familiar with the patterns of light, cracks on sidewalks, faces and sometimes the names of shopkeepers, my neighbors. All of my senses were attuned to my place in the world. In Kyoto, the sound of ancient weaving machines heaving away down the narrow streets of my neighborhood, were my cues I was nearing the old wooden house where I lived, as did the splashing of water from the tofu shop on the corner. When I moved farther north in the city, I smelled the fermenting kimchee from the Korean community on the next street, the scent of the pine forests up the hill and felt the wind, the first snow.

thumbnail.aspx

In Zagreb, I befriended neighbors and shopkeepers passed daily on my walk to catch the tram to work. After Molly was born, I walked with her pram to the market where I piled fresh produce and maybe something from the butcher in the rack beneath her.  In Cincinnati I lived at the edge of a ghetto surrounded by empty buildings, accepted by the few residents in that mostly abandoned neighborhood, as one of the weird artists that lived in the building that used to be a school. I only felt nervous when I had to leave at 4:30 in the morning to pick up a waitress shift at the hotel downtown – I’d throw my ten speed onto my shoulder and pedal furiously through the empty streets – the dark morning terrifying and thrilling me.

42nd

And New York – well, everyone knows New York – half the fun of being there is just walking, walking, walking. Most days I happily joined the river of pedestrians rushing down Broadway, dodging around the slowpokes, when I remembered to have change handy in my pocket, giving to the usual gauntlet of panhandlers. Sometimes I’d choose West End Avenue – a wider, emptier expanse of only apartment buildings with no shops – a short reprieve from the masses before cutting over to join the flow at 96th Street where we descended to the subway.

But here, an hour outside of New York City, I’ve never even boarded the bus. The grocery store is at least a mile away so not practical to walk to unless I’m just buying milk. Work is 5 miles and my job requires a car for visits to schools and companies.

Except for the hurried morning Tetley walks  – so short they hardly qualify – me following him at a snails pace as he sniffs and pees, sniffs and pees, barks at long-gone creatures from the night before. I have to get to work so we barely make it down the street before I have to tug him to hurry along and take care of business. Still, I get a glimpse of the day, a sense of the seasons.

body vibe

Recently, I walked a different route to pick up my car. Not a pretty street, but one I drive down often. And in walking it, I noticed new things. This company’s name intrigued me – its a wholesale distributor of body jewelry – so if you’re in the market for nipple rings, check them out.

American communities do not encourage pedestrian life. In fact, walking can be deadly. Sidewalks are intermittent — even along busy thoroughfares like the Boston Post Road. I’ve seen families pushing baby carriages along a busy stretch between strip malls, hugging the curb while traffic barrels past. Throw in the frozen snow banks of winter and a texting teen…

According to the CDC: “In 2012, 4,743 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States, and another 76,000 pedestrians were injured. This averages to one crash-related pedestrian death every 2 hours, and a pedestrian injury every 7 minutes. Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a car crash on each trip.”

This doesn’t exactly make you want to break out your walking shoes, now does it?

I miss the easy exercise of being a functional walker but even more, I miss the intimate connections to the world around me only possible beyond the boundaries of my home, my car. I devour the blogs of madcap adventurers biking around the world, shlogging through all weather, up mountains, through cities, camping by rivers, part of it all – meeting up with hospitable citizens who share their food and drink because who doesn’t love a traveler – someone pedaling, walking, wanting to know about your place in the world? And in doing so, in getting out of a car, slowing down and being in a place, we make it a little bit, our own.

Don’t get me wrong – I love to drive around in the warmth or the cool of my car, my music playing. But so much of life is missed when you travel 30+ miles an hour.

What about where you live?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Relief in Recognition – War

People who have lived through war are often reluctant to talk about their experiences – it’s like you are speaking another language – one that most people don’t understand nor care to learn. So when someone shares even a smidgeon of common experience or gives you a speck of recognition, the feeling is relief. We don’t really want to be alone.

About a year ago after an event at the store, I heard a young woman behind me say she was from Croatia. I turned and asked, from where exactly? She responded, you probably don’t know the place: Knin. I said, I do – I lived there. Knin is often described as dreary, sitting over the last rocky mountain range before reaching the stunning Dalmatian coast. In 1991, the Krajina Serbs declared it the capital of their self-proclaimed country. From June until December 1992 I was based there with the UN Peacekeeping mission in former Yugoslavia – UNPROFOR.

knin rail river and empty roads

I didn’t always feel comfortable on those dusty streets – strangely dark with soldiers looking out from the shadows of the perpetually open bars. But gradually, I made friends – mostly with women. Relationships were usually limited, because of language barriers, to smiles and shared Turkish coffee cooked over propane or wood stoves because more often than not, there was no gas nor electricity.

A few months older than Molly, the girl in the bookstore had been an infant when the shit hit the fan. I left Croatia around the time she was born, on my own maternity leave – earlier than expected because the slow simmering conflict of four years, was escalating. Shells were being lobbed between the two sides. The Croatians were done waiting and were taking back control of what had been UN ‘protected’ but Serb controlled areas. In August, I was across the Adriatic in Italy with Molly in my arms as I watched the news – the roads out of Krajina to Serbia packed with cars and horse drawn carts for carrying hay loaded with suitcases, refrigerators, whatever they could carry. I searched the faces for my former landlord, my neighbors and local colleagues.

view from Knin window

The girl told me her mother would know about that time and worked nearby at a hair salon not more than a mile from here.

It took me a year, but last week I called the salon and asked for an appointment with the woman from Croatia. An attractive, fashionably dressed woman greeted me with a warm hug. She said, “It’s been awhile! How have you been?” I told her we had never met. “But you look so familiar. I know your face.” Well, I said, that’s interesting… and then I told her how I knew her tiny, troubled town twenty years ago. Her eyes filled and so did mine. She grabbed me and insisted on introducing me to her colleagues, “Look! She lived in my town!” They smiled politely. “Come, I have to tell my boss.” A short man sat going over a paper with another stylist – he looked up as she said, “You have to meet this lady! She lived in Knin!” “Was there water and electricity?” he asked, thinking he was making a joke. “Only sometimes,” I answered. He went back to his work.

Sitting in front of a mirror for the next 40 minutes as she combed and snipped, we disappeared into another time and place. I wanted to hear her story and I knew what questions to ask. I know something of the roads she traveled.

window view

She told me they were a ‘mixed’ family meaning she was Catholic (Croatian) and her husband, Orthodox (Serb). She remained in Knin with her husband and the Serbs instead of leaving for the beautiful Croatian town on the coast where she was from. She didn’t mention this as being unusual but I know, it was. The family fled Krajina that August with only some clothes packed beside their babies in a Yugo. They crawled along on the road full of refugees, driving to Serbia. She’d had a good gig cutting the hair of UN soldiers from Kenya and the UN police from all over the world, and saved her money – enabling them to rent a little house in Serbia rather than be put in refugee hotels. Her husband was called up by the army and he said, “To fight for what? I’ve already lost everything.” So they threw him in detention. After a few years, they made it to the States as refugees and landed in a large, very depressed city in Connecticut. From there, they rebuilt their lives.

She nursed her baby during the 10 hour trek out of Krajina or she said, her daughter might not have survived since there was nothing else. Across the Adriatic in Italy, I nursed my girl and watched the news.

“You don’t seem bitter or angry. How is that?” I asked.  She shrugged and said, “I was young. If this happened now, I’d have a heart attack.” But I think it’s more than youth this ability she and others have to not be swallowed by sorrow. Of course, she knows she is luckier than too many from those years – her family alive and well – her beautiful daughters all thriving. But it’s more than that – this woman of warmth, life and humor seems determined to always choose love. And she also has a skill. While we were talking she’d stop and say, “You should put some color in you hair!”

We were both moved – and perhaps me more than her. She told me she Skypes regularly with her family there and couldn’t wait to tell them about me. And of course she is with her husband – they made that long journey together. But I have no one to speak with about this time – it’s too complicated to explain and frankly, no one is really interested. I was glad to remember and share this stretch of history with this vibrant woman. The stuff of our lives, the joys, the sadness — we long to have it recognized by someone else, don’t you think?

Like any war, there were many villains and so much evil there. But there were also families, nursing mothers and little children wanting nothing more than to live there lives.

I am glad to have connected with this kin spirit of shared roads, a mother who moved beyond her loss and obstacles to live a life of joy.

Posted in Grief and Healing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Where’d My Mojo Go?

SAM_0694

Where’s it gone? Where’s my fire? Waiting around for a lightning bolt of inspiration is not the answer, so this morning I sit rubbing my mental sticks together hoping for at least a spark, maybe enough to ignite a long-burning flame. I know what it takes – I’ve done it. For years I had disciplined practices for yoga, for writing, meditation. Had. I have no idea what happened. It’s been awhile and have no excuses, no good reason.

I churned out a complete manuscript while Molly was still living at home. I made her breakfast, her lunch and took her to school each morning just after 7. I did all this and still managed to write – as if in a trance, for an hour. I did that. I marvel now. Now, I go to work at 8 – giving me almost another hour and my daughter’s away at college so time is all mine. Plus, I have my own little room to write in. There’s no reason I couldn’t get in a few yoga stretches and a page or two.

Instead, I sleep a little later and when I do get up, I dawdle away my precious daybreak reading other people’s blogs or worse, scrolling through Facebook posts and Twitter feeds. Really. I admit this shamefully. Instead of doing what I know makes me feel centered and purposeful and healthy – writing, yoga, meditating – I aimlessly fritter away my time with mental junk food.

SAM_0394.jpg

Why is it so hard for me to get back into that magic zone? I know I’ll be happier, so why don’t I just do it? I have piles of books to inspire and guide me. In the dark moments before falling asleep at night and rising in the morning, I sometimes mentally write a post, start an essay, another book – and poof! – by the time I get back here to this chair, it’s gone. I know the trick about scribbling notes. Trust me, I have plenty of scribbles. But I’ve still got to put my ass in the seat and lay down the words, take my spot on the mat and stretch out my achy hips. And I’ll feel better.

SAM_0114

It takes regularly sitting, breathing, focus, writing, breathing. Writing becomes like a meditation only my fingers move. And don’t, don’t move away from this screen, this lovely clear, empty, distraction free space. No emails, no news – that’s the end. That’s what sucks away the morning, leaving me no richer, providing no sustenance.

It’s discipline – practice. Life feels much better when I have a practice in place. I carry the focus, the story, the posture with me throughout the day — a rich, quiet center that feels like the true me. I move through the day carrying whatever story I’m telling, with a sense of my body moving, standing tall, stretching, breathing, being in the world — not just within the parameters of my working hours, ringing sales at the cash register or staring at computer screens to answer emails — but a rich interior life I get to carry with me. The life that doesn’t pay my mortgage but sustains me just as much.

SAM_0777

That’s what I want back – that sense of who I really am in the world. That’s why I write, stretch, sit, breathe – a way of being that gives me joy. It has to do with seeing more than what is apparent – that which is only visible if you pay attention both inwardly and out. When I have a practice in place, I feel an incredible awareness of time and space with every breath. How delicious breathing becomes!

I know this — so why have I slipped? Why is it so hard for me to get back in the groove? Now it’s colder and darker in the mornings – even more of a challenge to crawl out from between the sheets. But that’s just another excuse. I have no good answer for losing myself like this.

I feel like I’ve come clean here, confessing to you – and it feels good. Having spent many years reaping the benefits of the AlAnon rooms, I know the power of ‘admitting’ and I suspect, I’m not alone. Any one else with ‘mojo’ problems out there?

Posted in Seasonal Musings | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Conjuring Mothballs

umbrella

I prefer ushering summer in, more than I do out.  Packing away shorts, and cotton shirts is a melancholy activity – unlike the joy of pulling all these garments out after a long winter. It seems I wore only half of my summer dresses this cooler-than-usual summer, and now I am folding them up for another year.  From the basement, I haul up the heavier load of winter clothing – darker tones and heavier weaves.

I learned this ritual of switching my wardrobe, from my mother. I remember the smell of mothballs permeating our apartment as she pulled out our stored clothing from the massive suitcases wedged into the top of the coat-closet. I laugh thinking about oh! my dread of my older sister’s hand-me-downs and how now, she and I relish each other’s rejects.

I survey each piece of clothing: to keep or not. This is a good time to purge the barely worn frock with the velvet bits. And certainly the linen pants I’ve been hanging onto with the illusion my waist line will ever be that size again. Times up on that one! I pile my has-beens on the bed, trying to embrace advice from the anti-hoarder experts — something like if you haven’t worn it X amount of time in the last season, it’s time to let it go.

Although I took a good load to Goodwill today, it should really have been bigger. I still cannot part with my faded cotton bathrobe – now ripping in places. It would be a good rag, or if I were crafty, maybe I could turn pieces into a quilt. But I’m not, so it gets packed away so next year, I can find it again and remember when my husband brought it to me, then lovely crisp and too-expensive, the day after I landed in the hospital on a sweltering June in Italy when I delivered Molly 2 months early. That was 19 years ago and I still can’t part with this now tattered robe.

There’s also a very pretty dress, although not really me, that I wore to N’s memorial service.  He’d bought it for me one day for no reason I knew of, about a year earlier. I’d barely worn it even then, because it’s a little too dressy and not the nicest fabric – but I can’t get rid of it. I like to think of him shopping for me, looking for something that I might like, that would suit me. He liked to shop and had expensive taste he indulged, even when he had no money and that was most of our marriage. But, I imagine him lovingly thinking about me — not trying to make up to me or distract me from maybe being coked up.

Anyway, I focused on him that day at the Unitarian Church – remembering him and his life and death on another day in June. It was the first day since his suicide a month earlier, that I was able to move past my fury and shock and begin to think of him with love and to mourn him.

The anti-hoarders would have me get rid of it perhaps, because all summer this dress has hung in my closet unworn. But instead, I’ve packed it away for another year.

The closet and drawers are emptier. I’ve yet to unpack any sweaters, the wooly socks, the corduroy pants. Not yet. It’s still warm enough and for now, I enjoy the space that lies between.

snow tree

Posted in Grief and Healing, Seasonal Musings | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Vertigo: Slow Down You Move Too Fast

images

My default speed out in the world is FAST. Customers marvel at how quickly I answer their emails and process quotes and orders. Out on the book floor, I’m zippy at the cash register and wrap gifts in a flash. If I perceive a customer is not inclined or able to trot after me, I offer to retrieve what they need while they wait. I walk at a clipped pace through the store and sometimes lose customers who have tried to follow me. I’ll apologize saying I’m a New Yorker and still walk like one.

When things get busy, I may get annoyed by colleagues who don’t seem to know how to move more quickly and cut their conversations short. As if they are tourists from Boise and lumbering down 42nd Street, I want them to step up the pace. But the fact is, some of them are our best salespeople, engaging customers, taking their time as if that person is the only one. They do not rush through their transactions, they make contact.

When I get home after work, I try to slow down. I attempt to recover myself. Not my high functioning, efficient employee, A-type personality, self — rather, the self I aspire to become all the time. I get better practice on the weekends – taking my time, doing my best to pay attention to each moment, to the world around and within me.

Last week, a bout of vertigo required I shift gears. In the wee hours of the morning I turned in bed and felt something in my head become unhinged, a weird little shifting in my ears. The world began to spin from my pillow. By morning this sensation had passed enough so I was able to get up and go to work but I’ve yet to completely shake a slight vertigo. I have had to slow down. Rather than barreling on at my usual breakneck speed, I’ve been moving more consciously, carefully stepping through the day, lest I start the spinning again. I feel as if I’m carefully balancing something inside of me.

And I am: life. I am balancing my life. And what’s the rush? Where do I hope to get to? I am here now and if you are here with me too, for whatever our transaction or pleasure, I will try and be completely present. I have to because otherwise I may spiral off. Don’t worry, I will still answer my emails efficiently, I’ll just walk a little slower through the book stacks. Along the way, I may recommend my favorite reads and learn what yours are. I will remember, as I keep my head steady and avoid jerky movements, that our time together, like the end of the day, will come fast enough without me rushing towards it.

Posted in Seasonal Musings | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Another Season

Perhaps it’s these first whispers of autumn: the dying garden, changing leaves, cooler nights, but this last weekend of summer has me pondering the passage of time. Another summer is gone in a finite number of seasons any of us get.

SAM_0430

I’m contemplating aging here, not bemoaning it. Even as I note the passing years, I confess that I feel pretty much like the same person I’ve always been. A wee bit wiser and certainly more content but otherwise, the same gal I was at say – 18?

When I look down at myself from inside of me, I don’t think I even look all that different because I see the same casual hippie wardrobe: jeans, sweatshirts and practical mostly ugly shoes. I’m a little larger, but not by much. Ha! I’m not seeing my mirror-self, I’m looking down at me sitting in this chair. It helps not to spend more than 5 minutes a day in front of a mirror — you can ignore the decades. In the morning, I spend seconds scrawling eyeliner on so I look less like a naked baby mole. While brushing my teeth, hair or washing hands, I may search my face for flaws that might be another squamous or basal spot I’ll need to get sliced off. While dressing, I give myself a quick glance to check my clothes are not too wrinkled and that my buttons are in the right buttonholes. But that’s about it.

So I easily forget that I’m sagging a bit around the jowls and my hair is silvery. I’ve never been particularly vain and am certainly much less now. Perhaps I’d enjoy being more of a looker than I am – but I don’t miss the catcalls from my youth. I don’t mind that I’ve become ‘invisible’ to jerks. To everything, a season after all and that one, perhaps the least interesting, has passed. Most importantly, my bones don’t ache much and I’m healthy. So far so good.

Here’s one of things I cherish most about where I am in my life: how interesting it is to be inside of me. My internal life. How fascinating the inside us humans are with our minds, our hearts, our spirit – what mystery! I love being able to reflect on the whole crazy history of me so far. The 15 year old girl who couldn’t wait to escape home, the traveler, the artist, the searcher, the worker, the reader, the gardener, the friend, lover, the mother. All of my incredible years are here in the present with me, right now and still more story to live.

tet glasses

On this other side of 50 where I am today, I don’t grieve my lost looks or mistakes (ah), I think mostly about the possibility of not having enough time. I start to feel greedy. There are no guarantees on the time front. Beloved Tetley is getting old in dog years and every day with him feels like a gift. I look at R and feel grateful we got to flash forward from our youthful passion and lost years and found each other again. There are moments when it seems no time has passed at all –  the same only better.  I imagine the life ahead of my sweet daughter and want to be there too.

None of us know how many days we get, do we? Not really. As another season passes, I look a little longer in the mirror and remind myself to savor today, to hope for tomorrow and to love.

Posted in Seasonal Musings | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments