Thursday, December 31, 2009

One Wild and Precious Life

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
--Mary Oliver

I can’t remember the first time I read Mary Oliver’s question but this week when I rediscovered her poem I remembered how much I love these lines. What do I plan to do with my precious and wild life. It’s a little overwhelming to think about it in the big broad sense of years and years so I think that’s where I get hung up and then paralyzed. Maybe the way to the paralysis is to focus on tiny increments of time. Like the AA “one day at a time“. I can attest the One Day…One Minute…One Second at a time thing works because it’s the only reason I’m not puffing on a Marlboro light (that and it’s no degrees outside and smoking in the house was absolutely verboten).

All of this “life what does it mean to me” naval gazing I’ve been doing this week has vividly remind me of a pivotal moment in my early twenties. The summer just after college graduation was an amazing time in our lives: some of us had just graduated from nursing school and were beginning to negotiate what it meant to be a Nurse; others of us had just graduated from medical school and now after years of school Real Life was about to begin. We were poised on the edge of everything and when you are that young and brash The Edge Of Everything was so terribly Important and everything we thought and felt was so Terribly Important. I can still see myself that evening, sitting next to my friend Cliff--the one of us who was actually working and engaged in a Real Life--we were sitting close to one another, intwined and if you came upon us we would be mistaken for lovers. I remember pulling away from him and looking squarely at him as I intoned my fervent desire: “I want to lead a remarkable life.”
I’ll never forget the amused look Cliff shot at me with his wizened twenty-eight year old eyes when sagely remarked: “Shit, June of course you want a life like that. No one wants to be remembered for banality.” Fabulous, I was actually ordinary in my striving to be out of the ordinary. In the moment I hated Cliff for his remark; now it makes me laugh because his retort was dead on. I was a pompous git.

My life has had it years of banality but the last decade has been anything but banal. Now that I’ve got all the growing up and putting on and throwing out bits over with, it’s time to do something with this person I have become. But I am is dangerously close to becoming complacent as I simply place one foot in front of the other. I’m not discontent. Yet. If I allow myself to become existentially stuck I will become complacent. The complacency I speaking to is when I do what I’m supposed to do because I’m supposed to do it because that’s just what I do even if it makes me miserable and feels like my soul is being sucked out of the side of my head. I don’t mean a sort of Peter Pan reaction: “I don’t want to grow up! I always want to be a boy!“ I’m speaking to just keeping my head down and doing what is deemed right and correct by others rather than what my heart is asking after. When I get to points like this in my life I picture myself walking down a sidewalk, my head down; missing the houses and buildings and flora off in the distance because I’m concentrating on my feet. But it’s equally tempting to look way way off on the horizon and I forget to notice the cracks on the sidewalk forming their own microcosmic road map. The key is changing my gaze every few steps; remembering to look at the horizon and then down at my feet. Rob Brezsnky addresses this in Capricorn’s horoscope. Not my sun sign but it’s just damn good advice. (Most horoscopes are just that: sound advice)

"I am a man of fixed and unbending principles," said American politician Everett Dirksen, "the first of which is to be flexible at all times." That's the kind of playful and resilient spirit I urge you to aspire to in 2010, Capricorn. I think you're most likely to have a successful year if you regularly explore the joys of improvisation. The more empirical and less theory-bound you're willing to be, the better you'll feel. Practicing the art of compromise doesn't have to be galling, I promise you; it may even turn out to be more fun and educational than you imagined possible.

It’s impossible to plod along staring at one’s feet if you improvise now and then. A spontaneous act now and again always serves to enhance my contentment.

Luckily I’ve stopped beating myself with a stick for taking so many years to figure out that a principled, stable life doesn’t equal a banal life. Mary Oliver’s sense of the word “wild” has more to do with the “amazing or incredible” sense of the word. My favorite definition of wild is: “to grow unchecked: and I think “fanciful” is the most evocative for Oliver’s ideal of “wild”. This past year, I’ve come dangerously close to allowing my old friend Fear and her henchman Indecision to limit my growth. I picture fear as a bully who comes up behind me and grasps me by my coat collar, preventing me from running away until I can slip from my coat and stumble forward. Life doesn’t have to be scary in it’s uncertainty. I believe it’s the Zen Buddhists who believe uncertainty is an absence of faith. And didn’t C.S. Lewis attest when there is a lack of faith there is a lack of joy? Fear is certainly the big buzz kill in my life. I love to blame a lack of time or money or intellect but that’s a handy excuse for fear.

Brezsny’s predictions for my sun sign made me wince and squirm a little because “deluded rationalization” is another expression of my fear.

The philosopher Nietzsche said there was no middle ground: You either said "yes" to life or you said "no." You either celebrated your vitality, enjoyed your power, and thrived on challenges, or else you practiced constant self-denial, hemmed yourself in with deluded rationalizations, and tormented yourself with indecision. I'm not so sure it's always as clear-cut as that. While I'm usually in the "yes to life" camp," I've gone through "no to life" phases, as well as some extended "maybe to life" times. What about you, Pisces? Whatever you've done in the past, I hope that in 2010 you will take maximum advantage of the cosmic rhythms, which will be encouraging you to give life a big, resounding, ongoing YES.

It’s time to say yes. Time for me to live like I’m dying. My ipod gave me this song yesterday while I was thrashing my knees running on the treadmill. Tim McGraw’s song is sound advice even if you aren’t staring 49 in the face or shaking hands with a dire diagnosis. He sang to me about a man who discovered what it meant to live each day like a special gift and all the things he was doing with his life as a result of knowing he was dying. This man was going to “love deeper. . .speak sweeter. . .gave forgiveness I’d been denying. . .“ And he jumps out of an airplane, climbs a mountain and rides a mechanical bull (it’s a country song, of course there is a mechanical bull involved, duh) If I had been given a dire diagnosis I can assure you the chorus to my song would not include healthy activities like mountain climbing or fishing. Nope it would be a ballad to smoking cigarettes, dropping acid, maybe eating mushrooms and a sex club in Manila. (Ok, maybe not a sex club in Manila) Because a lethal prognosis calls for outrageous acts of previously unforeseen stupidity and danger. Because really? What‘s the worst thing that‘s going to happen? You might…I don‘t know…die? (you all think I’m joking don’t you.)

When McGraw got to the last few lines I had to stop running on the treadmill because I was about to cry and about to make an ass out of myself in the middle of the gym. I do not want to close out 2010 kicking myself in the ass because I’m not any closer to having the life I want simply because I am afraid to articulate and then act upon my heartfelt desire.

"And I took a good long hard look,
"At what I'd do if I could do it all again,
"And then:

Like tomorrow was a gift,
And you got eternity,
To think about what you’d do with it.
An' what did you do with it?
An' what can I do with it?
An' what would I do with it?

The question isn’t really all that hard; allowing yourself to act upon the answer is the challenge.

My resolution for 2010 is separating the can’ts from the won’ts.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"I Will Not Fear. Fear Is The Mind Killer" --Frank Herbert

My title is a quote from Herbert's Dune. I wish I could say I've read the Dune novels but I prefer my fantasy and SciFi up in my face on a screen. But I love that quote and I have to revisit it every few years. One of my imaginary chums linked this yesterday and I haven't been able to stop pondering these questions. Some of them are no-brainers but some of them made me stop and think. Hard. Really really hard about the state of my life.

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? 25

Which is worse, failing or never trying? Not trying

If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do? because so many of the things we don’t like are those things we “should” do either for our own perceived well being or for the perceived greater good.

When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done? Unfortunately up until this point it will be said unless I get off my ass in 2010 and Do.

What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world? I wish everyone had a positive outlook and a fully developed sense of self then it would completely unnecessary to use force to change another group’s mind about what “god” is or isn’t and war would become a bad memory.

If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich? owning a little ex-pat hang-out bookstore/coffeeshop/laundrymat, writing, gardening, swimming in the ocean, reading, laughing and eating really beautiful food.

Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing? settling

If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently? I would have never remained in nursing this long and I wouldn’t have had children.

To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken? 100%

Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things? Doing the right things as they are set forth by others I deem to be “in charge" or "an authority”.

You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire. They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend. The criticism is distasteful and unjustified. What do you do? Respectfully disagree, saying something how it’s not appropriate to talk about someone who isn’t present. This is a mote question because the people I respect and admire don’t openly criticize others without being asked by the person for input.

If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be? Just be yourself and tell everyone to FU if they don’t like it

Would you break the law to save a loved one? yes

Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity? Yes, I wish I could tell you about some of my patients, they are brilliant, creative and undoubtedly insane.
What’s something you know you do differently than most people? Tie my shoes

How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy? Fortunately we are all different and different things make individuals happy which is why being a human being on this plain of existence is so remarkable and wonderful.

What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back? I want to live in a foreign country only I’m afraid I couldn’t support myself and realistically I can’t leave my fifteen year old son nor would I expect him to uproot his life to serve my dream.

Are you holding onto something you need to let go of? Most of what I hold onto is unnecessary dross both in a literal and metaphoric sense.

If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why? I would move to Mexico tomorrow because I love the culture and the people coupled with where I would live in Mexico has the benefit of my ideal weather.

Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster? Yes but no. Pushing the button twice gives me a false sense of control and I find this a metaphor for much of my life.

Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton? Joyful simpleton. At this point I’m a worried simpleton.

Why are you, you? I am me because I am part of the largess called humanity and I have a place and a role here. I will never know the extent of the place and role but it is necessary even if it is a single monumental moment touching one other life.

Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend? Only since about 1987 before that time I stomped all over people.
Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you? Losing touch with a good friend who lives near

What are you most grateful for? My Self

Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones? Never being able to make new ones would signal the end of my life. The End is just another stage and I would rather progress forward than lose what I have in the past. At the end of life--when I am unable to make new memories I will have my old memories to relish and relive those beautiful, precious moments before death comes for me.

Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first? No. How do you know something is true if you don't challenge it, turn it inside out, upside down and test it.

Has your greatest fear ever come true? Thankfully not.

Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset? Does it really matter now? Yes it actually does because I was right about someone.

What is your happiest childhood memory? What makes it so special? It’s a combination of several: playing in the Big Thicket, collecting black berries and wild flowers completely oblivious to the dangerous animals and snakes living in the forest. I was without fear of the unseen and safe from my family’s dysfunction.

At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive? Three weeks ago when I was contemplating what grace looks like in my life.

If not now, then when? 3.5 years
If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose? Only more time

Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever? Never except during intense lovemaking.

Why do religions that support love cause so many wars? Because humans are dualistic creatures and have both light and dark. Dark is dominated by ego and despite the fact we are trying to teach one another to love we believe our message of love is “better” and want to convince others of this so we do it by way of force once our ego is in control.

Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil? Yes. But I don't believe this human construct "evil" exists: to believe in evil minimizes the omnipotence of the being which see as infinitely merciful and loving that I call “God”.

If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job? In an instant

Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing? More work I enjoyed.

Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before? No thank goodness; not that today hasn't been perfectly swell.

When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in? I’m not sure I’ve ever had that sort of courage but I very recently I am flailing in the dark with a lovely idea which makes me ebullient.

If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today? Diane

Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous? Oh hell no

What is the difference between being alive and truly living? I have up until very recently been only alive and my resolution for 2010 will be to truly live no matter where that takes me or what it looks like. Being alive is going through the motions doing what is expected despite or what I’m supposed to do versus what makes me feel passion.

When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right? Now. Now. Now.

If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake? Mistakes hurt and have created a lot of pain for me in the past.

What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you? Some days it feels like I would do everything differently. Other days it is as simple as quiting my job and taking something which pays much less so it necessary to have total faith in the Universe to care for me in light of my best efforts to care for myself and my family.

When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing? This morning, I noticed it was too fast and I needed to be more mindful.

What do you love? Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love? I love to create with words and I write daily.

In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday? What about the day before that? Or the day before that? I doubt I will remember what I did yesterday even one year from now.

Decisions are being made right now. The question is: Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you? I make my own decisions much in the same way I disallow making decisions: out of fear. I suppose I don't make my own decisions, do I.

Humor me: I'm suffering from a bout of blogarrhea this week because I have a lot on my mind and want to get it all off my chest. I'm calling this Part I of III (Do I get an award for the worst extended metaphor like in the history of the internets?)
Happy New Years Eve Eve!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The War On Everyone

A few weeks ago one of my invisible friends shared an email her aunt received from a minister's wife. It's a letter from Jesus and it's brilliant.

Letter from Jesus about Christmas

Dear Children,

It has come to my attention that many you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. . . although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1-8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. Not just during Christmas time, but all through the year. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the president complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sends out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family? Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions and words that you are one of mine.

Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember:


If that doesn't just shut up everyone from the ACLU to James Dobson, I don't know what will. Because really, isn't it enough someone smiles and is pleasant to you and treats you like a human being and not simply a transaction? And I've been re-reading my New Testament and NO WHERE does it say in any of the gospels: "And lo' thou shall go out amongst strangers and speak unkindly if they do not recognize you as my follower" Nor are there teachings about becoming a "Bully For Jesus". But my New Testament left out a lot of the crap these hypocrites spew. (Why yes I am as intolerant of them as they are me but I don't want to throw them in jail or take their kids away from them, I just want them to STFU)

So who's more Christlike? The overworked clerk behind the counter at the post office who smiles for the 500th time that day and says: "Happy Holidays!" or the smug church lady who delivers a lecture about what a devote Christian she is and how dare someone take the Christ out of Christmas.

So now store clerks (particularly at Walmart, yeah I shop at Walmart because I'm evil and a bad liberal like that) are afraid to offer a generic greeting. Twice in as many weeks I have had two shy and timid but friendly and smiling queries if it's OK to wish me a Merry Christmas. Now that's just sad. It would be ok if you told me to have a Happy Hanukkah and we discussed the miracle of the light and the oil after a terrible and bloody war. It would be OK if you wished me a Happy Kawanzaa. And then we could smile and remark together the importance of all the principles but how Imani--the collective of the best of our traditions--is really what should be at the basis of the winter holiday season in this country because rumor has it we have religious freedom here.

I wouldn't mind if you chirped at me to have a really cool Chinese New Year. The point being we looked one another in the eye and smiled while sincerely wishing the best for the other bridging anonymity for a few seconds. Because let's face it some days life is really hard and some days the best thing that happens to me is a stranger smiles and hopes after my happiness.

Just be happy during this dark and often cold season, k?

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Oldest Son Should Have Been Named Pinocchio

I know I’ve mentioned this before but I must say it again: I really wish I had been given a practice boy to make all my stupid parenting errors on; say the wrong thing to and subject to poor judgement calls. You know like the little ‘droid in AI. To hone this point of how terrible my judgement is sometimes, I must confess, as “Mother Of The Year”, I took the boys to see AI a few short months after I left their father and became Disneyland Mommy. Let me refresh your memory about this Spielberg vehicle: a couple has a son who is injured and in a vegetative state; the bereft couple buy a robot boy and the robot boy bonds with them just about the time the real boy wakes up and returns home. Mommy doesn’t have enough room in her heart for both boys and takes the robot boy for a “ride” into the woods. The robot boy is dumped and must fend for himself against all manner of bad robots and bad humans until he drowns and is left to eternally mourn his lost mother. Real feel good stuff. Because my kids weren’t screwed up enough by having a depressed mother who left home; I had to take them to a movie which depicts parents getting rid of a child. WTF was I thinking? I deposited a theoretical ten grand into each of their theoretical Therapy Accounts on the way home from the movie. On top of a completely inappropriate plot line, the movie was terribly long and unforgivably dull. (Today when I reminded Wally of this movie, I got a sardonic “good job, mom!”)

I was reminded of my need for a droid kid the other day when I took Beav out for his first driving lesson. After the lesson, I picked up Wally and he asked me how it went with Beav. I sort of shrugged my shoulders and told him it was easy. “Yeah, it’ll be easier with the smart kid,“ was his heartbreaking response. Fortunately, Good Mother kicked in and I launched into my oft delivered lecture of how just because someone does well in school doesn’t assure they will do well in life or are really all that “smart.“ I wouldn’t be delivering the lecture if the Cybertronics people had given me my own little Davey.

I taught Wally how to drive a few years ago and if I say so myself, I did an excellent job. He’s a pretty good driver for an impulsive 19.5 year old man. But getting him to this point wasn’t easy. It was sort of similar to…I don’t know…The Eighth Circle Of Parenting Hell. To say sitting on the right side of a teenager when they are learning to drive is scarier than crap is an understatement. My outings with Wally would go something like this:

Me: ohmgawd ohmgawd ohmgawd…slowdown slowdown slowdown…don’t brake so hard…look both ways…LOOK BOTH WAYS…SHI---Jesus! Don’t do that again!

I’m surprised the Oh My God strap is still attached above the passenger door after being repetitively yanked and grasped for about a year of student driving. But just like breast feeding, potty training, and the seventh grade I got through teaching a kid to drive and I’ll get through it again. Only this time. . . Don’t you love getting to say that with your second child? (Don’t you wish you could say it after you fuck up the droid kid, as you are pulling away from the rest stop where you dump him?) Only this time, I’m going to be more patient and relaxed. In fact, I was so relaxed and smug as Beav pulled away from the curb for the first time with me riding shot gun I could have taken a nap, mixed some cocktails , paid bills or blogged. I was even laissez-faire when he told me he had never driven before. Relaxed but incredulous. Wha? His dad had never let him drive? His brother hadn’t let him drive? What is it with my kids? They are both so goody two-shoed they never snuck their dad’s old Jag out for a joy ride. If my dad had had a cool car, he would have needed new tires for it by the time I was sixteen. As it was my friend Melody’s dad had a sporty vintage Volvo which sat in their garage like a temptress, begging us to take her out for a spin. Which we did. And we got caught but it was worth it because when you’re fifteen the moment is always worth it. Ask Wally about this, you can see it in his eye when asked about the two unsanctioned parties he had at Ward's when his dad and step mom were out of town.

Anyhow, my self-congratulatory lassitude lasted about a minute (just long enough to get the checkbook and the cocktail shaker out) before the internal dialogue started:

Me: ohgawdmovetotheleft movetotheleft ohgawd ohgawd herewego please don’t hit the parked car. Oh crap, he’s going to take off a mirror…LOOOK BOTH WAYS. Slow down…stop…NOT SO HARD DON”T BRAKE SO HARD…SHI-- Jesus why do I have to do this again

I’m very proud this go round the dialogue was internal and I graduated from clinging to the Oh My God strap to putting a grip of death on the right arm rest thingie. I just hope it doesn’t fall off over the next few months of driving lessons.

image is from and is a shot from AI
As a PSA addendum to this very digressive and rambly piece I want everyone to know how extremely proud I am of my oldest son. Wally didn’t make it completely through his AIT (Advanced Infantry Training) this fall and while he was disappointed he has to start over in six months, he is taking it like a man and placed the blame squarely on his own shoulders. A first for him. I think I’m proudest of the way he is moving through a tough life lesson with grace and dignity. My son left home August 31st a boy but just like all that Army hooah literature said, he returned to me a confident capable young man. I can’t imagine what he would have been like if he had graduated. Probably 19 going on 40 like Beav is 15 going on 45.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Reporting In From Sick Bay

That's a picture of a rhinovirus from the CIRI website. It looks like cheetos sprinkled with bits of dried chive, doesn't it? Which is amusing because that's exactly how my brain feels: like cheetos sprinkled with chives. I blame Wally because in October, I was in four airplanes (two of them cross country), trudged four days in cold rain; when I wasn't in the rain I was in crowded subway trains; not to mention October was a big month for H1N1 at work. I came home from my travels, healthy as a horse. Not even a sniffle. Six weeks later, Wally comes home and I get sick. My guess is the pod or barracks or whatever they call where he was living makes the toddler room at a day care center on any given day in January look like an OR suite just before a heart/lung transplant.

It's pitiful how this little virus has reduced me to a whining pile of mucusy goo. It's not like I have cancer or a ruptured appendix or Swine Flu or a brain tumor or even a psychotic episode--just a really bad cold. It's the sort of cold that makes you think God has you on the naughty list, right next to the Israelites when they were condemned to wandering the desert. But instead of wandering in a desert you are glued to your bed surrounded by snotty tissues, old soup bowls, cough drop wrappers and empty tea cups. Monday evening when my cold had reached it's nadir, wandering around a desert with a few scraps of dry bread sounded a lot better than suffocating on my own body fluids. Because I was quarantined in my bedroom the only audience I had for my whining were my invisible/imaginary friends. I was going on and on about my cold and woe is me and whine...whine...whine to the fifth power when one of my friends linked me to this hilarious video. I'm not smart enough to embed it so follow the link to youtube. I was almost this pitiful and if we had national health care I probably would have called 911.

I'll be back next week and maybe my brain won't feel like cheetos and dried chives.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Putting It Out There

Friday, The Beav could barely disguise his unmitigated joy when I announced to him the sad news I had to put down the Honda. God does answer prayers because I know that kid prayed to Jesus the mechanic would tell me the Honda was terminal so he wouldn’t have to drive it. (I wonder how Jesus is doing with that PS 3 cuz I know how June is doing with it) When I got the news my first reaction was a panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach: Wally was coming home for a few months so how in the Hell were we going to coordinate two work schedules without killing each other. But I’m getting pretty good and taking deep breathes and pushing away the panic and invite hope in an effort to overwhelm the fear. This worked for about a nano second before my monkey brain took over and within about thirty minutes of spinning on the situation I had a picture of myself walking eight miles home in a foot of snow because Wally wasn’t answering his phone to avoid picking me up. I worried about the car all weekend, and vacillated between buying a hoopty, a new car for myself or just making do with sharing a car. All of the possible solutions irritated me because euthanizing the Honda wasn’t my idea and I hate unhappy surprises and I really hate not being in complete control of a situation. I was already concerned about the shape Wally was going to be in when he came home this week and dealing with stupid car issues was just One. More. Thing.

Once upon seven years ago, I would have looked at this situation as proof God really hated me and wanted me to suffer because that‘s how He rolls. Nowadays after I’ve become bored with worrying about situations I can usually hand it over to the Universe to do with it what it may. But I’m terribly impatient and if my Requests Of The Management aren’t answered with the answer I want to hear in a few hours I start to lose hope. And worry all over again. It’s like I’m sitting at a table with God and I slide a festively wrapped package towards him. I’ve wrapped up my worries with lavish wrapping paper and a large festive bow because I have spent so much time worrying about what’s inside, the box should look extra special. I slide the box slowly towards him, proud I’m giving a gift as big as the one in the box. But just as God starts to pull at the ribbon I hold my hand out and stop him from unwrapping it and snatch it away from him. I do this every time I ask the Universe to help me with something. I pull my lovely package or worry over the car back to my side of the table where I can unwrap it and rearrange it. I haven’t learned to leave the burden on the table. Like I’m as big as God and really what does he know I can manage this so much better? Ego much? Last week I was re-reading Plan B by Anne LaMott and one of the essays is about her son Sam‘s desire to meet his father. After they find him, she prays he will reach out to Sam and when it takes a long time she becomes angry with God. One thing leads to another and LaMott realized the lag time between asking and receiving was necessary. She says something so simple and so remarkable about this waiting, God needed time to work on it. Yesterday evening as I was leaving the parking garage at work I passed by my dream car which led me to think about the car issue and I was about to pull the package away from God again when I stopped myself with the words: “He is working on it.” And then all alone in the car, I prayed out loud (something I thought only crazy people did) “I don’t know what to do about this stupid car situation and I’m not expecting a car to fall out of the sky and hit me in the head but if I’m supposed to have a second car, point it out to me in a very concrete fashion, like with a sign on it: “Here’s the car June” but nothing opaque or woo-woo, so I don’t miss it. And could you make it before I’m walking home from the hospital after a long shift or Wally can’t take a job because it’s not on a bus line? Thank you”

This afternoon I was talking to Wally while he was waiting for his airplane very far from home and we were discussing the poor old Honda and I realized I hadn’t worried about it all day. As we talked about it, I realized I wasn’t starting to worry about it and I was aware of how good it felt to really let go of something. For the first time in a very long time I had really walked away from a burden without turning around and picking it back up again.

Tonight I received an email message: “I need to talk to you. Please call.” I responded to the message and I was offered a car that I can pick up in January it is neither a Hoopty or a Beater but a perfectly respectable and well cared for car. But because I am my own worst enemy, I almost didn’t accept the gift. I even wrestled with why the gift was given to me. Was it offered out of pity because I was whining about having a car payment? . . . What if I had guilted someone into giving me something. . . Could my pride allow me to accept the gift?

The Girl’s simple words were: “Just take it.” But I had to wrestle around with the idea of this gift a little longer until I realized not accepting a gift freely given is like denying someone’s compliment. You know how it is, someone tells you your shoes are cute and you say: “Oh these old things, I’m kind of sick of them.” It makes the other person feel sort of bad.

I realized I’m not good at receiving gifts. Part of leading a life of gratitude is accepting the gifts we are given and not turning them away. I’m all about offering thanks for the stuff that looks like a goodie and a treat but these last few weeks, I have been given disguised as bad things. My gut feeling tells me Wally’s return home is for a reason so big I can’t imagine it. Weird Hormone Boy I mean Beav’s attitude made me realize I was once the same kid and it‘s ok to be self centered at fifteen because he will grow out of it with a little guidance and some boundaries. This whole car situation helped me realize for the millionth time I have only first world problems. My poor sweet ailing dog has made me realize how close we are as a family despite the divorce. Finally, as a result of the insanity at work I have been given a clear picture of what I’m supposed to do with my career. Maybe I’ll get to a point of saying “thank you” rather than “help!” when I hit a bump in my road.

I also have seamless evidence God has a sense of humor because the car I will be driving this spring:

Mini van.

Verrryy funny God. But thanks.