Blog 34: The Things that Shape You

THE THINGS THAT SHAPE YOU

By Nancy Aronie

Recently I took my 7 year old grandson out to dinner. The ribs were great, we both agreed, but there was too much fat and not enough meat. The bread was delicious but last time it was hotter. The waitress forgot the lime in his seltzer. On the way home in the car I said, “I cant believe we were actually complaining about our food when half the children in the world are starving.” He said, without skipping a beat, “Probably because of Trump.”

I let out a laugh, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. At seven, how does he have such a quick comeback and where did that answer come from? Of course I know where it came from. Definitely me, probably his parents, and possibly everyone else we know in our left-wing bubble.

But what has been gnawing is what if it were the opposite. What if someone back in the day, in my inner circle, had been pro Nixon when he was bombing Cambodia?

The thing is what little kids hear, and begin to believe without their own feelings or their own ideas, become tightly held prejudices that extends into future generations. Look at the South. Look at the English and the Irish. Look at Palestine and Israel. It’s so hard to change peoples mindsets once the seed of hate has been planted. And watered.

I grew up with some of the weirdest ones.

LIKE:

People who read Readers Digest are stupid.

Women who wear makeup are putting on a mask.

How ‘bout thin is beautiful,

Plastic flowers are cheesy,

People who watch Jeopardy are smart and people who watch Wheel of Fortune, are dumb.

With a little maturity and a lot of therapy I grew out of most of them. But the one that took the longest to lose was my fear of anti-Semitism.

When I was 9 Danny McNeil and his gang of ten-year-olds pushed me down in the mud and forced me to eat a worm yelling “You killed my savior! You killed our savior!”

I remember running home sobbing trying to understand my mothers comforting words, “It's not true sweet one. They just don’t know any better.” Not knowing any better is what I’m talking about here. How can you know if you’re constantly being fed the same story from generation to generation? Yes we need the story but a new way of interpreting it, a new ending perhaps and real facts helps.

A few years ago I went to Ireland and heard the song Danny Boy as we were driving around the Ring of Kerry, I was crying because my son, my own Danny Boy was very sick at the time. We pulled over and I walked down a few steps feeling great sorrow, when I looked and there on the bottom step was a dead worm. The whole childhood trauma came flooding back to me and I had one of those epiphanies. Those kids didn’t have a clue what they were saying. They had heard it in their families and they were simply repeating what they heard, just like Eli and Trump. They didn’t know Jews from jam.

And there I was with my heart wide open crying about two Dannys and looking at this dead worm. How long did I want to carry that wound around? I realized it’s time for forgiveness. I let that whole story float away on a sea of salty tears.

It’s work, this staying awake, being conscious, being aware, catching yourself in mid judgment. But what else are we doing here?

Now you guys write about something you learned to be true as a child but no longer believe.

YOU KNOW THE DRILL. WRITE YOUR OWN PIECE AND POST IT IN THE COMMENTS. THEN LEAVE COMMENTS FOR OTHERS AND TELL THEM WHAT YOU LOVED! 

PROMPT: THE THINGS THAT SHAPE YOU

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Blog 33: Birthdays

Birthday

By Nancy Aronie

My birthday is May first and I don’t know how it happens but its as if the entire northeast decides to celebrate with me. Everything is bursting life. From drab browns and gunmetal grays to bright pinks and sunny yellows and that tender chartreuse of newborn leaves on the cusp of uncurling and unfurling, it’s a miracle every year. It wasn’t always that way. As a kid birthdays were humble and simple and my memories aren’t great. I remember on my ninth birthday my mother gave me a six pack of pansies which I immediately went out and planted in our muddy postage stamp back yard. The next day there was a note on our door from the landlord. It read: do not plant anything without my permission, and there were my six pansies wilted and crushed on the ground.

But that was then and this is now. As a grown up I've more than made up for those tough times.

Almost without exception, my closest friends and family are winter birthdays. I get spring.

This year, as most years, I don’t make a plan til right before the actual day but in April I do begin letting people know they have 11, or 15, or 27 more shopping days til May one.

So this time I got tickets to Stephen Colbert. I tape him and watch him often. We had the best seats . We sat in the orchestra; first row center. I was told it would be cold in the studio so I was wearing my favorite orange down Patagonia (which is ripped with little down feathers escaping but I cant part with this piece of clothing) and Joel was wearing his sexy though funky jacket that adds another layer to his already movie star look. Half way through the warm up guy's gig, he stopped his Ste-phen Ste-phen Ste-phen chant and lets hear how loud you can cheer…. Louder!!! Louder!!! Come on guys scream it. Then all of a sudden he stopped everything and he looked up and said, Orange stand up.

I stood up as if we had rehearsed this very scenario. And the fact is I had. The day I got the tickets, before I went to sleep, I imagined Stephen Colbert calling me up to sit in one of the guest chairs beside him. I had this entire little theatre fantasy still awake but very real. I told him it was my birthday. He asked how old I was . I said 76. The audience clapped. Anyway this didn’t happen with Stephen Colbert but it happened almost exactly that way only with the warm up guy. He said you don’t look 76. What do you do that keeps you in such good shape? (of course later when i looked at the monitor and saw my stomach bulging out of my white stripes going the wrong way hoody) (ok I need different eye balls) I said I swim every day and I put heavy cream in my coffee. He said where do you live and I said Martha’s Vineyard. He said something about the Vineyard and we were just having a conversation as if we were alone. . I was completely relaxed talking to this guy in front of 600 people. After all, I had done it two nights before. Then I told him it was our 50th anniversary this August and he said no way. Where is the dude? I pointed at Joel and he made him stand up. He asked him how old he was and Joel said 75 and he said what’s in the water on Martha's Vineyard???? I began to sit down and he said no orange, stay standing. I told him how I had proposed to Joel 52 years before and that Joel didn’t say yes right away. I was so happy to be up there I just kept talking (we all know I’m in heaven when I’m talking) and he said does she ever shut up. But it was funny, not mean. The show was amazing. It was the one that apparently got a lot of play because of his very specific remarks about Putin and Trump. As we were leaving people kept coming up to me wishing me a happy birthday. And boy was it ever. Just one of the absolute best!

Way better than watching my pansies droop and die.

 

Now you guys write about your birthdays.

YOU KNOW THE DRILL. WRITE YOUR OWN PIECE AND POST IT IN THE COMMENTS. THEN LEAVE COMMENTS FOR OTHERS AND TELL THEM WHAT YOU LOVED! 

PROMPT: BIRTHDAYS

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Blog 32: Coincidences

Coincidences

By Nancy Aronie

Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say to God if it turned out there was one and he met him at judgment. Russell’s reply: “You gave us insufficient evidence.”

I don’t agree. There is enough for me.

For a few years I had more than enough. Things just kept happening that made me look up and, sometimes right out loud, say are you kidding me? That was a good one. Are you doing this so I’ll tell everyone you exist?

They were small things like on a walk once I thought we need to buy a new whisk broom and a mili second later I looked down on the road and there was a whisk broom. A perfect whisk broom. On South Road. On the ground. Right in front of me.

Like the winter I chastised myself for not planting tulip bulbs that prior fall. I love tulips. I had made a promise to myself that I was going to start gardening. I was told when to plant how to plant and where to plant. I never bought the bulbs. Spring came and five tall white tulips magically appeared where I would have planted them. Like the time I decided to give up bread. And for some odd reason that same week started eating pomegranates. I had never had a pomegranate. I even googled a youtube with Martha Stewart showing how to hammer the seeds out. I began to eat a half a pomegranate in a new salad I made up.

One day while I was eating my delicious concoction, a friend came over and out of all the conversations we could have had, he began telling me about his favorite Greek myth. I never studied the Greek myths. Out of all them the one he chose to share was the story of Persephone who was stolen by Hades, king of the underworld. Her mother, Demeter, goddess of grain (bread) (the bread I gave up) was distraught and while looking everywhere for her, neglected the fields so everything died. When she finally learned where her daughter was she insisted that her daughter be returned to her. Hades sadly hitched his horses to his chariot and prepared to take Persephone back. But before they left, he offered her a ripe, blood red pomegranate. Persephone took six seeds and ate them.

They went back above ground, and Persephone threw herself into her mothers arms, The earth again grew rich with flowers and the sun shone once more.

But, because Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds, it was decided that for six months of each year, she must return to the underworld with Hades, and winter would come to the world. In spring she would once again return to her mother, allowing the earth to bloom.

Here I was chomping on pomegranate seeds across the room from my friend. So I asked him if he told me that myth because of my salad. He said he had no idea what I was eating.

I have a hundred of these and so do you. Like when you think of someone and then they call.

My husband, the scientist, calls them coincidences.

And I know intellectually they have nothing to do with God.

But then Einstein says “coincidence is gods way of remaining anonymous”.

And Anatole France says, “coincidence is perhaps the pseudonym of God when he does not want to sign his work.”

And a course in Miracles says, No one is here he is by accident. And chance plays no part in God’s plan.

Some years ago I sang tenor in the Congregational Church choir. This wouldn’t be eyebrow raising except that I am a Jewish person. It’s still not eyebrow raising because it turns out the Congregational Church is very open minded and doesn’t care what your religion of origin is as long as you can hold a note. And I can hold a note.

At first I felt a little weird about saying Jesus’ name but I rationalized that Jesus was Jewish. Plus I loved the music so much and I was way too happy to worry about repercussions from a higher realm.

One early Sunday morning as I was about to tiptoe out of the bedroom I looked at my sleeping husband and thought, wait, Sundays were our favorite love making time .What am I doing dressing up in my finery and leaving to go sing songs praising Jesus.

I ultimately quit after three years of loving the whole experience but desperately missing my Sundays with my husband .

Things around this time seemed to become dry and dark. Our son was sick and money was tight and I felt bereft of all things spiritual.

One late afternoon I decided to take walk down Flanders Lane. I have taken that walk a million times. I know every stump every root every leaf every rut every curve. There had been a big storm the night before.

As I was walking I was thinking and talking in my head. I said, ok god where are you? I’m feeling very alone and disconnected. I know you were giving me tons of messages and tiny miracles and I am grateful for how it has kept me afloat . But I’m in need right now. I even said something stupid like I know you have to go elsewhere and other people deserve your grace. If you could just give me a sign…

Then I had this thought; you’re not pissed because I sang in a gentile choir, are you? …

Then suddenly there right in front of me blocking the path a small tree had fallen into the crook of another tree and it was clearly obviously spectacularly in the shape of a cross. I gasped looked up and said, Oy good one!!!!

So I’m back. And so is God.

Maybe everything is, as Joel says; just a coincidence.

But for me, I’ve got more than sufficient evidence.

PS
When I read this piece to my husband before submitting it, his reaction was Wow Nance this is pretty god like.
I said yeah.
He said but you should mention your definition of God.
I said why does it sound as if the God I’m talking about is the ethereal guy with white chiffon flowing robes?
And he said, yeah it does.
So I reread the piece and I guess I have to explain further. If that’s your god (the one in all the pictures ) that’s fine with me.
Mine is not a person. And he/ she is not judging anyone or making anything happen or rewarding or punishing anyone.
It’s more of an energy, a light, a golden light in all of us, a spark of the one, source as some people call it.
It turns out defining God is way more difficult than believing in God. 

 

YOU KNOW THE DRILL. WRITE YOUR OWN PIECE AND POST IT IN THE COMMENTS. THEN LEAVE COMMENTS FOR OTHERS AND TELL THEM WHAT YOU LOVED! 

PROMPT: COINCIDENCES

Blog 31: Inauguration and Where do We Go from Here

I WAS MADE FOR TIMES LIKE THESE

By Nancy Aronie

From the minute The Women's March on Washington was announced I made my car reservation and called my cousins in DC and asked if we could come stay.  But even as I was making my arrangements I wasn’t sure how I felt about going. I kept vacillating. Should I go, should I not go. One day I was sure and the next I was ready to cancel.

So many petitions, so many angry Facebook posts, so many articles about the horror of what we are about to experience. I have done my share of protesting. I marched for pro-choice  in Washington . Imarched for no nukes in NYC.  When the kids were young we went every Saturday to Electric Boat to protest the Trident three.

I’ve done my bit.

Then more passionate emails from women friends taking their adult daughters, going on buses, trains, planes, in groups, with their moms, with their little girls, with their husbands, with their partners.  

I have to go. This is history in the making. I have to stand in solidarity with my sisters.

Then my friend Elise comes over. I tell her I am obsessing over my decision to go to the march. Elise does something called muscle testing. Chiropractors use this technique. Applied kinesiology is conducted by having the person resist using the target muscle while the practitioner applies a force. A smooth response is referred to as a "strong muscle" and a "weak response" becomes the answer no.  This is not a raw test of strength, but rather a subjective evaluation of various stresses and imbalances in the body.

I ask Elise if she will help me hear my body's response. She asks me two questions; "If you go to Washington will this serve the greater good?" My arm falls in a no so fast we both almost laugh. Then she asks, "If Nancy goes to the march will this serve her own personal growth?" Again my arm sails down with out any resistance. I’m not going, I say with relief.

My friend Sharon who marches for everything, an activists' activist, is taking a one o'clock in the morning bus from Connecticut down to DC marching and then turning around and coming back home. She asks me if I am going. I write her back and tell her about my experience with Elise and this is the email she returns:

Nancy,

Muscle testing? Really???? That’s pretty lame. I’m sorry but I just don’t buy that. Women's rights are human rights and they concern us all and (don’t kid yourself) effect us all. We never thought Hitler would do the things he did. We cannot afford to ignore the signs of a narcissistic lunatic . It’s too scary.

Now I’m guilt ridden and and I’m thinking of my entire family who died in the camps, how many said this too will pass, this is not such a big deal and lets give him a chance. So now I’m determined that I must make my voice heard. I write a group email to my closest friends. Are you going and why or why not.

Linda answers first :

I’ve been marching philosophically for years and I’m not good in crowds although if I could march over Kelly Anne Conway’s smug crazy grin I would. She included the poster of Trump gesturing with the bold words: “Keep your small hands off my rights”.

I’m back feeling strong about not going.

Then I get a text from my friend Louise . She says she just cancelled her flights because she’s worried about taking her granddaughters into what might be dangerous.

I cancel my cousins guest room but keep my car reservation in case we decide to go to the one in Boston.

Then I get my friend Kimberly’s response. She’s one of the most level headed wise women I know. She says,

Nancy my beloved! I am standing still next weekend and sinking into my soul and signing with the pen and ink of self assertive womanhood my own emancipation proclamation. I am fearing no man. Mine eyes have seen the glory and I am here to bring it to the world. I am not going to Washington. Because I am the light of the world, the center of the universe and the place from which all change radiates forth.

How about you?

After I crack up laughing at her last sentence I am so blown away by her brilliance I ask her if I decide to write something can I use her words. She says of course but  you know I am riffing off my main man, Martin.

I don’t care who she’s riffing off. This one has gotten me to my core.

Then the piece d resistance arrives in my inbox just on time.

My friend Marthasends me a long, very long piece by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Women Who run with the Wolves), a woman I saw in person about 20 years ago and knew instantly I had found another Great Teacher.

Here’s what she wrote:

We Were Made For These Times

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My friends: Do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now... Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement...

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able crafts in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind... Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

We have been in training for a dark time such as this, since the day we assented to come to Earth. For many decades, worldwide, souls just like us have been felled and left for dead in so many ways over and over brought down by naivete, by lack of love, by being ambushed and assaulted by various cultural and personal shocks in the extreme. We have a history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially - we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection. Over and over again we have been the living proof that that which has been exiled, lost, or foundered can be restored to life again.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by perseverating on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?...

Understand the paradox: If you study the physics of a waterspout, you will see that the outer vortex whirls far more quickly than the inner one. To calm the storm means to quiet the outer layer, to cause it to swirl much less, to more evenly match the velocity of the inner core - 'til whatever has been lifted into such a vicious funnel falls back to Earth, lays down, is peaceable again. One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or desperation thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl.

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take "everyone on Earth" to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

---

After reading this I know that I have been in training and preparing and working and that I too have been made for these times, that I don’t need to go anywhere or do anything, that keeping my heart open in Hell is my job now. I know from my gut that I have pledged to listen to a voice greater and Clarissa has just reminded me. I will work to be part of making that critical mass that tips toward the enduring good and I will remember who I came from and why I came to this beautiful needful Mother Earth.

My struggling soul will catch the light from those souls that are fully lit. 

 

YOU KNOW THE DRILL. WRITE YOUR OWN PIECE AND POST IT IN THE COMMENTS. THEN LEAVE COMMENTS FOR OTHERS AND TELL THEM WHAT YOU LOVED! 

PROMPT: Inauguration and Where do We go from Here?

Blog 30: Who Calls You on Your Bulls***?

Who Calls You on Your Bulls***?

By Nancy Aronie

I have always hated carrying things. I did my homework in class while the teacher was talking so I wouldn’t have to carry my books home. When we have doggie bags I am not the one who brings them to the car. I don’t use a pocket book though i have an assortment of really beautiful, leather designer, non-leather designer, arty, small, large, silly, and stunning purses. They hang on hooks in my closet . I don’t like to carrying stuff . A few days before my first ever teachers meeting, at my first ever job out of college, I was 22 and knew I should not go to this meeting with my license and my five dollar bill (mad money we called it) in my bra; that maybe it was time to buy a bag. That’s what the girls I knew called them; bags. Nice bag. Oooh, wheredya’ get that bag?

So I went shopping and bought a lovely black number, brought it home and the next morning before I left for my first ever teachers meeting at my first ever job (as a grown up) i modeled in the mirror to see if i could pull off this new role. Everything was fine but the new addition to my new image looked vaguely wrong. I had taken the stuffing out of the new purchase and somehow if you looked for a mili second too long, you would know that the bag was sunken in like a mouth without teeth… empty. Show me a woman with an empty bag andI'll show you a kid, someone who has not needed aspirin from the din in her den, from the men’s poker game or an energy bar for after her pilates class, or a phone for changing plans, making dates, getting GPS, finding the nearest Thai restaurant, a pair of cashmere gloves and alpaca socks, yarn in case you should continue the knitting lessons she started last November,  bandaids, all sizes, in case someone on the train cuts themselves, a jar of mustard that should have been discarded but must get returned to the market because of spoilage, a silk scarf with tiny multicolor dragonflies embroidered on the edges, a wool forest green scarf in case of a drop in the temperature, a library book in case of bumper to bumper traffic, a Seduko ripped from the paper in case boredom sets in at the dentist office; in other words (are there any other words left)  most women I know have bags that are filled to the brim.

And so, when I looked in the mirror all I saw was a life unlived, forget about examined. So i did what anyone wanting to impress the other teachers at the meeting would do: I left the stuffing in.  It wasn’t completely empty. I had put a pen in there and sitting next to the French teacher, also her first day, when I opened my new accessory I saw her look askance, first down and then quickly up, and then a cursory look at me. Our eyes met. I snapped the thing shut, took my notes and on the way out, she said can I ask you something.? The laughter began a friendship that has lasted lo these fifty three years. So not carrying has always been one of those things I have managed in my life. No one would gossip and say geez have you noticed how Nancy Aronie never seems to be carrying anything. Do you find that odd?  So Ive gotten away with this character flaw. It hasn’t hurt anyone (except me).

So since the topic is who calls you on your s*** I guess this intro is about long enough. Time to address the prompt.

The simple answer is Gerry. My friend Gerry calls me on my Bull. Nicely. Gently Lovingly. But directly. Honestly.

Many years ago I had heard that there was very rich compost inside the Beech trees down Flanders Lane and I had wanted to go and collect a big garbage bag full for the garden but I knew I’d never be able to carry it back to the house.  Hey, I said to Gerry one day while he was visiting, wanna take a walk? My plan was to amble to the grove, fill up the sack, and ask Ger to carry it home while I continued on down for my daily constitutional. Sure, he said and off we went. I  hadn't let Gerry in on my plot but he's got an easy way about him and I felt sure he'd agree to take the compost back to the house and I’d get to have a nice little hike.

Gerry has been a kind of teacher for me. He has lots of innate wisdom and he has his doctorate in psychology. When we have traveled together he carries everything without complaint. He jokes and says I’m Nancy's personal Sherpa. I seriously call him my personal shrink.

The beech tree grove is about ten minutes from my cabin and when we got there the sun was high in the sky . We ducked in and sat leaning against the cool trees. I said, Ger what do I need to learn next in my life. It was almost as if he had somehow tapped into my brain and knew exactly what I had diabolically designed.

He said you need to start carrying your own shit. After I got over the shock that I was busted, I started crying. I said I don’t know why I have always had weak arms and I have always hated schlepping. He said your arms will get stronger and lets have you begin right now. He said take your walk and carry the bag in front of you as if you were pregnant. That might be fun for you to reminisce and feel what you felt all those years ago. Well if I thought I had been crying before that was leaking. This was sobbing. I had not enjoyed my pregnancies. I had not celebrated the miracle of life. I had not walked around feeling blessed and glowing. I had felt fat and was surethis was the wrong time. I’m not supposed to be sitting home with a baby. Im supposed to be out in the world working.  And yet of course the actual births were gorgeous and the experience of motherhood was a miracle.

Then it’ll be a do-over he said. Walk with the big heavy loam and feel grateful and excited about the reimagined future.

And I did it. I wept the whole way, but truthfully it was one of the best things I have ever done. I literally got to pretend and feel the joy I had missed as a young woman.

Gerry still calls me on my bulls***.

And for that I have more gratitude than ever.

YOU KNOW THE DRILL. WRITE YOUR OWN PIECE AND POST IT IN THE COMMENTS. THEN LEAVE COMMENTS FOR OTHERS AND TELL THEM WHAT YOU LOVED! 

PROMPT: WHO CALLS YOU ON YOUR BULLS***?

Blog 29: Dessert at Our House

Dessert at Our House

By Nancy Aronie

Dessert at our house was… almost non existent. Sometimes on Sunday nights we had something my mom called, Sunday night upside cake. It had pineapple rings at the bottom. It was very moist and maybe yellow; probably not a package. But, all the other nights were arid dessert empty. Once in a great while we had raspberry J-E-L-L-O, canned fruit cup. I’m thinking now why my sister and I fought over the pale, watery, half-cherry that had nothing to do with cherries. 

What I do remember was the empty bag of Lorna Doones on the kitchen table when my father had a freak out. "Who ate the last Lorna Doone?" he screamed. My sister had a few extra pounds on her, being a brand new teen and all, and I was skin and bones. I immediately jumped in with, "I did daddy." It didn’t help. Grounded wasn’t a word that was used then, but shame and humiliation were loud and clear. In retrospect, I'm not sure how many had dessert in the fifties. Money was short, parents were exhausted and having a treat wasn’t even part of life in the duck and cover era. 

Now I order my hot fudge sundae first. Before dinner. With real whipped cream. Hold the cherry. 

 

YOU KNOW THE DRILL. WRITE YOUR OWN PIECE AND POST IT IN THE COMMENTS. THEN LEAVE COMMENTS FOR OTHERS AND TELL THEM WHAT YOU LOVED! 

PROMPT: Dessert at our house...

Blog 28: Waiting

Waiting

By Nancy Aronie

I'm waiting for water to boil, grass to grow, paint to dry.

I'm waiting for politicians to play nice and tell the truth.

I'm waiting for schools to expand their art departments and towns to appoint a music mayor.

I'm waiting to see murals on all the public buildings and hear choral groups from every intersection.

I'm waiting for food trucks to line the junior high parking lot offering brown rice and millet, a complete raw menu, gluten free spaghetti, and turkey meatballs.

I'm waiting for campaign finance reform.

I'm waiting for little kids to have no schedule, no car pool, no lessons no shrink appointments, no drugs for ADHD, no labels.

I'm waiting to hear children described as extra exuberant, and applauded for that trait, and other kids described as not painfully shy, but interestingly thoughtful.

I'm waiting for a woman host of a late night talk show. I'm waiting for Amy Schumer to actually be funny.

I'm waiting for cars to have wild and beautiful colors again. And I'm waiting for the new Mercedes to not look like the old plymouths.

I'm waiting. I'm waiting . I'm waiting. But if be here now is still my mantra then waiting implies a future so maybe instead of so much waiting I shall be content to accept what is and not anticipate what will be. Turns out What is, is fine when I'm not doing do much waiting.

Waiting

By Pam Benjamin

I am also waiting for people to realize what they need to do to confirm that Trump will not get elected and the polls to say that Hillary is way ahead. And, for people to listen to the Dalai Lama, their inner consciousness and be more compassionate, loving, kind and gracious and for there to be no more war. I am waiting for schools to have Montessori materials for learning and experiential history topics so that they can embrace a subject on all levels, math, language arts, science. Or bring the creative arts into the classrooms to help them learn in three dimensions and participate in educational theater.
I am waiting for schools in America to have long lunch times with plates knives and forks, sitting at a table and being served, no homework and patient and loving teachers. I am waiting for America to stop wasting 40% of their food and we can give it to the rest of the world so they will not be starving and die. I am waiting for people to look others in the eye and say hello and smile when they are walking down 5th avenue or any other street in the world.
I am waiting for kindness to be the number one goal in the world. I am waiting for our congress to make laws to prevent banking CEO’s from taking advantage of poor people. I am waiting for President Obama to wake up and realize that he is promoting the wrong strategy in Syria. I am waiting for lots more things, but I better stop now because I did not realize this topic would pull so many words out of my fingers.
 

Waiting

By Jerry Storrow

Waiting?
I have done it all my life--the world
Of pendingness attended every move. There was nothing I could love. 

 

Dark Energy

Kevin Funabashi

I tap the lamp switch on the night table next to the bed but the light won’t go on. The bulb must’ve burnt out. The overhead light works or at least it did last night, but that switch is by the door on the other side of the bedroom and the suddenness of its light is overwhelming when I’m hardly awake. Still, I need some light to make my way to the scale in the bathroom, so that I can check my weight – not for how much it is, but to chart whether it’s going up or down – whether or not I’ve still got some physical substance, more or less, or to confirm that I’m simply having a weightless, out of body, end of life moment as I wait in bed to wakeup. If I’m thinking about things like this in the dark, can it be said that, “I’m awake?”

I’ve been renting this body since birth, and frankly, it’s not what it used to be. It started out in a middle class neighborhood, but after years of wear and tear, it’s relocated itself into the high rent, high maintenance, Medicare neighborhood when all I ever wanted was a rent controlled or maybe a rent stabilized place to rest my old bones.

Having some light would be helpful in avoiding things as I make my way across the bedroom, but I don’t think light is as helpful as it once was, what with the floaters in my eyes and fading low light vision, I can’t see things the way I used to. Mostly, I sense things, sense where they are by bumping into them – a navigational practice which invokes “mother” as in “mother fucker, where did that come from?”

Maybe the scale can wait because I feel the need to get up and take a shit - to get rid of the old stuff, emotions, and make room for new age stuff - feelings. It’s amazing how much old stuff is always with me. According to science my guts are a microbiome, a mini-world where bacteria outnumber my DNA. If that’s true, does that make my body a biodome? If so, let it be known that it’s leaking air, as in farting all the time – making me eligible for the unwanted and unwelcomed title of, “old fart”.

Truth be told, laying here in the dark I’ve got no idea how anything works inside or outside of me. Maybe, the answer is “dark energy” – the invisible stuff scientists know is there but can’t find. I know what they’re going through. More and more, I journey through the space of one room to another but I can’t remember what I’m searching for when I get there – just that it’s out there, in front of me, invisible and will remain so - unless I get lucky and have a ‘memory flashback’. Sometimes, if I snap my fingers twice, I can trigger a flashback – but the odds are it’ll prompt another forgotten memory – one, like me, that’s about passed its expiration date.

Okay, if I’m careful, I can sit up, swing my legs off the side of the bed and stumble to the bathroom. I’ve done this before. The last time was a couple of hours ago. Shrinking “prostate” or, as I often mispronounce it, “prostrate” because it’s always bending me to its will – which now includes insufficient bladder capacity. In my younger days, it pumped out testosterone that made me want to have a lot of sex. At this point in time, it’s squeezing new meaning into the words “slowly pissing your life away” - which is what I do when I’m not sleeping.

After the bathroom, I’ll need to get to the kitchen. The freezer is full of Dixie cups. Large Dixie cups full of ice - not the ice cream kind that I scarfed as a kid. The knee, the knees are killing me. Arthritis. Bursitis. If I ice massage the knees for twenty minutes maybe I can hobble back to bed and wakeup - later.

After I wakeup, maybe I’ll get lucky and remember to replace the light bulb. If I forget, I wonder if I can get the light to work on…dark energy. Maybe it’s already working on dark energy but I just can’t see it, just like I can hardly see the life that I used to live…the one that’s almost burned out.

 

You know the drill. Write your own piece and post it in the comments. Then leave comments for others and tell them what you loved! 

Prompt: Waiting...

Blog 27: Things I Carry...

Things I Carry

By Maureen Ferry

I don’t carry around much anymore.  Because I really do not want to be so bothered .  A small back pack works wonders. It has pockets and places for all I need a and a few empty spaces for thingsI might pick up along the way.

I carry my Medicare card because I worked and earned the right to supplement my benefits. I have keys because they open doors. I carry a flashlight. One single beam can always put me on the road if I get lost in the dark.  I know it’s not really a choice, but I do carry a little food for the monkeys. They will never really go away so why fight them.

Along with these essentials I carry a camera, my notebook and pen, a book to read and the wisdom and compassion of my teachers, living here and in the next world.

Caesar, a Spanish man who gave me my first functioning 35 mm camera.  At 17 years old, lying about my age, I had enrolled in the NY Institute of photography.

My only equipment was a Yashica2 by 2 single reflex box camera. It was given to me by a favorite uncle. He had won it in a poker game in France during WW II. I guess he saw the spirit I was trying to develop with an affordable totally automatic Instamatic I bought myself at the 1964/65World’s Fair in FlushingQueens.

Fast Forward to middle age. At a workshop, Nancy, a Jew  told me all I needed to write was a notebook and pen. She called me a storyteller and said that I had a gift and to honor it. 

My notebook and pen have knocked down walls. It shows me streets and avenues and paths to open spaces.  I learned to forgive my parents, respect my ancestors and honor my own students.

I realize now that we are all gifts. Gifts to each other and guidance comes rom love and support rather than genetics.

I carry the wisdom of my Chinese Tai-ChiMasters. They taught me the true meaning of Body-Mind –and Spirit. They shared their culture and education, and showed me the way to free myself thru meditation.

But mostly they showed me how to share.  In their honor I have students, constantly re-in forcing my favorite exercise. “ Student becomes the teacher, Teacher becomes the student.“ They guide me from eternity.

And for this I am grateful not frightened.

I no longer have the equipment to carry children, but I hope and pray I will never lose the ability to hold a hand. Yes, I only carry the things that are necessary now. Thanks to all my teachers. Those who taught me that “Less Is Better.“ 

Write your own piece following the prompt. Post it in the comments section. Then tell each other what you loved! 

Prompt: Things I Carry...

Blog 26: Marijuana

Essay: Hanging out the laundry — just the tops

In the middle of the writing workshop I lead, I was just about to give the group another prompt, when suddenly a helicopter, flying low, began circling my house in Chilmark. We were on our mid-morning hot bread and jam break anyway, so the noise didn’t really bother me. But then it kept circling and circling — and circling. The sound got louder, and the group grew concerned. I texted my neighbor: “What’s with the helicopters?” She texted back: “DEA.”

I thought she was kidding, so I wrote back, “I’m pulling out all the plants by their roots,” while repeating under my breath to a nonexistent Cheech, Eat the stuff, eat the stuff.

A few hours later, I got a forwarded link to an article in The Times that reported on marijuana sweeps that are taking place all over Massachusetts, even though pot is a misdemeanor in our state.

What a waste of taxpayers’ money, I thought. When almost every day on the radio, I hear a story about how we don’t have enough beds for people who are addicted to opioids, alcohol, or prescription drugs, who are waiting to get into rehab. And we’re spending money looking for tiny backyard gardens with three spindly plants of weed? Are you kidding me?

I am not necessarily defending the use of cannabis. I am a child of the Fifties. I saw “Reefer Madness,” with perfectly sane people jumping out of windows after listening to black musicians’ jazz and smoking THC cigarettes. Even if there had been the opportunity (which there never was) to experiment, I never would have taken the chance.

My parents had one bottle of Seagram’s, which they kept in a cabinet and brought out once a year on New Year’s Eve. Alcohol was not evil, but not interesting to me. At the junior prom, we slipped one aspirin into our Coca-Cola bottles, shook them up, and sipped the spray. I remember pretending to be high with all the other kids pretending to be high. It was a pretty innocent time, 1958. In college my roommate took me home to meet her family, and on the way she confided that both her parents were alcoholics. I had a warped, romantic, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote kind of imagined theater piece in my head. But on that visit, I saw firsthand the tragedy of addiction.

And then the Sixties arrived, and while everyone else was inhaling, I was matching my Marimekko fabric to my Dansk sofa, placing my teak Workbench Parsons table ever so gently on my wall-to-wall beige Berber carpet.

In 1971, when my second baby was born and I was 31, a former student of mine brought me a baby present. I unwrapped the lovely gift, and there they were, three joints, with a note: “Please try this. It will change your life.” I was shocked and angry, and barked, “Drugs will not enter my home! What were you thinking, Diane?”

She took them and placed them on the mantelpiece of the fireplace, and said, “Please don’t throw these away. Take your baby boys to your mom’s so you’ll know they’re safe, and you and Joel try a very small amount and have fun. I promise you, you will see the world differently.”

She may have known I was practically a teetotaler, not because of any ideological reasons. I hated the taste of all spirits, and I’ve always chosen to chew my calories rather than drink them. God knows I bought enough of the stuff to have in the house for guests. Sometimes in a liquor store I’d feel like a fraud, filling the cart with reds and pinks and whites as if I cared or knew what I was buying. Sometimes I’d compare my charade to my mother’s, who hung out my father’s pajama tops and bottoms on the clothesline even though my father only wore the tops. Why, I asked her, once. The neighbors, she said. They’d know.

I’m not really afraid my neighbors will know I don’t drink. But I do have a kind of perverse perspective in wanting everyone to know that I did have a life-altering experience with that baby gift from long ago.

My heart opened, and I fell in love with everything and everyone. It was my first experience with trees and woods and sky and stars and it was my first experience with being nonjudgmental. I found out everyone is perfect just as they are. I suppose there are other ways of finding that out, but that was my plant medicine.

So to the helicopter pilots who listened to their higher-ups, next time say No, I’m not following orders. Spend the money where it is needed. Help the ones who want to help themselves. And let the writers write their words of wisdom.

And to the DEA, I was just kidding. I would never eat the stuff.

This piece was originally published in the MV Times, August 3, 2016.

Your turn, people. Write your own piece and post it in the comments section. Then tell each other what you loved! 

Prompt: Write about an early experience with cannabis.

Blog 25: iPhone

By Nancy Aronie

I swore I’d never become one of them. I used to look at a table full of young people (omg did I just say young people). Just like promising myself I'd never bring a chair to the beach; chairs were for old people I also made a deal I would never say “young people,” so that’s two promises broken. Oh, how I love my folding chair!!!! And oh, how I love my iPhone 6 or is it 5 or 4?

Now I’m wondering if at the pearly gates they give a flying f***about these kinds of promises unkept.

I’m still a really nice person. I care deeply about my fellow beings and their hearts (that means you) . I write 18 dollar checks to all my causes (eighteen being the Hebrew letter CHAI meaning life) and I have begun to really pay attention to my cat. So I think I should get special dispensation for my iPhone addiction which crept up (ooh I was going to say slowly) but the fact of the matter is it didn’t creep at all . It ambushed. It tidal waved. It volcanoed. The way I fell madly in love with James Dean I fell madly in love with the slick, thin, sensuous piece of art that not only could fit in my pocket and connect me to all my phone buddies but could take photos that were all winners and videos I could send to my sister and and, and apps. Don’t start with me with apps. . So I fell hook line and sinker for the electronic version of Marlon Brando.

And the relationship is holding. But Ive begun to notice when I get into my comfy reading position on the couch and take up my book, grab my glasses, fix my pillow, I first reach for my iPhone for a little look-see. Which invariably leads me to a bit of Facebook attention which leads me to my Instagram page and then of course I have to respond which as we all know takes a bit of time and when I finally put down the sexy distraction I find that I’ve worked up such an appetite I have to extricate myself from my coziness and travel to the kitchen to make my signatureleaf cabbage and pomegranate salad (lemonjuice roasted sunflower seeds, apple cider vinegar, and honey) . When the bing sounds I’m not risking burning anything (nothings on the stove) so I can just put down my hammer (google Martha Stewart on how to get the sweet red things out of bondage . I know, I know ,I had to get over her insider trading thing myself but she does help with marinating and hints on how to massage your kalefor a second and leave the pounding of the pomegranate seeds )…now I check just in case the text is from….someone anyone it doesn’t matter anymore.

My husband never knows where his iPhone is and when he does discover it its surprise, surprise not charged. Of course this is the energy czar marriage i got myself into and he wont hesitate to tell you that the energy one iPhone, infrastructure -wise, is equivalent to running one huge refrigerator. Just in case I wanted to have facts about my abuse of the planet while I'm arranging the background for my selfie.

So what happens when the bing sounds? I jump. I read. I answer and the salad waits. The book waits and as we all know time doesn’t wait.

As in everything I do in life, I’m looking for balance. I still swim. I still talk on the real phone. I still go to Bloomingdale’s loyal customers just to see if those knives are on sale. 

And I don’t consider it cheating on my iPhone. She knows I have other interests.

But still she seduces.  

 

 

By Sophia Kolak

It’s become a modern sort of addiction, really. A buzz or a click summoning us to another dimension, where people exist merely as white or green bubbles. Rose gold, metallic, often shattered. The six, the five, the four; they come in all shapes and sizes. Who could’ve known these slippery little boxes would shape a generation. Although, iPhones are a lot more expensive than Kerouac novels, the price is largely insignificant anyway. We’ve paid for our devices more with humanity than credit. In making apple rich, we’ve forgotten the most basic orchards of human interaction. As though experiences won’t be real unless they’re photographed, blogged about. The droning process I know all too well, of repositioning for lighting, and then for height, and then again for lighting because “the first one didn’t come out good.” And in performing for this unseen judge our lives only ever exist as shadows of who we really are. Picking the parts of ourselves we wish to display and masking the wounds that desperately need to breathe. It’s all a big whirlpool of media, sucking and sucking at our souls. The wasted energy is nauseating. If I could capture that energy it would power the big cities for years. All wasted, all gone too quickly. We let it escape us before we were even old enough to realize what we abdicated. This is what I didn’t say, then. When I got my first iPhone, when I felt that first dopamine rush as I slid and clicked. An illusion of connection that was disconnection at its finest. I didn’t tell you to go away. I didn’t say that I want my own mind and I don’t want to be like the rest of them. Another hopeless statistic, brainwashed, mind in the palm of silicon valley. But here I am, newly purchased iPhone, already cracked. Its screen like porcelain eyes that peer up and down but never to the horizon. And into those iPhone cracks, a whole generation has fallen. And I am one of them, whether I disband my iPhone tomorrow or not, it's inescapable. But being on the fringe all those years ago. Having the choice, and the power, I wish I could’ve told myself to walk away. 

Prompt: iPhone

Tell each other what you loved. Then write your own iPhone story and post it in the comments. 

Blog 24: Being Present

Sparks Fly When Monkey Mind Meets the Be Here Now Mind

Last Sunday I watched Jon Kabat-Zinn on the show Super Soul Sunday. Oprah shows a clip of him from her broadcast in 1992, probably his first national television exposure, and most assuredly the first time most people had ever heard the phrase, Mindfulness Training. I had read his book Wherever You go There You Are more than two decades ago and loved it.

So I’m sitting here having my delicious morning coffee, riveted and listening deeply. One of the things he has both written and repeats often is: “when you’re in the shower be in the shower.”

I know what he is saying; you may think you’re in the shower but actually you’re at the morning meeting or you’re in the argument you had last night with your kid or you’re deciding what to wear to the dinner party Friday night. In other words, the old be here now phenomena.

Be Here Now was the little tome that I read in 1977 that completely changed my life. And the author, Ram Dass, aka Richard Alpert became my teacher forever after. Living in the present, living in the now, being present and being in the now has become my life’s work. I say work because even though it sounds so completely simple, being present and not having your mind racing in a million different directions is very hard because the mind likes to dance and is always looking for a partner. And if the mind can do something it will.

Mr. Zinn says just realizing you are not in the shower is a way of what he calls resting in awareness. In other words, just catching yourself adrift is a moment of awareness.

So there I was, immersed in the television show and not in my coffee and I catch myself. This is, according to him, resting in awareness but I think I’m actually napping in forgetfulness. I am not present with my coffee. Instead, I am marveling over the phrase when you’re in the shower be in the shower. Like as in when you’re having your coffee have your coffee. Why is that so hard for me?

This being present is challenging for a monkey mind that while sipping coffee is also watching television, thinking it is taking in the message but also not living the message because it is also planning what to pack in case it gets cold and worrying about making it to the ferry on time. It’s also wondering if there is gas in the car, and whether the sunglasses are in the car or in the pocket of my down jacket.

You call this resting? Just because I can see the activity board of my brain doesn’t mean I can pull it back.

My husband is my own live-in devil’s advocate. He says, “what do you mean be in the shower and not think in the shower. Some of the best ideas have come in the shower.”

He goes on, building into one of his benign yet passionate lecture series. He says the chief scientist for the Hubble figured out how to get rid of the blurry image and get razor sharp focus while he was looking at the shower handles — in the shower. So your argument is faulty. Actually, he never uses words like faulty but he tried to shoot a hole in my be here now. The thing is, if you’re in the now the hole is now too.

So I laugh at myself resting in awareness. And then I turn off the television. I look at the mug in my hands. It’s my favorite mug. I taste the local honey (it’s my favorite honey). I savor the heavy (of course organic) whipping cream and I vow once more that when I’m in the shower (if I’m not trying to figure out dark matter) I will be in the shower.

 

Prompt: Write about a time you were present, really present...

Tell each other what you loved about each piece and share your own stories in the comments section. 

Blog 23: If I could change one thing…

By Nancy Aronie

Id change my underpants because my Mother was right. I fell off a collapsed deck once and while the paramedics were strapping me into the ambulance gurney I joked and said I’m not going to the hospital because these are Mondays undies.

My mother was right about a lot of things but it takes some time for us daughters to realize there was actual wisdom at their own kitchen table.

My mother said things like, you cant wear white after labor day, and I remember thinking but wait that’s when I look best in white, being brown and all from summer sun and she also said the reason she had her hair cut every three months (even though she looked better with longer hair) was because women after a certain age shouldn’t wear their hair past their shoulders. I don’t know where she got these misguided Miss Manners mini prisons.

When I was really young I didn’t think my mother had much to offer. She was tired all the time, had big migraines and a very small voice.

But it was more about what she didn’t say and what she did that found its way into my now life.

On Saturdays when she came home weary from her third job (this one as a receptionist at Schultzes Beauty Salon) instead of taking a nap (I never saw her nap) she and I drove down Asylum Avenue where she picked up black women holding bundles at the bus stops waiting to get home weary from their own jobs of cleaning white women’s houses. She knew all the neighborhoods (she had lived there) (Jews move up and Blacks move in). We’d squeeze in all together and you could practically hear the collective end of the work day sigh. I could feel the soulfulness the gratitude and the love in that car. Sometimes I’d hear her friends say aren’t you afraid of driving through that neighborhood? And my mother would say its my neighborhood too and besides these women are my neighbors.

She moved into an apartment complex that was a bit of a retirement community. Lots of widows in their seventies and eighties where the gossip mill was alive and well. I never heard my Mother ever pass along the secrets everyone came to her and whispered. 

She had one friend Tillie and I remember the two of them laughing and saying haven’t they got anything better to do? My mother was taking a painting class and was in the middle of learning how to do clouds when the teacher died.  She kept her brushes and her watercolor paper on her red plexi table as if she were waiting for him to return. Tillie and Hennie's apartments faced each other and they both had African Violets on their sils. They would catch each other watering at the same time and wave across the courtyard. Then Tillie was rushed to the emergency room and her grown children called Hennie and said Tillie probably wont make it. When I phoned my mother and offered  to drive her to the hospital she said I’d prefer to remember Tillie the way she was. And I may have snapped a bit but I said Mom this isn’t about you. Its about Tillie. Helping her make a big transition. You can just sit and hold her hand . She said in the voice I had come to know and love I knew I shouldn’t have answered the phone. Ok pick me up in a half hour.

We were teachers for each other. She got her voice late in life and because of her I got mine early.

 Originally this was a piece entitled if I could change one thing and it turns out if you change one thing you’d have to change everything and if you changed everything there’d be one thing you’d want to change out of that lot and you’d have to keep moving keeping ahead of your life running and changing yet again and again and again.

Better to sit still… accept what is… and if you’re planning on falling off a deck in Chilmark, go ahead, just be sure you change your underpants. 

Blog 22: If I could change one thing...

In the kitchen with Nancy

By Haley Jakobson

Last night in the kitchen Nancy says, “I have a feeling you’ll fall in love before you leave.” I grin and reply, “God I hope so.”


Last year I walked in the kitchen and Nancy said “I have a feeling you’re falling out of love.” I crumbled right into my cereal. 


Letting go of what doesn’t serve us. It’s earth shattering. It’s gut wrenching. It’s a kind of dry-heaving you do curled up on the floor, mouth crystallized in a permanent “why?” But necessary. It’s that, too.
My friend Stacy was sick for a long time. She began to heal with food and in a matter of days she was out of bed, after seventeen years, and her life began for a second time. She left her husband soon after. 


Letting you go made the basin of my stomach into a blender, into rusty coins, into a darkness that caved into itself over and over and over. 


A year ago my brain wasn’t my own. I sat on a bench outside the Edgartown bookstore and forced myself to read a book of poetry too profound for my fragile state. The poems ripped at me, they stung with a venom that made me cry right out in the open, in vacation dreamland, and no amount of ice cream cones or self baptisms in that big blue endlessness could make it go away. 


My depression told me I had to go live in a cave like the Buddha. That I had to leave the life I loved and force myself into an unwanted enlightenment. That I’d have to be silent. That I should get rid of my identity. Surgically remove my ego. I read pages of books that told of white men and women from big cities leaving for India and never returning. Devoting life to gurus and to quiet. But everything inside me was screaming. I binged entire chapters, gluttony as a garnish for my guilt. And then the purge would come, heaving crying and panic, and panic, and nothing at all to comfort me in a vast world of disappointment.


My depression left me alone in a one bedroom apartment on the upper west side, my body in a constant state of trauma, my toxic brain the loudest thing in those rooms. I painted the walls with that misery. Everything felt like fear. Death looming, my grandmother dying, caves in India, and no energy left to assume my role as fighter in the relationship. 


Exhausted, wrapped up on my parents couch, still entirely unsafe in my own mind, I accepted that we would not make it through. I understood that I was too tired to fight and that you would not, as you never really had, as you were never very good to me when I wasn’t there to remind you that I hung your smile across my sky. 


When I am depressed my spirit cannot speak with me. Our intercom breaks and she can’t scream loud enough over fear’s whispering. My spirit has since told me she wonders if we would have made it had she been able to climb back into my ear. I tell her, firmly, that it doesn’t matter. That we need to find someone who loves us even when the intercom is broken. That knows that part of the package, part of the mirror to the resounding resilience that is my nature, is a darkness I didn’t ask for but sometimes have to answer to. The thing I know but that is impossible to remember when I am depressed is that the universe functions on a scale. And it swings at a peaceful rhythm. The good doesn’t outweigh the bad. The bad isn’t quite as heavy as we think. Balance. It’s the root of the root and the bud of the bud (that’s what you meant, didn’t you, poet man?)


My friend Stacy tried every medicine known to western man for seventeen years. But her healing came instead through the natural stuff. This was a mirror she had not looked in. 


I tried everything before the medicine. Yoga, food, sleep, therapy, my mom, my dad, my friends, my dogs, perseverance, pot, apathy. It was a different mirror I’ve had to look in.


There’s a way to write this story where I weave together the depression and leaving you. But I can’t quite do it all the way. I found the pieces in the same box, but they are part of two different puzzles. All I know is that when clarity came, the decision made itself. All I know is that the medicine fooled me into believing love didn’t have to feel like a punishment.


Other days I walk into the kitchen and Nancy says “You’re incredible. The beauty, yes. But the wisdom! I can’t believe it.”


I like to think she is saying “I have a feeling you are falling in love with yourself.”

TELL HALEY WHAT YOU LOVE! YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THIS, PEOPLE! THEN WRITE A SHORT PIECE FOR THE PROMPT: IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING...

 

Blog 21: If Trees Could Talk Would You Listen?

I came to the woods late in the game. Trees, now my guides, beckon and enlighten. I swear they talk to me. And I am learning to listen. I know that teachers appear at unexpected times and in surprisingly varied disguises. They don’t always stand at a chalk board in sensible shoes. They can be towering pines or twisted scrubby oak.

And I’ve always heard when you are ready, the teacher is there.

During a walk to Lobsterville Beach, I suddenly feel the need to take a sharp right turn into one of my favorite land bank spots. I park and pat myself on the back for realizing I need not to be in the open space of sun and sky, but cradled in the quiet of my own mini Muir Woods.

I get out of the car and for some reason, even though I hate maps, I walk up to the glassed-in case thinking for once I will plan my route. I have always resisted reading maps. I’m not sure if my disdain comes from the small print and my weak eyes or some kind of dyslexia or my childhood experience of someone yelling at someone, “quick just tell me where to turn, can’t you read the damn thing?”

As I stand there I actually become dizzy. My vision blurs and I have the distinct revelation that I have an actual fear of maps. Then I hear the unmistakable roar of a giant lawn mower.

Darn it, I think. I came here for silence. And I need my trees. Oh well, I figure I’ll go in the opposite direction. I climb up the hill, wave at the fellow and he cuts his engine and approaches me.

“Hi, gorgeous day,” I say.

“Sure is,” he says. “Sorry for the noise. I just started the job.”

“No problem,” I say. Why make the guy feel bad. “I’ll just go on down to the beach.”

“Well, wait a minute,” he says. “There are lots of really great walks I can turn you on to. Do you have a conservation lands map?”

“Oh, I’m not good with maps. Thanks anyway.”

At this point I am talking to his back as he heads to his mower. I watch him climb up, rustle through some stuff and come back unfolding a huge Atlas-type of thing. He proceeds to spread it out on a nearby flat rock. He is just about to begin his lecture when I say, “really I can’t read these things. So I’m kind of useless.”

He continues undaunted. “See this here? We just bought all this land right here.”

His finger traces along an edge of the paper as he looks up to see if I am following. Of course I am not following. I am gazing off into the middle distance. But he perseveres. “See this,” he says. “I just finished mowing there, so this one is absolutely gorgeous. You just have to drive to Outermost Inn. You know where Huey’s place is, right?”

“Yeah, it’s beautiful there,” I say, trying to let him know I have no intention of going.

“Well, you’ll have to park your car at the end at the town lot and then walk, but the walk is nothing.”

I interrupt him. “Actually, I’m all set. I’m just gonna stroll on the beach.”

He continues: “If you don’t want to do that one, have you been out to Chappy recently? We just got this, what’s her name, I can’t think of her name, but she donated all this terrific property so now you can go from here to here.” He travels with his pointer finger across green and blue and brown blobs. “It’s spectacular there now.”

The thrill of a lifetime, I’m thinking, would be getting away from this man. Pretending to be interested, I’m actually plotting my escape. The dude is relentless. Somehow I’ve wandered into Map Reading 101, a course I have managed to avoid my whole life. Why doesn’t this guy hear me? Why doesn’t he get that I’m not going on any of his walks?

And then it hits me. When you are ready the teacher is there. He’s the teacher. Funny, I hadn’t thought I was ready. I never do. This happens to me all the time. Why do I forget? Hello. I was the one who had wanted to go into the woods. I was the one who happened to have some extra time. I was the one who approached him first. And here next to the rock with the map spread out with sunlight shining and illuminating all the words so I can actually read them, is a patient professor so anxious to share his joy and his passion. I gulp and I stop my stupid resistance and fall into the reverie he has offered me right from the start.

Turns out, it’s not just a map. It’s a travel brochure with great writing, and with trails I never knew existed and long lovely narratives like this one: “The property’s dozen roadside acres are grassy and hilly; notable is the white oak near the hilltop with its stately crown...geologists will especially like the red trail in the woodlands as it follows the crest of a long esker.”

I have to look up esker. It’s a long winding ridge of stratified sand and gravel occurring in formerly glaciated regions.

Here is another description: “The corridor is profuse; nesting songbirds are abundant, and include yellow warblers, redstarts, common yellow throats and oven birds. Footbridges span the brook which drains into Chilmark upper pond easing hikers into habitats which would have been too dense or remote to visit.”

There are 61 of these walks, 61 descriptions, 61 new places for me to explore. So once again, no sensible shoes, no chalk board, not even a talking oak. This time the teacher is an enthusiastic Vineyard Conservation guy. I write this so you will help me remember.

- See more at: https://vineyardgazette.com/news/2016/05/19/if-trees-could-talk-would-you-listen#sthash.qjAfII7Y.dpuf

 

Write a short piece about something in nature that speaks to you.

Blog 19: Hope-aholic?

A long time ago an ex husband of a dear friend called me a “pathological optimist”. He said it as an insult. I remember taking it as a compliment.

The other day I saw Gloria Steinem on Super Soul Sunday (which I tape and love) (Opera in conversation with  lots of wise teachers).

Gloria said she was a hope-aholic. I like that one.

I remember parents warning their children saying “don’t get your hopes up.” And I also remember thinking “why not?”

And recently someone said to me “it's not set in stone so don’t get excited yet.” And I almost barked back; “why not let me have the thrill of imagining it might happen? And then if it doesn’t, believe I’ll live through the disappointment.”

I'd rather have the big emotions than sit on possibility. I think an A plus and an F are better than C minus. When did we get so frightened of highs and lows? Unless of course the kid is constantly let down. That’s different. I’m talking about the ordinary once in a while change of plans. Isn’t learning about change a way of learning how to be flexible?

I know you will have a take on this. I also know I could be wrong.

So write to each other.

And write to me.

The word "hope-aholic...."

1. Write for ten minutes without stopping, thinking or censoring yourself.

2. Post your writing in the comments below this post.

3. Include what classes you've taken (and when) and a short bio if you like. 

4. PLEASE comment on this piece and the writing of each other. We all know how that feels! Just hit the "reply" icon on the top at the right within their comment so it posts right underneath the writing.

 

Guest Post: Sarah Sellers

In response to Blog 18: Feelings this holiday...

I am isolated this Christmas.  Last year, I moved from a modest but spacious family home on two lovingly landscaped acres in the Chicago suburbs to a 450 sq ft studio apartment in the Boston Navy Yard, every day walking three miles to and from a stressful job in Cambridge. 

The apartment windows overlook an alley—at 10:15 in the morning a middle-aged, otherwise fit and well-dressed man steps into the alley and align himself against the wall.  Methodically, he places a rubber glove on his right hand, pulls a package of Marlboro cigarettes out of this pocket, removes a smoke and lights up using his gloved-hand only to facilitate his addiction. When he is finished drawing its last embers, he drops it onto the uneven brick pavement, maybe into the pool of water under the breached gutter main, and just as efficiently removes and tucks away his glove and disappears around the corner with determined footing. 

I did not bring my car.  On workdays, my commute takes me by the USS Constitution, the locks by North Station, and the Massachusetts State House where two years ago I testified before the Senate in the aftermath of the national fungal meningitis outbreak that left nearly 100 dead and thousands exposed to contaminated drugs. 

Guest Post: Serita Winthrop

Response to Blog # 18: Feelings This Holiday...

The holidays always bring a certain amount of mixed feelings for me.  I remember my childhood Christmases which took place in a family place in South Carolina.  I didn’t enjoy those at all.  My father was always in a cranky mood and my stepmother wasn’t all that into the festivities.  In fact, my main memory is being with my three older brothers in the Main House alone.  We decided to open the presents from our mother, who was in Boston with her husband, and ALWAYS sent things we didn’t want.

My disabled brother, “Hew”, threw his present in the fireplace.  We watched it burn.  Then the other brothers did the same.  I can’t remember if I followed their example.  But fun it was not.  Best part was sitting at the desk near that fireplace on Christmas afternoon.  I wrote all of my thank you notes that afternoon, every year.

There were a few happy years when my four children were young and we lived in Lincoln, MA.  I remember my now ex husband helping to clean the kitchen on Christmas Day.  That was a highlight for me because he didn’t help all that often.  

The children were happy with their new toys and we ate BLTs in front of the fire for our Christmas Lunch.  That was our little tradition. I loved having the kitchen looking so organized and clean.

Roger cooked only on Sunday nights and separated the cooking pots that he used from the ones I used.

He said I didn’t clean mine properly.  Now I like living alone.  Roger would be amused if he could see me this Christmas,  a veritable Neatnik.

Several of my friends have children who aren’t speaking to them.  One has a sister who was once her best friend, her only sibling, and they are estranged.  Why is there still so much disconnection in families?  The societal expectations around the Holidays only exacerbate these divisions and make so many of us sad. 

The good news is that my friendships still thrive in my seventies.  I just dropped in on my neighbor, Betty, who is my co-grandmother to two granddaughters here in Rhinebeck.  She is a little envious that I am able to go to the 9:30PM Christmas service tonight at the Episcopal Church of the Messiah.  This will be a highlight as theMusic will be sublime.  There I go with my expectations, but anticipating my being able to sing those carols brings me a moment of happy anticipation.  I am slowly learning that we need to look for Joy.

 

Anonymous Guest Post

A Response to Prompt 18: Your feelings this holiday season....

There are so many shifts this year.

A beloved, freshly married sister living in England.

A beloved, freshly divorced sister-in-law staying in Boston.

A (different) brother-in-law's new girlfriend visiting, who is missing her own children.

Amidst the mistletoe and carols, I can only feel more changes on their way. I have this lurking feeling I can't shake about being lucky on the death-front. So far.

As a kid, all I longed for was a Pound Puppy or nameplate necklace which I usually found, lovingly wrapped in my hand-sewn stocking. 

As I grew older, encircled by parents, sisters and our stacks of lovingly wrapped gifts, I sat next to my twinkling Christmas tree, just wanting a boyfriend. 

A few years later, we met. But, he lived 2,000 miles away. I would call him a half dozen times on Christmas Day, pining for him, practically ignoring all the local love.

This year it was like I heard Elvis's "Blue Christmas" for the first time. "I'll be so blue, thinking about you . . ." I'll miss my sister, sister-in-law, feel for our new guest who misses her family. I think about never waking up in my parent's home on Christmas again, even though they only live 8 hours away.

While losses and transitions abound, I can't help but hum the deep blues.

Yet, I'm also wow-ed by the season's shimmery silvers, bright greens, shiny golds and captivating crimsons. I'm appreciating the conversations, gestures, traditions, surprises that pass quickly and eventually lead to the major changes.

This year, I led a Christmas gift making activity with my son's kindergarten class. I cried afterwards. It was one of the best mornings of my life. Seeing the precious children's delight at stringing emerald and garnet beads to make candy cane ornaments for their families was so touching.  They even stopped me in the hallway after to say, "That was awesome! Thank you!"

Becoming a "grown-up" must mean always having some blues on the background. I'll be the one to choose whether to dance or sit it out. This Christmas morning, I'll hold my losses close, but boogy in that special-at-home-only way to "Jingle Bell Rock" while my two little boys let the wrapping paper fly.