The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

When I Was A Boy

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I have been following a thread on a group Facebook page  for The Good Men Project  that was prompted by a video I had posted that showed a young woman being harassed by two young men while she was walking home from school. What happens next is conversation stirring.  One by one, other men step up and make a human barrier between her and the ones who would do her harm. Some who see it feel it is heartwarming and reassuring while others feel it is paternalistic and sexist.

It had me thinking about the ways in which boys and girls are raised to become men and women. Are women by nature in need of male protection? Are men by virtue of size and strength obligated to protect women?  What if a woman is capable of looking after herself most of the time?  Is it still a man’s job to take care of her?  Does it disempower her?

My take is that no one should feel unsafe walking alone, in danger of assault or harassment.

I grew up with an overprotective father who worried about me (I suspect until the day he died in 2008) and made sure that I could stand on my own two feet without requiring a man to provide for me. When I was married, my husband and I shared financial responsibility and since he died, I have been supporting myself and my son. We shared household tasks and there was no division of labor in terms of ‘men’s work’ and ‘women’s work’ in our home just as it had been in the home of my family of origin in which both parents did everything.

My dad raised (along with my mother who was not smothering) my sister and me as kids and girls. Frilly dresses and jeans. Acting ‘like a lady’ and digging in the dirt, riding bikes, flying kites, roller skating, learning to change tires and oil. He was a gentleman and treated women with respect; opening doors and holding out chairs. He was a Golden Gloves boxer in the Navy and worked out well into his late 70′s-early 80′s and could easily have been a body guard. He likely would have felt it was a man’s job to protect a woman. He wouldn’t have supported me walking alone at night as I have many times. AND he knew I would make my own choices without putting myself in harm’s way.

This song by Dar Williams called  When I Was A Boy says it brilliantly. As men and women, may we all feel free to choose our own way to be.

 

Photo Credit- epSos.de/Everystock

 

 

Life Is Like A Box of Chocolates

Forrestgump

Photo credit:  Alex Lowy

 

I am open to miracles wherever they appear. Sometimes they show up in the form of a man with a buzz cut, decked out  in a white suit and sneakers, toting a well worn suitcase, plastered with all kinds of stickers as he meandered around the grounds of Wiggins Park in Camden, NJ. It was the site of one of my favorite annual events called the XPoNential Music Fest sponsored by a Philly based member supported station called WXPN.

I was delighted to hear and see someone embodying a treasured cinematic icon- Forrest Gump. I approached ‘Forrest’ (a.k.a Paul Dengler) and began a conversation as I told him what his movie meant to me. I have long equated it with one of the major reasons I named my clown persona Feather and why I give out feathers at my workshops and presentations. I speak about it as the eternal question of whether things happen at random or are (in Yiddish-beshert) ‘meant to be, just like Forrest always seemed to be at the right place at the right time in history for things to happen as they did.

Listen in to some of our conversation about the spiritual messages in the movie and the way this artist/musician/singer songwriter became the man who uttered the classic and oft quoted phrase:  “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Chocolate being my drug of choice, I appreciate that!

Paul shared that he has “been Forrest Gumping for 18 years now, 14 years with Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurants since 2000. His wife had convinced him to enter a look alike contest in Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1996 (at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Festival — put on by the Beaufort Chamber of Commerce.)  He won!

We were musing about the take away points from the movie:

“The feather at the beginning of the movie is jam packed with meaning…it ties back to Jenny’s childhood prayer for God to turn her into a bird so she could fly far, far away from all her troubles. The movie begins with the feather and ends with the feather, and the entire film has lots of bird symbols through out (all connected to Jenny).  At one point, Jenny is on the balcony, thinking about jumping off and committing suicide.  The song that is playing in this scene is Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird song (she wants to fly above her troubles, but she doesn’t know how).  The feather is also a symbol for Forrest: he floats on the winds of life, yielding to where the Spirit takes him.  Forrest prays that prayer with Jenny for her to be turned into a bird, and then his whole life is used to make that prayer come true.  He never gives up on Jenny.  He loves her with an unfailing love, and that love ultimately helps Jenny find her wings…and find healing.  Jenny, Lt. Dan, and Forrest are each broken people, each in different ways (also true of Bubba and Mama, too — and each of us).  Forrest says that he’s not a smart man, but that he knows what love is.  Love, and faith, and friendship…that’s what the movie is all about.  I’m writing a little book about all this.  It’s called, Pray For Shrimp (A Forrest Gump Impersonator’s Guide to Gumption).  It’s just 75 short pages of the wisdom you can learn from Forrest Gump.”

“The number 75 is significant in that is both Forrest Gump’s IQ, and it’s the year that Forrest and Lt. Dan have their shrimping success.  So, 75 both represents Forrest’s limitations and those limitations being overcome through faith and friendship.  For the first six months, Forrest and Lt. Dan only catch enough shrimp for a shrimp cocktail.  Lt. Dan and Forrest are frustrated by this.  They are discouraged and almost give up, but then Lt. Dan suggests that Forrest start praying for shrimp.  The next scene is Forrest at the Four Square Gospel church, praying for shrimp and singing in the choir.  God seems to show up in the midst of the hurricane in the following scene.  All the other shrimp boats get destroyed, but their shrimp boat is the only one left standing.  Then shrimping becomes easy for them, and they strike it rich with Bubba Gump Shrimp.  Lt. Dan then takes some of their Bubba Gump money and invests it in that fruit company (Apple).  As a result, they become “gazillionares” when the computer first hits the market in the 80′s.  75 is the number of Forrest,s limitation, but those limitations being overcome through faith, hope, and love. “

When we finished our conversation, he invited me to find him later on and he promised to show me a magic trick. Of course, I couldn’t resist. He was standing under his umbrella, speaking with two women. I asked him to make good on his invitation. He smiled and pulled from his suitcase, a tri-fold program from the event, feathers flying as he did so. I asked if I could have one and he allowed me to bring it home with me. He then asked us if we believed he could cut a hole in the brochure that would be large enough for everyone at the festival to walk through. The others were skeptical, but I knew he could do it, and because I believe in miracles, I said yes.  He asked each of us to close our eyes and think of  a miracle we wanted to call into our lives and then write one letter on the paper that represented that intention. As he made several strategic cuts in the paper, he spoke about the scissors being the faith that cuts through our doubts.  By the time he was finished, he had made what looked like a zig zag paper chain that when expanded was indeed large enough for a full grown adult to walk through!  I teared up as he placed the garland around my neck, just as the Dalai Lama had draped a katah (white silk scarf) on me when we met and I interviewed him in 2008. When I got home, I placed it on my altar along with the katah.

If memory serves, this quote relates to the orthopedic shoes Forrest wore in childhood. “My mama says they were magic shoes. They could take me anywhere.” I am grateful that Forrest’s magic shoes brought him to my neck of the woods.

 

Foolish Notion

 

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Lately I have been rolling through my mind thoughts about origin of violence in the world. I saw a video recently in which Whoopie Goldberg was explaining a statement she had made that it was okay for a man to hit a woman back if she hits him first. If she didn’t want to be hit, she shouldn’t have struck the initial blow, she reasoned. It would have been the perfect opportunity for her to condemn any sort of violence, rather than resorting to sand throwing instead of encouraging everyone playing nicely in the sandbox.

Then I read an article that focused on the impact of corporal punishment on children, beyond the obvious. It expressed that it inhibits the development of gray matter in the brain, which makes a whole lot of sense to me. Trauma will do that. I re-posted on my page with the preemptive message that if we want to teach our children to love and respect adults and each other, we need to treat them with love and respect. Hitting a child for hitting another child delivers what message? It’s acceptable for adults to hit, but not children? Smacking a child for doing something dangerous such as running into the street shows them that someone they love who loves them will hurt them to keep them from getting a bigger boo boo?

Instilling fear in authority figures doesn’t do that. If what was done to a child was done to an adult, that adult would be justified in pressing assault charges. Saying “I was spanked/hit/punished…. and I turned out alright,” is a poor excuse. I countered with “I wasn’t spanked and I turned out alright.”  I loved my parents and didn’t fear them. There were rules and consequences but none involved raising a hand in anger.

The same is true of war. We justify punitive action against a group of people because each believes the other is bad/wrong. The lyrics to a song performed by Holly Near, called Foolish Notion has the poignant lyrics:  “Why do we kill people who are killing people, to show that killing people is wrong?”

Where did the idea come from that striking someone is the way to express anger, get them to fall in line, do what we want?  Who was the first person to hit another? What would the world be like if we only touched each other with love and kindness?

Some Sunday morning musings that I may never get acceptable answers to….just tossing the questions out there.

Photo credit: bitstrip

All of It

robinschwoyerloveyourself

 

Another one of those wee hours wake-ups when life beckons me to the keyboard to type what I may not be able to experience emotionally. I came upon the words of Panache Desai,  author and spiritual teacher who I had the joy of hearing back in 2011 at the Celebrate Your Life Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The room in which his workshop was held felt colder at first than the others I had been in that day. In short order, I would discover the reason. The chairs were arranged in a circle and he stood in the center. As he spoke, he walked around and around and around, stirring the pot, creating a vortex, generating energy that raised the temperature in the room, or so it seemed to me. His words stirred my soul as well. He expressed in his soft voice, that also projected strongly simultaneously that we were all already worthy of so much love. It began to sink into my doubting heart.

This morning, I found a meme he had created with the simple and direct invitation:  “Feel what it is to be human-all of it.”  Not sure I ever have. There have been times when I haven’t been quite sure that I am fully human; joking over the years with my parents that I was an alien baby left on their doorstep. I have felt kinship with my fellow planetary dwellers, sentient or not AND at times, a disconnect with those who I perceive as doing harm to others. I have attempted to understand their way of thinking AND have put my hands up to shield myself from getting too close to comprehending the darkness in which they seemed to be living. Admitting I have a shadow side has not come easily. I would rather feel nothing than that much anger and fear. Sadness, I can handle at times. Deep grief (even as I teach and write about it) has been a spectre that lingers, waiting for me to take down my guard so it can pounce. I have felt it when my husband died in 1998 and when my dad passed in 2008 and my mom joined him in 2010 and then ‘put it in its place’ in the service of  functioning, thinking I was doing alright. Maybe I was. I teach people that there is no ‘right way’ to grieve.

At the moment, I am facing losses that have taken place in my body, with a series of health issues that include a recent heart attack and three days in a row last weekend with kidney stones. While I know that there is a physiological component to both of those conditions, I am just as certain that they showed up in my life now as spiritual messages. Not ‘blaming the victim’ (and I don’t view myself as a victim, anyway) mentality, but rather, seeing where the seeds were planted to have come to fruition at this moment. Both have brought with them a new awareness that the ways in which I was living my life wound inexorably to this moment and that if I chose to remain incarnate, I needed to make changes. Beyond the obvious rest, meds, nutrition and exercise, a shift in perception (one way in which A Course in Miracles defines a miracle) is necessary.

I have been doing the unthinkable….postponing events, smoothing out my schedule, saying yes only to what I know I can do and choose to do, saying no to what I thought was expected of me, for fear of losing love and approval. When I am ready, the opportunities will be there and I will have more of value to share after what I am moving through.  I have been (slowly and gradually) allowing people to do things for me that I can do for myself, because they offer and encourage me to accept, without feeling needy,  feeble and (one of my mother’s favorite words) ‘decrepit’. I am slowing my walk, my talk, my eating and sleeping. I am not just putting out, but taking in. I have moved past the denial that this body will last forever.

I am seeing friends experience and heed wake-up calls in their own lives and health. I have said goodbye to friends who have moved on to their next incarnations; most recently my friend Bob Goodwin who passed yesterday at 91. I will be writing more about him in the next few days, but he was a friend/father figure in whose presence I felt safe and loved. When I first heard, my initial reaction was (echoing what my own father used to say whenever we would find out that someone had died) “Ah no.” and then the door closed, leaving grief on the other side of it. It wasn’t a conscious thought to stop feeling. It just happened. I thought about his wife, Hannelore and what she might be feeling. They were quite a pair; marrying later in life, following previous marriages and families. She too is a dear friend. I send out love and healing for her heart as well from a place of calm compassion.

Being human and ‘feeling all of it’ comes at a price and with gifts. I have to face the messiness, pettiness, not-so-much fun feelings and call them out into the light. I get to roll around in the mud, and splash in the puddles. I need to confront my gremlins and take my own inventory. I am called on to make amends and accept those offered by others. I can allow myself to feel resentments, acknowledging them without carrying them forever. It really is okay to ask for what I want, knowing that I may or may not receive it. It really is acceptable to give voice to dreams and desires. It truly is a blessing to be fully human.

Photo credit: Robin Schwoyer

 

Previous Posts

When I Was A Boy
I have been following a thread on a group Facebook page  for The Good Men Project  that was prompted by a video I had posted that showed a young woman being harassed by two young men while she was walking home from school. What happens next is conversation stirring.  One by one, other men step u

posted 9:41:48am Jul. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Life Is Like A Box of Chocolates
Photo credit:  Alex Lowy   I am open to miracles wherever they appear. Sometimes they show up in the form of a man with a buzz cut, decked out  in a white suit and sneakers, toting a well worn suitcase, plastered with all kinds of stickers as he meandered around the grounds of Wiggins P

posted 2:33:30pm Jul. 28, 2014 | read full post »

Foolish Notion
    Lately I have been rolling through my mind thoughts about origin of violence in the world. I saw a video recently in which Whoopie Goldberg was explaining a statement she had made that it was okay for a man to hit a woman back if she hits him first. If she didn't want to be h

posted 9:49:35am Jul. 27, 2014 | read full post »

All of It
  Another one of those wee hours wake-ups when life beckons me to the keyboard to type what I may not be able to experience emotionally. I came upon the words of Panache Desai,  author and spiritual teacher who I had the joy of hearing back in 2011 at the Celebrate Your Life Conference in P

posted 6:15:45am Jul. 25, 2014 | read full post »

Rocks Crumble
Had an insight today that had me laughing at the perfect absurdity while speaking with my friend Gail Lynne Goodwin from Inspire Me Today.  She had called to offer loving support with the roller coaster ride that has been my life of late,  and we were musing about being adult orphans since both se

posted 7:06:56am Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »


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