When I initially saw this image on Facebook a few days ago, I had to laugh, as I thought “That would have been me…part Batman and part faerie princess on her trusty steed, pedaling through the streets.” I was rather quirky, an ‘alien baby left on my parents’ doorstep’, with otherworldy ideas, as well as a bike riding, skating, tree climbing, sledding, hopscotch playing, jump-roping, swimming, puddle jumping, voraciously reading, sprinkler running, Barbie doll playing, costume dressing, mudpie making, fingerpainting kid. I was raised by parents who saw me as a girl, yet didn’t limit what that could mean. I eschewed the label “Tom Boy” since that indicated that it was un-natural for a female person to get messy, run around with grass stained knees, do rough and tumble things. It is equally unfair for a boy to be required to refrain from engaging in traditionally female activities, like playing with dolls (that aren’t GI Joes or action heros). How, I ponder, are men to be nurturing fathers if they don’t have a clue how to take care of an infant? What makes it ok for women to cry and for men to be stoic? Men were born with tear ducts as well.
Where did these ideas even come from that we had to wear certain ‘costumes’ in order to be socially accepted? The people who are in my life now, defy stereotype. Amongst my circle are ‘masculine acting women’ and ‘feminine acting men’, Hetero, Bi and Gay, some transgender, all skin hues, hailing from different parts of the world. Artists, musicians, writers, teachers, bodyworkers, therapists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, business people, blue collar workers, sex educators, clergy. What they have in common, is an acceptance (and not simply tolerance) for those who don’t fit a particular mold; those out of the box thinkers, who dare to be different. It is from their perspective that I see the world through fresh eyes and gain permission to be left of center in my own beliefs and behaviors. This former “emotional contortionist who would bend over backward to please people who was frequently looking over her shoulder to see if the propriety police were watching,” has learned that flexibility is a good thing if experienced by choice and not obligation. If you look in my closet or dresser drawers, you won’t find a tutu (not yet:), but you will find a red be-ribboned skirt with bells on the bottom, a t-shirt with a henna tatooed faerie emblazoned on it, as well as clown shoes with hearts and stars decorating them. I have yet to wear them all at once, but I just might. Oh and I hadn’t mention the wings in the back of my Jeep (part of my clown persona named Feather), because you never know when they could come in handy. Here’s to being fully, colorfully, creatively human.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=BE5YzRr9yPo When I Was A Boy- by Dar Williams
Earlier today, I had a skype session with my friends Phil and Janet; two wise people I consider family of choice. I have known Janet since the early 1980’s and Phil since the late 80’s and he is my son Adam’s Big Brother and go- to guy for all kinds of things. Today they were my go-to folks for helping me to work through some entrenched beliefs and behaviors that don’t serve me and the path I would choose to take through life. Both of them have sturdy b.s. detectors and laser sharp instincts for cutting through it. They have been through so much in their lifetimes that have helped them to hone those skills. It is to them that I turn when I want no nonsense answers to my queries. We were excavating the rubble and rock pile that has built up over the years that represent my fears of never being able to be enough or do enough. I push and rush, rather than rest and coast when that would be called for. Phil pointed out that when I leave voice mail messages, I fill in way too many details as if attempting to prove that I am busy and successful. Janet shared that when I speak, she gets tired, since I rattle things off so quickly as if to say as much as I can in as short a time as possible and sound like I can’t catch my breath. That comes from discomfort with taking up too much time and yet paradoxically, I LOVE being center stage. Janet nodded knowingly, since she too is a performer (actor, dancer and mime).
She said, “I have a word for you to remember; Dayenu.” I smiled and agreed. In Hebrew, it translates to”enough” and is part of the Passover seder. It references the idea that had God freed the Jews from slavery in Egypt, it “would have been sufficient.” and had God fed them manna in the desert as they wandered to the Promised Land, “it would have been sufficient,” and so on. In my life, I need to recall that I am enough, have enough and do enough.
Tonight, after a much needed nap, I woke to the sound of a tiny voice in the hallway; that of my son’s girlfriend’s diminutive dude, Collin. My heart lifts whenever he is around as this two year old , old soul has me wrapped around his little finger. While Adam and Rochelle prepared dinner and bantered in the kitchen, Collin and I fed feathers to a teddy bear he brought out of my room, he hid next to the nightstand in what is now called ‘the invisible corner’ since when he walks back there, we play ‘where’s Collin?’ and then he appears, delighted that he had tricked me. He dragged my drums out and we were entertaining each other rhythmically. We looked through family photos and he picked up a picture of Adam at 7 and called out “baby!” When I asked him who loves him, he said for certain “Everybody.” and I when asked if he is included in ‘everybody’ and he said with absolute assurance. “Yes.” As we were reading The Lorax, each word in the book was “once upon a time.”
I beamed with delight when my sister sent me a photo of my handsome nephew Bobby and his gorgeous girlfriend Gab before their Senior prom all decked out in their finery. How much he resembles my father (except a few inches taller than his compact grandfather) right down to leaning to the side when he stood next his sweetie pie in one of the pictures as I have seen in old iamges of my father.
Now the rain is sprinkling down and thunder is rolling through, and with satisfaction, I acknowledge that I have as many blessings as the infinity of space and in all ways, my cup runneth over.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyiclg6qtxY Isn’t This World Enough? by Admiral Fallow
Recently I was in conversation with a woman who by most standards, is stunningly beautiful; tall and statuesque, well groomed and decked out…..and yet….she has inner hammering thoughts that say she isn’t thin enough and attractive enough. She is nearly constantly comparing herself with others; women in the supermarket, in cars next to her on a highway. How she looks matters more than who she is. I felt a sense of sadness as I listened to her. She is successful in most people’s view, with a well paying job and yet, she doubts her value. I wondered instead about her values, so I asked her if presentation matters more than perception. I felt even more dismayed when I heard her answer and applied it to my own life. I sometimes make how I present to the world more important than my own perception of who I am. One thing I know for sure, is that no matter HOW I present myself, I have absolutely no control over how anyone perceives me.
That’s when I need to take personal inventory and ask if my behaviors are in alignment with my values. Am I acting in such ways as to manipulate people into seeing me as I want to be seen or am I genuinely moving from heart and consciousness? There was a time when I attempted to micromanage my relationships, wanting only be seen in a certain light, so as to get my needs met. These days, my intentions are more pure (remembering that I am a human BE-ing and a work in progress) and not meant to control any0ne’s opinion. When I fall into that old pattern, life shows up in such a way that reminds me to be clean in my interactions.
When I look in the mirror, I sometimes see a different image than others do. Most people find it hard to believe that I am 54; but I can assure you by showing you my birth certificate that I was born in 1958. There are days when I feel 24 and some days 74. When I look on a surface level, I see wrinkles, and gray hairs and when I look more closely, I take in the image of a woman with laugh lines and well earned silver sprouting in between the dark chestnut elfin shorn hair. My energy peaks and ebbs depending on activity level and requirements of my day. I am not afraid of growing old, since my role models for aging have been mostly positive. Most who fear aging usually verbalize that it is because they see it as a downhill slide into losing vitality. Instead, I view it as an ongoing experience, a drinking in of life, slurping from the bottom of the glass, rather than pushing it away out of fear of loss. Such a paradox.
At the end of any given day, if I can look in the mirror and feel in harmony with the face gazing back at me, then perception and presentation are one.
For all who doubt their beauty and measure it by unrealistic standards.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOfhbLn8fw8 Beautiful by India.Arie
As I was sitting in a wooden pew, a few rows behind my best friend Barb and her family; we honored the life and passing of her father, Ralph. A little more than a month earlier, we were gathered around festively decorated tables, celebrating his 90th birthday. In the interceding weeks, life energy ebbed from him and last week he made his opening farewell and moved on to wherever his Spirit now resides. The presiding priest of the sacrament of the Catholic faith that Ralph embraced, assured those present that “God’s servant was now with his savior.” His voice, likely having recited the funeral mass countless times, was soothing, as were the prayers that were familiar to most there. A specific hymn reached my heart, since it was one that we sang at my ordination from The New Seminary, as an interfaith minister in 1999; called Here I Am, Lord. The service ended with the singing of Let There Be Peace On Earth. My experience of Ralph was that although he was not an overtly religious man, he did seem to be a peaceful man.
During the service, I took note of the line of heads from left to right of Barb, her husband Glenn, their son Alex; a student at Ohio State, Cady; my 14 year old God-daughter, Blake, in her first year at Temple University, and 7 year old Darah. The words to the Jim Croce song Time In A Bottle, ran through my head. Wishing I could capture memory and hold it literally, rather than figuratively in my mind. Barb and I met nearly 40 years ago on our competing community swim teams as we sat on the bench waiting to swim our events. We joked that we “swam on different teams together.” Hard to say what brought together a Catholic parochial school educated kid and a Jewish public school kid in such an enduringly bonded friendship. We had swimming, music, being the oldest of two (she has a younger brother and I have a younger sister), feeling a bit weird in a world of ‘normal’ people, in common. We loved singing along to records of musicals. It was she who introduced me to Jesus Christ Superstar and last year we saw the musical Godspell on Broadway. Jewish holidays were spent with my family, Catholic holidays with hers. For a few years, in my late teens, I was in relationship with Paul who went to her Catholic High School. Interesting the trajectory of her life led her to marry a Jewish man, send their children to Hebrew School; the oldest three having become Bar and Bat Mitzvot, the fourth, 5 years off yet. A few years ago, Barb converted to Judaism. As I watched her move through the inevitable doorway to becoming an ‘adult orphan’; her mom died more than 6 years ago, I noticed the same ‘get through it’ energy that I experienced when I crossed that threshold myself two and a half years ago.
It reminded me that ‘everyone is on loan to us’, as I was informed more than 14 years ago, when facing my husband’s death. It brought home ever so clearly that I need not waste time wondering ‘what it’ and instead embrace ‘what is’. In that way I can fully imbibe the sweet contents of each bottle.
If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
Till Eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you
If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you
But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go Through time with
If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you
But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go Through time with
Songwriter(s): Jim Croce Copyright: Denjac Music Company
www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1YxczPEPrs Time In A Bottle by Jim Croce