In conversation recently with a new friend named Ingrid Guthrie, we were musing about an interesting phenomenon. I think of it as the checkers metaphor. You open up the box and take out the folded board and place it between you and the other player. You place your 12 circular pieces, half red, half black and each set up your side. The object of the game is to capture your opponent’s pieces, so that you triumph. It is an exercise in strategy as you attempt to determine where the other person will move their pieces. A bit of mind reading goes on at times. Sometimes you miss the obvious choices that are right in front of you. Sometimes you impulsively move and your piece gets captured as you groan. In the early stages of the game, you can only move in one direction, in diagonal mode to get to your opponent’s side of the board. Another goal is protect your back row, since once the other player lands in an empty space, they get ‘kinged’ or ‘queened’, with a piece placed on top. This new status comes with privilege, as you can now move forward and backward. The game ends when one person either has no more moves to make or all of their pieces are sequestered. Although there is a sense of competition involved, it is still fun.
It got me to thinking that life is like that. We begin with a certain number of opportunities to maneuver through our days on the planet. We have to move from one side of an experience to another, contemplating how to get through it, intuiting how to do so, without getting knocked out the game. We need to ‘earn our chops’ before we have the latitude to move in various directions. One might think of the back row as being an inferior position, but in the game of checkers as is sometimes true in the game of life, it is an enviable place to be.
Although I couldn’t find a song about the game of checkers, I offer you this song by Chubby Checker who I saw perform a few years ago, with a friend who took me to a concert for my birthday. The still vital and highly energetic icon from the 1960’s invited me to dance on stage with him and of course, I did.
The Muse has been my long time companion, play buddy, inspiration and at times persistent lover. This Spirit of Creativity has kept me company for as long as I can recall, even as far back as childhood when It had me concocting whimsical stories that were baked in my all too vivid imagination. It sometimes awakens me in the middle of night to download ideas it calls forth and I am helpless to resist.
Today, I was listening to an interview on World Cafe on WXPN between David Dye and musician Ray LaMontagne. His new CD is called Ouroboros. I looked up the origin of the word and this is what I discovered: An Ouroboros is an infinity symbol that is representative of a snake swallowing its tail. No beginning. No end. Life and death in one. Impermanence.
During their conversation, Ray was describing what creativity was for him. He makes himself available to what he calls, “The creative pull. Imagine that Peter Pan is The Muse and he comes tapping on the window and you let him in and he wants to play hide and seek and you say, ‘I want to play checkers,’ and he will go away and not come back for 10 or 20 years. So, I just follow it however playful and mischievous it wants to be.”
Yes, Ray. Me too. I often do automatic writing and allow the words to work me, like I allow music to dance me. My favorite type of writing is like that. While there are some articles I write that are research based and more cerebral, I am tickled sky blue pink with a yellow border, by those which beckon me with come hither fingers that usher me beyond my limiting fears that question, “What will people think if I write about intimately personal feelings?” The truth is, most are touched by that vulnerability and it gives them permission to do that too. Joyful and sacred work.
It brings to mind the story that Elizabeth Gilbert shared about being the servant of the creation, rather than the other way around. She tells the tale of singer songwriter Tom Waits’ encounter with The Muse while on the LA Freeway.
“He heard a little tiny trace of a beautiful melody, and he panicked because he didn’t have his waterproof paper, and he didn’t have his tape recorder, and he didn’t have a pen, he didn’t have a pencil — he had no way to get it, and he thought, “How am I going to catch this song?” And he started to have all that old panic and anxiety that artists have about feeling like you’re going to miss something, and then he just slowed down and he looked up at the sky, and he looked up and he said, “Excuse me, can you not see that I’m driving? If you’re serious about wanting to exist, come back and see me in the studio. I spend six hours a day there, you know where to find me, at my piano. Otherwise, go bother somebody else. Go bother Leonard Cohen.”
I often wonder if he ever created that song or it was given to Leonard Cohen.
I have ideas that are as fleeting as a dandelion puff. I can’t count the number of times I have assured myself that I would remember a writing prompt that shows up as a wisp of an idea and then it has drifted from my middle aged mind. Even if I jot down or record the idea, I can stretch it out from that point and embellish it with feathers and flowers or deck it out with a wide brim fedora, tipped down over my eyes so as to look sophisticated when I really want to hide behind it.
Tonight when I sleep, I invite my playmate to whisper ideas in my waiting ear so that I can indulge in creative play in the morning.
I said Kaddish for my father last night as today honors the 8th anniversary of his passing. Hard to imagine that he has been off the planet that long. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was driving on a major highway and got the call that I needed to hightail it down to Ft. Lauderdale where he and my mother were living. In panic mode, I couldn’t event think about booking a flight to head south. I called a friend and he talked me through remaining as calm as possible and if memory serves, he gave me some ideas. After the call, I saw a car in front of me with the letters LVMYDTR. I see messages everywhere (how do you translate it?) and knew he was speaking to me with that one. I then called my cousin Jody who accompanied me to Florida. I kept communing with my dad in my head. He had Parkinson’s Disease and was on hospice. A few months earlier, he was in the hospital and I asked him “Are you checking out before Mommy can?” He said he was, adding, “I couldn’t live a day without your mother.” At that point, he meant it on both a physical and emotional level. They were true soul mates. In many ways, I am grateful that he died first, since, if not, I would have had two funerals back to back. He lived a few more months and with the help of hospice, a live in caregiver, my mom and my sister, who visited for a month with her four legged kiddo Snoopy (a poodle who became my dad’s stalwart companion), he had was well tended to.
Jody and I arrived four hours before he made his transition. We prayed with him, I read to him from a book I had given him that had non traditional Jewish prayers and blessings in it. He had asked for it to be placed in his casket when his time came. We told we loved him, kissed him, stroked his forehead, held his hand and he passed peacefully.
My mom joined him 2 1/2 years later and I know that they are celebrating their new life in whatever form it is. I commune with them often and take comfort in some of his words of wisdom. Some of you have heard me share them.
“They put their pants on one leg at a time just like you do.” “Your life is in the hands of any fool that makes you lose your temper.” “If that’s the worst thing that ever happens to you, you’ll be alright.” “I love you up to the sky!” and in the midst of adolescent head butting, he would end the argument with, “As long as we love each other.”
He joins me at the gym (one of his favorite places as a gym rat) and keeps me keepin’ on there when I feel like quitting. I can hear his gravely South Philly voice encouraging me, “Come on, Doll Baby, you can do it. One more rep. Five more minutes.” And so I do it.
Would love to receive a message from him today. Will remain open to it.
I love you, Daddy, to the moon and back~
I lit a white, glass enclosed candle, and placed it on a trivet that my mom had made in ceramics class, embellished with a butterfly that became her symbol when she passed as I offer up the prayer, which in Hebrew means ‘sanctification’ and makes no mention of the word death, but instead acknowledges that events are in Divine Order and Spirit is running the show.
“Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.”
|Mourner’s Kaddish in Phonetic Hebrew:|
b’al-ma di-v’ra chi-ru-tei, v’yam-lich mal-chu-tei
uv’chai-yei d’chol-beit Yis-ra-eil,
ba-a-ga-la u-viz-man ka-riv,
Y’hei sh’mei ra-ba m’va-rach
l’a-lam ul’al-mei al-ma-ya.
v’yit-pa-ar v’yit-ro-mam v’yit-na-sei,
v’yit-ha-dar v’yit-a-leh v’yit-ha-lal, sh’mei d’ku-d’sha, b’rich hu,
l’ei-la min kol bir-cha-ta v’shi-ra-ta,
tush-b’cha-ta v’ne-che-ma-ta, da-a-mi-ran b’al-ma,
Y’hei sh’la-ma ra-ba min sh’ma-ya,
v’cha-yim, a-lei-nu v’al kol-Yis-ra-eil,
O-seh sha-lom bim-ro-mav,
hu ya-a-seh sha-lom a-lei-nu v’al kol-Yis-ra-eil,
One value that I hold dear in any relationship, whether it is family, friendship, romantic or business, is in this question, ‘what can I be counted on to do?’ Too often, relationships are lopsided and disjointed, in part because we aren’t clear about our expectations for ourselves and the folks with whom we interact.
Here’s what I came up with as I take my own inventory:
To be available as support.
To listen with as open mind and heart as I can.
To offer the best of myself.
To share ideas and resources.
To be on time for appointments, unless I renegotiate.
To follow through on agreements. (See #5 above)
To tell those in my life how I feel about them, knowing that the chance may not come again.
To speak up if I witness bullying or other unfair treatment and intervene if someone is being abused.
To spread ‘good gossip’ about people I know who are putting their work out into the world.
To tell people I am proud of their accomplishments, since event the most successful people sometimes feel like they operate in a vacuum.
To see the highest in others, even if they may act in un-skillful ways.
To be open to hearing what others have to say, even if I don’t particularly like it.
To be a fun friend.
To be a safe place to land for friends in free fall and help them adjust their wings.
To be reliable.
To go for a win-win.
To acknowledge my role in any interactions, knowing that every relationship is 100/100.
To sit explore options and possibilities, rather than throwing up walls and blocks.
To deliver more than I promise.
To be easy to work with.
To meet deadlines.
To be be honest if I think someone is doing something harmful.
To love with my whole heart.
Knowing that I am a work in progress.
I ask that same thing of others in my life. What can you be counted on for?