Sunday, March 22, 2009

Birthdays and Death

This is a rambling post about nothing, so you have permission to skip it.
Yes, that is a weird title and this is a weird subject, but really, they are one and the same thing.....two sides of the same coin. The minute you're born, you begin the journey toward death. Your dying is inevitable, no one gets out of this life alive....and all the other cliches you know.
I've been thinking about this for several reasons, not the least of which is my own birthday approaching. The sudden death of Natasha Richardson in a freak skiing accident on a beginner's slope, from massive brain trauma, really struck me hard because one minute you're here, the next minute you're not. Josh spoke at his Grandmother's funeral yesterday, so we've had a week of reflection on a life well lived, and we remembered our own parents and their influence on us. This year John will be the age my father was when he died, and we've already had the heart pacemaker scare. In fact, I'm absolutely amazed that anyone lives beyond childhood, when I see how active little toddlers are, and how fast they can get away from you, even when you're watching closely. There are so many things that can go wrong before even one breath goes by, and my worrying mind can imagine any scenario to keep me awake at night. I never worry about my own survival---I only worry about my loved ones, which I realize is very selfish. I am the one who would suffer if anything happened to someone I love, because I would be the one left behind to try to make sense of this life, which mostly doesn't make sense to me. At my age (social security payments are starting), I'm still trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm growing older but not up, as the Jimmy Buffett song says. I have read every self-help book and philosophy, and yes, the religious books too. I know how to breathe right. I know how to meditate. I know how to stay in the present moment. I know how to keep my mind neutral or even quiet. I know how to teach, facilitate, support, lead, follow, regurgitate information, problem-solve, remember, reinvent, energize, relax, change, stay consistent, and every other polar opposite needed. I know how to BE, how to DO, how to HAVE. And I continue to wonder WHY, which is the only question that never has a satisfactory answer----the answer always is "BECAUSE." So, what's the point? I think my favorite Brian Andreas' Story People card says,
"There are things you do because they feel right &
they may make no sense & they may make no money &
it may be the real reason we are here; to love each other &
to eat each other's cooking & say it was good."
So where does all of this rambling end up? I think the point of the card is to appreciate the people in your life right this minute, because we don't know how long they're going to be with us. We don't have a guarantee at all that anyone is going to wake up tomorrow morning and finish the day. We cannot see the future and who will be there for us. We really only have this minute, and we don't know when we will be **POOF** gone in an instant, or when someone we love will be **POOF** gone, and we forgot to tell them thanks, or I love you, or even something as simple as I'm glad you're my friend...I'm glad you're in my life. So, in honor of my birthday, I want to say I LOVE YOU, THANKS FOR BEING IN MY LIFE, I LOVE YOUR COOKING, I LOVE YOUR BLOGS AND YOUR GIFTS AND TALENTS, I LOVE YOUR SMILES AND HUGS, I LOVE YOUR PHONE CALLS, I LOVE YOUR CHILDREN.
If you don't know that, then my life has no purpose.
Happy Birthday to me.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pure poetry

Anyone who knows me well, knows how much I love poetry. The interesting thing to me is that this is something I didn't inherit, didn't get by parental influence or even from peer pressure or friends. Poetry is uniquely me and mine. I do not know from where the love of it came, except from the core of my real self. I find it soothing, enlightening, uplifting and inspiring. I love the beauty of the words. I love the painting of a work of art through beautiful phrases. I collect poems like I collect rocks, or quotes. It must also be connected to my love of reading and books, and while I can recycle a good novel, or let it go, or loan it out, I don't seem to be able to let go of my poetry books. They're the only books I reread. So, in honor of my love of poetry, I'm printing a new discovery of an old poem.

by Rainier Maria Rilke
Translated by Robert Bly

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far off fields say things
I can't bear without a friend,
I can't love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
and landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we fight is so small!
What struggles with us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the angel, who appeared
to the wrestler in the Old Testament:
When the wrestler's sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.
Whoever was beaten by this Angel,
(who often simply declined the fight),
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.

Winning does not tempt that one.
This is how he grows: by being defeated,
decisively, by constantly greater beings.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Recession Decession Depression

A trip down memory lane, but they're not my memories. As the economy is in collapse, and no one really knows what's going to happen next, I've been pondering the lives of my parents. John was born in 1905, Ethel in 1910. Mom was 23 when they married, Dad was 28. During the big depression in the 30's, when no jobs were available, only one member of the household could hold a job. Mom had a great job at Beneficial Life Insurance Company, Dad drove a taxi and earned about $15.00 a month, so they drove to Grantsville to get married and didn't tell anyone, because one of them would have lost his/her job, most likely my mother, who earned a bit more than my dad. No one could afford housing, so Mom and Dad lived with my aunt and uncle, and they all shared the rent. Of course, my grandfather also ran the candy company, and the family had to help out there as well. My Aunt Ruth had been a sickly fragile child who had Rheumatic Fever, which left her with a weakened heart. She worked the candy counter at Keith O' Brien's downtown. My mom would leave Beneficial Life on her lunch hour to work the candy counter so my Aunt Ruth could have a lunch break. Everyone pulled together to help each other, because everyone was in the same economic crisis. They shared, they learned to make do, they learned how to save, how to decide priorities, what was important, and what their values needed to be to survive, to make sure their loved ones survived.
Here in America, I think we got used to excess, wealth and abundance, greed and corruption. Many of us have been wondering how long things could go on the way they were, and now we see some of the results of our misplaced priorities. We don't know how long things are going to go downhill, and we don't know what personal sacrifices we are going to have to make. Once again, we'll need to dig down and find our values, make decisions based on what is right and how we can help. We'll have the human tendency to cry "Foul", so see that life is not fair. But in the end, it all comes down to wanting our families to be safe and warm, with enough food to eat, and a roof over our heads. In the Great Depression, those things might even have been luxuries. This is the "Rainy Day" we've all been warned about. We don't know when the sun is coming out again, but we know it is there, overhead, even if we can't see it. We know that "This too shall pass". And maybe in the process we will remember compassion and kindness, and we'll remember what is truly important. Maybe we'll remember that people are more important than things.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

nothin' special

Forgive the lack of new blogging....I just don't seem to be inspired enough to think what I write is important. I do have a funny story, though, which is worth repeating. It made me laugh out loud.
Today Allison picked Jonas up from preschool, and he handed her a wonderful picture he had drawn and colored. A terrific drawing, appropriate for March and St. Patrick's Day, of a little man dressed in green, complete with whiskers, top hat, and black boots. When Allison saw it, she said, "Wow, Jonas, what a great leprechaun you drew!" Jonas replied, "It's not a leprechaun. It's a paleontologist."