A Spirit By Any Other Name

Elohim, Adonai

Jehovah and Allah

Akal Purakh, Father, Peace

Krishna and Zeus

God, Goddess, Universe, Science

The Force, The Love and The Light…

See It in others.

Find It in ourselves.

This is the day your Lord has made.

Named or nameless.

Formed or Formless.

All together or all One.

Let us rejoice and be glad.

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A Quick Glance of London

So, after the craziness of the last few months, i decided i needed a treat and took a long weekend away. I had never been in London except on layover, and it was closer and cheaper than, say, Istanbul or some of the other destinations on my bucket list, so that was where i headed.

First off, let me say that it was not what i expected. Or, rather, the vision in my head, largely painted by J K Rowling and Benny Hill, was not exactly accurate.

First off, there is NOT a tea shop on every corner. In fact, i never was able to have myself a good high tea because there was never a shop around when it was time. In fact, there weren’t many classically British places to eat at all. There were plenty of Indian, Thai, Italian, Spanish, Lebanese, Greek, … With the occasional confetti of fish and chip shops. No glut of pastie purveyors. No banger carts on the street corners. No spotted dicks laid out on paper doilies in glass patisserie windows.

The flipside to the above is that London truly IS an international city. People of all colors, aesthetics, walks of life, and speaking every language known to man. Groups of young adults that resemble a United Nations committee laughing together on the train. Pairs of silver-aged women with more style than any Parisian fashion model, and punk colored hair that would make the Ramones proud, walking in and out of vintage shops. Strikingly regal men with luscious, dark skin and Savile Row suits discussing the engagement of Prince Harry and the potential economic repercussions of Brexit.  The variety of humanity contained there is unparalleled. New York may be a melting pot, but it has nothing on the cottage pie that is London.

Of course, all those delightfully international people shoved into one city means that it is never quiet. I mean, we all know a city never sleeps, but London never even takes a breath!  For those of us who are  a bit hard of hearing, the din becomes like a dull ache. More than once, i found myself pulling up the most boring of meditation tracks on my computer just to gently wean myself off the grinding, metallic discordance. Relief came for real, tho, when i got to visit the white cliffs of Dover. No picture i have ever seen did justice to the expanse and serenity. And brilliance… They really are white. And the total coolness of looking across the bay to France! I do think i could easily have stayed in Dover and done a day trip to the city (Ok, maybe 2 days… there is so much to see!) instead of the other way around. The bliss and beauty that is those cliffs had me easily enamored.

Another thing that i fell in love with on this trip was the history. When home here in Tennessee, i often remark that i miss the oldness, the antique, of my New England heritage. Buildings and monuments that have been there since the beginning of our country. And, indeed, i do still love that. But in London, those buildings and monuments… They tell stories of spirits that were long since dead before my country was even a country. How cool is that? If the walls of Westminster Abbey could talk, imagine the stories they could tell! Imagine the sights and sounds and scents (Pre-Victorian era hygiene must have left some pretty vibrant odors….) All the voices of eras past swirling in the most magnificent pieces of architecture. For people who love history, London is dessert. With fudge sauce and whipped cream.

At the Tower of London, i was more than awed by the Crown Jewels. Mostly because i took it to mean a crown with jewels on it. I had no idea that there were many crowns. And sceptres. And swords. All gilded and encrusted. Heavy velvet robes with ornate detailing. (I admit, i did wonder after seeing all this how uncomfortable it must be to wear something so obviously heavy for hours at a time. Give the queen her crown and a robe and a pair of heels to boot, and i’d imagine she needed a serious massage and a painkiller for the night!) The collection of armor was pretty cool as well. We all know that people come in many different shapes and sizes… But seeing that laid out in metal makes it even more obvious. Big suits, little suits, wide suits, skinny suits… Not to mention the codpieces! (I heard more than one woman discussing the significance of the last bit…)  Sarcophagi of bodies found under the tower stairs. Bits of creepiness everywhere you looked inside. And outside, the vision of London Bridge (Which did not, in fact, appear to be falling down.) I saw many other sights as well: Some just because it was expected, others because they spoke to me.

I had a great time spending a day seeking out some things that were iconic to my weedlings’ childhoods. The obvious first stop was Paddington station. I was slightly disappointed that there was no bear. It would be perfect if there were a statue or something. But, alas, not at the moment. So then i was off to the market. A very specific market. One that had me singing in the legendary David Tomlinson’s voice. “Portobello Road, Portobello Road… Street where the riches of ages are stowed.” I didn’t find any riches, per se, but i did find a shop that sold the most kickass Harris tweed tailed waistcoats and capes. (Unfortunately, it required riches to buy one.) And as dorky as it sounds, i also found a stand that had Cox apples. I can attest to the fact that, as epicures have written, it absolutely is the best apple to eat out of hand. Like, ambrosia good. Straight from heaven. Ooooohhhhhh, that apple!…

Anyway, so i got pictures at Portobello Road, and then headed to another Disney destination. This one important because it was the scene of the Sherman brothers’ magnum opus. (Also, coincidentally, the inimitable Jane Darwell’s final film scene.) If you need another hint, i was looking for a tuppence bag of birdseed. Yup, you guessed it… St Paul’s cathedral. And tho it was a little smaller than it looked in the movie, it nearly brought me to tears. Have you ever been some place that made a special part of your heart feel home? Ya. That feeling. That is St Paul’s. I’m not sure if it’s just memories of Mary Poppins, the exquisite perfection of Feed The Birds, or something inherent in the structure itself; but whatever it is, you can’t ignore it. It penetrates.

One final note: There was one thing that became apparent almost immediately that affected not only my vacation, but the way i try to look at life… It literally started on the train ride from Heathrow. All of us packed tight like sardines. People should be getting to meet and talk with all the people around them. Instead, everyone was plugged into their phones and tablets. The train rattled thru most of the city, iconic landmarks in full view, and no one looked up. I promised myself then and there that i wouldn’t see London thru my phone. I would enjoy the moments, not just take pictures. It was hard to explain to people who wondered why i didn’t have more photos from my trip, but i am still glad that i spent more time actually looking and feeling and absorbing than framing the perfect photo. I may never be a big city girl. I may not have enjoyed everything that London is. But i did experience it as thoroughly as i could. And the reminder of how good that feels made it well worth the trip.

The Doctor Will See You Now.

“What do you want?” She asks.

“What do you want?”

I want to avoid the question.

My answers contradict logic and progress

and each other.

They make no sense,

even to me,

and it would be all i could do to get them out of my mouth

without expelling all the conflicting emotions

along with my antithetic words.

In my mind, i beg to recuse myself,

but She will not allow it.

 

“What do you want?” She asks.

“What do you want?”

I want what i shouldn’t admit.

I want to be left alone,

to sleep and rest and fade into

oblivion.

Nothingness engulfing me like

the plushest blanket.

Sadness, worry, and fear,

leaving me with the last of my breath as

the universe swallows me

whole.

Not as death, but

rebirth.

 

“What do you want?” She asks.

“What do you want?”

I want what i cannot have.

The chance to go back in time

and fix mistakes.

Mend fences before they

fall to the ground.

Keep bridges from burning under the flames

of angry words.

Keep scars from forming

under the red-hot branding irons

of society’s moral cowboys and

my own putrid thoughts.

To stop it all before it begins.

 

“What do you want?” She asks.

“What do you want?”

I want what i am ashamed to admit,

embarrassed to say aloud.

The weakness of wanting,

needing,

to be loved.

No caveats, no limits.

No reminders of human

failures

or failings

or future expectations.

Pure and undiluted.

In spite it all.

In spite of me.

The type of agape, of caritas, of grace,

that has the loftiness of fairy wings,

and is about as likely to be

real.

 

“What do you want?” She asks.

“What do you want?”

I want everything and nothing.

I want to give up.

I want to give in.

I want to give ’em hell.

I want it all or

i want to throw it all in the air and

watch it fall to the ground.

Shattering into a thousand sparkling pieces,

each more beautiful than it was when

it was whole.

The stuff of children’s legends and

Hallmark cards.

Pure fantasy.

 

“What do you want?” She asks.

“What do you want?”

 

What do i want?

 

“I want, ” I reply.

“And it is more than i can bear.”

 

Rafiki and Einstein

One of my besties has a good friend who is in the midst of dying. At our age, though not a common thing yet, we will see it more and more. But like so much of getting older, there is no book that tells us how to deal with it.

Family is gathered close around her friend, as well they should be, keeping outsiders, germs, and stresses away from their cherished member as she makes the transition. But my bestie is one of those who absorbs people into her soul more than most. She wants – needs – to touch. It’s visceral for her, a primal need since watching her own mother take the journey when we were in our adolescence. She doesn’t want to intrude. Doesn’t even have to actually see her. Just wants her to know that there are hands and hearts along the bridge who will give her strength when she needs it. On one level, it is a gesture of love and friendship. On another, it is a grasp at a connection with the ones who are already on the other side.

We aren’t kids anymore. We understand that life as we know it comes to an end. We realize death is part of life. We’ve seen The Lion King. But it is hard to remember that life is a circle when your friend is on the exact opposite side of it.

Even if you were standing next to them, you know you can’t pull them back. It’s their time. God/Goddess/Universe’s choice, not ours, and we are in no position to disagree. We aren’t reaching out to pull them back into the circle permanently… We just want one more minute. One more chance to feel what we felt with them. Love. Friendship. Humanity. And to remind us that we are not permanent. A jumpstart, if you will, to our resolution for living each day to the fullest.

Perhaps that last is the most important.

My Ma died a long time ago. I think of her often, of course, and for many reasons. But more often than not, i am thinking of her because i want to tell her about something. Something i am planning, or doing, or have done, that is benchmark.

Benchmark = Proof that i am really living. 

With the holidays approaching, memories of lost loved ones are, for many of us, closer than any other time of the year. It’s easy for us to get caught up in sadness, loneliness and longing for times and people since passed. To get out of it, i sometimes talk to those memories. Like, “He Ma, do you see your namesake in there cooking up a storm? Is she amazing, or what?” Or, “Gram, someone just brought in homemade raisin bread to work. Lets toast some and spread it with cream cheese just like you always liked…”

Yes, i talk to dead people. What of it? If Einstein was right (And i dare you to say he wasn’t..) nothing new is ever created. All the energy that ever was is still here – Just in a different form. Who is to say that the energy, the soul plasma, that was our loved ones isn’t all around us all the time? Or that i won’t still be around my loved ones after this pasty, wrinkled, old broad of a body is long since gone? I choose to believe that the best part of us lingers, like a faint whiff of Shalimar after the theater closes, for anyone who chooses to breathe it in and remember.

Yes, i talk to dead people and i am a hopeless, romantic dork. So sue me.

Regardless, as the insanity of the holidays approaches, and the memories come flooding in… Or if you are someone who must face a loved one becoming a memory amidst all the merriment… Breathe them in. Talk with them. Talk about them to others. Bring them into moments where you are truly living. Keep it all alive so that they may continue being relevent. In a way, become legend. Don’t let the laws of biology stop it. Our physical time on this Earth is fleeting, but our soul can go on forever. Just ask my friend, Albert. He is an expert on energy. And really, isn’t that all we humans are?

The System Went Live, And All I Got Was This Pay Check

It has been a hell of a couple of weeks.

The new career culminated in a system GoLive that was on par with the day after a county fair chili eating contest. In other words, a shit show. Apparently, that is normal. Being a clinical medical person up til now, i am not used to that. Because we had patients on the line, it wasn’t a shit show unless the patient actually, you know, shit. Basically, no matter how bad things got with computer issues or patient condition, you were running on adrenaline. You’d adjust and move on, with no time to think about it til later.

Without a patient to distract my brain squirrels, the big day was a lot different than a patient with an active heart attack. First off, instead of adrenaline, i was running on string cheese and hummus… Neither of which are a good idea in excessive quantity. Second, it was hard to drum up appropriate panic for the user who couldn’t find the exact study they wanted because it was listed under “cardiac” and not “heart”. (Most “critical issues” actually were, but sometimes these eye-roll kinds slip thru, and you have to hope against hope that the user is just having an off day.) Third, the level of noise when you cram nearly 300 people into a giant cubby farm meant for 125 is enough to disturb the zen of the Dalai Lama himself. Fourth, it is a painful irony that when you most need a day off / a walk in the woods / a visit with your therapist, you don’t have time for it.

I was cranky. I was frustrated. I was exhausted. And i lost count of how many times i talked myself out of ceremoniously exiting the building with a straight back and a one fingered salute on each hand.

But even in the midst of all that, there were moments that warmed my soul.

I came home one evening to find that my oldest weedling had folded the clothes in my dryer, even knowing that i am level 10 particular about laundry. I could tell she worked hard to mimic my OCD folding requirements. And i damned near cried when i read the note on top that said, “Love you, Ma. I tried my best.”

My son uttered nary a complaint, and required no extra requests, to get chores done. He even did some of my chores so i could roll into bed when i got home. And he did it all with virtually none of the snarkiness implicit in a 15 year old boy.

I received an after-hours voicemail from a user whom i had helped. It was a genuine and sweet thank you. It’s a simple thing, but the fact that she took the time after her own long workday to make a phone call meant more to me than she could ever know.

Friends and family have been generous with their patience. It isn’t easy to stay connected with someone who is socially running on fumes. But there has been no chiding for non-response. No nagging to answer the phone. Only the random supportive message or funny meme. It helped to know that i was forgiven without question. I couldn’t ask for better people in my circle.

There is still a lot of work to do. But i am better prepared for this than i was for the job in the beginning. I have learned a lot and acquired some great co-workers. And i survived the biggest hurdle of this new career: The not-real-shit show.

As things start to settle down and we can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel, where we get to work normal hours and have a bit of life outside of the cubby farm, I am reminded of something… Tho wading thru the last week felt like The Great Molasses Flood   (It’s a real thing. Click on the link if you don’t believe me) – An onslaught of unexpected stickiness and suffocating waves coming at a fast pace… Setting everyone back in shock and disbelief that this is actually happening for real… It’s everywhere and you can’t escape it… Oh-my-god-does-this-mean-there-won’t-be-any-rum??… Oh no! What a mess!  – In the path of the cleanup, it leaves a lingering sweet scent of a job well done.

Unfortunately, it also leaves sticky spots and bugs.

But at least it ensures continued employment.

Just An Everyday Sunday

Work has been insane, and i needed something that would totally take my attention away from it for a bit. Thankfully, i snagged a couple of great end tables at a yard sale a few weeks ago to team up with my coffee table, and all 3 needed a makeover, so i had something that fit the bill. On advice from The Creative One (My oldest weedling), i decided what i wanted to do and had bookmarked some videos on the technique i was going to try. I went out yesterday morning to get the necessary supplies, and spent a delightful half day sanding and base-coating the pieces.

I was up past midnight last night thinking about the project and how i was going to approach it. I have been mad busy with work lately and haven’t done much creating, so the excitement of a new project was hitting me like the first snowfall of the year. It was right before i shut my eyes that i remembered i was still missing one key ingredient.

So bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning, fresh out of bed, with only a teeth brushing to distinguish me from the living dead, i head out to the dreaded Walmart. I am surprised that i didn’t fall victim to Murphy’s law and run into some stunning love interest while i was looking homeless. That is usually what happens. Not today, tho. I grab what i need and start to head back when i remember that my son had mentioned yesterday that he was craving a bagel.

There happens to be a Dunkin Donuts next to WallyWorld, so i go thru the drive thru, grab us each coffee and bagels and drive back towards the house. I am about 4 blocks away when my son calls…

“Where are you?”

“I’m just around the block. Why?”

“I made you breakfast. I was going to surprise you and brought it to you in bed… But you weren’t there. I got worried.”

I start laughing. “I’m bringing breakfast home as a surprise for you!”

So i get home, and on the porch table is oatmeal and english muffins and limeade. I add the coffee and bagels. We feast and talk.

He tells me he has never been able to figure out what my Spirit Animal is. We agree that my middle weedling has Kermit the Frog for a Spirit Animal, but he says it changes to a honey badger when she gets pissed off. We discuss his grades, and i remind him again that i actually do use Algebra at work (He insists that Algebra was created solely to torture teenagers.) We recount funny family stories. I remind him that he needs to excavate the landfill under his bed. He waxes disdainfully on my preference for cinnamon toothpaste. We marvel at the beautiful cardinals flying thru the yard. We discuss the virtues of Chile versus other South American nations. He surprises me by confessing a hatred of minion memes. I impart a bit of wisdom on the topic of toasters. And he tells me a groaner of a joke…

“Hey Ma, do you know what a Splenda Daddy is?”

“It’s when you want to be a Sugar Daddy but you don’t have the money.”

He does the vaudeville smile&doublewave while the universe decides if it should throw in a “ba-dum tsss” or just let the crickets have it.

I couldn’t help it. I laughed.

All in all, a good morning. My projects are out on the porch drying. My chores are getting done. I’ve got a nice dinner planned. And i’m still smiling over the statistical anomaly that was my son and i getting each other a surprise breakfast.

Sometimes, even the most common of Sundays can be just grand.

 

The Prices of Wisdom

Shout out to my readers in the “I survived a half century” club. If most of the bits below apply to you, i embrace you in sisterhood, and even if we never meet in person, i’ve got your back.

**************************

If you….

Have ever looked at young women with those cute little tattoos on their hip and thought, “Just wait, princess. It’s going to look like a Salvador Dali in 20 years.”

Have been forced to realize that trusting your body not to pass gas in public is on par with trusting a four year-old not to say anything embarrassing at a body-positivity festival.

Know there should be a name for that yoga position, bent over and legs crossed, we take when we sneeze to keep from wetting our pants.

Tho depressing, have accepted the fact that visions of sexy 30 year olds have gone from “fantasy” to “pipe dream.”

Have thought, in the midst of a hot flash, “Wouldn’t it just be The Shit if this were me transforming into a superhero right here in the cereal aisle?”

While reading on the importance of self-breast exam, thought to yourself, “First i have to find them. And then it would be like scooping half-set jello.” (Still worth it, but it can be like trying to contain an oil spill.)

Know exactly what level of lighting it takes to show off your inner radiance.

Self-prescribe a pedicure, decadent lunch, and a few hours of shopping for lipstick and books when you are ready to snap… And realize it is for everyone else’s benefit as much as your own.

Have never spent so much on shoes that were so un-sexy.

Realize that you were ignorant as hell when you said finding your first white hair on your head was horrifying.

Wear less makeup than you used to because the amount of spackle and Bond-O it takes to keep it from settling into your wrinkles became cost prohibitive and was starting to raise eyebrows in the checkout at the hardware store.

Say bikini and brow wax, but mean also toe, nostril, ear, beard, and/or that random little spot on your rib cage.

Know that you could still work it in a nightclub… But you can’t stay up late enough to prove it.

Accept the fact that you are going to cry over inspirational videos, cinematic death scenes, and most well-done public service announcements… And can laugh at yourself for it.

Have ever woken yourself up from a sound sleep because you rolled over onto a runaway body part.

Have removed all the granny-panties from your skivvy drawer, because you realized everything is technically a granny-panty now. No need to buy any specifically for that purpose.

Spend far too much time in front of the mirror, pulling your skin back to see what you would look like if you could afford a face lift.

Have a social media page full of baby animal pictures and silly memes whose sole purpose it to keep you from drinking.

Have ever wondered if God/Goddess/Universe has a crazy sense of humor or was just a sadistic bastard when they decided we should have to fight wrinkles and acne at the same time.

Have occasionally had those moments of wisdom and confidence that almost make all the above worth it.

******************

Love you, friends. Really Really.