The Last Day

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When I was fifteen, a clever boy was killed. His name was Graham. He was smart, and funny, and creative. And would have grown into a fine, young man. On his way to school, so the story goes (because schools are rife with rumor), he crouched down to tie his shoelace at the side of the road and failed to look either way when he was done and ready to cross. He was hit by a car. Not far from his home. He survived on life support for a few days. Our year (grade) was quietly a-babble with speculation; teenagers wondering, simmering, huddled in groups sharing what little they had gleaned from this person or that person who knew him, or knew the family.

Then the day arrived when we were told, finally, concretely, that Graham had passed.

For most of us it was new territory. Certainly, some had felt the brush of loss and death with an elderly family member, or a pet and possibly, a few had had more intimate experiences. But, as a collective we had never lost one of our own. It was as if someone had detonated a silent bomb and we were left reeling, flailing in the aftershock.

I will never forget the day that our year, the whole year, all roughly 250 of us, walked to the village church from school. It was such a mark of respect, and love for Graham, to all go together. What a sight we must have been to anyone driving by on Church Hill; a maroon snake with white shirts, white socks and ties fluttering. Personally, and I have since discovered that this is common, I felt a mild hysteria, and couldn’t suppress several giggles during the route. But, once inside that little church, I cried.  I sat next to Nicola, Jo and Sandra and we all wept. I still remember when his coffin was carried down the aisle; it seemed unreal, unfathomable to us all.53457896543

The next day, a few of us sat on a back field with a very cool music teacher whose name I completely forget. He played his guitar and tried to help us be at peace with our feelings. He said, and I recall this clearly even if not his name: “A funeral is like a full stop to the whole thing.”

Today was my friend Ken’s Full Stop Day. There’s been some time since the day he died until now, and in that time, emotions evened out and waters calmed. Today, I have opened myself to mourning one more time, allowed the melancholia to sift around, not in judgment or battle, just letting it be what it needs to be.

Tomorrow is a new day. Profoundly, Ken’s death has shown me what is most important to me and as my life moves on, I tuck him away in my heart (which he never really left) and make a heartfelt vow to treasure more of the souls I love.

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Sometimes I believe I hate you.

At this time of physical low, when I feel torn between leaving my work early to go to bed, and call off rehearsals in favor of tea, blankets, my family and couch, I am prompted by an inner voice to remember the reasons for feeling so great and light in recent weeks. It’s a natural part of living this life that you experience the tos and fros but it’s the manner in which you allow it to happen that makes it a good or bad experience. For instance, you could wail like a banshee and feel tense or you could close your eyes and let your soul waft around, dipping into the highs, the lows, and all the places in between. Of course, some midway point between banshee and ragdoll seems to be the norm.

Recently I took a step forward in healing, and in forgiving myself. In so doing, there became an opening of the heart toward certain circumstances. This situation is far from being healed or on solid ground and it doesn’t take but a hiccup for it to cause distress. There is a connecting thread that binds me to this; barely seen but its presence colludes with the mind to seek out any news. This causes thoughts and emotions to furl up the beach like an incoming tide to wash away whatever work I had done to smooth things over.

In my Warrior training, I have become more aware of thought so instead of pushing away these needling contemplations, I imagine opening a door. And, like Buddha to Mara, I invite them in and make them welcome. This is not to say that I engage in their frivolous, flighty ways; I just allow them space and perhaps a cup of tea. In my imagination, they are gobsmacked and don’t know what to do; with no mental wall to push against, they have no will to fight, and fade away.

I must remember always, and moreso when I’m feeling under the weather (because that’s such a vulnerable state) that whatever I read or see or hear or imagine is not truth. And that I really don’t hate you.

Because the only truth that matters is my own.

“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.” Ruiz

Softly, Softly…

hard softSometimes when you’re lying in bed on whatever days that are yours to sleep in, between sleeping and waking, the mind draws itself into awareness. Done are the crazy roadtrips of the night; the events that make no sense and wisp away into the morning, or perhaps, like me, remnants remain for you to gnaw over. You are content and warm under the covers; floppy, sleepy. But the mind rubs its hands together, ready to take full advantage of your drowse. Little does it know that by opening up a can of worms, it could be presenting a moment of healing.

It was yesterday morning, the kids were home from school for yet another snow day which meant I had to stay home too. I had the extra hour or so in bed, and in my doze, yet with no will to do so, I cycled back to the summer of 2011. I’ve gone there before, drawn by how I felt about myself and how (I can see now) that was projected onto a woman I called my nemesis but who was probably a very nice person.

We still had our lovely restaurant and our kids went to a private school but beneath it all, our family writhed like chained prisoners. Ultimately, our efforts would prove fruitless but until the day of release, we were bound to keep trudging around on the wheel, grinding away, going nowhere. On a spiritual level, I was nowhere near the place I am today; whatever light that shone inside was shrouded in jealousy, fear, judgment, anger, and hatred. I judged myself against other people. And the prettier, the thinner, the richer they were, the more I could beat myself up.

My kids’ school, in particular my son’s grade, decided to hold their ‘Back to School’ parent gathering on the patio of our place. My husband and I were honored but nervous, and I recall, as I was deciding on what to wear from my closet of painfully old clothes, wondering what this other woman, this “nemesis” would be wearing, would she be there at all?  It was a pernicious trail of thought; one that led to my choice of the dowdiest outfit I had which inevitably led to feeling frumpy, inadequate, and clumsy which then led to drinking too much at the table shared with the principal and his eye-poppingly skinny wife. I laughed too loud, I broke a glass, it was noticeable. And this woman was there; tall, blonde, very slim, in a lovely figure-hugging dress. She oozed serenity. I had been to her house for a birthday party; it was spacious and organized. She had three kids and she didn’t work and she was living the life I had wanted for my family. I admit that I was so filled with envy, I couldn’t see the good in anyone. I imagined she laughed at me internally; could see through my guise of smiles that covered up the “look at us, we have a restaurant and we’re as good as you but I know really we’re not and you’re so fucking lucky.” 

This was played out to me in its entirety yesterday morning, and I let it do so. This other woman was beautiful and she had a grace about her, no doubt. But I remembered another time after her father had died suddenly. I passed her in school during a parent/teacher evening, and it was obvious she had been crying; her eyes were red and puffy, and if I had wanted to mentally scoff and say “Now she looks like shit!”…I couldn’t. In spite of the green eating away inside, I felt only compassion. I stopped and offered my sympathies. She looked me squarely and sadly in the eyes and thanked me. One soul connecting with another in a time of sorrow.

As I lay there, coming to the conclusion of the playback, the ego wilted a little.  A stronger voice arose uttering the word ‘soften.’ So I did. I allowed myself to view the patio scene from a perspective of compassion, for the frayed person I once was. I saw this other woman not as my nemesis but as a beautiful woman with a lovely family. The memories softened and loosened their grip. I knew that all I had felt and was still feeling on occasion when she came to mind, was my torch to extinguish.

In that moment, with eyes closed, tucked up in bed, I freed myself a little bit more of the hardness around my heart. It helped me soften toward other things too, and I allowed myself to be open in their direction also.

Another step for my little light. I’m so grateful, I could cry.

Friday Fictioneers – Johnathan’s Folly

Photo courtesy:  Douglas M. MacIlroy

Photo courtesy: Douglas M. MacIlroy

Johnathan’s Folly

Word count:  100

He used to say it looked like a robot with iridescent eyes and a yellow coat with the collars upturned. They had giggled, cuddled together, breathing fat balloons of air into the New Year night. A year later, Tina sat on the same bench, heartbroken; Johnathan was up there celebrating with his wife. The symmetry had been an illusion, and her lover had cast aside his folly to live life on a skating rink of lies.

Wretched, sobbing, Tina checked her watch and began the countdown….3, 2, 1…

The explosion rocked the city. No more robot. No more Johnathan.

All The Good Things

I am in the present moment very much lately. I love that. I can look behind me and feel an ache in my heart. I can look ahead and feel the tug of worry in my heart. Mostly I’m right here, right now. Flying, sailing, whatever feeling that comes from going along comfortably, smoothly. I have begun to allow the dark things some room to breathe and exist.  I can have thoughts of anger, resentment, jealousy, wishing a person ill-will and I am more at ease with these things. I know they can’t be true, they are my own issues from *waves hand* events past. They are not truly who I am. I thought I had changed, become a new me but it’s not that; I am growing into the real me. I smile. I am smiling so much lately for no other reason than that.

The questions that live inside still poke for answers, like children not content with the explanation. But I can do nothing for those questions. I am answerless. They niggle a little and if I have occasion to become wrapped up in them, I can still shed tears for them. But I am ‘cleaning up’ as the chakra lady said. It’s just a bit of a big mess that takes a little extra time, is all.

Yoga has a gym-mat-fad feel in the world. However, at home in the privacy of my bedroom, looking out into the fallen-leaved wood with families of deer frolicking around at breakfast, it is a sensual, albeit sometimes strenuous act. I love the feel of going (and pardon my unyogi-like verbiage) from plank, to yoga push up to cobra to downward dog.  It’s effort and gliding, strength and stretching all at once; so satisfying.

mermaid-yoga-kelly-zumberge

The feel of the first sip of hot Earl Grey tea from the ceramic tea thermos that a dear friend recently sent me.  Instant blanket for my insides for cold mornings on busy, inconsiderate roads.

My husband is home for family dinners.  I adore that we all eat together now when for many years, with him as chef for whatever restaurant, it was never possible.  It’s a fun routine accompanied by music, telling of our Highs & Lows, belching, chatter, giggles, and of course some stern words to keep knees down, all four chair legs on the floor, and to stop mouths being stuffed with too big a bite.

Life is truly good. Just a tinge of things past to nudge my heart at some point every day. It’s ok though; without it, I wouldn’t appreciate what I have so I think I can live with the sting.

Now is fine.

I stand in front of the mirror applying make up. I am doing this without thought or feeling; simply doing what I do as moment follows moment. Suddenly, happiness rises up. I am, in that moment the happiest soul I can be. For a few seconds in the gap I see clearly, and I feel joy and gratitude. It is fleeting but its imprint stays with me as my day progresses.

Squabbles between my children, negotiating traffic, obstacles arise throughout but I am flying and smiling, rising above it all. Sure, stuff gets under my skin but there’s always something to bring me back. Some thing that I can do to regroup, to find peace because I’m on a wonderful part of my journey. Nowhere truly special, no vacation, no fabulous happenings…just being here is all it takes.

I wave to the couple moving in across the street. I have been wanting to connect in this small way after I watched their scene unfold last week – she was stressed, he was trying to help. Their neighbor, a young woman, pulled into the parking space next to them and I observed the man look at her a few times in an attempt to establish first contact. But the neighbor utterly ignored them despite the close proximity of all involved. I wondered why. So, I remedied the situation in my own way this morning. They waved and smiled in return. I could tell that my reaching out made them happy and that made me happy too.

Lately, I am doing so very well; my heart is singing. I am humorous and laughing and making others laugh.

Perhaps I have learned to stop fighting certain things. Currently, these things float as if they are lily pads on the surface of a pond. There, I can be curious about them. I think I’m fine with that because these things just can’t be banished no matter how I struggle to fling them away.

Of course, this may change and I may find myself wrestling with them again at some point further down the road.

If so, then that will be then. For now, this is now. And now, I’m doing just fine.

Riding With The Dog

During the recent spell of distraction, I failed to notice the dog named Ego covertly slip a collar around my neck and take me off for a little trip down memory lane, up angry road, through the woods of confusion and on across the meadow sea of resentment.

Old patterns restitched themselves into familiar places and I bounced around in their quilty arms, thinking thoughts which fed the feelings which led to tears.  And on and on.  And all the while, Ego panted happily beside my floppy, unseeing Self.

I began yoga a week or so ago.  I never thought I could be that kind of person; I’ve tried classes and apps and DVD’s over the years but it felt too strenuous; not enough movement for my restless spirit.  I used to find solace on the crossramp with my legs going a million miles an hour to thumping club music.  These days I have found a peace in running too which admittedly is more like Phoebe-running.  Although I do not enjoy getting out of bed at the obscene hour that I do (thanks to husband for that), I do love the misty morning feel, the dark, the cool, the solitude.  No music.  Just me, just my feet, just breathing.  On the days I don’t run, I do yoga.

During my session this morning, I came into an awareness that I had been dragged along of late.  I had been preoccupied with the film I was helping with and instead of living with my heart open and being conscious of thought and of love and space, I had retreated to my old ways.  Certain situations that I know will take years to sit comfortably with, rose up and roared.   I did not fight them, I didn’t observe and let them be.  I ignored them.  And in that rejection, they bred.

Ego yelped when I opened my eyes this morning and stopped; he was still galloping with destinations dark and thorny for me but I took off the collar, wagged my finger at him and turned away.

Ego, exasperated, would say, “how many times do I have to do this?  This back and forth with awareness?” and the answer, with an equal amount of displeasure, would be “who the hell knows?” but that would get me nowhere.

I understand fully that this is what the journey is about.

It’s about the opening and closing of the heart, the learning and learning, the turning away and being sucked into old mental pathways followed by the returning to the self.  The loving openness of each return which holds no judgement or harsh feelings.  And, of being able to sit with whatever is going on, be it joyful or painful.

Tara Brach has said that there is beauty in a heart that is ready for everything.