Thursday, September 30, 2010

Holy Shit, It's the Hokey Pokey

    

     Going to weddings is an exhausting experience. From deciding what to wear, which usually entails questioning the contents of the closet based on what fits, what’s in style and what would be appropriate, to making the nail biter decision of giving cash or buying from a wish list. This is why the big party is such a hellacious drama from beginning to end; with only one shining bright spot, dancing the Hokey Pokey.
     When I was a child the Hokey Pokey was the highlight of all catered events that involved dancing and P.E. class. After learning the steps in school it was mind blowing to show up at a grown up function and perform in a big circle. I can still remember the jiggles of excitement running through me when the DJ would announce the famous song. As those memories fade into my teens and twenties I found it atrocious that anyone would consider making such an ass of themselves in front of a crowd. Have you ever seen a 42 year old mother of 6, in stretchy pants “shaking it all about”? The agony rippled across my perfect size 6 form as I watched the poor woman create a video that I would replay in my head when years later came the time that I was far past svelte and considering jumping onto the Hokey Pokey train. 
     There is a brash, in your face quality to that dance and it signifies to me my current reality. The decision to move through life aware-fully was done when my head was mostly up my ass, because you would have go to sleep one night, get a smack upside the head by the enlightenment fairy and wake up for the decision to be made with all the lights on. Thus, it is impossible to know what you are actually intending to do and how dramatically your life will change. It’s rather hilarious when you stop a moment and think about the process; though that’s pretty much how most momentous turns in our life come.  Remember the night before you had your first kid or the night after you got home from your honeymoon? The phrase, “holy shit” comes to mind.
     As I look back on the steps of opening one window a teeny tiny crack, inching it up ever so slowly, until my house was completely without walls, roof or foundation I am amazed I thought there was a point of no return beyond the first moment of consideration. Once the journey began the road back fell off behind me, there was no possibility except forward. As with the famous dance, you put your whole self in and you shake it all about, you do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around; that’s what it’s all about. I hope the mother of 6 from that long ago wedding is watching and laughing at my own ridiculous jiggly version of the dance.

You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out,
You put your right foot in
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your left foot in,
You put your left foot out,
You put your left foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your right hand in,
You put your right hand out,
You put your right hand in
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your left hand in,
You put your left hand out,
You put your left hand in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your right shoulder in,
You put your right shoulder out,
You put your right shoulder in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your left shoulder in,
You put your left shoulder out,
You put your left shoulder in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your right hip in,
You put your right hip out,
You put your right hip in
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your left hip in,
You put your left hip out,
You put your left hip in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.
You put your whole self in,
You put your whole self out,
You put your whole self in
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sun Kissed Spots



    When I was 14 I knew everything and in many ways I did.  My voice clean and pure, full of riotious indignation over human failures, with secrets I kept from everyone, except me.  Hiding from myself wasn't something I learned how to do until older and smarter.  For 8th grade graduation the students were given an opportunity to make a speech in front of classmates and parents.  In English class the top soliloquies were chosen and pooled together to be voted on by teachers.  My talk-a-thon became one of the chosen on the topic of "individuality".  Friends knew this speech had been a way for me to flip the bird to everyone in school.  Random hierarchies didn't make sense all those years ago and they still don't.  As a collective we have a bubbling up process of popularity structure which begins in grade school.  The kid who blows the biggest nose bubble with milk is famous for obvious reasons being that gross out is worth more than wisdom.  What?!  And yet, we continue to reward the rudest and crudest far more than those that move with beauty and softness.
     What matters as we breathe in and out, walking this existence?  Do fart jokes mean more than the origination of thought?  Does Lindsey Lohan's real life implosion leave a bigger imprint than a 150 year old oak swaying gently in the breeze?  Where will most of our daily thought linger?  When I spoke of individuality at the beastly age of 14, the statement was made that I would live as I wanted, not as the junior high celebrity required.  As with most bitch slap comments, the jumble of words were taken literally by The Universe.
     The night before the big speech I wanted to look amazing for the performance and bought a package of hair streaking dye.  The concept at the time was for hair to look "sun kissed", which seemed to be an inevitability living in Southern California, but in my eyes I had plain old brown hair.  The color instructions required the goo be placed delicately in long strands from the root to the tips.  Between us, my mother and I made one very inept hair stylist and we didn't qualify for being labeled color savvy, which is why when done I looked like a brown leopard with orange spots.  In twenty four hours scheduled to give a speech on individuality.  Which being uncompromising in my beliefs meant I wore a giant hat so my beauty wouldn't detract from the eloquence.
     Every so often during the course of high school I'd run into a classmate who remembered my hair, not the speech. 

     "Did you mean to do those orange spots or did someone do that to you?" 

In other words, was I trying to make a statement.  The speech that day got lost.  For me  because I had yet to know what the words really implied and for the audience, I was just another kid rambling on about the importance of 8th grade and my big floppy hat madly distracting.
     At 14 my voice was clean and pure; my secrets however, unshared.  The individuality I hid with the big hat soon covered by little lies I whispered in my ear, a few dozen garbage bags of hurt and anger and gobs of weight gained after kids were born.  There is wisdom in knowing my truth.  Standing on the stage one hot June afternoon, I began hiding more than secrets, I began hiding who I was.  In the yard a giant oak stands as no tree other than itself, gracing the landscape and my heart with a pure example of individual spirit.  Today, old enough to know better, ready to show my leopard spots to the audience. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Here, What or Why After

                                      





     It's been three years since Bonni Blue officially left the existence we shared.  Writing "officially" is somewhat of a misnomer since she still trots in and out of my daily life, letting those she has known, the power of her love.  If you are not a believer of the here, what or why after, most of this will sound like a bunch of hooey. If you do believe that we all go somewhere after we die, you may still think it's a hoax.  Belief is a big stupid lie to one person and to an other a spiritual truth.
     It took over six months after Bonni died for me to sense her presence when she would show herself.  I have yet to decide if that's because she was giving me time to let go of her form or if I was too emotional to feel or see anything other than grief.  Most pet owners understand the type of loss Bonni's death incurred, for those who don't I'll try to explain.  Before we hit the fertility jackpot of twins we found Bonni at the Baltimore animal shelter and she filled all our empty spaces.  I understand when people say that animals aren't the same as humans, because they have some things we don't.  There are trainers who think the sole motivating factor for a dog showing affection for an owner is the possibility of food and shelter.  But looking at dogs as parasites is missing an important point.  Volunteering at an animal shelter, I have found dogs to have a capacity for love we humans find magnificently difficult.  A dog will love you even if you stop feeding him, make him sleep out in the rain and even if you smack him with a 2 by 4.  In truth, a dog will lick your hand while you give her the injection that will put her to death.  This last part I know from personal experience.  Bonni showed me true love and I have committed the rest of my life to loving as she loved.  I hope my best can match hers.
     It crops up unexpectedly, the smell of dog poop.  My love teacher shows her ghost self with the smell of shit.  The fumes of a big pile representing a beautiful spirit is irony at its best.  I'll be out bike riding down a long empty path or through an asphalt parking lot and the perfume of excrement will envelop me, traveling with my two wheeler a half mile or so, reaching into my smell memory until I find Bonni.  Incredibly the vapor of dog poop will transpire in a vacuum sealed auto barreling down the highway accompanied by "Soul Sister" on the radio.  This song by Train appears to be my dog sister's way of communicating with me if the pungent smell doesn't grab my attention. 
     Were these experiences only to happen to me, I would guess that the time was approaching for checking myself into crazy town.  But my formerly alive pet reaches out via poop odor with a wide range of my acquaintances including my husband, a book club friend and a couple of my clients who have shared surprising stories of the smell during a session or on their way home from my office.  Usually Bonni visits me during periods of of emotional chaos; when it seems like I'm grasping at tenuously thin fibers to hang onto my balance or when I question all that IS.
     Bonni Blue appears from time to time to remind me of the love she offered for free.  She is a talisman of the spiritual root at the core of my life.  This magnificent dog showed me the path to God.  Some would believe that touting a dog as a method to find heaven is sacrilege.  I think whatever opens the window to the other side is a blessing.  Was she just a dog?  Am I just a human?  We are many things she and I, some as simple as what we look like and others are beneath the surface shimmering in the light.
    On this, another anniversary of Bonni's death, I celebrate her humor, her stead fasted friendship, her endless supply of love.  I celebrate her spirit. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Found and Lost Again


                                          Photo by Dakota www.flickr.com/photos/dakota3507


In the weeks following September 11th, we found a gift amongst us.  The special treasure was empathy.  On the days I headed down the aisle at the grocery store people would smile and nod, occasionally adding a "hi there" or "have good day".  In the parking lot there was a surprising dose of grace and courtesy; road rage was barely discernible on the highways.  We were collectively grieving our loss of the people most of us had not known personally, as well as a bit of our naivete.  At most wakes and funerals there is a level of politeness not afforded most other gatherings.  I've heard of the occasional angry mosh at the death of a loved one, but for the most part we humans try to maintain our dignity in the company of great loss.  Death cobbles us together in a pudding of sadness  pain and love.

I remember commenting to anyone who would listen, that this gift of kindness would bring one positive out of the overwhelming hell the visual of the planes had created.  How amazing it would have been if the tragedy could have taught us something lasting and beautiful.  Those moments of humanity, the outpouring of support and love from across the world, the stunning acts of bravery during the rescue of the survivors, were all examples of how the terrorists may knock buildings and people down, but they would never dim the light of our collective spirit.

Unfortunately as the shock began to subside anger overtook the empathetic viewpoint and revenge became a new kind of love.  It was honorable to  imprison teenagers without charges and desecrate another person's holy place of worship in the name of the souls who unwillingly gave their lives to another person's fanaticism.

Fear, rage and hatred leave no room for love, empathy and compassion.  In the few religions I have spent a bit of time studying, none of them have pushed the "hang 'em high" mantra.  Jesus didn't ask that his followers seek out and kill his murderers.  His refrain, "They know not what they do" follows me now when I remember the day this all began, as well as all the ugliness that has followed.  We found a pearl amongst the ashes, may  we clean the grime from it's beautiful luster and teach ourselves how to forgive in the face of great adversity.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Morning the Planes Crashed

                                                           



The morning the planes crashed into The World Trade Center I was driving my car traveling to see my $150 friend.  My kids were safely in school, I had the radio and cell phone off trying to place myself in a quiet serene space, preparing for whatever emotional upheaval may show itself in the presence of a trained professional.  When I arrived at Dr. D's the staff was watching their computers for updates and filled me in on what little was known at the time.  A plane had crashed into one of the towers and at that moment it appeared to be an accident.  A few hours later it would become apparent that much more was going on than wind sheers and pilot error.  

By the time my children arrived home from school, the world in which we lived had turned upside down from what it had been when they were eating toast for breakfast.  Fear had overtaken our home like the giant goober from the 1960's movie "The Blob".  A few days later a massive sonic boom rattled our home to it's foundation after jets were flown out quickly on a rapid response mission due to a pilot from a private plane neglecting to answer a radio call.  My high octane anxiety knew that this was the follow up nuclear detonation of nearby Chicago.  I frantically ushered the kids into the basement, unable to follow because of a leg cast, while the kids screamed in hysteria in reaction to my unstable emotions. 

The bubbling morass of my fear lingered until I was asked to buy duck tape and plastic wrap.  My breathing slowed and I laughed.  There came a point where the anxiety no longer ruled and I began to think and feel as a person rather than a reaction.  My personal safety had never been in question, the anxiety had been a product of the incomprehensible devastation to the lives of the victims and their families.  There is no quick fix for pain wrought by so many deaths of so many innocents.  Which is why in some ways it is understandable that so little can be agreed upon for the site of those horrifying events.

And yet.  And yet it isn't so understandable.  When an individual or group decides in the name of their God to kill people, there must be some response.  But must the response be one of the same message?  Should the moment after be filled with more anger and  hatred?  What if the site of one of the most brutal killings in our lifetime, was given over to all belief systems?  The empty hole, filled with love, diversity and tolerance, open to all religions, much as our forefathers had dreamed when they came to this country many years ago.  I can envision a place where one may worship and not be censored in that belief or non-belief.  Where better than the place where one group's interpretation of God tried to destroy an other's that the message be of love and acceptance of all faiths.  Religious freedom drove us to populate a wild and untamed land and that same freedom must drive us now.  Our ancestors fought with strength and an unwavering spirit to claim the right to worship as they chose, fear was not their determining factor, nor should it be ours.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Costume Box



As I slept, I dreamed of a play.  There was a large beautiful stage made of polished wood and surrounded by plush red drapes.  I was designing the production, telling my two actors about the story and that they would have large parts in the drama.  The performers were my daughter and her best friend and they were thrilled to be included in the theatrical event.

"We each have a costume box backstage with our name on the outside.  Go through your box and pick out your favorite."  I told the excited young women.  I approached the medium sized vessel with my name written in a lovely script.  Before opening it I pictured amazing gowns with sparkles and dramatic colors housed inside.  Reaching for the first garment I found a dress made with fabric from an outfit my mom had stitched for me when I was 7 or 8.  Just underneath was a short set worn around the age of 4 and the rest were made of cloth from a toy elephant my mom had made and other outfits she had created in place of items we would have gotten from a thrift store, since our finances were pretty constrained during my youth.

Disappointment crowded my thoughts as I heard the two girls giggling with joy over their own costumes found within their boxes.  Growing frustrated I pulled all the clothes out of the container and looked to the bottom for something amazing.  It was empty of anything that would have represented my initial fantasies of bright colors and sparkles.  My costumes had been constructed in my youth, not by me but by my mom.

The dream drifted away and I lay with my eyes closed pondering the message.  The boxes had represented the vision of how we three women perceived ourselves.  Mine had carried a collection of items that were no longer wearable nor reflective of who I am today.  I have become a woman who craves bright colors and sequins.  No, I am not heading towards a career as a drag queen, though a short stint would be a hoot I'm sure.  My spirit, my essence has been erupting out of the facade that had been carefully constructed for decades. 

This person or that had may have said, "I know who YOU are", and been partially accurate in the moment.  But the layers of "truisms" had hidden the actual fact of who I am.  I became a false representation of myself to survive and in most instances I survived well.  So why change my costume?  Because it no longer fits.