Thursday, July 30, 2009

Her Parting Words...

She sat across from me at the table. Tears streaming. Chin trembling. She extended the pointer finger of her right hand towards me, and then as she uttered her final words, she jabbed it adamantly onto the table top.

"That's a lie."

And with that, she was gone.
I knew she was right. It was a lie. It is a lie. There are so many lies.
It didn't matter which specific one she referred to; a lie is a lie.

When I sat up in bed yesterday morning and tried to bring the earlier events of that dream to mind, I couldn't. I tried to remember what her face looked like, but I couldn't. That dream felt like a direct result of the thinking I had been doing the day before in response to the quote about Scheherazade about cycles that need to be broken. So I did what I always do when my mind and heart start to race: I rushed to my study, pulled out my journal, and began to write.

* What are some lies I need to confront in my life?

- "there isn't enough money or food or time or energy or..."
- "this is really scary and impossible and foolish and ..."
- "I am too good for this..."
- "I am unworthy of this..."
- "This is never going to change, so I may as well give up."
- "All these dreams are a waste of time. This kind of stuff only comes true in the movies."
- Mondo Beyondo is for weirdos and fantasy hunters.

* What are some new ways that I will take on these lies?

- I will admit that they are, indeed, lies.
- I will stop the cycles of doubt and fear and self-pity before they establish momentum. Stop. Sit. Breathe. Breathe again. And again.
* I will learn to say it out loud, just as she did, even if tears fall as I speak: "That's a lie."
- I will ask myself, "Even if this isn't a lie, what's the worst thing that can happen?" I will reassure myself to recognize that "the worst thing" almost never happens. And even if it does, I will be given all the strength and courage and grace and patience I need exactly when I need it.
- I went ahead and signed up for the Mondo Beyondo class anyway - I long to count myself among the dreaming, fantasy-hunting weirdos. With pride.
- By prayer, lots of prayer - which is what all these other steps really are, of course.

* What is the point of all this dreaming and reflecting and journaling?
What are my goals?

- Peace. Joy. Trust. Rest. Patience. Forgiveness. Contentment. Gratitude. Love.

Several years ago, I heard someone say that we are all the characters in our dreams. I've thought a lot about that and have found that in many cases, that statement does apply to my dreams. I definitely believe that about Tuesday night's dream. This morning, and for many mornings yet to come, I will claim her parting words as my own.

When I am afraid that money will run out before the bills and the needs do,
when I worry that some family relations are permanently damaged,
when I obsess about my children's health and safety and sink into despair and fear over things I cannot control - which are all things,
when I feel like politics and government and wars and rumors of war and bad news and stories of men and women's inhumanity to other men, women, and children will absolutely do me in,
when those that I love and miss feel impossibly far away and I am absolutely certain that they are glad to be rid of me,

I will see my own face in her face, I will mingle my tears with hers,
I will look at myself in the mirror of my mind's eye, and I will jab the table, I will jab myself in my own wounded (but mending!) heart, and say it out loud:


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Thousand and One Nights - or perhaps just one...

This afternoon, I began Reading Lolita in Tehran.
Powerful and engaging from the very first pages.

The author, Azar Nafisi, recounts her experiences of reading forbidden books in Iran. She describes the women she read the novels with. She writes about the food they ate and the drinks they shared. And she also summarizes the themes of the books they read.

One of which was A Thousand and One Nights. About the protagonist of that novel, Scheherazade, Nafisi writes:

"Scheherazade breaks the cycle of violence by choosing to embrace different terms of engagement. She fashions her universe not through physical force, as does the king, but through the imagination and reflection. This gives her the courage to risk her life and sets her apart from the other characters in the tale."

As I always do whenever I come across a quote that raises my eyebrows and stands my arm hairs on end, I copied that one into my journal and began to ponder its significance. As always, I came up with far more questions than answers. Here are a few:

* What cycles need to be broken in my life? Cycles of apathy, feigned ignorance, guilt, self-righteous indignation, prejudice, impatience?
* How can I break those cycles by embracing different terms of engagement than the ones I have most commonly embraced?
* How can my imagination and deeper reflection be brought to bear in the process?
* Do I have the courage to risk my life or even my comfort in order to break these cycles?
* Am I willing to set myself apart from the other characters in the tale of my life? To what end? For what purpose?
* What matters enough to me to dedicate 1,001 nights to its preservation, improvement, nourishment, or even deliberate meditation and consideration? Forget 1,001 nights; what about 101? Or 11???
* When am I going to find a copy of A Thousand and One Nights and read it here in Charlotte?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Hot Date

Last Thursday, it was hot here in Charlotte.
Kristiana was at a photography class.
Steve was at work.
I was feeling a little restless.
So I called on a young man I've had my eye on for a while and asked him out on a date. Daniel is his name.

Here's the thing: a man with a book is a real turn-on for me.
Always has been.

What? Where did he go?
Men. They are with you for a moment.
Then they disappear.

What the heck is he so upset about?
What's the matter, love? What can I do to ease your angst?
Okay, I'll leave you alone to work it out on your own.

Good. There's that smile I fell in love with ages ago.
He seems to have solved the problem and is looking far more contented.

What book?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

what my soul knows very well...

Finished another book by Paolo Coelho the other day,
Veronika decides to die.
Tough title. Tough topics in the book: mental illness, suicide, depression.
But in the end, healing. grace. hope. restoration. redemption. new life.
Much to glean and learn and store in my journal and in my soul.

Veronika's words: "A long time ago, when i was just a child, and my mother was forcing me to learn the piano, i said to myself that i would only be able to play it well when i was in love. Last night, for the first time in my life, i felt the notes leaving my fingers as if i had no control over what i was doing.

"A force was guiding me, constructing melodies and chords that i never even know i could play. i gave myself to the piano because i had just given myself to this man, without him even touching a hair o' my head. i was not myself yesterday, not when i gave myself over to sex or when i played the piano...and yet i think i was myself." (page 162)

Her friend, Zedka replies: "Before you say again that you're going to die, i want to tell you something. There are people who spend their entire lives searching for a moment like the one you had last night, but they never achieve it. That's why, if you were to die now, you would die with your heart full of love. You've got nothing to lose. Many people don't allow themselves to love, precisely because of that, because there are a lot of things at risk, a lot of future and a lot of past. In your case, there is only the present."

Zedka continues on the next page: "Outside i'll behave exactly like everyone else. I'll go shopping at the supermarket, i'll exchange pleasantries with my friends, i'll waste precious time watching television. But i know that my soul is free and that i can dream and talk with other worlds that, before i came here, i didn't even imagine existed. i'm going to allow myself to do a few foolish things... but i know that my soul is complete, because my life has meaning. I'll be able to look at a sunset and believe that God is behind it... I'll look at men in the street, right in their eyes, and I won't feel guilty about feeling desired. But immediately after that, i'll go into a shop selling imported goods, buy the best wines my money can buy, and i'll drink that wine with the husband i adore because i want to laugh with him again... I need to run the risk of being alive."

Looking back at my own life, my soul knows well that I have had those moments that others spend their entire lives searching for. Those moments of connection. Of soul-fullness. I have stood by the sea gazing at the full moon, convinced that there is a kindred spirit off in the distance sharing that moon with me. I have sat in silence in cathedrals and listened to my heart join the choruses sung over the centuries gone by. I have been hopelessly lost on streets whose names I could not pronounce, only to walk one more block and find myself exactly where I intended to be. I have dreamed in other languages and learned more from those dreams, far more than I could ever explain or capture in waking words. I have laughed loud and loved deeply.

Looking ahead at my life, I realize that outside I will wear the same simple skirts and tee shirts. I will go to Trader Joe's and Harris Teeter and Target and Barnes and Noble. I will cook and clean and walk the dog. I will do laundry and dust and vacuum. I will show up for my obligations. I will drive my children where they need to go. I will bake cakes and make pasta and chop salad and change sheets. Outside, my life will go on, business as usual.

But inside, I will sing and dance and wander the streets of foreign cities, distant towns, and right here in Charlottetowne. I will tell myself stories of adventure and of love and of finding the lost parts of myself. I will remember the blessed days of times past. I will dream of enchantments yet to come. I will smile at the simple details that display profoundly perfect timing. I will stop every now and then, breathe in deeply and breathe out slowly. I will bask in the power and beauty and excellence of "right here, right now." I will know that I know that I know that it is well with my soul. That all is well. So very well.

I've got nothing to lose. I've got nothing to gain.
I have everything I need. And so much of what I want.

I want to laugh more and more, again and again.
I need to run the risk of being joyfully alive.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

"We can't be perfect...

but we can be whole."

That's what Melodee wrote in an email she sent to me earlier today.
Well said. Perfectly timed. A true word spoken to a woman in need of truth and wisdom and encouragement to release the urge for perfection.
Taken on as a new prayer and mantra and perhaps even a future tattoo.
Used as inspiration for a colorful journal page.
And a new mess on the dining room table.

Thanks, Melodee.
And thanks to you too, Jen, for your reminder of all that I deserve.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Like a broken record...

As the summer days heat up, as the days turn into weeks, as the dishes and laundry pile up,
as the air conditioner cools us down, as the memories mount,
and the clean dishes and laundry remind me daily of the bountiful water and active lives we lead,
I find myself returning to the same theme: gratitude.

Thank you, Lord, for your goodness and provision and protection and grace.
Thanks for these two children, this husband, this house, these functioning cars.
Thank you for the electricity and running water and wifi and DirecTV.
Thanks for the telephone service and mail service and dry cleaning service.
Thank you for all the fruit and veggies and bread and cheese and cereal and milk and beans and olive oil and popcorn and almonds and pizza dough and tea bags and brown sugar at the market and the cloth bags I get to haul them home in.

Thank you for family and friends who open their homes to us, welcome us in, and share everything they have with us.
Thanks for art and candles and music and quiet evenings with wine and cookies and the sharing of sacred stories.

Thank you that Steve and Kristiana are far better photographers than I am and that they are eager to capture the images of our lives and deposit them safely onto our computer.
Thank you for external hard drives that offer another way to protect the images and memories that are dear to us.
Thank you for the minds that came up with all these gadgets and doo-dads that make our lives so very easy in so many ways.

Thank you for friends who invite me to concerts at the last minute.
Thanks for the loudness of it and the energy of it and dancing and singing and hearing songs for the first time.
Thank you for the ways in which music draws us together, but then tells each of us a different story.
Thank you that I can hear the music, that I can see the bands (Chicago and Earth, Wind, and Fire - how the heck they came together to do a concert tour is beyond my imagination, but it was great fun !), that I can stand up and dance, that I can shout over all the racket and express my excitement with my friend, that I have all these senses alive and alert.
Thank you that I am alive at this moment in history to experience all that I am experiencing in this life, right here, right now.

Thank you for the realization that church doesn't have to be boring.
Thank you that You never bore me or leave me alone or cease to amaze me with Your presence.
Thank you that, even if no one else cares about what I believe or joins me in what I believe, that I get to walk this faith journey with you.

Thanks for the camera and the blurry photos and the clear memories they bring to mind.
Thank you for Asheville and The Laughing Seed and the bead store and the vintage clothing shops and the hippies and tattoos and the wig store and the chocolate shop and the sound of my children laughing as we wind our way through and around all of the above.
Thank you for flowers and gardens and wise gardeners and those of us with brown thumbs - literally and figuratively.
Thank you that, although the brown thumbs vastly outnumber the green thumbs, the green thumbs are the ones in charge of the production of the food we eat.
Thank you that there is such beauty in the smallest tree and the largest weed, the tiniest Yorkie and the largest elephant, the desolate desert landscape and the blooming, colorful rainforest.

Thank you that, in spite of all my fear and loathing, all my doubt and questioning, all my wandering and wondering, all my tears and worries, all the real and devastating sorrow in the world and in my own family, all my anger and ranting, all my unseemly, spiteful, vengeful thoughts, all my codependence and addictions, all is well. All is well. All manner of things shall be well.

Like a broken record that skips and returns and skips and returns.
I find myself skipping a lot these days and then returning to this same place.
This place where, at the end of the day, I always return to one simple prayer:
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord."

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Simply Delicious

Two days ago, Daniel and his doubles partner made themselves lunch.
Simple sandwiches on a french baguette.
They left a crumbly, mustardy, mayonaissy mess on the kitchen counter.

Yesterday I made lunch for Daniel and his doubles partner.
Simple sandwiches on a french baguette.
They ate lunch in the minivan after winning their match
- and the tournament title!

Daniel: "Mom, how did you get the sandwiches to look like this?"
Within a split second came the answer, but not from me.
His friend: "Because she's a mom."

I like that boy.