Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Song for My Dad

As we head full on into the holiday season, I wanted to add this story that came to me yesterday after spending the day with my family on Sunday at a tree farm cutting down our Christmas tree. Thank you for indulging me on this one. Happy holidays to everyone!
A Song for My Dad
I saw my dad today. He was driving a tractor in a large field of Christmas trees dressed in a Santa suit. And he was smiling.

He drove by on the first pick up and said there was no room this go around but he would be back shortly. I could have sworn I caught a glimpse of that sparkle in his eyes, the one long lost to pain, stolen by a thief well known to him for 50 years. His heart was so big and so open. It was an easy target for the cruelty of an unloving partner. 

Always quiet, and contemplative, he was a guy who could draw Donald Duck in 8 seconds flat, who drew 1950’s pin up girls with the same ease and beauty as it was for me to create a fresh floral design from a few cut flowers and greens. He could play Claire de Lune by heart on piano or organ, and apparently act in plays, something that was never known to anyone until he reminisced it to me 3 days before he died.

All from a man who was 5’11”, weighed 250 lbs at his skinniest, barely finished high school, was a paper hanger, painter, and designed and built both of our houses. This was a man with hands the size of frying pans who didn’t need gloves to clean the ice and snow off of car windows, whose pranks included using manure to make a small explosive that blew the mailbox off of a neighbor’s house because Dad was miffed about something he couldn’t quite remember, a very broad shouldered brute of a guy who could lift a full grown man over his head during a party and “accidentally” drop him and break the man’s back. Which subsequently ended the party. Dad felt awful about the accident, but remained friends with the guy.

This gentle giant donned a Santa suit every Christmas for my sis and I during our toddler years. His own mother would plop into his lap each season and they both would hoot and holler with laughter for the 8MM camera, whose tiny grainy reels me and sis would watch in the darker years to come. When Grams died, Christmas ended at her house and we never saw his side of the family again. That loss took the last hope for any glimmer from his eyes and his goodness was subsequently drowned in alcohol.

This was a man who never cried, who only winced and yelled obscenities into the air after driving a 3” nail into his knee while breaking boards in half for firewood, who in his frustration with his wife and family, chose my cousin over me for his new daughter, who didn’t speak to me for 4 years for a myriad of reasons, who was cold as ice on the outside, but cried soft tears and hugged me tightly after I told him I was finally pregnant after years of infertility treatments.

Oh, he wore that red suit a few more years for my one brother, but it never made it to my youngest brother’s Christmases. Some years down the road, we got him to put it on for my young nephew. Sis and I got the job of dressing him and we laughed until we cried as we attempted to stuff him into a too small well worn suit. I saw that glimmer find its way out of the darkness that night for that short moment.

The last time I saw that glimmer, a faint sparkle, the one that I now see in my younger son’s eyes, was after I had the hospital dose him up on morphine.

 “If we give him any more, his heart might stop.”
“He’s dying, for Christ’s sake! And he’s in pain! Give it to him now!"

Me, the so called “black sheep”, the one who was with him at his diagnosis, who drove him home that day and begged him to take one more trip to Greece, the place his heart belonged to and missed, the one who researched stage 4 pancreatic cancer and was told by a trusted friend and surgeon to tell Dad to get a great bottle of bourbon and a good cigar and head to the beach to enjoy the very short time he had left.

“If you want to go, Dad, we’ll make it happen. Someone will travel with you. But you
have to go now. There isn’t time…..”;

the one who said no to the treatments, “What for? He only has a few months to live, let him be happy in his final days”;
the one who was dismissed as wanting him dead for saying no to experimental treatments that are only a playground for unrelenting oncologists.

He was silent during that initial conversation with the doctor who delivered the news. He was silent on the way home that day. He was silent during our conversation, my questions of what he was thinking, what did he want to do, did he want to go to Greece.

He did hear me that day, though, and asked the oncologist a few days later if it would be possible to travel. My heart beamed but was quickly silenced when the rest of the family said no, he was to stay and allow the doctors to concoct their chemo cocktails for him.
“We can beat this thing, Dad.” was the fear coming out of the rest of the family.
And my heart broke as I watched him relent.

So he never went to his beloved Greece again and the only beach he saw was in a painting on the wall of his hospital room those last two days. He seemed lost in that painting his last morning, as if he was already there.

We had finally gotten his pain under control the night before and as I sat with him after the others had gone for coffee, he told my husband I was crazy after I asked him how he was feeling. And the sparkle was there. I smiled and knew at that moment that we had made peace with each other, after years of struggles and heartbreaks.

So it warmed my heart when I saw him today. The gentle giant that was silenced during his lifetime, was driving an old farm tractor, smiling, eyes sparkling, dressed in a Santa suit.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Words from the Heart

I am working with 3 other writers on a performance piece and we just performed it last night for the first time to a "safe" group of friends for their input and critiques. Two of us have been performing all our lives in bands, in theatre, and the other two have never performed before so we thought it necessary to "practice" it before setting it free to the world.
What came out of that evening was very thought provoking. One of the topics we are writing on is Mothers. It is the strongest and most profound group of the 5 topics we have chosen. It also elicited the most profound comments.
I came from what I am now calling, The Freddy Kruger Family. I don't think I need to explain it further than that. My mother piece reflected my story of years ago when I was kidnapped at knife point. My family did NOT come to my side with compassion or assistance to get me through the aftermath of that experience.
So, after years of telling my story, I am fully healed from it and can tell it with humor and peace. I think it took all those years of telling it to heal from it. I was unaware of it at the time, but telling your story is a very healing process. I have written the story from a very healed person's perspective, complete with sarcasm and humor. Unfortunately, when I read it to this audience, I received not so good reviews.
Why!?!? It is the best story I have ever written!!! What it did was horrify the audience who then told me that they wanted to badly to feel bad for me but couldn't be cause I was so angry about it!. I was not and am no longer angry at ALL! And it is very hard to accept any type of criticism as I lived my whole life getting criticized so, yeah, I am a bit sensitive.
BUT, because of how I grew up, I took the criticism to heart, thinking I was less than, and stayed up most of that night reworking, rereading, etc. What they were looking for was some fear or vulnerability from that experience. Okay, I can do that. And being an actress, I mostly reworked my delivery. I also added two additional lines and wrote back in some lines I had initially taken out.
I talked to a good friend who was there the next day and she said our work really made the audience think, A LOT, and most were still talking about it the next day. Great! That is just what you want out of a show. But the most important thing she told me was that she realized from my story who was the bad guy. And it wasn't my perpetrator. It was my family, for not supporting me with compassion and love. Her words were soft, kind, and she relayed that my experience showed me how to find people to attach to who loved me. These people, decades later, in hearing my stories, had more love and compassion for me than a lifetime from my own family.
And I am profoundly grateful. And what a opportune time of the year to give thanks. To myself for "making it" and for my truly wonderful husband, sons and friends. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs!

Seems that if I am not careful, I will run right smack into a sign these days. They appear to be coming faster and more frequently. I'm sure that there are some I have totally missed. Probably why these last three weeks have been full of illness, stress and just weirdness. Full length feature dreams in full color, fully scripted, starring some of my favorite (and not so favorite) people, past AND present!
Good gosh oh my, times are 'a changing.....quick......hurry, hurry and PLEASE watch out for those signs!
I usually hold onto emails that have something to read, a video to watch, something in which I must take the time to engage in, digest, and then I can erase them. Or copy significant text to ponder or use later. Most of the time, I end up saving the emails and never going back to them.
This morning I decided to go through a few. I had to look up some people and organizations online and while there, let's get some older items out of the way. This video was 23 minutes long. Wow, I have to sit here and watch this for almost half an hour...
But I watched and wondered when the video would ask me to buy something. It didn't. At least this one didn't. And I took notes as I always do. And then the author/guru said a phrase that resonated with me - translucent people. I had heard this before. Hey, I want to be one of those. So I looked it up. And low and behold there is a whole book on it. And another article. And it so happens this author wrote it (of course). So I read some more, looked up the book on Amazon and guess what. I own this book!!! I had to laugh at how the universe works.
It came out in 2005, the Translucent Revolution by Arjuna Ardagh. Obviously it resonated with me 5 years ago. But I never read it. Here is one of those signs that hit me smack in the head! I pulled it from the shelf and cracked it open to the forward and NOW I will finally read it. How do you like that for signs!
In a nutshell, here is what intrigued me. It is about people who have experienced powerful shifts of consciousness. Their awakening has changed who they know themselves to be and the nature of the world around them.
These awakenings initiate a gradual metamorphosis, which is both evolutionary and endless. A spontaneous generosity of spirit, an impulse to serve, and a willingness to transform living into art gradually replace the normal relationship to life marked by fear and acquisition. I call this endless process of evolution and transformation "translucence." Webster's dictionary defines translucent as "letting light pass through, but not transparent."
Translucent people also appear to glow from the inside. They have access to their deepest nature as peaceful, limitless, free, unchanging, and at the same time they remain fully involved in the events of their personal lives. Thoughts, fears, and desires still come and go; life is still characterized by temporary trials, misfortunes, and stress. But the personal story is no longer opaque: it is now capable of reflecting something deeper, more luminous and abiding.
So, thank you, to me, I guess, for heeding the signs. Times definitely are changing and people will either awaken to their true selves, or go down another path that might just lead them astray. So, off to my book!

Meraki - The Soul's Work

Once again I find myself sifting though old papers that have piled up over the months/years/decades... Lately it has been a time of cleanup in my life. So much has been thrown out from the last incarnation or donated to causes I once did work for. So yes, that does make me feel better that there is use of stuff I have no use for anymore.
And I came across this. Meraki. A Greek word meaning "to do something with soul, creativity, or love; to put yourself into what you are doing."
And again, it popped up when I needed it. Now. Once more sign that tells me I am on the right track. I watched a music show a while ago and they were interviewing Richard Marx, who said when you have a passion, money doesn't drive you, fame doesn't drive you. He said it is this inner passion, a feeling of "there is nothing else", a drive to create regardless of any outer focus. This is the way of the true artist. It is all within. And I get it.
I watch my son, who is a musician, work because he is driven by an inner desire that precedes any outer reason. he gave up a steady gig with steady pay because it did not "juice" him anymore. It didn't fulfill his need to create and he let it go to move forward. He doesn't look back. He moves forward with such confidence. And I get it. So I don't worry. I know he will be fine.
So I continue to clear out, empty, and then water the visions and dreams a bit each day. I know they are growing. I've seen it happen before. And I'll do it with Meraki!