Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dropping the Other Shoe

“You look good.” she said the last time she saw me.  And then silence.  “But?” I asked.  “But what?” she answered.

She would always finish a sentence like that with a slam like, “but you could lose some weight”, or “but your butt is too large for those pants”, or “but that hair of yours is too long for your age”. She could ALWAYS be counted on to drop the other shoe.  Every time.

This time she replied with nothing.  Forget the shoe, I nearly dropped to the floor.  For forty-eight years, the proverbial shoe dropped out of her mouth with every quasi-compliment.  Flattery and criticisms were commonplace from a woman who was described to me by the psychologist as a sociopath.  No surprises here. 

But this time, for whatever reason, maybe it was her age and illness that curbed her tongue, or just a softening of her narcissistic demeanor, she delivered only the compliment.  Of course it had no effect on me.  I laughed to myself.  Possibly for too many years of bracing myself against the barrage of maliciousness she shot at me in reliable intervals, carefully timed to inflict the deepest wound at the most inopportune time, when retaliation was impossible, knocking me off guard, my vulnerability exposed.

Maybe my shell had thickened over time or my ears had learned to reject the sound of her voice. Over the decades, I had developed immunity from her viral assaults to the point of beating her in her own game.  I started dropping the shoe for her, answering the “buts” before she got her mouth open.  I got pretty creative with my own criticisms.   After all those years of dodging and/or being hit by her arrows and the therapy it took to remove them, I learned to laugh at the insanity of it all.   If you can’t find the hilarity in the absurdity of the madness all around you, then you might as well live in that prefab hole dug just for you by the crazies around you. 

Or, you can dig your own primo hole, fill it up with water and jump in for a nice swim. As Carrie Fisher once said, “If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.” It’s my life.  I’ll drop my own damn shoes.


I thought I could sit in the peace and stillness of the morning with my cup of coffee and the beauty of my garden, but alas, the music in the basement has begun and the noise begins its escalation to the heights of the trees where it will remain throughout the day and continue into the late night hours.

I used to enjoy this cacophony, this modal harmony of the minds of young artists finding their voices in a sea of notes and rhythms.  Now I just want some peace.  Is this old age?  I don’t want to hear the dissonant notes, the practice songs, the scales, the vocal techniques repeated over and over again till perfection is reached.

I just want harmony in life now.  And protection for my overworked ears. I have stood in front of booming amplifiers most of my life, the Marshall stacks and the Fender Super Reverbs.  The bigger the better, we would say.  “My amp goes to eleven”!

Now I am horrified to hear the dreaded words of my youth coming out of my very own mouth.  “Can you PLEASE turn it down”?!  Horrors!  I have become an adult!

After scaring myself back to my youth where I lived in a perpetual state of loud, I fast forward through the sounds of drums, guitars, bass amps, horn sections, Hammond organs and Jimmy Paige vocals to today, where my son and his band prepare for a gig later this evening.  It is 10AM, an unheard of hour for band practice.

How can they call themselves musicians?  They should still be in bed.  But alas, we live in a town of poets and writers, architects and artists, a quiet contemplative place where people search for their souls in words, Froebel blocks and paint, not steel strings, drum skins and high frequency wattages.

A farm on forty acres is where we need to be – me in the farmhouse overlooking the trees and vegetation I have come to love, to balance the old rock star of youth – and the boys, in a barn way down in the valley, where they can serenade the birds and crickets. 

It’s a balance nowadays between the noise of my youth and the quiet I now covet.  In the pause between the pendulum clicks of the metronome is where the music expands, the liminality of what was and what is.  That is the place I like to play in now.  I can still hear the music here; believe me.  It will live in me forever.  Like Kiki Dee once sang, I Got the Music in Me.  So Please.  Turn that music down.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Patient Gardener

I finally got back to my garden after an almost six year hiatus.  So much happened in those six years.  I opened and closed a business; I terminated my landscape and horticultural therapy contracts; I started roller derby and finished it (unfortunately due to a really bad fall on my tush bone which still hurts almost three years later!)  My body got really angry with me for disregarding it all those years.  Stress.  The silent killer.  Ain’t it the truth.  It’ll getcha every time.
But my garden didn’t revolt. I did lose my beloved smoke tree (Pop’s Pink Champagne cultivar stopped popping its cork!)  Not to neglect.  It was beyond anything I could do.  It did its best, as did my entire garden, to patiently wait for my return.  That’s a lot to expect of a teenager.  My garden is sixteen years old.  And as anyone who has teens knows, they have their own minds and do what they want!  My wild hippie garden, too, has this independcnce separate from me and was fine living on its own for those years.

I have now been spending time with my “child” daily.  Moving what’s left of old perennials to open spaces, contemplating life after a massive change.  I find that it is assisting me now, without asking.  After every adjustment, it thanks me by settling into the changes gracefully and without the typical teenage angst.  I feel like it’s saying, “Ahhh, that feels good” after each change, a “welcome back, nice to see you again”!

As I stare at its beauty it offers me suggestions of what it would like next.  And I say, “Of course, that would be a wonderful addition”!  Unlike my own teenager, it is assisting me with the work.  I think it needed to stretch its legs after a long slumber.  It did it’s best, letting go of what was unnecessary, much like what I am currently experiencing; a change of my own seasons; what to keep and what to let go of.  As I play in my garden, it gets easier and easier to let go.  Like my garden, I never really owned those things in the first place.  They were just offering their beauty to me, to savor and ponder as they passed through, blooming and fading, blooming and fading.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Looking back, maybe that's as free as things get, Doris said, in between the clicks of the oxygen being pushed in syncopated puffs, into her lungs.  She looked out the window, perhaps remembering the feel of being behind the wheel of her convertible Oldsmobile, as she cruised south on Lake Shore Drive from Hyde Park, past the Museum of Science and Industry, past the South Shore Country Club, past Calumet City, past anything resembling the expectations of post war women.

She was born ahead of her time, choosing career and the single life over the silently dictated destiny of wife and mother.  With her brother at war, forcing her mother to help Father in the shoe repair shop on 57th and Woodlawn, her three sisters stayed home to do the cooking and cleaning.

This allowed Doris, who was always eager to amass large sums of money, to learn bookkeeping skills that led to her handling the finances of the shoe repair shop and then to the private finances of her parents, much to the dismay of her leery sisters.

Once she mastered her skills on her family, she headed to the banks, where Wally Mead became her banking guru and most likely, her first paramour.  With her earned monies, she bought a shiny black Schwinn bicycle and in her fearless, carefree and venturesome way, rode over a large curb one afternoon, with little sister in tow, and crashed head first into a brick wall half a block from her home.

Two weeks later, she awoke after doctors tapped her spine to drain the fluid that was swelling her head to the size of a small watermelon.  Her reflexes now slower, her joie de vie reigned in by family and doctors, her fears tapped, she resigned herself to the life she most dreaded, married the first man who asked and fifty-five years, four children and one miscarriage later, her beloved coupe de ville sold, living within the confines of five floors of a retirement home, she sits up in bed, a chronic lung disease slowly taking her breath away, and looks out the window at her freedom driving away, seventy-five miles per hour.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Liminality All Over Again and Again...

I wanted to post this again for a couple of reasons.  First, the word liminality, came up in a conversation today and a light bulb went off.  I went to a meeting about reinvention, where I find myself yet again.  And in explaining the place I am in, how I feel, after closing my business last fall, and wondering what I was going to do when I grow up....again....  I called it the space of nothingness between the old and the new that has not showed itself yet but is busy crafting itself within me.  

My friend was told that this place is called liminality.  Of course!  The space in-between!  I have been here before.  I said that to her.  It was a Duh! moment.  This is the place where your old life has crashed and burned and your new life isn't apparent yet.  It is in this place that we must keep walking.  You may not recognize yourself at this point. It is a volatile feeling, this unknowing.

I have come to the conclusion that in this lifetime of mine, this is where my soul is growing and changing at the speed of light.  I don't know how many liminal periods we are allowed in one lifetime.  I can't count them anymore.  It actually feels like I am dying all of my past lives all in one lifetime!  It is exciting, scary, exhausting, emotional.  You cry.  You laugh.  You're loud.  You're quiet.  You're up.  You're down.  You want this.  No, you want that instead.  I say, just hang on.  That's really all one can do in these turbulent times.  Of course, this is all inner work.  I can only imagine what I look like on the outside with all this chaos happening within!

These aha moments have a calming effect, though.  At least I can name the demon in my head that is running amok!  Okay, not a demon.  Growth, change, rebirth.  I just wish with each rebirth I could delete a few years off my age.  Become a younger version of myself at this ripe old age!

There is gold within these Shadows.  Embrace the gold and release what is not.
Just keep walking...

posted 10/20/2010

Reality is the place between the sea and the foam. Irish Proverb
Dictionary.com defines it as:
the transitional period or phase of a rite of passage, during which the participant lacks social status or rank, remains anonymous,shows obedience and humility, and follows prescribed forms of conduct, dress, etc.

It is defined as the space in-between. It is emptiness and nowhere. It is a place of dying and rebirth, the space between death and rebirth, something that cannot be seen. Liminality is where transformation occurs. It is when we are betwixt and between, and by definition, not in control. An uncomfortable place to be if you ask me, but a place of impending change, which to me is exciting.
In the book, Crossing to Avalon - it is described as passing through a gateway, a threshold - an in between zone where we are neither who we used to be nor who we are becoming. We are standing in a doorway between two phases of our own life.
In this liminal phase we are vulnerable, thin skinned, which means we are open to new growth. T.S. Eliot wrote about a point of intersection of the timeless with time. It is a place where eternal and ordinary perception overlap the spiritual world and visible reality come together. Only in periods of availability will a person respond to a call to adventure or love and the lessons they bring.

Okay, so what does this mean and why even talk about it? I came upon notes I had taken from books and other readings, which are shared above, at the right time in my life.
As I came back from a spectacular trip to the Omega Institute for a Women's Leadership conference, thoughts were screaming in my head, copious notes had been taken the whole weekend, I rewrote my ideas for a retreat center, cleared out some old personal "garbage", and was ready to take on the work of my next incarnation.

And I got home and none of this happened. I couldn't write, my thoughts were unclear, my head foggy. I got sick recently, which put my head in an ever worse fog and I wondered what happened to that energy and spark that was on fire in New York. Even my meetings with people I met on that trip didn't spark anything new or exciting. What was wrong with me?

Then tonight, as I tried to free write in my journal (with no luck), I came across old notes and writings, which included liminality. And I realized where I was at this moment in my life. Funny, once again, if you look for the signs, they are here in front of you.

I guess I, too, am in another state of transition, that place in between. I am letting go of the old and worn out but the new has not presented itself yet. Jung calls the psychological journey to wholeness as individuation, a task of the 2nd half of life.

So, again, I wait, quietly, because I know in the quiet and nothingness, things are happening that are out of my control, out of my realm of thought. It tires me, this non-work. But it also excites me, as I know out of it comes newness, new thought, new direction, new beginnings, new you.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Serendipity or Coincidence?

I dreamt last night I had the ability to think about people and they would then appear. The question was, did they appear because I thought about them or did they know I was thinking about them and then they showed up? I know. Existential. In the dream, the driver was replaced by another person who appeared in my car.  They didn’t have to pay attention to driving because they weren’t really there.  Or were they?

Then I started thinking in the dream that I had this ability to conjure up whomever I wanted.  You know, when you are dreaming, but you are also looking into the dream as an observer?  I found myself thinking about an old friend in the dream and wondered if he would show up.  And he did.  Amazing what I can do in my dream.

Can I do the same thing awake?  Wait a minute.  Now we are talking conscious versus unconscious thought.  After my long lost friend showed up in his truck, I noticed a sign on its door with a business I had not know about.  If I can conjure up people, then why can’t I also have a knowing about a new business they have or even better, WILL have.
So of course, I emailed him to ask.  Haven’t heard back yet.  Ever hear of the phrase, “Watch out what you wish for; you might just get it?”  These synchronicities are much of the time dismissed as coincidences.  Something specific to a certain person (smells, pictures, their favorite song, their area code popping up daily on house address, license plates; you happened to look at the clock at that exact number more often than not) suddenly starts showing itself, making you think about that person a great deal.  And then they show up or call.  Were you both thinking about each other at the same time and that energetic connection was sent out over the “world consciousness wire” forcing you to connect?  The mother that senses when her child has been hurt thousands of miles away.

I believe everyone has had this type of “coincidence” happen to him or her at some point or another. Ask and you shall receive.  Knock and it shall be opened for you.  Close one door and another will open for you. C.J. Jung dubbed synchronicity as a fortuitous intermeshing of events.  Another word for it is serendipity.

The signs of my old friend keep showing themselves.  He is in my dreams of late.  It will be interesting if my dreams of his new business are real.  I have known things about him in the past that I could not have known about.  He says it creeps him out!

Will I see the people that I made appear in my dream?  I would love to except I can’t remember who they were!  But if someone from the past pops in to visit or call out of the blue……  Hmmm, I really don’t believe in coincidence much these days.  It is so much more fun to think about the possibility of making things happen.  Plant a seed of thought and let it go and it will find a way to manifest itself to you.  Turn aside your dream and it will come back to you again.  Follow it.  Open your own doors.  That person in your dream you just can’t get out of your head?  Next time the phone or doorbell rings, it just might be them.