Tuesday, January 2, 2018

You Might Prefer Not to, but Show Up Anyway

Show Up
Even If You’d Rather Not
Show up? Sometimes I’d rather not. I’d rather not show up in times of trouble, times of strife, times of heartache. My heart goes out to those suffering, but a part of me knows with deepest certainty that I’m afraid to show up. I’m afraid to see suffering. I’m afraid to help carry the burdens and wipe the tears of someone in pain. I’m afraid of that pain becoming mine.
One time, I did not show up. My fear and pain were too great. Not showing up is one of my most profound regrets. I carry the guilt and shame—and pain—for not showing up. I cannot ever go back and change what I neglected to do. However, what I can do now to ease that guilt, shame, and regret is show up. Because of my lesson learned, I now and in the future will push aside fear and push aside pain. I show up. I will continue to show up.
Show up.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Hawks, Buzzards, and a Happy New Year

Hawks, Buzzards, And
A New Year’s Day Fly-In
Earlier today, I wrote a New Year’s Day meditation. As I sat down to type it, I looked out the window as a hawk swooped into my side yard. I went outside and startled a buzzard creeping through the brush in the lot next door. A squirrel ran screaming up the pine tree. A few minutes later, four hawks circled the house. A bit later, five buzzards sat in the front yard. Ugh! I started the day noting it’s not shiny or bright because it’s cold and cloudy. Now I don’t know what to think.
Thirty minutes later, the buzzards are gone and the hawks have flown. Maybe that’s what each new year is all about. There will be clouds, there will be cold days. And, yes, the buzzards and hawks might have a fly-in just when I sit down to write my flowery prose about how to greet the day with a higher consciousness and a full and open heart. Seeing those birds of prey and carrion eaters didn’t remove the flowers from my yard or the hope from my psyche. They simply reminded me that this year, like every other one, will have its unexpected, unwelcome moments and that when those moments are over, they have flown away and I can still have a full and open heart.
* * * * *
The following is what I initially wrote before the buzzard and hawk fly-in:
New. It’s not shiny or even bright. Dots of blue peek beneath the mounds of gray clouds. This Central Florida day belies the state’s reputation for both warmth and sunshine because neither are present. However, rather than a northern landscape devoid of color, I see green, pink, orange, purple—hues from the garden beckon my senses and waken me.
It’s a new year, but today is a new day, as is every one of them; every moment is new from this one forth. Being awake, I see more than flowers, sky and growth around me. I see and have a deep awareness of possibility. Wrapped in that possibility is hope—hope that when I open this gift of a new year and each new day, I will embrace all that is new. Also wrapped in that possibility is the hope that I will bring even more newness, awareness, and gratitude for this year, this day, and all the gifts I continue to receive and desire to share.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Hope Summons Your Future

Hope Summons the Future
“Just as man cannot live without dreams, he cannot live without hope. If dreams reflect the past, hope summons the future.”
                                           ~ Elie Wiesel
This is my ancient recipe box. My sister made it for me during my daughter Alexa’s illness thirty-two years ago. Recently, one of my other daughters asked me for a recipe. I got out the box and searched. I didn’t find the recipe for tofu carob pie, but I did find these recipes.

They are in an article titled “Holiday Entertaining: Great Beginnings.” I had folded the pages of recipes and stored them to make another day. That day has not yet arrived and they have been in the box since the date on the pages: November–December 1986.

I was stunned when I read the date: November–December 1986. Those two months were the worst of my life. My seven-year-old daughter Alexa died from brain cancer on November 2, 1986. My memory of only a few things about those months is clear: the day she died, the day of her funeral. The other days are a blur: Thanksgiving is blank. All I remember about Christmas is the agony of unpacking her handmade ornaments and placing them on the tree. Christmas itself was a nonevent. I remember wearing too-stiff new Levi’s and a pink T-shirt to a friend’s house. I don’t remember cooking. I don’t remember giving or receiving gifts.
What I especially do not remember about those two months is reading magazines. I don’t remember eating food, much less thinking about cooking it. So of course, I don’t remember pulling these pages of recipes from that magazine—these pages that sat untouched for thirty-one years.
These pages now tell me something else I don’t remember from those years ago—something I was not aware existed in my life. These pages tell me that in the darkest days of grief, some small part of me believed in a future. Some small part of my psyche held what was the last thing to spring from Pandora’s box: Hope.
I don’t remember feeling anything beyond the most profound despair during those days. Hope was a memory, a concept tucked deep within me—but it wasn’t so deep that it no longer existed. My unconscious hope made me pick up a magazine about food. That hope believed I would be hungry again. My unconscious hope moved my eyes across the words and photos. My unconscious hope stopped at some of those words and photos. My unconscious hope moved me toward thinking that those recipes sounded like something good to eat. My unconscious hope moved my hands to tear these pages of recipes from the magazine and place them in a box. My unconscious hope believed I might cook again someday and try something new.
I say unconscious hope because during those sorrow-filled days after Alexa died, I believed I was in Dante’s inferno and had heeded the warning to “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”
When life deals us the shattering blows of loss, one of the most life-affirming aspects of our being is often the first to go—and that is hope.
But in those days some part of me had not abandoned hope.
In spite of my despair, in spite of my darkness, I now know that hope was still alive in me, a flickering light not ready or willing to be completely extinguished by sorrow.
Those of us who have lost children, grandchildren, and siblings know that despair. We know that darkness. What we might not know, especially in the early stages of grief, is that hope remains in each of us. With each breath, with each step in our journey of healing from loss, hope is present. It becomes brighter and more real, even if we aren’t aware that hope remains.
I wasn’t aware of that hope in the early days of grief, but I am aware of it now. And I want to share with you that hope is indeed present within each of us, although we may be unaware of it. Even after the greatest loss, hope sits at our sides and walks with us and holds and nurtures us. And as it does, hope summons our future.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Zig-Zag Running for Four-Year-Olds

Zig-Zag Running
Zig-zag running? That’s the style of running my four-year-old granddaughter learned in pre-kindergarten last week. Zig-zag running is the pattern you use when you run from the school building. You have a meeting place away from the school where your teacher and the other children will gather. To get to your safe place, you run in a zig-zag pattern.
The sighs and groans in my heart are almost too heavy to lift out of my psyche and put into words. I will try. I know why she and the other children are taught to run that way, although I doubt the teacher told them: A moving target is harder for a bullet to hit.
When I was a child, I was afraid of war with the Russians. I had nightmares of bombs being dropped on me. Duck-and-cover drills were the staple of emergency preparedness for my generation. My class didn’t have a “safe place.” We had the walk (not a zig-zag run) to the railroad tracks to board trains that would evacuate us from Jacksonville, Florida, a prime target because of the military presence there and its proximity to the Russian missiles in Cuba.
My fear was the Russians and the nuclear bombs they might drop on my home, my family, and my friends. My fear was an out-there fear; it was the fear of “them,” the others, those who weren’t Americans, the Communists who didn’t share our values of freedom and liberty and justice.
My fear for my granddaughter isn’t a fear of “them.” And that’s what is so chilling. My fear for her is “us.” It’s Americans—overwhelmingly white male Americans—who have made it necessary to teach four-year-olds zig-zag running from schools.
The character Lara in Dr. Zhivago, when speaking of the brutal revolution in Russia, knowing it would continue, knowing she and Yuri would be separated, knowing the carnage would not end anytime soon, said, “Oh, Lord—this is an awful time to be alive.”
When I think of zig-zag running, I agree with Lara.