Friday, February 27, 2015

Break Out of Your "Chrysalis" and Take Flight

Leave Your Empty,
No-Longer Useful Chrysalis
I studied the jeweled chrysalis, checking daily for changes in color, transparency. I missed the moments when the monarch broke through, but early yesterday, I spied the monarch flexing its wings. “Welcome to the world magnificent monarch! I see you spreading, plumping, your wings in preparation to soar into a world of flower nectar and delight.”
Now only a remnant of the monarch’s transformation phase, the chrysalis hangs broken and empty, like a discarded plastic bag, necessary at one time, but no longer needed.
What must you leave behind (empty, no-longer-useful chrysalis) to spread your wings and fly?
How will you spread your wings? Where can you find and taste life’s nectar?
Spreading your wings, taking flight can be done in many ways:

·      Heal a relationship.
·      Create something.
·      Spend time in the natural world.
·      Play in the dirt; play in the surf.
·      Practice faith.
·      Explore different cultures.
·      Walk, drive, ride . . . with no destination.
·      Read a book.
·      Write a book.
·      Eat a guanabana, dragon fruit, or escargot.
·      Speak up.
·      Listen.
·      Say I love you.

I find inspiration and ways to discard my chrysalis in many places: nature, books, conversation, contemplation. Several sources of inspiration come to me daily via e-mail in the form of blogs and newsletters. Some of my favorites are:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Zen Is for Men

Zen Is for Men
 I’m reading Leo Babauta’s book, The Do Guide, How to Master Effectiveness and Overcome Procrastination, which is about being effective in the moment and, of course, mindfulness is a part of it. I read today’s pages as my granddaughter played in the living room. I sat in a chair near her so I could be available should she need me.
I had trouble focusing on Leo’s words: “It doesn’t matter what the doing is: sitting, walking, writing, reading, eating, washing, talking, snuggling, playing. By focusing on the doing, we drop our worries and anxieties, jealousies and anger, grieving and distraction.”
Of course I had trouble, because I wasn’t focusing; I couldn’t focus. Distraction was the order of the day. Emma was playing on the floor, the washing machine was chugging clean a load of clothes, the dryer was twirling another load dry, lunchtime was approaching, and the dogs kept sniffing around to see if Emma had any food scraps they could steal.
“Ah, ha!” I thought. “These are the thousand things that pull me away from focus, just as they did when my own children were young. Zen is not for moms. Zen must be for men.” Memories of those days edged to the surface of my consciousness. “Wash the dish,” yes, but meanwhile, the thousand things went on then, as they do now. I don’t mean to be an anti-zen feminist, but it’s hard to focus when children are around. It’s hard to be in the moment unless you’re down on the floor with them playing. And even then, the clock reminds us that lunch must be prepared, food cleaned up, dishes washed, naps taken, laundry moved from dryer, folded, put away, laundry moved from washer to dryer, repeat, repeat, repeat. I don’t have the stats on how many books on zen are written by men, but I’m betting most of them are. Most women, and especially if those women are mothers, simply don’t have the time—or the focus.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Nationwide's Most Vile Personal Foul

Personal Foul—Making the Call
Against Nationwide

Personal Foul, Nationwide (Indefensible),
Penalty: Loss of Millions of Policies,
Automatic Ejection From the Insurance Game

We wore our protective gear because we almost always do. It’s part of recovering from the nasty pass life dealt us. We are the parents of dead children and we watched the Super Bowl last night. A championship game on TV should have been safe, but it wasn’t. Early in the game, we received a blow most foul when Nationwide aired their dead-child ad. Nationwide: You face-masked us in the worst possible way. You pulled our helmets off, stripping us bare, and then slapped us in the face.
Yes, accidents happen. We know that better than most. We certainly know it better than whomever your ad agency is. (By the way, fire them.) Bereaved parents of children who died as a result of accidents live with the results of such accidents every day. (My child did not die from an accident, unless one could call brain cancer an accident of nature.) You don’t need to remind us about accidents that claim the lives of children. You especially do not need to remind us on a Sunday evening when all we want to do is cheer on our favorite team.
Perhaps the American insurance-buying public will be the commissioner who sets some new rules and not only shuns you, but bans you. Nationwide, you had an opportunity to make amends for your foul. You didn’t and, instead, in the most blatant show of unsportsmanlike conduct, stood by your ad because accidents do happen.
I doubt it will be an accident when your shares drop and the number of policies you score falls to an abysmal level.
Shame on you, Nationwide. You’re definitely not on our side.

Thank you to Melissa Lima Panagos and my grandson, Mathew Wiley, for their assistance in football terminology.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

No-Brainer... No Glass Slippers

Smart Women Don’t Wear Glass Slippers
 Beguiling, beautiful, and bewitching in her every manner, Prince Charming could not believe his luck meeting Cinderella, the fairy-tale princess who arrived unexplained at the ball. They danced through the night. She was light on her feet, and light with her wit. Charming and Cinderella spent hours dancing and had eyes for nobody else in the kingdom.
Charming was jolted out of his dismay at having to attend yet another ball in search of a match for him. He had danced with, spoken with, and been bored out of his mind with every available lass within a fortnight’s ride of the kingdom. Beauties they were, light on their feet they were, rich and well bred they were, but when it came to brains, each of them fell short. Several couldn’t even read. Most could not converse beyond the insipid gossip that hovered like flies from kingdom to kingdom.
Charming was surprised that not only was Cinderella beautiful, but she also was articulate, well-read, and interested in the social concerns of residents of the realm. Cinderella had a particular interest in the practice of near-slavery under which most servants were held. She and the prince shared stories they had heard and discussed ways to ensure fair working conditions for all servants in the kingdom, especially those who were poor relations with no other home except the one in which they were kept in conditions similar to prisons.
Charming kept his rapt attention on Cinderella’s every word. The two of them discussed social reforms regarding servants and poor relations. They also discussed the current state of agriculture and how best to tend the land so that all members of the kingdom would be fed.
The clock struck midnight and aghast, Cinderella ran to the door. Charming had no idea why she felt the need to escape so suddenly. The ball would last long past midnight. As Cinderella disappeared down the palace’s marble steps, one of her shoes slipped off her foot. In moments she was gone. Charming was beyond disappointed, because he had no way to contact her. As he glanced down the steps, he saw Cinderella’s shoe. He ran down the stairs, knowing he wouldn’t be able to catch her but nonetheless wanting a memento of the evening and perhaps a way to find her by matching her lost shoe to the one she still had.

Charming knelt down, picked up the tiny shoe, and held it in his palm. He had a puzzled look on his face. “This is made of glass,” he said. “Why would any sensible, intelligent woman ever wear shoes made of glass? I guess she wasn’t so bright after all.” He tossed the shoe into the shrubbery, turned, and walked back up the stairs.

Note: The purpose of the preceding writing exercise was to come up with a twist on a fairy tale. I hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Bitch Is Out to Get You

The Bitch Is Out to Get You
Deserve It or Not
Have you been cheated? Lied to? Taken advantage of? Used and abused? Most of us can answer, “Yes.” Often, when we bemoan our miseries, someone is apt to say, “He/she will get theirs. Karma is a bitch.”
“Karma is a bitch.” We hear and read the phrase in response to bad behavior foisted on a family member, friend, or worse, on ourselves. Vengeance and its ramifications seem sweet when I consider karma and how it will be a bitch to the person who “done me wrong.” However, if karma really is the bitch of such renown, I first ask myself, “What did I do to deserve karma’s visit to my life?” When Bad Person B does something to me, I must be Bad Person A because karma got me first.
“But, but, but,” you protest, “I didn’t do . . . I don’t deserve . . . It’s not fair . . . ” Karma, unfortunately, is the bitch who doesn’t play fair. If karma played fair, then the innocents of our world wouldn’t experience so much pain and suffering. If karma played fair, natural disasters would single out only unfaithful lovers, muggers, and those who run Ponzi schemes. Religious tolerance and intolerance aside, please don’t tell me about that former life nonsense. The life you are living is your current one.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wrap up all the bad stuff and tie it into a package labeled “Karma”? It would be convenient because we could always use “If, then . . .” logic to explain away each of life’s events. Rabbi Harold S. Kushner explained our quandary about the origin of bad “karma” in eloquent terms in his book, When Bad Things Happen to GoodPeople. As much as we want an explanation for all life events, many cannot be explained. As much as we want to protect ourselves and our loved ones by using cause-and-effect logic, we cannot always do so. And as much as we want to believe that there is an inherent order to life, we’re wrong; our universe, as orderly as it is in some respects, allows for chaos.
Recognizing that chaos and the random nature of bad deeds cause much suffering frees us by taking away blame when innocent people are hurt. It also frees us from judgment and the sordid delight we claim when someone gets his or her just desserts.
You might be feeling like life, morality, good deeds, kindness, and compassion are pointless endeavors in a world that’s chaotic and random. Not so. Most compassion, generosity, and love you share will be returned to you. Just be grateful when you receive such gifts, and rather than thanking karma, thank the person who was compassionate, generous, and loving.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I Won't Tell You I'm Honest

Cracked Grace
I Won’t Tell You I’m Honest
Even Though I Am (Most of the Time)
“I’m a person of honesty, integrity, and have high values.” I am suspicious whenever someone lets me know right away how honest he or she is. I wonder whether they’re trying to convince me or convince themselves.
It’s such a cliché, but a person’s actions mean much more and speak much more than their words. I would never tell someone how honest I am. I would never tell someone I have integrity. I would never tell someone I have high values. Why? First, I haven’t felt it necessary to do so and in case I did, I would hesitate. I have lied on occasion. I haven’t always had the highest integrity in my dealings with others. I have high values in my mind, but I don’t always behave in a manner that reflects those high values.
I’m imperfect. I don’t announce that, either (except in this context). I also don’t announce my positive traits, often because I’m busy trying to convince myself that I have them. I’m not particularly humble about my positive qualities, it's just that I know I’m evolving. Today, I might not be as truthful, or show integrity in the best ways, or act with my highest values in mind. Tomorrow I will try to do better with honesty, with integrity, and with living my values. That will take honesty, integrity, and acting on my highest values.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cracked Grace: Grief’s Presence Revisited

Cracked Grace

I don’t often repost blogs, nor do I have a year-end review. I make an exception today. January 20 of 2014, I said a final goodbye to my friend Kathy Dwyer Fulton. I consider the blog I wrote the day after her death my finest writing of the year. I did not share it on Facebook or other social media, but I share it today. Why today? Each of us is touched by Grief’s presence. We have been over the last year and likely will be during the New Year. As long as we live and love, we are not immune to loss and the pain it engenders. However, it’s important to continue to live and love, because in the end, love is all that matters.

Grief’s Presence

Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form . . .
King John, Act III, Scene IV
   By William Shakespeare

Grief has a presence, it is tangible, as noted by the preceding Shakespeare quote. It takes up space. We feel it as it moves into and takes the place left by our loved ones when they die. Recognize and honor Grief for what it is. When Grief’s persona comes into our lives, often the only thing we can do is walk with, sit with, and even lie on our beds with Grief.

* * * * *

Grief and I crept into my bed on Monday afternoon.
I curled my body atop the down comforter, warmed from the sleeping cat.
Chocolate, English Breakfast tea, a heating pad, a deck of cards, and a book accompanied me.
Spent beyond tears, beyond speech, beyond communication, beyond sleep,
I set the heating pad on high to rid my bones of a deep, persistent ache.
Chocolate and hot tea were my lunch.
Solitaire and a book were my diversions.
Grief stayed on, its quiet presence perched at the edge of my bed, persistent as the ache in my hips.
Earlier that day, I suggested a half-hearted duel with Grief,
And stretched my mind, heart, and soul to carry on, to walk through, work through the day.
I failed to drop my glove, so Grief was gentle with me,
And recognized that my efforts at avoidance were in vain.
Grief outstretched its hand to mine and together we tiptoed to my room, where I stayed throughout the day and into the night.
At morning light, no longer spent, nor encapsulated in sorrow,
I left the evening-chilled dregs of tea, chocolate wrappers, heating pad, cards, and book behind.

I then ventured with tentative steps toward a changed life.