Square on Square

The Universe has been wildly generous & tenderly supportive, but comes a time it reminds me that the WORK is up to me.

The only goal my 24-year old self had of her vision quest was fulfilling the image of a swan capable of diving down to the floor of a pond & return to the surface.

The swan is now capable of it, can use its buoyancy as a aid rather than limitation, but that means zip if the swan chooses to just keep skimming over the surface.

The work that is peculiar to my skills gifts inspirations cannot be done by someone else. It was given – at my request – to me.

The thing about being a serial bloomer – a perennial – is to BLOOM.

It always comes back to Square One – using it as a stepping stone to the next Square One & the next. To being in make each moment into something momentous.

Those are the facts of life. Pay attention to them, learn from them, live from them, or not. They will still be how life works or doesn’t.

Meh is NOT life working. Not an option.

Taking square by square by square creates a beautiful life mosaic.

Serial Bloomer

My thanks to RICH KARLGAARD for introducing me to this succulent term. Can understand why people bridle when I call myself a late bloomer- they remember, while I typically brush off, earlier wow moments.

SERIAL BLOOMER is a much better description. I wrote the words for our 8th grade graduation song, suggested the quote & design for our senior banner, College Club president, faced down daunting deans multiple times, got my dream teaching job without a narrow ed degree, shone at US Healthcare – network physician offices begged me to not move to Pudential Healthcare, produced PRUDENTIAL’s first online employee newsletter, flipped the “old guard” approach to honoring PHCS’ 50th anniversary to locally-driven & community-focused events that delighted employees & garnered press coverage, employee of the year for a 1600 employee finacial services company, collaborated with Mom in composing a primitive blog,  coordinated my sister’s online memorial service – the achievement of which I am proudest, spent 5+ blissful years as The Cupcake Lady of a local farm market.

That was then, this is now. It’s not that I’m waiting to accomplish great things – as a serial bloomer, I already have, in multiple fields. But I know my best work yet is right here, in this moment, waiting for ME to make it so. Get cracking.

Every little step she took

Earlier today, I saw a clip of a young Mikhail Baryshnikov performing  – flawlessly – ONE, from Chorus Line. Watching it left me thinking of my sister, Mim.

Mim would have appreciated that what made Baryshnikov’s performance a triumph was how he totally blended in with the other dancers. He was indistinquishable from the company, an incredible accomplishment for someone who defined star. Mim would have gotten that, having taken me three times to see Chorus Line – twice on Broadway –  where a core part of the story is whether a former star can become self-effacing enough to dance in the chorus.

It hit me, literally just a minute ago, that Mim had star power, somehow always managed to stand out in spite of seeming to fall back, to blend in with her surroundings. What strikes me is how, in reality, she was always noticed.

My sister-in-law, Pam, thought she was a neighbor when they first met, but she noticed her. In Mim’s online memorial service, Louise Rose talked about how if you went into a room & no one was there, it was Mim; about how you’d find Mim in the coat racks at an event. – – what Louise failed to notice, what I did too until right now, is how we DID see Mim, her shrinking away perversely increasing her visibility.

Mim understood the power of her perceived invisibility. In her memorial, Frank Rose wondered if Mim was aware that her extreme shyness was a spur to the organizers of a church camp making crucial & highly effective change to how they organized the programs. Yes, Frank, she did. She did more than notice – – she took great pride in being a catalyst for them changing things to better accommodate her. She bragged on it, albeit out of “adult” earshot. And it is why she rightly saw that if she changed, if she was less socially challenged & more mainstream, she’d stop getting the special treatment that she came to consider as much her right as any star of stage or screen.

For going on four years, it rankled me that Frank wondered if she was clueless about the impact of setting herself apart, hovering on the edges. On the edges – visible – not hunkered down in her cabin or the dining hall. Visible, on the perimeter. And people went out of their way to draw her in.

People who attended those long ago early Laurel Camps remember with admiration approaching awe Mim thanking Frank as the one who brought her from the back of the room to the front. That was Mim’s super power – – she made people feel that THEY were filling a void in her that one else could.

I have no doubt that Mim did appreciate Frank for bringing her to the front of the room. Laurel changed Mim, opened her to life in ways we’d never seen before. She got her bachelor’s from NYU – tuition, books, transportation (it was a night school program for non-traditional students) under written by a family friend because, of course, Mim had no money. I assume someone paid for her books & tuition, apartment & food when she got her MSW from Rutgers, because she never copped to having money.

It was amazing, what Mim managed to do without any visible means of support.

But then, Mim mastered to perfection being the person who seemed to blend into the background but managed to be uppermost in people’s minds & caring hearts. Not snide nor snarky, just fact.

Not long ago, I wanted Frank to KNOW she knew. Now, all I feel is a wistful sadness that while Frank did bring her to the front of the room & she got her BA & her MSW & even received a gorgeous official proclamation from the New Jersey Assembly – with fancy lettering & the state seal – for her exceptional volunteer work with autistic children, none of it was ever enough, To the end, others experienced her as on the edge of fading out & rushed in to let her know they were there for her.

Mim might have seemed to blend into the scenery, but make no mistake about it – the woman had that ineffable quality called star power. In every little step she took!

Debilitating delusion

Skipping breakfast to try to get this down before heading out. It’s something I’ve been thrashing over all month; it’s a struggle to put down in writing a debilitating quirk that’s derailed my best intentions through all my years. Attempts feel like trying to put a dream into words – the images are there, but the 3-dimensional language to express them evades me.

When my best friends get an idea that’s worth their time energy resources, they pursue it until the idea becomes reality – aka until it is completed & done. Along the way, they might decide it wasn’t worth their investment, that maybe it’s best done at a different time or not at all, in which case they might set it aside. Otherwise, they dig in, buckle up & knuckle down until they checked it off their to-do list. Because they get their greatest cosmic high from COMPLETION. My psychic high is in getting the idea, not in it being DONE. And that has been my undoing. Still is.

UPDATE: Had to stop writing to take John to an early a.m. thing, then headed down to grab a cafe au lait at my beloved Be Well Cafe. While there, got into a discussion with two wildly creative friends about ideas & focus. One friend doesn’t have the whoosh of ideas that come to me & the third person. I expressed my envy at her narrow focus, observing that when ideas are plentiful, follow-through can be hampered by fresh distractions.

The third friend’s face spoke volumes before she uttered a word. What I had described is not her reality. With her, an idea that aches to come out will haunt her until she makes it happen, brings it to completion, checks it off as DONE.

With that one comment, my debility delusion went pffffft. Disappeared in a whiff of smoke, leaving not so much as a pair of witch shoes behind. But I did half expect to find a pair of ruby red slippers on my feet, the sense of sudden, sweeping insight was so strong.

Could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from the ideas banging around my brain, thrilled to FINALLY be getting what I’d never thought to give – respect & honoring.

Sheez – I started out this morning not able to find the words to describe a debilitating delusion that’s dogged my days & VOILA – am delighted to be haunted by goals awaiting their debut.  Heather did just that – her comment shook my magnolias, utterly revamped my sense of creativity & creating.  My undoing is undone.

 

March – – Bih bye!

Here in SE Pennsylvania, March is the month when the first green shoots are visible. We delight in late February’s delicate snow drops, but March is when we glory in blankets of crocus & banks of daffodils, trees fuzzy with leaf buds, extravagantly magenta red bud trees, creamy white & pink magnolias.

March is also, historically, the darkest, darkest month for my family – my parents, my siblings & myself. It’s the month my grandfather died when Mom was nineteen, when my mother had a nervous breakdown at 46, when my 11-year old brother was killed when she was 49 & I was eleven, when Dad died at 63, when I got the boot from my dream teaching job, when Mom & Kerry had a disastrous communication debacle.  I can now add to that  litany “the month my oldest brother told me he wanted me to plan his memorial service.”

That sounds possibly bothersome, but dark & dank? Yes, so very yes.

My brother has not made any secret, at least to me, of his dislike. Per our mother, when a counselor they saw for one visit in the late 1990s remarked on the apparently tender relationship he had with my sister & asked if they had always been close, Peter replied, “No, it is recent.” As relayed to me by Mom, when the counselor asked what drew them together, Peter answered, “We discovered that neither of us liked Elsa (me).”

Now, Mom might have misrepresented what was said, but it rings true to me. Even as a little kid, I was under no delusion about Peter’s feelings; as an adult, I understood that my value to my to key sibs was determined by what I could do FOR them.

I strove for years to create some sort of relationship with my older sibs because, no matter what their feelings, I do family. Or perhaps more “I do relationship,” and see myself related to all living things. I didn’t help my sibs because I thought they’d like me or treat me as a blood relative, but because they were in need & that is what humans are meant to do.

But one comfort I had over the past four years of being there for Peter was that I would not have to plan his memorial, given I have no ties to the church he has attended for many years & that has been wondrously supportive of him since his health declined over the past decade. But he doesn’t plan on having it at The Church of the Messiah. He wants it at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral. And guess who has the connections there necessary to plan a memorial?

Although I understand that looking our mortality in the face can send us back to our childhood roots, I confess to thinking it is just plain scuzzy to ditch the church where people actually know himto have his memorial in one where he’s a stranger to anyone under seventy. And why? Because of long dormant childhood connections? He wasn’t married there, his children weren’t baptized there. His adult connections are to churches outside our faith. But it is a stunning building.

And once I got over the shock of being told what he wanted from me – took several days – I began to see the fun. Peter has certain music he wants, maybe favorite recordings – thank heavens, cathedral’s excellent sound system can handle any playlist, so whatever he wants can be woven into the prelude interlude postlude, with live organ for the hymns. And because the services are live streamed, Reynolds can watch from North Carolina, Scott from Georgia, Whitney can watch from Texas, Jim from Missouri, Karen P from Nevada, Angie from California, Mike & Kerry & Karen E from New South Wales.

This unwelcome request joins the litany of March’s dank moments. I hope when the time comes to do whatever it is that’s expected that I will turn this unwanted task into a moment my brother would have savored.

March has officially blended into April.  At last. Bih bye!

 

 

Ungloving

We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.

When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.

It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.

Mark Nepo – The Book of Awakening