Traveling in the Desert

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Sundown tonight begins the holiday of Passover, which celebrates the journey of the Jewish people from a place of bondage through years of wandering in the desert in search of a promised land. We tell this story every year as if we ourselves were on this journey and acknowledge the struggles our ancestors endured as they transformed themselves from a subject people who served human masters to a free people bound by the ethical and ritual laws given to them at Mt. Sinai.

It is easy to imagine the hope and excitement with which the Hebrews set out to freedom. Certainly they must have imagined countless times how wonderful it would be to leave their place of bondage and enjoy the sweet taste of freedom.  But what soon happens in this journey?  Uncertainty, fear, discord….kvetching and complaining.  “Did you bring us here to die in the desert?  Better we should have stayed in Egypt….”

Back when I was working a stressful job and frequently wishing I didn’t have to get up in the morning, I thought about how wonderful it was going to be when I could retire and how getting older would be an experience of freedom.  While there is much about being retired and growing older that is positive, there has also been a lot of sadness that I somehow did not anticipate.  This is not sadness that has a particular cause that can be addressed and possibly changed, but a general, organic sadness that underlies everything else.  This journey, however long it may be, will eventually culminate in the ending of my life.  This is not meant as a complaint or bid for sympathy.   It is simply the truth.

Growing older is a blessing, and few of us would choose the alternative, just as freedom is a blessing and few of us would choose enslavement.  As I have been spiritually preparing for Passover,  I have felt many parallels in my journey getting older and the journey that my ancestors took through the desert. I often long for what has been left behind, frequently look around in bewilderment for road signs or landmarks that will assure me I am traveling in the right direction, and struggle to maintain the spiritual fortitude that makes the journey possible.

One of my favorite parts of the Passover Seder is “Dayenu!”  Essentially it is a statement that each blessing or gift we receive in life stands on its own merits, and is “enough,” even when (maybe particularly when) it does not completely fulfill our needs or desires.  It reminds us to stop and be thankful, to consider what we have to be more valuable than what we do not have.

This is not easy to achieve or maintain.  But one of the important spiritual tasks for life’s journey is to try to live in a way that when we reach the end, we can say “Dayenu!”

 

 

 

Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes

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One of the strange things about aging is a big change in body image.  Unfortunately, this does not mean I have gained a Zen-like attitude toward my less than perfect body, or that I have made peace with the idea that I probably will never be able to pass by a plate of brownies without succumbing to their beckoning call.

In the past, when given any conscious thought, my body seemed to function as a whole.  Of course, there were times of sickness or injury when one part of my body would take front and center for a while.  But still, as the old song says, the head was connected to the neck bone, and so on.  The various parts communicated with each other on a regular basis and made agreements on who would move first and where they were all headed.

Lately, however, it seems that all these parts have become a highly dysfunctional family, with little agreement on who is in charge.  (I thought it was me, but clearly I have been mistaken all this time.)  Basic and simple things, such as getting out of bed in the morning, have become fraught with dissension, arguing and downright refusal to cooperate!  Like a roomful of tired and hungry preschoolers, everyone is clamoring for attention, or alternatively, sulking in the corner and refusing to talk.

Getting Up in the Morning (A One Act Play)

Cast of characters (not necessarily in order of appearance):

Brain – the parental unit (who thinks it is in charge)

Spine – the communication highway between the brain and all the rest; basically, cable and internet

Back – the oldest child, a teenager

Hips – twins, 10 years old, known as “right” and “left”

Bladder – 2 years old

Family cat

Scene:  A 70 year old woman lies in a comfortable bed sleeping soundly.  It is around 5 AM.  Suddenly a piercing voice shatters the silence.

Bladder: MOMMEE!!!!  I HAVE TO PEE!!!!

Brain: Umpffghgh??

Spine: Briefly sputters to life, sputters some more and then goes dead

Bladder: MOMMEE!!! I WEALLY HAVE TO PEE!!!!

Brain: UmpKgkee. IKHee!!

Spine: Connection: One bar.

Back: (With the type of righteous anger that only a teenager can summon at 5 AM)                                    SHUT UPPPPPP!!

Right Hip: MOMMEE!! I DON’T FEEL GOOD

Left Hip: I DON’T FEEL GOOD EITHER; UH-OH, Right just BARFED!!

Back:  IF YOU ALL DON’T SHUT UP, I’M COMING OUT THERE AND BEAT YOU UP.

Spine:  Connection: Two bars. (Just enough to start the brain talking, but not enough                            to fully engage the thought process.)

Brain: Back, I don’t care if you were up playing video games until 4 AM;                                                    You need to SHUT UP yourself.

Left Hip: MOMMEE!! I just BARFED too!

Bladder: MOMMEE!! I AM GOING TO PEE IN MY BED!!

Brain: Hold on, hold on, I’m coming……. Back, hips, get moving. Start walking, watch                      out for the cat; oh, god, is that a dead mouse–don’t step on it!!!

                                    Here I am, Bladder, we made it!!

The End!!

 

 

 

 

 

No, I can’t hear you now!!

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About 20 years ago, my husband said I should get a cell phone “in case of an emergency.” At the time, I was commuting 25 miles morning and evening to my job in the nearest city, we had two young children, and three members of our family who were in their 80’s.  My commute also involved long stretches of country highway, not highly traveled, and with various species of large animals who liked to cross the road in the dark. Even though cell phone coverage was fairly spotty for much of the trip, it still seemed reasonable to me that having a phone in the car “just in case” was a good idea.

At that time, cell phones were not necessarily new or unusual, but most people I knew didn’t have one.  Those who did were doctors or emergency personnel and perhaps the occasional high-technophobe who always had the latest toy before everyone else.

In the interim, cell phones have become so common an accessory that I am pretty sure it won’t be long before sperm cells will contain miniature communication devices so that we will be able to talk to our children before they’re even born.  (I am convinced that somehow my in-laws managed to anticipate this coming development, as I am pretty sure they were born with phones clutched in their little fists, and haven’t stopped talking since.)  So far I haven’t heard about cell coverage in the grave, but it probably won’t be long before coffins come with a Bluetooth option.

Back to the idea that I needed a cell phone for “emergencies.”  Beyond a few occasions that could fall under a definition of emergency that would please Mr. Webster, over the years what has actually constituted an emergency for which my cell phone is necessary?

  • Can you stop at the hot dog stand and bring some home?  They’re four for $3.00 today.
  • Check and see if the auto parts store is open.  I need some WD40.  Large can.
  • What are you planning to make for dinner tonight?
  • I was going to pick up my mess from the dining room table, but I got distracted.
  • Don’t forget to go to the post office and pick up the mail.
  • I parked all the way at the end of the parking lot and some dingbat parked right next to me.
  • The town dump truck turned around in our driveway.

You get the picture…..

I am not sure when it  became necessary for people to be in constant contact or when it became critical to share the excruciating minutiae of everyday life on Facebook or by constant texting, e-mailing and phone calls.

Clearly the technology has many positive and socially important uses, and perhaps I am wallowing in a bit of old lady bah humbug here.  But just because you CAN call me with every random thought that cruises through your consciousness doesn’t mean that you HAVE TO.   Yes, I know there is caller ID and voicemail, but the problem now is that if I don’t answer my phone, or return calls immediately, then obviously something must be wrong and I also get a text and an e-mail asking why I didn’t answer.

It’s because I’m in a dead zone – not THAT dead zone, just the one that Dan Hicks was referring to when he wrote “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?”  Sorry, I still can’t hear you…….