A life in the color of dreams.

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When I was 10, I dreamed of being a nurse.  The dream was pale in hue, a light sterile green, because that was the color of hospital walls then and I didn’t know any better.  But I was told, by someone who thought she was being kind and giving me good advice, that I should be a doctor because they made more money, and although she didn’t say directly–they have more status and are more important.  So the green became darker and bolder, because it now represented money.

By 15 I dreamed of just making it through high school and getting into college.  My dreams were darker, hospitable to those things that are not invited, but still arrive in the night.  I was really terrible at science.  I no longer dreamed of being a nurse or a doctor.  heart-1899822_640

At 20 I dreamed of being accepted, part of the cool girls clique at college.  The dream was in reds, not the bold hue of an “arrest-me-red” sports car, but a pale, pale red, of blushing, hesitancy, uncertainty, an appropriate female-type red.  I knew I wasn’t cool.

At 25 I dreamed in grays and pinstripes, classic colors for office girl attire; living on my own, keeping company with loneliness; longing for brighter hues and vibrant colors for my dreams.

beautiful-909553_640At 30, I dreamed of a white wedding dress that I wasn’t sure I would ever wear and the red of valentine hearts from someone I probably would never meet.

At 35 I met the someone and got the dress and began to dream in the daytime, because  being in relationship can often be so much more difficult than being lonely.

At 40 I dreamed in pink and blue, for the children of my dreams who were never there in the morning.  When we finally became a family, just not in the way we had originally expected, my dreams for them came in all the colors of the rainbow.

fairy-2164589_640At 50 I fell in love with the poem about wearing more purple and a red hat when I was old, but 50 is not old and I hadn’t started to dream old lady dreams yet.  But I resolved that when I did, my dreams would be in purple.

At 60 I made peace with the fact that I do not look so good in a red hat and that purple clothes designed for “mature” ladies are not so much to my liking.

At 70 my dreams are finally colored in peacefulness and serenity; in kindness and compassion; in blessing and love that, despite its fragile nature, can change the world. This is one of the surprising gifts that has come to me as I have learned to make peace with aging and its inevitable flow toward the end.  I will dream this way for the rest of my life.

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Extra Ordinary?

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Nine months ago, the Daily Word Prompt was “perfection.”  I posted a response that formulated my experience with that concept and an important way that my religious tradition helps me be compassionate with human nature, as we continuously fall short of our God-given potential.  There really is nothing wrong with having a vision of perfection, if (and it’s a very big IF) it is a motivator, providing ideas and concepts that are guideposts on a realistic life journey.

But as children we are confronted with so many of these images of perfection, real or imaginary, and so often given the message that our only hope is to mold ourselves into those images. Those of us who do not find it easy or even possible, no matter how hard we try, to match the cultural images of perfection and success become engaged in an exhausting spiritual, physical and emotional struggle trying to do so.  The idea of perfection can be intimidating and daunting, even as it is held forth as a worthy state to pursue.  A careful balance of expectations and abilities is critical and the adults who are role models need to demonstrate respect for the concept, showing with their behavior that they are working toward perfection.

The world has changed a great deal since I was a child, hopefully at least in some ways for the better, but I wonder if it is even harder now for young people to figure out what to strive for.  There is such an overwhelming tsunami of ideas and images that seem real, sound true, and look good, but might just as well be virtual reality.  So many of the most influential people in our public life, who should be examples of appropriate and compassionate behavior, instead cook up a daily diet of alternative facts and perceptions, spin, obfuscation, hateful and divisive messages, and outright deception.

Ordinary.  It so often seems to be perceived as an insult, an indication of a less desirable state.  Not perfect, not even really good; just ordinary, common, plain. Nothing special. But ordinary is also what is expected, usual, a daily occurrence, not special because it is common.  Decency, politeness, concern for others, speaking the truth and using our potential to help create a better world should be common, expected, normal behavior, in other words, ORDINARY.

 

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Riding the Medical Merry-go-Round

Spending a major portion of 2016 dealing with some major health issues, my life was consumed with frequent PCP appointments, numerous tests, consultations with several specialists, day surgery, and physical therapy, as well as attending to some on-going, but not life-threatening, conditions that need regular maintenance.

My usual fall-back position in dealing with stressful emotional and physical situations is humor. I like to poke fun at myself and the funny but mostly ineffective ways that we humans try to deny, spin, and re-shape reality when facing some of the less wonderful parts of life. I don’t know if laughter is the best medicine, but it certainly is a good one.

After all of the general practitioners, specialists, physical therapists and nurses had contributed their expertise and advice, it was all crystal clear:

The urologist says I must drink copious amounts of water to keep things circulating in my kidneys. The three large kidney stones will be removed surgically, but that can’t be done until the fluid building up in my lungs is resolved. That fluid is likely a result of the fact that one of the stones is blocking the exit from my kidney, and will continue to do so until the surgery is performed. That surgery can’t be done until a cardiologist has given the okay! The fluid has put strain on my heart, so my cardiologist has advised me not to drink too much liquid.  

In the meantime, the arthritis in my spine decided on an advance attack. I won’t elaborate on the pain involved in a ruptured disc, but humor made a speed-of-light exit from the room due to the loud screaming. Fortunately I had some serious pain medication prescribed by the urologist, which is what bought him my forgiveness for cancelling the surgery until further notice.

After crawling to the sofa and a short nap, my attempt to walk to the bathroom resulted in learning that my right knee no longer worked properly, buckling immediately and nearly dropping me to the floor. My husband helped me to the car and we headed to the health center, where he told me to stay in the car while he went to get a wheelchair. Of course, I listened to his good advice (as I always do). Instead of standing patiently by the car, I took a step. Hitting the pavement on my right knee would have resulted in a lot of additional pain except the aforementioned pain killers were still doing their job. X-rays determined that nothing was broken (except maybe my pride, but that’s a subject for a different post).

Obviously my spinal stenosis was getting worse. Now it was necessary to visit the specialist whom I had effectively avoided for almost a year because I am terrified of the idea of “spine surgery.” I know that Gronk survived it, but he is in a lot better physical shape and no doubt has much better health insurance. I’ll opt for additional physical therapy and humor.  (Okay, yes, and pain medication.)

There are many more gory details, but I’ll pass up the opportunity to continue my thinly disguised attempt to gather sympathy. Suffice it to say that the surgery was eventually done successfully and I am now free of kidney stones; I can drink the recommended amount of daily fluids (enough to float a small boat) without asking my heart to do any extra work; my right knee is still stiff, but I can walk and drive with minimal difficulty. This is all wonderful, but unfortunately I now have no more excuses to lay in bed all day reading, other than admitting that I am just lazy.

There are so many changes during this stage of life, necessary adaptations, facing whatever physical or mental decline may occur with as much dignity and grace as possible. Going through an intense period of medical issues and facing life’s inevitable major crises is difficult at any time, but now they contain an element of seriousness that was not present before. Laughing over the image of riding this medical merry-go-round, I still hear a small, scary voice asking “Is this going to be my last ride?”

And then there are the small, daily indignities, hints of more to come. The forgotten name, the morning stiffness, the digestive system that no longer handles things in the same way.  Those small things that happened to my mother as she aged, when I didn’t really understand that someday they would probably happen to me. Sure enough, yesterday I called the cat by my daughter’s name.  I laughed, because what else can I do?

Maybe labels would help.

                  CAT                                                           DAUGHTER              cat-300572_640  child-1721932_640

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images thanks to Pixabay.

Sprinkle or Dunk?

A few years ago I had a conversation with a good friend about some of the differences among Christian denominations.  Having been raised  a Quaker and now identifying as Jewish, I did not have much understanding of the rituals involved in more traditional Christian worship.  Even though I had attended different church services for weddings or funerals, I lacked understanding of the subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) differences in formal rituals and beliefs.  I was fairly sure of the differences between Catholics and Quakers, for example.  But, I was still confused about the many Protestant religions and the differences among them.

My friend is an accomplished professional woman, who is able to speak eloquently off the cuff on a number of subjects.  She could have provided me with a great deal of technical theological information.  But she is also blessed with an excellent sense of humor.  While I don’t remember much from that conversation, her explanation of baptism remains:  “It depends on whether you sprinkle or dunk.” 

It is absolutely not my intent (nor was it hers) to make light of a sacred ritual that has deep spiritual meaning for millions of people around the world. But wouldn’t it be fair to ask: Does it really matter so much whether baptism is by sprinkling a small amount of holy water on the forehead rather than immersing the entire body in it?  Is it not baptism itself that is important?  My friend’s concise rendering of what is essentially a complex subject, however, reminds me of Rabbi Hillel (first century BCE), who was challenged to explain the Torah while standing on one foot.  Given that the Torah and the resulting body of law and interpretation is, to say the least, very extensive, the challenge likely seemed impossible.  But it was accepted and Hillel said:

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah. All the rest is commentary. Now go and study.”

Like so many others, I have been struggling to channel my fearful concern for the future of our nation into positive and meaningful thinking and action.  It is so easy to become shackled by the constant stream of negative comments on social media or decisions by those in power that are clearly hateful to our “neighbors.”  I desperately want to give in to the desire to stick my head in the sand and wait out the next few years, hoping that someone else can figure out how to make things better. But I have been trying to use both of these statements to help frame my approach to the many deep differences that are in such sharp focus in our world today.

It is precisely during times like these, when it is so tempting to be fearful, to shrink into hibernation, build walls and moats and “wait it out,” that it is spiritually necessary to resist fear, reach out, tear down walls and Speak Truth to Power.

Beware the Swarm

Before responding to the daily prompt, I typed swarm into Google to see what definitions the word has of which I might not be aware.  It says a lot about our current culture that the first 10 hits led me to Swarm, a new game App that rewards players for visiting more places than their friends and through which you can even “claim mayorship of your favorite place.”  This game reminds me of a similar one I learned about a while ago that prompted me to think about our cultural and spiritual attitudes toward communal space and post my thoughts in Lost Sanctuary.

bees-1698249_640Even in its specific use relating to bees, the word seems to have a slightly negative cast, as if gentle honeybees searching for a new home are really more akin to hoards of hostile minions flowing over the hills and valleys to wreak destruction upon a peaceful village.

I would welcome a swarm if I came upon one today somewhere in the apple trees down the hill or in a hollow log fallen by the stone walls.  Because for many years now I have seen so few honeybees or butterflies and have heard so few birds on a Spring morning. When we first moved to this place over 30 years ago, it was impossible to sleep past dawn because of the massive chorus of birds that greeted the rising sun. Walking outside on a summer day necessitated planning a route that moved carefully past flowers and trees to avoid being dive-bombed by bees gathering nectar.
butterfly-1575701_640In the fall, the field of milkweed was alive with Monarch butterflies feeding eagerly before their long flight to their winter home in Mexico.

There are those who deny the devastating effects of human population growth and its accompanying technological destruction.  Unfortunately many of them are in positions of power.  I am no scientist or academic scholar and cannot offer research statistics or brilliant intellectual arguments to prove them wrong.  But I invite them to visit me and listen to the silence and look at what is no longer there.

Beware the swarm – of human ignorance and blindness and disregard for the fragile web that sustains our planet.  We cannot swarm like a crowded hive to find another place to survive.  This is the only home we have.

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Am I Smarter Than My GPS?

 

student-315029_640I’m not sure if Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? is still on television.  I haven’t seen it lately on my daily ring-around-the-channels game.   I don’t have cable service because  I had it once and quickly learned that my monthly financial layout just provided me with more options that I didn’t like.  So basically instead of having only 10 channels to choose from, I had 70, all of which played different versions of the same insipid nonsense. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to watching something insipid or mindless.  When Maury advertises his show by saying “You know you watch!” I look quickly around the room to be sure nobody is checking my reaction.  I’d just rather not pay for the privilege of wallowing in stupidity when I can just as effectively do it for free.

Somehow I digressed, which seems to occur with great frequency in the land of the golden years.  See, I’m doing it again.  Back to the subject at hand:  lately I have been questioning the “intelligence” of many of the items that we use on a daily basis, and to ask a similar question:  “Am I smarter than my GPS?”

new-york-286071_640Not long ago I drove into New York City. In no way did I expect this to be easy, and the route to my destination was fraught with construction, one-way streets, rude and ruthless drivers (don’t even get me started on that one), double-parked delivery trucks, idling taxis and pedestrians who clearly believe they possess a superpower that protects them from injury by moving vehicle.

This was just a one-day “in and out” trip, and I had no expectation that getting out of the city would be any easier.  I practiced deep breathing, anti-road-rage visualization and prepared for the worst.  Imagine my utter amazement when the route took me along a wide, lightly traveled (for NYC) and tree-lined boulevard, with reasonably polite drivers, no double-parked, over-sized moving trucks and pedestrians who actually used the crosswalks and waited for the light to change.  I don’t generally talk to inanimate objects, but made an exception since I was alone in the car.  I politely asked why my highly intelligent GPS didn’t manage be logical enough to use this nice route both times.  I may even have said something like, Na Na, I am SMARTER than YOU!

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It is common, I am sure, for people my age to have a love-hate relationship with cell phones, I-Pads, GPS, Siri and computers.  I vividly remember reading maps, knowing my own telephone number by heart, and getting weather reports by  actually stepping outside and looking around.  But now I have DEVICES that talk back to me and try to make me feel foolish and ignorant.    Wait, didn’t I have children for that?