Archives for posts with tag: life

2020 began as very ordinary, which is fine. I worked on New Year’s Eve and didn’t take any days off. I began the day by leaving home early. Destination: Target. I had a gift card and wanted to see if I could use it. It was the third or fourth time within the past few weeks that I would find myself looking at food processors. Did I really need one? If I do buy this, how often will I realistically use it? Which one? This one gets mediocre reviews. That one feels cheaply made. And on and on I went. I left the store without a food processor.

Generally, I feel that I am a spiritual person and that I have intention on a daily basis; however, lately, more so than usual, I am feeling more and more drawn toward scripture and Eastern wisdom, and any other traditions that speak to me through the fiction that I read or movies that I watch. It’s possible that this resurgence in me is a result of the continuous negativity in the world. I know that the news usually has some tragedy to report, but it just seems like it’s becoming more brutal, more often. It could be the aging process, within myself (although, technically, I’m not at the high yet), and my in-laws.

I suppose as I journey along and keep glancing back, wondering–as I know many do, where the heck did all the time go. How did life start going so fast. Just yesterday, I was a small child, wanting so much to grow up–to be an adult, to do grown up things. And now here I am, almost at the half-way point–If we use 100 as the full measure.

Here I am at the library–my sanctuary. I always find myself here when I need to take a break, be present, search the shelves for some inspiration and/or guidance. Today, I held back a little. I always like to scan the new arrivals shelf and that’s where I found, Eating the Sun: small musings on a vast universe and Bathed in Prayer: Father Tim’s Prayers, Sermons, and Reflections from the Mitford Series. On the books for sale shelf, I selected Zen Keys.

A nice group of books to take home, get cozy, and settle in with.

When I first learned of this book a few years ago, I never would have expected what I found within its pages. I appreciate snails, but I never imagined that I would want to keep reading of the companionship that one humble snail would offer to its newfound keeper and continue learning more. The writing is beautiful in an understated way. The descriptions of the author’s country home and nature transport, and the details allow the reader into this intimate space.

I never feel Elisabeth Tova Bailey feels sorry for herself in a way that takes away from her story or journey. I feel a kinship with her and her snail who becomes the shining star in this memoir because of her strange, debilitating illness, that comes upon her suddenly when she’s on her way from her travels to home.

I love that each chapter is headed by a haiku or quote that ties in nicely to each chapter. It’s true, this small book does indeed feel like a “delicate meditation on the meaning of life.”

A gentle and beautiful read that I’m happy to have stumbled upon.

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Today is a day
that marks endings,
and beginnings–
of life pulsing its way through
and of life exiting with a swift burst.

Today is a quiet day,
and also a day to be grateful.

Today will always have a quiet sadness,
and a quiet happiness.

Today will always be a mystery for the
significance of the endings and beginnings
that it marks.

I’ve had this film on my mind for the past few weeks. When I first watched it, at least 10 years ago, the question it posed made an impression on me: If when I Die, I can select one memory to take with me to the beyond and relive that memory for eternity, what would I choose?

The film was stored in my mental river. I’m not sure what has drawn me back to this movie recently, possibly it was recharged by watching another Japanese film dealing with death and reading a handful of Japanese literature lately that brought me back.

The film is told, for the most part, through a series of interviews with the dead who have arrived at a way station. They have one week to decide on just one memory that the counselors will do their best to recreate on film for the dead to view one last time before they depart to heaven and live this memory for eternity. The counselors gather as much information as possible from each person in order to bring their one memory to life. In some cases, when a person cannot think of any memories, their tapes are ordered: one for each year of their life. They then sit down, watch and search.

As I began giving thought to the memories in my own memory bank–if this were real and I were in their shoes, what would I do? At first, a memory came to me easily enough. Then I thought of how much depends of what stage of life we’re at and whose in it at the time. But if I’m already dead, that changes.

Then after watching the movie again, I had a change of heart. I realized that it would be too difficult to select just one memory, and to be honest, after I started thinking about what one of the characters said, he reminded me that it might actually be a little sad to relive the same memory forever.

I identified most with an elderly woman in her eighties who reminded me of my grandmother. She had nice round cheeks that were lifted into a smile. While she was sitting for her interview, as soon as she heard birds chirping, she looked to where she heard the sound coming from, and all her attention shifted. She didn’t say much. She had a bag in her lap that she was taking leaves out of and setting on the table, one by one. She asked if there were any flowers in the garden. In the spring they told her.

After asking her a series of questions: Was she married? Did she have children? and being met with nods of her head to say no, the counselors realized that this woman had actually already chosen her memory. She had sort-of locked into her childhood when she died, so instead of the 80-year old woman we saw, she was actually a young girl inside. They show a scene toward the end where she is sitting on the bench swinging her legs with the happiest, most carefree expression on her face. That is one of my favorite moments in the movie.

There aren’t any special effects in this film; instead what you’ll find is a touching, sometimes funny, sometimes sad expression of the afterlife and an exploration of the memories these characters hang on to, the power of all of our senses; and in turn, how these expressions encourage us to reflect upon our own treasured memories.

**

After Life (known in Japan as Wonderful Life) – 1998
Directed and written by Hirokazu Koreeda

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From time to time, K. and I get together for lunch. We used to work together long ago and kept in touch. It’s hard for me to believe she’ll be 64 this year. I told her that her spirit is like a 30 year old to me and she has a glow about her–a youthfulness–that doesn’t make her seem her age.

K. is picky about where we eat, so I was pleasantly surprised when she said yes to the Indian restaurant that serves a lunch buffet. Is it clean she asked. Yes, I said. Is it good? Well, I like it…yes, it’s good. We chose a table near the back in this dimly lit restaurant with colorful walls and Indian music playing in the background. We went up to fill our plates with a variety of Indian fare. When we get back to the table, we both admire our plates. To me, it’s like a palette of desert colors waiting to be painted into a beautiful piece of art, and the spices take me somewhere far away that I’d like to experience in real time. K. is excited and after taking her first bite, she is in love with this place and plans to come back and bring back her co-workers. I tell her I’m so happy to hear it, that I’m glad she likes it and was willing to give it a chance.

We talk about our lives, about how we have in common this drifting quality, this thing in both of us where we never really found “careers” and that neither of us has ever aspired to “success” in the traditional sense. It’s interesting for me to juxtapose our similarities given the age span between us.

We talk about how I’m trying to get pregnant and how it’s scary, being older and not having a super solid foundation, but having a deep feeling that things will work out if indeed I am able to conceive and follow through with a healthy pregnancy. She tells me how she’s always wanted children, but she said from the get go her husband made it clear he did not want children. He did not want to bring a child into this world; and I have to say, I used to feel exactly the same way, but things have changed. I have changed.

My mother conceived me when she was 43 and I was born in the summer when she was 44. This year I will be two years younger than the age she was when I was conceived. When I told my brother, who practically raised me, that hubby and I were trying to get pregnant, he was so excited for us and said that he and his girlfriend had wondered about it. I told him of my concerns, being older and all; and of course, he reminded me of our mother having me when she was close to my age. I said, yes, but…and gave him a few of my concerns. He said to keep positive. I said, yes, and asked him if he would pray for me, and he said of course.

At this point I don’t want to get my hopes up because first we have to actually get pregnant and second…well, it’s very possible we can’t. It’s difficult to make a decision to want something, something as big and life changing as having a baby, only to feel that the odds are against you, even though you see older mothers conceiving and having healthy babies all the time. We haven’t’ been trying terribly long, but each month I get my period, there’s a small sadness that hovers over me. When I see pregnant mothers, there is a longing inside of me. When I play with little A., I want so much to be a mother. But, this is in my body’s hands and in God’s hands. What will be, will be. My migraines are a whole other issue. I can’t take any medication, except Tylenol, which really doesn’t help. I stopped taking the daily meds right away when we knew we were trying and hubby said to be sure to speak to the doctor about the medication I take. I remain hopeful.

So K. and I talked about all that and she assured me that she had no regrets at not having children, but the thought didn’t leave my mind, and I vowed to myself and hubby felt the same way; we don’t want to have the regret of at least not trying.

We also talked about movies. First it started with me asking her if her husband was emotional or if he was more like my husband, which is probably like most men–which is hardly emotional.

I gave her a recent example. I told her how we were in a nice restaurant and for some reason I decided to tell hubby about a Japanese movie that I had watched called Departures and how although there was a bit of light humor throughout, ultimately, it was a melancholy film that moved me deeply, especially the final scene. I told her that as I described the final scene to him, I choked up and that he gave me this look to say are you really going to start crying in the middle of dinner while I’m trying to enjoy my steak and shrimp. I pushed through it without tears.

So here I am retelling the same final scene to K. and the strange thing is, I thought it would be out of my system; instead, I was reliving the moment and I choked up again, only I let the tears come and she got emotional and she started crying and then laughing and then I started laughing and crying again and then laughing because here we are in the restaurant, two women crying over their meals.

She then told me about a movie that made her emotional called Hachi. I told her I hadn’t seen it but that I knew of the movie. And well, we went through the process again because as she told me what the movie was about, she started welling up and her emotion touched me and we were crying and laughing again.

I noticed that her tears were a lot bigger than mine. I reached into my bag and offered her a tissue to wipe the mascara that had trickled down her face.

Life is a tangled
thorn of roses.

Clearing the path,
we must keep
some of the thorns–
a balance between
joy and pain.

At the end of the path,
I see a beautiful rose–
velvet petals unfolding,
sitting upon a perfect stem
with thorns that look strong and
handsome.

All of life comes
to a still point in
that one rose
that carries my
gaze into
eternity.

Piercing blue eyes,
he, curved into his core,
a hand that trembles;
white hair, a lazy leg.

Making his living, in the last
stages of his life, washing away
the grime, making sure we can see
clearly, daydream through those clear windows,
watch the passerby.

I see him from time to time. The last,
before this, I wept.

I wept because I felt that I
was looking upon one of God’s Angels–

The moment I whispered these words aloud
for only my ears: ‘that is one of God’s Angels’–
the tears trailed down my face.

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I first came across this quote, it was love at first sight. Every time I re-read this quote it puts life into perspective. It reaffirms where I’m at and the many times that I am able to appreciate all the moments–not the things–but the moments, the experiences, and memories, that combine to make up this thing we call life. It reaffirms what I hold dear to my heart and makes me realize how grateful that I feel for being able to experience life in the simplest ways. It makes me happy that I’ve worked through my anger at different points in life, and that even when I’m frustrated and want to give up, I keep pushing forward with a smile on my face, trying to find light and balance within the darkness.

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The 13th of August was an interesting day. A day where the crepe myrtle I passed looked especially lovely, her curved arms an embrace, comforting the invisible person by her side or perhaps it was the breeze being caressed by her and then as I approached behind a car, waiting for the light to turn, I saw a boy–well, a young man and he almost got pummeled by a car that wasn’t watching for pedestrians. The boy’s body curved into the car as the brakes screeched. His body moved with the quickest of reflexes. He ripped his ear buds from his ears, perhaps to fully take in the fact that his life just flashed before him. My hands came up to my head as I let our a little cry, as I was a witness to this almost horrific event.

On the 13th people seemed especially open and friendly and I too felt a lightness and openness in my being, a go with it feeling, rather than pushing against the current. Appointment times got mixed up; instead of being fussy, knowing I had an email that showed I was right, I took responsibility and apologized to put the other person at ease. It didn’t matter. It was a trifle not worth fretting about. Just these little things added to the day–added to shedding the feeling, of the need for control and simply moving along with the course of events, however big or small.

I had purposely scheduled a certain appointment on the 13th related to my old apartment because the 13th is a day that feels positive, that feels filled with hope, balance, and goodness.

The 14th turned out to be the other side of 13. It wasn’t a bad day, exactly, but it felt as though all the wonderfulness of the 13th had been rubbed out, yet because the 13th had such an impression upon me, it was still a special day and 14 wasn’t going to mess that up for me. I would have to put into practice all that 13 had to teach me about giving up control.

So on the 14th, the cable person showed up on the late side of the appointment window, which would mean I was probably going to be late to work. I had mentioned it to the boss and kept him posted. The cable person ran into a bit of a glitch with the second outlet. He proposed one solution that would involve a temporary solution and would require that he or another technician come back. Then he thought of another solution that was acceptable, but not perfect. In the course of checking and re-checking, he found a final solution, but all of this took time. I had already had a small bowl of cereal, but was quickly becoming famished and I felt a headache coming on. I knew that as soon as he left, and I left for work, I was going to stop for a quick snack somewhere.

At last, I’m out the door, everything working properly. Cable and internet ready.

Feeling my hunger grow, I know I will have one stop before work. I pull up to the stop sign and begin to go, then I stop because I see a truck coming. I could have made it. I prefer to take it slow and to always be careful to a fault. Well, what I did not see was the antsy woman behind me. She began to go as I went, then crash, she ran into me. I only felt the impact and didn’t see her behind me. I’m always so careful. I swore to myself then I pulled over in annoyance. As soon as I got out of the car, and this was an older woman, maybe in her mid-sixties or later, she looks at me and says, “You look fine.” I look at the back of my truck, nothing. It wasn’t a huge impact, but my body jolted. I look at her and say, “You look fine too.”

“Yes, I’m fine, just a little shaken up.”

I did the stupidest thing I think I’ve ever done in my life (and I don’t even like using the word stupid and mostly never use the word), I failed to take her number, her registration, nothing. I just agreed that all seemed well and we both parted.

I pulled into a fast food joint’s drive thru and ordered onion rings and a coffee. Out of coffee. Fine. I’ll take a Sprite. As I pulled out of the lot, I looked to the left and the sky looked rather hazy, then I started feeling faint and slightly anxious. I pulled over and tried to relax. I pulled over to call the boss to let him know that I was on my way, told him what happened, and said that I felt a little woozy. He asked if there was something I wanted him to do. I said no that mostly I wanted him to know that I was on my way and if I didn’t make it, he’d know why and what happened.

I made it to work fine and think that I was still just shaken up and that my body was in need of food.

What stood out for me in these two days is how on the 13th I felt so grand and how the 14th tested me. The 13th reminded me that even when everything is going along wonderfully, even then we must stop to appreciate those little moments, knowing how fleeting they can be, and it is good practice to stay in balance. It just felt like there was so much love and something magic in the air on the 13th. I can’t even fully explain it. It was like walking around in a cloud of love.

We all have these days, with our ups and downs, and surprises.

I feel grateful…the days make me feel grateful to be alive, 13 or 14–no matter which day it is, they all have something to offer and they each have different elements within them to appreciate and to revere.

I stir my little pot of words and they seem to be stuck or am I stuck? I feel that it’s all too easy to be hard on ourselves, to come to expect great things from ourselves, that having these expectations leave us flat.

Here I am, ebbing and flowing to some distant calling; at the same time I am quite still, so still…my ECE summer class is almost done. It has been informative and interesting learning about childhood psychology and development. At moments I have felt little threads of myself being unravelled as I go back to different parts of my childhood with a different perspective for reflection. I think of my attachment relationships and wonder what my temperament was like. I feel that at times I regress–I think we all do, really. I think of how my mother tried to coax her girl out of her shell and how I wouldn’t budge. I wanted to stay in the safety of my own quiet world. Not much has changed. I still enjoy spending time with myself doing quiet things, but I also have moments where I surprise myself and become somewhat outgoing–if I’m in a comfortable element, I suppose.

I say what’s on my mind, I express when something is bothering me, even when the best thing may be just to “go with it.”

I look back and for whatever reasons, I’ve been…it has to do with finishing. I get started at something and I follow through to a point and then I stop or else I continue without a plan. I’m process oriented. That can be great; likewise, it can also create for a long amorphous path.

If I dig deep, I come back to those words that echo from a time long ago when my student-therapist asked if perhaps I was experiencing the fear of success. I think that fear is at the bottom–has been at the bottom of my dilly dallying nature. I’m focused and quite efficient and will do my best when it comes to my work, but somehow I seem to sabotage myself by only going so far.

I’ve come to another familiar crossroads, only it’s all too familiar. I go round and round as though I cannot seem to make the record stop spinning the same song. I have enjoyed both the ECE classes that I have taken. I feel that I have gained much, but after much reelection and thinking, I don’t think the world of ECE will be materializing for me.

I remember an old customer when I worked at the burger joint. He was sitting at the counter. I must have been in my early twenties. He knew I was taking classes at the time and he said he had racked up credits and wished that he at least would have completed his A.A. That’s where I am. I never completed my A.A. because I moved onto working on my B.A., only I never completed it.

I decided that I need to complete my A.A. for myself, that it’s time to at least take the last bit of required classes to complete it. I know it won’t mean much in the real world nowadays, since it’s not a higher degree, but it will mean something to me.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with accounting for many years and that’s what it’s going to be. I’m going to take the remaining accounting courses that I need, complete my science requirement, and if all goes well, by the end of 2014 or 2015, I should have completed that goal.

Fear and lack of self-confidence: I think these are my enemies and my best friends. They are always there for me to navigate.

The mind is a mysterious creature. Even when we think we’ve got it all figured out, what were left with is a big question mark. I don’t mind. I don’t know that I would change much about where I am in life. I think that I’m meant to be right where I am and that’s just fine.

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