Friday, March 30, 2012

Zen and the Art of Enormous Balls

foyer, before the show, no pictures inside allowed...
Blue Man Group puts on a spectacular show. I had watched you tube videos, but was completely unprepared for this marvelous experience. I won't go about the performance, you'll just have to get yourself to one to appreciate it, but what I want to talk about is the ending.
Music, drumming, lights, paper streamers running through the entire audience, and Balls. Six enormous light filled balls that fell from the ceiling and were bounced around by the paper covered, dancing audience with a music and light show that was inside and outside the balls, it was fantastic. Of course all you wanted to do was be one of the hands that touched one of the balls and sent it off again (I did, twice, it was great), but at some point I realized that all I was focusing on was getting my hands on the ball and I was missing a much bigger show.

The show where all my kids, and everyone around me was laughing, dancing and really enjoying themselves. The show where the lights, music and paper were the best time you'd ever had. The show, that in the time it lasted, was a moment when we were all joyous and together, and to see that whole picture I had to pull back my focus, for a moment, and experience what was going on around and beside me.

It was difficult, and I only managed to stop and look around me for a moment before I was lunging after the bouncing balls, but it was enough. I thought, as I paused, I need to do this in my life. Stop chasing my tail (balls? too easy, will save that for another post), stop and really look around. Be awake. Be present. Everything else is icing.  

The magic of that moment didn't last, such is the nature of moments, but perhaps the thought will be a lasting change, a reminder for me on what I can do with this life of mine.

I find enlightenment in the oddest places, but that's life I suppose, and if you're going to live it you have to be awake and be open to receive what wisdom the world has to offer you, because sometimes it comes in the unlikeliest places, say in enormous bouncing balls...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Before the storm, almost....

here comes the rain?
Four days of 80+ degree weather in March and this appears to be the start of the promised thunder storm.... or not quite yet?

Mother Nature you're very fickle this year. Could it be you're tired of our less than dignified treatment of you?

I understand.

It seems women of all types are being treated badly of late. Told we should not be in charge of our own bodies, that we lack the intelligence to make informed medical decisions, that our own morality is insufficient. If we choose to have sexual intercourse with a man, we are sluts for wanting access to birth control.

It's curious the men that we are having these sexual relationships with bear no responsibilty, nor do they have their morality questioned and the contents of their testicles legislated.

and there it goes...
I feel rather stormy about it myself.

I think women, and men, I think PEOPLE need not to speak up about this, we need to SHOUT about it, POUND drums, DEMAND to be treated with respect that is each human being's birthright. I have not brought two daughters and a son into this world to have them accept sexism cloaked in false morality.

So bring it on Mother Nature, it's time for a storm.

Just for today

Once again I'm waiting in a coffee shop, but since the weather thinks it's July and it's over 80 outside I'm drinking iced green tea instead of coffee. I'm sure it's much healthier, and I swear its iced tea and not the beer it looks like in the photo. Also, who eats mini doughnuts with beer?!

My big news - I don't have cancer. Which is good, but there is a very small (very crazy) part of me that is disappointed. Like I said crazy, but here's my thinking, if I had cancer I could get a break from being in charge of everything, I'd have the best reason in the world to just focus on myself and the rest of my world would have to step up and start taking care of itself.  I'm that tired. That tired of the juggling, organizing, debating, deciding, driving (driving, driving), and being my family's emotional safe place that the thought of surgery, illness, baldness, deformity, and possible death sound like a vacation.

Very crazy part of my brain.

My more rational self just hired a cleaning woman, and could weep at the gleeming kitchen cupboards, spotless stove and all the bathrooms being clean AT THE SAME TIME. Also, I'm having a doughnut in the afternoon and NOT feeling guilty about it.

This too will pass, and we'll be on to the next adventure. An adventure that will not be anything I'm expecting, and once again I will adapt.

Today I don't have cancer. Today is a beautiful day, and today I can handle what comes my way.  That's how I handle this crazy life I have now, one day, one coffee shop at a time.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

"A poem begins as a lump in the throat,..."

"A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a love sickness." - Robert Frost.

Life has been, well, busy - details in previous blogs. I try to put on my oxygen mask first, I really do, but something always falls through the cracks. Things like mammograms. 

Mammograms, with ultrasounds that I'm suppose to get every six months, mammograms that my gynecologist sends me sternly worded letters via registered mail to go do - Now. Reminders that kept getting bumped by my more immediate needs. I had good intentions, I was going to book the tests, I was, as soon as I had some time. I need to go for the extra squeezy scans, and 30minute ultra sounds, and I just never found the block of time. That is until last Friday night.

It had already an emotional evening, and was past midnight when I was going to bed for the fifth time, and that's when I found it, the lump in my right breast, cozied up near the lymph nodes. One of the advantages of going through very stressful, emotionally draining times is that there is little energy left for panic, or guilt about lumps that you don't think were there last week? month? I looked up at my bedroom ceiling and said "REALLY?" to no one in particular.

I went to bed, too exhausted to obsess. Before I opened my eyes the next morning my first thought was "I have a lump in my breast". I checked, yes, it was still there. I spent ten minutes staring at the beige ceiling wishing I'd painted it, then I could have a colour to stare at. I thought about pretending I didn't find anything, that it was just another cyst, that I shouldn't waste anyone's time. Then I sat up and called my doctor. I told them I found a lump, they said come in this afternoon. 

I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and thought this how someone with a lump in her breast looks. I imagined myself without breasts, scars running across my chest; I imagined myself without hair. I have a lump. That thought permeated everything I did that day. I asked one of my kids to unload the dishwasher and added in my head, "and, I have a lump". My brain shouted it to each person I saw, "Dry cappuccino please - did you know I have a lump?". I was fascinated how everyone was acting like it was a perfectly ordinary day. I thought about the months I let slip by without getting that mammogram. I told myself I had been too busy, but that was only half true, I was tired of being poked at, I just wanted to go for a spell where I didn't have to wear a damn hospital gown, where I wasn't a specimen.  Then I thought I won't see my kids get any older than adolescence, and I hated myself. 

Soon enough I was in my doctor's waiting room, then after being weighed and measured I was laying down in paper gown that opens in the front being examined by my doctor. Dr. Fitzgerald is the first doctor I've had who is younger than I am, and we joke around a lot, he's seen me through a major car accident, liver failure, pneumonia, hip surgery... and we always manage to find some bit of humour to break things up a bit, so when he said you need to see a surgeon right away I thought he was joking and actually started to laugh. Then I saw his face. 

So now I have been for the mammogram, all eight views, with stickers attached and the lump marked. I've had the ultrasound that mapped it's location and size. I spent two hours in freezing rooms wearing a paper gown while technicians spoke encouragingly to me. Now I wait. On Tuesday I see the surgeon. On Tuesday I will know what my next step will be. 

Until then I think about my body, my breasts. I remember  the touch of a lover's hand and wonder if I will feel that again, about the years of nursing my children, about what makes me beautiful and what makes me a woman. 

Corpo de Mujer

Cuerpo de mujer, blancas colinas, muslos blancos,
te pareces al mundo en tu actitud de entrega.
Mi cuerpo de labriego salvaje te socava
y hace saltar el hijo del fondo de la tierra.

Fui solo como un túnel. De mí huían los pájaros
y en mí la noche entraba su invasión poderosa.
Para sobrevivirme te forjé como un arma,
como una flecha en mi arco, como una piedra en mi honda.

Pero cae la hora de la venganza, y te amo.
Cuerpo de piel, de musgo, de leche ávida y firme.
Ah los vasos del pecho! Ah los ojos de ausencia!
Ah las rosas del pubis! Ah tu voz lenta y triste!

Cuerpo de mujer mía, persistiré en tu gracia.
Mi sed, mi ansia sin límite, mi camino indeciso!
Oscuros cauces donde la sed eterna sigue,
y la fatiga sigue, y el dolor infinito.

Vente poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada - Pablo Neruda, 1924   

Body of a Woman - translation

Pablo Neruda
Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,
you look like a world, lying in surrender.
My rough peasant's body digs in you
and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth.

I was lone like a tunnel. The birds fled from me,
and nigh swamped me with its crushing invasion.
To survive myself I forged you like a weapon,
like an arrow in my bow, a stone in my sling.

But the hour of vengeance falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of eager and firm milk.
Oh the goblets of the breast! Oh the eyes of absence!
Oh the roses of the pubis! Oh your voice, slow and sad!

Body of my woman, I will persist in your grace.
My thirst, my boundless desire, my shifting road!
Dark river-beds where the eternal thirst flows
and weariness follows, and the infinite ache.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

A bitter wind

There is a bitterly cold breeze today, yet outside my coffee shop there are Brownies selling cookies. Having vowed to purchase lots of cookies to support an organization that allows ALL girls admission, I stopped and bought cookies, and was giving this thank you card. I think I'll keep it somewhere safe.
Thank YOU Girl Guides, Ellen & JC Penny, and everyone who stands up for tolerence and love in the face of bitter words and poeple.

Sing out loud

I have discovered that, very occasionally, some of my preconceived notions, things I believed were absolute, things that were on solid ground, these notions,  have turned out to be, well, not so solid. Maybe it’s to do with my 40s, perhaps I’m going through a second adolescence, but with less acne, and a much thicker waist. I’ve given up a few bad habits that I thought I could never live without. I discovered Buddhism and UUism and embraced both. I’ve discovered that the world I was so sure of 10years ago does not exhist anymore.

my pennies, so far
Which brings me to this blog, a homework assignment. Homework from my Voice/Singing Instructor, Vickie. I am  to write about singing. Yes,  Voice Lessons. In a fit of bravado I decided to get over my own Phonophobia, get way out of my comfort zone and see if what I thought about singing, specifically mine, had any basis in fact. I have handed myself over to a woman who when she tells me to lie on the floor and hum, stick two fingers in my mouth and sing, bend my knees when I attempt high notes, or sing like Ethyl Merman, I say okay, and get into position.  Also, the best part, she gives me pennies when I do well! Most of the time I have no idea why I'm doing what I'm doing, but Vickie seems to know what  she's talking about, so I do as I'm told, which includes writing about singing.

Singing and I have a long and tragetic history. Even my own mother told me I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, that no one in our family could, it was a perverse sores of pride for us. The house I grew up in was mostly silent. My mother, the libarian filled our house with books, which was lovely, but very quiet. There was no radio playing, I don’t think we owned one, and the TV, that was tucked downstairs in the basement like a shameful secret. The record player was used maybe once a year to play classical music when company was over and my brother and I were banished. My brother, it turns out, has a marvelous voice, bass, deep, rich and in his thirties he taught himself to play guitar, banjo, ukulele and likely several more instruments. He joined a choir. I watched in amazement as this blood relative of mine brazenly expressed himself musically. Helping my children with their piano lessons was enough to convince me that I had no aptitude what so ever with musical instruments.

I might have got over my first opinion of my voice had it not been for ..... (dramatic pause, feel free to gasp) Snowy Owl! This trama to my musical ego came when I was about 9 years old and a Brownie. During a singing circle Snowy Owl leaned over and whispered that I should just "mouth the words".  That sinched it. My voice was no good. After that every comment, however slight, slide into that “best to mouth the words” crevice of my brain. I wanted to sing, very much so, but became very shy about the sound of my voice. Later I would think it ironic that I could easily remember lyrics to most songs, but would never sing them out loud unless I was alone, and the music was louder than my own voice.

I have always cringed at the sound of my own voice, not as I hear it when I speak, but if I hear it recorded. To me it sounds dreadful, heavy and nasally. I dislike hearing a recording of my voice as much as I dislike having my photo taken. The sad part is there has always been a part of me that wants to be up on stage, wants to be speaking, wants to be singing, that part of me got quieter over the years. Sadly my teenage dreams of  fame and adoration were cut off at the knees, and my performing only happened when I was alone in the car. Secretly, I would love to be on a stage, looking fabulous and singing, or acting. Secretly, because I had always seen it as some nasty trick to give me these dreams and then to make me completely unsuitable for them.  Only now in my 40s has the idea that maybe I might just give this a try popped its head up and ask to be heard.

Having kids can be a great way to get over yourself. When they were babies I sang to them, I performed their stories for them, they were my first and mostly appreciated audience. I find my best audiences are pre-verbal..They didn’t know what my mother and Snowy Owl did, that it would be better if I "mouthed the words", they were happy to have a funny mom.  As they became more discerning, I quieted down, but they are still the people I am mostly myself with. My oldest daughter, Catherine is quite gifted musically. She sings, plays piano, guitar, clarinet, contrabase clarinet, a little ukulele (my brother’s influence) and she has performed musically since she was 4years old. I was her Brownie leader, and you can bet I never told any of my Brownies to "mouth the words". With her perfect ear she seems to need to merely look at an instrument to learn it, and hear a song once or twice to learn to play it. It was with this perfect ear that she once noticed I was “a little flat” when she heard me singing, that comment slipped quickly into the “mouth the words” crevice.

And here I am in my 40s, and in so many ways I worry less and less about what I think other people think of me, and I started paying attention to what I actually thought and liked about myself. This appeasrs to have been a slippery slope thought wise because not only have been taking voice lessons for months, carefully storing every precious ‘good job!’ penny Vickie has given me, but I’ve taken two acting workshops, one classic and one improv, both of which I loved, and plan to do more of. I also took up a martial art, Hapkido, and work my butt off at it am pretty good at it, go figure. My 37year old self would not recognize me at 47.
How I saw myself (in reality it was full length flannel)

There was a turning point that came from a marvelous corrupting influence in my life named Jo, who after singing beside my quiet mummerings in church told me to speak up, that I could sing if I wanted to. What craziness was this? As an aside this woman has managed to worm her way into many of my preconceived thoughts forever changing me, for the better. So there she stood, 6” shorter than me in some flowing garmet, practical hair and stunning voice, a person who has looked her demons in the eye until they blinked and then got on with her life.  A person who hardship has molded into a wiser, more compassionate and beautiful person. She is the sort of person if she told me something, I believed her. Someone who when she spoke you listened to, if you had any sense. This person was telling me to sing. So, a few years ago, because of Jo I did the unthinkable; at our Saturnalia talent show I got up in front of an audience and sang.  Okay it was with about ten other women, all with strong voices, and we were in pajamas so the focus wasn’t completely on me singing. Still, I had a small argument with myself over it, the "mouth the words" part of my brain was saying you have no business being up here with these women you big poser, you should mouth the words for everyone’s sake. Then I would hear Vickie and Jo who gave nothing but positive reinforcement, how could not listen to them? So we performed, and were a smashing success. Afterwards I off handedly said to Vickie, you know I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, or some other preprogrammed message from the nasty crevice. Her response? “I didn’t notice”. This was Vickie, who is all things musical, how could she have missed my dissonant performance? Was it possible I wasn’t a complete flop?

Since then I’ve done some singing workshops, a bunch of chanting and have sung out loud, in a group. Now, with Vickie I’ve sung out loud, on my own with only a piano. An experience I thought I would never have. I don’t always match pitches, and I've been  known to warble a little when I run out of air, but on the whole, I'm not a compete flop, or even a partial flop which all on his own is remarkable.

I'm not up on stage singing, yet, but it is on my bucket list. Right now I'm content to trust the process and see where I end up. Thanks Jo. Thanks Vickie.