Soul Massage

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Being in My Happy Place

From California and Hyde, in San Francisco
It is an understatement to say I am in my happy place. I am utterly delighted. And what's more, I get to share this joy and excitement with a being who by design is open and accepting to joy, wonder, and excitement. DA, my four year old grand-daughter, goes skipping along the city streets, looking up and down. She asked about the buildings, the birds, the sky. She noticed the sparkly specks in the sidewalk. I observe in her behavior, questions, and enthusiasm, my very own feelings. 

The scene in the photo above has been my favorite. I have it as the wallpaper on my computer. While we were planning this trip, DA knew that she would stand in this very place and take her own photo. That's her, doing exactly what we planned.

Accept your natural wonder; pose for the camera.
We are collecting bird pictures. They are everywhere. We have flocks of pigeons eating crumbs on the street, sea gulls at the bay and in the city on roofs. DA get excited by their presence even as she squeals at their approach.

Some days I am amazed at the blessing to be here and share this experience with DA and my Z. We walk and ride about the city finding each step interesting and enticing. Even as we fall in bed aching and exhausted, we find that our days are filled with love and joy.

Open to the extra-ordinary moments. 


Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Penny Saved

A penny saved is a penny earned, but does it matter any more?

Pennies don't seem to be worth much these days. We leave them lying where they are, donate them to the tins or cups at cash registers, and sometimes just toss them aside as nuisance. What we seem to have forgotten is that a penny is related to a nickel, a nickel to a dime, a dime to a quarter, and a quarter to a dollar. As we toss our pennies, we discard our dollars as well. But then, for some, the single (one) dollar bill is reduced in value as well.

There are plenty of moments when we notice that dime. When gas (petro) prices increase we are willing to shop around for a dime less and some people even know the differences by the pennies. We neglect the cost of driving the extra distance to get the lower price, but we know it is out there.

We willingly purchase bottled water. soda, or drinks at one dollar a liter (or more) but grimace at the price of fuel, milk, or bread. We support savings on the dollar menus to eat fast "food", yet turn from the bargains of dried beans, rice, and raw product to make more and better of the same meal.

Back to the pennies. One hundred pennies still equals a dollar. One suggestion for increasing savings is to empty your pockets, each evening, of all change into a container. At the end of a specified period, the coins are counted and applied toward the goal reward. While pennies are heavy and space consuming, my suggestion is that as we become more conscious of our pennies that thoughtfulness is extended to our money in general. We can then begin to include paper money into the savings, perhaps the singles or windfalls, unexpected income, and savings.

Penny savings are still available. When we go shopping and make a purchase for less than expected, that's a savings. Here is the penny saved. When we attend the cost of products and services, we pocket the savings. If we neglect our fortune, the savings will be absorbed into the next purchase without acknowledgement.

Saving pennies also make allowances for splurges. I save when I can so I can splurge when I want. Learning to save pennies extends into the habit of saving dollars. Recognizing relationship makes it easy. We are just helping friends find each other.

We are shopping in San Francisco. Dollars spend WAY faster here than they do in the Midwest. Thankfully, I've been saving for this adventure.

Joy in the City

What I love about being in the city are the vast array of choices. We discovered a new store on the way to Whole Paycheck. I constantly ask my daughter how people manage to eat here if all their income goes to paying the rent. This is one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. Rent for a two bedroom apartment can start as low as $1450. I have become inquisitive, asking anyone how they manage life here, in this city I love.
My daughter and grand-daughter are discussing the choice of oranges. There are so many varieties and prices. I know DA is not that particular, but the prices vary greatly and we are paying by the pound. This orange will be gone before the next store. I would rather pay a bit less where it is available.

 This is the outdoor display of cut flowers at Whole Paycheck. They are beautiful and smell delightful as you walk by. Inside, I see a sign that guarantees the flowers will last seven days. Much as I complain about the prices, we found some products that were less than the previous stores. This was our third stop for groceries. I wanted to make sure I got the best prices. Sadly, we purchased some impulse items that totaled at least ten dollars. On the other hand, we needed to replace some basic snacks and the prices are twice what we would pay at home. For example, I buy dried cherries at $3.49 per pound and paid $3.99 for eight ounces. Excessive pricing around almonds and I just skipped the raw cashews. It was frightening. I am thankful that I carried my chia seeds and coffee with me.
 A wonderful place to get side tracked. We left with the triple layered cheese cake and agreed to split one piece between the three of us. It was the bagels and cookies that crushed the budget. At least the bagels will be for my daughter's lunch.
This is a composed moment as we wait for the lights to change. My grand-daughter skipped and jumped and ran along the street. Thankfully, there was little foot traffic so keeping up with her was busy and exhausting, but less overwhelming than it would have been with lots of folks around. She sang and waved at everyone. She pointed to the building, the birds, the window displays. I feel like that too. I feel it when I am at home looking at the pictures and remembering my visit and knowing that it is still there. I feel the energy of life moving around me, churning, shifting, exploring. I am thrilled to be a part of the flow. She feels it without inhibition and it is all over her and inside too. She can't help but sing and dance and play.

It is 11 PM here and the neighbors just pounded on the ceiling/floor. They don't understand that she is charged up with life. It scared her enough to draw her to my side and now there is a yawn. She is subdued. Sleep will come soon. That is just fine, for tomorrow we will head out again. We are heading to Nob Hill and Grace Chapel, and Chinatown. We will explore the busyness of  the city and know even greater excitement.

Until then, blessed dreams to us all.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Study in Inconsistencies

The house is quiet this afternoon as all have parted to rest after the funeral, graveyard, and repasse. I've kept up my writing though not my posting as I need some space of review before I share the work in progress. The series titled Notes From the Rabbit Hole, chronicles various aspects of reconnecting with my family of origin in the town where I lived from sixth through twelfth grade. On any given day I am assaulted by people who insist that I remember them even in the face of my blank expressions. I have been gone for 37 years. I did not socialize when I was here and was not attracted nor compelled to return.

The niceness patterns are overwhelming for me. I want to shout, stop pushing at me. No, I will not stay in touch. In my gentle voice, I say, thank you for your concern. No, we have plenty of food today. If you could save those dishes for when I leave it will be so helpful. Let me of here. I don't say the last part. I think it. People corner me and have conversations with the same stories I have heard the night before. They have no real interest in me at all. I just realized, I look exactly like my mother once did. Maybe they are just working out their grief. (Wow. I was probably low on love and compassion. I smiled a lot fighting to subdue my cross face - also my mother's.)

I am always pushing for some genuine interaction but it is slow in arriving. Even when I say that I have not been here for 37 years AND that I live two hours away, no one challenges that point. Where were you? What were you doing? How come you didn't come back? We are your relatives and we don't know you? Why are you even here now? How was your relationship with your mother?

They don't ask because I will answer. I am clear of the reasons and willing to share my feelings and opinions. I am thankful to have walked along the river and talked with my brothers. As hard as I thought my life was, theirs was awful. Even as I saw they had extensive privilege extended to and for them, they endured at least nine more years of misery and the continued distress associated with maintaining connection. I was saddened to learn of their mistreatment. I would have beat the shit out of people who were mean to my children the way my brothers suffered.

In thirty-six hours, I will be the only one here again. Well, I will be the one providing conscious support to my father. We will have thank you notes to send for the flowers and gifts. We will keep cleaning out the house of my mother's stuff. We will focus on one day at a time. My father said, well, that's done. I made it through this much. I replied, that's all that is required. As we learn to live each moment as it comes, we will find peace is already here.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Laughing in the Face of Death

My aunt says I can't go about upset and crying all the time. We need a break. We need a bit of levity. Me, I would rather we adopted the Jewish ritual of sitting shivah - the seven day period of obligatory mourning by the deceased relatives. Cover the mirror. Give up the façade. Wail at the wall. Cry aloud. But I say start ASAP, rather than waiting.

I've been working on the levity piece. While I was talking on the phone with my Z, a man tried to sell her some crystals. She says it happens more often that you think. I believe it. She is in the city. Then she shared that a man kept calling at her and approached with a cardboard with something hanging on it. He was selling panties. I've got some here that might fit you. They look to be your size. No thank you, I have mine on. Here have a look. These would look good on you.

That's what I want to buy. Some body's panties tacked to a board. On the other hand, I am excited about capturing those enterprising ventures on film when DA and I travel to hang with Z in SFO. I hope we see someone that interesting. I'll post pictures. Just the thought lifts my mood.

There are preparations to be made as family gathers for the funeral. I have my own family as well, and a house, and commitments. I cancelled everything so my mind would be free of obligation and my focus on these task. Traveling back to my home I noticed two cars parked on the side of the road. As I passed them, I saw what they were watching. Thousands of starlings lifted from the earth - a murmuration. I like this video:

I'm tired and of all the things I wanted to share, I am going to end with the need to recognize balance. There are ridiculously ugly things happening by self possessed controlling egomaniacs in the guise of love. It is not new. We are merely living the patterns that have been previously established. On the other hand, there are deep kindnesses - food, loving prayerful phone calls, offers of support.

I am blessed to be able to show up as myself. I have grown beyond the need for outside approval so can face the mountainous task before us. I am blessed with loving children and friends. And today, I understand how very important it was for me to wade through the feelings in November, for I am clearer today. I could still slap a ... but I understand that Love and Compassion are there for me when those feeling arise.

I need to laugh. I look in the mirror and at times face a death mask. I am a well upholstered lass, but my face looks thin and frail. Fat adds fullness, health, sustenance to the skin and structure. So, I will keep looking for the lighter side of each moment. A few tears of sorrow, some more of joy. I'll get tickled with DA and her need to eat constantly. I'll support her brave attempts to make friends with new people and her search for sanctuary within my skirts. And I will watch my favorite funny clip:

Every End a Beginning

My mother died the afternoon of 03.02. I took my father to see her that morning. It is increasingly difficult for him to get around. This process has exacted a heavy toll on him physically and emotionally. It was nice to see the hospice staff today. I thought I might miss them and knew it would be the last time. Today's visit would include the bath I had put off yesterday. As the nurse sang, my father prayed. I had the feeling of it being the final act, as in preparation. My mother was more vocal during the visit. For days she has been non-responsive unless being suctioned. The nurse felt she knew he was there. Maybe... I decided to go with it and tell her good-bye.

To his dismay, my father had to be wheeled from the hospital room and to the front doors. Exhausted, he agreed to rest and allow me to complete the monthly shopping. Having found each item on his list, I returned, put the groceries away, and started dinner. I had planned to drive home and return in the morning. Instead, the phone rang. From the area code I knew my mother had passed.

There are few to call who can come and relaxedly be here. I am thankful there was one. We gathered in the house to occupy the first four hours. Then we all parted to attend our tasks. This collecting and yes, hoarding of stuff is my mother's idea. My dad began immediately offering me things to carry away. As freaked as I feel about taking a bunch of stuff home, I feel worse knowing he has a big trash bag just pitching things in. I have these same patterns.

Oh, the waste. This is another place for me to let go. I have now spend the last four hours digging through a container or stuff to reach the bottom and find unopened expired items. Lots and lots of what was really good stuff just gone to waste. I have sorted things to keep and share, stuff to sell or give away (donate), trash, trash, trash, and recycling.

Along the path today, I realized that sometimes Love and Compassion are the buffer between my bitch mature and someone else's donkey behavior. While I was comforting my father, I did not have attention to execute what would have been a deep jab in the eye of my controlling self-righteous sister. When the missed opportunity was pointed out to me I shrieked. It would have been the coup de grâce.  Pun intended. 

I am distracted by the inability to leave italics, so, I'm off to sleep as tomorrow is already here and I am traveling in just four hours. What was I thinking?

I knew a man who once said, "death smiles at us all; all a man can do is smile back."  ~From the movie Gladiator 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Compassion in Action

I am traveling again to visit/support my family. My mother had never come home from her last visit and instead went to a skilled nursing facility, then back to the hospital with an infection. While there, she got another infection, was on isolation and is now on the hospital hospice program.

My sister has been orchestrating her care and insists that things be done to her specifications by all in her hearing - physicians, nursing staff, and family. I watched her boss around the professionals and calmed my mind with the realization that she was getting on a plane headed west and she doesn't have my cell number.

I spent last night in the hospital room with my mother as she gurgled through globs of mucus in her throat. It was barely noticeable when I arrived early in the afternoon and the instructions were to leave it be as it had no effect on my mother's well-being. By 2AM, she was struggling for breath, and the nurse suggested that she be suctioned. I asked about scopolamine, which dries secretions and the nurse said that while she knew the patches were generally part of end of life orders, they had prescribed another drug.

Eventually, respiratory therapy came to suction my mom's throat and the nurse gave her atropine. It took hours, and additional suctioning and medication, but but 8AM my mother was resting peacefully and stayed so the entire day. We left the hospital in the late afternoon to head home.

I was blessed to have two different hospice staff come to visit. The first listened as I cried through my struggling illusions that somehow my families issues would be resolved (by my mother) before her death. Watching her hour after hour I saw my illusions fade. She will not wake for the lucid discussion of how things got so totally fucked up, or even for a demented chat. My sister sat having long discourse over some plan and refused to even have the concept of death discussed. Me, I have been bringing it up since I started this journey.

I got to tell my story, to share my hurt, to unpack my distress with people who have no vested interest in this drama. I was affirmed in the joy of my life, directed toward forgiveness, supported as I seek a miracle in the healing of my father. It was a blessed release to cry and laugh and hug these women who actively commit to being compassionate, even in the most difficult of situations.

Last week, the doctors said, gather the family about. The end is near. We have been standing at the edge of this precipice for three months. Our toes are cramped. Our thighs ache. We are nauseous, short of breath, and exhausted. No matter how I feel, I still show up relaxed, for we are committed to allowing progression without interference. My mother's pain is managed and there is already in place a plan to keep it so, until the end.
We plan to return tomorrow, unless we are blessed to receive her here. This walk to the end of life is filled with questions and confusions. I am learning how to sort what needs to be tended each day, that I am free to let go without fear.

No matter what has happened in the past, it has shaped the woman/mother/friend/daughter I am today. In that case, it's all good.