A Ghost Story

Have you noticed all those ghosts walking around? They used to be mothers, full of life, full of warm, nurturing love. Babies snuggled up in the curve of their necks, their soft sweet skin smelling of Johnson’s baby powder. The babies grew and grew and learned to walk and talk and make their mommas proud when they said her name. As they began to explore, they outgrew their infant needs, becoming self-propelled. They began to learn grownup things. Like who to love and who to hate and some even learnt who to blame when things go wrong. Be it their teachers, the government or their mothers.

They used to be ordinary people like you and me before the miracle of motherhood changed them into bright shooting stars that lit the heavens with happiness for an all-too-brief moment that continues to warm their memory as they grow old.

Have you noticed all those ghosts walking around? The ones with their failing eyesight and tender smiles who fade into the background, soft-spoken and undemanding? They had their moment in the Sun and are content to watch the seasons change and the years fly by.

I hate to say it but they are not me.

Oh, how I loved my time of shooting stars, yet I refuse to be a ghost.

Make Room for Joy

A positive attitude can improve the quality of our life, often leading us to heights of joy. However, in finding our way as human beings, we are also vulnerable to emotional pain; even on the road to joy we become derailed by times of sorrow. One day when I asked my elderly mother a question about the past, she said, “I don’t want to remember the past, honey. It hurts too much.”

Now that I’ve reached my own twilight years and more fully understand my mother’s pain, I’ve also discovered something else. The things that hurt the most to remember now are the pains I numbed myself to when they were fresh. Even though I had this terrible ache inside, I refused to grieve. I told myself that, like Scarlett, I would deal with it tomorrow.

Some hurts I even denied, burying them so deep I’m shocked when they release fresh arrows of pain from the past into my heart. Others I rationalized by telling myself how lucky I was, that the hurt could’ve been far worse. That I had no right to feel pain because other people had it so much worse than I did. Counting my blessings.

I do believe in counting my blessings. Not by denying or ignoring my pain but doing so while also acknowledging that I have a right to grieve for my loss even while I feel grateful for my blessings.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5
So, when your heart is heavy it is better to allow yourself to experience and express the grief until it has wrung itself out. The tears of grief are cleansing your soul, making it ready to once again receive joy.

Find Your Own Truth

To be a person of truth, be swayed neither by approval nor disapproval. Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are. — Rebbe Nachman

It sounds simple. To be a person of truth, be who you really are. But what if, one day, you realize what you’re reflecting is other people’s truth, not your own?. First it was your parents truth; you were thrilled by the light of approval in their eyes. Well, of course! What are parents for, after all, but to teach us their own truth. We have to start somewhere.

But deep inside us is our own truth. Which may conflict with our parents truth. You are not your parents; you are growing into your own person. Only you can know the truth of who you are. And the only way you can know your truth is by examining your beliefs. Where did they come from? Do they have the ring of authenticity or are they things you were told and accepted without question?

If you find some shreds of old beliefs that don’t have the “ring of truth” do you dare to explore the possibility they are wrong? Are you willing to modify them into what does ring as true to you? And then are you willing to resist being influenced by other opinions?

Rebbe Nachman says “Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are.” The key word is “work” because finding our truth is not easy for most of us. We have to dig for it, defend it, even suffer for it.

But in the end, to know your truth is to know pure happiness.

How do I Offend Thee? Think on What I Say

(With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

How do I offend thee? Let me count the ways.
I offend thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach when I say good riddance to your
Shackles of propriety. You say I’m not allowed
To have beliefs that differ from your own. Even though such
Beliefs come from my heart and mind only to guide my own life,
Not to inhibit yours. I offend thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. That America
Is the land of freedom to believe as one’s conscience allows,
Not as others say. I offend thee with the breath, smiles, tears,
Of all my life! And, if God chooses, I shall offend thee until death.

Well Blow Me Down and Call Me Flossie

When I was fifteen I worked one summer in Don’s Restaurant in Hazard, Kentucky. My name was Flossie. Don had such a turnover in waitresses he couldn’t remember our names so he used a few favorites remembered from ages past. Assuming there’d been a Flossie, that is. So I said “Blow me down and call me Flossie!” After all, he was paying me fifty cents an hour.

We had a tip box to put our gratuities in (I’m more sophisticated now) to be divided up weekly. Like a good little Flossie I put all my tips, excuse me, gratuities, in the box during the first week but when it came time to receive my cut, I only received four dollars.

I complained to the other girls that my tips, excuse me, gratuities, had been more than that for half-a-day. They laughed at me. “We don’t put it all in,” they said, “just a dollar here and there.” In other words I had shared all my own tips, excuse me, gratuities, with them, but they had shared only a smidgeon of theirs with me. The scale had been weighted to their side. I wondered why they hadn’t told me ahead of time. That’s how green I was. I’m more sophisticated now.

Okay, I said, and the next week I only put in a couple of dollars. But I felt dishonest. “Oh, he knows,” one girl said, “he don’t care.” And, since we were all in cahoots, I figured it was okay. But my conscience still bothered me, just a smidgeon. I’d been taught that rules were rules and were meant to be followed.

Although I never became a corrupt politician, nor even an honest one for that matter, I wonder if that’s how it begins? If we all do it, then it’s okay. Let’s vote ourselves some special benefits, set up different rules, just for us.

Of course none of this is actually vocalized. Most likely they just breathe in that rarefied stink in the air that wafts off the old farts who’ve been corrupting Washington for years, and they know without vocalizing that this is how things are done in Washington, DC.

Bless Her Heart

While walking Winston in the park today I realized I owe you an apology for my recent rants. Time was I never ranted but swallowed my ire and pretended the world was always a happy place. For this reluctance to express anger I blame my mom (God Bless Her Heart, as we say in the hills when speaking ill of someone – to show we really love the ornery person). My mom was, of course, a wonderful woman (God Bless Her Heart) but she was of the “turn the other cheek” variety.

Well, of course I could say the other cheek I was thinking of was lower down on the body and I forgot which one she meant. I tend to get things mixed up that way. You aren’t buying it? Mom wouldn’t either. She raised us to not “Act the Fool” (Bless Her Heart) and to Mom facetiousness was never funny.

But this isn’t about Mom. It’s about me apologizing for sending out negative vibes instead of positive uplifting ones, about me trying to make amends for my angry rants. The best way to do that, I think, is to give you a list of a few of the things that I’m truly grateful for:

1) That my eldest daughter just bought six baby chicks but can’t have a rooster, which is okay as she’s only going to have them lay eggs (in the garage until she can get a chicken shed built). They are already counting on 42 eggs a week after the chickens become hens. This is part of her answer to the coming food shortage she keeps hearing about. (Bless Her Heart)

2) That my youngest daughter has given up feeding her family grain, anything made from wheat, oats, soy, or even corn. That’s right. She now makes pizza crust from coconut meal, brownies from black beans, etc. They really do taste good, Bless Her Heart. I just hope Michelle doesn’t hear about it!

3) Which brings me to the last item for today. We still live in the good old USA where my grandson can buy a green wig with his birthday money, have me make him a strange-looking cape and go to an anime convention where everyone looks like they just stepped off an intergalactic vehicle traveling through unknown worlds to visit planet Earth, and nobody thinks it’s odd. My Mom would be appalled. Bless Their Hearts, she’d say. Ain’t it wonderful!

Bless Your Heart!

Just Call Me Scrooge

Just call me Scrooge, but I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I love the love but hate the hate. Don’t preach to me about it being a celebration of Christ’s birthday. I know that. That’s the love part.

And I don’t hate the Santa Claus and gifts part either. It’s the memories that part brings up and the realization that many children will soon learn too early there is no Santa. That’s what I hate. And don’t preach to me about that part, either, about Santa being the spirit of giving, blah, blah, blah.

The memory of those children from the past blend with knowing that many children in the present will have no Christmas this year. They’ve joined the little ghosts that walk in the back of my mind. Like a Greek chorus. A mute one— because what can they say?

So now that I’ve made you indescribably sad let me add that phrase the elitists like to use: it’s the human condition. Distance yourself from it. What else can you do? Provide for your own and put some change in the Salvation Army’s bucket after you buy your Christmas turkey or ham.

But for God’s sake, don’t whine and carry on about it. If there’s anything I really, really hate it’s a whiner! Merry Christmas.