The Moment

The twisting narrow road is lined with sea worn stone walls overwhelmed with flowers. The road is so narrow it feels unsafe as we drive on what to me is the wrong side. The island is small but this trip takes us most of the way along its beautiful length lush with greenery and adorned with spectacular homes. As we navigate the ups and downs the bluest sea is mostly to the right of our small van transport.

There are flowers everywhere, some I could name, some I could not; oleander, bougainvillea, hibiscus, jacaranda, exora, plumbago. I could spend weeks here just looking at the landscape and of course, the sea.

We took some very hard curves, what felt like switchbacks, until I lost my sense of in what direction we were headed. And then, like magic, the sea appeared on my left in a suddenly opened view of that amazing clear blue water.

I looked out the window at the blue sky, a mirror of the sea – or the other way round – at puffy cumulus and moored sailboats with their white sails furled. And what I thought was “what a fine day.” And suddenly, I was simply overwhelmed with the wonder of my life. I was amazed that I was really in this beautiful place and I started to cry with a feeling of gratitude for this amazing life. It has been a long time in the making, but it is amazing. I have been to places and done things I never thought possible. I have given and received love from absolute strangers who are strangers no more. I have shared my joy and my pain with others who understand. I am writing. I am singing.

As I looked at the sea and sky and flowers all I felt in that moment was pure gratitude. I did not summon it, it just happened. How rare to have that pure and strong a feeling, and to know what it is.

GRATITUDE

 

So I posted this as a normal Facebook thing but I thought it needed expansion and repetition. As I re-read my original Facebook post, I thought of things I wish I had said. So I will try to say them now.

First, I have to say how remarkable it was that almost all the people that reacted to my original post were women. Not to say there were no men, but not many. And I felt, as I sometimes do, that the world is very in need of the sensibilities of women. In need of that special kind of strength mixed with tears and compassion. Women, often, are very pragmatic problem solvers. Something we seem to be in dire need of. But I digress.

While most of you hopefully are gathered round a table of those you love, giving thanks, be grateful that you are not a child in Yemen, be grateful that you are not homeless due to a fire in California, be grateful that you are not a young man of color in an American prison, be grateful that you are not one of the millions of American children living in poverty and hunger, be grateful that you are not mourning your dead from a shooting in a house of worship or a bomb in Israel. You can be grateful you are not a refugee seeking asylum from terrible violence and having to choose what is safer for your child- the road you are on or the horrors you left. You can be grateful you are not a transgender teenager in a conservative town. Be grateful you are not a high school student afraid to go to the school where your classmates died. And be grateful you are not a parent mourning a child killed in a school shooting.

Every day there is more tragedy, more horror, more sorrow. The world never seemed so sad. It is hard to watch the news. And it is hard to feel helpless. I can only make donations to so many causes. I recycle, I teach, I try to set an example, I make donations when I can, I write, I march, I vote. It does not feel like enough. But it will have to be.

Know that however little you may have it’s probably more then many. Say a prayer of gratitude for what you have and say a prayer for those who don’t. Give thanks.

Slacking ~ Sacred Work

This is the month of Elul, the sacred time in which we prepare ourselves for the new year and for the holiest of days – Yom Kippur.  Although it is called the day of atonement, its meaning I think is much more interesting.

We are called on, in this time of preparation, to look at our year, our lives, our internal and external selves.  We are supposed to see what we could have done better, what we can do to be our better selves, to improve.  What we have to apologize for, to make amends for so that each new year begins as a clean slate, lunar calendar that is.

And I admit, I have been slacking.  Life intrudes as always and makes it hard to make quiet space for the reflection we are asked to  do.  And even more important, I think it should be done with pen and paper, not just in my head.  So this confession is to inspire me to make that space.  To do the work.  It is never easy if you do it right, it requires serious internal digging, but the rewards can be remarkable.

Looking at my physical self, I know I can do better, food, weight, exercise, meditation.  The list is self evident and requires a bit of a deeper look.  My communal relationships, of course I can do better, again. Reaching out to people, feeding my friendships, building relationships. I can always do more. My emotional self, I can always work on not living in feelings.  As I know feelings aren’t facts.  I can always work on gratitude as an antidote to the hard feelings and enjoying the good ones in the moments they happen. My spiritual self, we are back to meditation, prayer and the internal work of this most wonderful time of year.

So, not really slacking, just a little slow in putting pen to paper and doing the digging. The pen is the most effective shovel I know of, just have to pick it up. This is the start.  [tweetshare tweet=”Hopefully by Yom Kippur I will be ready, a clean slate once more for the year to come, or at least having cleared some of the detritus away.  L’shanah tovah umetekah. A sweet and wonderful new year, just a snitch early.” username=”@trienahm”]

HELP~?

So being laid up as I have been is a different kind of experience.  This is when being single gets interesting.  I am a generally independent sort and for the last ten days I have been mostly helpless as a result of surgery on my feet.  Now we don’t think about our feet all that much, until the can’t be used!  And if I am up too much they definitely let me know.

As a result of this, I have been forced to ask for more help than I am really comfortable with.  And it has forced me to think about why we are so resistant to asking for help.  Do we think we aren’t worth it?  Or that people secretly don’t like you and just won’t show up?  It is odd.  Giving help comes completely naturally, it is just what we are supposed to do.  Getting help, what an emotional struggle.

I have been so blessed with friends who did show up.  Dinner has arrived at my house every day for eight days.  Take out filled in the rest.  I have discovered Grub Hub, but that is a story for another day.  People have taken out my trash, gone to the store, called every day, driven me to the doctor and sat in the house while I took my first shower.  My son has shown up every day since he came back to town, just to see if I need anything.  He is cleaning the pool and other sundry tasks.  All the minutiae of everyday life that you need to be on your feet for.  I thought I was super prepared, hah! That’s a laugh.

And so, having to learn to accept help with grace and gratitude, that is the lesson. I believe there is a lesson in every experience, we just don’t always know what it is.  When my father had dementia and lived with us, the lesson was patience (I have had a few lessons on that…).  When my marriage ended, the lesson was that I am quite enough all by myself.  That prepared me a bit for this next lesson which is that I am not always enough with out some dependence on people who love and care about me, whether I believe I am worthy or not.  I am not sure how gracefully I have managed this but I know this – I am overwhelmed with gratitude!

Luck, and Action

Gratitude, essential and elusive.  Something I have tried very hard to instill in my son; that regardless of what we don’t have we are so much luckier than many.  I think he gets it.

There is something guilt provoking in being grateful that others’ misfortunes are not yours.  But isn’t the essence of gratitude the idea that “it” isn’t or hasn’t happened to you? Yet.

The state of the world often brings tears these days, yes crying again. The Hondurans who have lived here as productive citizens virtually all their lives, now to be sent “back” to their non-home. The violence and deaths in Gaza and Israel.  The dreamers who have never known anywhere but here. The national parks being dismantled and made less accessible.  The children who go hungry in this wealthy land. The teachers who have to strike for a living wage, knowing they are hurting the children they love. Nazis marching in our streets, openly racist and anti-Semitic; behavior that while existing, was frowned on and mostly repressed for decades.  The black men gunned down for no other reason and the women who mourn for them. And on, and on, and on.

[tweetshare tweet=”I remember the intense idealism of the sixties and seventies, I lived it. And I have always held dear the notion that love and good, coupled with action, would win the day. I dedicated my first career to that notion, and to a love of the constitution and the rights of the underdog.” username=”@trienahm”]

I remember the intense idealism of the sixties and seventies, I lived it. And I have always held dear the notion that love and good, coupled with action, would win the day.  I dedicated my first career to that notion, and to a love of the constitution and the rights of the underdog.

I fear that love is no longer enough.  But as a personal matter, I have to remain positive; about the world, about my life.  And the shortest line to positivity is gratitude.  So I practice a prayer of gratitude every day on the way to work. Radio off, spoken out loud, thanking the universe for what a good life I have and acknowledging how intensely lucky I am in so many ways.  And the antidote to negativity and especially self pity is always gratitude.  And then there’s always action, fuel for gratitude.