Sunday, January 10, 2016

Let the Spirit-Freak Out to Play

Imagine an academic embracing her metaphysical side. It is challenging to say the least. My left-brain is warring with my right. My need to quantify, cite, and eliminate the adverbs and adjectives is killing the vibe of the airy fairy in boas and pearls, flinging pixie dust and running barefoot through the grass. I am an award winning college professor who truly believes she can speak with the dead. I cannot, for the life of me, do a psychic reading without feeling that I am pulling the information out of my ass. Each half of my brain dons its gloves and readies itself to spar. “I feel your dead grandmother coming through.” “Oh, yeah? Give me twenty studies that show a spirit can even DO that.” “I feel you are soon to meet someone who will become a key figure in your life.” “Anecdotal evidence. Your opinion. Generality.” Can you imagine? I’d like to leave my body, put them each in their corner, and go have a cup of tea.

I quit my job recently as instructor of psychology. I am thinking about starting a business as an intuitive counselor. “A psychic? You want to be a psychic?” “Intuitive counselor. A more accurate term.” “Just a fancy way of saying you have no credentials to be a licensed counselor and, worse, you’re going to botch it all up by combining the psych with stuff that doesn’t even exist.” Do you see my dilemma here? How am I to acknowledge either without relegating the other to death?

I have received praise and validation for both my ability to lecture and convey a thought as well as my gift at guiding through communication with those in other realms. I can feel my former colleagues cringing right now, shaking their heads, readying to burn me at the academic stake. At the same time, as I publicly pronounce my intuitive gifts, I feel my angels and guides shaking their heads, saying it’s about damn time. A girl can’t win for trying.

This is the thing. For fifty-two years I have stuffed the ghost whisperer side of me into the closet and chained the door. Friends will ask, “What is that noise? Is there somebody in there?” “It’s nothing,” I say, and go on about my business as if it is completely normal to have this part of me pounding and screaming and trying to get out while I just smile, cue up my PowerPoints, hand out the syllabus, and announce the first exam. Well, baby. Time to let the Spirit-Freak out to play.

And time to stop calling her names. My academic brain needs to quit trying to legitimize my artsy, creative side. Both are worthy. Both are real. Besides, the world would be rather boring if we had nothing but eggheads walking around, comparing data, honing their skills. We need free spirits, holistic thinkers. We need to throw a little glitter into this world. It just makes life more interesting. More balanced. More real.

So what’s a girl to do? She is to look herself in the eyes, acknowledge who she is, and then own that as much it might scare her to do so. Will people make fun? Will they point and stare? Will they jeer and throw stones and ridicule to no end? Yes. Yes, they will. Will she do the same to herself? Very likely, she will. Regardless, it is to the benefit of all that we each be who we came here to be, that we affirm the plan we laid out for ourselves before we entered this incarnation. I have seen many transform their lives into lives of joy and love when they set aside what they feel others feel is right for them. I have seen them come alive when they run toward that which their heart knows to be true. We must do more of this. We must do more. “Anecdotal. Your opinion. Generality.” “Oh, for the love of God. Put a sock in it.”

Thursday, January 7, 2016

No More Playing Small

Am I running away from myself or running toward myself? I haven’t yet decided. I have begun a list of fun things to try in the coming year. I let others help compile the list, so the items are not exactly what I might have chosen. If I had constructed the list, the challenges would have been less challenge and more baby step left of ratty old comfort zone. As it is, the tasks are nothing extreme but nothing I would have penned on my own.

They are a fun mix of mind, body, and spirit, these challenges of mine. I will learn to read Tarot cards, take a yoga class, and work toward becoming a Reiki master. My metaphysical side has been like the toddler, lately, crying at my side, grabbing my shirtsleeves, begging for a piece of my time. It will be good to let it out to play, to run and have some fun. The physical challenges, however—horseback riding, learning a new sport, taking a spinning class—are more than intimidating and tasks I’d prefer to keep in time out. I am not much one for sweat. Or exertion. Or looking a fool. Perhaps I will save these for last. I will also grow my mind while working my way through this list. I will complete a reading challenge and learn a bit of Italian. Oh, my gosh, the fun! I am all about the mind. I am about the mind, however, often to the exclusion of the rest. My list will help me learn to balance my life.

Maybe I am running toward myself, after all. I am a giver. Through random acts of wildflower planting and helping to build a house for Habitat for Humanity, I will have opportunity to be more of the giver I am. I am a free spirit. Fingerpainting, ziplining, throwing a bit of pottery will help me to say hello again to the artsy, creative, fun-natured little girl inside of me. I am spiritual. Walking a labyrinth and experiencing a sensory deprivation tank will help me to quiet my mile-a-minute mind and to center myself in an, otherwise, out-of-my-control world. My challenges are me in super fun form.

Routine and habit become all too easily what is convenient for or appeasing to others. We get comfortable. It is easy to be comfortable. When we are comfortable we stop growing, we stop learning. We go from living and thriving, our roots begging to break free, to staying in the same pot in which we were planted, happy to stay small, content to be little. I don’t want to stay in that same pot. I don't want to be small. I want to be the beautiful, loving, living creature God brought me here to be. Alrighty, then, game on.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Love on the Streets

I have always had a soft spot for a stray. I could attribute this, I guess, to the fact that I know what it’s like to be cold and hungry and to have no idea where I might lay my head at night. I might attribute it, too, to being the product of physical care with very little emotional attention or affection. If my sisters and I were clothed and fed, my parents figured they had done their job. I was never homeless. Or abandoned. But we moved around a lot and lived in houses that, by all means, should have been condemned. But I don’t believe this is the reason for my concern for animals that experience the same.

Don’t we all need a place, a place to know we are safe and warm and loved and fed? I cried when Bambi’s mother died. I was six. I refused to finish the movie. The idea of a child growing without a mother, growing without a home, without love and connection, without a feeling of being special and wanted and welcome, was too much for me to bear. I could not participate in nor entertain the thought of such a sad affair.

Oh, come on, now, some will say. They are animals after all. Yes, but do they breathe? Do they love and play and feel with all their heart? How are they different, then, from you and me? We have brains that they do not. This is the argument I always hear. If this is true, tell me then why these creatures are on the streets? Tell me why we refuse to spay or neuter or train or watch, destining them to end their days in shelters or suffering neglect or abuse. I have been in those shelters when dogs are being led to their death. It is not a picture I think many could stomach. “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” Paul McCartney said that. “If kill shelters had glass walls, everyone would be a responsible pet owner.” I said THAT.

The goal of writing is to entertain or educate or move to action of various sort. I am not certain what I wish to come from this particular piece. I can only tell you what is in my heart and the anger that I sometimes feel toward a supposedly intelligent breed. Humans are not as smart as they might think. And animals are not as soulless as you might have formerly believed.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Miss Barbara

She entered the room inquiring “Miss Barbara? Miss Barbara?” in a voice that was most assuredly not her inside voice. It was the nurse’s aide, looking for my mother, my mother who is neither hard of hearing nor deaf. My mother rolled her eyes at me, giving me her signature Make Her Go Away look. Mom is living in a nursing home at this point in her life. She is living, more accurately, between nursing home and hospital.

I have heard the term sticking in one’s craw. I have never used this term nor ever fully appreciated it. I do, however, have something now sticking in my craw. I have noticed over the past few months as my mother’s illness has progressed the prevalence with which the elderly are treated as children, or as stereotypical elderly, instead of as adults and individuals. It is sticking in my craw this misguided notion that as we age we lose our need for uniqueness, dignity, privacy, and respect.

My mother has had health care professionals, for example, try to pull the proverbial wool over her eyes, playing on her supposed lack of mental faculties. While it is true that my mother has suffered difficulties that deny her the freedom of movement and physical independence she once enjoyed, her mind is as sharp as it has always been. Not every older person, as it happens, suffers from dementia. Who knew?

Schools should teach this. They should teach the emotional aspects of aging. All too often, healthcare education focuses on terminology and meds and anatomy to the exclusion of socio-emotional factors such as self-esteem and loneliness and thoughts of death. As we pass through the calendar years, for example, we do not lose our need for privacy. Do not go into my room, which I am sharing with a person I don’t even know, and get my equipment from my personal closet without my permission. Ask before getting into my things. We maintain, too, as we age, our need for dignity and respect. Do not yell at me from the sterile, institutional hallway, inquiring if I need to go pee. Come into my room, lower your voice, and ask if you can help with that. Likewise, we never lose our desire for independence and a sense of being an adult. If I want to choose to not get better, that should be my option. If I don’t feel like participating in physical or occupational therapy, that does not mean that I am noncompliant, that means I am making an adult decision. You are not in control of my body, you are not in control of my mind, and you are not in control of my decision on how I want to live or end my life.

I am a tough old bird, as is my mother. I want to be treated always as the unique individual I am, as a grown up, as a woman in charge of her own life. Do not reduce me, ever, to a slobbering, dementia-ridden, inept two-year-old. If that is what I am, so be it. Otherwise, I will not have it.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Let Them Eat Cupcakes

Dear blog followers, I have begun a new challenge with a writing group. The goal is to pen three hundred words per day for the entire coming year. Psh! This is nothing. Sadly, though, it is not something I have done in the past few months. I am eager to give my writing its proper place in my life. So look forward to more frequent, but perhaps shorter posts. And, please, if you hear nothing from me in a span of time, feel free to give me that nudge I need.

I have become a slacker mom to my writing. I have stopped scheduling, planning, organizing, attending. My words, lately, are free to run and play as they choose. They come inside just before bedtime and ask to sit with me to write a letter to a friend or to create a clever Facebook status. They corner me in some neighborhood coffee shop and plaster me with incessant questions, insisting that I give them time, pulling at my shirtsleeves, refusing to go play until I acknowledge their presence. They snuggle with me in quiet moments wanting nothing more than to pen a line or two of gratitude in a journal I keep. They are free and wild and growing as they will.

Sadly, though, it is all too easy for me to take advantage of those moments when they are quiet and staying out of my hair. I am able, then, to do my chores, to pay some bills, to get some dinner on the stove. I am able to, let’s just be honest, do nothing more than sit my backend in a chair and enjoy a good book and a cup of tea. But ignoring my words while they entertain themselves is not growing them into the novel I had hoped they would be.

And, so, I have donned my apron once again. I’ve pulled the little stool up to the counter and put on some silly music. We’ve got out the flour and sugar and sprinkles and beaters. We’ve got the giant bowl and the wooden spoons, the measuring cups, and those little crinkly papers to line the pan. We’re making cupcakes, my words and I. And when we finish, we will sit and relish the time we spent. With chocolate on our faces and crumbs in our laps, we will smile the hugest of smiles, our hearts filled with sugar and laughter and love.