Paternal Moment

I must have been about 13 or so when Dad was diving along I-74 between Champaign and Mahomet when I Want To Know What Love Is was playing on the radio. I remember there was a high-pitched him coming from the stereo and I associated it with Dolby – which was a new technology all those years ago. I associated it with the hum with the tiny red dot of light to the right of the hole for cassette tapes.

The headlights groped along the highway like a submarine along the ocean floor. The prairie scrub gave me the impression of algae straining towards bleak sunlight. When I looked up, the thick clouds were almost glowing from moonlight but all I saw was the moment where the ocean meets the sky – I was a bottom-dweller cocooned by quiet light and sound.

All the while the song chimed with my sad and lonely soul: I want to know what love is. I want you to show me. I want to feel what love is. Because I’ve never felt it.

Compos mentis

From the front window and in the distance I can see waves frolicking among dark rocks and sand. I can almost smell the ozone. The living room is kissed with yellow light – so much so that the entire living room looks warm and cosy. I like what I’m seeing but don’t recognise it. Someone is here and asking me questions:

“Have you had lunch?  Did you take your tablets?”

My cats are eagerly chasing the visitor through to a mat on the floor.  The visitor bends to place two cat bowls down for the girls. 

“Do you have everything?  The TV is on.”

Who are you?

“I’m your health visitor, Lisa” she’s nearing the front door and throwing her jumper over her shoulders.

But, how did I get here?

“See you in the morning.  Have a lovely evening.”  Lisa clumps the door closed behind her.

I’m without any means to ascertain how I got here.  I look at my hands.  They appear dry but ok.  I pick up some yarn, work out where I am in a pattern from a list in a bag beside the chair and start to knit.

I’m in a white room, laying in a bed.  The sheets are stiff and uncomfortable.  There are machines beeping and chirping around me.  I pull my legs to the side, stand up on wobbly legs and edge to the window.  There are plants and trees outside but nothing so dramatic as the view of the beach. 

How did I get here?

I look at my hands.  They are peppered with spots I don’t recognise but otherwise seem to be in decent shape.

There are people around me.  I’m in a chair with knitting in my hands.  The knitting appears to be doing itself so I’m concentrating on the people around me.  Who are these people?  One of them looks like my little sister but with different coloured eyes.  I’m struggling to hear…

I must be dreaming.  I seem to be skipping between moments in the way that I do when I dream…

Now I’m sitting in front of the TV.  I look around before the darkness skips me along to the next dream.  There are a number of comfy chairs here.  There is a window behind me but I’m struggling to turn around to see.  I stand up but cannot seem to manage a fully-upright position.  There is snow on a pine tree in the garden.  I can hear some noise above my tinnitus in my right ear.  I sit back down.  A woman comes in with a tray of cottage pie. 

“How are you feeling now Jade?”

I’m good.  Hey!  Where am I this time?

A twinkle greets the eye of this woman as she says “You, Ms Hammer, are in the TV room.” She gestured grandly towards the oversized TV. 

Taking the tray, I slump slightly and roll my eyes at her.  Seriously.  Where am I?

“Oh!”  Her eyes exclaimed along with her mouth.  “You are in the Surrey Residential Home with me, Ms Hammer.”

Don’t call me Ms Hammer.  That was my mother’s name.  Jade is fine, sweetie.  How long have I been here?

“Almost three years.”

Why don’t I remember coming here?  I said as the tray landed on my lap.  I picked up the knife and fork and looked at my hands and saw unmistakably old hands – they looked like the gnarled bark of a tree!  

What the bloody hell happened to my hands?! I said as the silverware slipped from my fingers.  Where is Troy?

Dammit.  I seem to have slipped away again.  Am I dreaming?  At first I was in a house by the sea.  Then I was surrounded by people…  Then I was asking for Troy.  What if I’m not dreaming?  What if this is my life now?  

Where is Troy?  Tell me where he is!!

Where is Troy? Where?

Effeminate Pirate

Great Tits (stop giggling!) are a rather small yellow and blue bird in England. We had a small flock of the happy and earnest birds in the vast back garden behind my and Troy’s first flat. One cold and wet May Bank Holiday, the family in our eaves fledged their 8 chicks. I had imagined the parents finally being unable to get onto the nest and with a tiny size 9 talon, shoved the babies out for a few minutes of peace and quiet.

Fledging is a normal process: after the babies are bodily kicked out of the nest, the parents fly back and forth to each of the babies and feed them. However, we decided the local cat population might be a problem… So when we found mama bird with an injured wing, we scooped all the Tits (I said stop giggling!) into a modified shoebox where they could dry out overnight and let them go in the morning. Catching the birds wasn’t difficult but getting them into the box without causing damage was a little scary: at one point one of the baby Tits (Oh come on! Don’t laugh!) hopped up Troy’s arm and proudly shouted from Troy’s shoulder. Our neighbour said that Troy looked like an Effeminate Pirate with a tiny bird on his shoulder! I wanted to get a camera but Troy was keen to get the babies all in the box. We poured handfuls of meal worms into the box and prayed as we set them onto the enclosed porch for the night.

First thing in the morning, Troy was on our porch and checking on the mama and babies. We still had 9 live birds! Troy flung open the front door and as soon as the box top was off, mama was off and out without a thank you. The babies, on the other hand, were more disoriented from their night in a shoebox. Troy found all but one… and then heard chirping from a shoe. The babies had been successfully rescued.

Circles only have one side

When I was at grade school, I used to glance at the younger children waiting for lunch and wonder which one was having the same experiences as me the year before.  I would look at the pastel tiles on the walls, measuring out the spaces that I would inhabit.  I was a scrawny child and didn’t take up much space.  I used to look around and wonder where the younger me was. 

When I moved to the “big kids” side of the elementary school – behind the main school drive and closer to the corn fields – I wondered if another me started school at that point: I would be someone who the younger me wouldn’t know but I would be experiencing the same things as her. It was as if I believed life was a squiggly line and that we would encounter ourselves regularly throughout each life. (I wonder what a squiggly line of children would look like?) Of course, I never ran into myself.

When my only sister came along when I was 12, I started to revisit the idea that I was spiritually linked with someone younger.  Maybe the gap wasn’t one year but 12?  However, as she grew up I saw her as her own person with her own motivations and goals.  She is a wonderful woman.  However, in many ways, she’s not like me.  She’s not another me.

Now that I have nieces I again find myself wondering if I might encounter another version of myself.  Logic dictates that there can only be one me in the physical universe at once.  Why do I keep coming back to this circular notion?  Is it because my idea of life isn’t just a matter of born, live, die and that’s it?  If we are born, live, die and then repeat, then the universe can be perceived as a wheel – or the beating of a heart where the lifetime is one mere heartbeat?  

How strange it must be to have that kind of perspective – to look back at lifetimes like novels in a bookstore! Each section noting the stories and lessons worth remembering. (?) Is it really useful to keep looking back? Or was the Buddha right in saying that we should only focus on what remains undone?

Life Lessons

If I’m right in thinking that, after we die, we meet (again) with more learned souls. We go through what happened, what didn’t happen and what we learned in the previous lifetime. At that point we can rest for a little while or we can immediately come back. I don’t think we necessarily always come back as human beings. Nor do I think that we always incarnate on this planet – although it might be easier in terms of familiarity to regularly come back to the same physical space. (?) When we do decide to come back, it’s either to go over the same lesson again because we ourselves want to ensure the lesson stays with us, or it’s to encounter something new.

Not every soul comes to the physical plane.  Those that do are brave.  It must be quite a jolt to go from a knowing, compassionate and respectful environment to be trapped in the physical with only mechanical means of communication.  It must be extremely lonely…  Is everyone as lonely as I’ve felt?

Bearing in mind that we are all here to learn and to look after one another, I have tried to treat everyone with a certain amount of respect.  Each of us is here for a reason.  Each of us planned our life challenges.  We all have to walk our own path – again and again.  The trials of one lifetime are blinks of the eye if we are destined to live hundreds or even thousands of lifetimes.  When I think of the Big Picture, this life, these concerns, this moment is of no consequence.  All that matters is the lesson learned.

If I’m right in thinking that I chose this life for its particular challenges, what is the lesson that I need to learn?  I grew up feeling lonely and unloved but never had a problem showing love to others.  If I’m being brutally honest, the problem isn’t with my showing love and respect to others (I have plenty of people telling me that I’ve far too good at that.) but with showing the same to myself.  (?)

Have I been making the excuse that I feel insignificant because of the Big Picture or because I cannot allow myself to feel compassion and respect in myself?  Why wouldn’t I deserve compassion?  I’m not a terrible individual.  Would I not experience profound loneliness if I felt more at home in my skin?  Would I not need to feel heard if I accepted myself with all of my faults and limitations?  If accepting my faults and limitations, will I still feel the need to grow and learn?  Am I clinging to the perception of a person that I am in order to disregard the person I could be?

Loving Fiercely

When I started at the U of I, Louise was about 6 and I took her to my dorm’s Haunted House. It was something which students put on every year for the local children. At first, it was kids’ stuff: being handed grapes and told they were eyeballs… But then one room we went into was a mock surgery without anaesthesia! I immediately went into orbit! I made them

STOP!

Turn the lights on! What on EARTH do you think you’re doing? This is far too scary for a child! (To the guy on the table.) Show my sister that you’re absolutely fine! Apologise to her!

APOLOGISE! *shaking my tiny fist*

I don’t remember the rest of the haunted house but presume everyone came to look and gave me a wide berth after I’d torn that group a new poop-chute. Nobody frightens my sister.

NOBODY.

I loved my sister before she was born.

The day my sister was born, I presumed that I would be there for the birth but without telling me in advance, Mom decided that she didn’t want me to see her in so much pain. I arrived at the hospital after school and after Mom delivered a healthy baby girl. My sister was just 1/2 ounce heavier than me when I first came into the world. Consequently I asked Mom if she had a cookie-cutter in there.

After school I went to the hospital. Louise was just a few hours old when I held her for the first time. I carefully supported her head and cuddled her close saying You’re a big girl! Louise balled up her tiny fist and punched me in the nose. I said that she was too young to start the sibling rivalry.

I didn’t have the honour of being a mom but, thanks to my sister, I discovered that I was capable of such a fierce love that can be overwhelming. Now that I’m older, I identify with my hurricane emotions. I’m even happy to mock myself for them – but don’t you mock my sister! I’ll give you a piece of my mind to feast upon!

Soul Growth in the Physical World

At the moment I am finding it difficult to remember that everyone has their own path, their own journey, their own lessons to learn. As much as I want to treat everyone with loving-kindness and respect, I am struggling not to judge my neighbours harshly when I turn to politics.

Politics is the one area of life where I feel, opinions speak as loudly as actions. On the one hand, I have to respect everyone but on the other hand I struggle to respect those who believe in hatred and disrespecting others.

I feel that, more than in any time in the past, now is the time for protecting those who are different. Now is the time to take care of those who cannot care for themselves. Now is the time that mimics the 1930s, the time of warning, the time to repel hatred.

Yet, I also believe that I am not the person to judge anyone. I have made too many mistakes and inadvertently hurt too many people to judge anyone. I am not important. I’m not significant enough for anyone to listen to me. Is it right to shout out against perceived injustice?

No. Don’t shout. The best way forward is to show people my path and to allow them to come to their own conclusions. I might not be strong enough to influence society’s river but I might be able to create ripples on a pond.

It’s all in your head

The first symptoms were vomiting and passing out when I was 12. It was 1983. It took six months of regular but infrequent bouts of agonising pain before someone realised that it was happening approximately once a month. Was it just period pain?

Just? You mean vomiting and passing out might be remotely normal? Yes dear. It’s all in your head. *pat on head*

I was told to take Tylenol as soon as I felt the pain coming on – usually first thing in the morning. This only covered the agony I was feeling and, as the years progressed, I required more and more painkillers each month. I became an expert at pain management and a walking pharmacy. When ibuprofen hit the market, I took it with Tylenol. I managed the pain without knowing why the pain visited itself upon me every month.

Going through junior high and high school, I had to periodically take days off school due to my pain – the over-the-counter pain meditation was not always able to mask the pain. My grades dipped. Despite the pain, I was accepted to the university of my choice. I moved into the period of my life that I still feel was my best: I had potential. I had dreams. The birth control pills masked my gynaecological symptoms. I was going to take over the world.

Then life happened to me. I ran away to England, got married and got a job – not the career I wanted but it paid the bills.

I’ve already gone through my life with Brian so I will only mention his complete inability to support my health conditions when I was being diagnosed with polycyclic ovaries, insulin resistance and after surgery, endometriosis. The diagnoses explained a lot but took some time to learn to manage. I took lots of meditation at first which included a few things that are advertised on American commercials. I got divorced. I had counselling.

In terms of my physical problems, the two things that have helped most are: a hysterectomy and a supportive husband.