Blog Archives

A Delicate Week

People%20can%20make%20me%20laugh[1]Some of my closest friends lost their mothers years ago, and I’m only now realizing I did not take that into account (or I don’t remember if I did) the pain they might have felt, the loss, on Mothers Day. I know it grows more difficult around holidays, and on the birthday of those who passed. Rich, Sam, Barbara, Kim, Molly…I’m sorry if I didn’t extend myself to you during those times. No excuse. I just hope that it is easier for you all, and you retain fond memories.

I have the double whammy this week: Mothers Day today, and then this coming Friday would have been her 87th birthday.

I want to thank Doug for sending me the above photo and saying, and reaching out to me today, knowing this would be a tough one. He spoke of my “inner circle of friends”, and he needs to know that though we’ve never met, and have not had the depth of experience together, that I truly consider a kind soul like his to be part of that inner circle. Thank you, Doug.

Came The Wind, a very short piece I wrote for Tale Spinning  yesterday, was driven by how I’m feeling. We’re left to go on, and to deal with our own feelings and memories. Not all are pleasant ones: it is up to me on how I deal with them, and how I let them go. It’s all we can do, as we continue on, and hope that when the day comes when we are no longer around, we leave more good memories than bad.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom.

Advertisements

Does Anybody Remember Laughter?

Yes, the title refers to that “Stairway To Heaven” Live lyric, but no…this is not about Led Zep.

I sent out some Hallmark online Easter cards to some friends. Some serious, a few were on the funny side.  I got a response from an old  friend, Randy, who appreciated my thinking of him, and always enjoys a good chuckle (and needs them). In his email back to me, he said:

“You know, to be honest with you dear friend, the one sound that i would like to hear the most is that of your robust laughter, of which there has been an understandable paucity of late. Chirping birds and leaf blowers are wonderful, but so is that.”

He’s right. Robust, deep seated, full belly, tear inducing laughter…that has been missing from me for awhile. Sure, I’ll laugh now at things, I’m quicker at finding a smile, or finding that chuckle. But, a laugh like Randy describes? I know it’s been awhile. Quite awhile.

munchkinI know I’m not fighting it. I do find things that make me laugh, and I seek them out when possible. One thing that I search out is the show “Too Cute” on Animal Planet: a show devoted to documenting the first three months (or so) of  (mainly) kittens and puppies lives. It gives me moments of laughter, and almost always brings a smile to my face. It’s not what Randy hopes to hear, but it’s one thing I give myself and in that process, I have found a breed of cat that I really love: Munchkins!  IF I ever get a pet again, I’ll look for them (my daughter, Jessica, called them the Dachshunds of the cat world).

While that is only one thing, I know there is a lot more to do for myself. I want to feel like I used to, to be able to laugh like Randy describes again more freely. Laughter is a very healing tool we have inside of us. Good, healthy laughter is something I look forward to embracing again.

Just can’t force certain things. It is good to be aware of it, but not to beat yourself up about it that it is missing.

It’s only missing, not gone.

By My Side

GodspellIn 1976, I was in a production of “Godspell” that pretty much had a long lasting and life changing effect on me. The songs and memories of that time come back to me often (but haven’t for awhile), and I find myself not just nostalgic (not glossing over some of the less positive moments of that semester in college), but remembering how touched I was by so much during the entire process.

Up to then, the whole concept of God or  Jesus/God meant nothing to me. I had no basis to believe. So…part of what I am experiencing now, in trying to find some faith, hold onto something more, has its roots thirty-seven years ago. I only really thought about it this morning: it has not been a good morning, as I had a not very good previous evening and an even worse night of tossing and turning.

Why did this come to mind now? It was a special time for me, holding some moments that I really first started to come into myself…and I know I need to get some of that strength back, find that satisfaction and joy for what we were doing. I sang “All Good Gifts,” but the song that often stays with me is “By My Side”. Not the most well known of “Godspell” songs, but one that touched me every performance, and one that I’ve sang to myself off and on over the years.

One very vivid memory:

One of the cast members (Mimi) and I were a bit sad: this was going to be the last night of our run.  Mimi was two years older, a senior, and this was going to be her last performance at the college. We had become friends. It was a Sunday, and with not much to do before we had to show up for call, we went to her dorm room to talk. It got dark early, and the moon was fairly full, if not a full moon. As we were waiting to leave, just sitting talking about the experience of the show and our lives at the moment, with the room lights off, we glanced out the window and one of us saw it (not sure who):  the moon was at the center of a cross,  the beams of moonlight straight across and up and down. No joke.

We were both touched, shocked, whatever you want to call it: it moved us. We ran to the theater, found some of the cast already there, and told everyone. We were in a little bit of hysterics (or, at least I was), and the director calmed us down. Yes, we understood refraction of light on the glass, abetted by the mesh screen on the outside of the windows…but, no matter what, we carried that image with us into that last performance.

Whatever it was, it was a bit of a transforming moment for me. I’ve asked questions about religion, faith, God ever since, never getting a satisfactory answer, never feeling a pull or affinity for any of it, even though I’ve wavered, wanting to believe but not having it happen.  Turning to the Rabbi is a huge step for me.

I know that I’ve had many by my side, even more so now for these last few months. I appreciate all that has been done, and am grateful to many.

I hope you have those who are by your side, physically, and you can find it spiritually, if that is your belief.

The New Year…and a blog award

NewYearWe all place so much importance on the beginning of the new year…well, we place importance on a lot of dates and things: if we took all the good wishes, hopes & aspirations, love, resolutions, etc., and applied them every day, not just at the “designated” times, I do feel we’d all be better off. I love my SO whether it is Valentines Day or not. I want to be healthier year round, not just as a New Years resolution. I want there to be peace on earth and good will to everyone  all the time, not just a month of the year.

I do hope that this coming time is a better one, not just for myself but for those who I know who are hurting, one way or the other. For those I don’t personally know, but read about/hear about/have no clue about as well: Is it an impossible hope to have, with such a large canvas? Most likely, but those thoughts are in me that good things can and will happen.

The last third of 2012 was so bleak for me, in so many ways, and I’m only now starting, again, to see all the many positives I do have in my life, even with the loss I’ve suffered. Still quite a road to go, but, as I’ve written before, if I do nothing but wallow in the misery and not put it into perspective, gain personal strength for those around me and especially for myself, then I’m not doing anyone any good. If we’re not here for doing some good, then why are we here? I need to find some joy again in living for myself first so it can extend to those around me.

I rarely talk about losing my mother here, even though that was the event that brought me down to the ground and to creating this blog. She and I (as my father and I) had a complicated, often combative,  relationship, as I’m sure so many do. I know a few whose parents rejected and abandoned them (mine did not), and I know many whose parents are still a major part of their lives, with all the positives and negatives attached. I haven’t really begun to deal with all that her loss means, since there are so many other issues tied up, thing that need to change, so I can really get into a full healing process. Her passing is one area that I will have to begin tackling in 2013: I’m on a wait-list for a bereavement group for those who’ve lost parents. We’ll see how that goes.

As to not having full time work, starting up my own company again might be the way to go if no full time work comes my way. But, in this economy, it is finding a niche that is not full up as well as marketing what I can do properly. When I created The Brothers Grinn, no one was doing family improvisation shows: it was all adult material, in bars and colleges, with mainly drinking crowds. The improv games got old real fast for me, and I think so for others, as newer forms of improvisation theater emerged. What to do now, though, is the question. I have an idea: I just need a few people. Or a good old kick in the arse. We’ll see how this train of thought goes as well. A good internet friend has already reached out to me, suggesting we talk along these lines.

So…onto the award:Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

Given to me by Barbara Klein of the Late Bloomers blog (and a member of PBAU group on Facebook, a truly wonderful group of bloggers who I am happy to be associated with), the Liebster Blog award is primarily given to those who have less than 200 subscribers. The awarder feels that the blog needs to be seen by a wider audience. As I’ve mentioned with statistics, the numbers on the side of this blog do not reflect in any way the actual numbers of those who read this blog: it’s only potential readers (combining how many “followers/friends” I have on Twitter and Facebook). I average around 30 visits a day, with 17 subscribers. I’ve also mentioned that my writing this blog was never about numbers: it’s for me to heal and evolve. If others find comfort or inspiration from what  I write, then good. It’s a good deed, a mitzvah.

The Liebster Blog Award comes with the following rules:

1. When you receive the award nomination, post 11 random facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
2. Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (while making sure you notify the blogger that they have been nominated!)
3. Write up 11 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees.
4. Of course, do not nominate the blog of the one who nominated your blog!
5. Paste the award picture onto your blog. (You can Google the image; there are plenty of them!)

11 Random Facts about myself:

I’m an only child; I don’t drink alcohol; I don’t smoke; I like to read; Technical explanations make my eyes glaze over; the majority of my closest friends are from High School and the first year of College; I’m not a big fan of parties or large gatherings; I know I have a lot of talent, but I also know that I’m unfocussed with it  right now (that counts as two); I had given up on finding love in my life when it finally did happen; I’m a klutz.

11 Blogs I nominate and 11 New Questions:

I will have to beg off for the moment; I really want to think about this, and do it right. I WILL do this within a week: I will try to hold to that promise.

Here are the questions that Barbara would like me to answer:

1. What was your first thought this morning?

Being woken up by my SO, and cuddling, and thinking how lucky I am to have her in my life.
2. What is your favorite movie and why?

I have too many movies I like: really, honestly, can’t pick just one as my all time favorite. I don’t have a “go to” movie; there are a number I’ll watch again and again if they happen to be on TV and I run across them. “Dave” is one of them: Kevin Kline & Sigorney Weaver. Not sure why, not a laugh out loud movie. Makes me think it would have been a Jimmy Stewart movie.
3. Where would you like to live?

Right now, almost anywhere else but here. Just not on the streets, homeless.
4. What is your favorite food and why?

Meat Loaf. Just plain old comfort food.
5. Where did you spend your last holidays?

With my SO at her place for Christmas, and then she was with me here for New Years.
6. When did you start blogging? Did you know where the journey would take you?

I started blogging in January 2011 because I was bored and wanted to challenge myself with creative writing. What I’m doing right now, with this blog…no, I had no idea that I would be on this path.
7. Is there anything that you would like to change in your life?

Oh yes…so many things. That is what this blog is about.
8. What makes you smile? What makes you laugh out loud?

Small smiles right now: I’m trying to find that part of me again. I do enjoy the Animal Planet show “So Cute” for just that type of smile. Laugh out loud moments are few and far between right now. I hope to find that again.
9. How do you stay motivated?

My support group, and my drive to get out from under the dark clouds that have been hanging over me.
10. If you could be a character, who would you be? Why?

I honestly can’t think of one right now.
11. What makes you happy?

Skyping with my SO, when we can’t be together.

Before The New Year…

creative-brillianceI woke up this morning, and my SO felt I was tense; I told her it was the same old thing, the negative thoughts that are holding me back. She said she wished I could find some joy, be joyful: I agree.

I went to the Rabbi first thing in the morning. I haven’t seen her most of December, and she will not be available until February. In talking about how I feel, she brought up the  fact that my obsessing over what I don’t have right now is a large part of my anxiety, my tension, my not finding or being joyful. I intellectually see that I can be in a self defeating loop, but have trouble breaking myself out of it.

With all of our discussion, she gave me kudos for remaining with this blog, for remaining so honest, and for, in the depth of my darkness, my ability to still find compassion and care for others (she said evidenced both here on this blog, and what I’ve told her privately). The Rabbi said so many people who come to her for help can’t seem to go beyond saying they want help and actually doing something about it, nor are they able to reach out to others in pain, so deeply entrenched in their own. My SO agreed with her, again both of them bringing up all that I am trying to do to get myself focused,  to appreciate the good things about myself, take care of myself, and continue to search for ways out from under the black cloud that I sometimes let remain over me.

We worked on a visualization: the Rabbi read Psalm 23 to me three times. With my eyes closed, I was asked to first think about what, if any, words or phrases lept out at me. Then, with the second reading, what visuals came to mind. The third time, to go deeper and see where it took me.

It’s the third time I want to talk about. I envisioned, during the second time, from “…You are with me; Your rod and your staff-they comfort me…” an arm, strong, firmly grasping that staff. During the third time, that arm was there throughout, on my right side…and I saw my right hand resting/holding onto that arm. It was there during that whole visualization. It was strong, steady, and…I’m not sure what I felt, but it felt right.

The image has remained with me, and as I’m writing it out it’s a pretty strong image for me. While I escaped into seeing “The Hobbit” after my meeting with the Rabbi, I saw the staff throughout the movie, wielded by the wizard Gandalf (I am NOT saying he is a stand in for God…just the connection, tenuous as some may see it).

What I was asked to do was to find a mantra, to say to myself when I start obsessing over the negatives, belittling myself, or a rise in anxiety. The Rabbi asked me to memorize Psalm 23, and that is what I shall try to do, and use it as a way to help get me out of this self-destructive mental loop. I will do my best.

For the coming new year, I wish everyone the best they can possibly hope for, a way out of any darkness that assaults them, and as much happiness that they can find. I wish these things for myself, as well. I always seem to forget wishing these things for myself.

I hope you do your best, for yourselves, in this coming new year, and always.

Stuart

Psalm 23

God is my shepherd, I shall not want.
God makes me lie down in green pastures.
Leads me beside still waters, and restores my soul.
You lead me in right paths for the sake of Your name.
 
Even when I walk in the valley of the shadow of death
I shall fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff-they comfort me.
You have set a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
 
You have anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of God forever.
Amen.
 
~ from Gates of Healing, a Message of Comfort and Hope

 

 

 

 

Perspectives

earth-2“I believe everyone should have a broad picture of how the universe operates and our place in it. It is a basic human desire. And it also puts our worries in perspective.” ~Stephen Hawking
 
“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” ~ Anne Frank
 
“If we are too busy, if we are carried away every day by our projects, our uncertainty, our craving, how can we have the time to stop and look deeply into the situation-our own situation, the situation of our beloved one, the situation of our family and of our community, and the situation of our nation and of the other nations?” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
 

I was settling down in the movie theater to watch “Les Miserables” and the thought struck me, then, of what I should write about today. We each carry our own burdens and how we face them/allow them to affect the way we handle them shapes our days. I know, intellectually, that there are people around the world (if not even around the corner) who are suffering in their lives worse than I am. We all know this, and we also know we can’t take the entire weight of the world on our own shoulders. It is just too much.

We can work on ourselves, be better for ourselves, and so hopefully be able to be better for others, offer more of ourselves to others-even just one other person-when we’re not bogged down,  knee deep in our own trials and tribulations.

Knowing the musical I was about to see, and the real life suffering that existed then…and now…put me in a different place while watching the film version. I still hurt, I’m still anxious…and I’m trying to put things in perspective.

When we came back home, I had an email from an internet friend. No air quotes. Friend. Supporter. All around good guy, from what I know of him. He has a medial condition that may not allow him much time left with us. Timing is unknown. His biggest fear is not for himself (although I’m sure there is that: stoicism in the aftermath of bad news, maybe) but for the one he’ll leave behind. My heart is heavy with this news, and I offered him all I could: my thoughts, and I will include him in the prayers that have now become part of my daily routine.

He mentioned leaving something eternal behind him, and, in all honesty, the best I can think of is that we should try to leave behind good memories, smiles, and a sense that our lives meant something to not only ourselves but to at least one other person, if not many. That we touched them in some good way, supported them as we would like to be supported, and loved as we’d like to be loved.

My worries are of a financial one right now, and my future; his are life and death, and his future. It’s up to us to handle what we are going through with as much grace and strength as we can.

I know I wish my friend much grace, much strength, and that he continues to look for what good he can do now and in the timeto come.

I wish that for any who are suffering, in any way, as well.

Laughter

During a long drive, I turned off the CD I was listening to, just needing some of the quiet (as quiet as it can be on a highway). Many things crossed my mind, some of it in the negative realm and my doing my best to blow it away with other thoughts. Almost a driving meditation, concentrating on something else, focusing my attention on the task on hand. I drove safely, very aware of the trucks and other cars on the road, so don’t worry. The traffic was light.

Here is what came to mind when I thought about laughter: three stories, all dealing with times when most would not even think it’d be a time for laughter, but…this is where I went.

My mother had an unofficial nickname: Edith “Two Shoes” Nager. When my father died, in the funeral home, we (my mother, my son, my daughter and I) were in the side room when the family and friends were called into the main room. My daughter looked down at my mother’s feet and said “Grandma, you’ve got two different shoes on!” We all looked: yup…same type of shoe, but two different colored shoes. The four of us started laughing out loud. The moment was cathartic and broke a lot of the tension we all were experiencing. A cousin of mine came in to scold us for laughing, but…well, he is not important to all this. I told the assemblage, during the eulogy, why we laughed, and they laughed/chuckled along with us, along with the feelings of loss of my father.

At my mother’s funeral, I again gave the eulogy. When talking off the cuff about parents sometimes being difficult, my son (a young man now) snorted a laugh. My instant retort was with a “shut up”, but with a smile towards him, and again the assemblage laughed along with us for the moment.

Charlie, Sam, Me, and Rich: June 2005

Charlie, Sam, Me, and Rich: June 2005

I guess these thoughts entered my head as I was driving past the hospital where my HS friend Charles died. My memory of Charlie is almost always of him laughing/smiling. At his funeral, I was asked to give the eulogy as well. I asked the congregation there if there was anyone who shared a smile, a laugh, with Charles. Everyone raised their hands, and everyone smiled.

Sometimes, we need to just remember, even at the most dire of times of loss, some of these moments. An online friend just lost her father, and her post was full of memories like that, laughter and smiles of and with her dad.

Here’s to the moments of lighter, brighter days…those behind us, those still to come.

Finding A Smile

smile    “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.”
― Maya Angelou

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
― Mother Teresa

 

I haven’t been smiling much for awhile, but a few have found some making their way up from the depths, working the proper emotions, and sharing them. That in itself is a good thing. I’m aware of those times, and I look forward to more of them. I’ve even caught myself laughing again, not a lot, not wholly and freely, but those bubbles are surfacing too.

Smiles are needed, not only for me, but for those I love, to help ease their feelings and concerns. Not falsely, but knowing that the path is starting to be walked. It will take time, and in this I’ve been overwhelmed and inpatient. I’m trying to learn to relax, cope, give myself a break, care about myself again, and retain hope amidst the outpouring of support and love.

When I had my theater company, one of the things I’d tell people was that what we did was give a gift: we had the opportunity to give our audiences laughter and smiles. I believed that, and it was one of the things that kept me going. Hearing them laugh during the show, seeing the smiling faces as they were leaving the performance space…that was golden. Better than applause.

Funny to see that same response in the Mother Teresa quote above, which is why I placed it there. That does feel good.

“If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it.”  ~Andy Rooney