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12.30.2013

DITCHING DOGMA AND GETTING TO GRACELAND [an excerpt - Setting My Crazy Loose Part III]


[an excerpt from Ditching Dogma and Getting To Graceland
It is both a strange and surreal experience to come to the end of a life together after 25 years .  There is a torrent of emotions and thoughts.  We had many a frank discussion.  A handful of real conversations on regrets with each other, where grace was between us, and I think a small release from the failings of our union.  I had no desire to trash him, even though the hurt of loneliness and abandonment was thick. I was not willing to scatter dirt or make people understand or win their approval by telling all.  It may have helped me greatly, but I was not playing that game.  To hurt more hurt does not need to be heaped.  To do so was not my bent nor the way I wanted to leave marriage, maneuver divorce or enter the single world.  I wanted my ex-husband to continue to be the father of our daughter.  Our daughter did not need more hurt than what she no doubt already felt.  More than that, I wanted him to experience release and freedom from his own demons that plagued him. 
I wasn’t foolish enough to think there are not lasting scars from an incomplete marriage, which lasted a big chunk of my adult life, and a divorce.  I had a deep longing to be free from bondage, hurt, pain, guilt, loss and fear.  I had a deep need to find encouragement and support as I walked away from the only way of life I knew, from the only belief system I had operated under.

I went to see Mike the counselor.  Courage is what I needed, someone to bounce my thoughts off and some validation. I desperately needed a sounding board - to sort through my crazy and set it loose. It was that period of time just after we made the decision to divorce but it was not finalized that I sat in Mike's office for several months.  I owe him a debt of gratitude.

The processing of every minutia of what I thought and believed was hard.  If there is a word beyond hard, it was that!  There were times I felt angry at myself for not having had courage earlier in my life.  For not being able to make this decision probably when it should have been made – at the end of year one.  I could not though nor would I ever let loose of the absolutely freeing soul fact that my daughter was the best gift of 25 years of marriage.  She was worth every day of those years.  I would do it all over again just to be her mom.  That was unchangeable and set in concrete for me.

If I truly believed God loved me more than I could possibly imagine, that He loved me enough to have created me,and orchestrated this world just for humanity, why could I not fully forgive myself?  Why could I not let loose of the feelings of failure I carried for marrying someone that I knew I should not have?  Why could I not forgive myself for the affair I had at the close of our first year of marriage?  Why could I not stop being hard on myself for how I reacted to a loveless marriage with that affair?  Why was I unable to let go of the fact that at age 19 I just did not have the courage to stand up to my religious family and reconciled to marriage from pressure?  How could I release those tethers of a lifetime I had bound myself with?  I was even angry at myself for all the years I wasted not being who I was designed to be.
I needed to leave dogma land.  And, I needed to get to Graceland.  How?  The task before me seemed like starting in Boston without a map, GPS, a compass, help, or even a mode of transportation and having to get to San Francisco.  It was overwhelming, frightening, and yet remarkably freeing.  The freeing part felt akin to being in a life raft in the ocean - safe, but not certain how to get to land but with endless open possibilities before me.


Steve Jobs gave a commencement speech in 2005 at Stanford University.  In that speech he talked about three things he learned. . .

One, connect the dots or at least believe they will connect down the road.  Trust it will all work out and follow your curiosity.  Two, find love and do great work.  Don’t settle for less than loving what you do.  You’ll know it when you see it.  And three, remembering you are going to die soon is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.  Don’t be trapped by dogma and don’t waste your life by living someone else’s.

That was me.  I had lived under dogma - living with the results of other people’s thinking.  I had lost my ability to believe the dots would connect at some point down the road.   I had not found love in my personal life or in my professional world.  I did not want to get to the end of my life with more regret than fulfillment.

When I was a realtor before the housing bubble popped, I saw the real estate market had gotten over inflated.  It needed a correction.  It was painful to watch. It was hard to see people lose money, myself included.  It was though very necessary.  It was a compass correction.  That was right smack dab where I was.

Like things attract like things.  I mean it was true in the animal world, right?  It was likewise true of people as well. Same socio-economic classes typically hang with each other; rich to rich, middle class to middle class, poor to poor.  We do the same with intelligence, emotional intuitiveness, interests in life, even beliefs.  Whether it is right, wrong or indifferent, it is a fact.  And just because we easily gravitate to clumps of likeness does not make it ultimately right either.
If I thought marriage was hard, hurtful and destructive, so was leaving dogma land.  All of my circle of friends and background came from within the church.  Not only inside the church, but in the inner circle.  I was a Pastor’s wife for 24 of the 25 years I was married.   It doesn’t get much  more inner than that.  Leaving the pastorate after that many years to start a life outside of church ministry was an adjustment, but a much welcome one.   Short of my sisters and a handful of friends who were outside of my “church” world, I had no one. 

There is no preparing, no storing up in the good times for hard times to come.  Knowing a know, even solidly, still takes a hit when you experience something in your face in the real world.  I knew in my head the isolation that would come when we divorced.  I though was caught totally unprepared heart wise for what followed.  In many regards, the responses or lack thereof  from those within the church were harder and a deeper hurt than actually leaving marriage after 25 years.   You know your marriage is over.  You don’t expect other relationships to end as well.  It felt like a domino topple.  I knew where I stood with my ex husband.  I had lived in that pain for most of a quarter of a century.  I though foolishly and naively assumed where I stood with those we had pastored, loved, and stood beside in life.  Even, for a season, with my family.

Facing my sockless counselor, I asked him what would happen if my parents or others stopped loving me, if they threw the Bible at me when I told them I was getting divorced,  what would I do?   He said, “Well, will you still be breathing.  Living?”   “Yes,” I said.  “Then you will be ok," he said, "You will have to find a way to get what you need from other people.  Some might not be able to give you what you need, maybe not now at least.  Maybe not ever.”  

He was right.  I was still going to be alive with or without their support.  I could face it. Even flourish on the other side of it.   It was time to cut the umbilical cord.  I was 44.

That was exactly my problem my whole life.  I had always lived under everyone’s permission or expectation of me.  Now I was struggling in leaving dogma land without their permission.  I needed to stop that pattern of thinking and living.  It was what kept me bound to the results of other people’s thinking.

I wanted my parents to be my parents.  It is at the heart of every person who has parents,  a deep longing to be loved and supported emotionally no matter our age.   It would take some time for those closest to me to regain their footing.  That I understood, but it was a quiet lonely time in the interim.

I knew God's strength and my personality propensity towards grit had got me through the past 25 years.   When I could no longer stay in that environment and be healthy, it was time to end it.  I knew, after much soul angst, prayer, learning more about who the character of God really is, that God would never stop loving me.   He couldn’t stop.  He made me.  I knew no matter how others responded I would still be alive and eventually would be ok. 

Eventually is an undefined and non-parametered word.  Just like the word several is loosely interpreted different ways by different people.  I did know that eventually couldn’t come soon enough.  Time stands still it seems when we are hurt.  When we are lost.  When we are fumbling around on the night shift of life.   Divorce seems to last forever.  It consumes so much energy and focus there isn’t a whole lot left to give away.  You need people during that time.  You need support, encouragement, prayers, physical contact with others, and laughter. 

Laughter and irreverence became the vehicle that kept me moving.  Without it, and those few that could deliver it to me, I would not have made the voyage.  Those select few know exactly who they are to me.  My debt to your skills, friendship, companionship and connectedness can never be repaid . . . 

12.23.2013

ZERO DEGREES OF SEPARATION


Saturday, as I changed the sheets, cleaned the bathroom and took apart the portable baby bed we borrowed for the kids' visit last week, I thought about Christmas.  I was feeling a bit sad that they had gone home.  My thoughts and spirit wondered when I would see them again in the flesh, how old Mason would be the next time I laid eyes on him, how much he would change in that time period.  I was missing all our kids, siblings, parents, friends . . . 
 
I fought back tears knowing I was separated by 1800 miles from those I loved.  My heart's desire was to be physically near them, to touch them, to interact on a daily basis in their every day lives with them.  I felt the distance, the separation deeply.
 
It dawned on me...Christmas was all about that - God not being able to stand being separated from us because of our humanity.  That's why God sent His Son, Jesus, to literally be born human - to be physically near us, to connect to our everyday lives.  To bridge the 1800 miles so to speak. 
 
To be honest, I feel a bit disconnected this holiday season.  I am far away from my familiar culture and from those I love deeply.  If it were possible, I would bridge that gap, erase the disconnectedness - that is, if I could.  Even a visit was only temporary and left me out of the loop of their lives on a daily/regular basis.
 
This Christmas I am so grateful that God bridged time to connect to the people He loved by giving up something else He loved greatly, His son - Jesus.  He erased the space and distance between heaven and earth through the birth of Jesus.  A visit wasn't enough.  God had to find a permanent way to be with us.
I identify with that desire to be with those we love.

12.11.2013

MONIKERS THAT PROBABLY CROSS THE LINE. RIGHT, BABE?


I like monikers, most of the time anyway.  Monikers by definition are informal nicknames of names. That makes them nouns as well. They can be the shortened versions of William to; Will, Bill, Billiam, Billy, Willy, etc.  They are also used a little more loosely than just abbreviating proper names to variants of their original form.  For instance; Smiley for someone who smiles constantly, Tater or Tate for a kid who eats potatoes in any form like they are going out of style, Tiny for a large man.  

I had a few monikers when I was young; Homer the Lion [I would not comb my wild mane of hair as a young kid], Prancer by a handful in high school, Nanny [by my middle sister and brother-in-law], Nanc [by my dad to this day if he is writing my name], Nan [by my other brother-in-law], Aunt Nanny [by most of my grown nieces], Fancy Nancy [by several former bosses because I AM NOT at all fancy], Big Nancy [by my nephew because I am a middle aged white woman who does not rap nor is very big], Big N [by my friend Big D who claims though little I am ginormously big of heart and sass and intimidating].  You catch my drift.  Probably you as well have had a handful of monikers past and present.

There is though a category much looser than even those I've described.  It is the moniker names doled out by virtual strangers.  These monikers usually drive the shit right out of me.  I have though, as of late, taken to making it an internal contest to see whether I can garner a moniker from a stranger daily.  This game of sorts helps me to be more light hearted about it instead of it engaging my anger switch.  

The now third mail carrier we've had at our office in the past 7 months is a greasy messy pony-tailed thin 40-ish year old man.  He is pleasant enough but gets in my personal area a bit more than I like.  Almost daily he takes a buttermint out of the basket on my desk and ends whatever his last sentence of the day to me with, "See you tomorrow sweetheart.  Thanks sweetheart.  You have a nice day sweetheart!  You're making me fat sweetheart!"  As he continues his walking route he has to double back by my office window to get to his vehicle to move onward with his mail route.  He always looks in and waves yet again with a big smile. 

I'm glad he thinks I am a sweetheart, but it seems a bit forward to assume that I like to be called that by the postman who is younger than me!  It's not an acceptable flirtatious move either but it seems he must have missed sexual harassment 101 with the USPS!  Those in my office get a giggle daily over the postman's goony ways with me.  As the door shuts behind him, I hear a duet of, "Hey sweethearts!!" followed by giggles coming out of a couple of offices.

Yesterday, for the second time in recent days, Larry stopped in my office asking if he could do some sweeping for me to earn a bit of money.  Larry is in his late sixties or early seventies with some distinctively clear cognitive disabilities.  He struggles to be sustained in daily life, even at a basic level, with just his very small social security.  He always does a bit of a I-gotta-go-pee-pee dance in my office as he asks for the bathroom - telling me he has to go bad.  As he leaves he says, "Honey, you are so nice to me."  I'm glad to be nice.  I just don't want to be his honey. 

I don't find those monikers offensive if you are older than me, if they are brimmed with genuineness of heart instead of through the guise of attracted-to-you-ness, or if they are from women who are old enough to be my mother.  Short of that, I must say they bug the crap out of me!

Mel Gibson got into some legal trouble during a driving under the influence arrest and booking for his moniker slurs.  Most definitely they can be offensive.  And, in his case, costly!

For whatever reason I get a lot of darlings, sweetie, sweethearts and most recently a babe.  They seem a bit condescending most of the time.  I do suppose though that my open demeanor allows others to falsely think they have that relationship with me.  But, they do not:)  Those monikers are earned with a relationship of respect, love, friendship, and family.

My favorite moniker to bestow on those I deeply love is the word love but used as a name - Love.  Thurston Howell used its variant form "Lovie" as well to refer to his wife Mrs. Howell on "Gilligan's Island". 

12.09.2013

THE TEST OF TIME AND CULTURE with a spin


There is something remarkable about anything that stands the test of time.  Especially music, literature, art, architecture, culture, nature.  I often wonder what it is about certain things that allow that to happen. Why I wonder do the works of Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plathe, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Wadsworth, Sandburg, T.S. Elliott, Edgar Allen Poe, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Shakespeare, Chaucer, or Confucius continue to stand strong, sometimes even stronger, long after their deaths?  What specifically was it about their words, their meaning, their passion to nail a thought, a feeling, a conflict, a longing, a dilemma right out of the century ballpark clear into the ones yet to come?

This Christmas time of year I am reminded again of music that has stood the test of time as well.  George Frideric Handel penned the musical piece Messiah in 1741.  That piece is performed all over the world yearly, especially at the holiday season.  It is a powerful work of music that seems more like a "spiritual opera" than just a static piece of individual movements. 

Whether you believe in God or not, Handel takes you through the state of mankind - separation from God, sin and selfishness, God's redemption of mankind through Jesus, God's son.  And finally he arrives, as he chronicles through this musical journey, to an understanding of our place next to the Creator and redeemer of all things and all people.  It's at that moment in Messiah that we see God's majesty and we get it - ultimately causing us to understand God's great love for us through Jesus the Messiah.  The last movement in Handel's Messiah is probably the most familiar, "The Hallelujah Chorus".  It's a triumphal and epiphanical point of seeing the big picture of life and death - God.

Though written centuries ago, it is still so relevant to the process of mind and heart we experience on a spiritual journey with God.  It is also very majestic, classical and formal in its presentation.

Our local community college performed Handel's Messiah over the weekend.  We went, partly because I love the power of the message, the music, and the stringed instruments (my love and weakness), and partly because my husband Doug had never seen it performed.  I wanted him to connect to something from another century that held such cultural significance some 272 years later.

We live in a very highly populated retiree area of Arizona. Definitely we were among the minority of those under 75 years of age in that college auditorium.  Sitting next to me were two 80-ish year old ladies who were gussied up quite nicely with a holiday flare.  Sitting next to Doug were two other 75-ish year old ladies like-wise dressed up quite classily.  I, of course, had on jeans, a warm sweater and penny loafers [yes Hannah I will not ever stop wearing penny loafers!].  We were sporting the look of our generation indeed!

Messiah began like any classical piece of music would; the choral singers in the back, the orchestra in the middle, the conductor on his podium, and the soloist in chairs in front of the orchestra.  There is that moment of quiet when the house lights go down, the conductor takes his place, the soloists enter the stage that I find myself in such anticipation for the first notes.  It might be how you feel when you are anticipating kickoff of the Superbowl with your favorite team playing.

It began its familiar notes with the guest tenor soloist gracing us with his absolutely beautiful voice and runs.  He was by far my most favorite of the four soloists.  Later in the piece came the baritone.  He was a large rotund man with a beard and wiggly cheeks that jiggled when he got animated or vocally moved through the myriad of runs he was singing.  Nothing against women singers, but typically I much prefer a man's voice! 

Sitting directly in front me [I was in the fourth row.] were the mezzo soprano and soprano soloists.  Both were beautiful women who were wearing beautiful symphonyesque long dresses.  The soprano had on a very form fitting dress in a deep blue-ish black with tank top sort of straps.  It had a bit of drapiness over her d├ęcolletage area.  Both the front and back were cut low. It also appeared, based on the tightness of it and the fact there were no lines of any sort, that she probably had on a full body spank to keep it all pulled in. A formal arm shawl that matched draped gracefully just at the base of her shoulder and came to rest on her forearms.  She looked stunningly elegant and beautiful.


Kudos to those solo performers for having to sit out in front of the whole production at the edge of the stage, a mere spitters pace from the audience.  They sat and tried to not be noticed in their obvious perches.  One couldn't help but to watch them as they sat front and center for the enter 90 minute piece.

After the two men and the mezzo soprano had sung their solos, it was that elegantly beautiful soprano's upcoming solo that I knew was on the horizon. In preparation for her solo, she graciously bent to the side of her chair to get her water bottle.  In doing so, her right dress strap fell down.  No big deal when a strap slips, right.  One just simply pulls it right back up.  

That is not what happened at all.  As the strap fell, so did the whole right side of her dress.  When she righted herself, with water bottle in hand, her strapless/top of her spank was totally exposed fully on her right breast.  [Did she not feel it fall?  Why is she not pulling it back up!!!]   I was mortified for her and wanted to yell out.  She took a full big drink of water, right side of her dress completely off, and then leaned sideways again to put the bottle back.

[Surely now she will notice what has happened!]  She did not.  I counted a full 45 seconds before I finally leaned into Doug to inform him there was a bit of soft porn happening front and center with the soprano soloist.  After a few more seconds, she realized what was going on with her dress.  With all the fortitude someone could garner, she very non-chalantly and with every molecule in her probably screaming the complete opposite of what she was showing, pulled it all back to where it belonged.  The Janet Jackson moment, um I mean full minute was over.

I couldn't honestly tell you what movement in the Messiah that was occurring during that minute of raciness.  Music faded to the background and I watched in utter amusement at how her clothing malfunction had taken a toll on the grace and classiness of Handel's Messiah.

Doug mentioned later that he loved the music, the orchestration, the soloists, and the breast.  Handel's Messiah was a bit more than he thought it would be!


12.05.2013

CULTURAL WORKS OF ART



Some things are best left alone.  They are best kept in their original packing, in their original form.  They are best kept pure and left unaltered.  Sometimes the abridged versions leave the partaker highly disappointed.


Take for instance NBC's live filmed for TV stage play of "The Sound of Music".  I'm not sure there would be more than a handful of people on the earth who want to color the magnificence of the 1965 movie starring Julie Andrews with a televised remake, movie or play.  That 1965 movie became a musical movie classic.  It though was a remake of the Broadway musical of the same name.  Taking it from the stage to the screen allowed a much broader audience to fall in love with the story, and ultimately the actors who starred in it.

To give this re-made television live play version the right backdrop, you have to remember it is a live performance - a filmed play in front of a live audience.  There is most definitely a different feel, look, and rhythm of a play over a movie.  It though is paramount to a contestant on "The Voice" redoing a Beatles song.  You can't undo the magnitude of the song's legacy and familiarity.  Trying to retain its recognizable-ness without being a copy cat and yet bringing something modern to it can be quite a tall order. I'm not sure NBC was able to find that balance.

This live televised play version of "The Sound of Music" is Carrie Underwood's first big acting role.  Whether you are a fan of country music or not, she does have a great voice.  She is also, as a male friend mine always says about her, "she's a long tall drink of water with legs that go on forever."  But once again there is that strange sort of association we place her in and it just isn't in the play version of the classic and well loved "Sound of Music".

No doubt re-makes of classics, sequels upon sequels to big block buster movies, and cover bands singing top 40 hits are driven by the cash wagon.  The hope that if the movie, show or song created a cash cow once there may be a good chance it could again. It's a gamble that playing on people's loves of familiarity will create a big audience and ultimate revenue. 


If I am really really really hungry for chocolate covered strawberries and I bite into one, the first bite on the very first one is always the best.  The third or fourth ones, though they are still delicious, don't have quite the exquisite taste as that first one.  The first bite stands alone - pure unadulterated without too much of a good thing clouding its original amazing taste.

Some things just don't need any updates.  Their goodness is frozen in time for us; the statue of David, the pyramids, Wrigley Field, Handel's Messiah, original coke in a glass bottle and "The Sound of Music".

12.04.2013

THE DISTRACTION OF SHININESS


I despise most shiny things.  It is across the board in all categories that shininess can be found that I abhor its reflective brightness; light fixtures, faucets, door knobs, hinges, handles, decorations, clothing, accessories.  I hate bang dangled, glittery, faux looking, sparkly, or bejeweled anything. 

My very simply adorned home
I also highly dislike butterfly anything as well.  Though a dear friend once gave me a butterfly pendant necklace for Christmas.  When she read something I had written later in this very blog, she realized I hated butterflies and laughed at the irony of her giving me one.  She tried to force me to give it back stating she would get me something else.  Nope!  It is now a hysterically funny keepsake from a friend.

There are those that literally gravitate to rhinestones, flash, glitz and sparkle.  I am not one of them.  I prefer natural, earth toned, subtle, blend in with nature types of style.  And, I prefer that across the board in all categories, Christmas decorations included.

When I walked into my husband Doug's house for the first time, 3 days after meeting him, it was just a few days post-Christmas.  His house was beautifully decorated to the hilt - everything matched, and everything was shiny, glitzy, sparkly on his Christmas tree.  Now I can appreciate beauty even if it's not a style of my own personal preference.  I wondered what kind of man would; a) decorate that well - seemingly so professionally, and b) decorate to that extreme when he was living alone. I was single as well but only had a bowl of Christmas balls [brought at Goodwill for $2] on the dining room table and a 2' lighted tree with no ornaments on it adorning the corner of my dining room.  Good enough for me!

The first Christmas we were married he put all his decorations and tree up in what had been my house when I was single.  The color matched beautifully.  It was stunning.  And, it was shiny.  Shininess makes me cringe a bit from afar.  Up close it makes me just simply squeamish.  It was like something out of a magazine - just not my style.

With the holidays approaching after our move to Arizona, Doug noted that our Christmas decorations - his decorations I might add - did not fit the style of our new house or the color scheme.  He declared new decorations needed to be bought.  Though I agreed with his ascertain of style and color conflict, Christmas decorations are the VERY LAST thing I ever want to spend money on.  I didn't really decorate much for Christmas in my previous to Doug life and it seemed a bit of a waste of time, energy and money.  But since I love him and know he LOVES decorating at Christmas, I acquiesced.

Nancy's tree this year!
I obliged his decorating penchant, that is until he started piling the cart with shiny craps, glitzy doo-dads and sparkly hangie things.  This would now require I assert myself into Christmas decorating, which I hated, to ensure no more shiny craps made their way to the tree.  I told him that since he had our first two Christmas' under his decorating belt, it was my turn.  He struggled a bit to unleash his Father Christmas hold on the style of decorations, but finally gave me a season pass.  I chose natural colors [surprise!], muted colors, burlap ribbon to create a natural outdoor looking treeI wanted to bring nature inside since that is where I feel most comfortable.

Just yesterday, after having the tree up since before Thanksgiving, he walked by it, turned and said, "Nancy, I'm so glad I talked you out of shiny tree decorations.  This tree is beautiful:)"

We boxed up Doug's shiny blue and white fancy ornaments and mailed them to my sister Diane for her to use in their family room.  None of them got broke in shipping. Damn it.

12.03.2013

DITCHING DOGMA AND GETTING TO GRACELAND [an excerpt - Setting My Crazy Loose Part II]


[an excerpt from DITCHING DOGMA & GETTING TO GRACELAND - Setting My Crazy Loose - Part II ]

. . . I knew what was coming next from her.  Was I able or willing to have conflict with Dr. Janelle in order to be true to myself?
“Nancy, do you forgive him for what he did?” she asked, almost tauntingly hinting that to do anything less was not in line with God.  The dialogue was playing out in my head.  It was a slow motion suspended matrixie type of moment as I heard her words mingled with my then husbands. 

I knew very concretely though that it was not merely just a matter of forgiveness.  It was far beyond that.  This was not the first time I had seen real repentive tears.  This was a lifelong engrained pattern.  The only thing my forgiveness to him would do was help me.  It would not fix him nor had 25 years of marriage.

I watched as she waited for my answer as Jeopardy music played in my head.  Dr. Janelle sat with papers and pen, legs uncrossed but proper, her Bible draped across her lap.  I, with all the courage I could muster, began my descent into conflict and further Bible thumping, “I can say the words I forgive him, but I have not forgiven him fully.  That is a process.  Not an event.  It will come with time I hope.  But to say I totally forgive him right now, I cannot do.”

She was most definitely not satisfied with my answer.  It did not fit with her connect the dot way of counseling - the way in which she very concisely ordered emotions and pain.  “Nancy, God commands you to forgive.  You need to do that to restore things.  He has been vulnerable with you and needs to know you will forgive him.”  I had been vulnerable while seriously ill for years.  My needs had gone unmet, before, during and after the illness.  His vulnerability was not my high priority at the moment.  Mine had never been his.

Further bondage is what I felt from her, expectations that I needed to meet.  It was the same way I had lived all 43 years of my life –acquiescing to what I thought were the expectations others had for me.  I knew at that moment, I could do it no longer.  It was all but over. Something had changed in me.

Dr. Janelle called both of us on everything sitting in her office.  She told us to sit up straight, to uncross our legs, to leave our arms down.  Am I in hell, I thought to myself after expressing something to her and being reprimanded for how I sat.   I wondered if she knew her words, tones and approach to me verified, even solidified my now completed inward decision for exile from a life time of boundaries, expectations, and rule based life.  There was something just too Pharisaical that didn’t fit with my heart knowledge of God.   Her style unveiled bondage in a way that struck me crystal clear for the first time in my life. 
Heresy she would no doubt say if she knew my inward thoughts.  Disobedience from a God of cross your T’s and dot your I’s.  God hated divorce Dr. Janelle would say. Yes He did.  He hated broken things. He hated that my marriage for 25 years had been broken.  God knew the pain of broken relationships - the one with us before Jesus came to heal that brokenness. I got that. His hating divorce wasn't about a rule, but about love. He was the God who loved and sought us.  God could no more disown me, than could I say that Hannah was not my daughter.  I loved her with a wild big mother’s love.  God loved me with that love too but to the fifth power and beyond.


The conflict I was having internally was fierce.  This battle between listening to my head and heart over my religious upbringing, the collective voices of expectation both spoken and unspoken, and my own negative self talk tapes made me feel crazy at times.  I had to go back to those things that I knew that I knew that I knew that I knew.  The absolutes. Everything else was unsteady and changing.

I knew that I could not stay married any more.  I knew that the levels were toxic and I could no longer survive. For 25 years I had stayed in the ring.  I knew that God deeply and passionately loved me and wanted me to know that to the very depths of who I was.  To divorce would be like walking barefoot over hot coals.  It would be lonely and intense.  I knew one day I would flourish as I never had up to this point but I couldn’t see how or when . . .

12.02.2013

A FILM STAR OF SORTS


 
I sat impatiently in the waiting room of a new medical facility once again.  My hatred for most things medical was already welling up in me.  [What was it about this whole world of medicine that made me want to run the opposite way?]  Oh I knew exactly why I had such a dislike for the world of medicine - it was a reminder of dark times in my life.  Impatience and medical things are like a hand and glove to me - one just goes with the other!


Though not negating the importance of mammograms, I just didn't want to start over again with another doctor, another facility - people who had no medical history with me.  I didn't want to explain the clip marker inside my left breast if they hadn't already gotten my previous mammograms and pathology reports from back home.  I also didn't like the fact that I couldn't wear deodorant today or perfume, both of which make me feel more hygienically put together when at work.  One has to think that if aluminum from deodorant messes up the mammogram results it can't be good for our own body systems either!  Deodorant is one toxin I need!
 
I am never uptight about baring my breasts to be handled like a slab of hamburger by a technician I don't know.  She has the same parts and pieces I do. I am just not overly self-conscious about nudity.  There was though a certain measure of giggling that occurred in my head. I had made homemade bread this week. That woman kneaded my boobs just like I had done to the bread dough!  I had reverted back to my junior high school thoughts.
 
She had great perspective on boobs - one would if you saw the volume she did.  And, if it were not for time constraints, or the fact that she could possibly lose her job if she took my line of inquisitional boob questions too far, I would have most definitely pushed the envelope further with more humor and the quest for greater knowledge.
 
As she pulled my barely there A cups to a position under the plexiglas that pinched a rib, took your breath away [which was convenient as you have to momentarily hold your breath as the film gets taken] and made me realize boobs are really a bit like silly putty, she said, "I must say that I would much rather have someone in here with barely there, very small breasts - like yours, than a woman with huge ones.   If I walk in the room and see a woman with huge boobs that are coming right at me I want to run out of the room!"  I thanked her for her vote of confidence in us, the small busted women.
 
I must say it was one of only a handful of times in my life, since growing a pair of boobs of my own, that I had been declared the preferential winner over the large busted gals!  My cleavaged friend Big D would never believe this!   Society doesn't paint that picture.  The porn industry or Hooters don't promote the barely theres as winners ever!  Quite possibly I will now love my yearly mammogram.

11.28.2013

G-TUDE



It's the most wonderful time of the year......  that's the line from the song.  It's reference is to Christmas.  It would seem though any more that Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all sort of slide into a quasi combined season - much like the suburbs of Chicago all blur into the city.

I'm not much into buying gifts, trick or treating or even decorating for Christmas.  Thankfully I am married to Father Christmas who loves all of the above and takes care of it all! I do though love and cherish what the holidays produce - a different pace, a different focus.  We as humans need external things to remind us, slam into us from time to time to help change our focus off ourselves onto something greater than us.  I think the holiday season offers that opportunity, that is if we take it.  If I take it.

Ever since I was a young kid, Thanksgiving has been far and wide my favorite holiday [read A November Sky blog post from 10/31/2010].  Beauty comes in so many forms and gets showcased in all sorts of ways.  November in the Midwest, though stark and bare by Thanksgiving, is a great picture of the simplicity that we should all strive to create in our lives.  Life is simple.  We though make it more complicated than need be.  We get sucked into culture and pace and mindset far too easily.


Maybe that's why Thanksgiving has always resonated deep inside me.  It speaks to the scraped back, toned down, priorities realigned, really important things that are the foundations to joy - acknowledgement of gratefulness for people, basic needs, and something bigger than us that sustains life [both nature and humanity].

I don't want to just think about such things on one day a year.  I somehow want that spirit of living deeply entrenched in how I operate.  I want to be deliberate.
  I want to savor daily.  I want to cast aside the non-essentials.
  I want to acknowledge the constant presence of a God of all of creation. 

Thanksgiving might also be one of my favorite holidays because of fond memories, my personality bent coupled with my deep despising dislike for excess anything like decorations, gifts, and have to's.   Thanksgiving as a word is just simply the act of giving thanks.  It's done in all kinds of way, one of which is a celebration of divine goodness - Thanksgiving Day.

Whether you follow traditions of food, words, prayers, travelling, family or thoughts, Thanksgiving is a quiet and unadulterated way to foster gratefulness and simplicity into our lives.  May Thanksgiving Day lead me into a year of grateful and purposed cultivation for a bigger spirit of thanksgiving that alters all the other days of the year. 

11.26.2013

SETTING MY CRAZY LOOSE . . . [an excerpt]


[an excerpt....]
. . . Divorce seems to bring out the stupid in people.  Maybe more accurate would be that people are many times unsure or even fearful of deep waters - thus their silence or separation from their friendship or relationship with you during a divorce. Divorce is in the deep end of the pool.  I was myself afraid I would drown and was finding out rare few were courageous enough to venture in the deep with me.  Rare few.
Sitting in my counselor’s office one evening after work, I was struck by all the individual things I was seeing, feeling in front of me. Mike was the 3rd counselor I had gone to in my 44 years of living.  I came to him to set my crazy loose when starting through the journey of divorce.  As I sat on the couch, the river current coursed by the patio doors that overlooked its banks.  I noted the counselor’s shoeless feet which were covered in a wild pair of argyle socks [Were those even in style, I wondered.]  I glanced at the messy, almost wildly strewn office and desk.  For whatever reason all the strange disorder, shoeless feet, rushing current, seemed completely normal to me.  It seemed in fact, freeing.
And, I needed to be free. 

The first time I ventured into sharing my thoughts with a complete and total stranger was when I was 30.  I had a breakdown from a self-epiphany, stayed in bed three solid days sobbing and then went to see someone about how to re-group in order to stay in a horrific marriage.  If I were going to survive, I needed to get some things out and find a way to cope with what I knew my life was not full of.

 
Her name was Sue.  And, for a first experience of baring your soul to reorder it, she was the perfect guide.  A grandmotherly lady who wore free flowing clothes, she exuded hope.  Sobbing is usually a part of counseling.  It signifies acknowledgement of loss.  And, I sobbed!  She gave me permission to forgive myself for the anger I held for choices I had made that put me where I  was - in a life that was hard.  She listened.  She encouraged.  She gave me some tools for coping.  But mostly, she told me I was beautiful and would someday come to know that.  She was a woman of grace.

The second time I saw a counselor was after my first husband and I moved back from an unsuccessful job move to Texas.  His depression and behavior unchanging, my ultimatum clearly stated if he did not get professional help it would be over.  This counselor held a doctorate and came highly recommended.   My then husband went to see her for a season alone, a much needed season.  I tried as best I could during those months to let healing take place in him, to allow years of pain and bondage to be stripped away.
One day, fresh from the counselor, he confessed  to me.  As the words of his confession came out, I felt nothing – there was just nothing left in me.  I didn’t yell.  I didn’t even really feel angry.  It made sense now this guilty presence I always saw on him.  I calmly and rationally talked with him about his confession, almost like it was in third person.   I put my hurt away that day, realizing once again this was about him.  It always had been.
 
He spoke of it matter of factly, as in past tense, like the power-the hold wasn’t there now because he was free to say it out loud.  Why was I so devastated over it? It was yet another way that he had once again chosen himself over me.  I think I had known it for years but chose to ignore it because the weight was already heavy enough.
I called Dr. Janelle.  “Would she have time to meet with me?” I asked her, explaining that I had wanted my husband to have time with her without me for a awhile.  I thought it best now if I came in too.
 
Hant is a word my grandmother Weldy used to say in place of the word “hate”.  She mispronounced that word regularly.  I hanted Dr. Janelle the moment I walked in her office.  I felt bondage in the room.  I felt limits and borders.  I knew without a word out of her mouth that there was no way in hell this pairing of client to doctor would ever work.
I truly believe God is a God of instantaneous.  He spoke Creation into being, commanded demons to flee, healed the lepers.  I truly believe God is a God of old to new.  Tattered to rebuilt.  A God of grace.  I knew that from the inside of me just like I knew my name was Nancy.   What I needed to come to understand deeper was just how much God loved me.  She though was not that vessel to me.
 
On our first joint session with Dr. Janelle she read the Bible to us.  Don’t get me wrong,  I love the Bible.  Steeped in the things of God, living a journey of faith with God, a pastor’s wife for 25 years, I too loved the Bible. Her method though was one that I had tried to live with unsuccessfully for the past 25 years.  She was giving me more of the same.  More bondage.  More try harder.  More forgiveness is the key.  Sometimes there is not a magic key.   There was not enough rosary bead recitations that would fix this.  Then what Dr. Janelle?  Where does that leave me with God according to you? 
Discussing personal and private things with someone who knows not one thing of how you operate in life, what your personality bent is, or the experiences that have collectively made you what you are, is a bit out of bodyish.  Dr. Janelle was clueless to the nuisances of the clients in front of her - me.  Her approach was clinical.  It was strictly biblical.  It was technical.  It was without emotional intuition.   It was rules.  It was very, very fundamentalist.  I was squelched.
 
I had lived by rules all my life starting as a child in a home that was strict, at times stifling, and regimented.   It was mind over matter.  Pull yourselves up by your boot straps.  Work harder.  Do your best and never let it rest.   Religiously, I grew up in a denomination that believed you could “lose” your salvation.  By choosing “sin”, whether it be once, twice or three times a lady, you un-chose God.  Or possibly, He might even un-choose you.

We are collectively the sum of all things that created, affected, touched, were spoken, we witnessed, experienced or were taught us.  That is a weird sort of mix in anybody!   I have equated the magnitude of getting a divorce, based on the collective sum of all I was, to running a marathon, 26.2 miles, without ever having run even 50 yards.   

 I had stayed married not because I wanted to.  I stayed married for 25 years because;  I was convinced that was what God expected, because my parents would disown me, because I would take away my husband’s way of life of pastoring, because I had a daughter still at home, because I had made a bad choice and it was my fault to have married someone that I should not have, because it was penance for having an affair at year one, because I would alter people’s view of God as seen through my choice, because I was tough, because to do anything but stayed married was selfish, because I would hurt everyone.  And summarily, because what I needed or wanted was less important than all of the above things.  The because list was long.  It never ended and played on repeat . . .

11.21.2013

MY FIRST LOVE AFFAIR (an excerpt)


 
My first love affair happened when I was quite young.  It happened in seventh grade.  I was quite young by some standards, but really old by others. 
 
Mrs. Nelson was her name.
 
 
Mrs. Nelson was my seventh grade English teacher.  And, by the time I rolled into seventh grade at 12 years of age, Mrs. Nelson was a seasoned veteran.  She had teaching down to an art and exemplified a tenured teacher with her plump body, cardigan sweater and pockets stuffed with Kleenex.  She perpetually seemed to have a cold, using nose spray like it was oxygen.  In fact, she might be the reason that certain over the counter cold medicines are kept behind the pharmacy now.

She did not have an inviting demeanor with her addictive nose spraying, blowing her nose and general grumpy hap-hazard ways. Though she had a soft side for kids. That’s where my love affair started for all things English, with Mrs. Nelson.  She still has a place in my heart for what she awakened in me.
 
I found diagramming sentences interesting - how words were organized in patterns, supporting each other, painting pictures.  It piqued my mind.  A world opened up to me.  Words were creative and open and able to be arranged to cause emotion, thought, reaction.  I saw words in a new way.  My torrid life love affair had begun.

Since I was a little kid my mind has been like a big movie screen.  Whenever I heard verbage or music, smelled scents, or read words, my interpretation would play on my mental screen.  Things were in high definition in my head long before the real technology came on the scene!  It still works that exact same way for me.  



Occasionally words would slip from my mouth at inappropriate times causing me to get conduct marks in school.  In Kindergarten it was, “she is bossy with others”.  In tenth grade algebra with Mr. Walters it was merely stated as one word, “questionable”.   I could mostly keep it in check when I was young, but as I aged and grew into my own skin small eruptions began.
 
The youngest of 3 girls, my aggressive non-compliant ways did not follow suite with my two older sisters.  As I got into high school conflict ensued with my dad.  I wanted to be who I wanted to be, and my dad wanted me to be a better version of himself missing all the potholes that he felt had kept him from being all he could have been. [My dad is a great man and I'm not sure there is greater.]  Combine that with the natural process of blossoming freedom as a teenager and you have a bit of a scenario for conflict. 
 
My love of words and their power, both written and spoken, became what I wanted to pursue for a career.  It too would be one of the things of conflict between my father and I.  His financial career, upbringing and practicality came into play with parenting.  We only parent with what we know - me included!!  My desire to pursue creative writing in college was met with a halt, “You can’t make a living with a creative writing degree”, my dad said to me sitting in the Dean of the English Department's office at an upstate New York College, “Not many make it doing that.”



Those words would be powerful, even show-stopping for that part of my life and for many years.  So were my choices and reactions.  It would take me some years to find my voice and my words again.  Two elusive loves continued in me through the years and never abated – writing was one . . .

11.20.2013

UNLEASHING MY FURY



I really don't have a fear of dogs.  Would I though remain totally calm if a pit bull came running toward me?  Probably not.  But, I don't fear the average dog on my runs, walks or bike excursions. I really don't have much fear in regards to creatures or critters that can be encountered while out in the wild.  Maybe I should.

I've seen some grand animals in their own environment; bear, rattlesnakes, elk, antelope, coyote, deer, beaver, fox, turkey.  There is something magical about getting to witness them out in nature. It's also a humbling experience to be a part of that natural world.  When I am partaking in the grand out of doors I am fully in the animal kingdom's world.
It's their habitat.  I sleep inside four human built walls with electricity, heat, and a bed.

On a walk over the weekend my husband and I ventured to the field north of where we live.  There is a make-shift path/trail around it.  On the one side that faces Granite Mountain is a rickety fence that keeps the cows from leaving the rancher's land and entering our subdivision and the adjoining field.  The east straightaway of the trail is near the road.  Give me a trail, a path without houses or people or traffic to run on any day.  I love the quiet of nothing but me and my feet hitting the path.  That's why I love that field - it's wide open, peaceful, free of distractions and reminds me of my growing up on a farm years.

Both yesterday and today I ran that field path as it was nearing sunset.  Heading down the small hill near the fence and the cows I spied two women and a German Shepherd walking a distance ahead of me.  It would appear they were letting their German Shepherd roam free without his leash.  I had a quick dialogue in my head, [Let them know early that I am coming up behind them so they can leash that dog]. 

I did just that.  About 40 feet behind them I hollered, "Don't want to scare you!  Coming up behind you. You might want to get a hold of your dog."  It wasn't that I was scared of being bitten, I was more concerned that they didn't know I was there and I would startle them.  And I sensed their dog would think me a human running ball and chase me as I passed them.

They quickly obliged and clipped his leash back on and held it as I ran past them.  It was a smaller German Shepard that appeared held back only by their strength and the leash.  I thanked them as I went on my way up the small incline that would let me exit the field.  No harm.

Today as I began the descent down the hill on that same route, a man with a huge German Shepherd was walking toward me.  It was not a small shepherd, but the breed of German Shepherd that had a head, nose, mouth, and feet that put Kujo's size ferocity to shame.  As I neared the man and his dog, the owner quickly grasped the collar and leash so there was absolutely no slag in it as I ran past them.  The proximity of that massive of an animal was a bit startling.  The owner though had handled it correctly.  I called out, THANKS!!

On the home stretch leg of the path I came up behind the same two women and their smaller German Shepherd as yesterday.  I did not call out my coming up behind them warning today though I sensed they didn't know I was there until I ran between them.  Their dog was again off leash and ahead of them. I felt a rush of anger at them walking a dog without a lease where others partook of the same path.  There are leash laws here! 

That dog did just what any dog would do when someone running passes by them - he ran after me.  I had no desire to try to outrun a German Shepherd nor probably could have I.  With my anger rising, I stopped and turned my back to the dog as he jumped up on me.  [If I wanted a dog to run the trail with me I'd have one - put it on a damn leash!]  Part of my anger welled over the fact that they were careless with their animal around others.  Part of it was over the fact that I had to stop my run and try to get the dog to stop chasing me.  The other part was their casualness to our interaction.

They were totally oblivious to how runners feel about loose dogs - angry that we usually have to stop our run till the owner gets the dog away from us.  I don't like stopping a run period.  Nor do I like having to stop it because of someone else's inept and careless behavior. I started running again with their words ringing loudly, "Oh he just wants to play. He won't hurt you!"  Whether that was true or not I was not convinced.  If I wanted to play I would not be out running alone!!!!!!  You play with your own damn dog and not on a trail with others.  Leash laws!

He started chasing me again and jumping so strongly on me while I ran that I had to stop yet again.  I turned my back to him as he continued to jump up reaching my shoulders. I was getting red hot with anger. These two women had made little attempt to coral this German Shepherd nor were they abiding by leash laws designed for the safety of others and ultimately the dog as well.

I stood still, continuing to shield myself from this ginormous dog as he jumped with power, until the women reached me.  I knew I could not take off running again until they had leashed him.  They were wasting my run time, causing my timing to now be off, interrupting the flow of a run. 

Not one word did I say to them [my mind was holding back quite a flurry of words and wrath all centered on them] as they pulled him off me.  I just glared at the women with silence and a look of disgust. Though it wasn't the kindest of interactions I could have given them probably, it was at the very least the kinder of the two options that I was going to give them! 
 
As I ran away, I turned and looked directly at them and just shook my head.  I was hoping my quiet but angerful body language would speak volumes without the words.  I was attempting to stay my fury inward.

Tomorrow I will go back there. Tomorrow I will not be quiet.  If I run into them and their German Shepherd they will gain a new fear of runners and a contact from animal control.