Sunday, May 28, 2006

Development versus Chaos

We often equate growth with the gradual but steady progression, like the hours of a day progress from midnight to noon to midnight. Developmental authorities have projected a schedule of growth and a timeline to go with it. Elizabeth Kaeton wrote in an email to the Bishops and Deputies of the Episcopal Church's General Convention, "The first is BASIC TRUST vs. BASIC MISTRUST (Hope). This is attained in the period of infancy through the first one or two years. The second is AUTONOMY vs. SHAME (Will) which is attained in the period of about 18 months to 4 years. Without the development of these two milestones, a healthy human being can not go on to mature and attain the other milestones, which include

Initiative vs. Guilt PURPOSE,
Industry vs. Inferiority COMPETENCE,
Identity vs. Identity Diffusion FIDELITY ,
Intimacy vs. Isolation LOVE,
Generativity vs. Self Absorption CARE,
Integrity vs. Despair WISDOM.

Spiritual people have also projected a growth progression for faith. James Fowler wrote in "Stage of Faith" that the dynamics of human development and the dynamics of faith development followed a similar pattern. He posed six stages of faith:
Intuitive-Projective Faith
Mythic-Literal Faith
Synthetic-Conventional Faith
Individuative-Reflective Faith
Conjunctive Faith
Universalizing Faith.

I have always found these theories of development very interesting, especially when I was exactly where I was supposed to be on the charts. And, when I wasn't where I was supposed to be on the charts, I wasn't interested in theories of development anyway.

Very early in life my development from Mistrust to Trust was undermined by an abusive father but sustained by a loving older brother. I didn't make that transition from shame to autonomy until my mother died when I was 50 years old, likewise with Guilt to Initiative. Although I tried many times to escape my mother's pull and be the person I knew I was, I just couldn't do it. Her love and approval were so important to me that I spent my whole life vibrating between doing my own thing and trying to please her. The results were disastrous, needless to say.

Generativity I achieved at an early age also because I had to be productive for our family to survive. After my brother died, I was the one who made decisions and produced income until my mother and sister-in-law could get back on their feet.

I struggled a lot with the other attributes of growth, but I seemed to be able to convey hope and trust to others; those others helped me along the way as I took a few steps forward and then was dragged back into a previous stage by something that happened. That's usually what happens when we say that someone has "pushed our buttons"; we've reverted to a prior stage of growth that we have to learn all over again.

Faith, I think, is much the same way. We amble along with God and seem to be doing just fine until suddenly we're confronted with ideas that are different from ours, ideas that make sense, ideas that others believe passionately; then we wonder and puzzle and shift what we think we believe on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

We can be accepting and honor other people's religious beliefs until they come into conflict with our own comfort and well-being. Then we revert to a conventional faith that says everyone should believe just as I believe. We go for long times in that reverted faith before we become accepting again; and that reversion can apply to others besides those with whom we are in conflict.

So, my experience is that human development (mine anyway) and faith development are not simple progressions from one stage to another. These are human constructs like time is a human construct, and they don't always fit. Under certain conditions, time does indeed stand still or seem to go backwards. Our lives are like that. I suffer mistrust, guilt, shame, apathy, along side creativity, wisdom and hope.

The way I see these guides to development is as identifying points for times when we feel something isn't just right. We can look at what has happened, examine our feelings, shake out our beliefs, talk to others and decide if we need to grow a little more or if everything is really okay and the past is just pushing us a bit.

No one grows in such an orderly fashion, and that's what keeps life interesting.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Fear of Success

You know it's always hard to recognize that one of your particular behaviors might be a real personality defect. Alcoholism runs in my family, and, although I quit drinking years ago, my work pattern is definitely that of an alcoholic. I work at a job for a while, think how good I am at it, and decide that I can do better or different or elsewhere. I move on before I have a chance to be really successful.

Now, that I'm retired, I can look back at that pattern of great promise spoiled by leaving before the good news and wish I had gotten into a recovery program when I quit drinking. Thirty years of self-destructive or at least self-abusive behavior might have been changed.

I was always too good for the job, too good for the money I was making, too good to stay there long. Moving on, moving up, moving out - that was very popular in the 70s; so no one challenged my changing jobs frequently. I can't even remember how many jobs I've had, and I certainly couldn't keep them in order. And, I was good at most of them. I learned quickly and learned well. But, I didn't stay with them long enough to become truly proficient.

Today I listened as others described the same pattern that I have; most of them were younger than me. Most of them didn't realize that changing jobs frequently might be a symptom of that deeper problem that's related to alcohol or drug abuse. I wanted to lead them in ways that would help them see what life would be like 20 or 30 years down the road. Maybe someday I'll be able to share that insight and experience.

I knew I was not worthy of real success, and, if I stayed in one place long enough, someone would find out that I was not worthy. Someone would discover that I could make mistakes and that I wasn't as good as I said I was. I knew how flawed I really was, and the only way I could keep everyone else from knowing was to keep moving on. Change companies, change fields of work, change locations, change my name, change everything except my ability to accept that I might not be the best, but I was certainly worthy of and capable of success.

I knew that someday someone would see through my mask, would see who I really was, and I was afraid of being lost. I knew that I'd lose what little of my self esteem I still had if anyone really knew who I was. I was the child of a drunk, the neice of a drunk, the sister-in-law of a druggie, the poor farm girl from Mississippi, who really didn't know anything about anything.

So, I never been an expert at anything. I never became really good at anything. I dabbled in a lot of things. I took lots of courses, I got a couple of degrees. But, I never really let myself succeed. I wonder what my life might have been like if I'd found a recovery program in my 30s. Would I have been a success? Or would success have meant less than relationships?

I'm grateful for every day that I can live without being afraid of failure and everyday that I don't have to worry about someone else's opinion of me. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Comfort and Mythology of the World

A book I'm reading, Ishmael, has posited a mythology of culture that I'm finding fascinating. One of the questions asked of the student is, "What would the creation story look like from the viewpoint of a jellyfish?" And, then the story is told briefly, including the jellyfish ending its story with "and then jellyfish were born." At other points in the narrative, the guru asks the learner what the "how things came to be the way they are" story would look like from different animals' viewpoints. Throughout this time, the student is composing the human mythology of "how things came to be the way they are".

One of the conclusions that the student draws about half-way through the book is that humans think that the world was created for them to conquer and rule. This puts humans at war with the world, trying to conquer it.

What an interesting thought! Comfort is one of my prime motivators, and I know that my comfort is expensive. The dollars part of my comfort is the least expensive part; what does it cost the worker in China who made the lounge chair that I bought for very little? How much time did it take? Did the worker make enough that day to feed self and family? Does the worker have a clean safe place to live?

Someone had to mine the ore that was used in making the chair supports. What is the life expectancy of that miner? And, the petroleum used to manufacture the webbing on the chair probably came from a country that is not friendly to the United States. What significance does that have for my love of the earth that non-renewable resources were used in its manufacture?

That is only one example of the comfort I love. Food is another. I bought vegetables recently that were grown in a southern hemisphere country, a country where families cannot afford to eat their own produce because exporters pay them so much for it. And, yet, I paid a sale price for the asparagus. I'm not even thinking about the transportation necessary to get these items from their place of origin to me.

How much is my comfort worth? I wish I could say that I would live more simply. I wish I could say that I wouldn't buy as much or indulge myself in fresh produce (even when it's out of season here), but I know that I will continue to satisfy my comfort level.

I was feeling somewhat guilty this week about having indulged myself in the recliner when a friend said, "But you deserve it." No way. I don't deserve this good life any more than my friends who have less, any more than families in danger in Africa and the Middle East. Someone else said, "It's grace, God's grace." That's a really difficult thought for me: that God would give so much to me and deny it others. I'm not that special even though I have a pretty high opinion of myself.

So I don't know why I have so much and others have so little. I don't know why one person has to work so hard when another will never have to work. And, I suspect that mythologies of culture won't explain that nor will theories of economies.

When the student in the book proposed that certain knowledge could not be had, was not available, the guru asked, "Have you looked for that knowledge?" Of course, the student had not. I suspect, however, that some knowledge is simply not available. Some knowledge is so complex and has so many variables that certainty is impossible and causal factors just too far beyond our minds to comprehend.

And, so I conclude that I will probably go on making myself comfortable without too much regard for the rest of the world and hope that it stays far enough away that I don't feel too guilty when I enjoy good food from my lounge chair.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Practice for growing older

I'm practicing for being old. Today's teenagers would say that I'm old already, but I don't feel old. A bit slower at times, and, when I'm fast, I'm not fast as long as once I was.

Actually, I've practiced a bit for being young today, too. I rode the jet ski up and down the creek, hitting the wakes and turns neat curlicues and almost blowing off my hat at only 27 mph. That was the fast part, and it lasted about 20 minutes at most.

The rest of the afternoon, I sat in a comfortable chair under the tree or on the porch, sipping cool water and watching the boats and jet skis. A friend and I talked about things in our lives that have haunted us, and how wonderful it was to be rid of the haunting - yet still very uncomfortable with certain situations that bring back those memories. And, we talked about coping with minor disasters.

She's a very brave person, and she's one who perseveres. If she can't do it "that" way, then she'll try something different. And, I admire her very much. Her emotional buttons are easily pushed but seem to reset very quickly.

My emotional buttons don't go off as easily now as earlier in my life, and they reset more easily. I think that's good practice for getting older. Coping with change and disappointment and frustration and goodbyes is simpler now. My heart grieves, but life does go on, and I just have to keep doing the next right thing. Sometimes, I have to worry about the impact of change for the future, but mostly I just have to worry about today. And, I don't do a whole lot of that any more.

I want to gain some of my friend's perseverance, though. I tend to drop something if it doesn't work out the first time. She's always thinking of better, more efficient ways to do things. Although I sometimes think of better ways to do things, mostly I go on the same way I always have. I like the challenge of new things, but I don't like to change old things.

Some old things need changing. The way I phrase things and my tone of voice in certain situations, for instance. I have been working on my tone of voice all of my life, and still I hurt those I love sometimes because I let the old voice range and phraseology pop out of my mouth. Worse, I don't always realize what I've done until I'm told, "When you said XXXX, I was hurt." Then, I am very, very sorry. Maybe those times happen less often, but I wish they didn't happen at all.

I think that getting older should bring some moderation in my presumptive, preemptive tone of voice. Everything else is slowing down and not working as well. Why not that? I guess I still have some work to do on me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Keeping the Creek Clean

Until we moved creekside, I never thought much about the pesticides and herbicides and cleaners that I used. Well, I avoided some things anyway, but only because I'd read something about how harmful they were to the environment and to people. I readily applied herbicides to kill unwanted plants, and I know that I overapplied them. Later I tried to use the systemic ones so that I wouldn't accidentally kill anything else.

Now I wonder about what happens to the systemic killer once it reaches the roots of the plant and kills it. Does it continue to seep into the ground? What happens to it when I wash it into my septic system? Once it kills the plant, does it just change its structure and become benign? Does the systemic killer remain in the dead plant and go to my mulch pile or the garbage dump? If it goes into my mulch pile, what does it do once it's mulched and ready to use again? Is it dead?

And, I'm aware that certain house and window cleaners contain phosphate. I know I don't want it washing into the creek to enhance the growth of algae and bottom growing plants.

So, I'm researching most of the things I have used in the past to see what their effect is on our environment. We have a river keeper here. I'm going to consult him about them and about a few other things. I'm digging up weeds and unwanted plants and sending them off to the county mulch system instead of using herbicides. When hotter, more humid weather gets here, I won't be able to dig outside. I'll either hire someone or resort to the least harmful alternative.

We have fire ants here, seems like lots of them. I've tried to find an enviro-friendly pesticide for fire ants - without success. So I'm resorting to what seems like the least harmful alternative, and I'm using the least amount possible. So far, all I'm doing is moving them around. They are very dangerous to me and my partner; so I need them gone.

Most of us don't think much about the environment until the harmful things we do impact our lifestyles. I'm trying to change my lifestyle to fit with preservation and conservation - at least a bit more. It's hard because, to quote a friend, "All I've ever wanted in life is more."

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Happy Mother's Day

I miss my mother; she finally died in 2001. I say "finally" because she talked about dying since I was 17 years old, some 39 years earlier. We were close; experts say we were too close. They called our relationship co-dependent.

I didn't even know that word until I was 50 years old. Well, I had heard it in connection with my father and mother and his being an alcoholic. But, I didn't know that co-dependent relationships existed outside of alcoholism. So, the therapist shocked me by calling Mom and I co-dependent. She said that we weren't always sure where one of us stopped and the other began, and I realized that was true. When Mom had hot flashes, I had sympathy hot flashes.

And, I kept going home to Mom. When things didn't work out exactly as I had planned, Mom always brought me home. Even though she continued to hope that I would stay, I always left again - trying to escape the hold that she had on me. I remember once when my husband and I were living with her that he said he was leaving – leaving there, leaving me. I screamed and told him he couldn’t leave that I would die there. So we left together.

Then Mom got sicker and could no longer live alone; she came to live with us. The marriage did not survive that move, that renewal of the co-dependency, that depression. So, I lived with Mom until I simply could not live there any longer. She was crushed when I left, fearful for her well-being, fearful for her financial situation, sad because she had been deserted once again.

If you know anything about co-dependency, you know from reading this that I loved my Mom dearly, and I know that she loved me. I miss her, her willingness to listen, her cooking, her comfort, and I’m grateful for the life she gave me and the innumerable times she “saved” me (often from myself).

I’m also glad that she’s dead. With the therapy and her death, I have become more self-sufficient, more stable, happier with my life, and less of a control freak. I like me now. I hope she likes me, too.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Sleep is not an overrated activity, especially ordinary nighttime sleep. For me, however, ordinary and nighttime have seldom described my best sleep. I remember sliding out of bed in the cool quiet hours of night and pressing my face against the screen to hear the critters - frogs, crickets, owls, and the occasional wild cat. Those hours of feeling a part of God's world and having time to listen and reflect have always been valuable to me.

Somewhere along the journey of 60 years, those times of waking in the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning or just before dawn have lengthened into erratic sleep patterns that leave me weary. I don't think well or clearly; I'm irritable; I think rude comments even if I don't say them; I put off doing things that I like because I'm tired - bone weary tired.

In the last few years, I've awakened to pain in my legs, and no matter how I move them to get more comfortable, I toss and turn until I finally get out of bed. I've taken OTC pain medicine, prescription muscle relaxers, anti-anxiety medication - sometimes making my stomach upset from the different things I've tried. I've eaten cereal (works better than some things), drank milk, avoided caffeine (sometimes helps, sometimes not), done stretching exercises (moderates the pain a bit), walked around and around the house until I'm so tired I could drop; nothing seems to do much good at getting me back to sleep comfortably. Nothing except watching the sun rise, eating breakfast and going back to bed.

I'm tired of missing part of the day, and I'm having way too much time on my hands at night when I the world is quiet and dark.

So, I finally went to the doctor - at the urging of a friend. She gave me medicine for restless leg syndrome. I slept six full hours the first night without pain. After a few days, the dosage increased; I was druggy feeling the following morning, but I persevered. On day five, I slept all night. On day/night six, I slept nine hours. This is night seven, and I'm looking forward to an ordinary nighttime sleep.

I'm thinking more clearly, and I'm getting more things done. I'm still a procrastinator, but tiredness and sluggishness is not the cause.

Thank God for sleep.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Archbishop Eames

Robin Eames, Archbishop of Ireland, is retiring at age 69, having spent most of his working life as a bishop in the Church of England. He was named bishop when he was only 38 years old. He has been Archbishop of Ireland since 1986, twenty years. He has spent twenty years dealing with the strife between the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, twenty years of watching people he loved and respected die in violence, twenty years of working with youth to create greater acceptance of those who are different. I can imagine he is very tired.

In addition to all that, he has been chair of the committee to prepare the Windsor Report, the document about the Anglican Communion, a document precipitated by the consecration of a gay bishop in the United States and the blessing of same-sex unions in Canada. His doctorate is in ecclesiastic law, a fitting degree for the work he did on the Windsor Report. He listened to those from every sphere of the Anglican Communion, read thousands of documents, and coordinated the deliberations of the committee which produced the document. What a challenge!

More recently, he visited the United States and addresses faculty and students at two seminaries; he spoke about the communion and what has held it together in the past and the challenges it faces. They were wonderfully insightful for me.

He said that the challenges are deciding what does and should hold the Anglican Communion together as well as what role the interpretation of scripture plays in being in communion. The world-wide Anglican Communion includes churches which interpret scripture very literally and churches which allow a wide range of interpretations of scripture. Even the basic tenets of Christianity are debated in some places, and in others debaters are marked as heretics.

I applaud his work as a bishop and as an emissary of the Anglican Communion, and I wish him well in his retirement.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A few of my favorite things

The pitter patter of rain, the faintly wafting scent of gardenias, friends who phone me, pintos and turnip greens and cornbread, garlic, a whiff of rich pipe tobacco, singing hymns, bright primary colors, soft sunrises, the ocean's surf, the thrill of moving fast, laughing, sharing a meal with friends, making spontaneous trips, cool air on a hot day, warm air on a cool day, pretty dishes, flowers, Earl Grey Tea and its wonderful odor, four to six inches of snow, good water, paddling a kayak, watching birds eat and fly and congregate, learning new things, crossword puzzles, playing with animals, praying, thinking things through, reading, chocolate silk pie, Duncan Hines yellow cake with a light covering of bought chocolate frosting, my partner, comfortable cars, making people happy.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

How do I look?

For so much of my life, I've asked myself and others this question, "How do I look?" Growing up on a farm in Mississippi with a mother who desperately wanted others to think well of us in spite of the fact that my father was the town drunk. So, while I might be allowed to wear less than pristine jeans to play in our yard or in the woods behind our house, I had to be dressed appropriately when I went anywhere else. Of course, I had to wear clean underwear when I went out; what if something happened to me and someone might see a hole in my undies?

I endured scratchy dresses and uncomfortable shoes whenever I left the farm to go into town - four and a half miles away. I hated the dresses, but I knew that I must mind my manners and be nice to everyone so they would think well of my mother. Once in high school, I was out roaming the countryside with several of my friends, when we spotted a grass fire that a farmer was trying to put out all by himself. Of course, we pitched in with sacks and buckets and shovels and soon the grass fire was gone. However, we were covered in soot and dirt. I was so excited at how we had done something wonderful that I ran into the Ben Franklin store where my mother worked and was telling her all about it. She was horrified and sent me to the back to wash the dirt off as best I could. What would people think? And, my compatriot, well, she sent him away in such a way that we never rode around together again. How I looked mattered more than what I had done.

As a young adult, I dressed according to the whatever group was on the agenda. I wore the perfect work dresses to work at the television station, but I wore halter tops and short shorts when my husband and I went out with his friends. So I suited my wardrobe to the occasion. I didn't go near my mother in short shorts, and I didn't wear dresses to the bar.

My clothing and demeanor reflected whomever I thought would be seeing me - creating an impression that would be favorable to them. I said what I thought they wanted to hear, drank what would make me a stand-out, and had many faces. Throughout 50 plus years of living, I was always asking, "How do I look?" I didn't want to be told that I was pretty, although that was nice; I wanted to be told that I looked appropriate so that people would not say bad things about me.

Then I found a partner who encouraged me to be me, whatever I wore was appropriate. My mother died. My financial future was secure.

Although I still ask, "How do I look?", I mostly wear what's comfortable. I work in clothes and go to the fast food places still dirty. I wear casual pants and t-shirts in places where I would have worn dresses some time ago. I smile at people and don't worry about what they think of me. I try to dress appropriately for me and the places I go, but I don't worry about being that precise woman who needs everyone to think well of her.

What I'm not saying is: all those years, I was trying to please my mother. Now that she's dead, I don't have to worry about pleasing her any longer. My partner loves me just as I am; and I'm sorry if I offend others. They would do well to dress for themselves, because I don't care what they wear.

Friday, May 05, 2006

A thousand points of light

Former president George Bush promoted a thousand points of light, people who had contributed greatly to their communities. I don't remember any of the particular people he honored, but I know some who should be honored.

Faith Lockwood, who works continuously for the good of the teenagers who are pregnant or already mothers, is a good example. I'm sure that people everywhere ask her about her work or offer her things to help, and lots of us pray for her girls and their babies. She is never off-duty because I'm sure she never quits thinking about them.

A man I met recently calls himself a procurement volunteer. He talks with agencies that help people and tries to find those who can donate things they need. I don't know how much money he has added to the coffers of these agencies, but I know that he has saved them thousands of dollars by procuring material things they need. He asks his neighbors; he solicits online in the Freecycle community; he scavenges things off the street where they have been discarded. And, he procures good will for each agency in which he volunteers.

Today I had a phone call from my goddaughter who struggles so hard to make ends meet in a family that would have caused most of us to commit suicide. By scavenging materials, buying a few things, getting her children's friends and their families to help, she has managed to build a storage shed behind her house. It needed a roof until a few months ago when members of the Hispanic community helped put up the last pieces of tin. Now a church friend is there putting doors on the place, and I'm sure he will make it water-tight and safe for them to use. He's in the construction business, but he still finds time to help those in need. He runs in the race for Heart disease, the CROP walk, and others that I have forgotten. He gives platelets regularly. He and a few other friends did all the inside work for an elaborate church annex, and he still found time to hand fashion pieces of furniture for the building.

I have a friend who works with pre-school children, helping them learn how to exercise their bodies to grow strong and stay strong. Another friend works with the mental health clients of a public agency, listening to their needs and helping them have a say in how they receive care. Her agency is sagging, and she works long hours to reassure people and put policies in place to care for them.

When we received our foster daughter, the time was past six pm as they convened a group of social workers and placement people around a large table to discuss what could happen. Most government workers go home when their eight hours are over. These people care about children, and so they stay until the job is finished for the night. They listen and ask questions and together make decisions that affect lives already in turmoil. They are not perfect, but they keep trying to make life better.

These are a few of my thousand points of light, and I think of them like the stars I see in our night sky. I like seeing these stars - the ones in the sky and the ones in my life - so I avoid bright lights that blind me to them.

I also have a thousand points of light that are the tiny green and red lights on appliances guiding me as I walk through our house in the dark. I walk safely when I can see them. but, when I've been in the bright light, these tiny points aren't very visible and I walk into things. So, I've learned to wait until my eyes adjust to the darkness in order to see my points of light.

When I get so busy doing and going and managing, my eyes can't see the thousand points of light that are the people who guide my life. They are my role models, my stars. So I have to slow down and wait for my eyes to adjust once again to the points of light and be guided by their brightness in the dark places of the world.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Immaculate House

Wow, that title reminds me of Catholic nuns that I've known, but this is not about Catholic nuns or their houses. This is about my house and the little painted glass plaque that I have: An immaculate house is the sign of a misspent life.

I've always figured that there were more important things to do in life than clean house. Yeah, I rake out the kitchen floor and mop it when it starts to grate under my feet, but I keep my counters and utensils clean. Now that I have a dishwasher, I even manage to keep the dishes clean, except for those weeks when neither of us wants to empty the dishwasher and the dirty dishes collect on the counter while we keep reaching into the dishwasher for clean ones - spoons especially. Ice cream, cereal, applesauce - they all require spoons, and we use a lot of spoons.

This isn't about spoons very much either. This is about knowing my weakness and finding a way to strengthen the situation so my weakness won't get in the way of living. Tomorrow Merry Maids are coming to clean. They will sweep the cat hair from behind the doors and get the grit off the sunroom floor. They will leave the house shiny and smelling good.

Unfortunately, this state will not last long. I've often told my partner that we can trash a house quicker than anyone I know. The clutter accumulates so quickly - tools that we bring in to use and don't return to the workshop; paints that are used several times in projects on the dining table and left there; half-read magazines and books wherever we were reading them, along with the glasses and bowls that fed us while we read; and glasses of both kinds (reading and drinking).

If one believes my little plaque, then I certainly have never had a misspent life, but from now on, every other Tuesday a visitor might think that for a few minutes after Merry Maids have gone. Won't last long; so come for viewing early.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Celebrating May Day

The first of May was celebrated in Bermuda with extravagant flower structures, much like those of the Rose Bowl in past years. Giant cakes decorated with hibiscus, Easter lilies, and such thickly woven into a seamless design that appears at a distance like a real cake. Young girls in spritely costumes dance with streamers around the May Pole, weaving a design that, once finished, is left for the wind to untangle.

This is an ancient celebration, pagan in origin, that celebrated the flowering of the earth. The May Pole dance has been noted mostly in England, but as far away as India and in the coldness of May in Bavaria, where the celebration was sometimes moved to June. In some places both girls and boys participated in the May Pole Dance with girls moving counter clockwise and boys moving clockwise. Sometimes these dances were choreographed; the dancers would wind the streamers around the May Pole in elaborate patterns and then unwind them.

What a wonderful symbol of the complexities of relationships! We bind ourselves into elaborate patterns with some streamers hidden from view and others taking prominent places; then someone in the dance makes a misstep and the pattern is changed. Gradually that part of our lives reaches a stopping point and the pattern begins to unwind. If we're paying attention to the pattern, the unwinding occurs without tangles, but if we zig when we should have zagged, tangles occur. Left to the wind, the streamers eventually unwind themselves and other dancers take their places to form different patterns with other missteps and tangles.

We cannot control the other dancers; we can only do our part. And, when things are hopelessly tangled, perhaps all we can do is let the wind take over and gently ease out the tangles.

Monday, May 01, 2006

In the musical "Pippin" Irene Ryan sings a song called, "In just no time at all", and I love it. She's the grandmother whose pastoral life has been interrupted by the shenanigans of grandson Pippin (son of Charlemagne). Some of the words are:

I've never wondered if I was afraid
When there was a challenge to take
I never thought about how much I weighed
When there was still one piece of cake
Maybe it's meant the hours I've spent
Feeling broken and bent and unwell
But there's still no cure more heaven-sent
As the chance to raise some hell

Here is a secret I never have told
Maybe you'll understand why
I believe if I refuse to grow old
I can stay young till I die
Now, I've known the fears of sixty-six years
I've had troubles and tears by the score
But the only thing I'd trade them for
Is sixty-seven more....

Now I'm not sixty-six years old yet, but I have to agree that having some excitement in life is great. In fact, I guess I've rasied as much hell as most people - and most of it without paying too many consequences or harming too much property and no people were injured to produce these shenanigans...well, minor scrapes and bruises and some anxiety.

I remember climbing a forestry lookout tower, lifting the trap door and going inside. Then we locked trap door from the inside and climbed out the window and back down the side of the tower. I always wondered how the forestry rangers got back into that tower or if they ever did. Now I have trouble climbing out of the Jacuzzi.

I remember driving a 57 Ford out to a pond and pasture and terrorizing the cows by cutting donuts in the pasture. That Ford, named Annie, would slide so goood. And, then I'd take that same Annie and we'd drive around town until we found a particularly crowded street with cars parked on either side - barely enough room for one car in between - and we'd see just how fast I could hurtle down that street without hitting any of the parked cars. Of course, having an audience for all this was essential; screams were encouragement to make it more daring and "dangerous". Fortunately, no cows, people or cars were killed. Now I drive the speed limit or five miles over at most.

I've never learned to drive a motorcycle because my feet won't touch the ground, and when I lean one over far enough to get a foot on the ground, it topples over. But, once on a dare, I rode all the way across Phoenix in a see-through harem outfit driving a white Vespa scooter. I couldn't stop it either, and I never did learn how to shift gears; so when I came to a red traffic light I spent more time slowly weaving along in my lane so that I didn't have to stop than I did paying attention to the attention I was getting in rush hour traffic. I won that bet, and I've never ridden a motorcycle or scooter since, but I was looking longingly at some of the small cycles at the Harley shop the other day.

My partner had a Miata when we met. I asked how fast it would go. She said, I don't know; I've never had it over 55 or 60. So I took it to a conference one weekend, got up very early on a very cold morning and put the top down on the Miata. I had on ear muffs and a toboggan, the heater going and the radio blasting. But, my earmuffs came off and I had to slow down when I got to 110 because my ears were getting cold. Now she has an Audi convertible, bright red, that I've only had up to 100 - and only that because I wasn't paying attention. I know cars will go fast; so I don't think I have to do that one again.

In November I spent three weeks at the side of a former boyfriend who was dying of prostate cancer, three weeks away from my partner, three weeks of being privileged to share what was left of life with someone I love. We went for wheelchair rides around the grounds and once a car ride to look at what was left of the autumn leaves, but I put the child locks on the doors to keep him from getting out - a lot of pain medicine. He played his guitar and sang the love songs that I once was sure were just for me, and the nurses fell in love with him, too. And, then he died. I'd do it all again, but I'd make sure I got there four or five weeks before he died so we could have had more fun.

This week I bought a new jet ski and decided to take it for a short spin on Friday in the creek behind my house. It's a big creek with a boat ramp just around the corner from the house; so we launched the jet ski, and I took a friend who had never ridden one with me. She's afraid of the water and even more afraid of snakes, but she trusted me to keep her safe. I failed. I forgot to put the plugs in the jet ski; it filled with water, and, when I tried to turn around, it dumped us out into the creek - out of sight of the launch ramp. She panicked and asked, "Are we going to die of hypothermia?" No, the creek was warm and we weren't more than a hundred yards from my house; I could see it plainly. We finally got her out of the creek, me and the jet ski to the boat ramp and I took the jet ski back to the dealership and said, "I drowned it; can you give it CPR?" Sure enough, they could and are. By Tuesday we should be back in the jet ski business, but I'm not sure that my friend will ride with me again - even though she says that it's not really my fault. However, I can't wait.

I've learned through the years that I need witnesses to my shenanigans, but I don't need victims. So, I think I'll confine my cavorting to solitary pursuits. But, like Irene Ryan in Pippin, I agree that "there's still no cure so heaven sent as the chance to raise some hell."