Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 - Change is the Only Constant

Thanksgiving comes around again, as it does.  The stress of the holiday season always makes the kick-off a day of moment, but this one seems particularly fraught.  I just turned fifty, and while I don't really feel old, there is nothing about fifty that feels young either.  It's my first Thanksgiving without my dad, and that is tough.  It's also my first Thanksgiving with one home from college and one waiting on acceptances, with his foot halfway out the door, and that is a different kind of tough.  It is a melancholy day.  And it is all I can do to keep from weeping.

People die, kids move out and on, we have each other for such a short while.  It is the way it has to be.  It is the only way it can be.  Life moves on, ever changing and ever the same.  The idea that it is time for me to figure out a third act is terrifying and reassuring at the same time.  I have no idea what I'll do next.  I have a few things to wrap up here in act two, but not many.  I still have to finish the hands-on mom stuff with the boy and the estate stuff with my dad.  But next is coming, whether I agree or not, so I need to get it figured out or get smacked in the head by the curtain coming down. And at the very least I know I'm lucky to have some future in my future.  I'm healthy and sane(ish), so next is mine to write.

Our little family foursome has been so much fun. And I am ever so thankful to have the girl back home, even if for a short time.  But this first visit home also really reinforces that those days are gone.  The silly foursome exists only in memory.  I know new happy experiences will take their own place.  I know we remain a family.  But I also know different is not the same.  Change is the only constant.  And while we live we change, so it's certainly better than the alternative.  But oh how I miss those days.  Just as I know someday I will miss these.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Veil of Time is Thin Today

The veil of time is thin today

All at once, I am, all at once
A little girl in a bunny rabbit suit braving snowflakes on a wintery Massachusetts night,
A teenager, black pointy hat on head, at a party in the woods, crunchy leaves beneath my feet,
A new mom figuring out how to turn white waffle pjs into a Dalmatian suit, sewing felt ears onto a white cotton cap,
A middle-aged woman walking through town in kitten ears, admiring other peoples kids’ window paintings,
And just around the corner, I sense a crone with a basket of candy, a frivolous hat and a joyful heart
The veil of time is thin today.  
All at once, I am, all at once.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Feets of Clay

OK, well if we can posit ahead of time that the only proper response to the question "Do you think you'll keep it off?" (coming from an acquaintance after hearing about your ten pound weight loss in the wake of your dad's illness and death.) Is a stunned silence, followed by a gurgled, "What?"  Then I think I did OK.  Of course I still wake up in the night, months later wishing I had had the wherewithal to have asked the woman, "Did you seriously just say that?"  I'm hoping the shocked look on my face said that for me.

This summer has been filled with tough moments, dealing with the stuff my dad left behind and the family drama that goes along, my little girl running away from home (OK, fine, starting college, semantics, whatever), and the difficult realization while trying to finish my yoga teacher training that many, many fitness people (yes, even the yoga ones) are narcissitic asshats one really doesn't want to spend all that much time around.  The above mentioned acquaintance is in my teacher trainee group and that was her one question to me once I returned to training. 

I love yoga, it makes me feel good in my body and in my head, and I want to teach because I want to help bring that feeling to other people.  But learning to teach has made me see that a lot of what passes for yoga is teachers pretending to teach yoga.  They say all the right words, but they don't believe them.  Or they think they believe them, but their actions prove otherwise.  Worse, some teachers don't even do that, they are so wrapped up in getting to "perfect" they don't remember anything else about the practice.  It becomes about fitness, not yoga. Which is fine, I just think it should be called something else.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not really much of a purist about anything, but I do think if you can do the moves without any true understanding of the head, you are doing gymnastics or dance or some other kind of exercise, but not yoga.  And if you want to do that, great, but then don't pretend to be doing otherwise.  I've observed a number of teachers this summer as part of my training and many would say the right thing, "be on your own mat," "listen to your body," but then do things that countermanded that - pointing out another student's perfect form, pushing people past where was comfortable or sometimes even safe - going for the goal rather than being in the moment. Some were better than others, some made me despair at the state of American yoga practice.

Then in my last observation, I came upon a teacher, a Rye YMCA teacher - not a fancy studio person, but an ordinary teacher-person.  Not young, not old, in good/average shape, but certainly not perfect, nice voice, but not super-commanding, who as I observed her class, exemplified TEACHER to me.  When she complimented people on taking the time to do "their" yoga, she really meant "their" yoga.  She spoke to the beginner and expert on their own terms, didn't compare them and definitely didn't encourage them to compare themselves, subtly or otherwise.  She was at peace, funny, sweet, breathing and celebrating being there at that moment, and was showing everyone in her class how to be the same.

And she gave me hope, that I could be a teacher without being perfect, that I could look around and take what I needed from the people I learned with without having to do things someone else's way (never one of my strong suits), that if I was going to be brave enough to stand in front of a class and be the teacher, it was ok to do it in a way that honored my yoga which is a little about fitness and a lot about feeling good.

Friday, March 22, 2013

To be Human

I have now been waiting for my dad to die for a full week.  One hundred and sixty-eight hours of jumping out of my skin every time the phone rings, because I think it's someone calling me to say he has passed.  That doesn't include the hours during the two weeks before that, when I got the first phone call that he'd had a massive brain aneurysm - he missed a minyan and a meeting, so his friends called the fire department who broke down his door and brought him to Lowell General.  I was just getting dressed to go out to dinner with friends.  Just a normal Friday night.  Then it wasn't.  Next was the call from Lowell General saying they couldn't handle such massive neuro-trauma, and which hospital in Boston should they transprt him to.  (Is this something I'm supposed to know? I figured it would make him happiest to be in a Jewish hospital when he woke up, so I picked Beth Israel.)  During the first of those two weeks I spent alternating between hope and fear every time the phone rang.  (And driving up and back between New York and Boston seven times.) By half-way through the second week, they told us there was no hope. His doctors and medical team at Beth Israel have been wonderful, smart, kind, and caring, but it is never a good sign when a team of doctors ask you to meet in a private room and hand you a box of tissues.  Since then, and in the week since we had to take him off life-support and say good-bye, all I have done is wait for him to die.  It is brutal and exhausting. He would be so angry if he knew this was happening.

You have to understand that this lying around in bed is the exact opposite of who my dad is.  My dad is the guy who always had a joke, always knew the score of the game, always had change for the soda machine.  He always wanted to talk to you, didn't much matter what it was about.  He was a perpetual motion machine (which often drove me crazy) running three miles a day, even on the day he had his fatal aneurysm,  normally getting up four or five times during dinner to reheat his food because "it has to be so hot I can't taste it."  My dad is the guy who sold his business in his early seventies only to go back to work three weeks later because being home was driving him crazy.  He went to work on his last good day as well.   He loved it there.  He was the Security guy at the town court's lot, schmoozing and chatting with everyone who came by.  He loved to be in the middle of it all.  He was a dirt poor street kid who built a business that allowed him to give his family all the things he never had.  He got up and worked hard every day of his life from the time he was a six year old shoeshine boy to his last day.  Because he loved it.  He loved to be busy.  He lived to be busy.  He would hate this entrapment so much.  He hated to be still.

Part of being human is loving people.  Part of loving people is the knowledge that someday they will no longer be able to love you back.  The loss is almost unbearable, but the love makes it worth the pain.

I love you Daddy.