Tag Archives: values and spirituality

Sanguine

An apple. A cup of grapes. A banana. Pineapple chunks. Flax seed and kale. There’s nothing remarkable about blending fruit and vegetables. What’s remarkable is the power of these drinks in my healing. I am gaining strength and experiencing so much more vitality each day. Raw, blended food seems to be reducing my body’s inflammation. The experience keeps me quite optimistic. I remain sanguine with CIDP.

Sanguine. As an adjective: “Optimistic or positive, especially in an apparently bad or difficult situation.”

Sanguine.

In the middle of one of the most challenging segments of my life, I wake up optimistic. In the middle of one of the most challenging times in American history, a new “Reconstruction,” we must remain sanguine.

Americans are being intellectually and physically terrorized by Americans. From Florida to Ferguson, Missouri to Congress, extremist thought has infiltrated the political process in a frightening way.

We cannot allow ourselves to be frightened.

The inevitability of a shift in demographics in this country has led some citizens and lawmakers to lose their minds. Now, the only way elected Tea Party/Republican officials advance their agenda is by spreading the poison of ethnic hatred. Fascism is a very nasty word.

When we are complacent–and you know who you are–about voting, we get what we got. The deaths in American history, all to ensure the right to vote, are the colors we wear (did I mention sanguine is also a color: blood red?). It’s beyond stupid. It’s dangerously dumb to not vote. I remain sanguine and angry with folks who do not vote.

Yet. Despite it all (and African and Native Americans in this country have seen it all), people of good heart continue to fall in love, plan families, raise children, vote, complete educations, play sports, work hard, create music and art and–like Michelangelo with his blocks of marble–see the potential in the ordinary. We live socially just, compassionate, and joyful lives. We are sanguine about the future. Yes, today’s America still holds more than a splash of optimism.

Once again, summer has surrendered to a shiny autumn moon. Meteorologists forecast a hard winter. But we always expect the best outcomes.

Home 001

There is an ancient potency, a fertile, tender marriage between Spirit and optimism. Spring will come again. It’s guaranteed. We will survive autumn rains, the inevitable snow, and a neo-fascist Tea Party/Republican majority in Congress.

We are sanguine.

Oh, oh. It’s 6 am.  Time to think about blended smoothies and juicing. I’m optimistic that more and more folks will examine the long held beliefs that keep them from becoming truly authentic, love based, socially responsible people. Because, in the final analysis, we are responsible to each other, and Love–that’s right–is supremely present. Enya sings, “When Love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?”

Sanguine.

I come by it honestly.  The book under my elbows is The Little Red Caboose.  

“I think I can, I think I can…”

Yours truly,

All rights reserved Sala G. Wyman

All rights reserved Sala G. Wyman

P.S.  Sorry to be late with the post this month…I will be better.  I remain sanguine.

 

 

Committment

Photo by Melinda Zipin Copyright 2014

Photo by Melinda Zipin Copyright 2014

 

“You are a piece of work,” my physical therapist said lovingly.

I would be a liar to deny it.

 

 

Sometimes, this phrase, this being “a piece of work” might be a put down; other times, it is a grand anointing of a strong, deep, and independent spirit.

There are many things to which I am committed. Being a piece of work is one of them. I’m committed to personal growth and to learning how to see with more than the eyes and hear with more than the ears. I’m committed to the mystery of the heart. Yet, there are areas where I have run away from commitment.

He’s a runner and he’ll run away… Woman ain’t been born who can make and stay… Woman get away while you can

Several decades ago, the late singer-songwriter, Laura Nyro wrote these words and sang them. At the time, I embraced the song as an anthem for women who fall in love with men who can’t — or won’t — make a commitment. After a while, it felt like I could apply those words to me.

Ms. Nyro’s song was at the forefront of my mind this morning as I sat with my tea to have a chat with God. Chats with the Divine work for me.

I’ve tended to see romantic commitment rather like the Loma Prieta earthquake that I experienced in the San Francisco Bay area in 1989. Well, maybe that’s a little harsh. It’s more like those subtle movements of the earth that rattled the dishes on my shelf as I sat quietly in the morning. The sounds were enough to get my attention, but not enough to force me to commit to action. In the case of the earthquakes, that would be to move the hell to another state. In relationship to people, it might be to engage in a lasting relationship.

“I just got a call from my girlfriend. I’ve known her since kindergarten.”

I stared at my friend. How on God’s earth could someone know a person since kindergarten? I felt sad. I could not think of one person I was in touch with that I knew since kindergarten. Or middle school. Or high school. Not a single person.

But I remember the kindness of teachers, vice principals, and principles; I remember the compassion of school counselors. I remember Mrs. Bowie in first grade and her kind, generous concern for children like me whose home life had some very rocky places. I remember Mrs. Gaines, the Vice Principal in my middle school. She was a dark skinned woman with short cropped natural hair at a time when such a style was unpopular. Some of the students (nope, don’t remember a single one of their names…) called her King Kong behind her back. But she was kind to me and smiled and encouraged me often. I remember these kindnesses.

And I realize, where my commitment lies. I am committed to the transforming power of kindness.

In 1985, I met a meditation teacher from India, and I found a spiritual path where my heart leaped to commitment. In one moment, everything changed for me. I became committed to meditation, singing songs to God, and offering service to myself, my community, and God. I became more anchored in my commitment to loving kindness.

29 years later, I am still on the path and experiencing commitment to the Heart. However, in order to recognize my commitment to kindness, I have had to make mistakes that were unkind. I have had to rebound, redirect myself to my commitment to do no harm. This includes loving kindness to myself with the words I use (you know, that self talk thing…) and the actions I take.

I am in physical recovery forever. Whether  I walk, run, cook, or perform, I will always be conscious of what I eat, the amount of energy I exert, and of things or people that suck my energy.  I am a piece of work. Healing takes commitment. It takes a commitment to faith and a commitment to action.

Yes, I am a piece of work in progress. I am the rock from which Michelangelo is carving David.

 

 

Words: In not letting racism overshadow the glory of spring  

Spring 2014Call me corny. It’s a beautiful morning, cool and brilliant with sun. I’ve been enjoying the mornings and wondering how it is that I still insist on believing in love.

But, there are a couple of rigid voices outside and inside my head ranting and raving about the state of race relationships in America.

Given the history of our country’s beginnings, can there be any surprise that we are both dysfunctional and symbiotic? Race is the warp and weft of the fabric.

I live with racism every day. So do you. Overt or subtle, we either give or receive pain from racist perceptions about each other moment by moment. White about black. Black about white. Black about black. White about white. Red about black. Black about red. On and on and on. Sometimes I think that racism and classicism, having existed for hundreds and thousands of years, will be, like the poor referred to in the Bible, with us always.

I still believe in love. That’s all I really think about. That’s all I care about. Human kindness. Thankfully, I also believe that most people contribute, in one way or another, to solutions towards a loving, peaceful, just, and equal society.  I believe that we make these contributions because we believe in actualizing the best of ourselves towards and with each other. I believe that our contributions are the rent we pay in exchange for the privilege of enjoying our time on this Earth.

We humans are complex and unpredictable.  As we go back and forth with legislation, it is horrifying to see freedoms given and freedoms taken away. It is infuriating to see people manipulate the system to keep others in poverty, without the right to vote, and in ignorance of the power to control their own lives.

I still believe in love. I still believe in human kindness.

I don’t do well in political debate. But I know someone will ask about race again. And I will answer. Because this is part of the discourse, and we are both dysfunctional and symbiotic.

Now about this exquisite Spring.

I have been waiting through this long, bitter winter for the soft green, succulent rebirth of the earth. I can go outside now. And I am not about to let politics or criticism steal my opportunity to wrap my soul in the joy of seeing woodpeckers, hawks, finches, geese, and robins fly; deer chase each other; fox lurk; and, yes, people explore the nature trail—that includes the guy that thought nobody could see him relieving himself among the trees.

Spring is not just the harbinger of rebirth; spring is the majesty of magic. Year after year, spring and the holy days — today is Palm Sunday— anchor me in miracles. There was my childhood Easter miracle of shiny new black patent leather shoes, white ankle socks, a new dress, gloves, and, of course, a hat. My sister and I paraded. My brothers, in their bow ties and neat little jackets were resplendent. Spring defied the reality of “lack” by bringing us together in new clothes with a larger community that believed in the power of rebirth— a miracle, considering what we lived under during those times, and proof that life is magic.

So, these days I’m awakened at six with birdsong and light. I have accepted the reality that injustice is a part of living. I acknowledge the fact that contribution to transformation, celebration of the glory of spring, and expression of gratitude for the gift of spiritual rebirth is the rent I pay for enjoying Earth.

Happy Holy Days, whatever your faith. And stay posted for a new photo in the coming months!

A year ago today

Three women gathered outside the door. One, almost 6 feet tall and broad, stood with two smaller women. One was petite with curly hair, and the other was thin with a drawn and angular face. I had seen them before. They were discussing a patient’s lunch and the fact that she hadn’t eaten. But it was not about the patient’s health.

“She didn’t eat it?” asked one.

“It’s still on the table,” said another. I was listening. I recognized the voice of the tall one.

“She ordered from outside,” said another.

They were “stage whispering.” My roommate had intestinal problems, and I had asked to have my lunch moved to another area. They had taken the tray too far away for me to retrieve it. Then, they became like “the disappeared.”

“She ordered from outside.”

Strange that I’m reflecting on those days this morning. I think it’s because I’m feeling luxuriously at ease within the sanctity of my bedroom. Maybe it’s because I’m indulging in nourishing, health giving food—green drinks, fresh fruit, foods I can enjoy now that I’m home. Perhaps it’s because I’m watching the snow melt and enjoying the morning sun at the top of the trees.

Recently, I did some minor research on skilled nursing facilities, also known as SNFs (sniffs). I was horrified to find a hideous historical link to workhouses for paupers. But, for me, it explained a strange fog of meanness that seemed to drift throughout some of these places. I’d heard stories of patients becoming ill after nursing assistants put bad medications into their food.  My attitude was like, “sleep with one eye open.”

Mean-spiritedness is a trickle-down reaction. It trickles down from families, communities, politics and religion. Remember that trickle-down theory of economics? I thought you might.

These women hated their jobs. Most were immigrants receiving the lowest wages for the funkiest work:  emptying bed pans, making beds, giving showers, and wiping up vomit or worse. I understood, but after waiting 3o minutes, I ordered pizza from a community restaurant and had it delivered to my stinky room.

Something occurs to me. The mean-spiritedness I experienced with the nursing assistants is the same and equal to the mean-spiritedness of religious extremists — of all faiths. Only the environments have changed.

Religious extremists fight – even crazily to the death — for control of our personal lives. Is it because these extremists’ lives are so rabidly out-of-control? Is it because they feel powerless in the face of their own human nature — just as the nursing assistants feel powerless in the face of their jobs?

Is it because they fear something within themselves that they advance racist fears, the persecution of homosexuals, and a hatred of women? Is it because their own human urgings are out of control?

I’m just asking.A year ago

When people can’t control their own lives, they try to control the lives of others.  When people aren’t happy, they try to make others even less happy.

We’ve heard that “if they knew better, they’d do better.” Hmm.

I’m watching the snow melt and enjoying the morning sun at the top of the trees. I’m so happy to be home.

F-Word

Photo by Melinda Zipin Copyright 2014

Photo by Melinda Zipin Copyright 2014

While you’re thinking about a word that can’t be used on television, I’m diving into an eloquent chocolate cake with butter cream frosting — and wondering how to Forgive myself for using food the way I do.

Forgiveness. The other F word.

About 12 years ago, my half-sister and I had a fight. I wanted more help supporting my mother who had some health issues. Asking a sibling to help with an elderly family member can stir up a lot of, well, shit. I was driving, on weekends, from upstate New York to Washington DC. She was in North Carolina. I had the expectation that since we had long distances to drive, we’d share responsibilities. Wrong.

After three minutes of her yelling about her finances and other limitations, I became frustrated and, yes, I dropped the F bomb — the one you can’t use on television. She has not communicated with me since. Has she forgiven me? I don’t know.

I‘ve found forgiveness to be vaporous in nature. All of the scriptural directives, scholarly studies, church sermons, and secular workshops that are intended to guide us, the unenlightened, don’t erase the pain that harsh words can create. Still and all, isn’t forgiving for the forgiver and not the forgiven? Forgiving lowers the blood pressure and opens the heart. I remember summers on the farm with my half-sister. All of my farm memories are blissful. So how is it that sometimes I feel like I’m walking blind along a beautiful beach and can’t see a thing? I will never know my half-sister’s pain, but I can forgive her behavior.

Where do I begin? With self.

I begin my self forgiveness with food because it is my most prominent vice. I forgive myself for indulging in chocolate or almond croissants, large bowls of egg salad, and ice cream laced with caramel. No,I cannot do it alone. After my CIDP diagnosis, support appeared from all around. Support made forgiving myself easy and is a part of the miracle of my not being obese. What did the song say? “Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Start all over again.”

Many years ago I had a dream. You know how dreams are sometimes. They’re so real that you wake up surprised. Why am I not what I experienced on the other plane? In this case, I was grateful that it was a dream. I was cold and shivering, standing in snow and ice and banging on a door. I pushed, it wouldn’t open. I pounded, no one came. I woke up completely unnerved, knowing— without doubt — that the door was a metaphor for my heart, and that if I wanted to be warm, I would have to open that door. Forgiveness is one of the keys.

But back to the beginning. I’m grateful for my relationship with food that leads me to the path of self forgiveness. Self forgiveness opens that door in my dreams and allows me to come into the warmth. If I don’t forgive myself, I won’t forgive others. If I don’t forgive others, I cannot be forgiven.

Forgiveness through food makes it easy. At sometime, probably in the near future, I’ll hear myself saying, “I’ll take fries with that.”

And that will give me a moment to forgive myself and create a moment to pay it forward.

Show and Tell

“I love you.”

Spiritual texts tell us that love is all around. We must show it, not tell it.

Even as a child, I wanted to be told. But, love, in the pragmatic world of poverty, extreme racism, and fear revealed itself as a practical thing, woven into the daily life of meals, clothes, and housing. During the summers we experienced love in visits to the south where hot days in the fields, riding the backs of cows, and filling buckets of clean, tasty water from an underground spring left us tired and happy. Eating freshly slaughtered chicken and meats, farm grown veggies and fruit— figs, grapes, and peaches were my favorites — left us feeling supremely cared for and nourished.

Those things were evidence of love, and for the adults in the world around me this evidence was proof enough. My father would say “show me, don’t tell me” and he was no hypocrite. He lived his life showing through baseball games, circuses, and rides on his back after Thanksgiving dinner.

I embraced the apparent truth that love was show, not tell.  And yet, as I grew into womanhood, I began yearning for the words. Perhaps it was because some of the folks that came into my life did not know how to show. They did not come from families of evidence.

In this world where I pray to see a do-nothing Congress get past the extraordinary racism buried in attacks against the president so that they can show some compassion for those who are less fortunate, I think that many of those people do not come from families of evidence. I want to be shown that they have an ounce of feeling for those without insurance, without food, and who have placed their lives on the line to defend them and now need support. Show me; stop the flapping lips.

But I’m getting off track.

Evidence, of course, is mixed. I also experienced evidence that love was far from our door. My mother was not one to exhibit as much as one millionth of an inch of sentimentality. Except for anger, which was constant, she kept her feelings sacredly locked within her until women came together to can fruit and vegetables, cook holiday meals, and talk about their husbands. Only once do I remember her exhibiting sorrow — it is the only day in my memory — and that was when my father pushed her to the floor. Show, don’t tell. The day remains in my mind like a photograph that cannot be destroyed.

Why, sometimes, do I want to hear the words?

I am blessed with a view of the campus park across the street. The leaves have dropped from the trees, and I have a full view of the trail that winds through the college. Parents with toddlers, dog lovers, boys holding girls, and boys holding boys; future track stars in heavy coats force their tired legs uphill. The setting sun presses fat fingered rays through empty branches, covering the brown shrubbery and happy hikers like dripping paint. It’s like a drawing that revals my memories of past walks in forests where I was shown, not told, about love.  Show me, I would insist, don’t tell me.

Yet.

I’m open to thoughts…

On: Tenderness

Dignity

What was it that Otis Redding said? Oh yes.

Try a little tenderness.

Tenderness.

Why is it so challenging to bask in the love that we all desire? I believe that it is everyone’s intention to surround themselves with the softness of life. By that I don’t mean the softness of material things, the silks and satins and cashmere of life. I mean the softness that comes with peace of being… Soft. Tenderness.

It’s a quiet summer afternoon. I’m looking out the window and watching butterflies circle the backyard. They seem completely at ease. Is it because, amazingly, the black cat with the strange green eyes is at ease? Is she practicing cat tenderness?  She doesn’t move from her perch as the butterflies and birds flit around her. Only the gray squirrel raises a racket. There is no threat. Softness abounds.

Sunlight fills crevices like liquid. My soul is filled with tenderness. And I, who thrive on seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, want to believe that every human being loves the sun.

The poets, romantics, musicians, spiritual teachers — even scientists — testify to the healing power of tenderness. Go ahead, say it isn’t so. But you’ll find yourself in some very isolated company.

I’m reminded of mornings on my grandparents’ farms. Both maternal and paternal grandparents knew the power of tenderness and peace. My own memories allow me to understand why my mother, in her dementia, retreats to a place of softness and safety.

Not too long ago, I was asked by a health practitioner to remember what that tenderness feels like in my body. I was happy to revisit that glorious childhood experience. Vacations were watercolor mornings, filled with strolls amid the corn, watermelon, and tomato fields with paternal and maternal grandfathers. For me, our small farms and communities played in my mind as barricades against treacherous white men whose daily bread filled them with the hatred required to circle the south looking for unarmed black men and boys.

“Remember what that tenderness felt like,” they say. It’s because currently my life requires the wondrous gift of tenderness: regular rest, naps, real food and more proteins (did I tell you I now eat poultry as well as fish? Gone, gone are those days of self-righteous food Puritanism!) I eat vigilantly, and monitor my emotions. “Get eight hours sleep,” said my dear physiatrist Dr. J.

For 40 years when I thought of South Carolina away from my grandparents’ homes, I thought of a place contaminated with murder and the blood and bones of enslaved black people. With my maternal grandparents gone, their home and land sold, and my estrangement from the conservative religious views of the South, there was no reason to return to that place. History suffocated tenderness.

Then I attended a family reunion in Myrtle Beach and the feelings flooded back. The signs on stores, restaurants, and bathrooms and drinking fountains — “colored” and “white, ” placed there to kill the human spirit while threatening the physical body — were gone.

Those signs had pitted my tender heart against my gentle maternal grandfather. When I was about 10 years old, he took us into the city of Sumter to run errands and buy sweets. As if in slow motion, I found myself bowing my head to drink from a fountain clearly marked “white only.” My grandfather did what he had to do to protect me.

He grabbed me by the collar with such force I thought I would choke. My lips never touched the water. Later on, sitting on the porch in his arms, surrounded by the night songs of frogs and crickets in a dark so black you could not see the outline of trees, and the smell of the forest so sweet I wanted to wrap it around my skin, I came to understand three things:

the incredible love and tenderness in the heart of the man forced to take such action;  the incredible love and tenderness in the heart of the man saddened by his own action and; the incredible love and tenderness in my own heart that allowed me to keep loving him.

Tenderness in its myriad forms — family, church, and community — ensured our survival. Tenderness has contributed, in spite of the traumas of living, to the person that I am.

It is a tender summer day and I wonder: If every person, politicians especially, accessed a single memory of tenderness, would the world be a very different place? I, who thrive on seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, would like to think it so.

On: Extraordinary

“Extraordinary.” It sparkles with power. It’s also a twofer. It supports tenderness as well as harshness.

It is extraordinary that, after this journey of being away from home for four months, I wake with feelings of gratitude rather than self-pity. It is extraordinary how the path of patience seems to anchor me to a sense of humor. It is extraordinary what I am learning about myself.  I underestimated my own psychological power and  physical endurance.

Within a skilled nursing facility, those who advocate for themselves get stronger. Those who cannot — because of fear or frailty — walk an extraordinarily stony path. Being surrounded by other patients (and some very crappy nursing assistants) also presents the opportunity to develop an–extraordinarily– macabre sense of humor.

One afternoon, the nursing staff ran frantically through the halls thunderously slamming the doors to all rooms. Then silence. Fifteen minutes later they, just as frantically, opened the doors. I asked why.

“The undertaker’s here and we don’t want people to see.” Oh, okay.

Imagine my extraordinary surprise when less than ten minutes later, a pale, sad-faced man in a pitiful black suit slowly passed my room pushing a gurney with — yes, you guessed it. He was the undertaker.

“Stick a fork in me,” I said. “I’m done.”

But I’ve kind of wandered away from my point…  The word is extra plus ordinary. And I’ve spent decades dancing around the ordinary.

“Do not settle for mediocre.” It was a worthy and valuable teaching. But, somewhere in my child’s brain the words got scrambled.  Instead, my ears heard my parents say “We will not love you if you are ordinary.” So I wanted to be extraordinary; to be the best.

Ironically, I didn’t know what my best was or how to achieve it until this past year when I was diagnosed with CIDP — chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. (Learn more here: http://www.gbs-cidp.org) I think about how I’ve straddled the abyss of desire for public recognition and the fear of dismal failure. Yet, every once in a while I’d get a glimpse of truth that pushed me into the extraordinary.

I was having lunch with some friends. We were talking about dreams for wealth and fame versus living an effective and “wealthy” life as an ordinary person. A woman, a former model and gifted singer, sang to us.

Just ordinary people
God uses ordinary people
He chooses people just like me and you
Willing to do as He commands
God uses people that will give Him all
No matter how small your all may seem to you
Because little becomes much as you place it in the Master’s hand
                       The late Danniebelle Hall

For a moment the spell was broken. I had crossed the abyss. I was free and my quandary about the ordinary was cast aside. Everyone, no matter what his or her calling, is extraordinary in ordinary ways. As the great spiritual teachers proclaim, inside every person is greatness. When it’s time to see it, we feel it.

The truth is, every day is a new test and a new blessing. After all, it is now seven months of not being free to travel as I would like; seven months of living inside one building or another without driving or going as I please.

Two weeks ago, neighbors, across the street from my friend at whose home I’m staying, invited us to dinner in their backyard. Everything was extraordinary. The night sky, the candlelight, the backyard, the smells, the sounds. The gourmet food that the hostess prepared herself.

Like thousands of pink rose petals falling around me, I felt something extraordinary. Peace.

On: Strength

Strength

It was never intended for these pages to trickle into a diary.  You know—”today I did this, yesterday I did that.”  But it’s Spring.  I’ve been through autumn and winter, and I realize that for six months I’ve been living a life I never saw coming.  So, I find myself using these pages to write about a world that I would rather ignore because it helps me keep some semblance of sanity.  The words I’ve written have felt, a little too often, dark even when the words themselves are bright.

But I wanna track back to the beginning, to the color, vision, and power of language. So in a hopscotch fashion, I have leaped around to land on: Strength.

Endurance, vigor, physical power, potency.  How to define the ability to withstand and overcome the curve balls of life?  I am not the only one with diary-producing issues.  At least three people I know have lost parents; another had a serious operation; and yet, another has been trying to heal in the wake of separation from a 35-year-old marriage.

What, I ask my God, do you want us to learn?  Could it be how to maintain equanimity under pressure? Perhaps it’s a subtle directive to keep our hearts open in spite of the ignoramuses we encounter (see?). Perhaps it’s as simple as a desire and need to find love within our courage.

I asked a minister if his faith was ever tested.

“Yes.  Every day.”

“What do you do?”

No, I’m not a skeptic.  I just want to hear what I know is the answer.

“Pray without ceasing.”

That’s all I wanted to hear.

I’ve been depending on the view from my window to help fill me up.  In the morning, I watch the clouds gather. They are snuggled together like sheep, or like cotton balls with soft, tangerine colored edges.  Some days they are scary in their weighted grayness.  And some days, the sky has no clouds at all.  I admit it: those are great days.

In the wee morning hours, say one ‘o clock, before clouds take visible form in the black-but-really-deep-blue sky, I watch the Moon through the same windows where the clouds will soon be. The Moon, in her guardianship of millenia of human genius and ignorance, is a tremendous comfort.

I willingly relinquish control to the sky, to the stars, to the deep blue infinity. In doing so, I somehow feel stronger.  The time I spend trying to control what I cannot control is like fighting an undertow.

We cannot control the death of parents, and even though we try our best, we cannot control the destiny of our bodies.  In spite of all the efforts we put into commitment, sometimes our partners will not be committed.

And so, I am taught to admit that great strength lies in surrender.  There’s something zen about that, but I don’t really know what it is.

Yet.

On… Sound and Silence

 Super bitch. It was intended as a term of endearment from a friend who observed that being ill has not stifled my feistiness. I guess others were shocked, but I recognized the love intended in the label.

Words and sounds have power according to the listener, I suppose. The wrong sound, innocent as it may appear, can easily catapult me into a “pity pot.” Take a squawking crow for instance.

“Caw!”

I was physically uncomfortable and only wanted to sleep. There are dozens of telephone lines on this block, but clearly, the one outside my window was special.

“Caw! Caw!”

Such a loud sound from such a small creature. The super bitch (that would be me) whispered, “Go the [bleep] away!”

As the daily racket of trucks, cars, trains, and my neighbor with the bells on her door revved up, the sounds became more vibrant, larger, and rakishly colorful. Super bitch was frustrated; she just wanted some rest.

The neurologist had diagnosed my condition as Guillain-Barré syndrome. It’s a condition I had never heard of that, for me anyway, brings with it a great deal of anxiety and the need for a gargantuan exertion of will to follow my daily routine.  But I’ve had a series of IVIG treatments and am encouraged by my increased energy and ravenous appetite. Carpal tunnel surgery suddenly seems like a common cold.

“Do you know what caused it?” asked my brother.

“I think my immune system was compromised by the surgery.”

But no one really knows for sure. I pray for miracles like: I wake up one morning and my hands and feet function fully, and the tightness around my rib cage is gone. Oh yeah, that part is supposedly connected to the hiatal hernia.

I both fear the silence and at the same time look for the peace within syllables, the silence within the music, the balance in conversations, and the laughter in silly words like “super bitch.” My intention today is to write: my work and my creative words. And yet, I awoke understanding that I had to follow the natural order of things. The crow was doing what crows do: they caw.

I once had a  beautiful experience of silence. One early morning, the city of Oakland, California was brilliant with activity:  cars that were stalled in traffic blared their horns, folks chattered and shouted in the streets on their ways to wherever, and buses with bad brakes made their usual stops. I had just completed my morning meditation and was staring out the window.

In spite of the activity, it seemed as if everything had lowered its volume and moved in slow motion. I felt content, and at ease with the movement of things. Birds and squirrels danced their morning minuet on the telephone lines, and it made no difference to me.

I have been caught off guard. So, the question I’m asking myself is “How do I reclaim the hidden silence in the sounds?” The sounds will not stop; nor should they. How will I experience the healing color, power, and vision in the words?

It comes as no surprise. The answer lies in a single word: gratitude.