Radical Grace*

Last Friday Gay Marriage became the law of the land. Later that day, Barak Obama paused for thirteen seconds in the midst of his eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney and allowed the silence to sweep over us before he /began to sing Amazing Grace and 5000 mourners in the arena, and millions more watching on TV, sensed that this was the opening in the waves — that the world had turned and we were fortunate enough to have witnessed it..

What a journey its been.  What grace, we’ve experienced by being here  To go through the joy and the pain of it. And to have the chance to learn from this pain, and to honor it, instead of resisting and denying it, is far more than I expected or hoped for.

We’ve hit a more fearless, deliberate stride . There will be no turning back. The people in that arena cried out Hallelujah, and many of us cried out with them. And the tears flowed. And hope was reborn. For what we saw with our eyes was barely a sliver of what we were able to see with our hearts.

Hallelujah indeed. At this moment of radical grace,,nothing less will do.

Use the following image to welcome grace into your life, and to suspend your disbelief. It costs you nothing but your doubt. Then see what happens.

 Receiving Grace

Close your eyes and imagine yourself floating face up in the water. Sense and feel how you are supported without any effort.

Breathe out and see yourself as a falcon, soaring high above the earth. Sense how the air and the wind hold you aloft without any effort.

Breathe out. See and sense yourself in free fall, floating into the Creator’s loving  embrace.  Know and live how you are surrounded and supported by the power and light of grace.

See how you feel. Then breathe out and open your eyes.

*Radical Grace is the name of the sterling documentary about three nuns who risk their place in the Catholic Church to follow the higher calling:of social justice. It was, produced by Susan Sarandon..

Dave Goes Bye-Bye

David letterman has left the Building
For years, Dave was my comfort zone. My fall back guy whenever I needed one. Before Netflix  Before Amazon Prime, there was Dave. A friend. A pal. A man of Mid-Western sensibilities and New York smarts. The perfect formula for someone like me, who eschews Xanax but needs more than chocolate, and no longer smokes anything at all, yet craves help when times are tough, or even just discomforting.
How Good it Was!
Last year, when I left New York, I stopped tuning in. Dave was part of my past. But, last Wednesday, I watched the final “Late Night Show,” and once again saw how good it was. And how much of my own life was encoded in those clips that rolled across my TV screen.
If Dave were Jewish . . .
Back in the eighties I had a friend who wrote science books for kids. Somehow, she managed to get a spot on Dave’s show. Not once but twice, I watched in awe as she soldiered through her segment, trying her best to engage Dave with her patter. He wasn’t interested. But he stood there, as did she, and I cringed with embarrassment as the time passed, until finally she left the stage. I couldn’t have done it. But with a narcissist’s innate panache, she managed. I will never forget the expression on his face. If he were Jewish he would have said “Oy gevalt.” So I said it for him.
We’ll be Missing you, Dave
That’s the closest I ever came to being on “Late Night” with Dave. Yet, as I sat here last Wednesday, watching the rapid fire montage of clips during the last few minutes of the last David Letterman Show, I got to live the past few decades again in a matter of seconds. I felt connected, alive and grateful. It was a privilege and a pleasure I won’t forget. Thank you Dave. For all you were. Are.  And may yet become. Stay happy and well. We’ll be missing you for a good long time.

The Mystery of My History

Greenville, New York, is in the Catskill mountains, south of Albany.  While I lived in Vermont, I went there to visit a friend who was giving a watercolor workshop. I sprained my ankle either just before, or right after i arrived, and Eliot, the owner of the resort, carried me to the dining room from the carriage house we shared (my friend and I, not Eliot). I heard this story yesterday, via email, from this friend, with whom I’d lost touch for the past several years. Until now, I thought Greenville was a place in South Carolina (yes it’s in North Carolina as well, but you get the drift). I have no recall of my painful visit to Greenville. Nothing. Nada. None. My personal history is spotty at best.

 
Thank God for my friends. The “Rememberers of my life.” If I ever write a memoir, which, on occasion, I flirt with doing, my research will consist of interviews with the ones who remain —the keepers of my spotty, well worn past 
 
My exceedingly poor recall, of what to others seem significant events, is a decades old infirmity. Nothing to worry about. Actually. I cant worry about it. It slips my mind along with the rest. But this is good, right? It’s the cost of living in the present, making life seem less worrisome, making me feel slightly enlightened, more highly evolved. 
 
My painter friend signed off by saying she needed to pack. For what? Had she just told me, and  had I already forgotten? I wrote her back: “You’re  packing for what? You’re going where?”  Her answer set me off. She’s going to Greenville. Hmmm. That’s how this all started, isn’t it?
 
Not to worry. This is her life, not mine. I have enough trouble remembering where I put my reading glasses. 
 
If you’re immune to forgetting things, read no further. If you’re anything like me, here’s an image that may come in handy, should you remember to use it.

The Mystery of History

Close your eyes and imagine that you’re looking into the mirror of your past. See there a lost event of your life, one you are now able to remember. It could be anything, from the time you were born until now. Embrace it. Then Smile, and let it go.
What happens? How do you feel? Then open your eyes, knowing that now, and forever- more, the present moment is all there is.

You Tube, I Tube, We Tube, They Tube

Yesterday I watched some Johnny Carson clips on You Tube. I’d forgotten how funny the man was. The look, the pause, the giggle, the body language,the class. It’s hard to believe there was so much darkness inside him. On the surface he was all spontaneity and light.

I didn’t start out watching Johnny. I started out watching Fred. You know, the Fred who danced with Ginger. Which brings me back to Johnny, and the clip where he had Ginger on his show and she asked him to dance and he did. And he was graceful and great until he kicked his leg too far up in the air and after grabbing his crotch, limped  back to his desk crying “I hurt myself, I hurt myself,” with his voice going all high and peculiar. Right. You needed to be there, or at least see it, which of course you can do by going to You Tube.

So I started thinking how amazing it would be to have our own Special You Tube Moments. Mini-memorials, mementos, and memories of our lives and how we lived them. The good and the bad.The pretty and the ugly. Even the times when we tried to show off and limped away embarrassed, in pain, and defeated.

For no good reason, the first thing that comes to mind is the time that my school mate, Jerome Umschweif, stretched a thin cord across the dim entryway of my building just beyond the staircase, which I, of course, failed to notice as I came skipping down the steps, on my way to school, singing my little heart out, hoping I might finally be discovered by a passing talent scout, landing instead on my back, praying to breathe again. When I finally managed it, I yelled out every curse word I knew, which by the age of ten was more than a few, but Jerome had already fled the scene of his crime cackling all the way.

Then there’s my face to face with a rattlesnake on the croquet court at Camp Grottewit (Named for the owner, Irma Grottewit, who once said to my bunk mate, Ellen X , “You know why your mother sends you to this camp, Ellen? She sends you because she hates you and she wants to get rid of you. That’s why she sends you” — Not long after, karma delivered, but that’s her You Tube Moment, not mine).  Although I was and remain terrified of snakes, I had no time to be scared. The snake was sick. Could barely move. Nonetheless, was able to rattle. I escaped unscathed. I have no clue what happened to the snake.

Much later, while living in Vermont, I took a walk alone in some very deep snow. Crusty on top, soft underneath. As one leg plunged through, while the rest of me remained on top, I wondered how long it would be before someone came to save me . When I got tired of wondering, I prayed fiercely while pulling my leg up and out, and sliding along on my chest to a place where I was able to grab a tree and get myself to safety. Only afterward did I realize my advantage in being a lightweight.

Let me end with the good times. .In particular, those shocking, shining moments when I stood up to my craziest teachers, one in seventh grade, another in sophomore year of high school, and walked out of the room in the midst of their tirades. Though I got no medals at my eighth grade graduation, and lost my part in the school play, I learned how invaluable it was to retain my integrity. I still believe there were angelic interventions involved. I never could have done any of it (except the cursing out of Jerome) on my own.

It might be fun to see these things spin out again in all their inglorious detail. Or, it might not. Who’s to know? What are your own “I Tube”  moments, the highs the lows the victories, the embarrassments, and the defeats? There are probably more than you think. A living album of the personal past seems like a valuable thing to have.

Here’s a chance to  re-create some of these moments with imagery:

 Recreating The “I Tube” Moment

Breathe out one time and go back to a stand-out moment in your life. Use the first one that comes to mind. Don’t worry whether it’s good or bad. Just go for the gusto. Be spontaneous, embarrassed, scared, joyful, whatever comes to you is  valuable.

See this moment unfold again, this time as a video clip. See how by doing this you put distance between yourself and what happened.

Observe it all now with clarity and compassion. Make no judgments. Then breathe out, open your eyes, and return.

 

Nice People

I used to think that “nice people” were people to avoid. For me, nice meant ordinary, boring, even phony, I was, without exception, a snob about niceness. More precisely about not being nice. At least in the ways that haunted the memories of my childhood, where niceness was the gold standard, and I lived at poverty level while trying to fool most of the people most of the time.

But only a fool doesn’t change its mind. So after making a move from Manhattan to Maryland, I’ve chosen to change mine. From this to that.  From nice meaning phony, second rate, fools’ gold. To nice meaning calm, kind, peaceful, even healing — the nice I’ve been encountering right here, right now, where the checkout woman at Trader Joe’s asks me what I’m planning for this beautiful afternoon, going beyond the standard “Did you find everything you need?”  And the woman next to me at the salad bar in Whole Foods, struggles to unseat one of their flimsy cardboard boxes, then offers it to me as I stand by, a bit embarrassed by her generous presence, and my own delayed reaction.

“I’m from New York” I tell her. “I’m not used to this kind of graciousness.”

“I’m from New York too,” she says.  ”I left a long time ago and I don’t regret it.”

When I tell folks down here that I’ve recently moved, their next question is “From where?” When I say, Manhattan, they seem blown away. “Why would you do that,” they say.  But “Why not?”  For despite my home town’s sexy cachet, and perhaps because of it, it suffers from having been hypnotized by the eleventh commandment: “Thou shalt seek always more, different and better,” thus making it difficult to cultivate the kindness gene, that root source of niceness, that gets so easily derailed in the face of vanity and greed.

Enough about New York.  Of course there are nice and wonderful people there. But here’s where I am now. No four year olds careening down the street on scooters making it unsafe to walk. People who talk to each other, instead of chatting incessantly on cell phones. Folks in stores conducting business without attitude. Checkout people who speak to me as though they want to help me out instead of hurrying me along.  People who, when I smile and say hello, smile back, instead of looking past me or away.

Perhaps my gratitude and awareness will wear off quickly, and in a month or two the window in my brain may close and I’ll be back in the dark. I hope not. I was there too long. I shall pay attention. I shall work on it. And, if I’m lucky, one day, in the not too far off future, I will own this quality of genuine “niceness,” and make sure to return it in kind, from whence it cometh, and even from whence it doth not.

To cultivate and honor kindness and civility, (aka  ”niceness”) in yourself and others, use this imagery exercise for 21 days and see what happens.b:

The Face of Kindness

 Close your eyes and exhale one ime through your mouth.

See before you, around you, and within you, the face of kindness.

Become one with this face. Feel and live how every cell of your body fills with its warmth and light.

Smile.

Then breathe out and open your eyes.