spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily

Three Words


Tree in Los Osos / Alison R.
Choosing three words that best express my philosophy of life provides endless hours of pleasure. Elizabeth Gilbert entitled her bestselling book with her three words: Eat, Pray, Love. I saw the movie and liked the “eat” part best. Ann Lamott calls her new book on prayer, Help, Thanks, Wow. Until last week, my three as yet unpublished words were “Oh, And, Yes.”

I’m not going to spend a lot of time explaining these words because I replaced them two days after Thanksgiving. My “Oh” sounds like “Oh, I didn’t know that, but it is a pleasure to learn.” “And” means more or different information isn’t a contradiction but an addition. And “Yes” expresses my willingness to acknowledge whatever arises.

But on my way back from my Thanksgiving visit to my son, 28 year-old grandson and five-year-old granddaughter in Los Osos, I came up with a new three-word philosophy. I kept the “And” as crucial to non-duality, and put “This” in the first and third position to produce “This And This.”

To imagine me discovering meaning in these particular three words, two of which are the same, you have to see me behind the wheel on cruise control with inactive feet and legs, traveling north on 101 around 7:30 a.m., arms equidistant from each other on the wheel. Just as the thought of multiple ways of perceiving the world came to mind, I had an “Oh” moment and my arms vibrated. I needed that embodied experience to know that this thought has legs. I was thinking about the other grandma to my granddaughter and contrasting our styles of grandparenting.

In Los Osos both of us were staying in my son’s house, sharing the pleasures and the frustrations of our five-year-old charge. At first, the other grammy’s style annoyed me. Why should the child need her long hair brushed out of her eyes every time it ecaped from its rubber band? She could see well enough, as far as I could tell. Moreover, each time the brush neared her, she screamed and tossed her unkempt hair into real disarray. Faced with such a mop head, I mostly didn’t care enough to press the issue. However, the other grammy approached the problem stealthily, circling behind the couch, grabbing the hair and somehow with much reassurance that it would not hurt and would only take a minute, tying it back again. This gambit gained her temporary control.

I admit I preferred my way of coping with stray hair, the no-way way. I thought that by insisting at that moment, the other grammy needed to imprint the little girl’s experience with her approval or disapproval. That was my way of sitting by and judging. I, on the other hand, sat silent or played with the little girl as if I too were five.

Leaving Los Osos and the other-grammy experience behind, I had that “Oh” moment in the car. It occurred to me that one way of being with this child might not be better than the other. Did both ways have value? Did I think the order-imposing grammy was inferior to the grammy who mostly let the child have her own way?

I must have really needed to feel good about myself, even at the expense of the other grammy. Was I hoping the child would prefer me to her? After all, she was also the grammy who snuck gum and candy to the little girl despite daddy’s rules. But aren’t grandparents usually the ones who spoil the child? My son’s beloved Grandma Doris certainly spoiled him every chance she got. Maybe the other grandma had it more right than I did, and I was just trying to excuse being lazy in the grandparenting department.

As I drove north early Saturday morning leaving the other grammy there for two more days, I started to rethink my reaction to all things not me or my way. Oh, what if one grandmother doesn’t have to be better than the other? What if I don’t need to feel right and could accept everyone’s style as representative of what they do because, well just because? And what if I really could avoid judging or comparing my way to other ways. Suppose I did not choose sides, either for my way or against it. What if I could just experience things as they are and not have to grasp after my own way of doing things to prove I am superior, or even okay. What if I really began once and for all to accept that there will always be “This And This.” What if. Two new words to consider.

Guy Rittger
11/26/2012 04:06:31 am

Two things.

Our mutual friend Peggy first pointed out to me what she calls "the power of 'and'". As in the proper response to the frequently asked question (in our circles), "White or red?" At which point, the retroactive insertion of the implied "and" signifies, simultaneously, the word "yes". You essentially get two-for-one with that calculus.

Second, you seem to forget that Doris was simultaneously the spoiler and the dispenser of discipline - from her ready stores of love and high expectations. Behold, again the power of "and". With Doris it was never indulgence "or" discipline - the two, again, went (h)and in (h)and.

I think this exercise in self-reflection is quite revealing, even if it is subject to ongoing revision depending on one's mood or surroundings. For me, "Sail" is undoubtedly the one fixed leg of my own philosphical stool. The others change from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour. One might even say that my stool is typically a bit shaky, and some legs are longer than others.

Alison rittger
11/26/2012 04:29:43 am

Thank you for added insight and reflection, I. Look forward to reading you on a regular basis.

Carole Schultz
11/26/2012 07:32:18 am

I often talk to my children about people's roles in our lives; how there is a time and a place for everyone. Each has a different purpose in our being; neither good nor bad. Not to be expected just accepted. Not always easy to absorb but worth their consideration.
Thank you for a grandmother's perspective.

Alison Rittger
11/28/2012 05:34:59 am

Well said, Carole. I so appreciate your attention!!

linda posner
11/28/2012 11:26:19 am

liked it! inspiration for me and sweet explanations of your path to words and meaning. thanks

Alison Rittger
11/28/2012 02:43:07 pm

Thanks, Linnie for reading your sister. Love you

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