Autumn Leaf / Wona Kellie
Time to pick up where I left off on my Top Ten Big Ideas. Of course, ten understates the number of wise ideas others are compiling for my benefit. And my previous big ideas now seem smaller than when they landed with their pleasurable thuds whereas now’s new ideas seem glorious.
7. Start where I left off. A good idea because completing the promised list sets a good example for future lists and/or projects.
8. This Big Idea is powerful. The idea is to look at everything as an experiment. An experiment can never fail; it can only yield new information. This idea is worth putting into practice for me with an act as simple as drawing. I have said repeatedly, to the point of believing it, that I can’t draw. By chance I found a book on the shelf called Drawing with Children. Why not draw with myself because I am sure I shut down around childhood. Someone must have said my rendering of a happy family didn’t measure up and that may have been enough. So far I have drawn a teapot flanked by a tall vase with flowers and three stacking bowls, the top one holding utensils with decorative handles. The drawing is small and in pencil, but there it is! Who said I couldn’t draw! Didn’t draw is different from couldn’t.
9. Big Idea: Giving and being given are inseparable. In the past, my first response was to any offer was to refuse whatever it was. This is not to say I now expect to be given gifts, effusively complimented or loved. Nor is reciprocity the issue here. I am thinking more about what it’s like to experience being valued by another —accepting with a big-hearted “Yes” and “Thank You” compliments – as well as feeling that I am worth the love being given. Perhaps part of this the Big Idea is learning to consign my habit of non-acceptance to the past by speaking about it in past tense language. And this could work with almost any strong habits rooted in the past. I could then open to enriching experiences with no past hooks.
10. In concluding this pre-Thanksgiving list of Big Ideas, I want to credit the web site en*theos for the plethora of lists cascading into my inbox on a daily basis. I might be annoyed except I chose to receive them, and I have enjoyed being told how to behave and what to believe. I especially appreciate being reminded that it is a good idea to replace pleasing with serving. So this is Big Idea #10.
Like many of my women friends, I was rewarded for docility and niceness, for keeping out of the way and not disturbing grownups. Internalized, this became a way of constantly taking care of others whether they knew it or not. The dreaded flip side was the weariness that set in from not taking care of myself and the anger that resulted. The idea of not trying to please, but instead to reach into the heart of compassion I am nurturing and serve others feels profound. Perhaps I will do as I did before but with a deeper intention, one that goes to the heart of who another being is – someone as spectacular and special as I am.
With Thanksgiving days away, I send heartfelt gratitude to the Zen priest in charge of my meditation practice, to the vulnerable and dear therapist who has become a valued guide, to the Buddhist who teaches Somatic Experiencing and said the “trauma” word, to my community at the Unitarian Church as I fumble my way back into the fold, to the East Bay Meditation Center for its diversity-embracing practices, and to Kate whose friendship and level perspective have altered my life. Gassho! (Palms together in front of heart and bow.)
Big Idea #3 / Alison R.
Lot’s of email reaches me wherin the senders hope to make a better person of me. And I appreciate their interest. They urge me to enroll in a course, purchase an audiobook, phone in to a national conference to be broadcast in two weeks or buy transcripts of their thoughts either in pamphlet form or to be delivered PDF to my inbox.
I appreciate their input, particularly for the accompanying compilations of Big Ideas. These ideas come in easy-to-read lists and generally provoke one of two responses in me. They either pump me up as I realize how many of the 10 items listed I have already mastered, such as “cultivating a relationship with nature,” or “celebrating time with a loved one.” Since adding Foxibeau to the household, this second item is really easy and the multiple walks around the neighborhood at all hours have increased the likelihood of the former. Every tree has become a thing of beauty, each weed clump, piles of sere brown leaves heaped against chain link fences – all beautiful.
On the other hand, such a list of Big Ideas can add to my intimations of inadequacy. Taking pride in mastering two out of ten leaves me open to a letdown. What about the other eight? I have clearly failed to immerse myself in contentment and undoubtedly forgotten to do something fun each day. I am hesitant to catagorize cataract surgery and dental implant post-op visits as “fun.”
Luckily, I can use Top 10 Big Ideas as a model for my own doings of the past week or so. Mine as follows:
1 Foxibeau becomes a service dog and can go to the movies with me thus leading me to choose shorter movies for the two of us. Big Idea: Two attention spans are better than one.
2 Foxibeau factors into my decision not to usher at four Nutcrackers this December because of the hour and a half pre-performance time required. This, of course, means no ushering during the opera season itself. Life-altering! Big Idea: Time increases in value.
3 I buy Billy Collin’s recently published poetry book, Aimless Love, and try out his voice which influences me to write a poem of aimless love to my therapist, but I don’t give it to her. Big Idea: Creativity without approval provides pleasure.
4 I recognize how furniture placement can increase comfort. I used to empower high school journalism students with instructions to move furniture when interviewing administrators. I am seeing the wisdom of attending to my own felt sense of empowerment and comfort. In the poem to my therapist, I put a blue chair into its own stanza. This was a chair I carried out of an adjoining room to facilitate my sense of presence during my session. The couch already in the room was just too slouchy and low. Big Idea: Make it happen rather than wait for someone to read your mind.
5 Connection to another is the best feeling in the world. I feel safe, loved and loving. Big Idea: Connecting with another is basic. Babies have to do it or else…. And it is never too late to have the experience.
6 Gratitude is good. And generosity is its outgrowth. Big Idea: Think of what peripheral people have added to your life and plan to gift them for the holidays. For me, these are mostly men I have met at Starbuck’s on Fillmore and O’Farrell. Some live in hotels, others are homeless. We have become companions. A Starbuck’s gift card is a no-brainer.
7 Stop now so the blog that follows can finish the list. Big Idea: Starting can be the hardest part.
Contemplative Mood / Alison R.
One thing being small has taught me – self- aggrandizing doesn’t work. No matter how loud a growl or high-pitched the yip, size still counts. That’s the message from the street.
So I have cultivated quiet qualities to get my needs met. Trust is one. There is something about the round brown quality of my quiet gaze, the confidence in her love I radiate when I tag after mom or leap into her lap and curl up, always at an angle so that when she looks down, she sees in my eyes the unwavering trust I feel in her willingness to respond to me.
But I do know how to cower and do it once my bark exceeds my growl and mom shoots a stern look at me and says “Foxie, no.” She says it several more times, racing after me as I lope toward the door. Her hand comes down on me, not hitting actually but with authority. That’s when I lie down and look way up, directly into her face. My tail goes down, my ears go flat. She knows she has me this time until next time.
Adopting postures which demonstrate trust is part of my arsenal of charm, as is exuberance. I show joy whenever I feel it. I leap and race around, landing on a toy to make it squawk. I shake the green fish or the foxieball – both can make noise if played with just so. It’s hard for mom not to find me adorable and that is a good thing – a survival skill actually.
I like toys though not as much as I like food. A good pull can separate me from my toys whereas I cannot be so easily parted from food, any food whether I find it on the street or I am given it at mealtime. I clamp my teeth hard and so far I have not bitten mom when she panics on our dark walks and tries to undo me from a French fry.
A third quality that makes me a spectacular pet is the affection I have no trouble showing. It is not an affectation at all. I feel genuine liking for mom and many of her friends, particularly the shorter ones. Size doesn’t matter when folks sit. The other day mom said I was a service dog and took me into a café where she gathers with women she likes and they liked me a lot. All of them have pets of their own. One held me on her lap and zipped me into her jacket. She was sitting next to mom so I made eye contact whenever I needed to be reassured that the lady’s zipper could come down as easily as it went up. Even an animal with great trust can have a wary moment.
Did you notice how I didn’t crow about being house broken? I came from Animal Care aware of where and when to sprinkle and spray. I have marked most every tree and pile of leaves on McAllister and Fulton from Franklin to Laguna. That’s probably how it is we make it safely up and down those streets at night. It pays to be a creature of habits. Fortunately, most of mine are good.
Thank you for reading my self-assessment. I hope you feel as upbeat about yourself as I do about myself. And I hope that you have qualities that attract the attention and affection you deserve. If not, mom says it’s never too late to accumulate.
Foxibeau looking out the window / Alison R.
I wouldn’t be posting on my mom’s blog if she hadn’t slacked off. I have only been here one month but in that time I don’t remember her being this laid back. Lazy isn’t a nice word so let’s just say she is taking this “no deadline” thing a little too far, in my opinion.
Luckily, I still get walked more than once a day. I am not eager to make “mistakes” in the house. It would spoil my reputation as a perfect pet, which is how I like to think of myself.
All in all, I have no complaints about the way she takes care of me, although I would like to be fed more than twice a day. But with no real control over my appetite, twice a day is probably right. Once in a while, she bribes me with kibble to get me into the crate when she goes out. I go a little mad with joy each time I hear that bag rattle, so I must have an eating disorder. I noticed that she ate an entire pint of pistachio ice cream the other day. I didn’t get to lick the spoon once.
While I am in a confessing mood, I will admit to being a dog with a growl reflex. It’s the elevator that starts it off. I don’t go into full bark mode unless people get off on this floor and talk in the corridor. It is inconsiderate of them to think no one is in hearing range. Barking reminds them they are not alone in the building. I get reprimanded for barking. They don’t get in trouble for loud talking. How is that fair?
Another thing about me is that I am not as friendly as I am cute. Other dogs have to pass a test before I can be polite to them. It’s impossible to say what that test is, exactly. Maybe I just like or don’t like certain animals. That is certainly true about people. We have a lot of sleeping bodies on our walking route. They are all right as long as they stay on the ground under their cardboard, but if they suddenly move or stand up, I instinctively bristle and strain to get away. This could be the result of being a stray before Animal Control took me off the street to take care of me. Having been uncared for early, I might have PTSD – Puppy Tension Syn-Drome.
Something I noticed this week that was uncharacteristic of my mom is her rearranging the furniture and hanging her paintings in different places. I heard her tell someone that she had a new felt sense of safety. I don’t see the connection between rearranging your own furniture and feeling safe. Who would have complained? A word she said a lot this past week was “Agency.” Is there a connection between that and interior decoration? She seemed happy because she has not rethought the room or its contents for a long time. I think if she feels like she now has agency, I may be affected sometime. She has been moving my crate from room to room without seeming too excited. I plan to take a wait-and-see attitude. I am still allowed on the couch, so that is good.
While some of her new behavior has been unpredictable, I can still count on her to feed me, put me in my red harness to walk the neighborhood throughout the day and even after dark. Often we go to the park. I am stroked, cuddled, talked to and allowed to use the computer when I get the urge. Please bear with my mom while she takes this deadline cleanse. Thank you for your time.
deadlines / energeticspell
“Slip sliding away, slip sliding away. You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away…” Thank you, Simon and Garfunkel. Your lyrics describe my trajectory when deadlines feel optional. A week has slip slided away, a week without posting, without mining my patterns for share-worthy nuggets of experience. I moved through moments that would take effort to sift for meaning, every event seeming either too personal or too insignificant. When I eased up on meeting my self-imposed deadline, no one forced the issue.
Actually, I have loved and appreciated deadlines, loved them for forcing me to work toward a moment beyond which lay the unthinkable – a missed deadline, failure. I loved the lie of external deadlines. The anxiety of needing to produce, the desperate, driven hours finally and inevitably relieved by the deadline’s being met. Yet without deadlines, procrastination becomes moot; nothing drives, nothing pressures.
My past working life was replete with met deadlines. Week after week for 13 years, The Narbonne High School newspaper staff and I sailed into Thursday deadlines for Friday distribution. Years went by that way. If and when a student staffer felt overwhelmed by a looming deadline, I could offer a tissue for the tears and point to the deadline. Enough said.
When that number of deadlines didn’t do it for me, I added the yearbook and its deadline requirements held over our heads by yearbook companies with whom the school contracted. If that wasn’t enough, both the newspaper staff and the yearbook staff and I with our chaperones headed off to national competitions in other cities where one-hour deadlines for writers and artists meant success or failure to win the trophy. More than rounding everyone up to perform at their utmost, I was responsible for 30 to 45 high school students boarding a plane on time. This on top of the regular hour after hour that students entered the classroom and exited at the ringing of a bell so that another group could take their place. The exigencies of the school semester further compelled the rhythm of my accomplishments.
I came away from that long time experience with gratitude toward deadlines. It took a while before I saw how habitual they had become, how much I relied on being driven from the outside to accomplish what I had the talent and desire to do – at that time to coach aspiring writers and to produce and produce. And now?
It is peaceful but not habitual to meet no deadlines, to require nothing of myself but to be. And to walk Foxibeau several times a day. So this past week I didn’t force the issue. When nothing is required, there is no unmet deadline.
Indeed, had Kate not paid “Go Daddy” for another two years of owning my name and I repaid her, I would possibly have “slip, slided away.” I construed that check to be deadline of sorts, an unspoken imperative to use the space I own for another two years.
On Sunday after a week not deadline-driven, I have decided to live meaningfully in the space that is mine with or without the aid of a deadline. It may not be as simple as paying “Go Daddy” for two additional years of owning www.spiritflowsthru
, but it is me recognizing it is time to explore life apart from its old patterns. It is time to become the creative energy of my own life. I don’t see it clearly yet, but I know it will not be characterized by meeting deadlines through the habitual pattern of tension and dread despite its being so familiar. I think it will take courage to live in this in-between time of letting go and trusting what will come. May it be so.
chica o vieja / unknown
I have heard it said that aging affects our perception of time so that it seems to pass faster. My own experience confirms the theory and rather than see this as a problem, I look at it as a reminder that my consciousness needs to transform pretty fast if I am to do what I have set out to do.
In older age this goal is to transcend and transform whatever gets in the way of belonging in and connecting to the universe – a wordy way of saying I feel the need to get out of my own way.
Naturally, my way of seeing the world has been limited and distorted by what I inherited and from how society shaped me. This is why a paradigm shift matters. Thus I set out in search of such a shift, aware that society shifts when individuals widen their conscious awareness.
For this to happen, I thought I would watch for moments or occasions when I did not slip too quickly into the habitual. Because I don’t usually seek out pain, I was willing to experience rolfing. Maybe there would be a paradigm shift in the deep tissue realigning that rolfers do. A few times I had been hard pressed by a masseuse or two, though never at the deep level of discomfort I had been told to expect from being rolfed.
With no prior rolfing experience, I could not say that all rolfers initiate conversations with the part of the body being treated. I hadn’t expected to be channeling a conversation with my right arm while the tissues on that side of the body were being pressed.
In pursuit of an increased ability to experience the world free of past conditioning, I had sought out treatment from a rolfer for trauma I felt might be getting in the way of maturing. During our initial consultation I told the rolfer I could be carrying trauma in the right side of my body and certainly in the right arm as that body part had been injured when I was three years old. This trauma could have resulted from being immobilized in the hospital for many months as well as from getting my arm caught in the grinding wringer of an old-fashioned washing machine and having mother put the wringer in reverse rather than pulling the plug.
Asked to channel the right arm, I had nothing to say. The right arm couldn’t communicate probably because it was traumatized. Unfortunately the grown-up arm, which might be carrying the little-girl arm, was itself speechless. I suggested the rolfer talk to the left arm as it had not been injured and maybe not traumatized.
I was right. The left arm assured us that it had survived my childhood and myriad accidents occurring throughout the years and was able to say with some confidence that being an arm was not complicated. It advised the right arm to take its cue from her. The arm’s succinct advice was to hold on to whatever gets put into our hands to do or carry. The rolfer encouraged the left arm to continue assisting the right arm until it got the hang of being an arm. Both arms seemed fine with this arrangement, and I had no objections either.
For whatever reason, I was willing for the hour of the rolfing to suspend disbelief in the possibility and value of conversing with my arms. Maybe a paradigm shift had started and would continue in the direction of more openness in general. Maybe I would be opening dialogues with other unexpected parties. I certainly aimed at shifting in the direction of more equanimity with both physical and emotional pain.
I hoped to get out of my way so as to be a peaceful and productive human in this universe, yet it will not be entirely in my hands even as I become willing and able to hold them out. The universe will have something to say about what will come.
I was one of six women meditating at the Hartford Street Zen Center in the Castro. After tea and cookies, we talked about getting home. I drive a Scion IQ, just large enough for me and one passenger, so I couldn’t offer rides to anyone other than the teacher who lives a block from me. But I did hand bus fare to one of the women who had said she had no money to take Muni to her place in the Tenderloin. Rather than generously accepting two dollars from me, she dropped the money on the table next to the cookies, saying money wasn’t her thing.
She said she would just hop on the back of the bus through the back door and skip the fare. Righteous indignation instantly erased any loving kindness residue. Did my sangha sister not sense a disconnect between Buddhist meditation and a fare-free bus ride home? Did she prefer Muni generosity to mine? I was familiar enough with Buddhist precepts to know it isn’t okay to take what isn’t freely given. Sounds like that would include riding Muni without paying.
I was doubly annoyed at having my two-dollar gift rejected because Rev. Lien’s dharma talk had been about dana, the Pali word for generosity. I thought we had agreed that women, at least the six of us at the dharma talk,were more skillful at giving than we were at receiving. I saw this as a perfect opportunity for one woman to accept from another woman to make her life easier. It would cost both parties a mere two dollars. But seeing her slap the money on the table next to the cookies rather than pocket it, I sensed that gifting this woman with bus fare didn’t qualify as generosity. She had said she had issues with money. And real generosity means giving people things that are good for them, things they want. Ergo, the two-dollars to ride the bus was not generosity because it had not contributed to the wellbeing of a woman with money issues who would rather hop the back of a bus than carry a Clipper card or ante up two dollars, even if they weren’t her own.
Seeing that two dollars hadn’t enhanced my sangha sister’s wellbeing, I questioned my intentions. Had I been showing off? Was it my habit to throw money at problems? What information was I missing? Was I in the presence of poverty? Mental instability? Libertarian politics at work?
Rev. Lien’s dharma talk had stressed other generosity besides financial, such as gifts of time, attention, aid, encouragement, and emotional availability. Although feeling entirely in the right that people should pay their way on public transportation, I still wanted to commit an act of generosity that could not be refused, so I chose to offer a second gift, the gift of silence, rather than giving her a piece of my mind. My silence was a gift to myself as well because I was putting into practice a prayer from poet Theodore Roethke: “May my silences become more accurate.” It is possible that an accurate silence may be worth more than bus fare.
Birthday gift from Corky / Alison R.
No candles. No birthday cake, but lots of greetings on Facebook. Family, friends, former students witnessed that on 9-21 I was born and they were glad. It’s joyful to think I touched some lives and wasn’t too heavy handed in the process.
To kick off my birthday, dear friend Kate treated me to breakfast at Toast at the end of Church St., near where the car tracks curve. I valued this time with Kate because, as usual, I didn’t need strategies to feel safe in her company; I trusted her affection for me. Such a feeling on my birthday opened the possibility that this will be the year I feel more trusting in general. This year I might feel safe in the world, be more present and less judgmental.
Over breakfast, Kate and I had one of our talks about a big subject. Goodness. At first I reacted to “goodness” by deflecting the notion that I was good. I often act with good intentions and sometimes even veer into very good behavior like when I take the initiative with those with less than I have. Kate said that personal goodness is good and from a Buddhist perspective, goodness is basic to all. As we talked about experiencing this general goodness, I imagined what it would be like not to have strategies to make my world feel safer, but to trust this goodness we are feeling in the moment. In the morning on my birthday over breakfast with a good friend contemplating goodness, I felt lit from within. Happy birthday to me!
My birthday included gifts from my second son who is visiting from his home in the Philippines. Of course his being here was the best gift, and I loved hearing that he felt at peace, finally. Around noon, my girlfriend, Corky, brought over a birthday gift. I mused that it might be a plant. Indeed, it was a selection of viola, nemesia, and alyssum in a jade-green ceramic container. Moreover she gifted me with tulip bulbs to be stored in the refrigerator and planted in winter. Such thoughtful additions to my patio garden! And she left blank the lavender envelope that contained the birthday card so I could reuse it. More useful thoughtfulness. Happy birthday to me.
As much as friends and family made for a happy affectionate birthday, I also felt grateful for Foxibeau, the dog. He is a constant reminder of unconditional love and definitely a source of stress reduction. Every dog person said it would be so, and every dog person was right.
In this 75th year of my life, I plan to let Foxibeau help me get past whatever in childhood has kept me strategizing about staying safe. It really feels like this will be the year I get free. Over the years I have relied on talking to ameliorate pain; now I plan to take a more silent, body-oriented approach. Foxibeau gets to be the warm weight that lies on my chest as I follow recommendations made by trauma specialist, Bessel van der Kolk in his interview with Krista Tippett about treating trauma.
He makes the point that language can deflect a person’s ability to really get to the body where trauma is stored. No point in discussing my issues with Foxibeau; I will just be comforted by his furry warmth. Of course I will continue qi gong at the YMCA and Stern Grove, stay faithful to my zazen sitting practice, talk or not to therapist Jennifer and get me to a rolfer for deep tissue work. Add loving and being loved by family, friends and former students and I am lit from within on this most happy 75th birthday!
Foxibeau meditates / Alison R.
In my previous post I wrote about replacing irritation with pleasure via a pint of coffee ice cream. I said the kindness of neighbor Matt perked me up the next weekend at a birthday party and put me in a happier place. But neither bingeing on ice cream nor the kindness of a stranger is a reliable source of happiness. Both incidents brought to mind the words of a friend who said that having another heartbeat in the house is happy making and contributes to a long life.
Last Thursday, I decided on a dog. A four-legged friend could be a more regular source of happiness than ice cream or a short visit with a friendly former neighbor I might not see again.
Despite not having a dog of my own, I had daily been aware of the alternate universe located down around people’s knees and comprised of four-leggeds, although one friend with birds swears her heart health has improved. It has long been apparent that more reliable good will exists between four-leggeds and two-leggeds than between us two-leggeds ourselves.
Although I wasn’t thinking whimsically at the time, I did head for Animal Care and Control, the first spot for lost or stray creatures. It is one of the shelters from which its neighbor, the SPCA, can choose animals to put up for adoption. Muttville is nearby as well.
Thursday around noon at the shelter, Susie, friend of a friend and a shelter volunteer met me, and by 2 p.m. we were both at Pet Express to find the right bed, crate, leash, collar, food, and toys for the stray one-year old boy I had chosen. Susie clearly picked up on my elevated stress level and went shopping with dog and me.
Susie was right about the stress. From the moment I began my very short search, I really had no idea what it would take to adopt a pet. I hadn’t been prepared for the paper work meant to ensure the dog will be safe and cared for. Yet everyone working in the shelter, either paid or as a volunteer, clearly loved animals. They treated me as though my adopting this dog was special and important.
Maybe I surprised them by choosing so quickly. I hadn’t asked to sit in a room with the dog to see if we got along. All the barking put me off and it was hard to imagine any dog under these circumstances demonstrating a clear fondness for me. Yes, I could have been less impulsive about my adoptee-to-be, arranged to pat and play with lots of potential pets, even gone to the SPCA or meandered over to Muttville, but I know myself. I may be impulsive or just not do very well with too much information. Better to just decide, trust the universe, and heed those people who work so diligently and lovingly at Animal Care and Control.
So I adopted Foxibeau le chien, the second dog I saw. I added Foxi to Beau, the name they gave him to celebrate his reddish coloring as well as the fox look of him. The French part is an affectation in lieu of his lack of papers. I have alternate pronunciations for his name. It can be said slowly with the accent on the beau as if complimenting the dog or it can be pronounced like placebo, the pill that makes one think things are much better.
With just a few days of living together, I can say he clearly meets my criteria for an animal I can live with. He does well on the leash, rides in the car, and sits with me without growling for my early morning usual at Starbucks. These small acts mattered after some of the experiences I had dog-sitting Chloe. I love Chloe for making me dog-ready, but Chloe didn’t like riding in the car. She quivered a lot when I stopped at Starbucks; she didn’t like walking peacefully with a leash and harness, and she shook at street corners when traffic whizzed by. I didn’t fault Chloe. Her real home had a yard.
And though Foxibeau and I are only a few days in, it is looking good for both of us. We seem satisfied with our arrangements. Shelter people who encouraged me to take home a dog were right. Foxibeau has made my home a happier place.
Serotonin from the liquor store / Alison R.
I needed love, trust and comfort. Without them, I was willing to settle for serotonin. I dashed across the street to the liquor store and grabbed a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or Dryers, something high in calories but mood altering. Feeling desperate, I didn’t glance at the cost of the pint or consider the almost-certain weight gain.
Clearly there had been but one thing to do. Get ice cream. An act of pure impulse – the body crosses the street, the hands push back the glass case cover over the ice cream and the fingers select coffee ice cream with Heath Bar bits. The wallet comes out, money changes hands, the body retraces its steps, the hands tear open the ice cream carton, and the spoon dips and lifts, dips and lifts. The inner world brightens, pleasure grows and soon the pint container is all but empty and the smile and feeling of wellbeing. Ah, ice cream, that reliable best friend and resource for serotonin.
My downward dip was on Labor Day afternoon when I handed over to her owner, Chloe, the dog I kept in July and then housed for the three-day weekend. It was hard enough letting go of bouncy furry happiness, but her owner handed me a check for less than I thought we had agreed on, and I experienced a double loss. Unleashed were bites of disrespect. I could see the logic of paying for two nights of doggie care rather than three days. In other words the amount made sense except that this was not the amount we had agreed upon. Something must be wrong with me that I could not get what I asked for. And thanks to the ice cream for helping me recover my equanimity
I had cause to think of that mood-altering event on Labor Day weekend after this weekend’s visit to my granddaughter’s sixth birthday party about 240 miles south of San Francisco. Lovely as it was to snag a few hugs from my youngest son’s little girl, I found myself sitting in silence among the other families, despite all the good will I felt for the young people who, with their children, comprise a caring community for my son and his daughter.
My grandson and I were the two lone representatives of daddy’s family whereas mommy’s family was, as always, present en masse. Given the active nature of the women in that family, the party was a blow out affair. The other Grandma had even booked a room in a motel at Avila beach and scooted down at 4:30 a.m. to secure the best party spot. The mermaid theme was unpacked, balloons inflated, and it was nonstop party making.
Because I didn’t help, because, because and so on I was feeling left out and out of sorts. And then I spotted neighbor Matt and his son. Neighbor Matt used to live on the corner of the street my son and I lived on in San Pedro when my son was growing up. About four years younger, Matt was a surfer like my son, and I imagine he admired his older friend. Matt matured to be kind, soft-spoken, and clearly still respectful of my son and because of that, caring and kind to me, the mother responsible for such a splendid son. Instantly, I noticed the contrast between how I had been feeling before connecting with neighbor Matt and the relief and release that came once I felt I mattered. Kindness, that source for serotonin!
Neighbor Matt and his son drove back to San Pedro about the time my grandson and I headed back to San Francisco. As we parted, I smiled at this good feeling that came from time spent with neighbor Matt. I knew that whether or not I saw him again, I could re-imagine at will and with gratitude these moments of having felt I mattered. I had needed love, trust and comfort and because of neighbor Matt the feelings had been mine and they were as good as, if not better than, those that came from ice cream.