Raining Blue

No one saves us but ourselves.  No one can and no one may.  We ourselves must walk the path. –   Buddha

The morning air was as heavy as my heart as I listened to the music of Philip Glass while walking The Poodle.  The ground is still saturated from days of nearly non-stop pouring rain. We’ve finally had a break in the weather and with any luck from Mother Nature we won’t have any more rain through the weekend.  As I walk up the street towards my house I feel like I am pulling myself up out of a hole of quicksand.  I awaken from my thoughts to note that indeed, I am walking ever so s-l-o-w-l-y.

This is not my usual pace, I think.  Wow. Is my mood raining this kind of blue?! 

Let’s blame it on The Poodle.  He’s like a slug behind me though I think he’s happy for the slow pace, for once.  His snout has disappeared into a laurel bush just off the sidewalk.

“Come on,” I say as I pull on my stubborn love.   Out comes his head and along with it a snout covered in dirt.

We both drag on into the house.

Later I’m on the yoga mat trying to get into the rhythm of a practice that I had selected on Yogaglo.  I’ve been barely ten minutes on the mat when The Poodle decides to plop down, between my legs, smack dab onto the middle of my mat.

“Really dog!?” I say in exasperation as I nearly fall out of warrior II pose.

The sun shines warm through the window in front of us.  I can see that it is bathing my poodle in light and a comforting warmth. He looks content beyond measure.  I don’t have it in me to break up his happy place so I abandon the practice and instead reach for my little red pillow.

Now I opt to sit with Headspace Andy’s gentle voice.  I choose a twenty-minute guided meditation on managing stress as The poodle sleeps soundly by my side.

It was not easy to connect with my breath.  The “video” of two days ago is like an infinite slow-motion loop through my head-space.

So the “soft” kick-out took place.  My basement is empty once again.  Fortunately the day went without drama. No shouting nor expletives…no blaming or shaming.

Kind readers I am sure you’re scratching your heads over my blue mood.  After ten months of many purple minion moments you’d think I’d be doing cartwheels of joy across the living-room floor.

You’d be wrong.

My daughter calls to check-in.  She asks if we’re happy to have our basement back again.

“There is no joy in any of this,” I tell her with sadness coloring every part of my being the darkest blue.

My son has left in a position much like he arrived in.  He’s gone back to Pennsylvania.  He’s barely got enough to pay one month’s rent for a room that is smaller than the little study from which I write. And, his head is still stubbornly on backwards.

Sigh.

My efforts to make a difference seem to have been fruitless.  The bullet points of my plan (less than five to be exact) to help him help himself seems to have failed miserably.

I’m crushed. We have all been in the trenches with this soul for ten months and nothing worked.

I know, I know, I know….

Not my fault.

But still.….

I am the mom.

After the last item of what little he owned was loaded I hug him and tell him to be careful driving in the rain.

“You have it within you son to figure it all out and while you do so, never ever forget that I love you… to the moon and back and beyond.”

My thoughts inexplicably go to the ocean.  I see my eight year-old boy playing in the water.  He’s on a skimboard and he’s lost in the wonder of “skating” on sand and water.

The memory makes my heart swell.

There is bliss in that….

No White Flags…yet

I tried–and was unsuccessful– to get some Headspace before coffee this morning. Note to self: Some habits are too entrenched. Coffee first, before all else; it is how my day must begin.

So then I try again.

I’ve got my favorite shawl–a lovely teal one– around my shoulders against the chill of first light.  I’m not, as customary, on my little red pillow, but rather in the kitchen, in a chair. Sitting with legs crossed is not an option this morning. My knees are swollen, more than usual –the residual effect from a workout days ago I’m afraid.

I sit with eyes closed, focusing on my breath. The guided meditation instructs me to bring, for a moment, an awareness of the sounds around me.

Ah, that is not difficult!   This new old house seems to emit groans of all sorts–like laborious sighs of lament– too many in fact, that invade the quiet of the early morning. How I would like to be enveloped in noiselessness (is that even possible?), especially as I struggle with this morning’s Headspace meditation. I’d prefer to be able to hear a feather drop to the floor and not the thunderous whooshing sound of the HVAC system, nor it’s clinks and clanks as it cycles on and off. The wood floors too seem to constantly talk–like my perennially aching knees– in the dry winter air. Could it be they are saying: We are in much need of a good sanding and refinishing!  Ironically, true for both wood floors and my knees!

Even the subtle hum of the refrigerator seems to annoy me this morning. What is up with that?

Back to the breath…..

I manage to stick with it and when done twenty minutes later I open my eyes to see that the sun has made its way into the kitchen.  For a moment I am buoyed by the cheerful ray of sunlight through the patio door.  I smile as I look at The Poodle curled up in his bed.  As I head for my second cup of java for the morning  I’m thinking about what I should accomplish before the day is up: finish up Italian homework, the never-ending laundry, errands out and about, and there’s that book that I’m trying to get through….

I hear the shower start in the basement.  A sigh heavier than a thousand sighs combined pours out of me.  My man-child, still living in our basement, stirs.  He has a boatload of troubles and cannot, even with the help of family, seem to get this head together.

A quote I read recently online by B.D. Schiers, comes to mind: “If you want to change the world, start with the next person who comes to you in need.”  I cannot seem to find any information on this person but If I met him or her I’d ask: “Um…what made you come to that stroke of wisdom…and how did it work out for you?”

Ah, it bubbles up again.  The past. Feelings of helplessness and utter failure.  And therein lies the source of my angst and agitation on this particular morning.

I know it is a tired cliché, but I want to throw in the towel and be done…or at least, wave the white flag in surrender.  Once again, I seem to be failing miserably in getting through to my man-child.

Yet there is still a kernel of hope deep within me.  Don’t all mothers feel this way?

It is a new day. Do not focus on the many miles ahead. It’s what I do today that matters most according to The Buddha.

So, as I’ve done countless days before this one….let’s try one more time, shall we?

No white flags, yet.  Never give up.

Keep Calm and Be Merry!

Keep Calm and Be Merry indeed!

I received an email in the wee hours of the morning. I know this because I had my headphones still on and heard the familiar little ping indicating that something had arrived in my cyber mailbox. It’s not my custom to fall asleep with those honking big headphones on but drift away I did after reaching for them in quiet desperation sometime after 1 p.m. when it was clear that I needed the soulful melancholy of cedar flute music to lull me into anything but awake.

Doomsday scenarios aside, I’ve got a host of worries on my mind, chief among them my son. Honestly I thought I’d catch a break from the universe after my mother passed. Years of dealing with her issues dominated my life, and though my son’s problems were uppermost in my mind as well, at the end of the day, there is only so much energy to go around…

Get my drift?

Focus! I bark to myself as I type. This is not what I meant to say on this Christmas Eve morning!

So the email was from my good friend Miss Cookie wishing me and mine a wonderful Christmas. She essentially lovingly commanded me to put aside the worries.

“….today is Christmas Eve, and nothing should get in the way of enjoying a Merry and Happy…. regardless.” she wrote.

She is correct, of course.

I fall back to sleep thinking about Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye’s White Christmas. It’s my must-see tradition every year. I smile at the thought of just two nights ago at my sister’s soirée: I had indeed put worries aside by donning a green feather boa to sing along with Bing and Danny “Sisters.” My sis got into the “act” as well. Hers was a blue feather boa.  After our one-song performance I continued the goofiness throughout the movie which got me labeled “the life of the party.”

I’m smiling from ear to ear.

That is a first! See what 60 brings!

Later as I sat for a brief guided meditation I thought about my good friend Miss Cookie, and a few others, who have crossed my path over the last four or five decades. I can count those beautiful souls on one hand, with fingers left over. Headspace Andy’s voice disappeared into the air before reaching my ears as my heart momentarily swelled. I felt so infused with gratitude that tears formed in the corner of my eyes. I turned off Andy before the guided meditation was over, preferring to go it alone this time. I closed my eyes once again and let the rhythm of my breath calm me for another five minutes of so.

No more tears, thank goodness!  In fact, as I put it back in its rightful place, I vow to leave all worries on the meditation pillow.

My mantra for the day will be Keep Calm and be Merry!

So…bring on this Christmas Eve!

These are my thoughts as I reach for the pasta machine.

Bring on the chaos of working in the kitchen with four other people and The Poodle underfoot.  There is tortellini to be made and dishes to prepare for our Christmas Eve feast. This year will be another first: The feast of Seven fishes.

There is bliss in every moment on this Christmas Eve.

p.s.  Miss Cookie….Merry Christmas to you and yours.  I love you!

It’s Not Christmas Without A Trip Down Memory lane

IMG_3458It’s still pitch black out. Most folks are still snuggled in their beds. I would be too if it weren’t for those constant videos in my head… and, when I’m just able to slow them to barely a whisper….

Rocket-man starts snoring.  Oh dear…not again.

I may as well be standing on a platform at the train station.

I reach over to nudge him in hopes that it disrupts and quiets his breathing pattern.

No luck.  The freight train sound continues.

In the dark I reached over to find my headphones on my nightstand. Let’s try a Headspace guided sleep meditation to drown out this rythmic din.  Andy’s oh so lovely voice starts out by saying: “In the stillness of lying down at night, we suddenly see and we hear all our thoughts.”

In stereophonic sound, I would add.

I struggle to follow the guided meditation and give up well before the selection is over, a first since being fairly consistent with Andy for some two months now.

Not wanting to start my day by getting my tinsel-in-a-tangle, I quietly surrender and make my way downstairs. I make myself a pot of espresso and soon find myself sitting in front of the Christmas tree at 4:30 in the morning.  Espresso in hand I drink in the merry, sparkling lights and memory-evoking ornaments dangling from every tree branch. For a moment I think about seizing the early morning stillness to sit on the meditation pillow since I caved much too easily not a half hour before.

I toss the thought.

I embrace the silence…plus, I want to enjoy my Christmas tree.

I shiver against the chill in the air so I reach for a throw that is draped on the sofa. I wrap it around me and in an instant I’m warm and feeling incredibly thankful for the present moment.

Which oddly enough takes me into the past….down memory lane.

My heart stirs at Baby’s First Christmas ornament, purchased when I became a mother. That one is thirty-five years old!  I look at it with a mixture of joy and sadness….IMG_2261

I smile at the little Hawaiian girl on one branch. She’s from my one and only trip (so far) to Hawaii a little over five years ago. I spent two weeks on Oahu and marveled over daily rainbows and breathtaking ocean views. There, I went scuba diving and watched in awe as a large sea turtle dined on bright purple tube sponge coral.

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On another branch is an Eskimo Santa from….you guessed it….Alaska. What fond memories I have of running the Anchorage marathon and visiting my favorite Aunt and Uncle. They opened their home and their hearts and cheered us to the finish line. There was endless daylight and multiple moose sightings on that trip. And I’ll never forget the day after the marathon. There I was taking a walk in my Aunts neighborhood trying to get the post-marathon soreness out of my tired body. A lady driving a mini-van pulls up beside me. She’s got a friendly smile. I’m thinking perhaps she sees that I’ve got a hitch in my giddy-up due to marathon soreness. Nope. She’s just informing that a bear (yes…a BEAR) is wondering around the next street over. “You might want to get inside,” she says as she drives away.  IMG_5695

Rocket-man (who also ran the marathon) takes off running back to the house. Me? My legs wouldn’t budge. I cried out in useless indignation: “Hey, wait up!” Naturally I made it back alive. I “playfully” gave Rocket-man a piece of my mind for his “It’s every man for himself” escape.  “I only had to out-run you,” was his retort.  (Yes. I’m still married to him!)

Sigh….Yes, It’s not Christmas without a walk down memory lane.

So many years of memories are on this tree.  Too many to recount in this space without boring you to death….

Ornaments from my Germany years and London and Italy too.

White House ornaments from more than a decade of living in the Washington D.C. area…

An ornament commemorating my daughter’s graduation from Drexel University…

An ornament too for all those years of marathoning….IMG_5696

And yes, as much as I loathe football, there is one Steeler ornament (Troy Palomalu,43) on the tree.  It’s only fair, after all, that Rocket-man’s love obsession has a space on the tree.  IMG_0268

I’m jolted out of my trip down memory lane by the musical sound of an alarm clock coming from the basement.  For a nano-second I’m puzzled but then remember that my man-child still resides there.

So ends my early morning quietude.  It is just as well.  My coffee is now ice-cold and The Poodle is up from his own cozy bed.  The day must begin in earnest.  There is much to do before the house is full of Christmas chaos.

As I head to the kitchen to brew another cup of espresso I remind myself that all of these memories, from the dear to the painful and everything in-between, are all part of the beauty of living.

There IS bliss in that. ❤ 

 

Instant Swoon Easy

I’m standing in the doorway of our bedroom as I say the words. My heart is content, peaceful, as I gaze with loving affection at my Rocket-man.

He is oblivious to my presence. He’s in bed, comfy-cozy in his flannel, catching-up on whatever on his iPhone before it’s lights out.

“I’m in love with another man,” I say.

“Uh, huh,” was his reply as he tapped away on this iPhone.
“His name is Andy.”

That got his attention.

Rocket-man looks up at me. “Andy?”

“I love his voice. It’s soothing. He knows just how to make me relax.”

“Andy who?” he asks again.

Did I detect a scintilla of concern? Nah. He knows me!  Like the time I was head-over-heals for Stanley Tucci. For weeks on end Rocket-man endured my adoration of the Big Night (and more) actor.  I even bought his cookbook simply because of the cover photo–Stanley standing next to his outdoor pizza oven.  Be still my beating heart.

“Andy. The HEADSPACE guy,” I reply with a sly grin.

“A HA!”

“Besides, you know me dear. I have a profound weakness for guys with an accent. It could be Tom, Dick, or Harry tomorrow you know. Or rather… Tomaso, Ricardo…..you get my drift.”

Yep. If a guy has an Australian, British, Italian or Spanish accent, instant swoon. I’m easy that way.

Rocket-man smiles. “Guess I’d better get busy with Italian lessons my love.”

So it’s day seven of HEADSPACE meditation. Seven days in a row! That is epic for this here messy head-space. Ten minutes with Andy and his accent has me feeling pretty good about handling stress. That is, until my man-child in the basement decides Ravioli in a can is better than mom’s cooking.

Thank goodness for my Dammit Doll. Three good WHACKS on the kitchen counter (with an expletive thrown in for good measure) gets me through the purple minion moment. 

Hmm.  A thought occurs: I might need to go for eleven minutes with Andy today.

It’s a journey.

It’s Up To My Head

If this elephant of mind is bound on all sides by the cord of mindfulness,
All fear disappears and complete happiness comes.
All enemies: all the tigers, lions, elephants, bears, serpents [our wild and uncontrolled emotions];
All the keepers of hell; the demons and the horrors,
All of these are bound by the mastery of your mind.
And by the taming of that one mind, all are subdued.
Because from the mind are derived all fears and immeasurable sorrows.

Eight-century Buddhist master Shantideva, as quoted in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

My head-space has been in a less than joyful mood for some time. I’m cynical beyond words that complete happiness is within my grasp let alone anyone’s.  I force snippets of laughter and silliness into my days in an effort to create bliss out of thin air. It’s probably the way it is for most folks and truthfully, it’s not a bad thing. I’m not knocking it one bit; any way one can get a modicum of bliss in a day is better than finding absolutely none.

Still, the difficulties of this past year are not quite what I expected following our move out of middle-earth. I realize joy is entirely within my hands and my hands alone but for heaven’s sake, I’m thoroughly annoyed that drama-filled days still seem to define my life! Harrumph.

I honestly believed those days were behind me with the passing of my mother (may she rest in peace). God seems to have other plans for me. I suppose the intent of it all falls under the umbrella of that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

So, in an effort to get control of this messy head-space of mine I’ve turned to just that: HEADSPACE.

HEADSPACE

That would be the meditation app that claims to have over six million people using the app just last year. In the App store it has over fifty-eight thousand resounding thumbs up.

I first heard mention of this meditation and mindfulness training app last year (or so) in the Wall Street Journal. I barely gave it a passing notice since I was trying to go the do-it-on-my-own route, and because (the actual reason) after the first 10 free days, it’s an expensive subscription. Meditation has been a difficult practice for me to wrap my head around. I tried to start in earnest two years ago when life was inordinately stressful due to the challenges with mom. I managed to get myself up to a solid five minutes on most days of the week before fidgeting began. Everything went on the back burner, including yoga, for a plethora of reasons excuses.

So here I am today. With the return of my son, now flat-broke and living in my basement (for a spell), I am teetering on the edge of a balance beam, every fiber of my being shaking as I threaten to topple over. I used to be able to handle life stressors when I was a long-distance runner. There is nothing like a trail run on a crisp autumn day to melt one’s cares away…..

Sigh. Cannot do that anymore.

So, plan B (or is it plan D about now?)…

Get a teensy-weensy bit more serious about a meditation practice…but this time with a little help from the digital world.

The genius behind HEADSPACE, Andy Puddicombe and his business partner Rich Pierson, just may be the ticket to more joy in these stressful days.  Andy’s soothing UK voice has lulled me out of anxiousness for three days straight.  I’m back up to five minutes of guided meditation and hopeful for ten before my free trial is up.  At this writing, I’m contemplating jumping in with both feet into a year-long subscription.  Still dealing with the stress of a second mortgage, I’ll even cut back on my Starbucks indulgence in order to fund the taming of my head-space.

Ahead of the holidays, there is hope indeed for more joy-filled moments.

It’s all in my hands…and up to my head.