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Posts from the ‘Humor’ Category

Enlighten Up Already!

I once spent time with a group of serious spiritual seekers who were devoted followers of the instructor leading our week-long retreat–an expert on the practice of contemplative prayer. In the middle of every sacred tourist attraction in Assisi we practiced our meditative prayer in pursuit of a personal experience of oneness with the big “G.”

Later, back in the meeting room, much grousing ensued about all the “tourists” invading our meditative space (read: our group plopping down on floors in front of the main attractions or monopolizing a beautiful view for our personal use while crowds tried not to step on us).  Seriously, how is one supposed to experience oneness with all, with all those pesky people in the way? Can you imagine the nerve of those tourists, at the height of vacation season in Europe, trying to enjoy the sites and gettin’ all up in our spiritual grill? Jesus!

By day three of the retreat, I was referring to our public displays of spiritual entitlement as OCD, “Obsessive Contemplative Disorder.” It didn’t take long for me to be labeled “unenlightened” by my brethren. Many a pitying eyebrow was raised in my direction followed by a dismissive shoulder shrug. “What are ya’ gonna do . . ?” they seemed to say to each other, “. . . obviously metaphysically challenged, poor thing.”  I had misjudged the self-deprecating humor level of the group. I was blind, but now I see. Hallelujah.

I must confess, I have been all the people in this story at one time or another. I have at times taken myself and my spiritual journey way too seriously. I have experienced feelings of both spiritual superiority and inferiority. I have worshiped teachers I believed to be wiser than me and I have judged myself “further along the path” than others. All valuable observations of my ego jockeying for position in an imaginary race to enlightenment–nothing more, nothing less.

What I did learn at my retreat was that a lot of humility and a little irreverence can take you far on any journey of spirit. As a matter of fact, I’ve found my most holy moments often happen in shared laughter—usually at myself—when I just enlighten up a little! I think the big “G” enjoys the laughter as much as I do. Can I get an Amen?


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Winds of Change

I am recycling this blog from just over one year ago, because rereading it now, it seemed so long ago that I was wondering what transformation this particular transition would lead to. But only 14 months later, I am the CEO of my own fledgling company, Mammaste! I guess I stretched myself enough to grab that next thread .  .  . and it was not easy, since I’m definitely not as flexible as I used to be!

“Transitions are hard.” my friend says to me as we watch the orange bus carrying my fifth and last child to school pull away from the curb. “They just are.” she declares, just in case I missed the sincerity of her point. These words are from my dear, no-nonsense friend. Her remarks are in response to the tears welling up in my eyes. She is not a cajoler or a hugger but she pats me on the shoulder, awkwardly, like one would a dog you don’t quite trust. I’m surprised by this physical gesture from her. The thought crosses my mind that I must look pretty pathetic for her to attempt a comforting touch, and this thought is enough to make me smile. I love her for that.

Transitions ARE hard–those times when we find ourselves un-moored and floating in that in-between sea of change. It happens to most of us in varying degrees at some point. It can happen as a result of divorce, the loss of a job, children growing up and moving out, or any event that causes us to reexamine ourselves and the direction of our lives. It’s been over thirteen years since I left my job to stay home and raise my children full-time. I appreciate the gift of being able to choose to stay home and I have (mostly) loved it.  But what I am drifting away from has defined me for so long, I suddenly feel like a stranger to myself.

I’ve been thinking about how I became each new incarnation of myself through prior experiences of change and transition in my life. Each time there was a point when I took a deep breath and began to look for that next thread of opportunity to follow. What I learned is you don’t find that thread with your head down.  It is always up there fluttering high above you, seemingly beyond your reach until you stretch and extend yourself just enough to grab it.

I am smiling now at the obvious sentimentality of that last statement and how it would make my pragmatic friend gag. Reason enough for me to leave it in here. She is as frugal with her words as she is with her money and she would probably say again, “Transitions are hard. They just are, damn it.” Enough said.


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Laughter is Good Medicine

It’s important to laugh at ourselves, and the universe provides a lot of material for me. A couple of years ago I was suffering from severe vertigo and went to see an inner ear specialist. The doctor’s physical likeness to Eric Stoltz (think Some Kind of Wonderful, not Mask) was uncanny. When I went to sit down in the exam chair in the very small room, I suddenly felt like I was falling down an elevator shaft. I began flailing away, grabbing at whatever was available to keep myself from plummeting to my death. Unfortunately, uh-hem, said handsome Dr. was within reach, at about shaft level . . . We were both mortified as he doubled over in obvious pain after I released my death grip.

Then there was the time I was taking my newly adopted three year old daughter to get her first haircut. She was a beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed, fair skinned child who looked nothing like me. The chatty hairdresser asked, “Wow, her father must be a blonde!” I thought for a moment, trying to recall if it was her birth mother or birth father who was the blonde, before I replied; “Yes, I think he was the blonde one.” The chatty woman went suddenly silent, and it wasn’t until I reached the car that I realized my mistake! I imagine she tells that story to her clients with great relish to this day.

Of course, I can’t leave out the story of the hemorrhoid banding device that misfired in a shot that was heard, if not round the world, at least round the County (reference: Mel Gibson/Braveheart). I shredded that exam table paper like a hamster on speed. Don’t even get me started on the time I passed out during an OB-GYN exam. The scene I woke up to caused me to fake unconsciousness for at least another five minutes.

Laughter, especially at ourselves, is good for the soul. I’ve learned some great lessons on this topic from my lovely, beautiful English Bulldog, Miss Dottie May. She is very hard to take seriously.


Play-Dates. From Benign Neglect to Manic Management–Longing for a Middle Ground

The reasons my mother didn’t have nice things.

Not long ago I asked Connie, the woman with whom I have been in a serious “play-date” relationship for a couple of years, if she had any regular play-dates yet for her three-year old son. Sighing, she said, “It’s really about seeing if you get along with the other mother, and seriously, I’m just tired of auditioning.”

With Connie I’ve scored that perfect hat-trick in the play-date game. Our daughters like each other, we live only houses apart and Connie and I are now good friends. This is only my second serious play-date relationship in the course of raising five children. My previous steady and I lasted almost 10 years until she and her husband divorced and he got custody of our family.

In my current relationship with Connie I have, as one does in long-term relationships, become complacent. I have not seriously pursued other play-dates for my very extroverted fifth child, Harper. Recently I discovered Harper with her kindergarten directory on her lap, serial calling every child in her class.

What she was doing, I realized, was the modern-day equivalent of running from house to house to scare up some activity. Something every kid in my neighborhood used to do growing up in 1960’s suburbia. It was an era where children navigated the social scene without parental buffers. Long summer days were spent getting a street-smart education on how to roll with the shifting alliances of elementary school-age politics.

The only consistent parental involvement happened around dusk. Moms (with a vague awareness of the whereabouts of their offspring throughout the day) would hang out front doors backlit by the flickering blue light of the television and call their kids home. Yodeling names–oldest to youngest, holding the vowels like opera singers, or, if there had been no response after the first call, a father’s booming bass that meant business. The most devastating call, however, was the two fingered whistle from the house of the Catholic family. Whole packs of siblings’ heads would suddenly tilt like prairie dogs and half your team would run home. Game over.

I realize I am romanticizing what might have been borderline neglect, but the swing to manic management of our children’s social calendars has me longing for that place where the pendulum swings to a comfortable center between the two.


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