Dear people next door, Welcome to Minnesota. Please write your name here ___ then please send back the card, but before you do that, please write back. You can write whatever you want. From your neighbor Harper and Family. (It included a nice picture of flowers and clouds.)
Posts tagged ‘humility’
The year was 1972. I was a shy, awkward eighth-grader at Fridley Junior High in a working-class suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It all began innocently enough when my mother sewed maxi-skirts for my sisters and me one winter. Maxi-skirts were skirts that went all the way down to the floor and were high fashion in 1972; all the cool girls wore them.
Even though my mother warned me there would not be enough of the red fabric I picked out for my skirt, I insisted she use it anyway. The skirt turned out to be more of a red corduroy maxi-tube than the full, flowing maxi-skirt pictured on the front of the Simplicity pattern envelope.
Undeterred by the fact that my stride was roughly as long as that of a Geisha’s, I wore my maxi-skirt proudly to school that fateful day. I was shuffling down the hallway in a sea of my baby-boomer classmates, school books clutched to my chest when my friend Karen swept by me and gave me a slap-on-the-back greeting. That little push sent my torso flying forward at a velocity faster than my tightly bound legs could pedal. Factor in the weight of the books and my 80-pound frame and, well, you get the picture . . . an object in motion and all.
When I tell this story to my kids I insert a little lesson about the physics of this experience just to keep it educational. “Notice how ‘Turning Point’ becomes both a scientific statement as well as an understatement in this example,” I say.
My books flew ahead of me as I slid down the hallway on my belly. To the fast-moving current of students rushing up behind me, I was a rock in the rapids. They were stumbling and lurching trying to avoid stepping on me.
All the while, the tube-like geometry of my skirt and lack of traction supplied by my fashionable, but not-so-functional, ballet slippers made it physically impossible for me to stand up. I was flopping like a fish and polishing a nice, shiny clean spot on the dusty floor as my fellow classmates began parting behind me like the Red Sea, casting horrified backward-glances in my direction. My popularity, already weak and sickly, suffered its last agonizing death-throes right there in the hallway.
Enough humiliation you say? Oh, contraire my friends, this was just beginning. In the midst of my flailing efforts to stand in this sea of inhumanity, I felt two hands under my arms lifting me up from behind. Guess what? Yes, it was the guy I had a huge crush on. (My compliments to God and his impeccable comic timing.) He was a big, handsome, popular, red-headed football player who smelled like Brut cologne, or maybe it was HI KARATE. He was the lead actor in my romantic adolescent daydreams, all of them set to a score of David Cassidy ballads. (Heavy sigh.) What? I’ve already admitted I was not cool. Full disclosure.
After he placed me in an upright position, he steadied me for a moment to make sure I wouldn’t tip over again. He then handed me my books, gave me a quick nod with only the tiniest smirk passing over his dreamy lips before he quickly moved on. I scurried, face flushed red as my skirt, into the nearest girls’ restroom and tried to figure out a way to flush myself down the toilet.
Little did I know when I was experiencing my most humiliating middle school moment back in 1972, this story would become a favorite of my middle school daughter all these years later. She loves to laugh with me every single time I tell it, which she requests I do often. I like to think I am teaching her that seeing the humor in humiliation is all about not taking yourself too seriously, or some other equally noble life lesson. More likely she just loves a good laugh at my expense.
The moral of this story, you ask? I have no idea, but my daughter seems to find comfort in it during her own awkward middle school years, and that’s enough for me. Fortunately for her, I’ve got plenty more stories I’m saving for her high school years!
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
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My thighs used to be like two friendly neighbors waving to each other across the fence. Evidently, they’ve grown closer over time because they seem to have moved in together. This would not be such a problem if there weren’t so much friction in the relationship. Cripes.
For most of my life I have been blessed with an easy-to-maintain, healthy body weight. I worked at it not one iota. My metabolism burned high. My addiction to drama provided enough “weight loss through chaos” to send me into sizes smaller than my bone structure every five years or so. I still own the skirt from the time my first marriage was ending. I weighed about 100 pounds. But, my God, I was an actual size 4! I know. I know! Sigh.
Then two things happened. I began to shed my codependent tendencies. I fell in love with a nice, even-keel guy, and we had a baby when I was 39 years old. I was happy. No more size 4’s for me. By the time I had my surprise bonus baby at age 46; my stomach muscles were behaving just like the pouched-out knees of my well-worn sweat pants—not so elastic anymore. My breasts and my soprano voice set sail together on a nice cruise from a perky high C, to a low b flat as I waved a tearful goodbye from the dock. Bon voyage! And it’s true; you do get more forgetful with age. It seems I’ve also misplaced my waistline.
I am now 52. That last baby I had is 72 months old. The extra 15 to 20 pounds I’m carrying around no longer qualifies as post-pregnancy weight. All my efforts to get back in shape without the help of my old diet aids (misery and crisis) have failed. I couldn’t even manufacture enough angst, or pester a fight out of my husband dramatic enough to lose a lousy five pounds. Damn these healthy boundaries! What I wouldn’t give for a little old-fashioned passive-aggressive manipulation about now. I’m sure that’d be good for shaving a pound or two. Alas, no one will participate–killjoys.
After several failed runs at diet and exercise, I noticed that my relationship with my body had turned adversarial. I didn’t like it anymore. My motivation for getting in shape was to defeat this new enemy. I exercised (if I exercised) to conquer my fat, to berate my soft belly, to vanquish my bat-winged “Bingo” arms to the church basement. But my body has proven itself a worthy opponent. It does not respond well to self-loathing. Go figure. No, literally, there goes my figure.
Today I came across a photo my daughter took of me this summer. One I would never normally share because it is not the me I care to acknowledge personally, let alone publicly. But today I felt something different when I looked at the woman in the photo. I liked her and her gray hair, her crows-feet, her soft body and her warm smile. I realize now that any changes I make to this woman, me, have to come from a place of loving myself, including the body I have right now. This body that has served me so well, doing the best it can with what it has been given to work with.
I think I’ll invite her out for a little walk. I expect we’ll get along well, she looks nice. I hope she has a good sense of humor. She’s gonna’ need it.
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I know that I am not perfect, and that I will often fall short of being the person I want to be. But I also know I will be forgiven, I will do better, and that I am working hard at it every day. Exactly the same lesson I hope I am teaching my children.
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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In my late 20’s, after several yearly surgeries and hormone therapies trying unsuccessfully to conceive a child, I had a very vivid dream.
In my dream, I was sitting in a large lecture hall filled with students. I looked down the slanted incline of seats in front of me to the professor. I raised my hand. I asked, “Will I ever get pregnant? Will I ever give birth to a child?” There was silence until one student at a desk a couple of rows in front of me turned to me and said, “You know that I will be coming someday. We’ve already decided this. Be patient.”
She looked Native American. She was a beautiful, slender young woman with long brown hair, olive skin, and almond-shaped dark eyes. When I woke I couldn’t understand how this person could ever be my child, as my first husband and I were both Caucasian.
So powerful and unusual was this dream that I wrote it down. Fast forward a dozen years or so. The dream is long forgotten. I am a divorced mother of two blonde haired, blue-eyed adopted children from my first marriage. I have already been told and have accepted that I will never conceive a child. My second husband and I are looking into adoption when at age 39 I become pregnant. My daughter Piper is soon born to me and my Chinese-American husband. When she is thirteen years old, I recognize the young woman who spoke to me in that dream so long ago.
Piper has always had a casual certainty that has never left her of the place from which she came before her birth. When she was three, she was sleeping next to me when I awoke with a start (that feeling of falling). Piper was looking intensely at me and said, “The angels came to talk to you in your sleep, but I told them ‘NO!’, so they put you on the ‘heaven slide’ and ‘plop’ you slid back into your body!”
I have had several prophetic dreams. Uncanny and unsettling premonitions of what was to come at major turning points in my life. One such “dream” literally saved me from death. I do not evangelize about these occurrences. I haven’t even talked about them much until now, but they have fueled decades of my own personal study of mysticism, religious theology, and shamanism as well as any possible scientific explanations. I am a pragmatist at heart. I look for logic, for proof, for rational answers. I have found none of these things–only more questions about those angels that still come to talk to me in my sleep every now and again.
A documentary aired (P.O.V. on Public Television) related to this topic. It is entitled, The Edge of Dreaming. It is a fascinating film.
“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” ~Rumi
“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” (I Corinthians 14:1)
“A dream that is not interpreted is like a letter that is not read.” –Talmud.
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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.