Tag Archives: acceptance

“Time passes much too quickly, when we’re together laughing…” Chicago, “Beginnings

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When I was a girl, my father would say from time to time: “my life has gone by so quickly.” I would look at him, just little, and wonder what he meant, and how that could be. I could not relate. Some people say that time goes more slowly for the young, when all the years stretch out beyond, when growing up is something to be yearned for and in the yearning, of course, time passes slowly. But my memory is of that question or wondering that was in me when I heard my father reflect. Later, he would quote again and again, this verse: “A thousand years is but a day in the eyes of the Lord.” Apparently, my beloved dad did not stop thinking about the passage of time.

Just last evening, I was telling a new friend about some of the favorite days of my life.  Those days were on my visits to Milwaukee to see my mother, after I had moved to the Bay Area of California.  My mother lived in a small upper floor apartment on a busy street close to the center of Milwaukee, and I would stay in the cramped second bedroom, the noise of the busy thoroughfare keeping me awake nights.

Both mom and I were “Milwaukee girls.”  We had grown up in the flats that line the streets of poor and working class neighborhoods of the North Side.  Those flats are there, still.

We knew the streets, the bus lines, the parks, and we knew the sense of small town-ness that Milwaukee cherished for a long time.  We knew the particular kind of diversity of that place – the streets where Eastern European communities lived, the place where the Italians built their church, now a Cathedral to welcome the Bishop from Rome.  We knew the part of town where people from Mexico came to live among others who spoke their native language.  We knew how to navigate to new places, too, in that city laid out in a grid.  I have never understood how to find new places in new places, new cities.  How can addresses not make sense, like they do in Chicago and Milwaukee, a small Chicago?

On my visits to see Mom, before the dementia took her away from me, we set aside a day to “do Milwaukee.”  After coffee and breakfast, we backed her car out of the garage and onto the busy street.   We had no particular plan, except to explore some new places, to make our way to the Milwaukee Art Center at some point, to have lunch out, and maybe to do a bit of shopping along the way.  I loved those small adventures.  I loved the fun we had together:  “that’s the fun of it!” was one of my mother’s expressions.

On one adventure, we discovered again a small section of town filled with Ukrainian immigrants.  My mother’s first language was Ukrainian, and so we ventured into a small bakery, a store-front, and she stumbled to say a few words to the man behind the counter.  He understood, all right, and soon we found ourselves in another cramped space, the family’s living room, complete with an altar adorning a corner.  They were Ukrainian Catholics, and a candle burned in that corner, lighting up the features of the Virgin Mary, her eyes cast down, her blue gown ending at her bare feet, on a sphere covered with stars.

On another adventure, I gazed at my mother as she gazed at one of her favorite paintings in the Milwaukee Art Museum, The Wood Gatherer, by Jules Bastien-Lepage.  Later, Mom told me her wonderings about the scene that painting depicted, her own story fleshing out the art.   I still own a print of that painting.

One day at lunch we found ourselves in an old Italian neighborhood for an Italian lunch, another at a Jewish deli across from a synagogue.

As the years passed, it was harder and harder for mom to enjoy those days, until the last time we set out.  Of course, we did not know it was the last time, but something had changed.  We returned home to her apartment right after lunch.  Soon enough, I’d have to move Mom out of her apartment and into assisted living in the Bay Area, a move which she made bravely and with great trust.

I suppose some part of me thought those adventures would go on forever, that those times when we laughed and remembered and noticed would not end.  But all times end.  Now, those days are distant memories, and I continue to cherish them as some of my favorite times.

Here, I find myself years later, remembering those small adventures, remembering the tilt of Mom’s head as she laughed, remembering the narrow streets we knew so well, remembering driving her blue Tercel all over the city we loved.  I’m in the memory time for so many people I have loved, so many experiences, so many grievances that had filled my life over the years.    All of those beloved people, all of those rich days are a memory, now.

 

 

Our Little Worlds

 

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We all grow up in Little Worlds, Little Worlds that begin with our families – for better or worse – and gradually expand into the world that surrounds us, that Big World, that foreign place.  For some of us, that foreign place intrigues, and so we spend our lives widening and widening the boundaries of the Little World where we began.

For some of us, Big World is a frightening place – which it surely is – and so we use our precious energy to make sure the boundaries of our  Little World are never broken.  We live within the confining – and supposedly safe – shell of Little World.  We take our Little World with us, wherever we go.

Our minds hold our Little Worlds, embrace our Little Worlds, surround our Little Worlds.  If we think we have open minds and still, our world does not embrace the wideness of the world and its varieties of thinking and people and ideologies and practices and dresses and rights and wrongs, then our minds are not open at all.  We are locked in our Little Worlds, the only worlds our minds can hold.  Whenever we think:  “how can they be that way?” or “how can they think that way?” we are living within the limits of Little World.   That’s how our minds think; that’s what keeps us in Little World.   Often our Open Minds are not Open at all, they are only the Little World, unable to give way to Big  World.

Experience teaches us – hopefully – that our Little Worlds are not big enough for life.  We try to control our Little Worlds, keeping the Big World away; sometimes we are startled awake, startled alive,  have our minds broken open.  When our minds break open the edges of our Little World gives way to  Big World.

Our minds are broken open when our hearts are broken open – by failing, by submitting our privilege, by addiction, by depression, by the truth that whatever rules we learned in the Little World cannot carry us in Big World.  Our minds are broken open when we realize we do not know, we cannot know what is right or good for another.  We learn that we don’t even know what is right or good for ourselves.  We learn that the rules we learned in Little World don’t work in Big World.  The rules we learned in Little World are meant to keep us small, and safe.  Big World is not safe; Big World is an adventure.

We – those of us who have  had our Little Worlds broken, are grateful for those things that have broken us, for they break the Little World.  And this, this alone makes the world a safer, kinder, gentler place, for all.  Big World is a place of love, of limit-less love.

When Little World is broken, Big World appears.

 

Sunday Morning Meanderings – Power Struggle

 

power-struggleIn my own journey, I am coming to a new place. Let me see if I can write about it – cogently, clearly…

As I’ve written before, it seems as if the only real work of this life – of these lives that are ours – is surrender, surrender to what is, to what will not leave, to reality as reality presents itself to each one of us.   How to surrender is quite another thing – how do we surrender to what is?  What is the movement, the action, the non-action we must take to surrender?  I cannot say for sure, although I know many stories – of my own and of others – of those moments of surrender.

Over the past few years, much has been written about the polarity of the people of this country.  We see the polarity played out in so many ways, not the least in the failure to operate of our elected officials, of the Congress, of the leaders of the nation.  “Deadlock” is the political word, I believe.  In a deeper sense, I would continue to use the word, “polarity.”

As I reflected, over time, about the polarity, I began to realize that I, too, was part of the polarity.  How did I see this?  How many times was I able to engage in conversation with someone with whom I do not see eye to eye, someone “across the aisle?”  Truth is, I don’t even know many folks “across the aisle.”  That’s a problem in itself.  And if I know folks “across the aisle,” there are things we don’t talk about!  That, too, is a problem…

But, there it is…

As time passed, I began to see that I am somehow locked in my own thinking – my own thinking with its own definitions of “justice, truth, fairness, equality.”  But how to break out?

Often, I began to think of the current political situation as a reflection of who we are as a people.  Our elected officials are polarized because we are polarized.  And where does the polarity lie, really?  How do I surrender to this?  How do I accept this?

I don’t want to be seen as a narrow thinker!  After all, I’m a progressive, post-modern woman with a history and a sense of time and history of my own.  But – and this is also true – I am locked into my own polarized thinking.  How is that?  “I am right – they are wrong.”  “How can they think that way?”  (How can I think this way?!)  “Don’t they see what I see?”

In the inner journey, the journey that is the real journey of life, the “enemy” is only within.  If I want to be part of a movement to end the polarization so that I can also be part of what moves us forward as a people, then I have to begin by dealing with my own part of the polarization.  It’s easy enough to look at the elected officials, to say, “why don’t they reach across the aisle?”  Why, why not?

My task is to deal with the enemy within me, the one who sees things as “good, bad,” “right, wrong,”  “just/unjust.”  This goes way beyond morality.  This goes to the heart of who we are as human beings.

And “dealing with the enemy within” is no easy job.  It may be the hardest job in the world…  My freedom may lie with this job.  My own freedom, and perhaps the freedom of others.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Ah, yes, sounds good… but how, Jesus???  How do I love, how do I learn to love, how do I act to love this one enemy, within me?

More, later… the cogitating continues!  What do you think/feel/consider/reflect?

*** A good read about the way the brain works that leads to polarized thinking:                     The Righteous Mind:  Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion,
written by Jonathon Haidt.  You can also see Jonathon on TED talks online.