Monday, October 27, 2008

Matisse's Scissors

Dedicated to my coompaƱeros on the road. (you know who you are)

One definition of irony: Most of my adult life I have worked with others with disabilities, limitations, pain and uncooperative body parts assisting them through massage, exercise and rehabilitation. Now, I live with disability, limitation, pain and uncooperative body parts... Irony... she's a good friend of mine. We know each other intimately.

On this "Surviving Life-threatening Illness Road" I've met some special compaƱeros; fellow travelers who also know the challenges of moving forward "by hook and by crook." An adaptation of my "work" has been to assist them without ever placing my hands on them; to help them in understanding pain and help translate it's messages, how to find relief and how to live beyond the "cage" that pain and limitation can bring. Little lessons I've learned along the way...

Tonight's Class:
Sounds as if things are going well with your observations. There's definitely a place for denial I believe. But then there's also a place for paying attention. Neutral observation. That's what I was implying with rating pain with a number (1-10) and naming it's qualities. You, the wordsmith could have some fun with that: naming the qualities of the moment, the nuances, the adjectives. Otherwise we get caught in this group hypnosis of ->PAIN<-. I name it that because people have a collective agreement and response to pain. !!!->PAIN<-!!! : !!!->OWWW!<-!!! With all it's spikey hurt and fear. And then the worry.... There is all this collective, group pain that is all too easy to tap into - and then others look upon you with their own fear, worry and concern that's a lot about them and how your situation scares the crap outta them! Their genuine concern for you is there also, but neither will help us move forward. And that's what it's about, yes? Moving forward - always forward, by hook and by crook... persevering... and when we run low on perseverance, then out of sheer stubbornness. When we name pain's qualities (sharp, stabbing, throbbing, dull, weak, burning, ad infinitum...) and get to know it's nuances, it begins to have less of a hold over us. That simple. We start to notice it isn't necessarily 3-alarm !!!->PAIN<-!!! all the time. It fluctuates, has a rhythm, moves like a tide rising and receding. With observation comes an objectifying of the pain. It isn't us. And we are not it. It's only a sidebar. Yep, there's the other stuff: the losses, limitations, being robbed of energy and ability, but what is most important is to keep all that stuff as a sidebar to my Life, my real Life, the stuff that makes me - me; the joys, passions, dreams and relationships along with all the "other" real life stuff - the challenges, the "crap", the chores, the relationships <------(they get to be on both lists! Rewarding and challenging as they are). The pain, the discomfort, the ache and frustration??? Heh!!!! Not gonna let it take me down if I can help it. So I remind myself about Matisse sitting in his wheelchair at the end of his life with his scissors, no longer able to stand, no longer able to paint the way he once did. Instead, cutting shapes of color that began climbing his walls from his bed, and around the corner and down the hallway to the other rooms - eventually this style of work becoming his final masterpieces. All born out of his "inability." I have a beautiful photo of him: barefoot, kinda Santa-chubby, sitting in a wheelchair, large scissors in his hands, focused on cutting the next shape, scraps of paper cuttings strewn at his feet all around the wheels of his chair. Working passionately into his eighties. By hook and by crook.

You're made of the same.


"You see as I am obliged to remain often in bed because of the state of my health, I have made a little garden all around me where I can walk... There are leaves, fruits, a bird..." - Henri Matisse describing his bedroom/studio.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Adventures of Popeye

At 12 yrs. old he decided he was going to sail on tall ships. You know, like 1800's brigantines and schooners. At 13 he began learning through doing. It's a small slice of the world where you still learn through apprenticeship. Every summer since, he has sailed on the Great Lakes as part of a youth sail training program, working his way up to becoming first mate this past summer aboard "Playfair" of Toronto Brigantine. Some of you know his story. It continues...

Now he is on the crew of "Pride of Baltimore." They sailed up the St. Lawrence, past Montreal, Quebec City, up to the Atlantic Provinces. They sailed down to Boston. The hurricane approached with 5 inches of rain in one day. As it came up the coast they were heading down to New York City. While he is at sea there is no communicating with him. Other parents of kids his age are coping with things like their kids moving away to live in a dorm. They feel a certain powerlessness and hope their kids will be all right. Us? Our kid is reduced to a red dot on a map that indicates where the ship is. We watch it helplessly as it skirts the hurricane. We await the red dot's safe arrival in New York harbor.

One day, the red dot arrives safely. Whew! Two days later he calls. "We're in port. I can see the Statue of Liberty. Where the World Trade Center was? It's up the street. Oh, we're at the end of Wall St..." So there's my son, harbored on the end of Wall St. as it's going through it's nightmare collapse.

"What's it like there on Wall Street?" I ask.

"Bunch of crazy, angry people," he says. There's my boy, sitting on the edge of America on a tall ship as the golden street turns to rust.

They sailed on.

Today he calls me. "I only have a minute to talk. I just wanted to tell you about the race. We just got into port a couple of hours ago." They had just completed and won the "Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race." He's geeked, He's high on adrenaline, talking fast and excited. "We were neck and neck with the Virginia for 14 hours... First we would take the lead and steal their wind and then they would take the lead... We were never more than a boat length apart for 14 hrs. We were doing all sorts of sailing tricks - some of 'em kinda risky."

My knee-jerk parental response was, "Why were you guys doing it, if it was risky?"

"It was a race, Dad!"

Oh, yeah.... And once again I am reminded I am powerless as the father of Popeye.

He continues on with his story, "We were sailing hard when all of a sudden a big gust came up and snapped the main sail of the VIrginia. We pulled out ahead of them and won the race!" I can hear his crew-mates in the background. He's talking with them and then suddenly is back to me saying, "I've gotta go. I've got the afternoon off and tomorrow too. We're off to explore Portsmouth, Virginia." And he's gone...

I once heard someone say, "With the world the way it is now, if you're not living life on the edge, you're probably taking up too much room." Popeye is one who takes up little room. Sometimes I think some of the lessons he learned in his teenage years of having a sick Dad, were about Life lived on the edge. Each day counts. A lot. Squeeze the most living out of every single day. Live on the edge, but most importantly - Passionately Live!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

heh. guess you're not inside my mind....

It's been pointed out to me that I confused some folks with my Autumn Equinox Triptych. I'm sorry to have not been clearer. All is well with my health. It has been 3 years now since my first becoming ill and I needed to wrap that chapter up. It's been a journey, and markers like the Autumn Equinox are like a wrinkle in time. It seems like yesterday on some days; like a lifetime on others. One of my coping skills is to write my way through a challenge. Writing/ Paddling, one in the same. Must keep paddling forward. And I am. So I apologize if I caused any of you any concern.

These days my mind is filled with these words/thoughts/images:
Oases - as in planned resting places in my mind, week, routine;
Carrots - as in the kind I reach ahead for;

Good words, all. Any and all worth kicking around, mulling over and reflecting upon.

"The mind is the medicine." -Tlakaelel

As you see, I've come far since "surviving." I am fortunate. I'm sorry if I gave any other impression. Life is good. Very good.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Flowers for Mother Hubbard

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To fetch her poor dog a bone.
But when she got there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.


Cupboards are hinting at getting bare. Folks are nervous, especially with the media loop-tape of “Be afraid… be very afraid,” that plays endlessly.

The back wall of our pantry has been painted for just such times as these: images and poetry. When the bread is low, we still have the roses; and especially in those times, we need the flower and song.