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Friday, December 23, 2011

Reflecting on loss

Many people build up Christmas with some kind of false hope of magical but shallow happiness.  They have expectations that for one single day their husbands/kids/wives/the world in general will be kinder to them; that addictions and issues will disappear and they will be able to relate in an ideal manner. Every year, many people suffer loss near the holidays.  For me, I have had lots of loss in the past year and a half.  Three family members, a singing buddy, a coffee shop buddy, and a childhood friend have passed away in that short time span.  The truth is that we can't control living or dying.  We can't control someone else's joy, rage, resentment, or their responses.  We can impact our own responses to disappointment and dynamics.  For me, when I'm disappointed, I have to stay away from the black hole.  It is a swirl of negative emotions surrounded by a cloud of overwhelming sorrow.  Thinking of climbing out of the black hole is consequence enough to stay out of there.

When Hal passed, before I heard the news, I remember thinking of him and wondering why I hadn't seen or heard from him. It hit like a flash when I heard that news. Since Uncle Ron has passed, I have dreamed about him three times.  In the dream, there are always lots of family members present, and we're talking about something serious.He wants to participate in the discussion, but I'm the only one who can see or hear him.  So, my dream gets loud, but I can't ever remember what we talked about, exactly, when I wake up.  When I think of Michelle, I always see her, in my mind's eye, as when we were in fourth grade.  My friends and I were imaginative children, so, I think about her freedom from her sick body.  I imagine her zipping from place to place and asking me to play hide and seek with her.  At this point, she would have the unfair advantage, but nonetheless, thinking of us as children playing a game makes me smile, usually.  When I think of Art, I think of him singing, I bought me a cat, and it absolutely makes me smile.  Uncle Roy had the most infectious laughter on the planet.  I remember him having a light-hearted perspective on most things. The last time I saw Aunt Vicki, she fluttered her eyes and tried to open them when she heard my voice.  Later, Uncle Dan said she woke up and asked if I was still here.

Because of time, distance, or different life paths, I didn't see or talk to these people daily, but I miss them.  Maybe in my brain, I thought the loss would be less painful because our contact was sparse, but it isn't true. I was just caught off guard. There is an intrinsic knowing that someone is missing that almost defies description.  Ron, Roy, Vicki, Michelle, Hal, and Art, I miss you all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Transcendent Christmas Story

 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 
9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God…14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John chapter 1, New King James)

In the Christian world, we are pretty hooked on Santa and commercial Christmas. In researching for substance to support the thoughts I have for this article, I realize that from the beginning, Jesus' birth as a physical human being has been fraught with politics, and later, attempts to make a "new" Christian religion to replace pagan traditions.  Orthodox Christianity has been imitating pagan religions ever since it became an "organized" religion

The transcendent Christmas story is that Jesus was, is, and always will be.  When he made his entrance in the flesh isn't the greatest part of the story.  That he made his entrance is much more profound.  Better still is that if we pay attention to his presence and welcome (or receive) him, "the Word who was with God and was God," is with us today.  The Psalmist says:   
If I ascend to the heaven, you are there
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there.
 If I take the wings of the dawn,
         If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,    
Even there Your hand will lead me,
         And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
         And the light around me will be night,
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
         And the night is as bright as the day.
         Darkness and light are alike to You.

May your Christmas be more about the transcendence of "the Word" than sensory overload, and the meltdown thereafter.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

The van Gogh Letters

"No matter how distant a trauma is, somehow, there are times when something pops up to remind one that it did happen." (I quote myself from yesterday's post).  Receiving information about my sweet, now 91 pound, puppy was disturbing.  The package in which the news came, was equally unsettling.  No matter how much better my life is as the result of being a divorced woman, I'm not happy that I had to make that choice.  With all these thoughts in mind, let's just say that I suffered from some "melancholy" yesterday. 

 Also, yesterday, one of the blogs I follow included a link to the letters of van Gogh to his brother, Theo.  I started reading through them with some interest.  Although he suffered from mental illness (maybe syphilis psychosis?), he had moments of lucidity that offer great insights about a woman who is loved and well cared for. I will post the excerpts here.  Enjoy, feel free to comment.  

The first quote is from a letter he wrote to his brother, Theo, while he was in Paris.

"‎'Il n'y a pas de vielle femme!'[There are no old women.] (That does not mean that there are no old women, only that a woman does not grow old as long as she loves and is loved.)"

These highlighted quotes are about a woman called Sien, for whom he cared.  She was hospitalized and gave birth to a child, but was still not in good health due to her previous circumstances.

 "If some of this is to my credit, and that through your help, of course much more is due to the professor who treated her. But what the professor has less to do with is the effect on her of the strong attachment between us two. A woman changes when she loves and is loved; when nobody cares for her, she loses her spirits and the charm is gone. Love draws out what is in her, and her development definitely depends on it. Nature must have its free course, must go its normal way; what a woman wants is to be with one man, and with him forever. This is not always possible, but any other way is against nature. So she now has quite another expression than last winter, and her eyes look different; her glance is calm and quiet, and there is an expression of happiness on her face, of peace and quiet, the more touching because she is of course still suffering."

These are Sien's instructions upon discharge from the hospital:

"Before she left the hospital, the professor - who felt real sympathy for her, as he had known her before, and treated her with special care this time and examined her thoroughly at her request (because I had made her promise to ask this before she went) - took the trouble to speak with her at length and in detail about what she should and should not do to keep well.
  1. Being with one man - seeing that everything in her constitution and temperament makes her fit for domestic life, and decidedly unfit for the sort of life misery had forced her to lead in the past.
  2. That she should be out of doors as much as possible, and as soon as she has regained her strength, she should take many walks - inhale lots of fresh air.
  3. As to food, he told her what she should have and what would be harmful.
  4. She should often wash with cold water and alcohol, and take a hot bath once every week.
  5. She ought to avoid emotions that make her nervous - for instance, anxiety, tension, disquiet.
  6. She must not scrub floors or do other kinds of really hard work which would force her to keep her head down, like cleaning the passage, for instance, and particularly, should not lift heavy things."
He defended his relationship with Sien (to his brother) after being tersely talked to by their family friend,  Teersteg.  In everyone else's opinion, Vincent should not have been with Sien because she wasn't the right kind of woman for a man of his family background.

"I believe he would look on quite cold-bloodedly while Sien was drowning or some such thing, not lifting a finger, and say it was beneficial to civilized society.
As long as I drown at the same time, I don't care. But we felt distinctly enough that her life and my life are as one, when we met again in that hospital by the side of the baby's little cradle....
There is love between her and me, and there are promises of mutual faithfulness between her and me.
This is a thing, Theo, people ought not to meddle with, for it is the most sacred thing in life."

Alas, ultimately, this relationship did not work out to be permanent, either.  Nonetheless, there is much truth in the words he wrote in these excerpts.  One of my major goals in life is to learn to love the same way my Golden Retrievers do: UNCONDITIONALLY.  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Baby Rupert

No matter how distant a trauma is, somehow, there are times when something pops up to remind one that it did happen.  Today, I got a note from my ex-husband telling me that my love, Rupert, a now eight year old Golden Retriever is dying of intestinal cancer and a pericardial effusion. 
 I remember when I went to get him as a puppy,  he was gigantic, even for a large breed puppy.  He was a sweet dog, and like most dogs, gave unconditional love. It took me back to the time when marriage was difficult, and there was no human help or cooperation to try to make it better.  The dogs gave me some temporary relief of the anguish my soul was feeling.  As things deteriorated and I left, I was unable to keep two Golden Retrievers, I said good bye to Rupert when I said good bye to Rob.  I am grateful for his short stay in my life.  Maybe someday I will learn to love as much as Rupert and Ruby (Slippers) loved me.  Below are pictures of Ruby with Zach and baby Rupert.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Crazy Christmas

The last few days, I have been thinking about the blog and what I should write about next.  No ideas really came to my head, but I usually don't need anything more than the blank "page" in front of me to write.  I'm not overly busy.  I'm not allowed overtime.  I have done a very small amount of shopping, and I plan to do another wee bit of shopping so that my nieces and nephews have something to open from me on Christmas.  The truth is that I have been reading the past two weeks.  I have two novels and an autobiography under my belt since I last communicated via blog.  I have been to lunch with a friend, and otherwise been lost in my own thoughts.  As Christmas gets closer, I realize why I hate it so much.

When I was a child, I used to "need" Christmas presents.  I have a very generous aunt and uncle who used to make sure my siblings and I  had something for the holidays.  There was always a sweater or sweatshirt and pants.  They were much nicer than the ones that we would have been able to buy.  Often, those were the clothes we wore through the winter every year.  They also sent some other nice things such as the precious moments dolls that my sister and I collected. (Mine now belong to my nieces.)  We had so much less then, but made do with what we had, and it was ok. I'm not really sorry that my jacket wasn't a REAL member's only.  It was purple on the outside with a green lining. I thought it was perfect.  There were times when I had holes in my jeans and in one pair of canvas tennis shoes I had.  I thought I would die of embarrassment.  I don't have bad memories caused by the lack of stuff.  I probably wouldn't have recognized that lack so much because there were lots of kids who, like us, didn't have much. However, teachers used to have us tell about our holidays and what we got for Christmas.  That's when it was a bigger deal.  How do you say to your class, " I hate Christmas because I spent three days throwing up then had to go to the ER and be poked and prodded everywhere?"  That happened year after year, probably until high school.

Now, if we celebrated Christmas the way we do Thanksgiving or with more Advent services and fewer shopping trips, I probably would not hate it.  No longer is Christmas about Jesus' birthday (which was decided by a pope to coincide with the pagan yule celebrations) or even trees, lights, and a feast.  It is about pure, unadulterated greed.  Is there something we need that we have to carry weapons to a store and fight people for?  I haven't ever heard of two women fighting over a turkey, let me just say.  Since April, I have lived with less than I have had in several years: Fewer clothes, fewer possessions, and less money than I had before. It has taken lots of adjusting, but I am grateful for the simpler life. This year, my wish for Christmas was to not spend it alone.  One of my cousins is coming to spend it with me.  It will be a very nontraditional holiday without the trimmings and I'm sure there will be a road trip and lots of ruins to visit.  That suits me just fine.

Whether you are Christian or not, do you ever wonder what Jesus would think of our "Christmas" celebration?