Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ripples in the Pond

I have spent a lot of time talking about Les Miserables recently.  I have read the book and seen the musical, but have not yet seen the movie (despite the presence of Hugh still my heart!).  I talked to an Australian missionary on the plane about it the other day and then I heard a sermon this morning about the movie and its themes. 

But what I find myself thinking the most about is ripples in the pond and how you can never know how one simple act on your part can greatly affect another person.  In Les Miserables the fact that a priest lied to the police about Jean Val Jean stealing from him affected Jean Val Jean for the rest of his life, and caused him to change entirely how he was living. 

Have you ever had people come back and tell you about conversations that you had with them that you have long forgotten?  I have, it is rather humbling to think that they remember your words so clearly: words that you have forgotten.  Do we ever really think about the power we have with our words? In the blog world that is hugely obvious.  If you have a blog, don't you look forward to people's comments?  Don't you hope to see that you sharing your thoughts made a connection with someone else?  We have the power with our words to lift people up or push them down.  How many of us remember the harsh words of a parent or a teacher? Many of us are still reaping the rewards of those words for good or for ill?  I think we all subliminally realize that our words have power, if we didn't, then why are the mean comments that are made usually anonymous?

Marlo Thomas wrote a a book called "The Right Words at the Right Time." Famous people remembered words that changed their lives and not all of them were positive, uplifting words. Marlo Thomas remembers telling her father that she wanted to change her name from Thomas so she wouldn't be associated with him.  He told her that thoroughbreds wear blinders so they can't see the other horses.  He told her to "Run your own race, baby."

Do we ever really think about the power we have with our actions?  Simple thing like having patience with someone when they are struggling.  Letting another car out in front of you even though they roared past you to try and jump the line. How about asking the irritating person you work with to a party you are throwing because you know they'll be alone otherwise?

Although I am not a Buddhist, I find I think often on a verse I read once from “A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life” by Shantideva, a Buddhist master.

For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.

I am coming to realize that everyone will dispel the misery of the world with simple acts and that misery will be dispelled often without us even seeing our part in it and perhaps that is how it should be.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In the midst of!

I didn't post on the tragedy in Newtown, it was just too hard to contemplate.  I have thought about it some now and I find I wonder why we don't give into our better natures more often.  We go about our daily lives and follow out regular trails until something like this happens and then we are motivated to do more.

I had a friend who died of brain cancer and as he was dying, I got a note from his father-in-law talking about how he (the father-in-law) had to hug everybody when he was just getting up to go to the bathroom, since he would be away from them. It was sweet and funny, but he was right.  When tragedy hits so close to home you start realize how that might be the last time you see someone, how that ordinary, regular trail day might be the last one.  In an ironic twist, that sweet man who sent me the note about hugging everybody before going to the bathroom, died this year, in the bathroom.  I only mention it, because he would laugh out loud about it, he loved irony and had a dry wit.

The play "Our Town" speaks to the preciousness of that ordinariness too. Have you seen that play?  At the end of the third scene remember how Emily asks if anyone realizes their life as they are living it and the stage manager replies that some do, the saints and poets mostly.  But I find myself wondering if maybe we all do when tragedies like this strike.  We hug our children and family just a little bit closer.  We all get caught up in the doing of Christmas and forget that the being together is the most important until we are reminded of how short life can be.

The poignant good-byes and the memorials (like the one on The Voice) make us think about what really happened.

They make us take a hard look at the way we live and the choices we make.  When that tragedy happened, people were unselfish.  You hear about what the teachers did to protect the children, they gave into their better natures and some died for it. This is not an isolated incident, in every tragedy you read about the heros that are self sacrificing and do extraordinary things often for people they don't know.

I do think we are hard wired for goodness.  I know that is probably Pollyanna peaking out, but I do.  For example, have you ever thought about why lie detectors work?  They work because our own bodies betray us when we lie.  We have a stress response when we lie. We are hard wired to be truthful.  We are also hard wired to be touched in loving ways.  Babies who are not touched as much as they should be grow up with emotional, social and behavioral problems.  We don't grow out of that.  We are wired to be connected through touch and not only through touch, but also through emotions like empathy.  If we weren't, why would we care about those people in the little school in Sandy Hook? I think it is easy to forget that until we are brutally reminded.

I really don't think we can live with that heightened awareness all the time.  It would be too exhausting and the emotions would overwhelm us.  We do travel those ordinary trails and stick to a routine because we are living in an uncertain world and we have to have coping mechanisms to navigate it.  But at times like this I do find myself thinking about how if life did not have an end, we would never realize how precious it is.  We could grow contemptuous because things are valued BECAUSE they are ephemeral and because they are limited and can disappear in a heartbeat.  Why are we all especially effected by the tragedy of those children being killed?  Because of the SHORTNESS of their lives.  Everyone is talking about the plans those children had for their future:  futures they won't see.

So, the old year comes to a close and the another year begins.  We celebrate the birth of a child that was born to die.  A child who always gave into his better nature.  A child who came to show us how to live.  I think about how I will live differently in the new year and I think about how in the midst of death we are in life.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Second Date

So, I actually went on a fun second date.  It was a bit weird leading up to it, though.  We met for dinner last week and had a good time.  I got an e-mail the next day asking if I would like to go out the next week and what he had planned.  Then I didn't hear from him at all for a week.  I finally e-mailed the night before the date asking what the plans were.  Weird...

So, we met, it was fun, he even bought me one of my favorite treats that I had mentioned from the first date and we had a nice time. We talked about books and science and all kinds of things. 

We hugged at the end of both dates and at the end of the second date, he asked if he could call me.  I said yes and we parted.  Now, I find myself wondering, how long he'll wait to call. It is just weird this dating thing. Sigh, at least we made it through the second date and it can only get more comfortable, I suppose.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Some things just make you laugh

You know how some things just make you laugh...this does for me.


Tank makes me laugh, but the guy who shot the video makes me laugh even harder.  He is just so clever and sort of HOHy, wouldn't you agree?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I love you enough to let you be angry

I was watching the movie "Miracle" last night. It is about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.  I remember getting up early on a Sunday to watch the game against the Russians.  It was beautiful hockey.  I am pretty sure I watched the gold medal game against Finland, but I don't really remember that game as much as I do the one against the Russians.  I suspect I am not alone in this. 

I also remember after the game I started looking at all the newspaper articles and the magazine stories about the team.  I think I probably still have the clipping around here somewhere. Herb Brooks was masterful in the way he coached that team.  They started out as rivals from the schools for which they played and they ended up united...often united in their hatred of some of Herb's methods.  He pushed them really hard and he had them reach their full potential.  As he said, "If they lost, he wanted them to know that they had left it all on the ice, that they had nothing left."  He could be really hard on them, at one point, he had them doing suicides, which the hockey team renamed Herbies in his honor (skate from goal line to blue line and back, goal line to red line and back, goal line to blue line and back, goal line to goal line and back) mostly because he had them doing so many of them.  He even had them doing them as punishment after an exhibition game that they lost against Oslo, since he didn't think they were playing up to their potential due to the fact that they were focused on the girls in the stands rather than the game.  Herb earned grudging respect from the team and I think they eventually grew to love the guy despite how hard he pushed them, or maybe because of it.

Ever heard of Aimee Mullins?  She was born with out fibula in her legs, so she had to have her legs amputated when she was a child.  She became a super model and athlete. She credits a lot of her success to the doctor who forced her through physical therapy who she called Dr. P. Growing up, Mullins did not like her physical therapy sessions and did not like the bands she worked with. But her physical therapist, Dr. P, once said, “wow, Amiee you are such as strong and powerful little girl. I think you will break one of those bands. When you do break it, I will give you $100.” What he did, reshaped an awful experience into a promising experience for Mullins. His vision of her as a strong girl, shaped her own view of herself. It gave her the strength to continue and gave her a new reality. She finally saw herself as capable.

I think we all wish we had someone in our lives like that.  Someone who pushes us to be our best regardless of what we may think of them in the moment.  The hard part is yielding up the control to let them do that and harder still to cooperate.   This seems to be a reoccurring theme in my thoughts.  I wrote about it in my post called This is a song about control.  There is just something so alluring about having someone cares so much about you and who you can be that they are willing to have you dislike them or even hate them or what they are doing at times, to get you to that place where you are the best you can be. I know a lot of women in this little blogosphere that have men like that in their lives and I think for the most part they realize how lucky they are in general if perhaps not always in the moment.  It's nice to see that you don't have to be a Olympic athlete or a super model to have that kind of person: one who is strong enough to work past the resistance and not give up. Someone who is willing to say, "I love you enough to let you be angry with me over what I am doing."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The moment when the mask drops

I am sure that most everyone has seen Susan Boyle's audition on Britains Got Talent. Her voice is beautiful, but I find I am more moved by the looks on the judge's faces.  I think it might best be described as joy.  So often in the world people hide their emotions.  They put up a mask of indifference; they don't want to be judged as uncool or not fitting in.  Susan Boyle is supposed to be ridiculed, her appearance requires it, but within moments her voice over powers all that conditioning and the emotions arise unfettered and it is a beautiful thing to see. 

To watch Simon Cowell, who is normally quite cynical and fairly harsh, with a smile of joy on his face, practically brings me to tears every time.  The moment when the mask drops away and he is simply basking in her talent is amazing.  How often in life do we get to witness that moment?  That moment at 1:42 when he can't hold back the joy and amazement of what he is witnessing.  His face becomes innocent and open and the age falls away.

I find myself wondering if the reason it is so powerful and the emotions can't be held back is because she is so unattractive, that the judge's expectations are low.  How can someone so unattractive have anything beautiful to offer the the world...and then she opens her mouth...that unexpected window into the souls of the jaded, Hollywood-toughened judges could have only been achieved by someone like Susan Boyle.  

That unexpected moment of beauty found in the most unexpected place is perhaps not so rare as we might think, the problem is that we don't give the unexpected place a chance to reveal its beauty.  That, I think, is the lesson that people like Susan Boyle can teach us. 

Susan Boyle