Still Becoming

Since long before I was old enough to be called a woman, I have wondered, worried, explored, analyzed, psychoanalyzed, reformed, self-chastened and chastised, groveled, and agonized about the kind of woman I am, should be, need to be, want to be.  These journeys into the deepest caves of my being, these self-forced marches through the stalactites and stalagmites of my spirit, have taken place on paper, in my dreams, in my insomnia, in my conversations with myself and those with whom I share affection.  And these journeys have gone on, and on, and on, leading me to travel one way and then another, circling back, losing myself in the dark forest of perfectionism and seeking approval, binding me with the crawling, clinging, choking vines of trying to be the girl and woman I have thought others expect me to be and I expect myself to be.  I swing, unable to reach the ground, caught, nearly unable to breathe, held fast by the terror of not measuring up.

And so I am sick unto revulsion of writing about the kind of woman I have been and find myself to be.

Okay, on the Enneagram I am a Type 2, one who loves to serve but too often flips over into serving in order to be accepted.  I am old according to most but don’t feel or act old.  I don’t even always act or feel grown.  I am proud of my degrees but feel less than those who have more degrees than I; I still think of earning a doctorate, but the goal is only partly from my love of learning.  I am single—I detest the word “spinster” because of the connotations it carries, but yet I’m known to apply these connotations to myself.  I am adventurous.  I do love learning—so much so that I expect my heaven to include universities.  I love intensely those closest to my heart.  I am still trying to figure out my purpose.  I have, including recently, been called Goodie Two Shoes, but I am meek and goodie only until I’ve absolutely had enough, and the time lapse between goodie and harpy varies.

Do you know who I really want to be?  I want to be a woman who is exactly as God intends for her to be—herself, foibles and all, and with a determination to work each day toward being herself in the best sense.  And that, of course, includes at the center finding out how she can, as herself and not merely as she wants and thinks she ought to be, be useful to others and honor her parents and creation, of which she can right this minute stop being ashamed of the part she is taking in its being and becoming.

Music, You . . .

You rekindle the light in me,
The true in me,
The one who joins all peoples of the world
In harmonies and counterpoints
To their rhythms,
Their keys and intonations,
Their passages pianissimi o veloci e fortissimi.

With you,
I am one whose consciousness expands
Beyond the seemingly solid walls of her apartment
To embrace the musicians,
The other lovers of these melodies,
These instruments and voices,
The composers
Alive or long since gone beyond.

You make me sing—
I love to sing,
And I remember playing guitars
That summer of ‘69 at the university;
One boy called his guitar Adele—
I don’t now know the boy’s name
And never saw him again,
But I recall playing Bob Dylan with him
And his Dylan-esque ways,
And I played for the adored Rick:
“No, I never got over those blue eyes.”

You ask me to remember
The creaky floors of Tower Records on South Street,
Of singing along with Pav and thinking of my love,
Of later, at Essene Natural Foods,
Singing along—more Dylan—
“But I was so much older then,”
And by then I had understood
The wisdom of growing younger as we age.

You ask me to spruce up my hair
For Zoom-on-Sunday choir practice;
The best is singing in the pews,
Floating on the alto and tenor harmonies,
The bass foundation,
The soaring descant—
I am a soprano, though I do not vocally soar,
Only inside,
But even so, my meager high notes thrill me.

You ignite the dancer in me,
And that I am,
Tap, line dancing:
Move your body and be whole
;
Once I ice skated to Galway playing Pachelbel’s Canon
And when I listen to the Canon,
I skate in my mind;
My closing spin is more secure.

With you,
I gather again
With my dearest ones who have stepped away;
We take our seats at the symphony, the opera,
And sing around the piano,
“Let the Sunshine In.”

You light my spirit
To embrace its creativity,
Remind me
Gray skies are beautiful,
I am not confined,
I am not old, just me,
It is not too late,
can still create,
Be,
Be a part of everything,
Am a part of everything,
Everyone,
All that is,
Even in virus time.

La musica è la lingua madre del mio cuore.

______________________

Notes:
“No, I never got over those blue eyes,” from “I Still Miss Someone,” by Johnny Cash and Roy Cash, Jr.
“But I was so much older then,” from “My Back Pages,” by Bob Dylan.
“Let the Sunshine In,” words by Ada J. Blenkhorn.

Living and Adapting in Virus Time

Ours is an era that will live on through the history books, and perhaps through enduring transformations for humanity.  And right now, ours is a time of erupting change, much more for many than for me, although I feel my ground shaking, too.

My mother performing in our community theater when she was 92

I live in a large retirement community, a place that has been my home since my 62nd birthday, the age of eligibility, when I moved in to be with my mother, Doris.  We had two-and-a-half blessed years together in our little apartment, where I have remained.  Because I am healthy and active, I might not have moved to the community if my mother had not already been here, but I would not give up a second of the time Mother and I had together, and I do not consider moving now.  Here I have found a community of dear friends, including a friend whom I consider my sister-friend because we are kindred spirits.  Other than distant cousins I haven’t met, my living relatives are eight cousins who live hundreds of miles away.  But here where I live, I have the gift of a sense of family and community, both of which have always been profoundly important to me.

Following the Pennsylvania governor’s guidelines, we in our community had been asked a couple of weeks ago to avoid leaving the campus and to stay six feet apart from one another.  Seeing some wiggle room there, my sister-friend and I were getting together late each afternoon to eat our dinner together, read things that inspire us, share our thoughts and feelings, and watch the news.  We sat six-feet apart in my friend’s apartment, which is considerably larger than mine, and I wore vinyl gloves if I used her computer.

This past Saturday evening, March 28, my friend and I had finished eating and were listening to music on the television when a robocall came in to let everyone know that beginning the next day, Sunday, we needed to stay inside our own apartments for two weeks, at least.  I cried a little, knowing that life was changing even more than it had already and that I would be missing seeing my friend.  I had known in the back of my mind that becoming quarantined was probably inevitable, but meeting the reality was a little daunting.

Pisa, Italy, when residents and tourists could wander freely

But now I have a better sense of what people in countries such as Italy, Spain, and China have faced and are facing, and how it is for New Yorkers.  At the same time, I realize that I am profoundly blessed.  We’ve had one case of the virus in our community, but my friends and I are well, as are my cousins in the South.  I am active—able to jump around in front of the TV to get my exercise—have lots of interests, and best of all, can talk by phone with my friends nearby and in distant points.  Facebook helps me to feel connected with my international friends, including the several living in Italy.

But even in our community, where the employees are delivering meals, helping folks figure out how to walk their dogs, planning to deliver mail, even willing to drop off a needed roll of toilet paper, some of the residents are less able than I am to deal with the challenges.  Our community director and medical director hold regular call-in shows on our closed-circuit television station, and on Sunday, the first day of the quarantine, a woman called in who was clearly having a full-blown anxiety attack.  And again, all of us here are the fortunate ones compared to what so many are suffering.

After the worst of the coronavirus has passed, what will remain of the changes we are making now to try to rid the world of the virus?  Will we continue to be kinder and more helpful to one another, more grateful for all we have and to those who risk their own wellbeing to serve, more attentive to the needs of the Earth and Nature?  To what extent will we return to so-called normal?  Whatever the answers to these questions, I will mark this past Saturday night, March 28, 2020, as the night I fully became part, in my small way, of the world’s shared efforts to stop COVID-19.

My father when he was about seven, with his dog, Jerry

And Saturday, March 28, 2020, would have been my father’s 100th birthday.  On March 11, the second-to-last day that I was out and about, I attended a one-day retreat at the nearby Franciscan Spiritual Center with my sister-friend.  The retreat included time for silent meditation.  During the first quiet time, I clearly saw in my mind my parents reaching out to me in love.  I believe they were expressing their understanding of what the world was facing and of the experiences about to reach my friends, neighbors, and me.  They were saying, I think, “We are with you.”  I believe they are.  And I believe that all human beings have love reaching out to them from the other side.  I wish that everyone could also know the sense of love and comfort that I am blessed to find inside my everyday life.