Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Fetching Fur

My submission into the Writer's Digest Short Story contest. Literary license has been exercised.

A Fetching Fur

Precipitation on the peaks overhead, fell soft and silent in giant, white flakes. The first snow always plucked bittersweet, tuning her heartstrings for the swan song of summer and the overture of winter. Rain drummed the cobbled streets in bone chilling drops. Rain and snow were not forecast though welcomed by the Vail mercantile. Off-season sales would end in the coming weeks and sooner was better.

From beneath her dripping brim she peered, picturing the street decked in snow, bows and boughs for the season. This village is romantic in any season she thought, before ducking into the corner furrier.

“Try one on,” Ric followed, happy for shelter.

She wrinkled her nose at him.

“Try one on,” he insisted, circling the chair before coiling himself into a comfortable pose for the show.

Overhearing them, Juan approached and after introductions offered, “Let me take your coat; let me see your size.”

He helped with her raincoat and fleece jacket. The stench of cigarettes surrounded him, emanating from his breath and clothes. Imperceptibly, her face averted.

Juan stepped back and stirred the air with his finger, prompting her turn as his eyes traveled her length. She watched his eyes stop and linger and move and stop. In different circumstances, his scrutiny would be uncomfortable and unwelcome.

“You’re tiny,” was all he said.

“Where I come from,” she taunted, “They shoot people for wearing these.”

“Where are you from?” His words possessed a distinct Spanish sway.


His shrug was dismissive. “Depends on where in California.” Juan refused to engage an argument.

“True enough,” she agreed, remembering the Hollywood royals.

“Let me put you in several coats.” Juan moved without hesitation, pulling from his palette of fur.

“First, something more classic. Mink.” He held it open and she dipped even as he lifted it to hang upon narrow shoulders. Half-length, it fell to her thighs, flawless, luxurious, black and smooth.

She twirled slowly, studying the mirror, remembering her grandmother’s pearls and thinking they would pop against the ebony fur. She assessed herself and glanced at Ric’s reflection.

“It’s beautiful … and black is not my best color.”

“This is timeless and always fashionable and elegant,” Juan complimented.

“You look stunning,” Ric smiled from his place of repose. When particularly pleased, Ric absently curled his tongue to touch his top lip. She twirled again, to gaze in the mirror, to study his expression, to catch his tongue curling in unexpected pleasure.

Juan left them mesmerized: the man with his lady in mink, the lady speculating on her startling suitor.

She had never been coaxed into fur and was taken by its texture and beauty. Friends for decades, he had never seen her dressed in finery and was astonished by her arresting appeal.

They eyed one another as Juan moved silently to fetch another fur. His return burst their bubble; broke the spell and the very private look exchanged through the looking glass.

“This is chocolate swakara from Namibia,” Juan raised the second fur, “It’s Persian wool.”

She loved textures, finding its cow-licked, curly quality instantly captivating and reminiscent of cao de agua, Portuguese water dogs.

“The ruff is lynx.” Juan held the coat as she stepped into it.

“Hold it closed for me,” he instructed, pinching the coat to her waist. “The closures are put in once the coat is purchased, for a perfect fit. We can put in as many closures as you want.”

A closure between her breasts let lynx lavishly languish off-shoulder, in a framing décolletage. Each closure, placed higher, pulled lynx closer until it fastened beneath her chin: swank, sumptuous, and shi-shi.

“It’s you,” Ric grinned, pointing at her reflection, his shoulders bobbing with laughter, his tongue slithering north.

“This coat will dress up or down easily,” she said, loving everything about it. She rotated away from the mirror, turning her head for a rear view. “I always worry that I’ll gain weight,” she thought aloud of the closures.

“The ruff is American lynx,” Juan offered. “The belly hair is the whitest, longest and softest fur, so the best coats use only pelts from the belly.”

She listened absently, picturing the coat with an array of outfits: skinny jeans and heels or splayed off-shoulder over a gown for an evening performance at the Mondavi.

Last, Juan draped her in full-length mink. He hoisted the coat onto her slight frame and she felt the press of its weight. Heavy and dark, it trailed the floor. Her thoughts traveled to European royalty, cold stone castles and dreary, dismal weather. All consuming, its shapeless bulk swallowed her.

Far too warm for California, the mink was easily shucked. Not so the lynx. She donned it once more and they discussed the care and feeding of fur.

“We made only three,” Juan said, “This is the last. On November first, we will double the price and I will sell this coat for Christmas.” He paused, “Shall I give you a minute?”

They fell silent, each seeking the next course. She, before the mirror, wrapped in chocolate swakara. TICK, the clock clicked on the wall. Ric mindlessly drummed a tattoo against the armrest, like Monk. Juan played it very cool, like Miles. She looked like heaven when she smiled.


“We’re negotiating for sex,” Ric said with a wry smile, prompting a guffaw.

“We always are.” The corners of Juan’s mouth curled discreetly, his words more than prophetic.

“Let’s get an Irish coffee and discuss this,” Ric sprung from his chair.

“Really?” She froze with eyes that grew to saucers. “You can’t be serious!”

Hand in hand, they crossed soggy cobbles, seeking a cozy corner and warm beverage as the weather broke and shadows grew.

Him: Could he purchase the fur for the likely enjoyment of other men?

Her: Could she receive such a gift without a yoke of obligation?

He: weighed investment to extravagance and struggled to strangle this barrier to its possession:

She: bound the fur to requirement and remuneration.

They: spoke of love, possession, obsession, obligation, expectation, possessions, pleasure, attachment, avarice, and animus, the negotiations more titillating than the pelt itself.

She: thought he should not.

He: knew he should not ... and he could.

Two Irish coffees in Pepi’s Cantina; fourteen dollars.

Three nights in Vail: two hundred, twenty-five dollars.

One roundtrip ticket, SMF/DEN: two hundred, eighty-one dollars.

One chocolate, Namibian, swakara fur with lynx ruff: fifteen thousand dollars.

Heartfelt conversations: very rich and very real: priceless.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Adage or Idiom?

“They are the continuation of my family into the future,” he said of his children and their friends, as if that were important.

That I was devoid of that concern, struck swift and smart. While I do want for my niece, nephews and others of my tribe to prosper and thrive, I cannot say I have ever contemplated the continuation of my family into the future. No not once, not ever.

I felt instantly deficient, lacking more than the genetic thread stitching one to both past and future. I am again struck by the stark and unidentified differences of those who beget to those who have not and how those differences are revealed. I can never really know or fully appreciate his world or he mine.

And I promise to never know you seems more adage than idiom.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Quandry on Mt Quandry

I summited alone at two-twenty in the afternoon; twenty minutes past the designated turn-around time. I’d crossed paths with the last summiteers fifteen minutes prior. Westerly’s drove a storm in my direction. Climbing the last 700 vertical feet alone, I’d almost retreated twice. The mountain seemed to part the jet stream, coercing thunderclouds either north or south. While the weather pattern held directly overhead, I continued upward even as thunder rumbled softly to the north. The summit was quiet and eerie. A vague sense of you-shouldn’t-be-here-alone haunted. I had violated the first rule of the mountains: NEVER go alone. I should have abandoned my summit bid with my compadres. I however, am not known to deny myself an obtainable summit. It was a calculated risk, the trail was straightforward without cliffs or snow… and a summit is only the halfway-point. I snapped four pictures: one of my face against the summit marker, one of the log book container which, try as I might, remained unopened, and two of neighboring peaks. I tightened my bootlaces and ran as snowflakes fell. Wild mountain goats perched effortlessly on nearby crags, defiant against silent snow flurries. So near, so majestic, so breathtakingly beautiful, I stopped to stand with them. In one diastolic depolarization, my heart opened to all-of-it and touched the Eternal. I say mountain climbing is a holy experience that brings me to touch the face of God. It IS that, the experience of being very present and connected to all-of-it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Fetching Fur

“Where I come from, they shoot people for wearing these,” she laughed, taunting him. “Where are you from?” His diction possessed a distinct Spanish sway. “California” He shrugged, “Depends on where in California.” “It’s true.” “Try one on,” Ric said, happy for shelter from the rain. Rain and snow were not forecasted though welcomed by the Vail mercantile. Off-season sales would end in the coming weeks and sooner was better. She wrinkled her nose. “Try one on,” he insisted and sat for the viewing. “Let me take your coat,” Juan offered. “Let me see your size.” She shed a raincoat and fleece jacket. “You’re tiny. Tell me about yourself,” Juan commanded. “I’m active and I like playful,” she stood before them both. “Let me put you in several coats.” Juan moved without hesitation, pulling from his palette of fur. “First, something more classic; a mink.” He held it open and she dipped, even as he lifted it to her shoulders. Half-length, it fell flawlessly, luxuriously, black and smooth. She twirled slowly in the mirror, remembering her Grandmother’s pearls, assessing herself and Ric’s countenance. “It’s beautiful … and black is not my best color.” “This is timeless and will always be fashionable and elegant,” Juan said. Juan moved behind them to another corner, to fetch a fetching fur. Chocolate swakara from Namibia; Persian wool with a lynx ruff. “Hold it closed for me,” Juan instructed, pinching the coat to her waist. “The closures are put in once the coat is purchased, for a perfect fit. We can put in as many closures as you want.” A closure low on her bosom let lynx lavishly languish off-shoulder, in a framing décolletage. Each closure, placed higher on her chest, pulled the lynx closer, framing her face until finally, pinched beneath her chin, the belly pouch pulled over in a hood. It was swank and sumptuous, shi-shi and ve-e-ery sexy. “This coat will dress up or down really easy,” she said loving everything about it. “I always worry that I'll gain weight,” she thought of the closures, “And… I never do, so I guess it's a non-issue.” “The ruff is American lynx,” Juan said. “The belly hair is the whitest, longest and softest fur, so the best coats use only pelts from the belly.” Last, Juan draped her in full-length mink. Heavy and dark, it trailed the floor and she was immediately reminded of European royalty, cold stone castles and dreary, dismal weather. All-consuming, she was lost in its shapeless bulk. Far too warm for California, that coat was easily shucked. Not so the lynx. She donned it once more and they discussed the care and feeding of such an animal. “We made only three,” Juan said, “This is the last. On November first, we will double the price and I will sell this coat for Christmas.” “Let’s get an Irish coffee and discuss this,” Ric rose from his perch. “You can’t be serious!” They crossed a soggy street, seeking libations as the weather broke and shadows grew. Could he purchase the fur for the probable enjoyment of other men? Could she receive such a gift without a yoke of obligation? They spoke of love, possession, obsession, possessions, obligation, attachment, expectation, pleasure, avarice, animus … the negotiations more titillating than the pelt itself. She thought he should not. He knew he should not ... and he could. Two Irish coffees in Pepi’s Cantina; fourteen dollars. One Vail condo for three nights: two-hundred, twenty-five dollars. One roundtrip ticket, SMF/DEN: two-hundred, eighty-one dollars. One chocolate, Namibian, swakara fur with lynx ruff: fifteen thousand dollars. Heartfelt conversations: very rich and very real. Priceless.

Monday, September 7, 2009

As Good As It Gets?

“You know Lorin,” Juan’s manner was so nonchalant, “One thing we’ve never talked about is sex.” Deer… headlights. I walked between them, heading north on Sepulveda Boulevard for Trader Joes. I shot a look left at Wade. He gazed into traffic, face averted to hide a smirk, his broad shoulders already bobbing with laughter. Wade knew this conversation would be stopped dead in its tracks, a crime of passion, murder in cold blood and broad daylight. “You’re right,” I faced my assailant, “We’ve never talked about sex and we’re not gonna now.” “Why not?” my little Mexican friend wanted to know. “Because you’re not The One.” I don’t believe in the concept of The One but it was a ready rebuff. “A man has to be The One to have a conversation with you about sex?” “You have to be The One or a reasonable facsimile. You are neither and I have no intention of having this conversation with you!” Case closed… and thrown in his direction…like a fastball… at his head. I was in LA attending a Partnership Exploration Course weekend, a course designed to explore my boundaries in conversations and life. Sex was an obvious boundary. “But don’t you want to be held and cuddled?” Gary asked over breakfast. “Of course.” “Could you have cuddling without sex? I could see cuddling with you. Could you have a man in your bed cuddling you without it being a sexual relationship?” If I had fur… I’d bite. Monkey’s hackles rose and he bounced from a skinny branch, scr-e-e-e-ching. My leg bounced beneath the table and heel jack-hammered the carpet in a sure sign of discomfort. “I don’t have that pulled apart,” I admitted. “You’re in my bed; you’re my lover. You’re not my lover, you ain’t there.” “Yeah but…” I raised a hand to stop him; here after all and once again, was the boundary. “I got that it keeps me from a certain amount of intimacy but so far, I haven’t worked this out. I’m not one for recreational sex and I don’t see that changing. I have sex and love interwoven, there is not one without the other. Add attachment for a dicey ménage de toi. I have sex?” I raised a finger, “I’m in love,” I raised a second, “And attached. I can see they are three separate issues: love, sex and attachment… and knowing makes no difference.” “Ok-a-a-a-y,” he sounded dubious. Then quite unexpectedly, he flushed with tears. I waited quietly for him to gather words. “I’m sad because… I could really love you and I think…,” his lip trembled, “It will never be that way for you. I’m smitten,” he was forthright and unembarrassed, “In some stage of gotta have you,” he smiled through his tears. “Thank you,” I reached for his hand and squeezed. He was right, it was not that way for me but this time, there was no fastball to the head. This time, there was compassion for his heart and his willingness to share it with me. “I married the wrong woman,” Tony said. No you didn’t; I woulda killed you. “We are so much alike and so well matched.” No, we’re not. Really, trust me on this. Some philosophies purport we marry the perfect person, the one who lets us run our rackets and schemes. And that old adage “opposites attract,” points to opposing strong suits. “You’re mine,” he said so confident, “One day I’ll have you.” I calmed myself before speaking. “When you say that, it comes across like I have no say in the matter. I can’t tell you how uncomfortable that is.” We often think we can hear anything and have any conversation. The more likely truth is, we train people to avoid our boundaries. As my capacity for edgy conversations expanded, so too did the Christopher Columbus’ sailing to explore my edge. “Oh, I don’t mean anything by it,” he backpedaled, “You’re precious and I just want to love you.” Loving me and making love to me are completely separate issues… and I was uncertain I wanted either… with any. “How good are you willing to have it?” I asked Tom one day. “Like, how much love can you stand?” “Not that much I guess,” he squirmed. “So if love doesn’t match your picture; you throw it out?” His constant complaining was tiresome and earned him the moniker: curmudgeon. Not his real self, the curmudgeon was a fixed way of being, a habit and crust to protect his soft, kneaded and gently baked heart. Beneath concrete, I knew a man with twinkling eyes and tender thoughts. The world however, knew the curmudgeon. “Yeah, I guess I do,” he admitted thoughtfully. “What do you suppose the age of that conversation is?” “I don’t know,” he growled. “Like how old is the child who says, ‘If you don’t play my way, I’ll take my ball and go home!’” Silence. “About five?” I offered, “Six?” “It’s easier… see, if I can’t have you the way I want you, it’s easier to make up a story about how you don’t want me and push you away.” “Understood. And then you don’t get the love I can and do give. This doesn’t have to be an all or nothing game… or does it?” This is a strategic game, this game of love fully-expressed within societal bounds. It’s a complex game with traps and treasure, rules and exceptions, dungeons and dragons, disappearing walls, expanding boundaries, shadow play and shackles, kings and queens. A full ten-months later, the Partnership Exploration Course was dismissed for lunch. “You single people are scheming for hot-sex all the time,” Angela laughed from stage. “And you married people have the vehicle for it and don’t understand why you don’t have hot-sex all the time.” I traipsed to the pool, to spend 90-minutes in sun filtered through LA’s smog. Ron was long and lean, the body habitus that reliably pings my radar all day, every day. He wore a thick thatch of dark, wiry hair unparted and combed straight back, jeans and a plain, short-sleeved, button down shirt, sans tails. In a course of 300, he’d gone unnoticed. I read his a nametag. “Hi Ron,” I sat and stripped to my bikini. No Hi or Hello, no social small talk, Ron dove right in. “So what about you?” he asked in telltale Brooklyneese, “Are you interested in hot-sex all the time?” Deer… headlights. My eyes seized the size of saucers. Thank God for sunglasses. I paused and inhaled deeply the jet exhaust permeating the LAX surrounds. “You know,” I visibly calmed, “I am interested in hot-sex all the time but that seems to be attached to a committed relationship and I’m not so committed to that.” “That’s interesting,” he said, ending our conversation before it began. Not threatened, thoughtful. No fastball, simple truth. The vague smell of pipe tobacco always clings to clothes impeccably pressed and white lab coat, stiffly starched. His eyes always brighten when they find mine. Andar is a short, thick man with cropped silver hair and English usurped by Portugal. A broad, gold cross hangs from a substantial gold chain. He is soft spoken and unpresumptuous. I love his rolling R’s and dark, golden skin. I love too that he claims me for his slice of Portugal. On occasion, when my patient load is anything but overwhelming, we sip coffee in the hospital cafeteria. “I don’t suppose we could meet sometimes… outside the hospital?” “I don’t think that’s a good idea Andar.” I shook my head. “I’m very good with tools,” he stammered, “If you need help fixing things.” I watched him struggle, stumbling over his words. I forced myself to silence, to let him finish. He probed the woody grain of his chair with a fingernail. “In your house,” he glanced up momentarily, “In your yard. You have my pager; you call me. Sometimes is good to have a man around.” His smile was fleeting and sheepish. I smiled back. Married forty-something years, his union was no longer happy. Given the state of many marriages, one could surmise his unhappiness – spanned decades. Too long we ignore the slow leak at the seam. “At my age; where else I go?” He shrugged, palms skyward before returning them to work the wooden armrests with fingers as thick as sausage. Andar goes. He disappears for months, home to Portugal or Alaska’s inland passage. He loves to travel and returns filled with stories and life, the spark in his eye rekindled. Over many months, he’d settle into the drudgery of his work and marriage or they settled upon him, like dust on a comfortable old chair. Until another excursion called, an escape from drudgery and dust to that which breathed life into him once more. Behind halting, broken English and the façade of an aging man, beneath a morass of morals and mores, dressed in bright eyes and tentative courage, his shadow-self dipped a toe to test my waters. Pushback and resistance are automatic, like deep tendon reflexes. I always wrestle with my want, with swift, harsh hand, to reestablish immutable and immovable boundaries. And yet, is there any such thing? If there is one conversation for which I have compassion, it is this one. That of, not unrequited or unreturned love, but love seemingly tethered by societal expectation. There is an order to society at large that provides workability and structure to our relationships. We grow-up with fantastical pictures and fairy tales more convoluted and invasive than Jack’s beanstalk. When life does not match the picture, we have opinions of how life should be. How life should be rarely includes people that captivate us from their point of entry ad infinitum. God forbid they are gender opposite! And love doesn’t match our picture. How life should be never includes those, excepting our children, who capture our hearts Stockholm-style, a captured heart freely relinquished to one’s captor. And love doesn’t match our picture. How life should be excludes another’s spouse, albeit statistically prevalent. And love doesn’t match our picture. How life should be ignores friends who love. There is no condoning extra-marital, loving friendship of opposing genders, however common. And love doesn’t match our picture. We have rules for relationships. We reestablish boundaries, harshly, swiftly because to let them love us threatens… what does it threaten? “It challenge our assumptions of right and wrong,” Keoki asserted. “How much love can I have in my life?” I asked. “That’s a good question,” he said, “And one I struggle with myself.” “Can I let this man love me without pushback? There was no request of me; can I be with his love and care? Who says I have to cut him off and cut him out? And why my penchant for it?” “Thank you for your offer Andar; you are very kind. I appreciate that you care for me and want to take care of me. How lucky am I?” Our coffee mugs drained, he departed for Portugal. He will return with English folded in Portuguese like heavy cream in coffee. Listening to his stories will require both eyes and ears, watching the words form on his lips to extract English from brogue. I will love the resuscitation and rejuvenation in him and find nurturance in love that challenges my assumptions of right and wrong. How much love can I have? The more salient question is: how much love can I stand? Can I let them love me even when it doesn’t look like it should? Or thought it would? How much love can I have? As much as I can stop pushing away.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Life’s Just That Way

Life’s just that way. Who crooned those words, sliding silky-smooth into the stanza’s final measure? I can almost hear them, almost sing them, almost free them from neurofibrillary tangles in a forgotten snag of gray matter. I peg the song in the mid-80’s. I hear John Denver or Christopher Cross.

“We wake up every morning and rub noses,” Tim said, “And it’s so great because we never go to bed with incompletions.”
“And how long have you been married?” Barry asked. It was the question on the tip of every tongue and it’s implication hit me squarely across the cheek with a loud and resounding slap.
Barry has been married since God molded mud in Eden and he knew… he knew it couldn’t, wouldn’t last. Beneath his question and smug smile lay: just you wait you young upstart; you’ll see.

Swirling in a vortex of thought, carried swiftly offshore in a riptide of connected conversations, I could barely wade back to the current conversation. Barry’s question was telling for us all. Life’s just that way; isn’t it? We believe our relationship will be different and watch with best intentions and impotence as it slides from grace and love. We bumble along, playing the lead in a familiar motion picture, an inherited role and way of being learned from parents, grandparents and their predecessors.

“It’s so great to be with someone who gets me,” Tim continued unphased, “Someone who supports what I’m up to.”
I called him later to express what I heard, thought and felt.
“That’s it; isn’t it? To be with someone who gets you and supports what you’re up to.” Empowerment. Tears welled up and spilled down my cheeks. “It’s really what we all want.”
“Yeah,” Tim sounded wistful. “Thanks for getting that.”

I caught myself early on, in disagreement with and disapproval of my husband. Further, my behavior was disagreeable and disapproving. In a rare moment of clarity, I discovered my disapproval grew from familiarity, an inherited role and modeled behavior, one I’ve labeled: the Disapproving Chinese Wife or, when I am less generous, the Empress Dowager. I knew I didn’t want to be that.
The ranks of disapproving, wronged wives far outweigh the content and happy. In a model that looks for something’s wrong versus right, the result is both logical and predictable.
And the best performance by a leading man in a supporting role goes to: silent, withdrawn and enduring! A man’s man, those strong, silent, and aloof John Wayne-types we epitomize and love to love. John Wayne too, is an inherited role and way of being, equally unworkable and unknowingly mimicked because life’s just that way.

“You know,” I began with caution, “Every now and again we meet a couple who have been married forever and actually still love one another AND love is clearly visible. Like you can see the love that flows between them in their style of communication and the tenderness of their touch.”
Mark and I were newly acquainted and walked three blocks from the garage to a tiny restaurant of dark wood paneling, reputed for stellar seafood salads.
“And we think it’s rare and that they’re lucky.”
“It IS rare and that they ARE lucky,” he asserted.

 I could not disagree. The couples I knew with relationships effusive in kindness and love had, for the most part, stumbled unknowingly into them. In retrospect, communication with an intention for workability was key, the old adage: Never go to bed angry – a practice, and communication – seemingly excessive.
Erich Segal wrote: Love means you never have to say you’re sorry – a formula for pale and pathetic love – and so very John Wayne.

“I think they have a set of tools that are foreign to the masses,” I said. “Those tools are available now, from a sundry of sources and… I notice we’re not all racing to get them.”
“Nobody wants to work at this,” Mark snapped.
“The truth is, we are always working on something,” I countered, “Working on being right, working on making the other wrong, working on being angry or difficult. We could work on being loving and having love present.”

“Why are you talking to me about this?” Mark stopped mid-stride and turned to me.
“Because something you said made me believe you’d be interested in this conversation.”
          That something was elusive, nothing specific but a hint, gossamer that Mark suffered in his marriage. His subtle omissions, an undercurrent of disequilibrium, like a man with one foot in the boat engaged in the tricky business of balance. He looked like a man trying to manage something. The life of a mahout – managing the large, pink elephant defecating on the living room floor.

We stood on a crowded street corner, beneath the midday sun of a crisp spring day and even Earth seemed to stop hurtling through space.
“I am so alone in my marriage,” his voice cracked with his heart. “I sleep alone, I do all the cooking and cleaning. My wife works six twelve-hour-shifts a week and … she doesn’t have to. She doesn’t even have to work!” he spat. The bilious bitterness in his words scorched the pavement.
“How long have you been living like that?” I recalled pictures of his daughter, nineteen and beautifully sporting her father’s pert nose.
“Years,” his brows knitted with dis-ease.
Suddenly the endless acquisition: the boats, the cars, the homes, the dress shirts – one in every color – made a certain kind of tragic sense.
Watch each one reach for creature comforts, for the filling of their holes. ~Peter Gabriel, In the Blood of Eden
“Mark, can I tell you about the Landmark Forum over lunch?”

Ping! Brent was hard to miss, towering six-foot-and-ten over the queue for our northbound flight. Handsome, lean, athletic, darkly tanned in shorts, t-shirt, Tevas and buried in a paperback; he beautifully bore all indices for a sonar ping. Did I mention tall? I could naught but notice. Boarding thirty people before me, I was surprised to come upon him in the emergency-exit-row with adjacent empty seats.
“You’re no dummy; huh?” I opened the conversation with a smile.
“Nope, I know where I fit,” he smiled back.
“Bet you do. May I?” Brent stood to let me pass. There was no getting around his infinitely long appendages otherwise.
“Lorin,” I extended a hand.
“Brent.” My hand disappeared into his uncallused, dinner-plate of a hand. OMG!
“My girlfriend Kendra is behind me. Okay if we save this seat?” I motioned to the one between us. Kendra would love sitting next to Brent; any woman would.

We were returning home following the completion of our yearlong Partnership Exploration Course. Effervescent and bubbling in it’s finality, Brent asked about our course. It naturally led into a conversation and invitation for an introduction to the Landmark Forum.
“The Landmark Forum is a guided dialogue that can forever change the point of view from which you live,” I proffered, “And it does this reliably, weekend after weekend, after weekend.” Brent was clearly interested and clearly stopped.

"How would you feel if your husband was on a trip and talking to two women?"
“Are you concerned with presenting this invitation to your wife?” I was aghast.
“Well, yes.” Brent’s face turned somber. “How am I going to explain that I was talking to two women on the plane and they invited me to something?”
“Correction,” Kendra help up a finger, “Invited you both.”
“I know, but do you know what I mean?”

I knew exactly what he meant. Jealousy will sour love faster than heat sours milk. There is no appeasing a jealous spouse.
“You tell her the truth; just like that,” I snapped my fingers. Brent rolled his eyes and gave me the look, a look that clearly communicated the conversation would be fraught with danger.

“Brent; are you not allowed to talk strangers?” My question caught him off guard. “Are you allowed to speak only to people your wife knows and only do things with her approval?” He paused and responded slowly.
“I’m away a lot; I travel for business quite a bit. And while I have never been unfaithful, she is so suspicious. She would be upset if she knew I was talking to two women.”
My eye roll was unintentional, automatic, autonomic methinks, and completely indiscreet.

This watchfulness of women for betrayal is an ancient trait – try Paleolithic – when women, both weaker and smaller, were dependent upon men for survival. While we’ve come a long way baby, we’ve come not far at all.
The jilted wife is an uncommon scenario though we act like it’s frequent and imminent. Women watch for and fear betrayal. Life’s just that way. We leave our men like Brent, feeling like he can never do or say enough for his woman to feel safe and sure.
While we gossip about our men and their shortcomings, airing our grievances and fears that they might leave, there is one conversation that seems notably absent. That conversation is akin to this: Who would I have to be for him to want to stay, not from duty, default, inertia or piety, but with all his heart? Am I willing? Can we make that work?
Ultimately, the fear of inquiry, our unwillingness to look, and our attachments to the way things ought to be, keep us stuck.

“She quit working after we married,” Brent’s voice pulled me back. “Now she sits home and waits for me.”
“That’s a pretty small life,” I commented.
“No kidding. Don’t get me wrong,” he raised a large hand, “I love my wife and there is a lot that works but obviously, my marriage is not what it could be if I have this concern and… I’m not the best communicator. You know, I keep my mouth shut and try to keep the peace.”

Funny, my Dad said the same thing at his 50th wedding anniversary party. When asked to share how they made it to their golden anniversary my mother spoke of compromise. My father’s statement was much more telling and classic John Wayne, “Shut up and do what you’re told.” The crowd laughed. I wept.
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. ~Thoreau

“Honestly Brent,” I said in earnest, “A married man is married... not dead. I don't expect him to forgo meeting people, talking to people, being interested in people and generally having a life. A married man is married,” I gathered momentum and steam, “Not imprisoned - though sometimes the difference is difficult to discern. When a married man is not free to express himself for fear of being misconstrued, misinterpreted, maligned or any number of things, he begins to live a life smaller than his capacity. That is a sad day in his community. Does this communicate?”

Brent’s eyes grew. “You’ve touched on a topic that is very dear to me,” he responded with unusual candor. “This living a life smaller than my capacity has definitely been an issue. I am so easy-going that unfortunately, internalizing this has not helped my relationships, past or present.  OK therapists,” he smiled broadly, “I can tell it will take a few more flights up and down the coast to really get into this.”
“Here's the thing Brent,” I nailed him with my eyes, “You get to say how your life goes. You get to choose. You have been more than forthcoming and you’re such a good sport. Please accept our invitation when it suits you, to check out the Landmark Forum. It’s quite a remarkable weekend that few regret and it pulls far more relationships together than apart.”

We swapped emails and I sent the particulars for he and his wife to join us. He never did; nor did Mark. I can only surmise why two men in difficult marriages would not attend an evening that might give them tools and access to something beyond their current situation. To do so would require venturing beyond the familiar and we are none to keen on that.
Ultimately, we do not believe those rare and lucky relationships are possible or we would clamor for one. I’ve got what I’ve got and life’s just that way. Nor are we willing to trade our difficulties, the endurable and tolerable known, for the unknown.

My conversations on the other side of the yearlong Partnership Exploration Course, an exploration into communication as the bridge to partnership, are less formulaic. My boundaries have expanded. I am less willing to ignore these uncomfortable conversations that hang in the air, waiting with bated breath, begging a voice. Once broached, these out-of-bounds conversations are surprisingly transparent. The ease with which transparency and vulnerability occurs points to something akin to breadcrumbs – indicative of right path-finding.
My Mother was right in pointing to compromise. Workability however, is much more useful. While they seem one and the same, they are distinctly and critically different.

“We HAVE to set a lunch date for July,” I insisted. “The…,” I hesitated, What to call the Yummy Men? – that group of delicious men with whom I regularly dine –  “… cadre is clamoring and I cannot schedule anyone until I schedule you.”
“Why? Because I’m the most difficult?”
“Um, because I say and because you’re schedule can certainly be difficult.”
“Am I the most difficult person you deal with?” 
I,” I stabbed my chest with my thumb, “Am the most difficult person I deal with.” We laughed.
“Am I the second most difficult person you deal with?” Good Lord he was determined.
“You – are the person I manage with the most joy and the most difficulty, but the difficulty is me, not you.”

I am clear that loving relationships are about capacity: the capacity to love and be loved, to give and take, to contribute and allow contribution, to risk full self-expression and listen to the degree that the other is left feeling heard and known.
I notice that in relationship, we tend to do what we do, whether it works or not. We seldom, if ever, willingly put ourselves into counseling, therapy, coursework, or anything that might disrupt our habitual ways of being and dismantle the unworkable. Far easier to blame others than face that The Empress Dowager and John Wayne, as models for behavior, do not work.

Tim was right when he pointed at incompletions, that is, upsets that have not been addressed and managed to everyone’s satisfaction. We make messes and let them fester and boil. We keep quiet and wait for upsets to blow over. That’s the fallacy, they don’t. Upsets have a sticky quality, a residue that wraps us in web and sucks the love from our lives.
We have a saying: get off it with velocity. The velocity with which we address and clean our messes is directly proportional to happy and loving relationships.

“How this work occurs for me,” I said, looking into 300 expectant faces, “Is like taking a sledgehammer to my concrete. Before the Landmark Forum I had walls, lots of them, and as they are dismantled, something else is possible.”

My friend and Wisdom Course leader Joan says, “Resignation and cynicism are the familiar path of most relationships. If you are going to have a life that works, you must be willing to hold others to account and be held to account. There is an exquisite life on the other side of this but it is not for the faint of heart.”

Long before our first syllable, we are born instinctively to communicate. We grow in communication, learn through communication, marry in communication, divorce in communication, thrive in communication, live alone or in community - all within communication... or not. Learning to communicate effectively, lovingly, with an intention to support and empower is wise, generous, and infinitely satisfying. Oh, to be that.

“Be surprised by something,” I challenged.
“Find uncommon peace and joy,” he charged before boarding his plane.
“I’ll be on the lookout for it.”
“Oh, it’s there!”
They are here methinks, uncommon peace and joy are here, beneath the rubble and fractured concrete.

Life’s just that way. Neurofibrillaries untangled! Christopher Cross, on the album of the same name. Song: I Really Don’t Know Anymore. Co-crooned with Michael McDonald, 1979.

Friday, June 19, 2009

MasterCard Moments

The sun in heaven methought, was loth to set, but stayed and made the western welkin blush. By my buddy Bill er…Shakespeare. I love running with the setting sun. Much of my time on the high school track and marathon training encompassed these hours when Earth seems to expel a long sigh before nestling in for night. The madness of man slows, children are hauled unwillingly home to sup, Maui, warrior-god, extinguishes sun in sea and Earth reclaims herself. I arrived to a honking fanfare, geese heralding the hour, as birds are wont to do. I run year round at a small reservoir, excepting when snow drives a lioness from the high country to prowl its banks and circumferential dirt track. “How do you know it’s a mountain lion?” Herb asked one February. “Look,” I squatted over its tracks. “See how round these pads are? The entire print is round. And, no toenails.” I nearly covered the print with my palm. “That’s a big cat,” I brandished my palm at him. “Look at this dog print.” I pointed to well defined tracks in mud. “See how narrow and long it is? See the shape of its pads? Plus… toenails. Keep running,” I rose and started again, “I’ll show you her cub.” We stopped to examine a pile of poop. “This is probably coyote scat, see the fur? If there were no fur, I’d say it was dog pooh. See how it’s pinched at the ends? Some of these larger dog tracks are probably coyote.” We continued our jog. “This is probably mountain lion scat. It’s more round than dog and coyote, it’s segmented, there’s fur in it and the ends aren’t pinched." “How do you know all this?” Herb was incredulous. I shrugged, “Coz I spend time in the mountains. Here’s the cub.” We stopped for a small, round paw print that remained untrampled by frenzied dogs. “That makes her super dangerous, if she’s hunting to feed a cub. So I don’t run here alone during the winter, unless it’s bright and mid-day. This is the second winter I’ve seen her tracks.” “Have you seen her?” “No, thank God. I figure if I see her, I’m a mountain lion morsel.” “Have you called Fish and Game?” “I did last year but they were only interested in sightings, not tracks.” That the reservoir abutted a high school seemed of little consequence. Guess that’s just deserts for intruding upon their habitat. Aren’t you gents just a little tardy gettin’ outta Dodge? I addressed the ganders and their flock telepathically in my first quarter mile. As if in agreement, with a rush of flapping, splashing and squawking, they began a short run-on-water that reluctantly released them to the sky. Directly in their flight path, I froze. Wet wings beat a painfully low trajectory. Would they clear the small cliff at the western lake lip? Will they clear me? Two boys fishing from the ledge turned to grin before giving full attention to the low-flying bodies. In-coming! Like zeros on-approach for strafing. The cacophony grew with proximity and pitch. Fighting the urge to duck, our heads turned in unison with geese overhead and then beyond. They circled once, as if synchronizing watches and truing their compass. Tightening their formation, they honked a flight plan en route to a north-north-westerly summer holiday. I watched until their calls faded and formation disappeared, imprinting everything the moment held: Earth washed in burnt umber, the western welkin softly aglow, insects hovering in curtains over glassy water disturbed only by feeding fish. Oppressive heat released its grip on the day and I too, sighed. A southbound airliner, glinting gold, dragged a short con-trail and my thoughts back to running. Another quarter turn round the pond and I surveyed the small inlet where four adults – two couples with six goslings glided in the gathering gloam. Are their hatchlings early or late? No matter, now they would surely stay several months before a not-so-northern latitude beckoned. I thought, and not for the first time, about mates for life. Geese are one of sparingly few animals that mate for life, a long life. In stark contrast to certain insects that mate for a life that ends even as they copulate, bringing new meaning to the words: till death do us part. All of it swirled in my head as I lapped my Walden Pond thrice more and arrived home moments before nightfall. In listening for the knock of the Eternal, dawn and dusk have always held some magic for me, a glimpse through an open doorway, if you will. In seeking connection to the Eternal, running with the setting sun is a sure bet. In having a life fulfilled and one I love, recognizing and replicating such moments are… priceless.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Déjà vu or Vu jà-dé?

I bolted upright for a coughing jag that produced little but wakefulness. Reaching for inhalers, I heard myself wheeze. Never a bad time for petting, my cat jumped into bed, hopeful. I coughed again and listened to air rumble through mucus-plugged passages long after I stopped exhaling. My bronchial tree literally dripped and oozed in excretia that suffocated, like Spanish moss on deep swamp cypress. I inhaled deeply and coughed forcefully. The wet rattle should have produced gobs of goop. I sound like one of my patients. “Cough,” I encouraged them, “Harder! Cough that stuff up!” It sounds like such an easy fix, moving mucus from bronchioles to bronchus where it can be hawked up and out. I had no such luck; try though I might. In that moment, I saw my end. Ever experience déjà vu; that compelling sense of: I’ve been here before? This was vu jà-dé, the antithesis of déjà vu and presentiment of: this is where I’m going. In the stillness, solitude and silence of the predawn, within the dim dome of a single bulb, I suddenly saw myself: a tiny old woman, ribs protruding, racked by cough. Death by pneumonia; the most common death for seniors. And why not? “If you can’t sleep because you can’t breathe," I advised, "Or if you are afraid to sleep because you’re afraid you won’t breathe, you need to come in.” Well versed in sleeping upright during periods of respiratory distress, I knew the subjective difficulty in deciding when to seek medical attention. I attempted to give my patients an objective measure, a line drawn in the sands of seeking help. After two consecutive days of listening to my barking cough and raspy voice, Dr. Forrester slapped down his pen to ask pointedly, “Have you seen a pulmonologist?” “Five today,” I croaked, grinning. “Would you PLEASE seek medical attention outside your own cranium?” he pleaded. His fatherly advice was welcome and wise. “This is always the dilemma,” I spoke in a halting, hoarse whisper, “When to start steroids? My peak-flow-meter is up 30-points so I think I’m getting better.” “Wait a minute. Didn’t you just say you slept upright last night, for the first time?” he asked. I nodded silently, resting my vocal chords. “You’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. Start your steroids.” I never think clearly when asthma flares. My excellent deductive and diagnostic abilities are inversely proportional to mucus production. For this reason Kaiser has a policy contrary to the adage, Physician, heal thyself. Were I my own patient, I would chart: dysphonia, laryngitis in the vernacular. “I think it’s the propellant in my inhalers,” I said. “This only happens when I’m using my inhalers every three hours.” My physician friends disagreed, shaking their heads, “No, it’s your asthma.” “But I never used to get this way!” I protested. During the last decade my asthma worsened or I am less resistant to its predictable cascade when I entertain a respiratory illness. I say entertain because I am a reliable host for a solid month to a series of sleepless snoozes, the song of sleep deprivation, the dancing bacterial follies, a chorus of antibiotics, and curtain calls to a protracted standing ovation by salvation steroids. That’s entertainment! Emailing one’s doctor daily can purport and support a false sense of wellness. He wasn’t here to hear this… the gurgle so aptly named the death rattle. Sequential nights of coughing fits interrupted by succumbing sleep had wrung all resistance from me. I fell back to my pillow and closed my eyes. I would wake up in the morning… or I wouldn’t. I would open my eyes to my oak tree appliquéd against the sky… or not. Either was okay and no one would know the difference until I was missing from work. The feeling of apathy, complete and utter apathy was astounding. I emailed my doc in the morning and requested a visit: This is day 12. I need better meds for cough suppression. I have bilateral subconjunctival hemorrhages from coughing; I look ghastly and feel worse. Later that morning, he examined my eyes, ringed in vermillion. “You look pretty rough around the edges,” he shook his head. “How long has your voice been gone?” “I think today’s the fifth day.” I proffered my theory of dysphonia secondary to inhaler propellants. “Not your inhalers,” he disagreed, “It’s caused by inflammation of your entire bronchial tree including your larynx.” He stretched my steroidal course an additional week and prescribed narcotic cough meds. “Maybe you should have someone that you check-in with daily,” my Mother proposed, worried and helpless in her island home two-thousand miles away. I had never been so sick, never mucus-trapped to that degree, it scared me and I said so. A daily telephone check-in when I’m sick. It’s a sound plan and one I resist, as if it signals the end of an era of independence toward something more… dependent. I hear the longing you have now for a deeper sense of connectedness and interdependence, a friend wrote. Nuh-uh! I have an automatic way of being called: I do by myself. It is the conversation of a two-year-old. Life does not go well when she rules. In the evolution of man and society, women have never survived independently without a man or tribe. That we do now or think we can… is an illusion. We are pack animals by nature and no different from the days of Christ, we still live in tribes. The two-year-old has grown into a content cave woman. Connectedness and interdependence rise solely in my recognition and disassembly of that which keeps me isolated. A vu jà- presents a jarring opportunity to assess one’s course. I have some years before I am that tiny old woman with protruding ribs, racked by cough, and apathetic to the sunrise. I am 2400 air-miles from my tribe and I am surrounded by kin. I can live alone on the ice flow or join the clan. Welcome to the human race for the grave, one that perhaps produces something meaningful on its way and in its wake. What we remember with relish in the stillness, solitude and silence of the predawn, within the dim dome of a single bulb, will not be our acquisitions but undoubtedly, those relationships of deeper connectedness and interdependence. The richness of life pre-packaged in meaningful relationships.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorialize Peace

In a patriotic display, I dressed for work in a vest of red, white and blue, with an American flag placard across the chest. Then I thought that on the day we memorialize our war dead, I would wear a t-shirt emblazoned with a gigantic peace symbol. Worn not in disrespect, for I too am a vet, but as a statement for peace, for a time when ‘war dead’ is an archaic phrase relegated to history. A t-shirt that screams for peace. On this Memorial Day I stand for peace. Peace at home and abroad. May we have peace in our homes, in our countries, in our world, in our lives in our lifetime. Peaceful people: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them. Pax.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

On Stewardship – a myopic view.

“If you ask God for healing,” my Aunt said, eyes aflame with conviction, “He will do it. He will give you a new kidney, grow you a new one, right next to your old one.” A magic bean, like Jack and the Beanstalk, and just that simple. I was tempted to Google medical miracles and divine donations. Steeped in science, I believe organ donations arrive on ice in coolers, with tissue classifications of cadaveric, bovine, porcine, or live human, not immaculate implantation by divine intervention. Call me skeptical. I have sometimes felt my God lowly and insufficient because my tongue is not Tongues, my Jesus of colors and his ‘Father’ androgynous, because my faith flows in Technicolor, unconstrained by traditional lines of black and white pressed on fragile pages between covers by St. James, because I am unwilling to condemn gays or Buddhists, because… “Because my faith is much broader than that,” I defended. “Jesus was very inclusive; religion tends to be very exclusive. And I’m so tired of: we’re going to heaven and you’re not.” I felt my God would be unwelcome in church. Though quite frankly, if I met Her on the street, I might not be welcoming either. But lowly and insufficient was anything but, during this conversation for miraculous healing. I felt Aunt Millie’s genuine love and unflappable belief that God would deliver a kidney for supplication like a can of beans tendered at the grocer. And… I am far too cynical to ask for a new bean grown right next to the old one. “If you really believe and ask for a miracle,” the elders said, “You’ll be healed.” We were high school seniors when leukemia was spotted like a vulture circling carrion. We loved Jesus with the untainted zeal of youth. Even then, I thought it too great a burden to heap on her diminutive and diminishing frame. For life to pivot on her faith or lack there of, that she alone was responsible and thereby… destined to become her own executioner. Wendy died before graduation. I never bargained with God again. Life is, after all, a terminal disease. Why bargain? “I wonder how both my kidneys quit at the same time?” Mom asked. “They didn’t, you’ve been killing them for a decade.” I was frustrated and angry. “Well, I have to die from something, it may as well be from renal failure,” she said, so nonchalant. “Besides, I don’t want to eat like you; your diet is boring!” The medical community considers a hemodialysis patient within the nuclear family, medically significant family history. A prognosticator of sorts. I bargained, as if coercing and cajoling her to mindful, conscious eating would camouflage the trail of genetic breadcrumbs and prevent The Fates from connecting the dots, the indisputable carbon polymer linking me to she. So lucky to live in this body, I thought, to really live in this body, to feel its call and live responsively and responsibly. I began eating a ‘boring’ renal diet and avoiding nephrotoxins decades before medical science affixed its diagnosis and prognosis to me and my medical record. My diet is perfect, including everything I desire, excluded nothing I can’t live without. My body is perfect, or as perfect as I can coerce and cajole it to be. I am stable, healthy and planning to summit the highest mountain in the lower-48 in two months. That’s healthy and fit… and not without stuff to manage. “Guess I won’t make it to ninety,” Mom said, “I’ll be the first.” Blessed with good health and longevity, death was always relegated to the far distant future. “It’s unlikely unless you change something. I can coach you on this diet,” I offered. “I don’t want to.” She doesn’t want to, I emailed my sister. I felt sorry for the burden of care Gina would bear, dialysis appointments, doctor visits, and watching Mom’s life-force siphoned away, filtered from her blood in just a few years. “How will you get to dialysis?” I changed tack. “I’ll catch the bus,” her tone sharpened with annoyance. “Mom, you have no idea how bad people feel on dialysis. You won’t like life on dialysis and you sure as hell won’t feel good enough to get on a bus before or after your appointment. They are the walking dead,” I said, refusing to join their ranks, “The listless, the lifeless. I’m a No.” It was several days and conversations to sort myself from my anger and resentment. It’s all about me, my fears, my greatest fear, and my difficulty with the abuse and disregard for one’s body. “There is much automaticity to life,” Bert’s deep, Nordic baritone boomed from the stage. I attended a three-hour workshop entitled, All the World’s a Stage. The discourse concerned roles, our roles in life. “Catch,” he snatched at the air to his left with both hands. “Carry,” he rotated center, holding his imaginary catch chest-high. “Release,” he rotated right, opening his hands to free his prey. “Catch, carry, release,” he repeated the rotation, “Catch, carry, release. We are caught by a role, as if by the throat. We carry and use it for a time, until we stop and are released. Some roles, we never release. You think you are trapped and used by your roles. Consider that you use roles and believe you are victim to them.” Often my life is lived in reaction to fear and threat and I believe I am used by it. Catch. Were I not fearful of hemodialysis, I’d conjure a new demon. Were I not worried for one friend, I’d find another to fret for. Any demon, any fret will do as I carry my role, unwilling to release until a suitable substitute is located. How would life look without victimization to my roles? How would life feel for Mom and I, if I let her live without constant comment and red ink edits? “The thing that makes me so sad,” I confessed the following week, “Is that you still have so much life-force. Dialysis will remove that even as it removes the toxins from your blood. I expressed my sadness and fear as anger. I’m sorry.” “Well… I won’t need dialysis,” she said, “I have faith. God will heal me.” Catch, as if by the throat. I can, with amazing speed, ease and righteousness, point an accusatory finger at the faithful with tarnished relationships and gluttonous flesh. Carry. “If you have faith that God will heal you, you must also recognize that God has given you tools,” I seethed. “God gave you a medical plan, and a pharmacy plan, and a nutrition class, and a kidney class, and you haven’t used the tools that God gave you nor have you honored your body.” I was reminded of a joke circulating the internet in the wake of hurricane Katrina. A man sat on his roof to escape floodwaters. A rescuer came by on horseback and the man refused saying, “I have faith God will save me.” Later rescuers approached by boat and the man turned them away saying, “I have faith God will save me.” Finally, a helicopter hovered and he shunned it shouting, “I have faith God will save me.” Upon arrival at the pearly gates and entrance into Heaven, he asked, “Why didn’t you save me Lord?” And the Lord God said, “I sent a horse, a boat and a helicopter. What were you waiting for?” Does God knock? Are we listening? Do we hear? And if so, do we open the door? In the broad-brush application of stewardship against the grain of life, what is its color and boundary? In recent years, I noticed my friends were all very fit. I have come to know that I have little tolerance for otherwise. Using fitness as the sieve, as inclusionary criteria is a narrow therapeutic window for life with L.B., a very skinny gate to squeeze into my circle of friends. Caught, as if by the throat, in my very own version of us and them, I am no less exclusionary than the religions at which I point. Catch, carry, release. “Maybe I’ll go take that diet class again,” Mom said. “I’ll help you if you want.” Catch. It’s tricky business, asking favors of God. Did not the predeceased beseech and bargain for more? And to what avail? Death is always our next place and may well be our next best place. Carry. I appreciate and desire a peculiar level of impeccability in nearly every aspect life. That broad brush includes both physical and spiritual realms with a degree of congruency between them. Through that lens, I see it is not mine to cajole or coerce. Release. It is mine to sort myself out and return to love, and sort myself out and return to love, and sort myself out and return… always to return. That being said, my garage and many facets of my life are in disarray. Perhaps God-speak can appear quite ordinary, like a medical plan and renal dietician. Largely due to the parable, I often think of stewardship in reference to talents. Stewardship may paint the breadth of extremities, well beyond talents (ancient money) and talents (aptitude and skills), to the stuff and stuffing of life methinks. Stewardship may include honoring one’s body as the temple, not in narcissistic adoration but in gratitude for the gift it is. Stewardship may include tithing to that which brings centered, peaceful and loving coexistence with others. In practical application, this may be as simple as completing home repairs to create workability and thereby peace. Spiritual and relational home repairs bring another level of peace, a rare and recognizable exemplar of faith. Stewardship may include those intangibles like the listening of oneself and others with generosity and grace. Stewardship may include listening for the call of the Eternal in the ordinary. Does God knock? Are we listening? Do we hear? And if so, do we open the door? Perhaps asking for a new kidney is as simple as asking. Catch. I don’t ask because I am fearful of any and all possible answers. Carry. I am leery of all disruptions to my equilibrium and status quo, suspicious of any disturbance to living in the familiar and known. The degree to which I love impeccability reflects my efforts to control the uncertainty of life. Release. Stewardship asks that I honor that within me and be not used by it to separate and segregate. What does any of this have to do with asking for a new bean as my Aunt suggested? Catch. Does stewardship demand that I ask? Carry. Harrumph! Recognizing that my definition of stewardship is yet again another sieve… ah-haaa. Release! Note: before you flood me with notes of concern, re-read the paragraph that begins: So lucky to live in this body… All is well and I am well. And Mom? Well… she is as well as she is, isn’t she? xoxoxo! #