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! #

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Duck Soup Island Style

“Are you two dum-dum-dah-dah?” Ron asked to the tune of Here Comes the Bride. Ron & Pat stood before us, having spied us across the restaurant as they entered. My eyes flew wide in alarm, appalled at his audacity and hubris. “No,” I said with finality that should have ended his questioning. “Well, are you dating?” he grinned devilishly. “No,” I answered with an edge he should have heard. “Oh honey, don’t embarrass them,” Pat piped in. “Why aren’t you dating?” he persisted, “He’s a great guy!” “Got it. Thank you.” I did little to hide my growing irritation and swatted him like a pesky gnat. “You two would be great together,” he continued. “I’ve known him for years.” Tom and I reconnected in the Kaiser Roseville parking structure, ending a yearlong hiatus. Our food, newly delivered, steamed from the tabletop. “You two should date,” Ron waggled a finger with a parting shot, even as the hostess summoned. Why does this conversation make me see red? What has me hunker-down, defend, protect and want to kill? The dating conversation puts me on edge; is an edge. In this conversation, I am an unwillingly participant. I’ve attempted to establish a boundary and train others to avoid the topic that always delivers a shock to my collar. Obviously with little success. Duck Soup is a colloquialism of dubious origins, dating back to a 1902 cartoon. It conjures a popular island image of ducks floating in a large, soup-filled rice bowl, chopsticks laid across the lip. More akin to a sharp chopstick in the eye, the dating conversation is anything but duck soup. “Anyone catch your eye?” Jared asked as we looked out over the ballroom, into a sea of faces. “No.” “There are a hundred and twenty people in this room,” he squared up and faced off, “At least one-third of them men. And you mean to tell me not ONE MAN caught your eye?” My male friends often seemed frustrated, even angry at my disinterest in dating. “What about Chance?” Not a chance. I raised a brow and shot him a sidelong sneer. Monkey’s lip twitched, baring an incisor. I took a deep breath to calm us both. “Oh,” Jared bore a look of consternation, shaking his head, “He’s probably too pretty for you.” “I’m old enough to be his mother!” “How ‘bout him?” He pointed at a tall, thin man with a ponytail reaching mid-back. How ‘bout you let me do the choosing? I rolled my eyes. At least he chose a model featuring a long-and-lean chassis. “What about James?” “James?” I scowled, “Who’s James?” “Frank.” So much for long-and-lean. “Does he look like he owns a pair of used running shoes and a bicycle?” My words dripped with sarcasm. “You're so superficial,” Jared admonished before giving it a rest. Perhaps. But long-and-lean can point to something, something in which I have great interest: a commitment to fitness and an active lifestyle. I answered my cell-phone to a familiar voice. “What are you doing?” he asked. “I’m standing in the Apple Store; my Mac died.” “Can they fix it?” “Dunno yet. I’m waiting for my genius to perform the miracle of resurrection.” “Good Lord!” “Exactly.” “Okay, hope it works. So, how many people are there?” “Um…” I looked about, scanning Apple’s milling shoppers. “Lots, the place is packed.” Like mealy worms milling and drilling an apple. “About forty.” “How many guys?” Here we go. “Um… at least twenty-five.” “Anyone catch your eye?” Jared was nothing if not persistent. “No.” I responded easily without another look. Any long-and-lean man would have pinged my sonar upon entering. “You’re telling me there’s not ONE MAN in that store that interests you?” It was more accusation than question. I am so tired of defending this. What had I learned in Wisdom about bringing play to areas of life that are difficult? Suddenly the game appeared out of thin air, like 3-D, holographic chess. “Here’ the deal sweetie…” my words oozed, dipped in honey, sweetness, and irrefutable love, “They’re not you.” Check. “A-u-w,” he melted into a puddle. Checkmate! I knew he would never insist that an unknown, unseen man in the Apple Store was better than he. I win! People have no idea, would be surprised to learn, the frequency with which I am pushed into the conversation for dating… and why I’m not. The question: Are you dating yet? occurs with quotidian regularity. “Because laced within that question is the implication that I want to date, or need to date, that I am not whole and complete without a man… and I resent it!” I stood at the front of the room, venting my frustration at the Wisdom City Team. “I’m not the one saying I want to date. Y’all act like I live in an ivory tower, lamenting my lonely life, awaiting my white knight on his mighty steed. I’m not! I am fully engaged. I meet more men and have more men than I can manage and they are lovely, but how it occurs for me is: I’m not interested. I’m not a No-never; I’m a No-not-now. I know myself to be reliable to create another long-term relationship and partnership, but not now.” “Got it,” Joan leaned to one elbow and blinked slowly. “You know, there is a cultural conversation that if you are not in-relationship, there’s something wrong with you.” The City Team giggled. “No really,” she addressed them in earnest. “And we can hardly tolerate someone who’s not; like they need fixing or something. And we ask about dating to deal with our own discomfort because we don’t have any capacity to be uncomfortable. Is there anything else you want to say about this Lorin?” I wanted to scream, Get off my back! to drive the point home. “No, I think that’s it,” I said, returning to my seat. The City Team, all 80 of them, took to merciless pestering in their commitment to expand my capacity for discomfort. Damn them! Collin had expressed a similar sentiment. “Based on results,” I said over dinner, “I am reliable to create another long-term relationship; you are not.” “Maybe I don’t want one,” he wore a strained, pained look. “Maybe I’m not committed to relationships. Any relationship!” “Maybe you’re not,” I agreed, “It’s a good thing to know about yourself. If it’s true… quit dragging women through relationships with you.” “People approach me all the time and say, ‘There’s someone I want you to meet.’” Collin’s voice rose. “And I often think, what makes you think I want to meet anyone?” “Maybe that’s not a lack of commitment to relationship, maybe it’s a barrier to relationship, that’s in your blind spot, that you can’t see. There is an exercise coming your way called Limits to Participation – pay attention.” “I will,” he said with a genuine smile. Is my limit to participation secondary to a barrier residing in my blind spot? Like a growing cancer in my cranium, undetected until it’s inoperable? Until I’ve spent a lifetime alone? I am often unavailable and inaccessible on many, many fronts. “It comes up,” Pua said, “Because it’s a mismatch. It’s not consistent with what you’re committed to.” “I am not going to date someone just to make y’all happy!” I was exasperated and defensive. “I just haven’t met anyone I’m interested in, who is interested back. I don’t think I need to defend that. Listen, the bed’s not even cool before some find another partner. Like they’ve barely had time to launder the sheets. Nothing wrong with that?” And really, there is nothing wrong with that. We are social beings, pack animals with behaviors across a continuum. The behaviors in question represent opposing tails of the bell curve. “I have a cadre of men who cast a very long shadow,” I continued. “I see them regularly. They love me, support me, guide me, console me, help me, and want the world for me. With them I feel loved, wanted, desired, beautiful, all that. I don’t have to date to fill that hole and… none of them is my lover. Can I be content with the way things are? I can!” There is no paucity of people pointing to my foibles. “Why are you attracted to unavailable men?” I dunno, my Daddy complex? My Dad, a long and lean drink of water, is as unavailable as the dance is familiar. I didn’t know how to undo that. I could meet a wide variety of men in all shapes: check, sizes: check, and colors: check. I could have close relationships with non-athletic men: check. I could spend time with men of different educational backgrounds: check, and socio-economic levels: check. I could foster friendships with men outside my standard lanes of traffic: check. I could ask men out: check. I could accept dates: check. I could date men to whom I am not attracted: er… that seems like a pointless and futile exercise. “Why is this okay with you?” Wendell pressed, “Like, this is okay for right now.” “No, it’s not this is okay for right now, this IS right now,” I defended. “Right now is all there is and my life looks like this right now. It doesn’t quite match my picture… and there is nothing wrong, nothing broken, nothing lacking, no unmet expectations.” "But don't you missed being kissed and hugged and cuddled?" he asked. "We won't even talk about sex." "Of course." “But then you’re not even engaged.” As if the frenetic search for a mate is all there is. Certainly not a bad game but not the only game. “I don’t know how you can say that,” my heart zoomed, sending a flutter into my right carotid. “I am on the phone or attending a function up to five nights a week. That’s a lot of engagement. But I’m not on eHarmony or if that’s what you mean. I have no lack of men nor do I have trouble meeting them.” “But you’re not even interested,” he changed tack. Interest is an entirely different matter. “I was interested in Collin.” Wendell hated hearing about Collin. I was guilty of brandishing Collin like a proof-of-purchase that now and again, and contrary to urban legend, my sonar did indeed – ping. “Get over Collin already,” he scolded, “He’s unavailable in more ways than you can imagine.” Tall, dark, handsome, lean, aloof and unavailable. Purrfect! “I am over Collin; I was never stuck on Collin. But Collin got me out of the gate, for which I thanked him. Here’s what Collin proved: if I’m interested, I’ll saddle up. But for the most part… I ain’t interested. Is that the product of a barrier? I don’t know. But y’all act like I’m sitting in the duck blind and need help choosing my prey and pulling the trigger.” Duck soup: shooting ducks in a pond is duck soup. “What few seem to understand is: IT AIN’T DUCK SEASON!” That’s it; isn’t it? The what-is-so of it: it ain’t duck season. Shooting ducks in a target rich environment is an expedient starting point for making duck soup. Funny... no moah duck soup on da menu. (Said in my very best Charlie Chan.) Ah-so, no wondah no likey duck. Not everyone pulls a permit when hunting season opens. That the barren bed draws for another like a vortex may imply a universal law, to which I am at odds. Funny that common denotes normalcy, as if there is such a thing. Society presses and pressures with constant comment that relegates deviancy uncommon by virtue that it goes to ground, underground. Neither is better, only different points on the spectrum, once again. The noise of others, like a concerto in my head plays second fiddle to the rhythm of my heart. I am not moving to the duck waddle, the hunter’s dance, the fertility dance, the mattress mambo, or the moon dance. I move to the I-like-my-life-just-the-way-it-is-and-just-the-way-it-isn’t dance. No fixing, no defending. I sway to the tune of: blossom where you’re planted. There is a chord of deep contentment in that melody. Ha’ina ‘ia mai, ana ka puana la. My life, my song, my hula. I understand that my hula may be an acquired taste and not for general consumption. There are many, many halaus in which to dance. This is my halau: kick off your slippahs, take up your ti leaves, move da hips, bend da knees, tell da story in your hands… and dance with me. Happy Mother’s Day! Mahalo to my Mother, for birthing me, for raising me, for teaching me the love of books and quiet time, for instilling respect of my heritage and my elders, for allowing this tomboy to trade crinolines for footballs, for music and horseback riding lessons, for my 1st Kamaka ukulele and my love of family, for standing in women's rights long before the vogue, and for dancing a distinctive and synchronous hula. Fearless and progressive, Mom provided forward-flow to my life. Mahalo and Aloha Mom. Me puuwai na oe.