Take A Breath

breathI’m not afraid to die. I used to be frightened of the transition. But I’m not afraid to die anymore. Maybe it’s my age. I don’t know.

I had three large fears: death, failure, and being alone. Failure? Maybe that’s my age too, but one day I realized cash wasn’t the pot of the rainbow. Contentment was. So that left the fear of alone.

Well not anymore. Because I realized there is no alone. One day I realized there are other people on earth too. 7 billion of them. The people who stand beside me are here too. So I force the words past my pride and I say hello. We’ve been gathered together; synchronicity.

See I learned, once you’re emotionally unzipped, you’re free. You’re free to be truthful. You’re free to be authentic. The pressure that presses on your ribs is relieved. You can breathe with enlightened lungs. You can. Now, you’ll need to take deep breaths. But there’s a benevolence of breath. It isn’t contained by fences or borders or countries or continents. The man who walks beside you breathes alongside you. Two people standing side by side sharing the same sighs. Exhaled. Inhaled. Each taking turns. It’s as intimate as sex. Sharing body fluids. Not liquid but breezes that fluidly pass from lungs to lungs. Your breath is carried through my blood. Your hushed is in my heart. What you’ve breathed, I breathe.

Together we’re breathing Africa.

Together we’re breathing Asia.

Together we’re breathing Ireland.

Together we’re breathing Brazil.

Together we’re breathing Puerto Rico.

Together we’re breathing France.

Together we’re breathing Las Vegas.

We’re breathing hope. We’re breathing fear. We’re breathing love. We’re breathing war. We’re breathing terrorism. We’re breathing injustice.

Caught breaths and whispered worries and secondhand sorrows. Shared. We share the same aspirations; peace and love and justice and full and safe and trust and triumph. We must share those aspirations aloud. We must take a deep breath and wind those words. We’re standing here together. We’ll call it mouth-to-mouth recitation. You tell me what you’ve learned and I’ll tell you what I’ve learned. And together we’ll inspire and aspire.

Love.

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I fell in love today.

I sat on an examining table and I fell in love.  She took my vitals and I fell in love with her.

I fall in love every day.

Woman.

Man.

It doesn’t matter.  It’s not sexual; it’s emotional.  It’s not biological; it’s spiritual.

I fall in love every day.

When someone shares his or her humanity with me, I fall in love.

And it’s not infatuation.  I’m no longer overwhelmed by the view.  I’m accustomed to seeing a soul. Yet the weight hasn’t lessened.  When someone shares a moment of humanity, I fall profoundly in love.

And I don’t fall in love with most people.  Most people aren’t willing to share the essence of their souls. Most people are guarded; most people are afraid; most people live closed.

I guard myself from being guarded; I fear that I’m afraid; I know I’m close to being closed.  But I take each risk.

Because when our moments of humanity and vulnerability are shared, I feel God. I feel gathered together.  I sense the synchronicity of His divinity and I fall in love.

I fall into the love of God.

And hope and love and communion are resurrected from their deaths.

I know that God has come again.

I Want To Get High

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I’m thinking about buying a cane. Sometimes I feel so tired I lose my balance and sometimes I feel so weak my knees collapse. I don’t know if it’s the medicine or my heart. My cardiologist is hoping the medicine corrects my blood flow. Ironically, my blood has flowed through the ulcer on my toe for more than 10 weeks. My podiatrist is hoping the CPAP machine corrects my oxygen flow. I need oxygen in my extremities to heal my foot. I’m hoping for all that too.

But I have other hopes.

Yesterday I waited in line at the pharmacy to pick up my Dad’s medicine. I held myself erect by balancing my palm on the center island. I felt tired. It was a long day. I waited as a woman with three toddlers picked up their prescriptions. Finally they left the line and I advanced to the window. As soon as I started to speak I heard the woman yell, “You know it’s my turn! My cab is here! And you know it’s my turn!” I turned around as her three toddlers circled my feet. “Oh I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were still in line.” I returned to the center island. She ignored me and shouted at the pharmacy tech, “You knew I wasn’t finished! My cab is here! You knew it was my turn!” I apologized again from the center island. At that moment I considered a cane.

And I felt myself hate.

I hated her. I hated her attitude. I hated that she dismissed the apology I struggled to speak. I looked down at her son’s cherubic face and I hated myself for hating.

I will not live hating.

I will not die hating.

I turn on Facebook. It used to be fun. Now it’s all hate.

What happened to, “When they go low, we go high.”

Tonight I saw a friend of mine had liked a post. A man I didn’t know posted a rant. I dislike copy & paste. But these are his words and he can own them: “If someone is going to be a racist douche bag on my page, their employers will hear about it.” What? He’s going to report them? Inform on them? Where is this heading?

All the spite and hate spewed over Nordstroms. We’re closing in on McCarthyism. Guilt by association.

What happened to, “When they go low, we go high.”

I’m a liberal and I reject the hate.

We can debate. We can protest. We can stand. We can defeat. But we can’t hate.

Go high or go it alone.

This week I’ve sat beside three of my closest friends. I don’t need someone to listen to me. I have men who listen to me. I don’t need to have someone understand me. I have men who understand me. My friends have gone high. Tomorrow night I’ll sit beside the fourth friend. I’ve never watched any of the Star Wars films. Tomorrow night we’re ordering pizza and beginning with them in the order they were released.

I don’t like science fiction. But at least good and evil is clearly defined. In our contemporary culture there isn’t a side anymore. It’s all low.

My heart has physically broken but this hate will not beat it dead.

I’m going high.

(Photo courtesy of MLeighS)

American Idol

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So. Let’s do the math. Ready?

I’m a Roman Catholic. If I have a religious symbol  – (A statue of The Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God) in my house (a private space)– people protest my actions and tell me I worship idols.

But if someone wants to remove a religious symbol from a public space (A war memorial / cemetery) they’re protested because he’s “unchristian” and “removing God” from The United States.

What?

(Photo courtesy of  kariannphotography)

 

Colors My World

I don’t think of my past anymore. I’m too pressed by my present to contemplate where I’ve been. The play and rehearsals take my allotment of my creative time.

Yesterday I scheduled a rare daytime rehearsal. And I like to bring bottled water to my cast. I use my mouth so much I just assume they grow as dry throated as I do. Yesterday I ran late so I dashed into the local grocery store and I grabbed 4 chilled bottles from the cooler near the cashier. I swiped my debt card and waited for the bagger to place the bottles into a plastic sack. The grocery store hires baggers with special needs. I think it’s admirable and laudable. Yesterday I felt irritated. The young man struggled with his task and my temper ticked away the time. I grabbed the sack and raced out the door.

8577686249_ee25c50e85_bAnd I remembered my Aunt Margaret.

Aunt Margaret was my favorite aunt. My Father has two sisters. My Mother has a sister. Yet when I think of aunts my maternal grandmother’s sisters are at the forefront. My Grandmother – Mary Maxine (Fitzpatrick) George was the eldest of the clan and she had six sisters. And Aunt Margaret was next in line yet foremost in my heart. I loved my Aunt Margaret.

Aunt Margaret had a withered leg and a left arm that pulled up to her chest. She toddled in orthopedic shoes and secured her “pocketbook” with her stiffened elbow pit. She was strong of spirit and had a staunchly Catholic stance. Her limbs had withdrawn – her tenacity had not. She took me everywhere she went. She hadn’t replaced my Mother in my heart – but she had a prominent place alongside her.

Aunt Margaret would grab her pocketbook – and her keys – and me – and I’d ride alongside her as she ran her errands.

We lived in Junction City Kansas – not quite the south yet life was accented by more than southern colloquialisms. Junction City is the home of Fort Riley and I remember seeing soldiers on the downtown streets and servicemen’s wives in the downtown stores.

Yesterday I remembered 1969.

The Vietnam War. I was 7 years old.

My memories are impressionistic. Less Seurat and more Manet. Memories that are clearly defined but still clouded by colors. Yesterday I remembered my introduction to colors.

Kansas has oppressive heat in the summer. Short legged pants deny young skin respite from a sunbaked car seat. My Aunt Margaret drove her decade old Chevy. I sat at her side. She drove to the “Colored” section of town. I didn’t know what that meant. Aunt Margaret had a friend who ironed Aunt Margaret’s clothes and washed her laundry. On this day she was giving her friend a ride home. I don’t recall her friend’s name. I remember the color of her skin – I remembered they called each other Mrs. I remember she called me “Sugar.” And I remember she sat in the backseat. It was a pleasant ride. One filled with laughter and ease. It’s a memorable memory because I remembered going into a section of town – and Junction City was a small town – that I had never heard of and never visited.

I knew Aunt Margaret’s friend. I had seen her sit alongside Aunt Margaret at Mass each Sunday. Aunt Margaret would pick her up – accompany her to Mass – and take her home. We lived blocks from the church – Saint Xavier’s Catholic Church and my parents walked our family to Mass each Sunday.

I don’t know why I was in that car that day. But I remember it. I remember that I sat on the front seat and Aunt Margaret’s friend sat in the back. I remember the joy of their conversation and the awe I felt to hear adult conversations about subjects I didn’t understand. Words like hysterectomy and “female troubles.” I knew they were friends. But I didn’t feel like an interloper. It was as familiar as family.

I remembered Aunt Margaret yesterday. Yesterday I was irritated by a man with a withered mind as he struggled to complete a meaningless task. And as I rushed out the door I passed a bench. Two elderly women sat and waited for their ride.

I live in an affluent neighborhood. The neighborhood is in revolution. The young replace the old. Newly built assisted living facilities are being built with a rapidity that echoes schools and playgrounds during the baby boomers births. Vans travel from facility to facility and transport the elderly from need to need. Yesterday two elderly women waited to go back. I started to type home but I backspaced. They don’t have a home anymore. They have a place.

A day comes when active men and women no longer have activities and so the mundane task becomes an extraordinary achievement. And so the lonely dress for the event. Yesterday the elderly women sat side at side adorned with their Sunday clothes. One woman was black and one woman was white. Their conversation was animated and affectionate. I saw the similarities and I saw the distinction.

I wish I would have known to scoot my seat into the back. I could have watched both women as they bobbed their heads with laughter. I could have giggled as their shoulders shook with joy.

But I didn’t know. I was 7 years old.