The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Panic 1-1-1 September 7, 2014

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It’s the infinite possibility that gets me. The unfathomable, unknowable vastness of situations that exist – the organic events going on, right now, in the very spot of grass beneath my feet, the goings on of people and commerce in my town, across the whole state, the whole country, and at the same time all the like going on in other towns, in other countries, even on other continents… It’s the weather systems that surround our globe and the super-heated action taking place miles below our feet… and then of course some similar sort of activity also taking place on some other planet so far away that you could never even begin to comprehend how far away it is, much less come to understand and know all that goes on there, too. Oh, and then there’s the microscopic, unseen world that supports and makes up the world that we do see; events of commonplace chemistry and basic physics taking place that have unto themselves limitless interactions, relationships and morphing outcomes ceaselessly going on – no matter whether you’re paying attention or not. The whole bloody lot is always moving, reacting, growing, decaying…. Life always moves. And life is e-normous. Limitless, in fact, many would agree.

Which of course is fine, and all is as it should be, I suppose. Everything nests somehow into everything else, and therein lies the beauty of it all, the Godliness of it all. It’s just that it’s so much. And perhaps I’m short-circuiting or something, but lately I’m highly inclined to want to get a grip on how all of it works. Now I realize how silly that sounds, honestly, I do. But that’s the thing with problems that arise from your thinking process; they can be downright illogical. And no matter how illogical, the thinking still appears to be real to the thinker. And so that hyper-awareness of the largeness, the unknowability of it all then helps to tip me into that most unpleasant state of panic once again. I hate it, but can’t seem to stop it. I’m walking a fine line here, even in the wake of Robin William’s depression-related suicide – because I do not relish the idea of people thinking I’m crazy. But having panic attacks is in of itself is a kind of crazy – as is depression, or being manic. And so many of us suffer in some way during our lifetimes from some kind of mental health issue. So many of us have lived our own kind of crazy at one time or another. Really, how in hell can you live on this planet and not lose it from time to time?

These days, in addition to the run-of-the-mill panic attacks which come on through obviously stress-induced and rather specific situations, I’ve been finding that unremarkable events are also acting as triggers for my panic. Because, as I’ve just pointed out, nothing is really all that unremarkable when you think about it. I even find that glancing at clouds can frighten me, because I realize how big they themselves are, and how high up they are too, and I begin to experience a mild fear of heights even at that line of contemplation. Sort of a sympathetic vertigo, you might say. Conversely, when I try to pull my awareness back into my immediate sphere of experience (as a means of calming myself), I cannot help but then become acutely aware of the activity all about me – the activity of cells, the movement of insects (they by themselves spin me off into a world of disbelief and wonder – how in hell can something so tiny have all those systems packed inside? And don’t get me started on nano technology – the subject can literally make me light-headed and slightly dizzy. Really.). So my challenge then becomes how to tame this mental mess. And believe me, I’m working on it.

Sometimes, when my life’s a wreck or I can’t pull myself out of an undesirable situation, I try to imagine what advice I would give myself if I were somebody else. An objective outsider. Because as we all know it’s much easier to tell someone else how to change their life than to actually make those changes for yourself. ! Using that tactic, I find it’s easy to coach myself. And so I make a list of categories which might benefit from a little assessment: Financial, Professional, Physical, Spiritual.

Ok, number one: there’s a lot of uncertainty ahead, what with the Studio, the lack of a real job and income – and so it’s easy to understand how I might be panicking just a little. So what can I do? What action can I take to mitigate the financial stress? Cut down (on what?!, the cynical voice inside me bitches) on expenses, be frugal with all food, drive as little as possible, take extra piano students as I can. Ok. Not much, but something. And The Studio? I’m doing what I can; bought my first rolls of insulation, watched some YouTube vids, consulted a few pros and have assembled my tools. I’ll begin installing it this afternoon. The new electric lines are in, and the heating units go in next week. There’s networking to be done, so I need to meet with a couple of folks over the next month. I’m still a bit overwhelmed, but what more can I do right now? (If I began to contemplate the legal issues ahead I’d feel as if I were back to square one. Maybe the lesson here is ‘one step at a time’). At least I’m doing something, and the situation’s in hand.

Next is of course, are the health issues. The arthritis in my fingers has accelerated rapidly over the past month, and where before it was merely unsightly, now my knobby distal knuckles are warm and painful nearly all the time. I’m only responsible for playing three classes at school this year, but even so, with my fingers getting stuck in between the black notes and aching as they do, I wonder how it’ll work out. I’m back on the glucosamine regimen, plus have added some Chinese herbal supplements, topical applications of essential oils, I’ve begun acupuncture again and will shortly try a few rounds of electromagnetic therapy. I’m not sure how I’ll sustain such treatments on such a tight budget, but at least I’m underway. Doing what I can.

Also, I’ve gained a lot of weight over the past few months, and I’m a little frightened by it. So, again, what action should I take? I know, join the Y. Check. Joined at a discount, no less, thanks to the scholarship program (some red tape and hoops to jump through, but I’ve come to understand that being poor is in of itself a part-time job.) Ok. Done. Now, what to wear? I donned my old sports bra the other day, but I’m so much larger than I was the last time I wore it, the damn thing ripped in two when I tried it on. Ich. Ok. Just gotta replace it. An unforeseen expense, but as my local health-nut and excavator friend Al said to me this morning (on his cell phone in the middle of a 20 mile bike ride) “Just get a new one and keep going. Keep going.” Mom’s underwriting my new Weight Watchers membership – and that starts Monday. I simply cannot imagine going back to such an austere diet. I once lost 55 pounds on WW, after the birth of my son, so I know the culture well. (Atkins is more fun, but WW is more realistic and its success longer-lasting.) But honestly, it comes with hunger pangs and an undeniable lack of satisfaction. I suppose the loss of extra fat on my frame and improved numbers (bp and cholesterol) should make up for the near-constant feelings of hunger… that’s the idea I guess. And hopefully, after I’ve made movement a part of my routine, I’ll just plain feel better. I know it’s true, I’ve experienced it before, but it seems ridiculous to me from where I stand right now. Life without a few glasses of wine each day? Life with portions a mere quarter of the size I’m accustomed to? Sheesh. It’s but a day off, yet I still don’t believe it’s coming. I don’t suppose anyone is ever ready for major change. Just gotta jump in. (Or as my buddy Al would say, “pull the trigger”.)

Now to the spiritual part of the equation. Got much of that down I think; I spend a lot of time in nature, I express gratitude all over the place and I’m always reaching out to people and spreading kindness and love where I can. But I can’t lie; I’m still dealing with feelings of betrayal and anger towards my ex husband – I’m still upset that he doesn’t support us better, that our poverty is just fine with him and his parents. It still angers and frustrates me that I don’t have a partner, a spouse, someone to take up the slack every now and then, help with homework, maybe even vacuum or make dinner once in a while… And I know, as a student of basic spiritual concepts, that ultimately that shit comes back to me. But still, it’s on my plate, and six years later it’s a larger issue than I’d like to admit. And in addition to the forgiveness thing, maybe some mental silence might serve me too. I think I could muster ten minutes a day concentrating on nothing but my breathing. Twenty, probably not. But ten, yeah. And perhaps in the realm of intention, a little more controlled thought also might serve me well… That is to say, replacing the doom and gloom imaginings with lovely visions of what the Studio might look and feel like when it’s up and running and inhabited by happy folk. Ok. Begin minimal meditation practice. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Good. Sounds doable.

The list seems so short when I see it here, so why does it feel so daunting? And good Lord, it seems I’ve been through all this before. How have I not made more progress, I wonder? I remind myself that if I could just live panic-free and enjoy both mental and physical fitness, life might be a lot more enjoyable. Cuz right now, it’s only minimally so (hence the comfort of food and wine. We all know that drill). As I watch people go through the activities of their day, I often wonder: what is life like on the inside for them? What are their demons, their challenges? To what degree would they consider themselves to be content… happy? One cannot judge a book by its cover; I’m fairly sure no one is quite as put-together and problem-free as they might seem. But then again, maybe there is a sweet spot on the other side of all this self-improvement. Maybe one can be happy, content. Fit. All at the same time. At least one hopes.

Yesterday I saw a man riding his bicycle down our road. He was loaded down with stuff – a bedroll, bags, pieces of cloth, a crazy-looking horn, baskets brimming… Clearly, he was not out for a day ride. Unable to forget the cyclist, I turned around a couple of miles into my commute and doubled back in time to see him tackling the great cemetery hill – a hill which even as a healthy young child I would walk my bike up, rather than ride. I carefully passed him, pulled over to the side of the road and waited. I watched as he rode up the steep incline in a serpentine fashion. Interesting technique, I thought. He was actually making it up the hill – and with a full load, too. This person was impressive, and I had to meet him. He might be just the inspiration I needed.

As soon as he’d come down the other side of the hill, the man pulled into a church parking lot and disappeared around a corner. I walked around to the back, and announced myself first, lest the poor rider be seeking a bit of privacy to relieve himself perhaps… As I entered the church’s back yard, I saw this slender, tanned man sitting in the cool of the shade at a picnic table, a veritable banquet spread out before him. He was digging into some bread and hummus when I joined him. I learned that he was from Oakland, California, and had left the day after Christmas, last year. He’d made it to the Canadian east coast, and was now heading back. Altogether, he was very unaffected and matter-of-fact about his journey; when I asked him questions he answered them directly, and for the most part he didn’t seem aloof or coy, just possessed of a quieter nature, and perhaps exercising just the tiniest bit of caution in the face of my enthusiasm. I had so many questions for him, and had I not needed to get Elihu’s bass delivered to him in time for orchestra, I might have been a bit more focused with my inquiry.

Among the many things I wondered, the most prominent question was: what occupies your thoughts as you ride? He admitted to a certain incessant, repetitive nature to his thoughts, and offered that it was in fact, one of his main challenges. What criteria did he use to choose his route? How could he afford to do this? What had he done before? He was a little cryptic with some of his answers, but I sensed he was the sort of fellow who would have declined to answer if he felt it beyond his comfort. He told me that he’d just turned 65, so there “was no job to go back to now” as he was officially retired, but that he had worked in the flower industry. Still so enigmatic. As a day laborer? As the CEO of a company? In what way had he worked? He said he was “used to being outside” with his work. Ok. That narrowed it down some. But so many more questions burned, and as we got off into tangential topics of getting fit, perhaps having a dog to inspire daily activity, what programs might exist to help pay for the cost of a dog if I did get one, how different regions of the country dealt with recycling and such, I got further away from my informal interview and settled instead for a gentle, enjoyable conversation. How I had come to live here, how Chicago had been so brutally cold when he’d ridden through it last March… There wasn’t enough time to learn from him what I’d hoped. But I suppose there is no possible way to truly understand such an enormous undertaking unless you, well, undertake it. And perhaps that was the most important lesson here.

I gave him my card and encouraged him to stay in touch by email when he checked in with the world at his next library stop. I hoped so dearly that he would, but even if he didn’t, no matter. Phil had added to the quality and fullness of my life just through this simple meeting, and if I never heard from him again, this would have to be enough. It certainly was a dose of inspiration come to me at a time of need. Maybe that itself was more than enough.

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of ones popping up during my days – and my nighttimes, too. And while I’ve made an effort not to get too terribly esoteric in my writing here, nor to explore in-depth some ideas that have long been a part of my life – for fear of turning some folks off for good – I will admit a completely open mind when it comes to matters that our mainstream culture still doesn’t treat as legitimate. Like ghosts. Or apparitions that appear to people who are dying, and unexplained experiences like music in the air, or the scent of flowers – just as real as the real thing – arising from nowhere. Or like repeating numbers. I won’t go and tell you that I think God is directly communicating with me and offering me a personally targeted message in my time of introspection and need, but I will say that something is happening to me these days. I’ve seen the number 111 pop up in all sorts of places, and finally, it’s caught my attention. In fact, I’ve seen the number 111 appear so frequently over the past week, that I’ve taken to photographing it. I awoke last night at 1:11 and grabbed my camera. I am not nuts. It’s happening. A quick Google search helps fill things in, but still, I almost don’t even believe my own story. Have I been seeing what I want to see? Have I been exaggerating the truth? Am I just looking for help, in any form at all? Am I leading the witness?

In the end, who really knows? No one. It’s just one more event taking place in this endless maelstrom of life. And happily, it doesn’t make me panic. Instead, it gives me a tiny seed of hope. And that’s something I need to cultivate these days. So who cares where it comes from? I’m going to take it as a little knowing wink from the universe telling me that things are going to work out just fine, and I’m going to keep on moving forward into this worldly adventure, taking each moment one by one… by one.

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Too Big September 10, 2013

So while I may have been feeling a little small and insignificant just two days ago, this evening I find my world so full that I’m hard-pressed to indulge myself in such concerns. I have gone from having virtually no work (perhaps contributing to the feeling of being a bit useless and small) to having almost more than I can handle. It’s kind of a shame that the work doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot of income (not saying it’s not appreciated, but it’s a small wage after taxes), but at the very least the work requires I use my brain, fingers and talent once again, and that certainly has value in of itself. I also get to be near my son, and become more involved with his school. That too is a good thing. My new job is essentially my old one; I’m playing piano for the movement classes at my son’s school. But now I’m playing for the high school as well as the lower school, plus accompanying a folk dance class, monitoring recess and playing for after school chorus too. It’s a position that just opened up all of a sudden, as the gal I’m replacing had family concerns she could no longer put off. And to think just days ago I was swimming in my own time. Not any more. While I’m a bit concerned about how I’ll how manage to get all the ‘regular life’ stuff done now that I’m working (not to mention make an elaborate Halloween costume over the next several weeks), I remember that old adage ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy person’. Today it seems I’ve lived up to it.

I’m almost done. I’ve been through a lot since I got up at six-thirty this morning. In addition to a full day of work (which in these first days ‘back’ is quite challenging for me as I’ve never been great at reading music – especially not to tempo and ready to go without much prep) I’ve taken my son to the dentist, dropped some donations off at a shelter, done the usual run of housework (dishes in particular are going to be tricky to stay on top of with a ‘real’ work schedule), practiced the piano for a good hour, assisted with homework, made supper plus picked apples from our trees, baked a pie with em, got the chickens in, eggs collected, washed and put in cartons. Makin a gun with my fingers and blowing away the imaginary smoke… Now one final pile of laundry sits on the bed. I got enough in me to see that through. Cuz I aint gonna to be this close and not finish the job. Yeah, my life suddenly got a whole lot bigger, and my personal sphere of influence is definitely larger than it was the day before yesterday.

On Sunday, Elihu and I went on a tour of some local water gardens. Having just added a little pond to our own homestead, we thought it might be fun to see what other folks had done. The tour was self-directed; we started at a neighboring town’s historical society and were given a map. We then made our way to the ponds and watergardens on the list at our own pace. The weather was of that lovely late summer, early fall sort…. sunny and warm with a chill at the end of the breeze. We lingered at each site, chatting with the owners, admiring their gardens, asking them questions and just enjoying the company of people. The tour culminated in a barbecue. It was a fun day, but as Elihu’d had a sleepover the night before (and therefore had not truly slept), he was more than tired at the end of our day. We came home and sat on the couch. He got onto my lap and laid his head on my shoulder. He was wiped out. “Carry me into the bedroom?” he asked, in a small voice. I considered it for only the briefest moment, but then realized that I could not. He was too big. Just when did this happen? I can never remember a time when I couldn’t just pick him up and carry him. Hadn’t I been doing this all of his life? I thought back over the past half year or so… I couldn’t put my finger on the last time it was that I carried him. Just which time, I wondered, was the final time? It was hard to believe. We were here at last. Kinda thought it would never come. My son had grown too much for me to carry anymore. He was just too big.

Things change all the time, and all around us, although we can’t always percieve it happening.  Situations weave in and out of each other, resulting in still more change and unforseen consequences… Things that once seemed bad now appear to open up opportunities for good, lean times morph into eras of bounty. The cold of winter becomes the heat of summer in imperceptible increments. You look up one day and wonder where you were while all this change was going on, cuz you don’t quite remember it happening. Yet all of a sudden, you notice that things are different. But that’s ok, you get it. You adjust. Life is just doing what it does, after all. Moving along… And you know that more change is coming, because it always does, at some point. Sometimes the impending change makes you nostalgic, sometimes it can give you the happiest sort of anticipation which nearly bursts from your chest… Either way, and no matter how contrary it may seem in the still of this very moment, you can be sure that things will one day be different. Things once too small will one day become things too big.

 

Small September 8, 2013

Man, do I feel small right now. As in tiny. Really tiny.

Like you, I do realize that everyone is equally significant in the world. Yeah, I know that each one of us is unique, and no matter how small our own roles may seem here on Earth, our job – to simply be, as we are – is just as important as anyone else’s who lives here too – regardless of their station, status and wealth. So if I get that – if I truly believe that each one of us has our thing, that each one of us is doing exactly what we should be doing simply by being – then why do I feel so tiny and irrelevant right now? Why do I feel I’m somehow not doing what I should be doing? Well, there is something helping me to feel this way… I can’t say my mood is a total surprise.

The likely culprit would be last Spring’s issue of Time magazine in which they present the 100 most influential people on the planet in 2013. Picked it up innocently enough at a friend’s house, and before long was fully immersed and eager to read the whole thing. Bursting with short articles, supportive blurbs, visually loaded charts and cute, cartoony diagrams that helped one get a clearer visualization of just how influential these folks were – it was hard to ignore the growing sense of my own non-accomplishment as I compared my virtually non-existent numbers to theirs. Of course I was comparing apples to oranges. And of course I had, at the point of having read the entire edition cover-to-cover, forgotten completely the aforementioned philosophy at the top of this page…. My process went from experiencing awe to feeling bewilderment to a sudden and very unpleasant vision of myself as professional ‘doer-of-not-too-terribly-much-all-that-important’. While I can’t say that the issue wasn’t inspiring on some level, I can easily say that it was deflating on another.

Good spiritual folk advise to be happy for the achievements of our fellow humans. That bearing joyful witness to their accomplishments in turn lifts us up and personally benefits us energetically as well. That to be jealous of their success (which puts out the negative, non-supportive sort of energy that goes with those feelings) will only make our own plight worse. Like shooting ourselves in the foot, emotionally speaking. Furthermore, the positive or negative energy we feel or express also helps to alter the emotional atmosphere of our entire species. Kind of like the way a single drop, while seemingly meaningless on its own, is crucial in creating water. (When explaining to my son why we should vote, I offer that if every drop in the ocean felt as if it had no purpose and it would go elsewhere, then we’d have no oceans. I find that I even have to remind myself of this when election day rolls around.) Yeah, I know all this, and of course it makes sense to at the very least give folks props for their achievements, but I’m behaving like a spoiled child at all this success. I’m utterly lost as to what it is a CEO even does, let alone begin to imagine what it’s like to live with so much money that you simply don’t have to worry about basic needs. We seem to inhabit far different worlds, these influential folks and me.

I recognize the self pity aspect of my reaction. And I don’t let myself completely off the hook. But still, I do allow myself a night of feeling small. Last night the feeling was keen and fresh, but as I’d thought might be the case, in the morning’s light I feel restored, more hopeful about my own intimate prospects, and a bit less insignificant. I am, after all, very important to the people in my family, and I have one young person dependent upon me to advocate for him, to love him. And cook him supper too. ! I see the tiny tooth marks of our resident chipmunk, Gwendolyn, on a freshly picked pear I’d left out overnight, and my heart softens. How tiny we are indeed, in this vast world… but our very homestead itself is a virtual universe, and each one of us has our role to play. I look out at the horizon, the mountains beyond. And it occurs to me that in spite of all the chaos and activity – and success – of my fellow humans, toiling about so madly on this globe – that no matter where on Earth you visit, it is always possible to find the sky. To look out over a yard, or treetops, or even a city, and see the infinite, right there… And you, as its witness, seem to be the only person in it. It seems to exist all for you alone. And truly, it might be correct to assume it does. And that you are the only one. In our world of duality, we are alone, and we are one, all at the same time. We can share in the joy of each others accomplishments (oh, how linked and dependent upon each other we are! Going it on our own would be more dire than the harshest episode of Survivor, I can assure you!) yet we can approach the world as if it were our own, private classroom of potential, and choose to feel that all its resources can be ours if we do things just so….

Well. At least I know this stuff. Living by it, that’s another thing entirely. I don’t always walk my talk for sure. But I get it, and at least that helps me in the wake of my witness to all that off-the-charts (or on-the-charts, I should say) achievement. Yeeps. I’m still a little overwhelmed with the scope of this world. It still makes me nervous, it still challenges my sense of self-worth and meaning. But I acknowledge it, try to improve my outlook just the teensiest bit, and then I try to proceed into my day in as much joy as I can. Because I know, regardless of the numbers in my bank account, that I am an important person in the world. I’ve got my thing, and I’m doing it. I know that I am very influential in my tiny family of two. And to my tiny friend Gwendolyn, I’m very big indeed.

 

Abundance Invisible May 3, 2013

I suppose one might say Elihu and I are as poor as church mice. On a purely practical level I guess we are. But lately – or more specifically, yesterday – with the sudden and dramatic influx of readers here, I am made aware of the subtle and often unseen nature of abundance. Nothing feels much different today, as I sit in the chair in my bedroom, bed still unmade, morning dishes still unwashed, writing on my ancient little Mac. But of course, things are different. Had no idea how the freshly pressed thing worked, how on earth anyone’s blog got mentioned on it (if it had to do with pure stats alone I was never going to see myself featured) but overnight I’ve become rather acutely aware of what it is and how it serves. Once again, my life is full full full, albeit in ways that aren’t always apparent in everyday life. I feel so much less alone this morning – Elihu too (he couldn’t stop giggling to learn about our sudden spike in readers) and I feel less like a woman muttering to herself, and more like a person with an offering to make. And that’s certainly got value; we as humans all know what it is to feel unimportant or unseen. It feels good to know that we’ve got new friends, and that we might be offering a little joy here on this sometimes incredibly difficult and tedious planet. But that’s enough on that, I don’t want to start taking myself too seriously. ! The challenge now becomes to continue to do what I’ve been doing for the past two years without censorship; without letting my voice or content be influenced by anything other than what’s going on right here and now. With that said, on to more thoughts on abundance…

The other day, after coming home from the grocery store and laying out all of our goods on the table, I sat back in awe as I tried to fully understand the bounty. “Abbondanza!” I said, over and over again, as much for myself as for making the point to my son that what we saw before us what truly a manifestation of abundance and good fortune. “Imagine one hundred years ago” Elihu mused, “this would be impossible – to them this would be unbelievable!” Yeah, my kid gets it. And how happy I am to have a kid that does. It is pretty spectacular, this bonanza before us, although we’ve become virtually desensitized to such things in our modern, Western world. (If you’re reading this it probably goes without saying you’re likely a member of this privileged club.) Products from all over the world sit on our tiny kitchen table. The lettuce we think virtually nothing of comes from California, some three thousand miles away. Our grapes come from another hemisphere even! I pause to try and imagine the labor involved… it’s not possible. From growers to pickers to drivers of machinery to the designers of said machinery to the folks who unboxed it and placed it on the shelves here in our town… it boggles the mind. It’s why we say grace, why our prayers of thanks in this household are not so much to a creator God as they are offerings of thanks to all our fellow human beings who have toiled – probably without thanks or appreciation for their toil – in order to make our lifestyle possible.

While I may never see the day when I get fully caught up on my electric bill, nor know an era in which I make it through a winter without running out of heating oil, by the grace of some amazing power I have never known what it is go hungry (I suppose if I did pay those other bills I might know it!). I don’t take that lightly. Sometimes, when I claim the income from a new piano student on the Food Stamps re-certification form and they reduce our monthly assistance to little more than $100 a month, sometimes when I find myself enraged that I must choose either food or heat – I have to make an effort to stop myself, and to remember that things aren’t so bad as they might appear on paper. I have to take a breath and step back. Self pity is a demon to fight, and sometimes it’s a challenge to shake myself out of its seduction. A quick look around, a short inventory of the things I do have, and I can quiet the upset… Yes, things are tight, but what do I have? I have a gorgeous baby grand piano in my home – I have a harpsichord too! I live on a stunning piece of property, my son miraculously goes to the most nurturing, supportive school and is joyful every day of his life, my parents are both still alive and live just next door. And let’s not forget, I’m down two dress sizes now, too. ! Things really aren’t so bad. Ok, so I might not make a solid living teaching and playing piano, and I may never get fully caught up on our bills, but our overall quality of life is rather good all things considered, and my son is a very happy and thriving child. Really now, what could be ultimately more important than those two things?

Honestly, we’re able to survive because of my mother. When we run out of cash on hand, when our larder is empty, when I haven’t the gas to drive into town, she always gives us a little something to help us get by. (She quit her job recently, so that sort of help might not be so easy for her going forward. One more thing that lingers in the back of my mind as I assess our future.) Lately, she’s been keen on helping us with some infrastructure fixes. Like replacing the porch roof or insulating the attic. These things will make a huge difference in the liveability of the place, and they’re projects I could never ever take on myself. Yet they are unseen. The new porch is not an upgrade, it’s the same porch. Only now it has a ceiling that doesn’t leak. The attic will just hold in the heat a bit better (which ought to put an end to the oil running out too soon! A major plus.) Nothing in these improvements shows to the eye – but they’re things that must be done at some point. Guess mom wants to know it’s been taken care of before she’s ‘gone’. (Too blunt? Mech, it’s getting that way these days. !) They’re important projects, but as there’s no appearance of an upgrade it doesn’t look like anything’s been done. Although our house is still a tiny little ranch with thin windows and ancient fixtures, at least the roof doesn’t leak, and next winter we’ll be toasty. Abundance here too.

I also am a believer of a sort of ‘like with like’ phenomenon that seems to occur in life. Some folks really live by this law of attraction, and while it does resonate with me, I am still hard-pressed to live by its rules as the true LOA followers endeavor to do. I just haven’t mustered the discipline to shush the constant poverty chatter in my brain. I sometimes wonder if it’s why I can’t seem to just get up and over this hump… then my reality meter kicks in and I consider the idea that folks just plain don’t need piano teachers like they do plumbers or insurance salesmen. I guess. Yet still I can’t help but wonder, if I threw caution and known reality out the window and simply envisioned a truly abundant life – as in thought about it day in and day out, lived as if it already was so, what might happen? I try to imagine not only becoming caught up on my electric bill, but not even concerned about future such bills. I have heard it said that possibilities are limited only by our beliefs. Again, sounds good. Sounds like we might have some control over our lives, it gives one hope. Yet I struggle to integrate it into my life. Am I settling? Am I convincing myself that what I have is good enough? Sometimes I’m fairly sure that I’m settling. That I haven’t invested enough energy into imagining things as I’d like them to be. It seems I might be holding myself back with the ‘poor-me’, ‘if only’ talk. But then other times I have a truly perfect day, and I think I’m way ahead and none of that stuff matters at all…

Today was such a day. A full-on sunshiney Spring day in the one of the most beautiful city parks I know, the whole Waldorf school in attendance at their annual May day celebration in which the fourth grade (of which Elihu is a part) experiences a rite of passage and dances around the May pole weaving intricate patterns with the ribbons in the style of schoolchildren from a bygone era. We were able to get grandma and grandpa out in the fresh air too. Such good fortune; it was an important day for Elihu and they were there to share in it. After the festivities Elihu and I remained in the park where he chased ducks (as he always does) and he caught two right off the bat – with no bait, just his swiftness and cunning! We stayed there for hours, and after a bit took a walk up to Broadway, where we visited a very high-end chocolate shop. After a rare treat there, we returned to the car by way of the local hippie shop. We passed nearly an hour there admiring rocks and crystals and chatting with the dredlocked girls who worked there. We made some egg deliveries, then returned to the park. We realized that we hadn’t eaten in hours, and so as a final chapter in our grand day, we decided we’d eat out. Had the best chicken in the world at Hattie’s, grooved to some classic R&B as we ate, then made our way home (organ trio for the ride back.) When we got to the train tracks the gates were going down – and wouldn’t ya know, it was our good friend Mike at the wheel! We honked, and he leaned way out the window, smiling and waving. (He really did look like something from a children’s storybook, his elbow out the window, that striped engineer’s cap on his head.) That was a hoot. We rode home with the sun and warm wind streaming through the open windows, and we were happy.

We got home and Elihu, although he’d said he was getting tired, found a burst of energy and took off running after the birds. So far, a good chase hasn’t lost its appeal. Good thing. It buys me a minute to sit and catch up on my thoughts. As I begin to wrap up the post, he calls me. He wants me to watch him climb the apple tree. So I join him. We pick violets which we’re happy to discover now carpet our lawn. We inspect the garden and find some perennials returning. Things feel so good. Simple, but so very good. We’ve even got leftovers for another fine dinner tomorrow, too. Seriously, what else do we need? Our lives are full and we are happy.

So for now I’ll settle for the idea that when we’re happy and grateful, even more things that make us happy and grateful will find their way to us. We’ll walk that fine line, falling off every now and then, throwing little temper tantrums and feeling sorry when things aren’t as we think they should be, but then we’ll shake it off. We’ll get up, look around us, take another inventory of our lives and begin again. The evidence of an abundant life might not always appear as we think it should, but we have everything we need to live. Some times not as much as we’d like of one thing, sometimes a true abundance of another, yet always just enough.

 

The Fourteenth February 14, 2013

For no good reason that I know of, fourteen has always been my favorite number. It’s not that I aspired to be that age long before I was, nor that I looked back on that age with nostalgia after it was long gone. I have simply always loved the number fourteen. In my mind I visualize it as a verdant, deep green. It is a number that has just felt right to me for as long as I can remember. But a few years ago it took on another meaning altogether. On a day in which most people celebrate their love for those they hold dear, dark and horrible changes both big and small were taking place…

It was a gray winter day, in the middle of the afternoon, when a young man burst into a lecture hall in Northern Illinois University’s Dekalb campus and opened fire, killing five students and injuring many more before finally killing himself. (He had recently stopped taking medication for mental illness and had reportedly been acting strangely.) I heard the news almost immediately, as Fareed called me from NIU to let me know. I remember sitting in the kitchen, looking numbly out at the river that flowed behind our house… I was stunned, yes, but almost more stunned to hear him go on… He said that he was now worried about his girlfriend, that she was freaked out and he felt he needed to be with her… he wasn’t sure if he’d be home tonight. Crazy as it sounds, while she was now five months pregnant with their child, my husband still stayed at home with us – and still retired to bed each night with me. He would, however, slip away during the night to be with her, making sure to be back home in the mornings, for the sake of our son, he’d say. I was still so shell-shocked at what was happening that I followed along in a daze as he drew out the torture. I’d been fooling myself somehow during it all, thinking he’d come to his senses eventually and come home – that somehow we’d make sure this child was taken care of, and somehow, when this had all blown over, we’d find a way to go on with our lives again. Certainly this was crazy thinking, but it was a surreal time, and crazy was all over. And now this.

How could I argue – how could I indulge in my own petty concerns when people had just been killed? When true and real heartbreak was occurring, when parents were receiving the worst possible news they’d ever hear – when all this was going on, how was it that I could beg my husband as I did to please come home to his wife? I told him that family was of prime importance, and that this event must surely remind him of that. I was livid that this silly girl nearly half our age could manipulate him so easily. I found it hard to believe that she was afraid to be alone – for heaven’s sake she lived in a tony, suburban house with her parents miles from campus! What had she to be afraid of? What did she know of being left? Of truly being alone? I was furious, I was heartbroken, I was sick. I was also extremely confused.

Although he’d said nothing of it, earlier that day, merely through coincidence and not at all by design, Fareed had been served with divorce papers. He’d gone for months saying that he wasn’t sure, that he didn’t know yet what he would do… he wasn’t sure if he planned on leaving us or staying. His presence in our home gave my heart hope, but his girlfriend’s growing belly wasn’t unsure at all. I asked about divorce, but he wouldn’t commit to it. Finally, summoning the best fighting attitude I could, I agreed with my attorney that he should go ahead and serve the papers. They arrived that day, but Fareed didn’t mention it. I’ll still never know just how he reacted that morning at work when the agent knocked on his office door. I’ll never know if it caught him by surprise, or if he felt relief. Even after five years we’ve never talked about that day. I do still wonder sometimes.

In that he said nothing about the divorce papers, in the back of my mind I hoped they hadn’t arrived. That my husband would choose me over his mistress, that he would come home and everything would somehow heal itself. I was still fooling myself. Acting one way, feeling another, and thinking somewhere in between. Man that was one difficult Valentine’s Day. Not a lot of love to be found, and more heartbreak than anyone deserved. I could never have imagined in that moment that some five years forward I’d be ok. That I’d have more joy in my life than sorrow, that my gut wouldn’t be consumed with an unceasing ache. How can you tell someone in the midst of such pain – and make them understand – that it will not always be thus? Although I myself wasn’t able to envision a brighter future back then, I had to make that leap of faith and simply behave as if it was there waiting. I took the ‘fake it til you make it’ approach. It definitely took a few years for my heart to catch up and relax into this new life.

Honestly, I am still not completely reconciled with what happened to me or with the way in which my life’s course shifted, but I do realize that the trajectory of my life – and certainly my son’s life – was greatly improved by this fateful turn of events. By this fourteenth day of February on which things changed forever.

 

Instant Karma January 20, 2013

What a magical day we had yesterday. A day of gifts that astonished us both. Had us with our mouths hanging open, with Elihu smiling uncontrollably in the back seat as we drove home. More than a day of tiny successes, and more than a day of instant rewards, it was a day full of serendipitous surprises that just kept coming as we encouraged ourselves to expect them. I’ve been teaching my son since he was tiny that we create things first in our thoughts and intentions before they appear in our physical world. Yet often, as I share concepts with him that I myself believe to be true, I find that as a flawed, ego-driven adult I am hard-pressed to live as if I believed the very things that I’m teaching. Yesterday, I found that Elihu was my teacher; I let him guide me and encourage me to let go and follow along as he made his way through his day wishing, intending, believing… and manifesting.

In the morning, we considered the day before us. Elihu had a birthday party for twins later in the day. As my son is fond of doing, he’d just given his twin classmates each a toy of his over the past week. While Santa had given him two identical toys and asked him to give one away, it was my son who delighted in the idea of twin gifts going to twin boys. Why not? he’d asked me – he had plenty, and these tiny gifts gave his friends so much happiness. Absolutely. I agreed. And when their mother told me to consider these as sufficient for the boys’ birthday gifts, secretly I was relieved. I felt a little anxious about spending more money when Elihu had already given them some forty dollars worth of toys this week. I suggested we pass on getting them gifts. But Elihu protested bitterly. He wanted to get them something for today. I suggested instead that we just give each a $10 gift card. He was distraught – he told me that the toys he gave them before were unrelated, beside the point. He wanted to treat them as he himself would want to be treated on his birthday – with a very special, exciting gift, and not a silly gift card. “I’m going to busk” he told me, “and I’m going to make $40. Then I can buy each of them a helicopter.” His voice was firm. In the sweetest, most loving tone I could find, I cautioned him that that was a lot to expect on a cold winter’s day. I tried to remind him that even on a nice warm day with tourists on the street, that he sometimes didn’t even make that amount in an afternoon. He began to cry. “Don’t do that! I believe it, why can’t you? I know I will make $40! I will!”. I began to apologize for discouraging him, but he cut me off, “I’ve already made it!” he said, still crying. That stopped me. I took a moment to collect myself, and to think. I had nothing to lose in expecting the same, and I knew that energetically it would help in some way. If we were disappointed, so be it. That was a possibility, but so was the other outcome; so why not choose to expect success instead? In that moment I decided to support my son as best I could.

After a morning of housekeeping and chores we finally made it to downtown Saratoga. I sat on a blanket I’d brought to keep warm, opened a book, and hoped for the best as Elihu began to play his djembe. First, I would like to say that he played better than he has ever played before, and second I would add that it was cold – his hands had to have hurt, but he kept going and going. He played for a good half an hour. I kept my nose down, leaving him to his own and trying not to look like the hovering mother. Although I wanted him to be successful (in playing so well he already was successful in my book), I admit that I was preparing my tender “I’m so very sorry” speech already. After a while, I heard a final woomp on the drum and looked up to see him walking back to me – a very full tip jar in hand. We ducked into the diner for a cup of hot chocolate while I counted up the loot. He’d made $26. Wow. “You know I’m going out again, don’t you?” he asked. I kinda did. And now, I was all on board. We packed up and headed out. Within minutes he had a small crowd of teenagers pulling out phones to take pictures and videos of him, and yelling out “kid, you’re awesome”. He kept at it for another half hour or so, til I called to him we needed to get going.

As we drove to Target, I counted his money. A five, even a ten… impressive. And the final tally? Forty-one dollars. Bingo. He’d made his goal – and even exceeded it by a dollar! He sat in the back seat, trying to contain his joy. I watched him in the rear view mirror as he beamed and giggled to himself. A few minutes later we were in the toy aisle, considering our options. It was beginning to look kinda bleak, and we were just resolving to settle on some less-than-ideal options, when something caught my eye. It was a helicopter with bold red and white stripes – and two sets of props. Twin engines – for twin boys! We moved in to check it out. Elihu had said he wouldn’t settle for a crappy 2 channel toy, but instead had his heart set on a 3 channel heli – a much better quality, more maneuverable toy. This was 3.5 channels. Even better. Plus it had a button on the outside of the box which let you spin the props on the heli inside. It was a Chinook, and it was impressive looking. We then found a cheerful gift bag and headed on our way. At the checkout there was a small hitch; the toy was not in the computer, and in spite of my going back to retrieve the exact price, the system wouldn’t accept it. A manager was called in, the line stopped. While we waited, Elihu grabbed some batteries – because there’s nothing more frustrating than getting a gift that needs batteries and not having any. Another $7. No problem, I can cover the extra. Then the cashier told us some unexpected good news – the toy was actually ten dollars less than we’d thought – and our extra money covered the batteries and the gift bag too! Elihu and I laughed and thanked the guys for helping us out. Then I found a twenty in my pocket – I’d been paid in cash the day before for a lesson – so we even stopped for a snack at the cafe. !

As we drove to the party Elihu remarked that he really thought we’d be rushed today. We were actually five minutes ahead of schedule, and I myself agreed that I could hardly believe it. When we got to the party the reality of a busy Saturday downtown hit me as we began to look for a parking spot. Then we started to tell each other that our spot was waiting for us, we just had to get to it. And sure enough, in a full-up garage, just by the exit, was one vacant space just waiting for us. We pulled in, then enjoyed a leisurely walk through the park to the party, where we arrived just in time to find the first of the afternoon’s entertainments just commencing; mentos and diet coke explosions. Awesome.

He was settled in, and now I had two hours to myself. I often stay with him at parties, but this time parents were sent on their way – so I found myself suddenly surprised with having nothing to do. Hm. This was unusual. What should I do? I considered walking the strip, taking in the windows, the sights, maybe heading to the library to check my email. Naw. Didn’t inspire me. So I asked myself “What would I like to do? What thing would I not usually do, and more specifically, what can I do that I wouldn’t usually do with Elihu?” I knew. I knew, but I felt some guilt. I told myself to ignore the guilt, to let myself off the hook and go. So, I did. I pulled out of my choice downtown parking spot and headed out of town.

Three months ago, while waiting for a prescription down the street, I’d gone into Pier 1 to kill some time and happened to come upon a stunning, deep red pillow. It’s color attracted me first, and the hand of its fine wool was so satisfying. But I didn’t have the money, and furthermore I couldn’t justify such a purchase even if I’d had it. So I filed it away in my brain. We have a rule in our house to prevent against impulse buying: if it’s still on your mind in two weeks, you may reconsider it. I thought back… it was Thanksgiving when I’d seen it, and it was nearly Valentine’s Day now… Dare I reconsider it? Within minutes of entering the store I found the pillow – one of them at least. But I wanted two. I searched for awhile and didn’t find it. Guilt finally overtook me and I put it down, told myself to forget it, and instead just enjoy walking the store and looking at all the beautiful objects. On my way out, I casually asked the clerk about the pillow. She looked it up on the computer and discovered that it was not an item that would be restocked, and also that there did appear to be one more somewhere in the store. My heart lifted. Then the clerk simply looked down and said, “Oh, look, here it is!” and held up the second pillow. It could have been anywhere in that store – but it was right there, within arm’s reach. Needless to say, I was sold. I’d waited more than two months and it was still on my mind. ! My heart was bursting at the beauty of these pillows, at the excitement of bringing them home to live on my couch. 

When I returned to pickup Elihu the boys were in full swing, jumping on each other, hugging each other and ooing and ahhing over the presents… I sat there drinking in that lovely, innocent energy, marveling over how sweet and sincere they all were. Savoring the moment entirely. They told me that they’d just come back from laster tag; the lasers were blue so Elihu could see them (Elihu can’t see the red lasers at all), Elihu did really well (even won a round), plus he had a blast. As we drove home, Elihu remarked that he hadn’t had any cake, because it just looked too sweet and he thought it might make his tummy feel icky. But now he was feeling some regret. We quickly pulled into the grocery store before we left town, and found a perfect single frosted brownie. We took it to the register, and for some reason, the young man decided to ring it up at a lower price. Elihu and I looked at each other. ? We thanked the clerk and headed out. Elihu ate half his brownie on the ride home, and ended up saving half for later.

When I awoke this morning and walked out into the living room, my spirit positively lifted at seeing those gorgeous, deep red pillows on my couch. And now, mid-day as Elihu was looking for a sweet little snack, he was happily surprised to remember his brownie. One magical day has spilled over into the next. I made a promise to my son that I’ll renew my efforts to keep up an expectant and positive attitude. I admit I was due for a little proof of my theories. And thankfully, I got it – almost instantly.

 

Anonymous Gifts and Other Surprises January 28, 2012

Many years ago, when my husband and I bought our first home together, it was a magical experience. I had admired the house from afar since I was little, and long before it came to be ours, we would sneak into the screen porch of the dark and empty house and imagine ourselves living in that gorgeous, dusty mid-century behemoth. Its purchase was anything but smooth; after having bid on it for six months to no happy conclusion, I’d ended up trumping an eleventh hour bid from some new party, donning a suit (the one I wore for temp jobs downtown), filling an empty brief case with various books (for heft), swabbing on some very un-me perfume (from a free sample) and walking into the manager’s office at Coldwell Banker insisting that I was prepared to pay cash for that house. I had no such cash to back up my offer. I’d made the offer without benefit of much discussion with my partner, as he was in Japan at the time. I remember a finger on one hand twitching constantly with residual nervousness for many days after I’d made the bluff. A few incredibly stressful weeks later (that in of itself is a story of gifts and other lucky events), we had ourselves a house.

Neither one of us can explain why we did what we did on that first day. At the threshold, Fareed picked me up and carried me into the house. Strangely, he did not put me down right away, but instead carried me down the long front hall, made a right, and deposited me in front of the refrigerator. Everyone knows a good party always convenes in the kitchen, perhaps it was in this spirit that he conveyed me there. There we two stood, facing the fridge head-on. And so naturally, we opened it. There, before us, was a platter upon which stood a bottle of champagne and two champagne flutes. In the center was an envelope on which was written “Welcome to 520”. Immediately our eyes filled with tears. Instantly we realized the love with which the former owners had assembled this gift. After a toast to this magical day, we began looking over the old photographs as we sipped our champagne. Through them we met the family that had lived here for half a century. We saw Christmases in the living room around an enormous tree, we saw the mother and dad – Marcie and Gene – in this very kitchen. We saw children sitting on this very floor. No matter where life may take us now, neither Fareed nor I will ever forget this gift of welcome.

Only a few days after we’d bought the place and had begun camping inside, sorely under-furnished, we received another gift. We’d come home one day to find a massive mound of purple mums in an apple basket on the landing to our front door. A simply stunning arrangement – the kind you admire but quickly pass up as you’d never dare spend that much money on yourself. In it was a card as enigmatic as the delivery itself. It simply said “Blessings on this house.” It was signed “Moon Rain and Storm Cloud”. In the middle of the small card there was a drawing of an eye. Altogether it was very ominous. Obviously, their intentions were good – even perhaps protective. Yet that picture of the eye was slightly disturbing. What was that about? Just what had this house meant to them? What did this house mean to the people in the area? Did folks have a proprietary feeling about the place? It had stood empty over a year. It was a dramatic and distinguished, if not different, looking house. There was no mistaking it, this house had a thing. But a thing that warranted some Native Americans shelling out fifty bucks for a bushel of flowers and offering their unsolicited blessing?? In the end, after sleuthing to the best of our ability in a pre-google world, we gave up and simply offered thanks to our unseen friends for their anonymous gift.

Skip ahead many gifts and many years. I am no longer living in the midst of things. I’m no longer a hostess. My home is no longer a social hub for friends. Now I live alone. Now I live far from the road in a tiny, plain house, devoid of any aesthetic value. I am no longer living in a way that I recognize. I am poor. I go without. Once upon a time, gifts were a nicety, always an expression of love, yes, but mostly they were a genteel thing, a kindness added to an already abundant life. The past few years things have changed. The gifts I’ve received have taken a different form. Some friends, wanting to help, have given me gifts of food and staples – and even money. Given in love, yes, but this is still tricky for me. This is not something I’m accustomed to. Accepting a gift of cash? Is that not crass? In poor taste? This is the voice of a woman who doesn’t understand the true spirit in which the gift is given. A woman who, out of pure need, must soon soon learn to accept it with nothing but sincere thanks given in exchange. (I don’t remember too much about my grandma, but I do remember her telling me that the best way to receive a gift was to say thank you. So simple, so true.) Such gifts have made me cry, made me feel uncomfortable, but in the end, made me feel blessed. They’ve enabled me to warm my house, eat fresh vegetables at supper, pay the electric bill, even move my piano out of storage. These have been life-saving gifts. In my past life I’d never known such generosity in any personal way. I do remember sending five hundred dollars to the Red Cross just after hurricane Katrina. And it too was given in love. So I know how it feels to give. How natural, how important it is that you help others when you’re able. Yet somehow, this seemed different. Gifts of this sort were always anonymous – made through the right channels, legitimate organizations set up for such charity. So when the tables were turned and I became the charity in question, I had to remember how good it had once felt to give of myself, let down the walls of my ego and now learn how to accept. Not always easy, but sometimes essential.

A few weeks ago I sent my divorce attorney an email in which I’d told him that it was in his personal interest that he help me secure a better support settlement; paying him otherwise would take years on my small income. He responded by telling me that he knew my financial situation well; he hadn’t expected to receive payment from me. I was stopped in my tracks. I’d already begun crafting an idea of a payment schedule to him, imagining a tab now in the tens of thousands. Having been absolutely raped by an egotistical, downtown Chicago divorce lawyer early on, I’d come to expect more of the same. I’d sensed something much gentler about this new man, but still and all, he was an attorney, and attorneys are busy, busy people whose time is a very costly thing. When I saw him in person last week, I hugged him in thanks – telling him that I in no way assumed this was a pro bono case, and that I still intended to pay him. While that is true, I’m not sure what that will be. But I will work something out. I will. I mean to make modest monthly payments, and if it doesn’t work to cover much else, I hope he can at least use it to buy some fresh flowers for his wife when he comes home late for the umpteenth time this month.

Just last month, on a rainy December night, Elihu and I arrived home late after I’d played piano at a Christmas party in town. He was to leave for Chicago soon, and as in years past, he lamented his being gone for the holiday, and wondered if Santa would visit him here too (Santa has yet to disappoint in that regard, he needn’t have worried.) Bent over under the rain, we ran to our door to find a couple bags of bird seed in our path. One was a bag of Niger seed. The real stuff – not the second-rate blend you find at the box stores that had been cut with half filler seed, but the real deal. The pricey stuff. At the time, we didn’t get the whole picture. But it was enough to shock me – and to let Elihu know that Santa had remembered him. Of course it was Santa, he told me, because no one else would give real Niger seed! Indeed. No one I knew had the stuff. It was only the next morning after I’d braved the cold to let out the chickens and then returned to the warm kitchen that I did a double take. Huh? Had I seen something unusual on the lawn just now? I looked out the window to see a beautiful iron shepherd’s hook bird feeder holder, complete with three bird feeders. All of them filled. One even held pepper suet to discourage squirrels. What?! I too was pretty close to convinced that we’d been visited by Santa. In the month that’s followed I have asked people, posted on Facebook, even called the local firehouse, all in an effort to learn who this Santa really was. I’d considered putting up a sign of thanks on the roadside, but didn’t want to chance Elihu seeing it. He already knew who’d been here, this was my problem alone. Then yesterday I went to the very boutique where the feeders came from. A store filled with beautiful but pricey bird-related items, it’s not someplace we shop. It’s a place we visit once or twice a year. I had the occasion to stop in as I was buying a bird toy for Elihu’s sister’s birthday. It gave me a chance to query the woman behind the counter. Luckily for me, she did seem to recall the story. She gave me a few hazy suspects. So, be warned, you kind-hearted friends, I just may be on to you. You know who you are. Soon I will too.

Gifts arrive unannounced, anonymously, and also in less than obvious forms. (Take, for example, my surprise divorce and the resulting about-face in my life.) Often, when things go wrong – or appear to be going wrong – Elihu and I remind ourselves that within this immediate disappointment a gift of some sort is surely waiting to be discovered. Perhaps not one that can be recognized immediately, and certainly one that will be harder to receive if one is being all pissy and crabby about how things are not going as they were supposed to, but nonetheless, we’re sure that there is something positive in the mix that will present itself shortly. At least that’s the attitude we try to take (make that I try to take; it’s far more natural and effort-free for Elihu) when plans run aground or take a frustrating turn. I would like to stress – as much for myself as for anyone reading – that to simply consider that there is a joyful outcome hidden within a current upset really does transform the event. It creates hope and possibility. If it changes nothing at a glance, it diminishes the present anguish by offering the potential for something delightful and unexpected yet to happen. It turns a stress-inducing situation into a treasure hunt. You are now on the expectant lookout for a gift. In the form of a serendipitous meeting, a happy conclusion to some other forgotten story, the acquisition of something helpful. Gifts come in many forms. Some much harder to discern than others. Some may even take awhile to present themselves. So keep an eye open. Ya know?

Thank you, all you givers of gifts. Those who have received them are so very grateful.