Peace and Good Vibes

Birdoswald, Cumbria, England

The morning is colder and grey. As a child I loved these days. I was always outside in nature. I loved the Autumn. I lived in the moment.

Hello, Mr. Fox, I am sorry to startle you on my walk.

The world is a serious place these days…on edge. How will the elections go in the USA? So many folks are polarized. Their positions are arguable and passionate. We care about our world, its health, the rights of the people in it, and the future of our children’s children. We do what we can to make a difference.

In the meantime, there is the present. There are those whom we touch today by our actions, through our glances, our smiles, our frowns. These can make a difference to others now, and therefore affect the future. We could strive to carve out positive moments amidst the chaos. They may simply be thoughts or reflections with gratitude for something good.

My friend Marilyn believes that humanity is on a positive course overall, that it is becoming more self-actualized. She sees this in waves, with inevitable troughs and problems, but she believes in the good as well as the bad, and a general upward trend. She does not become caught up in negativity because “those vibrations are hurtful to ourselves and to others.”

Marilyn was and is ahead of her time. I’ve mentioned her before. At grad school in the late fifties and early sixties she studied and worked against racism and sexism. She was one of the only women in a 90% male class at Boston University. Instructors raised eyebrows as she entered the lecture halls. Half a century later, she continues to care deeply about human rights and the vote on political leaders. Though we are in an unprecedented time in terms of technology and instant information–and manipulated misinformation– she knows that the world will go on past this November. Humanity will get through this, too. She lived through World War 2, the Korean War, Vietnam and the Cold War. We will always have critical issues to work through.

While there is no space for complacency, there is argument for rest and for personal health. Enjoy a walk in nature, a beautiful view, or a cup of coffee and a good book, a time of prayer, meditation…these provide restoration of the soul amidst upheaval. It is not only possible, it is necessary.

“Good vibes” heal the self and work out from us like concentric circles on the water, affecting those around us and the world. Be at peace in the present moment. The planet and its people will still be there after your rest. Your body, mind and soul will be healthier and stronger for it. As will the thoughts, words and deeds with which you touch the world today.

The River Eden, Warwick Hall, Cumbria

Parentology

My firstborn is spending a couple of weeks at home before her own house is ready in a neighboring state. There are articles and studies about family life stages and the “launching” of adult children. Having four of ten leave the nest so far, I see that the launching path is different for each. Having a special needs child and a teen who has struggled for years with depression and poor choices supports that further.

There are as many different parental reactions to child-launching as there are personalities and temperaments. Literature tends to suggest that those who were nurtured better as children are more successful at navigating the adult world, and become better nurturers. There are, of course, exceptions and outliers. One of the best mothers I know is a friend whose parents were addicts and who was raised in foster care. She is amazing, and now has five biological boys, three adopted children, and helps to encourage families to foster children in need. Though fifteen years younger than I am, she has been an inspiration since I met her.

I did a quick literature search, wanting to see if there was any science on the reaction of mothers to children growing up. There was not much. I really thought I might find a term which was used for the study of how children are nurtured by mothers. Nope; just “mothering.” Today it would be more politically correct to call it parenting. I just really thought there would be some word with an “ology” after it.

I thought about my own experiences with two step-daughters and eight biological children. I have learned a lot through them. In reference back to my oldest biological daughter who is staying with us, I realize that I have learned so much through her, from pregnancy and infancy to toddlerhood, from school through adolescence into adulthood. She worked hard and got into college. I am not a “helicopter-parent” as I have never had enough energy or selflessness to be one. I probably did visit her more than average when she was at college, since she was only 5 minutes away. Maybe it meant something when after college she clearly wanted to live 500 miles away from home for a year, and then 2500 miles away for another. All this time I have, naturally, missed her. I miss our married daughters with children, also. Photos and videos help.

We have photos of our children around the house as most parents do. I look at some from when they were very little and my heart aches. Is that weird? Why is it? They are happy and successful and we had wonderful years when together. One of my friends says that she does not look back in the past at all as a mother, “No, not at all.” She’ll also say that she did not grow up with the feeling as strongly as I had of wanting to be a mother, as though it is the greatest thing to accomplish in life. Maybe that is it.

Again, each person is different. I write and self-disclose because perhaps someone who thinks as I do on this topic might not feel alone. There are others like us! Of course I can only write from the perspective of a Mom, and one of a very large family, at that. In my heart the images of each of my children, even if they are adults now, are wrapped up in a composite of each that includes their younger selves.

I look back on my own childhood: did my mother feel this way about me? Without my own experience of motherhood I would not have a concept of what I really was to her. I did not consider at any time while growing up that my Mom might feel about me as I feel now about my children. I could not, because only a mother could. She was a good Mom and a caring person. This is of course a huge factor on which my positive feelings are predicated.

My own experience with motherhood was positive. I loved it. Utter joy, aside from the sleep deprivation. I find it interesting that I feel as though the life experiences of each child became a part of me; yet all the while, they were separating from me in the natural way that humans are meant to. They became their own persons, but I still have all of the memories of their lives. My life was indelibly imprinted by each. There is evidence in my physical body, but even more profoundly in my soul.

As in my own recollection of adolescence, my children learn who they are, and they are not concerned with how their parent views their experiences. It is their natural time to question, as every parent of a teen knows. In time the child must separate into a healthy adult, even if their experience is wrought with mistakes, problems or illness. Their pain and suffering cannot help but be felt by the mother. Perhaps this is especially so for those of us mothers who are feelers or who are empathetic. We surely must be in a subset of our own.

Letting go does not mean that we no longer care, nor that we stop hurting for them or missing them; rather, we let go in spite of it. Inevitably, all love will involve some type of pain. We bring them into the world through our physical pain, and we feel emotional pain with every skinned knee, bullying word, failed college entry, and for some even run-ins with the law, or substances. When a child separates in a negative or estranged way, sometimes all that is left for the parent to do is pray. In truth, it is the greatest thing we can do. Prayer does change the world. It most certainly heals the one who is praying.

I am thrilled that my daughter is visiting, and that she is happy and successful. At the same time I have a son who is struggling, and that is very hard. I pray for those Moms and parents with children who have addictions and mental illness. It is a huge cross to bear for the one suffering, and for those who love them. I pray that they will do what is needed to stay healthy and to heal. There is still joy to be had. There continues on in our souls the indelible imprint of the child we love, who we gave birth to or adopted lovingly, who we cared for and taught, who we sang to and comforted, who made us laugh. Those memories are real, and though they may feel bittersweet, remember the sweet.

Privilege

I have thought a lot about white privilege. Black lives matter. Absolutely, they do. Every life matters. Throughout the ages and in many countries still, there is racism, extorsion, prejudice and slavery. We should have come much farther than we have.

As a woman, I understand something about being marginalized and not as respected as a man. I think all women can relate to this to some extent. I still get my husband to make some phone calls because he is more respected and listened to than a woman. It is sad but true. And though this is in no way close to what my black friends have lived through, at least I can begin to imagine. I know that if my son were black I would be uneasy the way the world is today.

One friend in his fifties, a retired high-ranking military officer who is well respected by all who know him still drives home at night with trepidation. He has been stopped and questioned, driving in his nice car, solely for the reason that his skin was black. My husband does not have that fear. I do not have that fear. Life is not fair.

I think of health privilege also. I am in a social media group of arthritis sufferers. They tell heart-breaking stories of being unable to do the things they used to, or to even leave their house because of pain. Family members and co-workers who have no concept of their pain roll their eyes or cajole or leave them out of social activities. If you do not have chronic, debilitating pain, then you are health privileged. You are lucky not to have to navigate the depressing effects and the limitations of pain. Should you feel guilty about this? No, but it is a good thing to become aware of so that you can show compassion to those who do suffer it.

We have a special needs daughter and just about every decision we make in life is made with her in mind. There are many things we are unable to do, or have to be so modified that we do without. She is sweet and loving and so-loved back. We will always have her living with us and there will be no empty nest. Her older siblings have pledged lovingly to care for her after we are gone. Those without special needs children have no idea how much easier it is for them, they have no concept of the worries we carry. I have even heard someone say about my daughter that she should not have been allowed to be born because she costs the system. How cruel. I could be angry at such people, but where would that get me? Ranting and being ugly back are both unproductive and indeed can do more harm. No, I will resist that.

The struggles of overweight people are not understood by slender people. Though I am not morbidly obese my heart goes out to the struggles of those with so much weight affecting their health and their lives. One might say “well, you can do something about your weight…” but perhaps not. Genetics can make it nearly impossible to lose weight, or very difficult at best. Those of us who don’t get ugly faces made at them because of size, who have no worries about the width of airplane seats or movie theater seats…well, we are size privileged.

My point is not to decrease the true struggles and unfairness toward our black brothers and sisters; rather, to increase awareness by finding a place where you have experienced some type of disadvantage. Put yourself in another’s shoes. My friend’s stories help me to understand.

I think very few are born incredibly privileged, and those who are have their own set of problems. If we acknowledge that many people have problems that we take for granted not having, then we begin to feel compassion. We can work with our own gifts and abilities to change prejudice. Perhaps each of us can realize the privileges we do have, and try to relate to those who do not have them. We can work peacefully together.

My friend Marilyn grew up in the civil rights era and two of her friends, both black, knew other greats in the movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr. One published a book recently about racism in America, suggesting that all people are capable of racism. He emphasized the importance of working together to make the world better. The other friend continued throughout his life to help the underprivileged, especially young black men. It bothered them terribly, white privilege, but they had friends of all skin colors and gender. They were eloquent, kind men. Both passed away this year in their 80s. Their lives mattered and they did small and great things while they were on this earth to make a difference. I was so blessed to get to know them and be inspired by them. I will never forget them.

Both of these men knew that violence is no answer. Instead of throwing a rock, hands can reach out to help someone instead. Words can be used to reach understanding rather than to threaten. I know it is idealistic. But most things that are true are idealistic.

Clearly, it is not by harshness or by severity, or by overbearing methods, that social evils are removed. It is by education rather than by formal commands, by persuasion rather than by threats. This is the way to deal with people in general.

Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 AD, Letter 22, 5

Gift of Self

What are your gifts? Each of us is endowed with them. We are encouraged to share our gifts, yet sometimes our lives are not in the right place to do so. We may be fighting an illness, dealing with chronic pain or a new diagnosis. We may be momentarily overwhelmed by financial or familial needs. These are neither the times to feel guilty for not sharing, nor for denying the responsibility and truth of the precept.

I watched The Black Panther for the first time this past weekend. Curiosity piqued by news of Chadwick Boseman’s young death and the fact that he had suffered in silence for years battling cancer, I hijacked the Disney control from my special needs daughter and navigated over from the umpteenth viewing of The Princess and the Frog to The Black Panther. She liked it. She has great taste.

I saw 42 and Get on Up, not realizing Boseman was the lead in both. The man was a phenom. He should go down in the books with the greats. I look forward to watching 21 Bridges in the near future. He is flawless as King T’Challa, ruler of the African country of Wakanda. Interestingly, the country has the same pronunciation of the Osage word for spirit of the Creator.

Without spoiling, we learn early in the movie that a meteor landed long ago in Wakanda and deposited a substance called Vibranium with powers unlike any on earth. The people learned how to harness the power and it informed and developed their culture over time. They realized the danger of such a power and took on the responsibility of hiding it. They became far more advanced than any other civilization.

A great start to an engaging action adventure. But the movie goes so much farther than simple entertainment. A marginalized and discriminated population proves to be the most advanced and strong. The role of women is powerful and arguably salvific in this movie. There is outright evil portrayed in some characters, and there is right intention gone bad in others–with the awareness of the need to change and to be humbled. There is love and humor and courage.

In the real world, humanity has missed the mark a lot in terms of caring for itself and for our planet. We will probably continue to do so, but we must strive to forge something more powerful than even Vibranium, and that is Love. Love, goodness, caring, sharing…they are more than words from preschool television shows. As Vibranium was deposited in the place where all human DNA originated, love is deposited in every human heart.

Yes, we may miss the mark, but far more than our goals or accomplishments, it is the journey of life which defines us. No person is inconsequential. One dot on an Impressionist painting may seem insignificant when viewed close-up, yet in the eye and hand of the Artist, each dot is specific, calculated, intentional, planned, conceived of, colored to perfection. From afar, the painting is a masterpiece, each dot integral to the others.

Chadwick Boseman visited and befriended children who were suffering from cancer. They inspired him. He gave them joy. He did not let on to the media that he was suffering nor even to his fellow actors as he pushed himself through cancer pain to complete his lines and action. He did what he needed to try to heal, or at least to rest in between movies and takes. One fellow actor chided that Boseman was perhaps full of himself for having a close support staff around him during filming. The man later apologized for the error when Boseman died, seeing that he did what he could to heroically get through.

Instead of seeking pity and riling about the injustice of a very unjust disease, Boseman gave of himself to fans, to his loved ones, and to suffering children. More than his awards will ever immortalize his career, his love and self-sacrifice inspire the best in humanity.

“Wakanda forever.”

Hope

Joy. Contentment. We are built with an amazing ability to experience these at any time. In times of strife, during suffering, and even in pain, people throughout history have attested to this truth. Paul the Apostle wrote about it from jail. In prison with a death sentence over his head, he wrote what would later become books within the Bible. He wrote letters of encouragement to Christians. He wrote that to live was “gain” and yet to die was also “gain.” He did not fear death because he believed that he would live eternally with God. And so he gave of himself in a way that he could…through letters.

Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist helped fellow prisoners in the concentration camp he was imprisoned in; he encouraged them, counseled them, inspired them and remained hopeful. After he was released he wrote about his experiences in A Man’s Search For Meaning, an inspirational book even today. Corrie ten Boom helped other women and shared her meager vitamin drops in the concentration camp she was in during the Holocaust, and wrote about her experiences later in a very inspirational, now classic book, The Hiding Place.

Can we learn something from these people which we can apply to our present time? The Covid-19 virus has taken many lives. For those of us trying to stay well, especially for those who are most susceptible, it is frightening. The state of our world or our country may seem crazy, and some may be having trouble maintaining hope for the future.

Contentedness is not ignorance, nor is it impotence. In the realities of life and the knowledge of the same, we are called to act–to help–to make changes according to our abilities and talents. One of my friends who is a college professor is truly and rightfully concerned for students, for her own children and future grandchildren. She is devising novel ways to teach during this time in which on-campus admissions are declining and online students are increasing. This is extremely stressful for educators yet she is modeling resourcefulness, good citizenship and activism.

It is easy to lose hope, but we must fight against that. A psychologist friend told me a story which he would relate to illustrate hope: A man was given one last match in a pitch-black room. Not knowing what else was in that room, his fear and hopelessness told him it could be dangerous if there were something flammable in the room. If there was nothing then what was the point? He argued with himself and finally decided that if it were perhaps the last light he would see, then so be it. He lit the match. In those few precious seconds of illumination he saw that the room was empty, save for two things– a flashlight and a door. He got out. Had he given in to despair he might not have escaped.

Last winter I made the trip of a lifetime. I traveled in the UK with my daughter, and it was incredible. In a sense this is puzzling because at the same time I was scared half to death as I was driving the twisty, narrow 60 mph roads with more roundabouts than I ever want to see again. With white knuckles I chastised myself for thinking I could ever drive over there, and felt as though I would ruin the trip because of it. Not only that, but one of my sons was hospitalized while I was on the plane flying to London. Upon landing I learned of it. My husband insisted I not come home, that he could handle everything. I wondered if I was a bad mother, and if my worrying would ruin the holiday. I plowed through the worry, and of my fear of having an accident (especially because a huge news story at that time was of an American woman who tragically hit and killed a British citizen). Yes, it is puzzling, that I now look on those weeks as wonderful and life-changing.

It may be easier for those who have a joyous life event going on now to distract them…a new baby, a new love relationship, a successful job. I have written before that in dark moments the best thing we can do is the next right or good thing in front of us…even if it is doing a load of laundry, or washing the dishes, or sweeping a floor. The next right thing will then present itself. That next moment may show the way or illuminate the hope that is truly there.

Throughout human history there have been tragic and difficult times. Mothers for centuries have worried for their children and the future. Keep striving…not so much with the goal or end in sight, but for the sake of forward motion…for the journey…for the moments…the marvelous, complicated, painful, miraculous, stressful, painful, beautiful, blessed and joyful ones. They are all there. One day life will be at an end, that is sure for every one of us. So speak kindly, give generously, offer help. Therein lie contentment and joy.

Inherent Creativity

Perhaps every person is creative. This is the belief of Julia Cameron, an author I’ve mentioned before. I’m reading her book It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond. A playwright, composer, an author of books and screenplays, Cameron was married to Marin Scorcese in the early 1970s. She writes that since every human is part of a creative universe that each is endowed with some level of creativity. If one believes in a Creator, then one is inherently creative. Life is a creative gift and so each person’s gift back to the world is to be creative, based on individual strengths, abilities and talents.

Cameron’s “toolkit” includes regular walks for peace and inspiration, daily writing (she calls them “Morning Pages” and encourages three long-hand, stream-of-conscience pages per day) and weekly “Artist Dates,” taken alone. Since her first book about thirty years ago she has taught seminars on her method and has helped thousands to “unblock” their creativity, as well as reorder their lives.

The Artist Date really is meant to be taken by oneself, and for some that is difficult. Many say that they feel too selfish, or foolish, or can’t figure out what to do. Cameron encourages considering what one liked doing as a child and finding a similar activity. If someone enjoyed sweets as a child, go to a bakery; if they liked art class, go to a museum.

Another difficulty which I can relate to is responsibility. I still have six children at home so I cannot just go out the door without planning ahead. I admit to not getting on a lot of Artist Dates, and have to consider a lone trip to the store as just that. Usually when I go out I ask a child or two, as they will not always be living under my roof and I know what it is like to miss an adult child who has moved away. I’ll take all the moments I can with them. And yet I know that self-care and alone time really are healthy.

I’m off to Home Depot and Walmart. I’ve started refinishing our dining room table-top. Maybe I’ll stop and get a blended coffee drink, and take a little more time in the…polyurethane aisle…

Gorgeous George

I used to ride my horse George from the stables at Oldfields School in Glencoe, Maryland where I worked as a nurse, through the trails along the Gunpowder River. My parents lived across the river, tenants on an historic family farm. It was an hour ride and I’d take it regularly, nudging George when the river was not too high, into the rapids above “Tobe’s Hole.”

The key to riding across water, in this case horse-knee deep, is to move the horse forward confidently, focusing across to a point on the far bank. The animal senses your confidence and sloshes its four legs through. At over 1000 pounds the horse is not easily unweighted by the swift, strong waters as they would a human. If you looked down you’d be easily disoriented as the river moves. The sensation is akin to when a car parked beside you suddenly moves and, even though you are munching away on your delicious chicken nuggets and waffle fries dipped in heavenly Chick-Fil-A Sauce, your foot hits the break instinctively because your brain thinks it is your car that is moving.

Don’t look down at the river. Stare straight ahead. We crossed the river and then trudged up the bank and the long steep hill. The “Pipeline” transported natural gas underground for who knows how many miles; for us, it provided a nice path to the river, right through the farm. That was one steep and rocky hill to climb. Horses gain speed as they climb; it is easier to bound up, if possible. The rider leans forward and clutches mane to stay balanced with the horse.

At the top of the hill we slipped left into the woods again, then out into the golden cornfields of the 200 acre farm. The best part came next–a long, winding gallop between two fields over a few rises and down to the farmhouse. I leaned forward, jockey-style and let the reins loosen. Horses run with their necks extended, nose reaching forward. The reins complete a straight line from the rider’s elbow to the horse’s mouth. At one with the wind and George, we bent around the last turn, up the final rise where I would slow him down to descend the hill. Only, on one particular day a huge Great Dane shot out from the right from a newly built home on what used to be the neighboring farm.

I am still amazed that I didn’t come off George, who was three or four at the time and full of spunk. He came from champion Thoroughbred bloodlines, but never raced because of a condition involving his epiglottis, where it would flap and vibrate if he ran too hard. If I ever heard him start to do that, we’d slow down, because over time it would affect his oxygenation. The condition is called “Roaring” because of the super-loud snoring sound, five times louder than you’ve heard any sleeping old person.

Secretariat’s large great-nephew, George took an instantaneous dog-leg left turn into the cornfield to escape the dog legs chasing him. The Great Dane was a monster. For all intents and purposes I should have been left suspended mid-air to drop like a Looney Tunes character onto the ground. Did I mention that I was bareback that day? Yep.

Thankfully the corn was recently cut and the dog was called off by her owner, who offered profuse apologies after I managed to collect George from his wild 100 yard sprint. Then it was the Great Dane’s turn to be freaked out as I walked George back to our point of departure. The owner struggled to hold the dog as great George pranced and “roared” for a minute.

We had a quieting walk down the hill and through the post and rail gate to the farmhouse.

I tied a now peaceful George briefly to the porch rail and knocked on the door. Mom and Dad came out with hugs, apples and some water. After a visit–which I took for granted and only wish I could do again with my now-deceased parents–I used the porch to jump up onto George’s back. George was 17.1 hands which is very large for a horse, over five and a half feet at his back. We rode to Oldfields, enjoying this time…the alternate route along the country road down to the bridge over the river. A final long canter on the trail behind Dr. Haller’s house, which had been the old Glencoe Hotel in the late 1800s, and then back to the stables for a rubdown and fresh water and oats.

His registered name was Exuberant Champ, but he was nicknamed Gorgeous George. My big red pal for over two decades. I am so thankful for those times. I cannot ride anymore because of my back, but I have a wealth of memories…

As If

Early television commercials are both interesting and humorous. Interesting, in that they show us how people dressed in those days, how they thought, what was funny to them and what were serious topics. The commercials are sometimes humorous, because they seem “corny” and old-fashioned. Some of the norms and mores have certainly changed.

The phrase “woman of the house” makes some cringe nowadays. There she was in a dress doing her housework, pearls around her neck, sending junior and little sister off to school. The 1950s kitchens were floored with colorful linoleum and the counters were edged with chrome. The 1970s kitchens appliance colors changed from a rusty brown to avocado green and harvest gold.

We were promised in the 1950s by Westinghouse that the latest refrigerators, washing machines and other appliances would make life infinitely easier and we would have so much leisure time in the future–(sigh)–as if it were true.

Has technology made life easier? In some ways, yes, very much so. From my professional standpoint as a nurse, radiology reports can be read in minutes by a radiologist miles away from the hospital, EKGs give an immediate general interpretation, documentation is not only faster but also keeps patients safer when medications are administered and accounted for. There are positive aspects that each of us from our different professions and walks of life can rattle off in just a few minutes. But has the promise of increased leisure time come true? Is life itself easier?

From the standpoint of a physical laborer, work has eased with newer heavy equipment or robotic factory equipment. But is that person vacationing more? I think many have been forced to look for more employment. I’m not implying that new appliances, equipment and technology are bad, no. Amazing advances open up great possibilities. We just can’t ignore the negative potentialities.

Computers and the internet connect the world easier and faster, yet they also bring an enormous amount of data into our brains. In many ways our culture is on overload. Watching recent events on televised news or reading about them in electronic bytes makes me wonder if human kind is devolving. De-evolution–is that even a word? Isn’t that what brought down ancient “advanced” civilizations?

The children’s movie Wall-E presents a picture of humanity that has advanced beyond its ability to take care of itself, the people incredibly unhealthy, floating around obese in their hover-loungers. Not even interacting face-to-face with those beside them they stare forward always on their holographic computer screens. The 1970s movies Soylent Green and The Planet of The Apes portrayed the world after humankind pretty much destroyed it.

We need to think about such things (minus worrying about talking Apes) in order to avoid devastating mistakes. Many people are panicking these days or at least hopeless, but we each have a choice to give up or to focus this day on a step in the right direction. One tiny step informs the next step when we feel stalled or afraid. Those battling chronic, debilitating pain take a day at a time; goodness, some a minute at a time. They know what I am getting at here. And caretakers will also, as they go one meal at a time, one treatment…it can seem pointless, yet it is not. The journey is key.

How did Victor Frankl, Corrie ten Boom, Maximilian Kolbe, Harriet Tubman, prisoners and slaves get through their tragic circumstances? The first three infused great hope in their concentration camp fellow prisoners, and Harriet Tubman escaped slavery to go on to help thousands of other slaves escape with the Underground Railroad. In the movie Freedom the elderly Adira remains positive, hopeful and inspirational in her family’s escape from slavery, despite living through and witnessing the most horrible events in her life. How did these people do it? How did Mother Teresa remain hopeful in a place where the infirm and old and lower castes were treated worse than dogs? Did she become incensed and complain and raise her fist? No, she did what she could with her unique gifts and helped one person at a time.

Hopelessness. We will all feel it from time to time, but we must not give in. We must find that next right thing to do, as if the battle has already been won.

Time Travel

Einstein conjectured on space and time. Yeah–a bit too heady for me. But time travel is for many a very entertaining concept. Some favorite movies of mine are based on the concept: Back to the Future, Frequency, Terminator, Click, Kate and Leopold, Midnight in Paris, The Lake House, and more. Popular today are the Outlander series and Dr. Who. There are so many that the appeal seems to be universal.

It is said that certain saints (bear with me, again, theological perspective can be suspended) were able to travel or bilocate while in deep prayer. Could it be that Einstein scratched the surface on a science that we simply do not understand yet, and time travel will be possible in the future? I suppose that if that were true we would already be interacting with such travelers. If we are, they are really good at not hinting at their true identity.

Okay, I digress. It is easy to do so with this topic, and it is entertaining; however, I am as fine with letting it stay in the realm of fun as I was when just a little girl. My brother Chip and I would play with our Dad’s intricately built model of The Constitution. We pretended to miniaturize ourselves and go below decks to explore.

Back to reality, I realize I do have the ability to travel through time–in books, with my favorite movies, and in this cup of coffee beside me. Oh, the elixir of wonder…

Black Coffee. To some, bitter, but to me exotic and complex–a well-brewed roast, that is. Visually entrancing, the edge of foam clinging to the inside of the cup, the wisp of steam curling up mysteriously. The feel of the mug in my hands, hot porcelain easing the achy joints. The second sip is better than the first which serves to prime the senses…here it comes!

Fond memories return in nearly every cup. My husband Bruce first brewed the best black for me. Long ago now, two single parents of two little girls each. We found love over coffee. I think back to those times and the same feelings return.

Memories of Grammy Wiedefeld are evoked by a cup of coffee; we drank it together regularly at her kitchen table. She was an amazing woman, one of eleven children who worked hard through the depression and kept a positive spirit and outlook. Grammy boiled her concoction on the stove in an old aluminum percolater and laced it with the half and half always present in her refrigerator. She would serve it in a blue and white china teacup and saucer. Perched on that saucer was always a little block of Hershey’s chocolate. Hershey calls them “Nuggets” now, but for years they were called “Treasures.” I still believe that is a more fitting name; there are a treasure of memories in such a pairing.

To this day when I am missing Grammy I will drink my coffee in a very similar cup and saucer, and find a silver-wrapped Hershey chocolate to enjoy, eyes closed, momentarily transported to her kitchen. I sip the coffee and travel back in time.

The Forgotten Verse

Are traditional roles less valued these days? Some would say yes, but I would say the answer depends on with whom we surround ourselves. I am thankful for friends who have very different lives and beliefs than mine. They help me to understand others better, as I realize I can still be egocentric or ethnocentric. My thirst for knowledge includes wanting to understand others more fully.

Humans tend toward confirmation bias. It makes sense in that our brains work to organize information into understandable sets and subsets. When we surround ourselves with primarily like-minded folk we become complacent in the thought that most people must think like we do. I see this in my politically divided friends as well as my religiously divided friends. To be aware of this tendency perhaps can fuel us on toward seeking more information and understanding.

I have seen a distaste for traditional marriage services when the bride is asked if she will “obey” or “be subject to” her husband. “Wait a minute–hold on right there! That is antiquated and dominating and…” a host of balking descriptors follow.

We are a more civilized and advanced society, and even if we have light-years to go in eradicating racism and prejudice of every sort, we can agree that the imposition of one’s will with the intent to intimidate, dominate or enslave another is morally wrong. So why would anyone in this day and age agree to “obey” a spouse?

The answer lies in the context of the liturgical reference. The pledge is taken from the book of Ephesians in the Bible. The fifth chapter is all about Christlike love. What is that? Well, most agree that Jesus did live. It is who he was and who he claimed to be on which people differ–but that does not matter in what I am reasoning here. Whomever he was, he died in a sacrificial way for his followers and beliefs. Selflessness was “the way.” The ultimate sacrifice of his life to save his friends was a culmination of this way of life, of turning the other cheek, of giving, and of putting the needs of another first.

Ephesians chapter five is about living in love and about the giving of oneself to others and to God. Wives are asked to be subject to their husbands–yet here’s the catch, the forgotten part– and the husband is exhorted to treat “his wife as Christ is the head of the church, its Savior.” There is more about how the husbands are to behave, to “love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her…husbands should love their wives as their own bodies…” In its whole it is about introducing total (self-donative) love into marriage. For the unmarried or those in other relationships, the call is no less; it is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Taken out of context, the phrasing hints at domination. Taken in context, it alludes to self-sacrificial love, of wanting the best for the other. Sure, humans throughout the ages have messed it up and misapplied the words in dreadful ways. But it is neither the words nor the truths intended that are messed up, it is the people who chose to ignorantly use them. Such a love should should flow both ways, though at times one must decide whether or not to continue to give when the other in the relationship is habitually not doing so. If someone in a relationship is being taken advantage of or is abused, that person should seek help and counsel. Abuse is not love.

My husband and I are “subject to each other” in our shared lives. We make mistakes, we go to each other for advice, we critique each other–in love. Perhaps you have heard the saying “Iron sharpens iron, and so a friend counsels a friend.” That comes from another verse in Proverbs, and it applies here. Sharpening hurts even when done in love, but done so in love makes us grow and stretch and become better persons. We can choose not to help our friend for whatever reason, but in the end would that be loving?

All is hinged in this traditional pledge, and perhaps in life itself, on a forgotten verse that comes from a dynamic chapter describing and exhorting us to love each other the best way possible: selflessly not selfishly.