375. Ahhhh

“AHHHHHHH!!!” The sound rushes out of me unconsciously on this first warm sun-filled day. I don’t even try to take a deep breath, but I do anyway as I  cross the street with a sudden skip in my stride. Expansive energy, so hard to find all winter as I watched for ice patches and slush pools, rises in my perky legs. The sapphire sky expands above, letting out its belt a comfy notch or two. Winter is all about conserving heat and avoiding wind and rain, looking down, shriveling up. But today I’m wearing my hushpuppy suede shoes, knowing that rain is not forecast; and my eyes seek the happy unhooded horizon.  What the heck!  Ahhh, my body is not cramped from all the chillension that comes with freezing rain and driven snow. Spring is not far off; it can’t be. The birds are swarming over farms again. Squirrels are busily digging up their final acorns buried last fall. I can nearly taste the lilacs of spring as surely as I have smelled snow coming. “Slow down in the sun”, my body whispers to my peppy self. “Soak up that vitamin D and smile back at the strengthening sun.” Good advice, body. ‘Ahhhh, thank you, thank you, very much’, I imagine a relaxed Elvis telling me.

A Southern man awakens in me, urging civility, bourbon, and slow cooked pulled pork with three sides. “Ahhh said, Ahhh said, boy, you gotz to get on yo’ hammock and sway in the gentle Gulf breezes. Bad timez and worries, they’ll wait for ya’ll. Aint no future in hurryin. Soon they’ll be a buryin you. Bourbon refill? They ya go. Life and good bourbon be for sippin’ not gulpin’. Yeah, you know it’s true when the warm starts in yo’ belly an yo legs feel like jelly.”

Ahhh, slipping into a hot bath, I don’t even notice that same utterance leaves my mouth till it bounces back off the tiled wall. My low back is pinched at two points and the hot water is like an old lover who knows just what to say. “Hello, tendon. It’s been a long time, I know.  Babydoll, you remember how to stretch, don’t you? Just call all your jangled dandelion neurons together and blow. Blow them all away. Now hold me like you did when we were both young.”

Or slipping into a swimming pool in Tucson when it’s 100 degrees in the sun, “Ahhh” pours out of every skin pore and a choir of ten toenails shouts “Amen”. Your plump earlobes and even the back of your starched throat relax. The hushing almost sounds like water poured on a campfire but not quite so spitty and sputtery. These ahhhs are not about the sharp end of anything but the smooth start of something soothing… silver butter knives spreading warm cream cheese on a perfectly toasted, honey soaked bagel. Yeah, baby. I am a wearer of my hobbled senses now in the post-Ahhhh era. Oh, and they fit like spankz on a summer night. [Not that I have worn spankz on any night, I’m just free styling here, blogapotomases. Curb your kinky thoughts or I will delete you for ever, ever. Don’t try me.]

The first sip of good coffee early in the chill, misty morning or a sip of cold lemonade on a stagnant summer afternoon elicit the same Ahhhhh. “Yeah, that’s good.” Deep answers deep out in the next orbit beyond the material world. It’s the place where Buddhist monks chant Ummmmmmmmm for centuries. Occasionally we crack open a window, not even thinking but just being random… and we hear the monks’ UMMMMMMMM vibrato massage the marrow of our tired bones. Ahhhh. It is the window of whapportunity, whatever that may be. Leave it open to the saffron sound waves and your soul will merge with your rhythm and blues inside a symphony of sandalwood incense. Trippy, yes?  AHHHHHH. [***This is still a drug free blog workspace, just in case you were wondering. I submit to weekly random drug tests every Tuesday at noon.]

The long yawn after a deep night’s sleep filled with dreams of delight and awe.  Awake without full control of your limbs, ahhhhh. Man, that resets everything, as half tears lubricate the corners of my eyes. It’s all good, Momma. Don’t you worry ’bout a thing. Let Stevie Wonder sing. ’cause I’ll be standing on the side when you check it out.

When you go to your doctor, and the doc wants to look  at your throat, what sound is required? The universal Ahhhh. The sound is part of what is known as the therapeutic response. When your chiropractor adjusts your spine, what do you say?  Ahhhhh. And your masseuse or masseur rubs that coiled snake knot out of your trapezius muscle, what’s the word?  Yeah,  Ahhhhh. It is a gasp of relief and pleasure simultaneously experienced. When a difficult problem is finally solved, Charlie Chan says what?  “Ahhh so”. When a rescued damsel in distress gratefully hugs and kisses John Wayne, what’s he say? “Ahhh shucks ma’am. Tweren’t nothin but a thing.” When Bill Clinton was caught in his spankzy moments, what did he say? “Ahhhh, I feel your pain.”

The first cousin of Ahhhh is Awwwww. It is the irresistible response to cuteness. You see your little grandbaby and up rises the vowel of oy gushed through contented vocal chords. Awwww. Golden retriever puppies nip and play with each other on a blanket across from their reclining mother. You just can’t help it. Awww, so I have noticed, is more often uttered by females than by males. And Ahhhh is more often uttered by males. Why?  It would take several volumes of deep psychobabble to even begin to explain this phenomenon. For now, trust me and enjoy the moment. Awwright?

 

Advertisements

352. The Most Wonderful Time

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, goes the song, etching an idealistic Currier and Ives lithograph over a Norman Rockwell world inside a Martha Stewart silver picture frame. For many folks, however, it is anything but the most wonderful time. It’s the undiagnosable health disorder, or a loved one’s dementia, or a marriage that is out of gas, or a parent who won’t show up yet again. It’s the first Christmas without the child who died. It’s unemployment again. Loss. Fear. Angst. Unfathomable darkness that holds no sleep… only terror.

Andy Williams sang it…

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
It’s the hap -happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap – happiest season of all
 
Well, even Andy Williams had some heart aches, as I recall. As popular and successful as he was, his ex-wife accidentally murdered her then boyfriend, and Andy showed up to defend her and pay her legal fees in 1976. I don’t think that was the hap-happiest season of all. More likely it was the awk-awkwardest season of all. She got 30 days in jail, which she served on weekends that she was not vacationing with her defense lawyer, whom she later married. Hey, this is starting to sound like a Kardashian movie where crème cheese cocaine cupcakes are served to celebrity guests on gold plated china at a brothel and no one ever goes to jail or work. They just go shopping. But with all those gay happy meetings and holiday greetings, who has time for consequences? Party on!! Consume, consume, consume.
All of that reality t.v. noise holds a certain appeal for the masses– curb appeal, sex appeal, surfacey marketability appeal, buzz and sizzle. But it holds onto nothing when the winds of purpose blow. It’s a silky tumbleweed somersaulting across a desert, dribbling seed pods of emptiness.  All the glitz and good cheer are no more anchored than champagne bubbles in a flute. Ever wonder why the bubble streams originate at certain points?
It happens when microscopic fibers ­– left by a kitchen towel or often just an airborne particle –  stick to the side of the glass, allowing molecules of dissolved carbon dioxide to coalesce and form bubbles.
In short, imperfect surfaces and dirt particles are the source of the fizzle. At a certain level we know this intuitively, but we lust for that fizz anyway. I suppose it’s always been like this because human nature is the same today as ever it has been.
In the pre-Christian era when Abraham parted ways with his nephew Lot, we know how that turned out because the word sodomy is still with us unfortunately, to remind us of the perverse depravity that was on the loose in the cities of Abraham’s time. Lot seemed to be thrilled with the glitz of the material world and was drawn to the fizz of city life. He chose the well watered plain of Jordan for his flocks.  On the other hand, Abraham was holy and stayed in the still wilderness near the trees of Mamre, near God. As you likely recall, he pestered God to intervene and save Lot and his daughters from a horrible encounter in Sodom. God complied. He blinded the Sodomites, allowing Lot, his wife, and kids an escape as he fireballed that perverse city.
Something like this theme appears in the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart. The sappy sentimentality of this movie gags me as an adult, but it does demonstrate the difference a good man can make. The saccharin gag response comes from the ridiculously shallow spirituality of a Hollywood angel of God earning his wings. George Bailey is saved from suicide by clumsy Clarence, who shows him how life would look without his presence. What brings up my bile is the false focus on a man’s goodness, i.e., giving the credit to the messenger that belongs to the author of the message. George did not redeem himself. Clarence did not redeem him. Nor did the people of Bedford Falls redeem him. The savior of mankind redeemed him, but that does not work well on film. Instead we get a curly haired little girl,
spouting the predictable warm and fuzzy platitudes. Thus, sugar poisoning. Lot did not reform Sodom and restart the savings and loan. He barely escaped the depravity.
God is unpredictable, folks. You can’t get ahead of Him, so you might as well get behind Him. Problem is in our materialistic culture, when things are good, we think we are awesome, smart, sexy, precious, etc. The more stuff we give or get, the better we are. Ga-ga-gag. Time to reframe. Strip away the tarnished gilt and see your putrid guilt. Test your futile strength by feeling your awesome weakness. Reject your dying flesh and accept your God-given beauty. Blessings come in all shapes and sizes, even in silences and absence. God often works paradoxically, by pruning us of material things so that we can flourish in our faith. A pruned down grape vine is about as ugly as a wildebeest, but Jesus used it as a metaphor of Himself and His followers. Humble, thoroughly humble. Not sexy, popular, glitzy, stunning, or provocative.
Loss can sand down what is left behind, enabling us to accentuate and celebrate life’s broken beauties. We can still love what’s left after the stroke, the accident, the divorce, or the relapse. Even after life knocks the wind out of us, God can breathe for us and through us; that’s what spirit means, after all, breath. It’s more than bubbles of carbon dioxide. If we are God breathers, well, what a wonderful malady that would be, spiritual tuberculosis. .. to be infected and consumed by the breath of God.
So my jingle belled javelinas, it comes down to this:  consume more inflated emptiness or be consumed and saturated by your Creator.

185. Hemorrhaging quarts of vitalabrations

Being and doing are often at war with one another.  Doers do stuff. They leave footprints and fingerprints all over their worlds, all over history. They conceive and achieve, leaving museums and inventions and books and stuff behind their existence. Be’ers, as opposed to beers, might do things also, but primarily they are being human beings. The difference is about consciousness, a topic that my old timers group has been massaging lately. We are all nearly retired and/or fully retired therapists with over a century of clinical experience among us. We are mostly be’ers now, I think, getting around stiffly in our gaits, but there is a lot of wisdom in these arthritic roosters. Six guys in my living room; average age is 60. That totals 360 years of life experience huddled around one coffee table. Awesome but no more than a single rose or a snail’s spiraling shell.

By default and training, our Western minds focus on doing. Git’er done, boys! Our justice system, our mental health system, our political system hang on the concept of responsibility for behavior or doing.  Jurists try to figure out the just response to criminal actions/doings. Then they assign a commensurate punishment or other corrective treatment/doing. Guilt means you did it.  But how responsible is a free will? Is there even such a thing as a free will? How mitigating are the circumstances of one’s life? Likewise mental health clinicians want a checklist that removes doubt and ambiguity. They want a clean diagnosis to rule in while ruling out the rest.  Politicians want someone to blame other than themselves. Consequently we are all left raking the fine sand at Futile Beach. I don’t even know what that means, but it sounds poetic and dramatic. “Look! It’s Jay Gatsby raking the sand while gazing across the sound at Daisy Buchanan’s dock light. That is tragedy fit for a postcard.”

Image result for single dock light across the water pictures

We roosters don’t rush to conclusions or judgments so much as we amble around mysteries, dilemmas and paradoxes. We share our being. Sometimes that’s a daunting task, to simply reframe our quandaries or admit our limits instead of reaching for the crown of ‘smartest guy in the room’. Today we chatted about being transcendent, losing one’s self to find oneself. It’s a Christian concept and a Buddhist concept as well. The record of Western consciousness has been one of illuminating the unconscious, exposing and dethroning myths and symbols. Science usurped the throne of authority a long time ago in the West, but it can’t eliminate non-science issues. Science is limited by itself because it denies what it cannot prove conclusively. Shining a bright light on matter does not explain what remains unseen… Sometimes we see by not  looking; the thing comes to us when we stop stalking it.

Image result for single star pictures

Terms like “stillness” arise. Joe speaks eloquently about the dilemma of words’ insufficiency to capture the truths of being. Ed recalls Masses Joe celebrated for the daft and delirious at the Restoration Center.  “It was still God meeting his people, though some were psychotic and others drooling. It was more than verbal communication.”  Joe retorts, “You liked it because there wasn’t a collection, Eddy.”  Friends laugh soothingly. Greg aligns and extends the narrative while condensing it. We nod, believing that we’re following what we believe they are saying about filters and clarity, six points on the same star. We don’t problem solve necessarily, but we don’t  dramatize either. Our task is about becoming more conscious with others and then floating on that consciousness like a beach ball. As Westerners we tend to think of consciousness as a river we float upon; there’s a source and a course and a final mouth. Westerners can’t seem to leave the concrete sequence of beginning, middle, and end. I believe Eastern mystics conceive of an ocean of unconsciousness with no destination. No illusions. Nothing and everything in that moment and place. Somehow embracing unconsciousness seems irresponsible to us highly responsible folks, even though we are speaking deeply about invisible, unprovable issues. Someone has to remain the designated driver, right?  But we persist and two hours evaporate as we feel full. But full of what?  Stillness, wonder, connection, reverence, spirit, curiosity. The coffee table might as well be an open fire in the dark woods. We sit around it that way, feeling and pondering the center of the star.

Image result for cave paintings pictures

The deeper you go into mankind’s cave of consciousness, the more you start to feel like Alice in Wonderland, pondering every word and concept being articulated. How can I simply be without knowing at the same moment that all else has ceased, turning out the lights of consciousness when the last idea has left? Where does that disembodied hand go once the light switch is flicked off? Oh causation and consequence, thou dost plague me!  Okay, where did that Elizabethan dwarf come from? Trippy. The next thing you know, talking cats and rabbits will appear. Just flow. Breathe. Be air, oxygen passing into my own blood stream, pumping through the arterial highway system that keeps my brain alive. Consciousness orders itself to cease. Float on nothingness. The only idea left is the unpunctuated void. Swirl past the graffiti, carvings, the pictographs, the cave paintings, back to the mere smudges of inhabitation. Say yes to the no, hold the purpose less ness. Be less.  Be no-ness. Just air vibrating after the guitar chord struck a moment ago over there. All vitalabrations.

Image result for acoustic guitar pictures

175. Missed Appointments

There is an expectation when two parties make an appointment that it will be kept. When the appointment fails due to one party not following through, there is disappointment. Perhaps both parties feel disappointment, but definitely the one left holding the bag is disappointed. I’m in the appointment business. I meet around 30 clients a week and juggle 15 to 30 phone calls per week, plus an assortment of e-mails. I make mistakes. I hate it, but I do. It’s never a fun moment when two different clients are in the waiting room expecting the same appointment time. Oh no. It’s worse than mistakenly walking into the women’s bathroom, which I did in the Frist Museum in Nashville two years ago. I kept hearing this woman’s voice in there while I was in a stall. I thought, ‘Boy is she ever gonna be embarrassed when she realizes she’s in the men’s room.’ I was shocked when I heard a second and then a third woman’s voice echo in the suddenly huge vault. I knew then that my village was missing its idiot. I ducked my head and walked directly out the door and into the men’s restroom to wash my trembling hands. It’s also bad when no one is in the waiting room, which is a more common experience.

Let me think of famous missed appointments. They are hard to find because they’re not memories we want to recall. Guilt and shame cover these hurts. When I was preschool age, I believe, I have a vivid memory of waiting for hours on a Sunday afternoon on 14th Street near the Washington Monument for a bus that did not run on Sundays. My mother and little brother were with me. My mother kept looking for “11C”, the local bus that stopped in front of our suburban house. I don’t know why we were there to begin with, but eventually my father drove up in an old Buick and picked us up. It’s a strange and silent memory that holds much more, I suspect. I was too young to question my mother’s sanity at that point. Later that would come in bizarre conversations about things that, like her fantasy bus, would not ever arrive.

When I was in 3rd grade, I was supposed to be an altar boy at St. Louis Catholic Church and School. I went to the school with boys whose brothers were already altar boys. They knew the ropes, or should I say robes? Anyway, practice was after school and I managed to miss those by riding my school bus home to familiar turf. I could tell you who got on at what stop because of the twice daily repetition over several years. Bus F, Mrs. Reed was our driver for a year or two. Never an issue that I can recall. Peace rolled down Kings Highway, past Berkshire Drive, along the Parkway, past Virginia Hills Avenue. If we missed the bus, which we did on occasions, we walked the two miles to school. Like Jerry Seinfeld’ famous whine, “But I don’t want to be a pirate!” I didn’t really want to be an altar boy.

church ship priest

Missing… somehow I was supposed to be a priest. Someone thought that was a good idea for me, the third of four sons. I think it’s a leftover medieval concept. The oldest son was to inherit the estate; the second son was supposed to be a soldier; the next son went to the clergy; and I guess they ate the fourth or fifth sons during long winters. Missing out on altar boy life ruined my chances for the priesthood, thank God. I can’t imagine a more gloomy life than being a priest. I was more outgoing and spiritual than my three brothers, so I can sort of see the reasoning behind lobbying me, but that’s an awful thing to do to a young man. While the country was breaking out of its conservative 1950’s cocoon, I was supposed to be spinning a new cocoon of celibacy and self annihilation? Nahhh. I feel sorry for the guys who bought that package. It’s like buying your father’s burned out Oldsmobile from him and thinking that you now rock. Sad.

Image result for junky oldsmobile pictures

Fourth missed appointment: I was supposed to maintain my birthright appointment and anointment of Catholicism. I let that go about 15 years ago. I describe myself as spiritually anorexic back in those days: I was starving for spiritual food, but all I got was ritual and hocus pocus, a promise of later fulfillment. I gave it forty plus years and did not see desirable fruit. Instead I felt like I had to apologize for the anemic modern ways of the Catholic Church and its horrid past theo-political exploits. The turning point came when I went on a mission trip with my oldest daughter to Mexico, which I had always believed was a Catholic country. What I found out was many Mexicans had the Virgin of Guadalupe in their front yard and had no idea about Jesus. It was superstitious hocus pocus that finally severed my spiritual umbilical cord with Catholicism. In a way it felt like a junior high romance that just didn’t offer a realistic future relationship. You can’t live in the past.

Truth be told, we don’t really know how many missed appointments we have missed in life. Unless someone tells you that you missed the love of your life or the ideal job or the perfect house, how would you know? I prefer to focus on the positive side of perception– kept appointments. In this blogging business I expect to meet my self imposed limit of 1,000 words per post. Somehow I figured that was my frame to fill. In counseling sessions my frame is an hour. (Writing 1,000 words takes much longer than an hour, folks.) I am currently engaged in multiple appointments that resonate with truth for me. My job, my family, my faith, my social life all seem to vibrate in pleasant, complementary frequencies. I am a contented man.

Image result for content man pictures