Me and the Boys…

Me and the Boys….

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A Return to Innocence – or (Hopefully) Welcoming a Post-Ironic Phase of American Culture

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I was musing in the frozen food aisle at Trader Joe’s, humming along with the music. Quinoa with Kale or Short Ribs for dinner? After choosing the short ribs, I noticed that I was lingering in the produce section so that I could continue reliving my childhood along with Nancy Sinatra who was inviting me to fly in her beautiful, her beautiful, ballooooon! The song offers an unapologetic invitation to the Land of Happiness. I suddenly remember seeing Laura and Rob shared chaste kisses in the living room on the Dick Van Dyke Show. If you strip away the hidden drug/sexual references buried within that former culture, the emotions being communicated are playful, joyful, or wistful. I would call these cultural images part of the Age of Innocence.

While I was “Never Falling in Love Again” and “On Top of the World” when I was younger, my own children grew up slapping their knees to “99 Problems (and a bitch ain’t one)” or “this is how you remind me of what I really am.” While my popular icons were holding hands and going on dates in their songs, my kids’ favorites were doing it doggie style and hating their parents. Their TV favorites were Bart Simpson and The Office. I would call these cultural images part of the Age of Irony.

But now we seem to be returning to a time of belief in things — I see it coming – a Post-Irony age is upon us. What are the markers? Here are a couple to start you thinking.

First, they are playing some of that old music again that I’ve described above. Folks don’t roll their eyes at Burt Bacharach anymore – they think his music was cool. They play it in Trader Joe’s (the “coolest” grocery store). I love to see small children wiggling to music that is for-real happy.

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I also see a post-ironic phenomenon on Facebook in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The Ice Bucket postings I have seen are pretty uniform. No speeches, no efforts to appear ‘cooler’ than the challenge, just straight up acceptance of a bucket of freezing cold water dumped upon you by yourself or a loved one. The AVALANCHE of money raised for research is proof that it has been embraced; Americans believe they can make a difference and then they go and do it. No apologies, no copycats, no stalling. Sure, thousands of those who were challenged did not come through. They thought it would be uncool. But many many millions did do it. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge makes me believe – it is post-ironic.

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Jimmy Fallon seems to be another Post-Ironic figure. His hosting style is involved and enthusiastic He tends to perform with guests –working hard, not mocking, but using their talents lovingly. He is an unabashed fan and a co-worker (not the supercilious boss or the jerk in the corner making wisecracks). Even when he and Anne Hathaway perform “Bitch Don’t Kill my Vibe” in a Broadway song format, they sing it like they mean it. “My goal is to make you smile and put you to bed with a smile on your face so you live a longer life” is what he announced in his opening monologue to a delighted audience which included his (still married!) parents from upstate New York. Jimmy makes me believe – he is post-ironic.

I’m sure you can find other harbingers of an age beyond irony….give it a try. It might make you smile, and live longer. I know that the Age of Innocence to which I refer was not all that innocent. It was a time of racism, sexism, and subjugation. But while Irony points out the flaws of Innocence, it leaves a vacuum rather than providing a solution. When we get beyond irony, we can really make things happen — and that’s what I’m hoping for. 

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LIFE IN THE FAST LANE- or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love ADHD

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Chihuly

Like many adults my age, I never knew I had ADHD until I researched the condition when one of my kids was diagnosed. As I reviewed the laundry list of ADD/ADHD traits, I kept saying to myself, “Well, that’s just normal. Well, THAT’S just normal … and that is like my dad/mom/other family member …” Then, I read that it was 80% genetic. High-school suddenly became understandable. Reports from teachers about “not achieving her full potential” and the deep anxiety of constantly losing or forgetting assignments all fit clearly within the context of my experience.    And field trip permission slips?– forget about it!

I was not a “hyper” kid, but I did view school as a torturous exercise in clock watching. I felt I could have learned everything they taught during a 50 minute session in 10 minutes – but I had to sit still and stay in my seat without falling asleep or wandering off on a mental vacation. It wasn’t easy and I didn’t finish in the top half of my class but I did get into a good college/grad school and have had a successful life ever since. But all of that happened BEFORE I knew I had ADHD. Once I knew I had it, I found a context in which to place so many reasons why I’ve felt “different” all my life.

As I write this essay, I am simultaneously listening to every ADHD Ted Talk I can find. The lectures range from a dirge litany of anti-social, self-harming behavior to an exuberant recounting of the ability to experience life in a fuller sense. Some seem think it is a shaming mental disorder. Others prefer to focus on the cognitive differences and the way they are manifested. All seem to agree that ADHD is a verifiable ‘thing” and that it can be hard for those who “have it” to function as other people do.

If you are unfamiliar with the topic of ADD/ADHD, I invite you to do some research into the symptoms, causes and treatments. The purpose of my essay on this topic is twofold. A. to challenge a person with some knowledge of ADHD to contemplate our culture’s bias against any “difference” or “disorder;” and B. to provide some thoughts on how a self-taught functioning adult with ADHD gets through life in our culture successfully.

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Transgendered in India

 

THE LANGUAGE OF NORMALCY and THE MEDICAL MODEL.

Balance, normalcy, and a lack of underlying conditions seems to be the holy grail of functionality in our increasingly complex and demanding world. Adding that our current reality is engineered for us by, well, ENGINEERS – whose preference for rationality, logic, and pragmatism is nothing more or less than a foregone conclusion –and we can see a challenge for anything that falls outside of the box. If it’s not a “1” or a “0,” it doesn’t belong and should be eradicated – right?

We also love a good paradigm. The Medical Model is the way we tend to analyze differences. In the Medical Model, differences tend to be viewed with an a priori assumption that they are negative. Using this paradigm, we approach any anomaly with a protocol. First, we identify symptoms. Next, we diagnose. Then, we treat. The goal is to restore equilibrium. This is a fantastic approach if you have a bladder infection. However, the way people use their brains, and what we describe in our culture as “equilibrium,” can be a more complex analysis than the medical model can handle.  

Why not pause and question this medical model paradigm for a second? Why must any variation, any mutation, be labeled a “symptom” of a disease? Dis-ease, Dis-order, Dys-function. The message in the medical model is that anything that differs or varies from the norm is bad. Like a Grand Master chess player – we often are deemed to rise and fall according to how few mistakes we make.

If we simply shift our focus to view differences in a positive light, gleaning the parts of ADHD that are beneficial, we can begin to appreciate something other than the usual stuff and we see the contribution that all who are “different,” including those with ADHD, have made to our society.

It’s Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dummy.

When you are diagnosed with ADHD, here are a few of the things they look for:

  1. Non-linear thought patterns, frequent shifts of focus, sensitivity to distraction;
  2. Shifting emotions, difficulty completing unpleasant or “boring” tasks;
  3. Physical movement, high level of social interaction, impulsivity

Let’s look at these same behaviors according to a medical model. Let’s assume they are negative qualities. Then we have a list that looks like this:

  1. Spacey, disorganized, absent minded, scattered;
  2. Irresponsible, inconsiderate, capricious, poor listener;
  3. Fidgety, flighty, overly ‘social,’ and dangerous

Let’s look at the same behaviors according to an appreciative model.

  1. Creative, open, high tolerance for ambiguity, flexible;
  2. Quick to forgive/forget, able to interpret multiple social signals at once, focuses on increasing strengths rather than weaknesses;
  3. Energetic, fun, social, unafraid

While being ADHD makes me different, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am fated to a life of meaninglessness. Some of it depends on how you look at it. Most depends on what those with ADHD do with it. But, ADHD is not an inherently evil diagnosis.

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Playing with the Grownups

WELCOME TO YOUR WORLD.

Whether you look at the glass as half full or empty, there are some incredible challenges to being ADHD. As I navigate the non-ADHD world, I must be careful to allow for my differences. Like someone with dyslexia who has learned to read well, I realize that there is a prism in my thinking that makes me perceive reality differently. I can use this to my advantage, or I can stumble into a bad trap. I have done some of each, for sure. Ultimately, I believe that anything about myself I cannot change is generally “Good” (it must be a gift If it came from God, right?).

Since I am self-taught in the art of functioning well with ADHD, I will now share with you some of my quirky tricks that make life with ADHD work for me. This is not my manual, but a highly subjective supplement, to my Plan that falls under the category of ADHD. You may find these tips helpful but I hope they will at least make you smile.

 

POLICY #1: I operate according to Policies as much as possible. Policies are not rules or habit; they are bigger than that. They are more like Guiding Principles. Having policies encourages the part of me that sees the big picture and helps me avoid the risk of getting distracted by extraneous facts.

Here’s an example: I am working on a project for a client when think to myself…”I just heard a dog bark next door which reminds me that my neighbor is recovering from surgery and may need a call. I hope I don’t get sick – need to take my blood pressure medicine. I think it’s in my purse which I left in the car. Have I exercised today? Maybe I should go to the gym now…” Then I think, “WAIT. The policy says that ANYTHING THAT GENERATES INCOME COMES FIRST. Therefore, I need to finish this research for a client and send it to him before I go to the next thing.”

Another example: I am feeling impatient. I am bored with listening to my (insert colleague, friend, partner) who is talking at length. My attention wanders. I interrupt, insert an observation on a different topic in an effort to change the course, but I cannot persuade them to go with me and off of the boring topic. I want to have a little adult tantrum – say something inappropriate or mean to get them to stop talking about X-subject. But I DO NOT because my policy is to be kind and non-judgmental. So, I do not judge, I do not burst out, I patiently continue onward in trying to hear their needs.

PLAYING DRESS UP. I often wear ‘costumes’ according to what I need to get done during a given time period. If I am doing housework on a warm day, I will dress in warm clothes so that if I go outside, I will be too hot and I will feel like I’m dressed awkwardly. This has saved me from hoping in the car to go get a cleaning product or getting sidetracked in the garden while taking out the trash! Since I work from home, I use costumes to stay focused. If I am focusing on business, I dress in clothes that shouldn’t get dirty so that I stay in that mode. It’s hard to get sidetracked cleaning a toilet with a silk shirt on or to walk the dog in heels!

DING! Another trick is using a timer – if I turn the coffee maker on, I set the timer so I am reminded that my coffee is ready. When I start a tub filling with water, I set a timer so that I don’t forget and let it overflow. Timers prevent me from boiling water down to nothing, leaving laundry in the dryer,  forgetting to call someone back in ten minutes, etc. I also have programmed my phone to make a chiming noise on the hour. This reminds me that time has gone by and encourages me to refocus.

THIRTY PLUS. When I have a commitment to be somewhere at a certain time, I am almost never late. I achieve this by preparing ahead and allowing at least 30 extra minutes of travel time it should take a normal person. For example, if I need to be at an 11:00 meeting that is 30 minutes away by car, I will try to be out the door by 10:00. The chances of me having to look for something, return for something I forgot, or need to get gas on the way are unusually high. In order not to let that interfere, I add 30 minutes to traveling time.  If I arrive early, I can always check my messages, take a car nap, etc. I try NEVER to rely on speeding or low traffic volume to make up time.

 

OMMM… seek opportunities to improve concentration. Why do I love desert hiking and hiking above treeline? LIMITED DISTRACTIONS. It is me taking one step at a time, heart pounding, within a monochromatic and spare landscape. With a clear blue sky above me and a horizon filled with millions of tiny rocks and a few tufts of grass, I achieve clarity. My mind stills. I hear my heart beat and I am gasping for breath as I trudge along a slope at 13,000 ft. I can’t talk. I can’t listen. I am at work and at peace. More and more, that peace comes back to me later on. Whatever you can do to eliminate mental and physical clutter a few times per week, do it.  My son works in a produce warehouse, and he loves the activity and time-sensitive nature of his job. He comes home after work and paints or plays guitar. This is his meditation. Everyone is different.

 

TO LIST OR NOT TO LIST.  Everyone who is not ADD advises me to use a list. I don’t use one. I may use a post-it if I need to remember no more than 5 things at a time. If it’s more complicated than that, I know I will lose the list or forget that I made it in the first place. Lists may help some people, but I don’t like them.

 

HUH? I am sensitive to my environment. I know when someone is just droning on versus when someone is in need of my attention. I warn my friends – you can vent to me, or regale me with your war stories, but I will have a hard time listening if I am not needed in the conversation. They usually drone away for awhile and then say “thanks for listening.” However, if a friend or colleague needs ME, I make a full commitment to be 100% engaged. I face them, make eye contact, summarize their statements back to them, and try my best to help them see their situation in a fresh light. I try to do my real listening sitting down, facing the person – never while walking or on the phone.

LET THE DOG OUT! I allow myself a few hours at least one day a week to just BE. No timers, no responsibilities, no structure. I may look for worms in my garden, smelling the soil, for five minutes and then chop onions in the kitchen. Next, I’ll take a walk around the park or read for an hour. I simply FLIT, as nature intended me to do. I have had the best realizations of my life in these moments – and I have prevented myself from feeling the need to escape into drugs or a downward cycle of worry. Even when my kids were little, I could cajole my useless ex-husband into a 30 minute reprieve to just get out of the house and BE. Don’t plan, don’t fulfill, just blow upon the wind for a little minute and celebrate who you are!

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LESSONS LEARNT.

Cut ‘em some slack, Jack. If I could redo school, or parent an ADHD child, I would try to be more of a champion with my child than an authority figure. I would applaud the struggle they go through to sit quietly for 50 minutes, 9 times per day and listen to someone else talk and watch someone else do. I would not punish them for wanting to be with friends or need to stop in the middle of doing homework. I faked illness a lot because I just needed a f*cking break. I failed to complete homework because I couldn’t do it the way everyone else did so I gave up. While sitting still is hard, ADHD kids are also very sensitive to distraction. I hated the Open Classroom as much as the traditional one. I really needed a variety of types of environments – short lectures, group activities, solo time without distraction, and non-thinking time by turns. 

Let your ADHD kid take a day off every once in awhile – don’t make him/her lie to you to get some relief. I would be prouder of demonstrated intelligence and insightfulness and less concerned about a missed assignment.  Just communicating that that you know it’s hard can make the person with ADHD feel better. I used to say to my kids, “I wish I could give you a different world – a world that is not ruled by the clock – but I can’t. You’re just going to have to get out there and do your best and know that I love you!”

MAKE YOUR LIFE FIT YOUR STRENGTHS. Whomever you are, there are certain jobs or relationships that are just not a good fit. School is a difficult fit for many with ADHD. When we are young, we have no choice but to attend school, and we start to feel like losers because it is torture to sit still, listen, and to do all of our homework at once before we do anything fun. But, once schooling is done (and I completed 7 years of school after high-school) then it’s a good idea to find some work that allows for freedom of movement and also rewards ADHD levels of energy, flexibility and creativity. I have been lucky to find that fit in a range of places – ministry, strategic planning, networking, project start-up, resource development, and now real estate….all of these areas have been good for me.

Focused work (particularly on unpleasant tasks) should be done in stints of no more than 30 minutes without a break. Just walk around or do something else for a minute. Don’t abandon the task completely, just don’t expect it to go as quickly as it would for someone who can concentrate for 3 hours solid. Allow extra time to get things done, and take breaks! If you are working at a job, try your very best not to let it be one where you are forced to stay in one place for a shift. When I worked in a cubicle, I would circulate and say hello to the people in my office a couple of times per day. If this is done correctly/constructively, it can lead to promotions and trusting relationships. If you are stuck in a meeting, figure out a way to get up and moving before you start zoning out. Don’t be that guy who is checking his emails all the way through someone’s presentation. Never leave your phone on during a meeting if it is a distraction for you. Get up and claim a back injury demands you stand and listen at the side of the room – or excuse yourself for a bathroom break.

 

I KNOW MORE THAN YOU DO. Remember, ADHD people have been involved in many situations and relationships – we bring much more perspective to others’ problems/challenges than the typical focused achiever who does not allow for distractions. While you were doing your homework, we were surfing around learning all about life. While you were doing more homework, we were sneaking out on dates, learning about relationships. While you were memorizing the past participle in French, we were reading about life on a farm, in a foreign country, or writing our own stories. An ADHD person who has honed his/her ability to interpret experiences and learn about many subjects has SEVERAL LIFETIMES’ worth of wisdom to impart! Just don’t talk on and on for too long before you ask their advice… J .

ABOUT MEDICATION… When the heat is on, and I am finding myself in a swirling maze, I take Ritalin. I love it because (for me) it really does help, seems to exit my system promptly, and it can be taken occasionally. Granted, I take as directed and do not crush and smoke it or anything. I take this only when I absolutely must be on top of my game and have several looming deadlines at once. Also, I have an IUD that minimizes monthly hormonal cycles and I feel this is like having keys to the kingdom (I was a PMS basketcase). Medication is not always a bad thing for ADHD.

SELF MEDICATION…My feeling is that self-medicating with alcohol, pot or whatever is not helpful. First, the cognitive effect of these drugs carries beyond the intoxication – and it exacerbates ADHD challenges for days afterward. Second, if you are an ADHD person functioning at a high level in a non-ADHD world then you must keep your wits about you. The same goes for hanging out with other ADHD people. Oh the fun times I’ve had – sex, drugs, inhibitions abandoned, fun fun fun – but there is also a gut feeling that this is not a good way to wake up in the morning. Stay sober; it’s worth it to enjoy the rest of your day.

 

CONCLUSION

Having ADHD is not the same as having a mental illness. I believe that many with ADHD also suffer from mental illness, perhaps partly because they are so criticized and blamed for who they are. I believe that ADHD is a cognitive trait that has both good and bad qualities. It is my job to understand myself and function accordingly.

As history is written by the victors, so is a world ordered by engineers and programmers an unfriendly environment for creative or more flexible types. I like to think of those orderly folks as my assistants. I am the master of a destiny within some the dull but predictable guidelines and with access to the marvelous tools they have so painstakingly created. Thank god for them and thank god for ME!

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What does it take to be so …. dare I say it… optimistic?

Wood3facesIn the past 12 months, I have literally traveled the world. I have over 75,000 miles in air travel to London, Singapore, Thailand, Panama, India, Spain, and numerous domestic destinations. For the 12 months prior to THAT, I was busy dating/doing numerous men who are physicians, professors, fund managers, etc. I have not covered the latter topic in this blog because, well, no one has asked me to. I have a house full of young executives who pay for a furnished room. My daily life is full of fun, friends, and laughter.  I am so fortunate to enjoy good health and good luck.

 

But, before you puke – hear me out. I nearly lost my daughter in a horrendous car accident three years ago. I still carry a piece of severed wire that was laying on the street when her car flipped twice after being struck by a huge SUV (yeah, you are safe in an SUV but are you safe to others?). The passenger in that car is also lucky to be alive today. But this was after things were already difficult. Close members of my family were violently attacked and abused five years before that. I raced around catching fallout. I was burned by emotional shrapnel that rained upon us like acid – turning everything we loved into a living reminder of pain. We had to move house, move schools, move jobs – and still there was no way to get back to the Garden.

 

Slowly, the Garden was rebuilt, one flower at a time. We found a safe home. We cooked good food. We started sharing our home with foreign students. Mommy drank a LOT of red wine. We stumbled into a bright future with one mandate (mine): I am NOT a victim. Others may do, or will do, to me but I will determine my OWN attitude and fate. I will take some time to grieve but I will not live in grief or as a victim. I will rise.      I remember taking long walks at 4 am – cursing my fate while my kids slept. I cried for hours each night on the toilet.  I leaned heavily on family and friends. I remember doing yoga- stretching my arms WIDE, as wide as I could.to open my heart; I walked and worked out to positive music and mantras.  I decided to choose to LOVE. To choose NOT to be bitter. To choose not to be helpless.

 

I faked it til I could make it. I have the scars of those times etched on my heart. There is not a day I don’t wish my kids had a better childhood or that my daughter hadn’t been crushed by a car. There are days I look back on my wild, sexual efforts at healing and cringe a little. There are days I think – wow, I seem to be such a lucky woman.

 

This is a spontaneous post spurred on by the suffering of some friends who may not think I would ‘get’ it — but I do. And I love you and I hope you love you too!

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Love is a Work in Progress

SPRING 2014 534On a Spanish mountainside, near a little chapel built in a cave above a natural waterfall, a worker paused for a break while planting annuals. The hillside planting would be in the shape of a heart and the heart is unfinished, plants and pots strewn along the gardener’s path. This is the image that caused me to stop and stare – more beautiful yet because it is not completed. More poignant and arresting than a lavish and symmetrical display. I snapped the photo and titled it “Love is a Work in Progress.”

Whom have I loved? Is love ever “completed?” Whom can I not love – no longer allow myself to love? Where have the beginnings of a portrait of love simply faded and been trampled from neglect when other distractions arose? Is love a subject, an object, an abstraction, a reality, or is it an action?  Whatever it is or isn’t I am convinced that it is a dynamic, creative force that is never quite finished  – never quite all dead or alive – love is in process, just like a planting of annuals on a hot spring morning.

Romantic love is usually the first type that crosses my mind when I see a heart. Many times, I’ve been in a group of people where one of us announces- “I’ve been married for XX number of years.” Everyone smiles, even cheers, and claps – as though the couple has been happy and in love all that time – never failing and complete in their constancy. I would like to announce – “I’ve been in four committed, monogamous relationships of some duration and have juggled up to 5 boyfriends at one time- broken hearts, had mine broken, been betrayed, learned from my mistakes and I am in love all over again.” Do you think the room would fill with applause? Doubtful! Yet, I am convinced that I know about romantic love because I have loved in such variety.

Spain - Orvieto

 

Our children are perhaps our deepest loves. We must love them when no one else can. We have the privilege of being loved by them in a way that is both unconditional and earned. Yes, they will love us back and yes they actually DO love us back! This is the amazing part. But even children are never “done” – we are parents whether they are 5 or 50 – as my own know. A surgeon reports that a young child will rush AWAY from a doctor toward the very parent who has inflicted the wounds that need healing. The love between children and parents is deep and lasting, in most cases.

 

 

Sometimes love means letting someone go away. Sometimes loving someone means saying “no” to something they feel they need from you. Sometimes it means swallowing pride, pretending to care, fussing over something small on their behalf, pouring a beer, or saying goodbye. This is true of all forms of enduring love.

Side Saddle Saris

Sometimes love is not directed toward a human being – I love my little dog Lucky. He’s been with me for 4 years. He’s completely consistent in his love and devotion toward me. He is a little neurotic, shy, quirky, picky etc. but a great companion – I had come to accept Lucky as a particular type of dog. But Lucky changed when I was gone for many months this year. He stayed with a dear pet sitter who has two of her own dogs. Lucky not only bloomed, he burst forth as a rowdy and exuberant DOG! It was like watching Woody Allen turn into a soon-to-be-elected Barak Obama. Unstoppable. Eloquent. Rational. Sexy and full of promise. Coming back into my house, Lucky heaved a small sigh and retreated back within his little shell and started being subdued again. I had to act. Love is a work in progress. I have found a fantastic new home for Lucky with two other dogs who love to play and a dog mommy who works from home. Lucky will leave my life next week and I will cry and I will love him by letting him go.

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Maybe love is Progress. If you are not progressing, you are not loving or, as Dylan said, “those who are not busy being born are busy dying.” Maybe that’s why I sometimes wonder why we applaud couples who value constancy through the decades above individuals who are continually challenging themselves to keep evolving. Of course, a couple married many years may have experienced more progress through the relationship but, if so, I would rather applaud the progress than simply the number of years endured.

Maybe love is a Work; a science and an art form. I have caused others to become happier and healthier through my love for them. And they have caused me to blossom as well. If one person can say of another – “she/he was the ONE who made me understand/introduced me/challenged me/encouraged me to see the value of my own life and the contribution I can make” then that person has been properly LOVED by a proper master of the art of loving. Perhaps that is why I feel such regret when I think of lives touched where I wasn’t paying attention, or was influenced by my own insecurities or ego, and did not properly wield the tools of love. I wish I had.

Love is a work in progress. It is an art, a philosophy, a religion, and a garden. Love is always a work in progress.

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Reconnaisance

We are standing on top of a hill in the desert sun. We’ve climbed up, down, and up and down a few other hills. Our guidebook tells us to look for a “faint trail” that will lead to “the southwest ridge.”  The undulating, scorched ridges fan out from the coveted summit of Sunrise mountain like a cowgirl twirling a faded, sage colored skirt –at least three seem to be traveling from south to west. “Are you sure we parked at the correct ‘disused dirt track that leads between the old dump site and the faded sign that says No Dumping Allowed?'” I ask. We study the map again; still not clear.

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At least we can see the entire landscape, as there are no plants growing higher than about eight inches within sight. It is like an infinite, miniature forest of bleached brush and prickly pear cactus. After about an hour more of mounting various buttes, checking the compass, and eyeballing the topo map, we finally gain the angle and the sun catches that faded trail on one of the ridges before us. Victoriously, we build a little cairn of the scorched volcanic rock in abundance here. On top, I add a white Kleenex under a little red rock. It flutters cheerfully in the breeze. “See you tomorrow!” we say to the cairn, and pack off back to the Jeep. Luckily, this was a reconnaissance mission — tomorrow is the summiting day.

I wish I could do reconnaissance in life too. I wish I could have birthed my kids and then run them through about 3rd grade, put them to sleep and watch them awaken as  babies back in our first apartment. With hindsight, I could alter the course to better suit their needs. Would I chose a different school? A different approach to my life as a mom? I know I would have taught them to clean up better! I would be more patient, disciplined, and focused as a mom.

It all seems to happen so fast, and the best we can do as parents is be secure in the knowledge that we did our best. But I wish for more. I wish I didn’t always have to remind myself that there is no point in regrets, since I can’t do it over again.

My kids turned out fine. Eliot and Elizabeth Parker are both soulful, proud, brave, and loving individuals who have made good choices about who they want to bring into our family. I know I have played the Single Mother’s share of a role in forging their characters, and that I have a lot to be proud of.

I also know that I felt blindsided and haphazard at times while making choices during their upbringing — for example: Soccer. Is it that important? My son decided, during an October snowstorm during his team’s practice, that he didn’t like soccer anymore and didn’t want to play. I didn’t like standing out in the freezing Fall weather either, so I let him quit. Just like that, I made a life changing decision for my son. Because I hate the cold and so does he. Good call or bad call – it was sort of a crap shoot, right?

Sometimes reconnaissance can lead to a misadventure of its own – especially in an environment where improvisation is the rule. About a week ago, in India, we made a dry run to the airport on the metro train in Delhi. Now, why would we practice going to the airport, you might ask. The answer is: because doing anything in India was a challenge.

In the streets of Delhi, I felt like Brittany Spears trying to go to the 7-11 for a Coca-Cola every minute of every day. In India, my “paparazzi” were the street vendors, tuk tuk drivers, and everyone who wanted me to stop and give them a chance to sell something. My “fans” were the other people on the street who either openly gawked at a white woman walking along the street or who wanted to practice English or have a picture taken with a white person. Like Brittany, I quickly developed a thick outer shell – sunglasses hide your eyes and you just focus on where you’re going, not stopping or acknowledging anyone along the way. India was a fascinating and beautiful place, but it was a challenge for me because there was no way to just seep into the flow of the crowd.

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Stepping outside of our Delhi hotel and getting from the cab into the train station involved navigating in a warm and humid environment of movement including an entire color spectrum of fabrics, cooking and urine smells, and a constant hum of “excuse me, Miss..” “Hello Madam…” etc. So, Andy decided we should do a run without the luggage to make sure everything would go smoothly when we needed to get to our flight. We walked to the Metro line, found it to be very modern and accessible, and zoomed efficiently to the airport. We approached the armed guards, showed our passports and tickets, walked into the terminal, and scouted out the check-in counter. No problem.

However, when we were ready to leave the airport, there was a BIG problem. No one is allowed OUT of the airport once admitted inside. Hmmm. Why this rule exists, I still cannot fathom, but the men with machine guns did not think it was going to be possible for us to leave. Andy explained that we were simply PRACTISING going to the airport – our flight was later in the day and we didn’t have our luggage etc. This was difficult to communicate, especially with Andy’s thick London accent and the guards’ limited English. Once the soldiers realized that Andy was serious and that they did actually understand what he was saying, they burst out laughing. “Why, Why do you practice the airport trip?” Still, the dilemma remained — we were “In” and not supposed to go back “Out.” After a few minutes, the supervisor looked both ways over his shoulder and shooed us out. When we returned a few hours later, luggage in hand, he laughed again. “Okay, so you really want to travel this time? You can’t come back out!”

In the end, you can’t really put your foot in the river twice — something will always change, despite plans and dress rehearsals. Even Reconnaissance becomes its own journey. Some folks say that all of Life is just a rehearsal — and other say that Life is for real — NOT a rehearsal. I guess we just have to live each moment as though simultaneously it is, and is not, The Real Thing.

 

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