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Friends and Filosofia

I am so happy that as an adult, I have had the opportunity to really learn the value of friendship. We will know a lot of people in our lifetime but true friends are rare. I don’t know what constitutes a good friend. If you ask me to list the qualities, specific to friendship, I couldn’t say. There are so many people who are kind, loving, gracious, helpful etc. Any conceived list can go on in detail but without a personal connection, which transcends the obvious, people will continue to come and go in our lives. A small few will remain and be that trusted anchor who serves a unique role in our lives. What makes those folks different? I know that my best friends challenge me to be better, do better, understand better but don’t chastise me if I fail to meet their standards because they know that only I can meet the goals I set for myself. I hope to offer the same in friendship.
I will not list the people I have known who fulfill that mirroring role in my life. For those who know me, they are already aware how much they are valued. Because above all, if we don’t learn the lessons they teach, or if we fail to appreciate the beauty and love they bring into our lives, and say so, time will come when it is no longer possible.
Among my friends is mujerfilosofia, who finds within her mind and heart, simple words which are thought provoking, practical and easy to absorb. For that reason, I am always happy to share what she writes, usually as tweets but I was so moved by her thoughts in a recent email, that I decided to include it here with her permission. Mujer helps me to see the world from another’s eyes and therefore expand and open my own consciousness towards others.

Thoughts from @mujerfilosofa
Who are those who have expectations for us?
As a child grows and developes, his parents and teachers have hopes for who they
will become. It has a lot to do with who they are themselves.

All those events and experiences in life continue to shape and define who we are.
It is a process quite different for each of us.

Eventually, one’s true feelings, and longings lead us to where we must go.
No matter how many people try to steer us to what they consider the ‘right path’, where
we end up has more to do with what we are seeking and what gives meaning and happiness
to our existence.

Society may define what is expected of us.
What we eventually do is based more on our own views.
It is why we end up struggling when their ‘ways’ are not what is ‘natural’ to us.

Square pegs in round holes will never do.

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Happy birthday to you Mr. President!

Rise and Shine

Today matters because a child is forever lost to his parents through no fault of his own.

Calorie Wars

Calorie Wars
Today on ‘Morning Joe’ I watched Mika B.talk with a reporter about her new book Obsessed. I haven’t read it but I did hear her words, probably because listening to a personal story has more impact for me. I have spent the better part of my 50 years in Nursing listening to others relate their mental, physical and emotional hurts. I am always fascinated by the triggers or unseen forces which drive us to a state of being in which we are no longer comfortable but feeling powerless to call a halt.
Truly, many days we are driven by demons whose source is within our being, crying out to satisfy simple needs which our mind attaches to much bigger things. For example, when we have a craving for simple salt, how much easier it would be to sprinkle a few grains in our hand and allow it to melt on the tongue. I mean, I get the idea that we have addictions, food being a major player. So the simple desire for salt becomes attached to potatoes in the form of chips, or fries, or some other goody which will eventually hold us hostage to its delight. When I heard about it, and thought about food addictions I could understand in a heart beat how that would drive the body and mind to work in sync for the worst outcome. The intellect has no defense against those cravings.
I have not been fat all my life. As I tell folks who have only known me in the last 20 years, this obese woman is not me, never was, but illness altered the course of events in my life and every practitioner I met in the last twenty years was also powerless to stop the relentless gain of pound after pound of unwanted and disfiguring fat. When most diabetics lost, I gained. When others with cancer lost, I gained. There is no common sense defense against that.
Then the struggle with calories begins. How much food is needed to satisfy the body bulk and drug needs without leaving myself short. The war was exhausting. Each battle a defeat. Eventually, I personally got driven to absolute surrender. Even as a health care practitioner, the whole thing just became too much to even discuss or ponder. I ate to satisfy my needs. The slim woman with a perfect 34-24-36 measurements just didn’t exist anymore and would not live again.
But wait!
In the real war of calories, someone has to come along with a new practical, applicable idea at the same time as the scales tip as high as they have ever been. As I write this, I am 52 lbs lighter than I was. How I came to be here isn’t a complex story. Nor is it about finding the right diet. It is about change and understanding. It’s about satisfying those cravings and addictions, but also evolving a disciplined lifestyle so that when the craving for salt cries in your soul, you can sprinkle a few grains in your hand and allow them to melt on your tongue in the corner reserved for that taste, before moving on. You can forget about salt attached to anything other than the two elements which comprise its being: sodium and chloride. Or you can say no, I will wait until my next meal. Discipline has to evolve as part of the process in order to fight those demons inside which aggressively lobby your body and mind against the intellect of common sense.

I have been in nursing for at least 50 of my 66 years.  It sure has provided me with a good life.  Being lucky enough to fulfill my dreams through education and hard work is the culmination of Grannie’s dreams, my mother’s ambition, my father’s wishes and my inner drive.  For those ancestors whose genes created mine,  I give thanks and never question that most of what I wanted to do, I was able to achieve.  There isn’t much else except to continue to educate myself and try to pass on that same desire to my children and grandchildren. 

It’s hard to think about losses when I have been fortunate in so many ways but life is often a trade off of one thing for another.  Not sacrifices, but real exchanges for the good or just accepting that decisions have consequences.  What I understand is that the debilities of aging are concomitant with a mind, full of experience, ready to be passed on. Both enable me to come to peace more easily with change. 

So I sit here thinking about the empty space inside of me following surgery, typing its epitaph and trying not to mourn the loss of yet another body part which certainly received its share of work over the years.  When ‘it’ took early retirement from active service, I was dismayed, promising to nurture its quiet years until death.  ‘It’ had other ideas and now lies elsewhere away from me, soon to be buried in an unknown place. 

Wisdom teaches me that when something cries out to be released, we should let go with a happy heart because we are acceeding to the wishes of the other.  These are the lessons of my grandparents and parents.  When their time came, I did  let them go with grateful thoughts for all they did in support of my wellbeing.  Body parts are not quite like people.  They are however, a part of me, like my children and deserve some thought for the service provided to the health and wellbeing of my body. 

So as I recoup from this loss, I give thanks for wisdom which enables me to process change, the career which taught me to accept change, and a family creed which teaches  change as inevitable. 

I can’t put my experience alongside the recent victims in Boston.  Their experience is outside of my scope except as a practitioner.  I am however mindful of the consequences, when thoughtless others decided our fate.  My heart and prayers go out to them for the unintended losses  they must deal with now and forever.

Great Video

Great Video

Music Rocks!

Well, really  iTunes rocks!  I love music.  Can’t sing but I can hear and I was blessed with an ear for listening.  Every song has meaning.  To my untutored ear, the creator of the music provides one message, the arranger offers another, while the author of the lyrics defines another vision.  When all three meld beautifully, the song will serve its higher purpose of uplifting our spirit with a message of entreaty,  love, hope or all of the above.

Here are two examples of what I consider as my gift of hearing and listening.  By the way, I thank my high school English teacher for instilling in me the need to both hear and listen.

Earlier this year, I was browsing through a variety store at the airport in Jamaica while waiting for my flight.  Mostly, I indulge my love of literature by searching for books but since I was travelling alone my ears were tuned in to all the sounds around me and not the chatter of a travelling companion.  Like most stores today, there was a sound track running.  In the background, I could hear the notes and voices of the gospel song which was playing.  Beyond the sound of the choir ringing out over the speakers, was another lone voice.  I realized that the young cashier was also  caught up in the music, apparently knew and loved the song, and was singing in the sweetest voice I have heard in a long time.

I didn’t turn around but allowed the recorded music from the speakers to flow over me while the voice of the young woman brought a heartfelt emotion to the words.  I couldn’t catch everything but long after I walked out of the store,  the theme stuck with me as well as the final words of the chorus.  ‘he chose the cross instead’.  For some reason, I kept and held everything about the experience.

Weeks later, I still couldn’t forget the song, the words, the music or the voice. Eventually, I knew that  I would have to figure out where to track down the song.  How I was going to do that without a title or the name of the choir struck me as absurd.  To be honest, I spent a lot of time kicking  myself for not taking a moment to ask the young girl for the information.

Recently, I found myself in a similar situation.  My current hero, Barack Obama was struggling though the last days of his campaign.  His voice was almost lost in the rounds of endless appearances around the country.  About three days before the election, I waited online along with others for an appearance in some small town in Ohio because I could never tire of listening to his message of hope, voice or not.

The President was late getting to the advertised venue and I wondered if he had lost what was left of his overstrained vocal chords.  None the less, I waited, keeping one window on my computer opened at  The Obama Diary waiting for notice that he had arrived.

After awhile, I just opened  the C-Span channel and waited since I had nothing else to do and was tired of refreshing my computer.  I went to the venue site and waited.  There was a large crowd.  The music in the background hadn’t started in on the usual  Springsteen or Stevie Wonder tunes, a sure sign that the President’s arrival was not imminent.   I continued to wait.  The crowd was beginning to rock in anticipation.  Suddenly, it wasn’t the crowd anymore but the tune which began to get under my skin and I knew I had to figure out what it was.

Ok, so its not the airport in Jamaica.  My fabulous cell phone is handy.  By the time I was able to pull up my Soundhound app, the catchy song ended and the music moved on to another tune, still nice but not the one which moved me.

Forgetting about the president, who I had heard almost every day for weeks, I went back to The Obama Diary to ask if anyone knew the tunes which were played at the venues to entertain the crowds while waiting for Mr. Obama to appear.  No immediate response.  In desperation, I googled several variations of the words, ‘music, president, venue, etc.’  I finally found the answer under ‘President’s playlist’.

There were several songs.  Some I recognized immediately, others vaguely and some not at all.  After copying the list, I crossed out those I knew then went straight to itunes.  Here my two stories converge.

The complex mechanisms which comprise the  iTunes program make my musical search  missions a very interesting endeavour.  My effort combined with the availability of an awesome list of songs will result in success if I listen and hear.  The 90 second preview is usually enough to figure out if I am going in the right direction.

Finding the match to the words ‘he chose the cross instead’, was the more difficult of the two.  There were several songs with the same or similar words.  I ended up having to buy at least four songs before the wonderful tune by the Crabb family began to play out on my computer.  Indeed the words and music were as lovely as I remembered.  I have since played it on a regular basis when I am on the road.  Recently I also introduced it on my playlist for Gospel night at our healing meditation services.

After listening to the first five of the pieces on the President’s playlist, which were new to me, I heard this wonderful song performed by Ages and Ages, entitled, No Nostalgia.  I have to say, that it was as inspiring through my ear phones as it had been playing  in the background while the crowd of thousands waited for the president.  I can see why that song was on his playlist.

If music, words arranged beautifully can uplift the spirit,  inform and broaden the soul even while it teaches the very practical skills of listen, hear and seek then those songs are surely worth sharing.

I don’t know if there is any value or recongizable skill in being able to track down a song with very little information but I am happy to be able to do that because one uplifting song can make a difference to one hour of my day, one day of my life, one year.  Without music, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t offer hope and healing to those who are distressed, I couldn’t get myself up to make life’s journeys when the spirit falters.

Not every song search is so difficult.  Case in point, listening to Blossom Dearie sing Touch the Hand of Love on the radio, stopping the car to make a note of the information, tracking it down on YouTube then finding a classically beautiful version by YoYo Ma and Renee Fleming, Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer.  Every time I listen to it, I am thankful for having the opportunity to bring it into a moment when I need to remind myself to be thankful for family and friends.

I hope all your songs bring you the same joy.