Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Those Moments

I was sitting with my father watching my son play goalie over the weekend when my father compared the goalie position to that of a pilot using the old joke... "hours and hours of sheer boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror." It is true in many ways... since a great deal of the time the puck is on the opposite end of the rink and there is absolutely nothing to do. But just when the boredom sets in, the puck changes hands and suddenly, as was the case in this game, here come three opposing players with not a defensemen in sight. My stomach drops every time this happens as I watch from the stands. I can only imagine what it must be like to be in the line of fire.

These moments happen not just in hockey games... or in the cockpit... but every day and all around us. And these "moments of terror" aren't always terrifying. The analogy also works for the special moments in life. Those moments when we are, as Joseph Campbell would call it... "fully engaged". Moments when things fly at you from all angles and your body and mind react instinctively. Moments of joy. Moments of terror. Moments when the story lines that we are writing for ourselves come to climax. It is the continuous perfection of that moment that Buddha sought... the name Buddha itself meaning "awakened". In the Hindu and Christian cultures the concept of god becoming part of the world underlies the idea that our incarnation here is merely a forgetting of the spirit life so that we can experience these moments in this existence. There is something reassuring in this idea... that a supreme being would seek to be a part of this world simply to experience that which we take for granted daily.

This concept has been much on my mind of late. The concept of "moments" of life. My life is indeed vast stretches of boredom... of sameness... punctuated by moments of sheer terror... or joy... moments of sheer emotion. Those moments form together like touchstones of my past, forming a life lived. I remember not the filler moments... those moments... like now... that simply lead to the climax. But I remember the births... the deaths... the coming togethers... the breaking aparts... the moments where mind and body are in perfect accord. Those moments when time slows to a crawl and all of my senses are alive.

The Buddha's search for a place where all moments where "those moments" is noble and telling... for truly every moment CAN be one of those moments if we let ourselves experience it that way. But then again, I wonder if we are capable of appreciating the moments if they are ALL special. And perhaps the ebbs and flows of life have a purpose... to lull us into a place where sheer terror... or sheer joy... are possible. And perhaps my challenge is to except the "in between moments" as necessary parts of the whole. We are impatient these days for things to happen NOW, instead of enjoying the times of quiet for what they are... prelude.

After the game, I asked my son what he does to stay focused when the puck was on the other end of the rink. "I hum." And I nodded... and I smiled.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Love and Death: Storylines of the Week

My philosophy of life can be summed up as follows: "It pretty much all works out in the end..."

The problem with this philosophy is A) there is no real clear indicator as to when the end will arrive and B) there is no clear indicator that the end will be the happy ending that we imagine.

But inevitably in my life I have found that what I first took to be bad endings are, in fact, better endings than I could have imagined. My short sighted view had me missing the forest for the trees.

You could say that I view my life... and yours... as the storyline of a novel. A novel in which we are the author, actor, and, more often than not, bit player. Because, you see, we are all the stars of our own shows... but we are the bit players in everyone else's story. And since there are more of you than there of me, I am... a great deal of the time... a bit player in other people's stories. I am alright with that role, as I hope you are about being a supporting character in my story. But I find the story lines... mine and yours... fascinating. The twists, the turns... the bad writing and the moments of sheer prize winning brilliance. And the story lines always work out in the end... some tragedies and some triumphs. But they all resolve... eventually.

I was a bit player in two such plot lines that came to the close of a chapter this week... one happy, one sad. One about death. And one about birth. One in which the star meets his end after a life that was not always well lived. And one in which the girl gets the guy... and the family... and lives (hopefully) happily ever after. I had no speaking lines in either plot, but instead served as audience... providing only reaction shots as the drama played out.

As far as "it pretty much works out in the end"... death would seem to be a pretty bad version of "the end"... and yet I don't believe that. In this particular case, it was the right end to this chapter... and since my personal beliefs include a belief in the here-after... it is the end of chapter, not of the book... and the next chapter might well be a lot happier than this one. And the girl? Well... her story is really just starting. It is a sequel to a best seller...and one that will have many more twists and turns, and ups and downs before it is all over.

My own storyline has many plot lines that are in various stages of resolution. Most will end in ways that I really can't fathom. Some happy, some not... but I have lived enough to know that what is certain is they all of those stories will work themselves out in the end.

The trick is to pick a good supporting cast to help you through both the good and the bad.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I'm Swine, How Are You?

So the swine flu hit Chez Mobius this weekend. 4 out 5 inhabitants are down for the count. I know, I know. I shouldn't call it "Swine Flu" because the Other White Meat people will get all offended. But really, the other name is more like a computer password... neither of which I can remember with any regularity. Before you all run off screaming, I think that you are safe from contamination. Reading my blogs will NOT make you catch swine flu. Or any other flu for that matter.

Being as how I'm neither pregnant, or an infant, I am hacking and wheezing but pretty much not in danger of anything other than a few days of claustro-house-dephobia... fear of being stuck in my house with the entire family and dog getting on my nerves. There are only so many card games you can play with your seven year old... or so many times you can watch Disney Channel reruns... or so many times you can let the dog out... then in... then out... then in... before you begin to lose it.

At any rate... I'm cranky. And hot. And feeling generally porcine. How are you?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Button Giver

So since all the cool blogger kids are taking hiatuses... hiati?... I thought I would join in too. So I have left you all for new adventures. But I am back filled with stories to tell you. Okay... one story.

I've been in the woods of late. Not figuratively. Literally. Each year the entire fifth grade at my kid's school heads off into the wilderness to learn about nature for 2.5 days. They bring along a few "chosen" parents... mostly ones without criminal records who can actually PROVE that they have no criminal records. At any rate, Monday found me bouncing along to points north on a yellow bus of 10 year olds. My son had deserted me to sit with friends, so I was sitting with the kid with a lisp that apparently no one else wanted to sit with. He announced each sign that we passed, and then asked exactly how far that was to our destination. Finally after an hour we took the exit ramp which caused him to jump up and announce, "Look kids, we're getting off the interstate." but sounded sort of like Sylvester the Cat "look kidthhthh, we're getting off the interthththate." I wanted to point out to him that the reason that he was sitting with me might have had something to do with his use of the word "interstate"... or his insistence on calling them all "kids". But arrive we did. And after unpacking a bus full of bags, including one Gucci bag that I could had fit my entire wardrobe in, the kids were off to meet their leaders and the chaperones were off to learn how to lead.

At this meeting a parent from each group was given a bag with buttons in them. They were special buttons to give to the kids for "special" things they did.. like paying attention, volunteering, and not jumping off cliffs. I was given the bag for our group of twenty kids because the other dad was too busy trying to find cell reception and coffee. Our duties consisted of escorting the kids here and there... entertaining them during breaks... generally staying out of the way of the guides... and handing out buttons. I figured that the kids would find the buttons patronizing as I did. But the dynamic was interesting. The first few badges garnered little attention and I assumed that they mostly didn't care. There were 16 badges and 20 kids... so I tried to watch each kid for a bit and select some special moments. The other father took a few and handed them out like lifesavers if the kid could answer questions like "what is your name?" and so forth. At dinner... badge winners were asked to stand up, and be recognized before returning their badges for the next day. Mostly they rolled their eyes at having to stand up. But kids are sneaky with what they care about... and by day two there was an undercurrent of needing to be recognized.

On day two of our adventure, some mysterious suited men showed up at lunch. "Suited" as in double breasted suits, with $400 loafers. I asked the student teacher sitting next to me at lunch what was up and she whispered that one of the parents in one of the other groups was "crazy..." and the school administrators came to "check in". This, of course, raised my hackles... because the logical conclusion was that someone had called me crazy again. This fear was confirmed when one of the suits followed my group out into the wilderness after lunch. The 20 ducklings, the student teacher, one environmental leader, and me and Mr. Gucci Shoes. The student teacher caught my eye and conspiratorially told me that I wasn't crazy... but Gucci was following because his daughter was in our group. She pointed the girl out.

She was a tiny pixie and in the first day I never saw her without a smile. But when I looked at her now she looked like steam was coming out of her ears. I have never seen a face more full off anger than on that little pixie face. The student teacher filled me in. "The parents are separated... she doesn't like dad much." They didn't teach us about this part in the chaperone training. We marched along through the forest path with Mr. Gucci Shoes trailing us by about 20 yards. While his daugher pushed her way to the front of the line to be as far away from him as possible. It was heartbreaking. From both sides. I have no clue what had gone down between them. It didn't really matter, I suppose. Her perfect world had been shattered. And he was to blame. Rightly or wrongly. And now here was a public reminder of it dogging her adventure in Italian leather. He stayed back and listened to part of the next session, and then when the kids were getting ready to do their learning, he leaned in for a whispered goodbye. She didn't even look at him and he followed the path back to camp. The pixie was still trying to recover several minutes later. She was listening to the wind in the trees, and the chipmunks chipping, and the wood creaking, and studiously copying down these finding into her current exercise, writing the song of nature. But it was hard to hear with all that steam in her ears. I could tell. I was watching her. And the joy of the place was gone, washed away by hurt feeling from the past.

I went and knelt beside her eventually and asked her to tell me her song. She rattled off the sounds and I asked her if she heard the bird in the distance. We both listened for a bit in silence. And the steam began to fade. And as I got up, I handed her a blue listening button with a smile. And suddenly, her smile was back. She pinned it on and showed her best friend who smiled too.

If only it were that easy. I would give buttons every day to everyone I met. Wouldn't you?

Friday, October 2, 2009

10 Things I Remembered This Week

1) I am not as dumb or as smart as she thinks I am.

2) I don't like the feeling of having the floor beneath me removed suddenly.

3) Sometimes saying nothing is the right thing to say.

4) Nooners are good.

5) There is nothing better than playing a three part trio of Heart and Soul with your kids.

6) There is nothing worse than listening to a three part trio of Heart and Soul by your kids.

7) Rain is nice... for a little while. Then it gets kind of sucky.

8) Despite Axe Hair Crisis Relief advertising to the contrary, no horde of women has popped out of a balloon to give my hair a makeover.

9) Expecting things to work out is different than making things work out.

10) There are always other options.