Grace in Small Things #42

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Goodbye to Grace

It’s getting harder to write these entries, so I don’t know that I’ll be able to fulfill the commitment that I made. I find this disappointing because I want to keep my commitments, but what I am finding is that I am only writing GIST entries and not writing other entries, and that is not the purpose of my blog. The purpose of my blog is to expand my writing, to write about different things, and not all of those are positive. I have appreciated this chance to try to look at more positive things in life, and I truly appreciate the concept of grace as I have written about it many times before, but I find this format too limiting.

When something becomes an obligation and ceases to be an insightful exercise, then I believe that it is probably not contributing to my creative well-being. So this will be my final GIST for a while. I may return to the concept occasionally, but more than likely it will probably be a spontaneous, one-time post.

1. Beautiful cards. I love to receive cards that show that the card-giver has really thought about the event and my personality. Corey has become a master at accomplishing this with the cards that he gives me. They are always so beautiful visually, and then he finds cards that have sentiments that are reflections of how he feels. Alexis has inherited the card gene. She loves to buy cards for people, and she is great at it.

2. Toasted bagels with fresh butter. I don’t eat these very often, but when I do, they are sumptuous.

3. Pedicures are a wonderful way to relax. I haven’t had one in a long time because they are a luxury item, but a good pedicure can restore your whole spirit.

4. I love water in all its forms—the ocean, the bay, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, swimming pools. I am a water baby, an Aquarius. I don’t swim all that well as I don’t have a lot of endurance, but I love the feel of water on my body.

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5. I love the sound of church bells. Whether they are just souding out one tone, or summoning people to church, the sound of the bells touches a deep place inside of me. I think that it’s because when I was a child in London, I heard so many church bells in towers with real change ringing, and I became so used to the sound. Now, there is only one Catholic church nearby that chimes its bells. But the sound of bells gives me a wonderful sense of peace.

That’s all for my Grace in Small Things. Peace.

Is My Life Just a Sad Song?

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Doorways by Michael H. Zack (inset; oil on paper)

Sometimes My Life Is Just A Country Song

Another day has almost come and gone
Can’t imagine what else could wrong
Sometimes I’d like to hide away somewhere and lock the door
A single battle lost but not the war (’cause)

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The Torch Singer by Connie Chadwell

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I’m feeling unsettled, music runs through my head constantly, like an internal play list. Songs from the past pop up out of nowhere, more than likely sad songs, melancholy songs, that I haven’t heard in years. And they usually have a sad story behind them.

The only way to get rid of these songs is to turn on one of my play lists on my computer and try to replace the music in my head with music outside my head. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t. More often than not, a song on my play list just bumps one in my head, and I start to dwell on the new song: where did I first hear it? What were the circumstances? Why did I put it on my playlist?

Often, the song is one that I have sung at the old karoake bar that we used to frequent, and it brings back memories of singing, something that I love to do in front of an audience. I think that in one of my past lives I was probably a torch singer in a smoky room in a back alley bar somewhere down by the docks. I don’t think that I was famous, but I think that I was well known for my raspy voice and my cigarette holder.

Tomorrow’s another day
And I’m thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain

But songs mean a lot to me. They are poetry (hence the name lyrical poetry), and they are stories. Simon and Garfunkel are definitely the voice of the generation of the 60’s and 70’s. Their songs are anthems for what was going on during those tumultuous times. The same can be said for John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s songs, as well as the songs of Bob Dylan, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

These songwriters were followed by a generation of modern country songwriters such as Garth Brooks, Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Chesney, The Dixie Chicks, and crossovers like The Indigo Girls, Jackson Browne, and Sheryl Crow.

And of course, the emergence of Rap music as urban poetry must not be ignored. Rap speaks to the minds and emotions of its listeners. Among the most famous rap artists today are Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg.

It’s almost like the hard times circle ’round
A couple drops and they all start coming down
Yeah, I might feel defeated,
I might hang my head
I might be barely breathing—but I’m not dead

I used to love to listen to Jane Olivor when I was feeling down. She has the voice of a chanteuse, and one of the songs that she sang was called “It’s over. Goodbye.” I must have played that song 50 times in a row after a major breakup with my good Catholic boyfriend. Each time was like a knife in my heart, which was what I felt I deserved for ending a relationship with such a wonderful person. But I never felt good enough, and I knew in my heart that I would never be true to him. So Jane and I spent the night together: she pouring out her heart, and I weeping.

Tomorrow’s another day
And I’m thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain

Another thing that I love to do is to make CDs of different playlists (my car is not equipped with an MP3 player, thank you very much). I have a road trip CD, one for rolling down the windows and blowing back your hair. It includes Springsteen, Clapton, The Stones, The Who, among others. I have a boat music compilation—Jimmy Buffet (of course), Kenny Chesney, Uncle Kracker, Jackson Browne. I have compilations for just about any occasion.

I’m not gonna let it get me down
I’m not gonna cry
And I’m not gonna lose any sleep tonight

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But one song that always gets to me when I hear it or when I sing it is Jo Dee Messina’s “Bring On the Rain” because this woman is saying, “yep, just about everything that could go wrong today has gone wrong. So go ahead and just get it over with. I’m down anyway. I can barely hold up my head, but I know that tomorrow is going to come. So open up the sky, and let it pour, because I’m thirsty anyway.

Man, to have that strength. To be able to say to life: Go ahead. Give me your best shot because I know that you are going to whether I’m ready for it or not.  This day can only get worse. I’m already pretty close to the ground. Might as well rain all over me. But you know what? I’m feeling down, but I’m not dead, and tomorrow’s another day.

Right now, I’m looking for that strength. I’m not defeated, not even close to it. Just tired and feeling low to the ground . . . but a little rain never hurt anyone. It’s nature’s way of cleansing, of getting rid of the dirt and grime that has built up, allowing for new growth because the soil is refreshed. All of the dead leaves have been washed away. And if it rains hard enough, somewhere the sun will reflect on the raindrops and create a rainbow and verify that life does indeed still exist.

Tomorrow’s another day
And I am not afraid
So bring on the rain

Maybe I am a little afraid, afraid of the unknown because it’s been the unknown for so long now. But I’m reminded of another song about rain: Trisha Yearwood’s Georgia Rain, which is another song that I love to sing. In it, the woman is remembering her long lost love and their night in the Georgia Rain. She says that “Nothin’ here’s the same/Except for the Georgia rain.”

You can’t ever go back really. And it’s sad when you see people try or continue to hope for that “one day” when they can go back; you just want to shake them gently and say, “It’s not there any more. It’s only in your mind. Things change.” You can never go back, and I never want to. I have too much here. Back is gone. Back is yesterday. I only want to make it to tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s another day
And I’m thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain

After the rain, more. Peace.

The Insidiousness of Guilt

I have already written about my fascination with Catholicism, and one of the aspects of the religion that I have always found terribly unfair to those of us who are non-Catholics is the whole rite of confession and absolution. Now, I don’t claim to know all of the details about this pipeline to god, but from what I can discern, you tell a priest about everything you have done wrong during the past week, ten days, month, year, whatever period of time you are covering; your receive your penance, and then whoosh, you are absolved of your sins, clean slate. Now this seems like a pretty infallible system to me.

I remember reading about the whole system of pardons back in the middle ages in which people could buy their way into heaven, supposedly, until the pardoners were revealed to be less than holy men themselves, which meant that the money spent hadn’t actually bought anyone a seat on the other side of the pearly gates after all, and no one was  guaranteed anything any more than the rest of the peons. Of course, this was just one flim flam in one particular religion, and we know that the world is full of lots of different religions, and I’m not about to go into all of the different methods for gaining access into heaven and who is right and who is wrong, or we’d be here all day, and quite frankly, I find the whole debate too taxing.

Let’s get back to absolution and getting rid of your sins in one fell swoop. What no one bothers to mention is whether or not you get rid of the guilt as well. You see, this is where the Jewish side of me takes over–the whole idea of guilt. Don’t be offended. I am no more Jewish than I am Catholic, but I have an ample sense of guilt that I believe must mean that I was Jewish in one of my previous lives just as my love of the Catholic rituals must mean that I was Catholic in another life, and my deep respect of the Buddha and pantheism probably means that I was a grasshopper in another life . . . you get the picture. Back to guilt. I just don’t think that having someone absolve you of your sins can make the guilt go away. I carry guilt around like a talisman in a velvet bag next to my heart. It is omnipresent.

Some of my best poems have sprung from guilt. I still feel guilty about the Slinky that I stole when I was ten years old (but that’s another story). More importantly, I feel tremendous guilt over the ways in which I am certain that I disappointed my father who died of pancreatic cancer in 2001. I feel guilty that my first marriage ended in divorce simply because I never envisioned divorcing my best friend even though we had grown apart. I feel guilty that I have never gotten my PhD in English because it has always been a lifetime goal of mine. But the real truth of the matter is that I feel guilty right now because I am skirting the whole issue of what guilt really means to me because I’m not sure that I can face it.

You see, I will always carry around this pocket of guilt in my heart no matter how long I live, no matter how much I write about it, because there are some things that simply do not go away. My youngest daughter died as a result of complications from a brain tumor. It was many years ago. But as her mother, I should have been able to save her. That is just the way that it is. That is ingrained in your DNA and programmed into every fiber of your being, no matter what the doctors tell you or logic dictates. When she suckled at my breast, I should have been able to transfer that inviolate shield that protects your young from harm, but it did not work.

And so, for years, I have carried guilt with me like an extra appendage, and I probably always will. And any guilt that anyone else might try to impose upon me for whatever reason will never come close to the guilt that is with me constantly–whether it is my mother, who likes to point out the added poundage around my middle as if my sight is failing and I hadn’t noticed that my body is not what it was when I was 20, or it is someone else close to me who, in a vexing mood may feel a need to state an obvious shortcoming so as to try to fight my ingrained passive/aggressive defense strategies. And now that I am experiencing my own physical limitations, it only makes my self-imposed guilt more pronounced, not less, which, I know, is not logical. I have less tolerance for myself, especially when reliving the past.

Her name was Caitlin, and her short life and excruciating death propelled me to write lines upon lines of verse, most of it bad, but necessary to my healing process. But the ensuing guilt has led me to write and write and write all kinds of things: some of it sarcastic, some of it sad, but all of it cathartic in some way. So while guilt is insidious and it can take over your life, I wouldn’t hand it over in a confessional box because it has made me who I am: melancholy, curmudgeonly, creative, spontaneous, cautious, aggravating, and bitchy. I have never pretended to be anything other than what I am, and I wouldn’t pay a pardoner a penny to be rid of that which makes me who and what I am.