Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Hope for Now

For the past four weeks, I’ve published postings about where I am emotionally with regard to my life and my writing. Today’s posting sums that up and adds my conclusions.

After Crown published A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story in 1992, I began to dream big dreams about my success as a writer. In the next two decades, however, as I tried to interest agents in representing my writing, I received only rejection e-mails. Slowly reality dawned.

I realized that the Universe was trying to teach me to let go of the outcomes I’d envisioned. Slowly I learned that I could control the way I responded to events, but I couldn’t control my unrealistic expectations.

Joseph Campbell, who studied, wrote, and lectured his entire life about the power of myth, once said, “Follow your bliss.” I have treasured that quotation. Often I’ve suggested it to others, but never have I truly lived it.

I didn’t follow my bliss—which is simply writing. Instead, I let my dream of being published and becoming successful become an all-consuming obsession. I embraced the outcomes, not the writing. Not the nutritious home-baked bread, but the slathered butter. Not the cake, but the frosting.

Recently a blogging friend sent me a card with the following Campbell quotation on it:

       We must be willing
        to let go of the life
       we had planned.
       So as to have the life
       that is waiting for us.

Her sending that card helped me find perspective and pretty well summed up what many of you have written in your comments for my postings.

And so I begin.

For many decades of my life, I changed, took risks, welcomed differences. If I could do that when I was younger, there’s no reason I can’t do it now. In order to do that, however, I must listen again to that inner voice of intuition I’ve ignored for so long. I must open my heart to that voice.

I’m ready to quit living in the future of my dream world. I’m ready to live in the present and await whatever beckons me. Writing for publication? Perhaps. Finding a new passion? Maybe. Finding books to read on subjects I don’t normally read? Possibly. Working to make daily exercise habitual? Hope so. Making new friends? How wonderful. I know one thing only: I’m letting go of my attachment to the outcomes of my own planning. I’m ready to simply be.

What will this surrender to life look like?  I hope writing will be a part of it, but I suspect that there are surprises ahead for me. That’s something to which I look forward. And yet, I must admit to some trepidation.

Perhaps, those two poles—expectation and trepidation—as well as the span between them are what I’ll be blogging about. Who knows? I surely don’t.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Poem + A Print + 10 Rugs = Equilibrium

Nearly fifty years—during the years of psychedelic painting—a friend showed me a print of a dense, deep, almost black green, fir-tree forest against the broad sweep of a turquoise sky. A path of pink splotches wended through the trees.

A poem by St. John of the Cross was painted in calligraphy across the sky, among the trees, and along the path. The print and the poem have remained in my mind’s eye and my heart all these years.

The poet, known today as a mystic, was born in Spain in 1542. He studied with the Jesuits—esteemed teachers then and now. At twenty-one, John entered the Carmelites, a contemplative monastic order. A few years later he tried to reform the order, considering it too lax. When that attempt failed, he and several other men established a strict monastic society in a farmhouse.

Because of this, he aroused the animosity of the first Carmelite order he’d entered. This resulted in his imprisonment, during which he wrote the poetry for which he became famous. The poem I’m quoting to you today came from those lonely years of captivity. The “he” of the stanza is, I think, Jesus of Nazareth, whom I think of as Yeshua—his Jewish name.

Pouring out a thousand graces,
              he passed these groves in haste;
              and having looked at them,
              with his image alone,
              clothed them in beauty.

That treasured poem and the rugs in my house brought equilibrium to me this past week. Here’s how that happened: Because of the possibility of falling after I left the hospital on March 23, the rehab department asked me to clear my carpet of any throw rugs, furniture, or boxes that might hamper my walking. “Get rid of anything that could trip you,” I was told.

I’ve always liked wall-to-wall carpeting, but I enjoy having thick, Persian-like, throw rugs scattered here and there on the carpet—in the hallways, under the tables, by the bed. So when my eldest niece brought me home she rolled up ten throw rugs and stacked them on a large table in the garage.

That same afternoon, she took from my cabinets, storage areas, and pantry any food items, pans, or dishes I might need and placed them on the extended counter and the round table in my kitchen. Having everything at waist level would keep me from bending and twisting, which was a no-no for the next several weeks.

I hope you are getting the picture: clutter, clutter, clutter on every table top and counter, and no lovely rugs on the carpet. The poem comes in here. Ever since learning the poem and seeing the print, I’ve thought of throw rugs as the bright blotches of color in the forest through which Yeshua walked, strewing beauty in his midst. Those Persian-like rugs were my path through the forest of my home. They were a path of beauty on which I sought to walk with grace.

Last week I wrote of physical and emotional imbalance. This past week a sudden realization came to me: I was partly imbalanced because my home didn’t seem like mine anymore: All that clutter on the counters and tabletops. No path of beauty on the floor.

My home seemed stripped of who I am and try to be.

Thus it was that two friends came, put down all the rugs, put away the canned good, pans, and dishes and left me with a home that breathed contentment: Space. Beauty. Balance.

So today I’m posting in a much better frame of being than has been represented by my past three postings. Equilibrium has come to my life. I feel as if I truly have come home to myself.

Life is good. Peace.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


Perhaps, if you’ve read the two recent postings on this blog, you’ve wondered why I seem to be examining my life so minutely. The answer I think lies in the major back surgery I underwent in mid-March. During my time in the hospital rehab unit, I had an Easter experience.

For four days I was unable to eat anything. The nurses encouraged me to at least eat applesauce, but I simply couldn’t swallow. The fifth day—a Monday—went awry. My blood pressure fluctuated disturbingly. I fainted and was out for some time. I could answer only “Anna Dolores Ready” to all the questions the nurses asked while trying to revive me. Repeatedly I vomited. My spirits plummeted, imprisoned in a gray cloud. I dwelt in a miasma of nothingness.

In late afternoon, my eldest niece visited after work. Seeing me pitch forward and nearly fall, then faint, then throw up, she stayed several hours. She asked the nurse to monitor me closely during the night; the nurse assured her I would be well taken care of.

Needing to feed her cat and dogs, my niece kissed my left cheek and reluctantly left. As she passed through the doorway, I thought, “I’ll never see her again.”

The nurse turned off the light. I lay on my right side and began to talk inwardly to all those who had already entered Life beyond the reality I knew—all those who had raised me, taught me, befriended me. They and I dwelt in Oneness.

Trusting their infinite love for me, I said something like “I’m scared that I’m going to die. If living is for my good and the good of the Universe, then I trust you will wake me in the morning. If not, then I embrace death. Not my will, but the will of Oneness be done.”

I began reciting names: Mom, Dad, Jan, John, Jim . . . name after name after name of those who have touched my life with goodness.

Several times during the night I woke, still feeling lost within myself, still praying to Oneness to keep me in this life or to welcome me to the path of Light. More names: Florence, Al, Mary, Annette, Nicole, Mary Alice.

I slept again. When next I woke, I thought of all the cats who'd blessed my life: Dulcy, Bartleby, Tybalt, Noah, Jeremiah, Eliza Doolittle, Laz, Raissa. I called on each to be with me.

Once more I slept, then woke again and invoked name after name after name of those for whom I felt deep and abiding gratitude. The names passed like ticker-tape through my heart: Miriam, Robert, Andrew, Lon, Scholastica, Dunstan.

The next morning, I awoke to sunlight. I was alive.

Two days later I came home.

Now what does this have to do with the introspection evident in this posting and the last two?

Since that March morning, I’ve found myself feeling not only physically, but emotionally, imbalanced. The doctor tells me that this is a common response of patients who have serious spinal surgery or whose chest has been cracked open for open-heart surgery. I, myself, think that the possibility of saying good-bye to life as we know it can accompany any major surgery. 

I am alive, yet I find myself reevaluating my whole life.

Perhaps the anesthesia has something to do with this. Perhaps my age. Perhaps the weariness resulting from the months of pain before the operation. Perhaps all of that.

And perhaps what I’m experiencing is the opportunity to truly let go of the past and embrace something new in my life. Time will tell.