Monday, December 18, 2006
Eventually W and I became close friends. We used to go on double dates: W and C with Betty and Child. Who else would think of arranging regular outings with a single mother and her young son? They were Jehovah's Witnesses, and I came to find out that Jehovah's Witnesses were known to be totally non-judgemental. They never spoke of their religion to me, but they lived it, by taking me, a woman who chose to have a child out of wedlock, under their wings, without question or comment. W and C didn't need us, for sure; they had 8 kids and a multitude of grandchildren of their own, most of whom live right here in town.
C had just retired from his highly successful career as a chemist. His fascinating tales of chemistry are probably the reason why my child now prefers science over any other topic or subject. I'll never forget the child's delight when C presented him with his first microscope.
When C found out that I enjoyed trading stocks as a hobby, he set out to share with me his decades of stock market success. Over a period of several months, he imparted his considerable knowledge to me. Then, after all that, his bottom line still rings in my head, loud and clear, "We can sum up everything there is to know about investing in 4 words, just 4 words: Buy cheap; sell dear. That's all you'll ever need to know. Buy cheap; sell dear."
We so missed W and C during those winter months when they escaped to their Molokai retreat. But they were good about staying in touch, calling us regularly, and they came back with unbelievable stories of life on the island, along with Hawaiian outfits, books and toys for my child.
W had breast cancer, and C used his medical and scientific knowledge and resources to help her. As a result, she lived way beyond expectation, stretching out her 6-month prediction to 10 years.
I asked C why he hadn't become a doctor after graduating from medical school. That's when he explained to me that it was an ethical issue. During medical school he had become painfully aware of the power of money, and the pharmaceutical industry, in medicine. He could not devote himself to such a profession. That's the kind of man C was.
During his career as a chemist, he had quit a lucrative job after being asked to participate in a dishonest scheme. He quit on the spot, that day. C was not the kind of man who had to go home and think about what was right. Integrity was his way of life.
W succumbed to cancer two and a half years ago. Everyone who knows C is shocked that he has lasted this long without his childhood sweetheart. He insisted on remaining in the house he had shared with W, taking good care of W's beloved cocker spaniel, Chandler.
I wondered what my relationship with C would be like once W died, but he took care of that. He wanted to set up a schedule for phone calls, so we talked every Monday, without fail, and sometimes on other days too. At first I considered those phone calls to be my opportunity to check on C, to make sure he was OK. Gradually I came to see that C was checking on me as well. We both benefited from knowing that somebody cared, all the time, not just when it was convenient.
C wanted us to try going out on the town as a trio instead of a quartet. Although we did try it once, our vivid memories of W's sweet presence made us unbearably sad.
C had been a great lover and supporter of classical music. He was absolutely outraged that tickets to the thriving local sports events were so much more expensive than symphony tickets, while the struggling symphony so desperately needed the community's financial support. Nearly every time we talked over the past few months he brought this up with renewed passion, and he was always thinking of ideas to help bring in more money to the symphony.
He often spoke of his wish to go to a concert with me. We set up several dates, but he ended up backing out, undoubtedly heartbroken remembering the many concerts he had attended with his dear W. But last summer we finally made it to an outdoor symphony concert.
Interestingly, the concert took place in a venue which C himself had set up many years ago. It was the huge, multi-acre lawn of the chemical company which had been his last employer. C loved to tell the story of how one day he had looked out the window of his office onto the huge green expanse below, and declared, "This is the perfect setting for outdoor symphony concerts!"
Since then, the symphony has been holding concerts there every summer weekend, with thousands of people showing up to enjoy picnic fare while listening to live classical music. C's boss ended up receiving the credit for the idea, but C didn't mind, as long as his beloved symphony was playing there.
After the concert that night I noticed how weak C was, barely able to get out of my car even with my help. He was shaking from the effort, yet he thanked me profusely for taking him, with tears in his eyes.
We continued talking every Monday, and sometimes on other days too, and even though I constantly asked if he needed anything, he always declined. Just once, on an icy, snowy day, he sheepishly asked if I could take his trash container up to his house. After I did it, he thanked me as if I'd saved his very life. So accustomed was he to putting others first, it was unspeakably difficult for him to ask for help.
A few days ago he called me from the hospital. He'd fallen at home and couldn't get up; he'd eventually pulled himself to a phone to call an ambulance. I went to visit him with a stuffed bear wearing a shirt that said, "Get well." He looked terribly ill. He clutched that bear for dear life, again with tears in his eyes.
Today is Monday, my day to talk to C. He didn't answer his phone at the hospital, nor his phone at home. I started to feel sick. I called the home of one of Charles' sons, and the son's wife answered. "C is not well," she said. "He has a living will, so he has to be taken off his respirator today at 2pm. Then, after that, there can be only one more attempt to resuscitate."
C, I wish I could have seen you one more time. I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated knowing you, how important you are to me and how much I'm going to miss you. May your ethical standards, your passion for the arts, your incredible intellect and your loving, giving nature live on in me and in the countless others whose lives were touched by you.
Friday, December 15, 2006
A few years ago I decided that I was fed up with my dentist. His fancy office in a downtown high-rise surely was being subsidized in part by my outrageous bills, which my insurance company labeled "excessive". Everybody who worked in his toxic office flashed huge, blinding white smiles as if to advertise their product.
So I asked around. Surely one of my alternative-type acquaintances would know of a good dentist.
And my babysitter suggested Dr.V. He was a holistic, non-toxic dentist who sounded too good to be true.
His office was modest. His appearance was disarming- he could have been a model. During my first visit, Dr.V. himself cleaned my teeth, very painstakingly, I might add. Has your dentist ever cleaned your teeth? I don't know why he did it. Was that just his procedure for first-time patients?
Unlike Dr. Toxic, Dr. V. did not believe in excessive dental X-rays. He did not spin stories of how "you get more radiation from a day of sunlight than from one measly dental X-ray." He simply did not X-ray unless there was a clear reason.
The last time I saw Dr.V., he took a long time to explain the fine points of brushing and flossing. Afterwards, as if to not want to have been offensive, he said, "I told you all that because you seemed interested."
Soon afterwards I received a letter in the mail from Dr.V. He reported that he had decided to sell his practice because he really wanted to teach dentistry at the local university. I was devastated.
Yesterday I received a letter from my current dentist who had bought the practice from Dr.V. It relayed the very sad news that Dr.V had died suddenly.
Immediately I thought of a fact I had come across about dentists having a very high suicide rate. Certainly Dr.V. had seemed unusual......but suicidal? Hard to imagine.
The internet provided many missing pieces to the puzzle of Dr.V. The only obituary I could find was in a Catholic Church newsletter which explained that the 48-year-old athletic Dr.V had collapsed during his weekly raquetball game. Apparently his heart gave out, and attempts to revive him were futile. He left behind a wife and 5 children, and there was a request for contributions to a charity which he had devoted himself to- a Catholic agency which helped people living in inner city neighborhoods.
I found it interesting that this alternative, holistic dentist who didn't believe in casual X-rays had also been Catholic, and that shortly before his death he had made a major life change, switching from practicing dentistry to teaching, his true calling. I was lucky to have encountered him before that switch. In reality, he was already teaching when he was a dentist, I realize as I recall his very lengthy, detailed explanation of proper brushing and flossing technique.
Our automatic reaction to such a death is horror that such a good man died so young. But after thinking about it, I have instead been able to focus on the probability that here's a man who was able to die without regrets, having aligned his life with his beliefs and passions, with his true nature and purpose.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
We've had an unusual relationship with Legos. When the child was a tiny toddler, I had more interest in Legos than did he. I used to buy outrageously expensive sets (designed for age 10-adult) which featured 3-wheeled cycles, various workers with interchangeable hairdos, and elaborate service stations apparently intended to keep the tricycles up and running. I'm the one who assembled these sets, and became quite adept at it, I might add, since Legos were tragically absent from my own childhood toychest.
The child never did participate; he watched me with polite amusement. At one point I distinctly recall feeling a sense of relief that I would not have to take out a second mortgage to support the Lego Corporation. We lived in peace for a while, with the Legos shelved.
Then one day last month everything changed. His bedroom was transformed in one afternoon from a pleasant boy's bedroom kept very tidy for real estate showings into a massive mound of Lego pieces concealing the bed and furnishings. Although I always said I wanted him to have wholesome interests, I was highly dismayed by this turn of events, and expressed it loudly.
Besides, the child's very character was affected. A hitherto unknown level of frustration began to rear its ugly head whenever a Lego creation fell apart, as they inevitably do. The child began to rage so vehemently that I feared he'd pop a blood vessel. Now, every time he calls me in to view a finished project, I grab my phone in case I have to dial 911, since the collapse of the creation usually occurs within seconds of completion.
The child, being known for his expensive high tech taste in gifts, had the good sense to present me with his Christmas wish list last October. I ordered as much as I could reasonably afford, glad to have that task out of the way. Then, just yesterday I was informed by said child that he wanted nothing but Legos for Christmas this year. Mind you, Legos were not included to any extent on his fall Christmas list. The Lego sets he wants are measured in hundreds, not tens, of dollars. I have no idea what I'm going to do about this bit of unpleasantness.
Then this morning the child exhibited an abnormally delayed response to my urgings to get ready to leave for school. I should have known that Legos were to blame. When it became too late to walk to the bus stop, I yelled for him to get into the car. With horror, I watched him march to the car with his latest Lego invention in tow, another new behavior for the child who had up until this point confined the Lego world to his bedroom. When the bus pulled up, he shrieked bloody murder as yet another structure bit the dust. He had apparently intended to take that creation to school, as far as I could determine from his wailing as he boarded the bus. Even the bus driver looked shocked at the extreme display of emotion. His red, tear-streaked face mouthed desperate, indecipherable words at me as the bus pulled away.
What's a mother to do? Well, a stable, sane one would have gone on with her day, knowing the child would be OK, and that maybe even he'd learn to put Legos into their proper perspective. This one drove to the child's school to deliver the fallen Lego pieces to her son, lest he fall apart like they had.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
New Urbanism is a trend which began 25 years ago. New Urbanist developments feature houses with large front porches, garages in the back on allies (not facing the street), sidewalks, and modest backyards. Various building types are integrated into the neighborhood: apartments, condos and free-standing houses, workplaces, schools, post offices and stores. There is a defined neighborhood center which includes formal civic spaces and squares. It sounds like a too-good-to-be-true fantasy to me.
How can you tell if a neighborhood is truly an example of New Urbanism? See if it passes the "popsicle test." An 8-year-old should be able to safely bike from home to a store for a popsicle without risking life and limb on highway-sized streets with freeway-speed traffic. (This, to me, is unfathomable, but I do hope it really exists somewhere.)
Real neighborhoods with a true sense of community are few and far between these days. The problem is, most of us don't realize what we're missing, having never experienced it. I did experience it during my first 5 years of life- my fondest early memory is of the candy store on the corner which actually sold penny candy. By the time I was 5, my neighborhood had caught up with the rest of the country, and the little bakeries, shops and grocery stores had surrendered to the mega retailers.
What a loss. That's why I now crave urban living, in my case involving an actual downtown neighborhood as opposed to New Urbanism. I crave the option of walking rather than firing up the Honda. I want a sidewalk in front of my house, dammit.
Is New Urbanism a successful attempt to bring back the neighborhood of bygone years, or is it a contrived, forced imitation? I can't say, because I've never had the pleasure of actually seeing a New Urbanist example. I've seen half-assed versions, in which each condo features a front porch overlooking a sidewalk, but all the other elements, such as destinations to walk to on those pristine sidewalks, are noticeably absent.
As far as I know, New Urbanist neighborhoods exist in the suburbs. This makes sense, unfortunately, since the downtowns of many cities are in decay. In essense, a new (albeit fake) downtown has to be built within each New Urbanist development. I say, why not use the blighted urban downtowns which already exist, and try to create viable, vibrant neighborhoods there again?
So where do YOU live? Does your neighborhood pass the popsicle test?
Thursday, November 30, 2006
I was secretly proud whenever I heard myself referred to as a hothead. Having been painfully shy throughout childhood (and adulthood in certain situations), it was taken as a supreme compliment.
There was one problem. Several years ago I read somewhere the nagging question: "Would you rather be right, or would you rather be spiritual?" Try as I might, I couldn't get that nagging question out of my mind, especially following my trademark explosions.
At work, I am a member of a committee in which I strongly disagree with the other members on a current issue. My serenity has been ruined for weeks over this. It's the kind of upset which pervades nearly every waking moment- it's unshakeable.
Finally I've accepted that it's my choice to suffer over this. I spoke my mind; therefore my individual job was finished. The mistake I made was in pushing against the others afterwards, as if I could convince them that I was right. That's NOT my job. My job is to express my opinion when appropriate, even tweaking it when my perception changes. Beyond that, I am a member of a group, and my opinion hopefully melds with that of the others.
At home, I have certainly been guilty of pushing myself against the child and the Chihuahua. For example, I used to become livid whenever the dog behaved in a manner I deemed inappropriate. I yelled at the cowering animal as if he had wrecked my very life. But then, during the few days leading up to his castration, I softened, remembering that Paris Hilton's Chihuahua died during the same surgery. He survived the surgery, and I've been treating him like royalty ever since.
Has his behavior changed? Not really- only mine has, but my life is better. The dog bounces off the ceiling when he sees me, crying and even howling with joy. When things like that happen, with nothing but joy going on, I know I'm living the life I was meant to live. I'm being true to my nature.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
A few short minutes after reading today's Abraham message, my child, who had been leafing through a catalog from Plow & Hearth, exclaimed, "Mama! Listen to this! They're selling a tool to get you out of a car when you're trapped inside!.......How do people get trapped inside their cars???!!"
This was a rude awakening from my Abraham-induced wonder. I took the catalog from the incredulous child and examined the ad for the "Lifehammer" tool. Like the child, I couldn't imagine how people became trapped inside cars. We laughed about the silly notion at first, until I read the explanation. This tool is intended for people trapped inside a wrecked vehicle. The LifeHammer will slice through a locked seatbelt with its protected razor, then smash out the window with the precision steel, double headed hammer. There is also a key chain version of this tool which you can carry with you at all times to ward of any and all unforseen disasters.
All I can say is, I'm glad that I'm not fear-based enough to be a candidate for the Lifehammer. Good heavens. Every choice we make determines the course and quality of our lives. What kind of message do the buyers of LifeHammer send to the universe? I choose to recycle the catalog and head out to the college art museum, throwing caution to the wind, inviting joy, not tragedy.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Then, a few days ago, I decided that one of the things which could improve my life right now might be a little dose of spirituality. On Monday, I set out to re-establish daily meditation, for starters. Next I signed up to receive daily inspirational quotes via internet from a favorite "guru." I hauled out my top ten spiritual books and started reading.
On a roll, I realized that there was one particular book I must have. I knew exactly where to find it: there's a very eclectic bookstore situated in a large 80-year-old house nearby. Something memorable usually happens to me when I go there, and today was no exception.
First of all, miraculously, when I opened the creaky old door and walked in, the first thing I saw upon entering was the very book I had desired. As I paid for it, the cashier and I wandered into a discussion of the power of intent, a popular topic these days and appropriate considering the magical positioning of that book. I told her I had no problem believing in our ability to determine the course of our lives with our thoughts and spoken words, but I said I was stuck on one aspect. She wanted me to elaborate, and I said I wasn't sure what I really wanted. I do believe I have power to materialize my desires, yet I can't figure out what they are!
I explained my dilemma regarding whether or not I should move to the urban neighborhood (which I've already blogged about ad nauseum). Is it really best for myself and my child to move there? I can't tell!
This bookstore is no Barnes and Noble- it's more like a library, where a tacit call for reverence prevails. So I whispered to her, bending over closer to her ear, "I DESPISE suburbs!" in the most emphatic whisper that I thought the store could tolerate.
She looked at me for several seconds, stunned. "I thought you said you lacked clarity!? You just spoke to me loud and clear about your desire. It couldn't be more clear to me.........now I'm getting goosebumps....this happens to me whenever I'm involved in a profound spiritual interaction...oh, my, now I'm starting feel really hot....this is very significant..."
I left the store wondering, like the dutiful doubting betty that I am, whether I had finally been given a sign. Should I just shut up and go with it, and set out to visualize my Victorian house downtown, or was this a trick, played out by two bumbling seekers trying desperately to make sense out of the universe?
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
I am tired of seeming so unsure of myself. Decisions are agonizing torture, calling for advice from anybody who'll bid me the time of day. It's quite amazing, come to think of it, that I actually went into action last summer and put my house up for sale. I can only explain it by assuming that enough people told me to do it. Granted, they were all sick of hearing me debate with myself, ad infinitum, as to whether I should move to the urban neighborhood I coveted, where I could walk (instead of drive) to my life's destinations.
I even used you, my blog readers. Many of you indulged me with encouragement and suggestions regarding what is becoming my theme of the year : to move or not to move.
Now, my house still sits on the market, with showings (for potential buyers) fewer and farther between, as winter approaches. The ever-active whirling dervish of my mind wonders: "Hmmmmm....this must mean that I wasn't meant to move......this house IS in a great location, after all, on this incredible rose garden....if these people can't appreciate my house, then I'll just STAY here- I'll show 'em...although I do hate living in the suburbs....yet as time passes and my savings seem to be dwindling, I see that I can't really afford the more expensive, trendy urban neighborhood- that's the reality of the situation...why can't I live in the area I want to, in the house I want?....is there any way I can make it happen?........should I get a new realtor?.......maybe if I could find a man to hook up with, together we could afford what I want....etc., etc." This is what it's like inside my head.
It's nothing that a little meditation can't fix, right? We'll see. Instead of agonizing over neighborhoods, (or any of the other more fleeting issues like whether or not I was dissed at work) the theme of this week is going to be MEDITATION, and my objective is to slow down, and to empty, my mind. Its chatter is driving me crazy.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
I voted today. I might have voted even if I hadn't known James Carden, but it would have happened with more detachment, I'm sure. James Carden taught me, a very non-political person, to care, and to act accordingly. And if the truth be known, during a frighteningly apathetic time of my life, I didn't bother to vote, and didn't give a rat's ass about it, either. Then I remembered James Carden.
He was intense, by golly. He didn't speak; he bellowed. If it wasn't important, then he didn't bother to say it. His words were punctuated by fists pounding and face reddening. His body paid the price- his heart condition required him to pop glycerin pills upon each outburst.
I don't favorably recall many events from my school years, but I do fondly remember our political debates in James Carden's class. That's how he taught us to care, even though it was very uncool for teenagers to do so. In the safety of his classroom, away from our peers who wouldn't get it, he ignited our fires, built to burn for a lifetime.
I voted today, and I cared about and had researched each of my choices. I thought of James Carden as I was handed my "I voted today" sticker. James Carden's fire has surely been snuffed out by now, but the many others he lit burn steadily.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
I am still too busy, but don't really want to give up completely on my blog. I miss the contact with the few loyal readers I had. I don't have any real friends these days, and now I'm even losing my virtual ones.
My house has been on the market since August. It is a shock to me that a house situated on what is arguably the world's largest rose garden is not selling. Yeah, yeah, I know....it's a buyer's market. Always desperate to figure out the hidden meaning of everything and anything, I am wondering if perhaps my move to the urban neighborhood wasn't meant to be after all. But whenever I think of giving up and staying put, I am consumed by disappointment because I still don't believe that it can't happen. I do admit that the urban house I'm eyeing is at the top of my price range, maybe even beyond it, but I feel like taking a risk rather than retreating back into the "same old same old."
My 3 goals (working, keeping child alive and selling house) have left time and energy for little else, and it's catching up with me. Was it Carl Jung who said that "an unexamined life is not worth living"? My life has been that way, unexamined, and I've found myself snappy and irritable. That's not how I want to be.
Part of my problem is that I feel completely alone. I think that makes people behave defensively, perhaps. Since my child came onto the scene, friendships have been fleeting. The one friend who did stick with me, for the most part, has found a buddy he likes better. She often stays at his house, and is soon moving in permanently.
I don't have any business complaining. If the truth be known, it almost seems as if I've lived several lifetimes already. Each phase was a life. In my other phases, I was not so alone. It is understandable that things are different now. How appealing is an overworked, overwhelmed, frazzled single mother who is always working or mothering when others are socializing?
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
"Oooooh, I just can't stand bearing this kind of news......Your buyer backed out because apparently she and her husband freaked out over the inspection report, even though the report was a very typical one.... and the other party who wanted to make an offer after the open house day isn't returning my calls...."
I am disillusioned. It had appeared that the good luck I always used to have, which had seemed to dissipate when my mother died, was back with me. I loved telling the story (over the past week) of how my house had gone into contract the day it went on the market, for a price higher than what I was asking! And this after I had defied my realtor by taking my sweet old time, thus entering the market at a bad time (end of summer). This was how Betty's life used to be, all of the time. Charmed, without a doubt.
I now mourn the loss, not just of my dream of living in a thriving pedestrian neighborhood in a Victorian house, but of what I had thought was the turnabout of my luck.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
During the month of August I almost put my house on the market several times, only to back out at the last minute, immobilized by the fear of making a mistake. I dreaded the constant pressure of keeping my house in showing condition until it sold. Housekeeping is absurdly challenging for me, especially with a child and a new Chihuahua following me around, eager to undo my handiwork.
Suddenly I seemed to experience a moment of clarity. It followed a conversation with an ex-boyfriend. He finds himself mysteriously entangled with the most unlikely women, then attempts to analyze, plan and predict. I told him to relax, accept that he had some kind of cosmic business with his latest woman (as he had with the others before her), and just go with the flow.
It occurred to me to apply that principle to my own situation. I was inexplicably drawn to the urban neighborhood just as he was drawn to each of these women. Why shouldn't I just relax, accept my urge to move, and go with the flow? Each time I had resisted, I had felt unrest afterwards. This time, then, I'd go for it.
Last Sunday, the day my house went on the market, my realtor held an open house at my residence. As luck would have it, that day the local newspaper featured a front page story on a castle-like home being built around the corner from my house. That newspaper article brought a tremendous number of curious folks into my neighborhood, many of whom stopped in at my open house.
After the open house I was in the kitchen preparing food for the child when I saw a woman in my driveway. I beckoned her inside, and she said she had been at the open house and wanted to buy my house. I told her that another party from the open house was very interested and had already set up a private showing for 7 pm.
The woman showed up again at 7:15, during the scheduled showing to the other party, with an offer which she handed to my realtor. She was offering more than the asking price, just hours after the house had been listed. I accepted, and my house in officially in contract.
To make a long story short, I am also already in contract on the urban house I wanted. When I stop and think that a week ago, I still wasn't sure what to do, I can't believe the lightening speed with which all of this has occurred, and in this buyer's market, no less. Although a few details remain to be ironed out, I can't help but wonder if, just maybe, this was meant to be.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
I've been through hell and high water of my own making. (There's nothing wrong with my existing house, located 7 miles from downtown on one of the world's largest public rose gardens.) I've made THE DECISION numerous times, only to flip back the next day.
This week I went so far as to call the realtor over to my house so that he could initiate the listing process. He photographed each room, advised me on what needed to happen before the open house this Sunday, and we filled out the paperwork. Before he left he planted the "For Sale" sign firmly in the ground.
That same day, another house, 2 houses down from the one I wanted originally, went on the market. This changed everything. I liked this new house, but it had certain drawbacks, like no garage. But it was cheaper.
The main effect of the new house was that it caused me to lose interest in the original, more expensive house. When I sat down looking at the photos of the new house, I glanced around at the place I already own, with its "For Sale" sign out front, and said to myself, "This is crazy. I'd be selling this house on the park in great condition for this dilapidated old thing downtown with no garage and one measly bathroom."
I called the realtor and told him I didn't know what I'd gotten myself into, but it was wrong. He told me to uproot his "For Sale" sign and bring it to his office. He's letting me off the hook. Again.
Yes, I'm relieved, because getting my house ready to sell was absolutely exhausting. Now that I'm off the hook again, I can attempt to live my life instead of constantly working on the house.
Yet I am nagged by the thought of a pedestrian lifestyle in a bustling neighborhood that could have been. The suburbs don't suit me well. According to studies of the psychology of space (where we live), most Americans don't even realize what they are missing by living in the suburbs. The sense of community created by front porches, sidewalks and neighborhood grocery stores and coffee shops is virtually unknown to many of us.
I grew up with front porches, sidewalks and neighborhood grocery stores. I walked everywhere, even in college, and felt empowered by that. Where I live now, the car is not only mandatory- it rules. Pedestrians, though rare, must yield to the SUV.
Let's hope that my dream of moving is simply being delayed a bit due to the fact that the right house at the right price is not available right now. That's why my resistance was so strong. When the right situation arises, I will carry out the work with ease.
And meanwhile, I will be figuring out what improvements I can make in my life without buying a new house.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
My last post told of my friend Jim's death from cancer. Many attended his well-planned funeral, and afterwards his wife invited the entire gathering to their house. Finally I got to see what Jim had described to me as "a Harley-Davidson in the living room". The house appeared to feature 3 different living rooms, one of which really did harbor a large motorcycle missing some parts, such as handlebars. And I saw the side-by-side Lazy Boys from which he and his wife reportedly shouted together at CNN over political matters. The house was filled with people, chatter, laughter, food, beverages, and even a keg of beer.
It was great, but why couldn't we have done that with Jim living? Why wait until a person is dead before having people over? Personally, I was bothered and was happy to flee early to get to the sitter's house on time.
Then I started wondering what my late buddy would say to me if I could now ask him for advice on my house dilemma. From his new perspective in some other plane, he would surely say,"Betty, enjoy your life. If you want to live downtown, sell your house and move there. Now that I'm dead, if wish I'd finished putting together that Harley that's sitting in my living room back home on earth... I never rode it. We don't regret the things we did. We regret the things we didn't do."
Then a friend who also knew Jim told me that Jim had left his family with an enormous financial debt. Enormous, as in hundreds of thousands of dollars. This friend suggested that Jim's imagined message to me from the grave might have more to do with thrift and responsibility. Hmmmm....
Clarity, why do you insist upon eluding me? Why do your messengers continually contradict one another? Why does Bill tell me to go, and Jill to stay? How is a whirling dervish supposed to know what to do? I want to do the right thing, the best thing. Why should the identity of the right, the best, remain concealed? Why is my sincerity apparently unrewarded?
I teach my child indecision. On Monday he wants to move. On Tuesday, of course, he wants to stay, having re-discover the wonders of the finished basement. He is his mother's son, much more than we'd prefer. Wednesday, though, he'll be ready to move again. If I do ever move, I'll have to time it carefully to fit his switching schedule.
One time, riding a great wave of truth, I emphatically instructed my son on how to seek the answers from inside himself. It was a day when I had been transported from my self temporarily. With enthusiasm, I assured him that the answer was always there, right inside of himself, free for the asking.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Sadly, I was given a whole new perspective today which rendered my house decision "suffering" irrelevant. A co-worker, a cherished buddy (as much as a married man can be to a single whirling dervish) died of cancer last night. I am one of many people trying to imagine the workplace minus the major presence of Jim, who loved his career so much that he continued to function brilliantly at work even as the cancer ravaged his body practically beyond recognition.
Of course my mind automatically dredged up the highlights of my memories of Jim, of our many frank discussions of work matters, clowning around to keep things light, and because he was the only one who could talk me into it, socializing after work.
I keep replaying the last conversation I had with him, just 2 weeks ago. I received his message, reluctantly.
The exchange took place at work. Sick as he was, he still managed to keep showing up and doing his job, while others took days off for sore throats and hangnails. I knew he was worried about what would happen to his wife and children, but I didn't want to directly address the topic of his death. I didn't know that he was going to die. And if the thought did cross my mind, I sure as heck didn't want to let on, lest his hope be dashed. Yet I wanted to somehow reassure him.
Without planning this, I found myself telling him about Charles, the widower of another co-worker of ours who died of cancer 2 years ago. I have stayed in touch with him by telephone at least once a week since his wife died. I told Jim this, and added that I was planning to take Charles, even though his health was failing, to a concert the next week.
Jim's eyes widened and locked with mine. "It's REALLY good that you're doing that, Betty....... It's REALLY GOOD."
I can still see the look on his face. I think he had received my message, too.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
HS: It seems that you want what is out of your reach financially.
WB: Yes, it appears that I'm behaving like a spoiled brat, at least in this sense. I do not spoil myself with expensive clothing, or jewels; I do not buy fancy furniture; my car is the laughing stock of my workplace. But I want a certain house which, yes, is out of reach financially, probably.
HS: Why do you want it, if it's out of reach?
WB: Because it is not definitely, or absolutely, out of reach. It depends on which online calculator you use. But none of those calculators include babysitting expenses, for some odd reason. So it's possible that my ability to afford this house is even worse than the calculators show.
HS: Do you have a sense of the truth about whether you can afford this house?
WB: I don't.
HS: Have you possibly cluttered your mind with lists, facts, figures and calculations ad infinitum?
HS: Your clarity is thus obscured.
WB: How can I get past the data and find the truth?
HS: Well, one of the factors in that truth is your mindset. You are currently very uptight about money. You cannot afford the house regardless of your income. Your mind is worked up into a frenzy over the expenses of the house in question.
WB: So if I just relax about the finances, I'll be able to afford the house?
HS: All the money in the world won't save you until you do. However, the actual numbers do have to be considered. Technically, the mortgage is affordable, but you will be paying out more each month than you are now. Some people in your society believe that money equals freedom. If you agree, then you will be imprisoning yourself to some degree by taking on the increased expenses. Are you willing to do so?
WB: Here's where I need a fortune teller. I don't know. I don't know what other things my child and I might wish to spend money on in the future. I do know he needs braces someday...... I don't have so much money that I can say it doesn't matter. And I have no parents or anybody else to lend money for an emergency.
HS: That sounds like clarity.
WB: I'm afraid to pass up this opportunity. It may be the last house in that location which I can afford.
HS: You just said you can't afford it. The truth may be that there is no house in that location which you can afford. Just remember though- it is still possible for you to buy that house. The bank will grant you the mortgage, not caring whether the decision turns your life topsy-turvy or not. You may choose to swim upstream if you prefer.
More importantly, I think it would behoove you to ask yourself what you truly seek. Is the house in question going to satisfy you?
WB: Uhh....no, it didn't the last time I lived in a similar house in that very location. I ended up searching the internet for houses in wooded settings the last time, and finally, after living in the urban house only 14 months, I moved to my current house on the park. I seem unable to satisfy myself with all this moving. During the time my child was age 2-4, I moved 4 times.
HS: So it's possible, then, that what you seek is not a house or a physical location.
WB: When I move I think I'm getting a better situation, more in line with my beliefs and desires and more conducive to our growth and thriving. But then all I want to do is move again.
HS: So it's not working.
HS: Is it possible, then, for you to live more in line with your beliefs and desires, in a way that is more conducive to growing and thriving, without moving?
WB: Well.....I can find out......
HS: What you want to move to is a new, enlightened, evolved self. You may simultaneously move to a new house, but moving to the house alone will not satisfy this urging of yours. Dealing with just the symbol, the house, will not bring your desired result.
WB: OK, if I do all that, changing my "self" into a new and enlightened one, THEN can I buy the house?
I certainly hope nobody has the audacity to buy my house. It's mine- I'm just not officially buying it until:
A) the price comes down by about 15%, or
B) I experience an unexpected windfall, rendering its current price no object, or
C) I just happen to decide that I'm going for broke, literally.
It has occurred to me that if I buy the house, a void will be created in my life. I will no longer be allowed to obsess incessantly about houses and neighborhoods and moving. Well, I guess I could still do it, but nobody will listen.
This has happened before. I did live in the dream neighborhood, in a dream Victorian, 5 years ago. I only lived there 14 months. I was quiet and satisfied for a while, and then the urge to search gradually took over. I spent hours on the internet looking for properties with lush backyards, in wooded settings. I almost bought one, in a location that I now realize I would have despised. Then finally I did buy one, and it's my current house, the one situated on the public rose garden.
What is this about? Why am I never satisfied, constantly searching for the ideal place to live? What deeper issue am I trying to resolve using houses?
And will Whirling Betty show up at her own open house today?
Thursday, July 20, 2006
The child and she live in a small but pleasant enough house on a renowned public rose garden which is connected to very large sports fields, a recreation center, a library and miles of bike trails. It's not a bad place to raise a child, for sure. It's safe, and although there are no kids in the immediate vicinity, most of the child's schoolmates live within a 5 mile radius of the house.
But it's a suburb. Betty has a problem with that. Walking and biking are "in her blood"- that's how she was raised. She never even owned a car until moving to this city. The area Betty lives in is devoid of sidewalks, much to her horror. Although the area is well within the city's outerbelt and only about 9 miles from downtown, it behaves like a true suburb, where the car rules.
Until 5 years and 3 months ago, Betty and son used to live in the urban neighborhood bordering the north end of downtown, in a beautiful Victorian house and garden. People said Betty was crazy, since she was a single mother trying to raise a child in an urban area where street people rummaged through the trash dumpsters. In reality, that neighborhood was as safe as the one Betty fled to after listening to people's judgments. And it was far more interesting, even exciting and stimulating. And, significantly, Betty's car was at rest much of the time.
With home buyers rapidly recognizing how appealing and environmentally friendly that downtown neighborhood is, house and condo prices have skyrocketed. Betty is pretty much priced out of her beloved 'hood, except for one last Victorian house, in an ideal location a block from Betty's favorite city park and near all the other desirable destinations for groceries, restaurant meals, etc.
This particular house is underpriced because it lacks the amenities usually found in that desirable locale. There's only one bathroom and the laundry is still located in the dungeon. The house, with 1820 square feet, is no mansion.
Betty's realtor, a longtime friend, talked his carpenter into agreeing to put in new hardwood floors, a half bath, and a second floor laundry into the house Betty wants, if Betty buys it, for a staggeringly reasonable price. Still, Betty counted beans and decided the price of the house was $20,000 more than she could possibly afford. She told her realtor, and the realtor said that the seller would not bring down the price.
That was the end of that, until yesterday when the realtor phoned Betty to say he had finally talked the seller into lowering the price by $20,000, as long as Betty seals the deal right away.
Instead of rejoicing, Betty panics. When the realtor called, she was hoping he was going to say that someone else had bought the house so that she'd stop thinking about it. The move, even if it is the most positive one imaginable, is still a stressful upheaval of an already challenged life.
Alas, Betty remains indecisive, worrying about possibly feeling overextended financially in the new house. And she keeps glancing at the spectacular Anderson windows in the current house overlooking the rose garden. (The new house features old, barely budging windows which spew lead paint dust every time one dares to touch them.) And for the organizationally challenged like Betty, the ample storage space of her current house has suddenly taken on paramount importance. (Anyone who has ever seen a Victorian house knows that they don't feature much storage. Those Victorian people just didn't hoard the way we do now. Walmart didn't exist back then, for one thing.)
Then again, no house is perfect. The downtown neighborhood is the draw, more than the house itself. Betty frequently talks about moving back there, yet now that the opportunity, imperfect though it is, has presented itself, Betty balks. Is this just the expected fear associated with taking on such a huge financial commitment, maybe an early-onset buyer's remorse? Or has Betty just been full of hot air all along, talking up the urban lifestyle while having no real intention of ever walking the walk?
Monday, July 03, 2006
Well, I'm learning that there are levels of independence. If I ever alter my words, chameleon style, to suit the person I'm speaking with, then am I independent?
If I allow another person to manipulate me, am I independent? If I take steps to help another person out of a mess that he's gotten himself into, even though I see that he deserves the consequence I'm saving him from, and even though he has bullied me consistently, am I independent? Or might I be participating in the dance of co-dependence?
I wish to be true to myself, but instead I react to the personalities I'm dealing with. I act not out of independence, but out of dependence upon the behaviors, personalities and desires of those around me.
Do I possess the strength to pull myself out of this spiraling whirlpool in which my self melds with other people's dramas? Can I do my job as a mother, regardless of tears and tantrums? Can I stand up to the father/bully, hiring a lawyer to assist? Can I set boundaries with the neighbor, not falling for his persistent needling?
I'll keep ya posted. Happy Independence Day.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Instead of gratitude, he regards me with utter disdain. I have never understood that. I am unaccustomed to being the target of anyone's hatred.
Threatening to "take me to court", he bullied me into letting him have the child this weekend, Friday through Sunday, and he is demanding the same every second weekend, plus every Wednesday night, until the child turns 18. I have been advised in the past, by the city's best domestic attorneys, to do everything I can to stay out of court because any father (short of a convicted murderer) will be perceived as a hero by the court if he asks to see his child. Yes, he'd have to start paying child support, but my sole concern is limiting my child's exposure to a man whom I consider a poor influence. Until now, the two had spent only a few hours per week together. I was OK with that.
I have an appointment set up with another lawyer this coming week. Perhaps court is the only way to go at this point.
Meanwhile, the father picked up my child at 5pm today (Friday). As I said goodbye to my little boy, I asked him to call me tonight and tomorrow night before he goes to bed. His father roared, "HE'S NOT CALLING YOU, AND YOU'RE NOT CALLING HIM! YOU'RE SICK!!!" I said that any mother would expect to speak on the phone to her young child away from home, and he bellowed,"YOU'RE WRONG!!! YOU'RE FUCKING CRAZY!"
Of course, as he sped off with my little son, I very seriously questioned whether I should have allowed the visit. The child has been safe with him in the past, and that's why I gave in. Once I speak to the lawyer about recent events, I'll know how to proceed from now on. But this weekend must be endured somehow.
At the suggestion of friend TA, who assured me by telephone that both Betty and son would survive this weekend, I took a "meditation walk" in the rose garden outside of my house. In other words, I tried not to march like a bat out of hell, but rather to stroll, like a peaceful, aware wanderer.
There were many people to be avoided- that was my initial goal. I wanted to be alone- quite a challenge on a pleasantly cool evening amongst the roses.
I happened upon a wedding rehearsal. Curious, I observed the participants. The people appeared calm, reverent and supportive. Why can't people just be that way all the time, I wondered? Tears clouded my vision.
Then I thought of my own history. I've never been married. What is it about me that has deemed marriage elusive? And what is it about me that attracts people like the child's father into my life?
I left the questions at the altar and continued on toward the casting pond. I passed a family: mother, tiny son and father. The father looked at me as if I were the most important person on the face of this earth, as he smiled and nodded at me. Again, tears erupted.
It reminded me of a story I had read about a young man who was deeply depressed. He jumped off a bridge to his death. At the site from which he had jumped, a note was found which he had written. It said, "I'm on my way to commit suicide because I feel so alone. But if anyone smiles at me during my walk to the bridge, I will not jump off."
Lest I alarm my readers, I am not suicidal. But I am awed by the stark contrast between my child's father's hatred of me and this stranger's display of unearned, unconditional love.
Then, as I meandered back home, I thought of the little dog who had so graced my life. This was the same route my child and I had followed with our Chihuahua the night our dog was killed by another dog in the park. I re-experienced in my mind our dog's complete and utter jubilant exuberance. Again, tears, as I thanked our departed dog for the consolation in absentia, and the reminder of what life can be.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Most obvious is the resulting destruction of nature. Nature is obliterated by man to make way for ugly little cul-de-sacs devoid of plantlife and wildlife. (But no doubt, those houses contain the coveted 2-story great rooms from which its inhabitants can gaze out the picture windows at the neighboring trophy houses.)
Nearly as obvious is the ruination of our ozone layer, since the people inhabiting these mini-mansions must drive far away to earn money to pay for them. Often these people opt for gas-guzzling SUV's, of course, which are an undeniable part of today's American Dream. (Wars, of course, must be fought over the oil needed to run these vehicles.)
And remarkably, these luxury suburbs are devoid of sidewalks. Walking is downright discouraged, in order to make way for the almighty automobile. Rising obesity is one symptom of this phenomenon. Not getting to know the neighbors is another.
Whirling Betty and Son live within the boundaries of the outerbelt. However, we live 8 miles from downtown, in an apparent suburb, judging from the glaring lack of sidewalks. Walking or bike riding is simply not safe here, because the car rules. A nearby vacant commercial building, which we were hoping would become a restaurant, was leased out to Auto Zone. The car rules, there's no doubt about it.
Five years ago, when my child was just entering preschool, we moved here from a downtown neighborhood. There, we had sidewalks, and we used 'em. I hardly ever fired up the Honda. I even walked to work. Pedestrians were expected and respected.
Why, oh why, did I leave the place I loved? I followed the herd of People With Kids to the "family-oriented" suburb we now live in. How are we better off? We can't walk anywhere without risking life, limb and lungs. Always confined to a vehicle, we don't know our neighbors. I even have to drive my kid to his school bus stop because walking these sidewalkless streets is absolutely out of the question.
According to a local moving company, the vast majority of moves here are to locations farther from downtown (often to outside of the outerbelt). Well, my goal is to buck that trend. As soon as I find the right house, we're moving back downtown.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
After dinner, it was my idea to go for a walk in the park. For some odd reason, I wanted to leave the Chihuahua at home this time, but the child insisted on taking the dog as we usually did.
Maybe it was the angle of the sun, but something made the scene in the park magical, with the first rosebuds opening and the slightly crisp air still warmed by the setting sun. The Chihuahua was, as always, thrilled to be alive and with his people.
We walked and ran through the roses to the casting pond and back. Close to home, the frisky Chihuahua bucked and charged, freeing the end of his leash from the child's hand. Off he flew, toward the nearest dog.
Our Chihuahua is not like other Chihuahuas. Ours is loving, trusting, and fearless, totally. He never seemed to realize that his size was diminutive, or that some dogs lacking in sophistication might mistake him for a squirrel.
The ensuing events are a bit hazy to me, as if shock set in from the outset. I was aware of a dog brawl, and afterwards I heard my dog crying mightily. My child was bawling. I clutched the sides of my face in horror, unable to move or comprehend. The owner of the attacking dog tried to pick up my Chihuahua, but my dog snapped at him and staggered over to me, bleeding from the belly.
My neighbor drove me and my family (boy and Chihuahua) to the emergency animal hospital. A heroic effort was made to save his life, but our little chico died tonight.
So far, the aftermath has been unbearable. The house is filled with the toys he loved so much, which he was constantly presenting us with, hoping we'd play fetch. His Pooch Perch is stationed proudly at the window, where he kept vigilance until his people returned home. His little teacup of water awaits him. I can't bring myself to remove his things, which have become suddenly sacred.
In my mind's eye I see him proudly prancing about, doing his utmost to teach me all about the joie de vivre which was his specialty. We were lucky to have him, if only for 10 months. Thank you, chico.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Today my journal writing took an unexpected turn. Often I tend to dwell on the same issues, ad infinitum, but today I found myself focused, much to my surprise, on the boyfriend with whom I had been involved during my mother's illness.
M had referred to himself, sarcastically, as my "knight in shining armor". He deeply resented the many helpless women who seem to be looking for that magic man to save their lives. His past was littered with such women, and he hoped I wouldn't turn out to be yet another example.
Actually, I had always perceived my mother as my source of security. It's no wonder- she had resolved many of my problems for me, from financial to social to physical. For example, there was a man stalking me when I was a college student. After I told her about it over the phone, she appeared at my door several hours later, having traveled two hundred miles to tell this stalker a thing or two. Same thing happened when I told her I had been diagnosed with anemia. She showed up at my dorm room hours later wielding a side of beef.
Now I see that, facing the impending loss of my source of security (she had pancreatic cancer), I did unconsciously hope to transfer the title to M. After I flew back to my hometown for her funeral, M apparently decided to don his suit of armor. He showed up at my mother's funeral unexpectedly, having flown halfway across the country to be at my side.
Afterwards, he presented me with a bill for his air fare. (After all, it was my mother who had died, and he had flown there for my benefit, even though I had not asked him to come.) I never realized that the damsels had to pay their knights!
He had been planning to quit his engineering job to move to Montana, in a heroic effort to "follow his heart." He did pack up his belongings and head out west a few months after the funeral. I was heartbroken, but not for long. He called when he got there, with a proposal. If I'd give him money, I could go to Montana and stay with him for a few months. (It seems he didn't have enough money to make it there after all.) I sent the money, took a leave of absence from work, and headed out West.
That was only the beginning. The job he eventually found didn't pay very well, and I used my savings to pay his bills during my prolonged visit.
M and I remain long distance friends. He almost died in a motorcycle crash recently, and I'm glad he didn't. His deep spiritual and philosophical ideas are forever welcome in my life. However, today's journal writing exposed the truth: by financially enabling M to live out his dream, I had been his knight in shining armor.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Lately, my mission has been to make it through the day- to get from point A (May 19) to point B (May 20). That's it. The theme? Survival.
OK, is that the way I really want to live my life? (Granted, I'm usually driving well within the speed limit given such a mundane mission. I pose no threat to society from behind the wheel!)
How do Joseph Campbell's bliss followers go about their days? Do they groan and grumble when the alarm goes off in the morning?
Today the child and I had a mission, at least in the morning. I awakened very early, without an alarm, and noticed with surprise that the child was still sound asleep. On the days when school is his resented agenda, he is outrageously difficult to remove from bed, but today is Saturday! So I whispered the words "yard sale" and he sat bolt upright in bed, smiling from ear to ear.
Less than five minutes later we were in the car, on our way to an annual neighborhood-wide yard sale in a very hip part of town. Treasures would surely abound, and I drove with a sense of purpose, barely lawful.
Now we're back home after a successful shopping spree (I got shoe organizers for $.50 total and he got a pair of really nice brand new speakers for his iPod for $2.00) and now I am searching for a mission for the remainder of the day.
My neighbor just came over, bursting at the seams with news. He had warded off two juvenile delinquents last night who ran through my property, upsetting the trash can, yard waste containers and everything else in their path. He actually shot at them with a BB gun.
Since I must not have seemed impressed enough with that story, he went on to tell me that once he had fatally shot a squirrel in the head with the same BB gun. This particular man, I must admit, does have an agenda, one which remains constant from one day to the next. He is a God-fearing, gun-wielding man who believes in controlling his environment to the point of killing wildlife. He is forever mowing grass, hacking branches, spraying insecticides, fertilizing, clipping, weed-wacking, you name it. He is never at rest.
So I guess I do have a mission: to live and let live. I would never kill a squirrel; I hand feed them peanuts. I will continue to appall people like my neighbor with my overgrown jungle-like landscaping which provides habitat for the very animals he wants to shoot. And every so often I'll throw in a yard sale for extra kick.