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‘Ain’t Life Grand’ Category

  1. The Mother of All Mothers

    May 14, 2017 by Diane

    The earth in the shape of a heart, elements of this image furnis

    I am the product of a remarkable mother. A woman who saves the hair from brushing the cat, rolls it into miniature fur balls, and stores the balls in a wine glass above the stove for future jewelry projects. A woman with the impressive ability to stretch a single serving of steak from Sizzler into six meals, and who is not above concocting sore-throat remedies from orange juice, crushed ice, and blush wine that comes from a box with a spigot, a box that will last longer than most marriages. A woman who, when I’m wallowing in despair, reminds me: There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not an oncoming train. 

    I consider myself blessed to have such a mother. The mother of all mothers.

    Not everyone is so blessed. I’ve known mothers who would rather nurture a stiff drink than their own child. Mothers who care more about what others think than the thoughts of their own offspring. Mothers who will protect their abusive husband, not the child who is abused. The only wisdom these mothers offer is: Leave me alone. If you have such a mother, heed her advice. Leave her. Alone. She has issues to sort out, and you don’t need to be the one she sorts them out on.

    This Mother’s Day, if you don’t have a mother to honor, is there another woman who offered guidance, support, affection, or protection? A friend, wife, lover, sister, teacher, relative, or just a stranger you met once who made a difference in your life? If so, honor her. If no such woman comes to mind, honor Mother Earth, who offers this nest we call home.

    And if you, too, had a mother of all mothers, but she’s now with the Divine Mother, or God, or wherever divine spirits go after leaving the body, honor the gifts she gave that now flower in you.

    Speaking of making a difference, this story illustrates how every act of kindness matters. I urge you to read it. Trust me, it will make your day.


  2. One Good Reason to Stay Alive

    February 12, 2017 by Diane

    Praying Woman

    On Twitter, I saw this plea:

    Could someone please suggest reasons it’s a good idea I should keep being alive?

    Reasons to keep being alive. In 140 characters.

    This was a challenge I couldn’t pass up.

    Chocolate. If you’re thinking of checking out, you won’t be taking your taste buds. So stick around for chocolate.

    Okay, I didn’t tweet that. There was nothing humorous about the tweeter’s question, although sometimes humor can be the lifeline we need when drowning in despair.

    I knew of a comedian who worked the suicide prevention hotline, and when asked “Give me one  good reason I should stay alive,” he told the caller, “Give me a break. You called me.”

    Yowza.

    Isn’t it interesting, the plea is always the same? Give me a reason to stay alive. Because being alive, in and of itself, isn’t reason enough. Being alive, for the person pleading, has become too horrible to endure.

    What we really want, when we’re that desperate, is a reason to endure the pain.

    I heard Bruce Lipton, the author of The Biology of Belief, say: we live in order to experience life through our senses, for God. (Or something along those lines. I jotted the phrase in the back of the book, but the book is stashed away, along with about a hundred others, in storage.)

    If indeed it’s our duty to experience what God can’t, that seems like a pretty swell reason to stay alive.

    Provided you believe in God.

    And provided you accept that experiencing life sometimes involves the sense of pain.

    I read recently: to strengthen and build muscles, we need to tax them, break them down a bit, give them time to recuperate, then tax them again. That’s how they grow.

    It’s the same with people. We’re given circumstances that tax us and break us down. If we take time to recuperate, then we build our strength and grow with each new challenge.

    Now, I could come up with a long list of good reasons that are meaningful to me and don’t mean squat to the person on Twitter. But somewhere in her vast file cabinet of life experiences there’s one thing that matters. Deeply.

    If I had more than 140 characters, or we were talking on the phone or in person, I might have said: “Instead of thinking about ending it all, sort through your memory banks, or take a look around you, and track down that one thing that matters. By the time you find it, whatever brought you to despair will have shifted. Just enough, so the light can shine in.”

    But this person chose to plead for her life on Twitter. So I replied:

    Don’t choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The pain will pass. You’re meant to contribute something positive to this world.

    Last I checked, the tweeter did find a good reason: she chose to start painting again. That one thing, painting, helped crack open the darkness.

    If you ever find yourself backed into a corner feeling like your only option is to throw in the life towel, please please please remember this: that one thing—whether it’s your spouse, your kid, your parent, your sibling, your friend, your cat, your art, your dream, or that philodendron in the windowsill—it needs you.

    Then drive down to See’s Candies, pick out a luscious piece of chocolate, and savor it. For God.


  3. What Clock Will You Follow This Year?

    January 1, 2017 by Diane

    Fig leaf

    January 1st is a day like any other, the sun rises and sets, but we make it into something more. We make it into a day to pause and reflect and plan ahead and resolve to be better humans. We greet it as a freshly washed sheet, a brand new haircut, a blank page to color as we choose. We give it a name.

    New Year’s Day.

    As we turn over a new leaf, outside the window, the Fig tree releases its last. There is nothing, yet, to replace it. No tight bud springing forth. Just bare branches, perches for the crows, highways for the squirrels.

    The animals know. They’ve prepared for the long dark days, hiding their acorns, keeping watch for dead things to peck at. It’s instinct and hunger that drives them. If you and I were hungry, we’d pad to the refrigerator in our socks, and gaze at the selection within: the cold cuts and wilted celery and milk, the leftover chicken and cold beer, the rice and beans. Our way of filling our stomachs is to sit behind a desk typing into a computer for eight hours, then stopping at Safeway to forage.

    We’re civilized.

    Animals live by instinct. They do what’s necessary. They don’t have leisure time in the wild.  They don’t punch a clock. They hunt, they mate, they sleep, they attack, they sing their songs.

    New Year’s Day isn’t for the birds. It’s for humans, who can’t afford to live by instinct. We plan our days to the last minute.

    But even for humans, instinct kicks in. The resolutions fall away like the last leaf on the Fig tree. No longer do we drag ourselves awake at five a.m. to run on the treadmill. No longer do we put in thirty minutes at the keyboard. No longer do we divide our food into smaller portions, what’s healthy and what’s not. Instinct tells us to sleep when we’re tired, eat what we desire, mate with the blank page when the sap rises.

    But we can’t even allow ourselves to do that.

    Humankind lost the rhythm of animals when we hacked away nature to build skyscrapers, divided the days into minutes, and formed the capacity to dream. Our goals drive us now. Instinct is a cousin we rarely visit, who complains loudly.

    There’s a balance to this tightrope of life. Work and play. Sleep and activity. Eating and digesting. Bonding and being alone. In these ways, we are no different than animals.

    People elevate living to an art when we allow creativity to propel us. As Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said, (and I’ve expanded upon): Every empty page, every blank canvas, every new day holds the universe within.

    It’s up to us to form it, shape it, bring it into focus, so all can see. But to do so, we need to let go.

    What clock will you follow this day, and the next, and the next? Will it be the one that humans invented, that doesn’t exist outside our heads? Or the rhythm of your infinite soul? Will you fill your moments with what your brain insists you do, or what your heart longs to experience? Can you sit here, now, and let your creative self worm its way upward, a bud to the sun, blossoming into something the bees can drink from?

    On this day of resolving, try to allow for pockets where time doesn’t exist—not planning these pockets—just pausing periodically to listen, to feel, to catch that spill of sunlight, to let instinct and inspiration be your guides.

    Keep on creating. We need your truths, more than ever in the coming year. 
    -Alisa Clancy, Host of KCSM’s Morning Cup of Jazz