Thursday, April 25, 2013

7 - 10 SPLIT


The bugaboo of any bowler is the 7-10 split -- those two pesky pins seemingly glued to the floor in the left-most and right-most position in the back row of pins.  It's the hardest to pick up on a single roll for a spare.  I saw this split a lot in my bowling days; I never got that spare.

My bowling days.... now there's a phrase I never thought I'd write.  (How many of my friends reading this just found their jaw dropping?)  Uh-huh.  I was on a bowling league once upon a time.  If you are laughing, we are laughing together as I think with amusement about this ancient historical fact of my life.

Let me explain:  I grew up in a bowling town.  League bowling was a pretty big deal.  There were two big bowling alleys and they were usually jammed.  Wait!  There were actually three!  Get this -- one of them was a 4 lane joint in the basement of St. Paul's Lutheran Church!  It was 1/2 block from Hub's childhood home, and usually not so busy, so a great high school date destination....But I digress.

My dad bowled on a league for as long as I could remember.  Friday nights.  Off he would go with ball bag in hand and Mom and I would settle in for a night of TV and popcorn.  I wasn't too sure what bowling was, but I loved my mom/daughter nights with Dad away.

Then, in 5th grade Girl Scouts, we had the opportunity to earn our bowling badge!  I was excited!  I remember all of us from our Troop piling into some other mother's big Oldsmobile (mine did not drive yet then) once a week after school to be ferried to the bowling alley where we giggled our way through several weeks of lessons and "work" toward our badges.  What stands out most for me was my very first game.   I rolled a zero, as in not knocking down even one pin.  I was mortified, of course.  You would think the odds would have been in my favor by about the 8th frame, but no.  Nadda.  I did earn my badge and a "most improved" designation at the end of it all.  Proud me.

I moved on from there, of course, with lots of bowling dates in high school. (There wasn't all that much to do -- a movie or bowling, that was about it.)

And then, at my first job out of high school, as a purchasing clerk in a steel manufacturing office, I hit the big time; I'd worked there about 3 years when we all decided to join a bowling league!!!  The office girls all got together and formed a couple of teams and off we went every Tuesday night.

Here's what I remember about that -- our bowling shirts were bright yellow with black printing of our team name (which I do not recall).  My best friend and I had assumed the habit of getting "up" for the game each week, so when we walked in we thought it was outrageously funny that we looked like bumble bees buzzing around the lanes.  I drank Tom Collins' in those days and bowling night was just a party of guys hanging out, drinking TC's, laughing, and occasionally caring where the ball ended up.  My average was around 115, if I recall.  Better than zero.

But here is my claim to fame:  During that era, I was in a tournament on a Sunday afternoon after a long weekend of imbibing.  I was quite hungover, but I showed up not caring about anything but getting through it.  So I just stood and threw the ball on each of my turns, barely acknowledging what was happening.  At the end I had rolled a 186 and was handed a trophy!  To date, my personal best and a point of pride in some circles.  (Mine).

All of this came flooding back today as I read in this morning's paper that a local bowling alley, a fixture since 1960, was sold and will be closing to be torn down to make way for a bank and a drug store on that corner.  People interviewed, long-time patrons, are mad and sad.  I get it.  Bowling a perfect 300 game or consistently nailing the 7-10 split are the Holy Grails of bowling and to have to quit before mastering these challenges is grievous indeed!

At least, that's the view from here....


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

ECSTASY


No, it's NOT "exotic dance", nor is it "erotic dance"....it's "Ecstatic Dance"!  It's gotta be pretty tame, cuz we do it at our church -- in the Sanctuary!  (But then, again, we are Unitarian Universalists, so we do some pretty not-your-typical-church activities fairly regularly.)

I first went to Ecstatic Dance with a friend in Oregon over 15 years ago.  Men and women moving and grooving and flying across the room in a dance studio, lights turned low, music turn up, a playlist of mostly instrumental "world beat" stuff that started out on the slow side, built over the hour to a crescendo about mid-way through and then eased back down to super slow.  I was transported.  I wanted more.

But I was busy with life -- kids, work, family -- and never pursued it, but fantasized about it frequently. About 6 years ago I finally sought out Ecstatic Dance closer to home.  I went all by myself and again, found tremendous joy and release in the experience.  But the sessions were still a commute for me and not at a good time.

So, I did what I do.  I decided to start my own, in my living room.  I called it "WomanDance" and invited some women friends.  We met monthly for almost 2 years in my house.  I moved the furniture, turned up the stereo and we moved to the beat -- finding favorite spots in the kitchen, living room, den -- the built in sound system providing the soundtrack to our fledgling efforts to touch that inner place of authenticity that emerges when body and breath quiet the mind.

Eventually we decided to "go public" and invite our men friends and others at our UU Fellowship, holding dances in the Sanctuary with a much larger dance space and a better sound system!  That was over 3 years ago.  We've had as few as 7 and as many as 18 at our monthly dances, usually averaging around 12-13.  Not a huge crowd, but a core group of sweet souls, gathering to feel the pure joy of movement together.  We create a communal "altar" of candles, greens, flowers, and offerings on the chancel, turn the lights down, the sound system up, and dance, dance, dance for an hour.

We base our dance on dance innovator Gabrielle Roth's 5 Rhythms creation -- dancing "the wave" from Flowing to Staccato to Chaos to Lyrical to Stillness, using a variety of music playlists.  That was the "wave" I experienced at that first dance -- going from slow to fast to super slow.  Gabrielle says each rhythm speaks to an archetype within and the dance can be a healing practice.

I believe it.  The rhythms remain the same, but in our "check out" sharing circle it is apparent that at each dance a different rhythm resonates with each person on any given night.  There is sometimes laughter and whoops of joyful abandon; sometimes tears and supine meditation.  Everyone dances to their own inner calling -- no talking, no partnering, no choreography.  Our dance is our own.

I am  grateful for this spiritual communal practice.  I am grateful for my community of dancers.  I feel sad that some who I know would love it still possess the inhibitions that keep them from coming -- thinking themselves uncoordinated, or without rhythm, or too heavy, or too stiff, or too afraid of the word "ecstatic". (We remain fully conscious!)  We are proud that we've created a "no judgement zone" -- a safe space for everyone.  I know letting go of self-judgement is hard and  I know a place for healing that...it's called Ecstatic Dance.

At least, that's the view from here....


Monday, April 15, 2013

SUPER KIDS



It's Monday -- one of my fave days to sit down with the local paper because the feature "Super Kid" appears on Mondays.  This column highlights a high school student from within the wider community who is, indeed, "super".  They are usually academic standouts, with well-defined goals, and lots of energy for living a full and productive life now and presumably in the future.  They are bright, promising, motivated -- all those things we celebrate as healthy and vital to success.

It is heartening to read about these kids.  This is the flip side of the too frequently sad and bad news in the headlines, often about the kids who have gone down a different and destructive path.  The Super Kids reassure me that our world is in good hands -- the generation to come will be capable, responsible, creative, and committed to service to our community and the world.  I feel a sense of relief and gratitude.

I notice some characteristic similarities about them, regardless of presumed socio-economic status, gender, or ethnicity.  Most are taking multiple Advanced Placement classes, to ready themselves for college, which most have already chosen along with their intended majors.  They are generally involved in a number of extra-curricular activities as well -- sports, music, drama, art, student government, or leadership clubs.  Many also volunteer in the community for museums, animal shelters, or charitable organizations.  They tend to have strong family ties and many have a strong connection to a spiritual/faith community.

And they say they have very little free time -- which is where I start to worry.  Scheduling themselves to the minute, worrying about SAT scores, working to build an impressive extra-curricular resume while maintaining an impressive GPA starts to sound a lot like a recipe for stress.  They are always smiling in the photo that accompanies the article, but I have to wonder if there are times when it all gets to be just too much for their 16- or 17-year-old selves.

Maybe I'm projecting -- I am currently on a self-imposed "sabbatical" from doing, doing, doing.  I've written previous posts about taking some steps back from my usual chaotic calendaring of activities, but it seems so easy to slip back into "too busy" mode.  I blame our culture.  We place a high premium on our shining work ethic.  That's why at first blush these "Super Kids" can be elevated to Top Role Model status.  They are keeping all the balls in the air, smiling for the camera, and taking on the world! Be like them!!!  So tempting....

But most teens are neither the front page sad stories, nor the Local Section Super Kids.  They are just regular kids going about their teen years trying to muddle through and come out the other side with only a few (hopefully heal-able) scars.  That's how I was.  That's how my boys were.  Mostly happy, lots of friends, pretty good grades, some hobbies and interests and activities, a few set-backs, a few disasters, learning and growing and making it through.  Then, on to college and wondering what to "be" when it's over and sometimes still wondering well into adulthood if the choices were the right ones and asking, "When is it too late to change course?" (Never).

I honor the Super Kids.  I am amazed at their youthful accomplishments.  And I hope they don't burn out before they hardly begin.  "Slow down," I want to tell them.  Learn to breathe and "be".  We need role models for self-care and self-reflection too.  Doing it all only lasts until one day you realize you can barely do anything without exhaustion enveloping every move.  It's OK to be "regular" sometimes, doing work you can enjoy, surrounded by a supportive family and few good friends, and nurturing a connection to something larger than yourself.  That's enough to save our world too.

At least, that's the view from here....

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I AM WOMAN, WATCH ME CRY

I have done "personal growth" work with great intention for 14 years, since embarking on a particular path of experiential learning which takes place in various weekend "trainings".  In the several I've done, they each in their own way send one essentially on a journey into the dark night of the soul (in a safe and supportive atmosphere), then usher one back again, renewed and awakened in a new way.  This is not as scary and "woo-woo" as it may sound.  But it is intense and it is amazing--  and amazingly loving.

"Personal growth work",  for me and others like me, is to face with great fortitude the inner demons, psychological shadows, and psychic barriers to living a life of unfolding self-awareness, emotional strength, and intimate connection.  It's a journey for sure, and  I figure I'll be on this path right up to the ultimate personal growth moment of heading for that proverbial white light in the distance.

So, anyway, about the crying...one of things I've learned is that tears are normal and essential to healing.  Tears of grief, joy, confusion, anger... it's all good.  But, wow, are we uncomfortable around people who cry!   And many of us are uncomfortable being criers as well.

Here are two examples from my own life, recently, but typical of what I observe over and over.  A few weeks ago, I attended a workshop where people stood to speak, mostly to express thanks.  Occasionally someone would be moved to tears and apologize for it.  They were obviously embarrassed, and expressed,  "I will try not to cry" or "I'm sorry I'm crying".  What's up with that?  What could be more beautiful than a heart so full of love and gratitude that tears spring forth?

The other thing which happens all the time is for those observing someone crying to try to comfort them.  I see this with women especially, who can barely contain the care-taking urge, and leap right in at the first hint of a misty eye with an arm about the shoulder and a tissue offered.

Well, consider this question:  Who's uncomfortable?  The woman crying or the woman observing it?  Is it her own discomfort with that emotion making the "helper" want to stop it?  Because when you proffer that Kleenex you are saying, in essence, "Oh, dear.  Here, let me help you clean up that tear-stained, snotty face and help you pull yourself together."  Or when you offer an arm about the shoulder you are saying, in essence, "You need me to support you; this is obviously not something you can do alone."

I don't think these are conscious thoughts.  The conscious thought is more likely, "Poor thing. Let me help, comfort, make better."  It's a compassionate impulse, yet one of 'power over' sometimes, which often creates even greater embarrassment for the woman experiencing the emotion.  Now she gets to feel slightly childlike and pathetic too, so she quickly tries to shut it all down to save others from discomfort.

I suggest it is just as compassionate to allow a woman to stand in her own power.  To allow her to own her own feelings, no matter how painful.  To honor her 'work' by allowing her tears to fall when they come (they do come for a reason -- to serve a deep emotional need), and to set aside one's own discomfort while compassionately observing another's painful (or maybe even joyful!) moment.

In my women's circle we have a norm, after all these many years largely unspoken:  "I'll ask for what I want."  The Kleenex box is within reach; I can get to it myself if I need a tissue.  I can choke out "I need support" if I want a woman to sit close and put her arm around me.  Or, I can choose to stay in whatever emotional distress I need to, sobbing and snotting it out to completion while my sisters hold me in their strong embrace of silent witness.

I'm just offering this perspective as an alternative to jumping in with the sympathetic urge to comfort.  I can cry and still be strong.  I can ask for what I want.  I am woman, watch me cry, and if that makes you squirm, well, that's about you, not me.

At least, that's the view from here...


Interested in this type of work? I've experienced both of these and more:
http://www.womanwithin.org/#!wwtw/c13ub
http://www.womeninpowerprogram.com/description.html

SHORT RANT

Do you ever wake up with a rant running in your head about all the ways the world vaguely pisses you off and things are not going as you want?

I like to be a good person; kind, generous, compassionate, living in the present and optimistic about the future.  That's who I LIKE to be; that's not always who I am.  Sometimes I'm mean and bitter and judgmental.  You know, a mind/body/spirit full of good intentions, yet so often failing miserably at living up to my "best self".

This is one of those days.  So, I'm sitting here wondering how I can drive these mean and destructive urges toward anger and resentment from my psyche this morning and replace them with unicorns and rainbows?

Trying this:  Pranayama -- I'm breathing slowly and mindfully.  Asana -- I'm feeling my body, strong and supple as I move through Sun Salutations.  Pratyahara -- I'm turning my focus inward in quiet meditation.

Still....here I am in all my human glory (!) having a human experience (!) and sort of disappointed in the tumble from my perch above the huddled masses of the Un-Enlightened.

And there we have it!  Pride goeth before the fall.  If I'm so psychologically evolved and so spiritually enlightened, why am I so miserable?  Hmmmm.....

Thank you Universe for this "kick my butt" wake-up call with your recent series of 'horrible, no good, very bad' chain of events visited upon 'lil 'ol me.

Maybe this is the lesson, again, for we humans: Let go and let god, goddess, santa claus, whatever... take our Egos out of the equation and show us the way of LOVE and acceptance.

But boy, oh boy, some days that is quite the challenge.

At least, that's the view from here....

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

NEW HERE?



If you have not visited before, that is not surprising.  This has been mostly a "closed" blog for family and friends.  I'm not opposed to others reading it -- in fact I would LOVE that and I'm on the verge of "going public".  When I started this a little over a year ago, I was warned to be cautious.   Then, yesterday my Yoga teacher called to say she loved the most recent post I did "Thumbtoearasana" and asked if she could share a link to it; I said yes.  So, if you are here because of that, I'm glad!

Please check out the archives for other posts that might be of interest.  This is mostly a "slice of life", personal essay blog.  I've been told that some of my thoughts and experiences resonate with others, which is not surprising.  We are all on this big blue planet together.  You'll find out I'm politically liberal, so be forewarned if that is not your leaning -- other than that, I think mostly this is just about looking at life from the perspective of a woman in her "3rd age" and wondering what it was, and is, all about.

I hope your life is abundant with friends and laughter.  Thanks for stopping by to check out
...The View from Here....