Tuesday, April 28, 2015

THE TRUTH BEHIND THE HIGHLIGHT REEL

I'm on vacation.  I promised myself I would lay off Facebook while I'm away this time, but I lied.  I can't do it.  I love Facebook.  I love keeping in touch with my friends and family, catching the news of the day, finding the silly and the sublime that is Facebook.  I've been posting photos of our trip, of course, although not quite as many as I usually do.  How can you miss me if I won't go away, right?

Son Two tells me Facebook is the "highlight reel" of everyone's life and I get what he means.  Rarely do folks post photos of themselves looking, acting, and feeling rotten.   I actually appreciate it when they do, since for me Facebook is a community and I love it best when it's interactive and honest.  But then, I keep my " FB Friends" list pretty well cleaned up to include people I care about and am willing to be honest with -- no old high school rivals, horrible ex-bosses, or former boyfriends I'm still trying to impress.

But I guess I'm guilty of the "highlight reel" thing too.  I don't usually post photos that make me look fat (it's the photo, it's not me!) and I pick pretty, fun things to display -- none of me sitting in construction zone traffic, getting pounded to the sand by a rogue wave, or lying in bed for several hours with a headache.  (Also part of Hawaiian adventures!)

I was thinking of this as we've traveled around the island on this trip.  I wondered if all the people I saw in less than total "Aloha Spirit" were also posting "highlight reel" coverage of their trip?

There was a young couple at the pool, she in a lounge chair reading and he walking toward her with a Mai Tai and a Pina Colada.  He reached out to offer her the Pina and she was having none of it.  In fact, she was pissed, a dark scowl on her face as she berated him and told him she DID NOT WANT that!  Hub and I observed this with some consternation and amusement -- telling ourselves the inside story that:  A) he was only being nice and she was a bitch; B) he'd been drinking all day and she was sick of it and trying to dissuade more of the same.    Whatever the story, she got up and stormed away while he chugged the Mai Tai and half the Pina.  Post that!

Then at the Kauai Coffee Company, crowded with coffee connoiseurs tasting every conceivable roast and blend, I saw a woman of about 70 literally stomp her foot and declare to her friend, loudly, "He just pushes my buttons and I CAN'T STAND IT!"  I noticed a man of about the same age turn and glare at her.  Another moment of wedded bliss, I thought.  Post that!

At the snorkeling beach yesterday I sat on a shady bench on the lawn watching Hub navigate the warm, blue sea observing the underwater life (I don't like to put my face in the water...but I'm working on it) when a man of about 50 joined me, but immediately sat on the far end with his back to me.  Not interested in casual conversation, I assumed; fine with me.  Soon a woman joined him and since he grabbed her butt, I figured he knew her pretty well.  They began to talk and before long he became quite animated.  It was weird, since they were right next to me, but maybe it was the wind, waves, and the fact that they were facing away from me, but I couldn't make out a word he was saying.  But boy was he mad!  He was on a rant about something that had to be expressed with great arm waving and swearing because literally the only words I could hear, since he placed his emphasis there, was f*#k, f*#king, f*#k!  And "never again!"  He was not mad at her...she was a sympathetic listener, but boy, something had riled him up!  Post that!

Yesterday, back at the pool, an attractive young couple sat facing each other on the edge of their chairs, she holding about a 10-month-old little boy on her lap.  They were engaged in what seemed to be an intense conversation.  As I walked by I saw him lean forward and interrupt her to say, "Look!  Let me spell this out for you!"  I wanted to smack him and feared for the role modeling he was providing for his son.  I hope she told him to shut the f*#k up, but I kept walking, so don't know how their drama ended.  Still, post that!

I guess my point is, "highlight reel" or not, real life comes along on vacation with us.   I'm just glad Hub and I are so compatible at this point in our marriage.  We've grown closer this trip rather than more irritated.  Rest assured, when we are smiling in those Facebook posts, we really mean it.  And for that, I'm truly grateful.
At least, that's the view from here...©



Monday, April 20, 2015

THE FRIENDLY SKIES?

Here we are.  Our annual Kauai vacation and it feels like coming home.  It's always worth the dread of the flight -- once I'm on the ground.

I wish I was an eager flier.  I'm not.  Way, way back in the day I used to think it was fun and exciting. But then we weren't herded into packed airplanes with narrow seats, 3 abreast, and absolutely no legroom, feeling like sardines packed into a high class tin.

Also there was that one flight, in 1981, when we flew through a storm with 80 MPH winds on the ground and god knows what kind of craziness in the air, but the 747 (yes, that long ago...) suddenly turned into a roller coaster dipping from side to side and gaining and losing elevation for about an hour until we finally hit the ground (hard) and coasted to a much appreciated stop on the tarmac.  But not before I lost my stomach a few times, utilizing that little "barf bag" in the seat back pocket.   It was one of my life's most miserable and embarrassing episodes and put me off flying ever since.

So, I have a bit of PTSD whenever I arrive at the airport.  I have tried a million ways to calm my pre-flight anxieties over the years and, once on the plane, I have to really WORK at staying calm.  It's quite exhausting, actually.

A few days ago I decided to try some medication therapy.  I always take a Dramamine, but I wondered if a little Xanax would help even more.  I hit the Internet and saw dozens of sites and "chats" about my affliction and how others deal with it.  Meditation (check), deep breathing (check), visualization (check), Dramamine (check), Xanax and the like (maybe?), alcohol (don't do that any more).  Everyone had a "remedy" or at least a way to try to cope.  Some had anxiety way more severe than mine, which unfortunately made me feel better (where's my compassion?).

So, I was prepared yesterday with a recommended cocktail of Dramamine (nausea), Xanax (anxiety), and Pepto Bismol (stomach acid).  I really and truly HATE taking pills/medicine of any kind and especially those that "drug" me.  But I felt I'd do it if I was desperate (it worked on our cruise last summer).  But once I was on the plane, with only Dramamine in me, I decided to see how it went rather than put myself into a possibly unnecessary stupor.

Turns out it was one of the smoothest flights we've ever taken to Hawaii.  I read (new Kindle -- love it!) all the way and there was no turbulence and I didn't get claustrophobic and all was well -- even if the last hour of the flight seemed to take forever.  (By the way, may I recommend Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800/900 series airplane?  Roomy!!! Plug ins for devices and chargers!!!)

It's unclear to me why the many great flights I've taken cannot seem to compensate for that one really terrible one, but anxiety is a tricky thing and a cruel task master.  I am learning to manage it, if not overcome it.

And thankfully this is the reward for persevering:
















At least, that's the (literally!) view from here....©


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

AGES AND STAGES, PART 3: I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE DIE

I don't know what happens when people die
Can't seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It's like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can't sing,
I can't help but listen...
--lines from the song "For A Dancer" by Jackson Browne

I love this song.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IU1rZa8Ur_Q  I want it to play behind the video montage at my Memorial Service.   Jackson Browne's poetry and music have been so often the soundtrack of my life.  And this particular song has always moved me -- especially after my older brother died far too young in 1990 and then with each subsequent death of a loved one.

I don't know what happens when people die either.  Having been raised Methodist, and having had children's Bible story books read to me, I got the message about Heaven, even saw pictures of it (artitst's rendition anyway), which looked like a peaceful place.  I would journey there after I died... IF....

It was the "IF" that scared me.  I never really believed I could ever be good enough to make the cut, and Jesus dying to ensure my spot in the clouds never made any sense to me.   So I have spent a lot of time trying to sort out the meaning of life, the reality of death, the oh so tempting desire to believe there is "something" out there, something else, something after.  It has mostly been an intellectual pursuit, a curiosity of questioning and an occasional topic of Google searches and Amazon purchases.

One of those purchases was the book, Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander, MD.  He tells in this memoir the story of his Near Death Experience (NDE) after contracting a rare E-Coli meningitis which attacked the thought and emotion centers of his brain and put him in a barely not yet brain-dead coma for  seven days, with death the only possible outcome, according to the physicians caring for him.  But, alas, he did not die, and miraculously returned to consciousness telling of realms beyond this one where he had visited and was absolutely certain existed on the other side of death of the body.  Some part of us lives on -- not only lives, but thrives, and "returns" to our soul's source.  I give credence to his account because he was such an intellectual, scientifically-trained, mostly non-religious skeptic.  Now he's not.

His new book, The Map of Heaven, explores this further, pulling in the latest discoveries from quantum physics to help explain that we know so very little about the universe and the subtle swirling  subatomic ....whatever, whatever, whatever... I don't get the science of it all.  That stuff is what Stephen Hawking has spent his amazing lifetime studying, along with other really smart people who are good at math.

All I know is that sometimes I feel like the people I have loved and lost are sitting just beside me, almost palpably real.  All I know is that when my dad had a massive heart attack, which he only survived because he had it in a hospital bed, told my mom later that he had a feeling of tremendous peace while he was unconscious and no longer feared death.  All I know is that my niece says she regularly has contact with the spirit of her dead father, my brother.  All I know is that stories of NDEs are ancient, real, and becoming more and more accepted as fact in mainstream circles,  rather than the crackpot meanderings of a psychotic mind.

When religion asks us to have faith, tells us that the unanswerable questions are the "Mystery", I actually believe that to be true.  While I don't think we've figured it out yet, I have faith that there is something (a lot) we don't know, and the "mystery" will remain just that until, and if, we ever get the answers from science -- or God.

So, here's what I believe, on faith and a bit of science:  There is a Source (God, if you call it that) from which the universe(s) emerged.  We are part of that.  Humans are pretty well evolved (for now) in that we are given the gift of intellect and emotion and the ability to contemplate our own mortality.  It's our job to do that -- to think and feel and question and learn, and then to further this gift of Creation by honoring the Source by living a life of Love and Service to this Creation.  I believe that some part of this Source lives in every part of the Universe -- including you and me, and that part never dies.  It moves between planes of existence most of us can only imagine in a Science Fiction-y way, but into which some people have gotten a glimpse.

I'm not sure this Source cares about the outcome of football games (obviously not, since my fervent prayers went unanswered in the Seahawks Super Bowl loss...still mourning) or even about each and every individual life.  I think we are sort of on our own as humans and while deep inside we are Love and Light and have all goodness (the Spark is not evil), we do end up making dumb decisions, experiencing terrible things, being awful to one another.  I believe we are big swirling blobs of energy -- not even solid according to that science stuff I don't understand -- and that energy can affect energy, so that "miracles" can happen where the energy gets shifted and something seemingly amazing happens (Seahawks win!!!).  I don't really get that part because there is so much seeming capriciousness involved in any given outcome, but it might explain (to our little human minds) the unexplainable.

At least I think so.  I don't know...I used to try to believe the Sunday School explanations.  Then I didn't really believe anything.  I guess at this stage of life, aging as I am and giving more careful thought to what lies ahead, I've formulated this rather interesting, ultimately comforting belief in a mix of science and spirit that sustains me.   I don't have all the details down.  I just hope everybody enjoys the music while watching the video of my life.  Maybe I'll be there too...right beside you. ©

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