I had the opportunity today to just exhale. That is harder and harder for me to do these days. It seems as if I am holding my breath, either as a way for me to get through something difficult, or as a way of pausing and letting something unpleasant pass. I was able to exhale and I feel much the better for it.
My day started recognizing that some residual pain I had been trying to manage all week had finally disappeared. Pain has a way of making itself known at inopportune moments. It is as if it waits in the wings and then finds the spotlight. Today, however, the pain never found the spot light! I am grateful for this awareness, since the energy necessary to manage the pain was needed for much more enjoyable activities.
Today was the final session for a group I have been facilitating. It was made up of remarkable women, all of whom had answered my invitation to gather to discuss issues of aging. As with most groups, there were challenges in finding times we could gather, finding the rhythm of the group, and enjoying the gifts each of us brought and shared. These gifts, by the way, consisted of wisdom, humor, insights, and shared delight in discovering we are not so very different or alone. I find that women are particularly good at this kind of sharing, and I know I have benefited deeply from being in these kinds of groups.
In the sharing today, several wonderful resources popped to the surface. If you haven’t watched Great Performances on PBS this season, I encourage you to find your way to Christine Lahti’s portrayal of Gloria Steinem in “Gloria: A Life”. It is inspirational theater! Another tour-de-force is Holland Taylor and her rendition of the incomparable Ann Richards, also on Great Performances (“Ann“). In watching these talented performers bring to life inspirational aging women, I realized how very far we have come. It was not that many years ago that female pronouns were not found in text books. Everything was “he” or “his”. Never “she” or “her”. To deny us language is to make us invisible.
Language is one of the most powerful of change agents. These past weeks have seen new memes and slogans overtaking our airwaves and social media. “BLM” has been emblazoned on streets and placards. Dialogue is fierce and flowing when it comes to how we call each other. The issues of how do I call you are found in another wonderful documentary, HBO’s “The Trans List”. This documentary challenges norms that have been unquestioned or worse, stigmatized. What remains for me after watching, is recognition that all that is desired is to be accepted and loved.
One wonderful binge-fest of love and acceptance is Queer Eye (Netflix). The current group of make-over folks including Karamo, Bobby, Tan, Antoni, and Jonathan, transport me from my daily grind and offer me possibilities for changing how I look at myself, my clothing, my hair, and my environment. I find myself crying with joy at the makeovers, and jealous that none of my friends (and you know who you are!) have nominated me for a make-over yet!
Nature is another change agent. It was remarkable to me that in the past week I was able to watch Solstice at Stonehenge, snap a picture of the waxing moon and share it with friends, speak with a former classmate in Munich, and watch the intricate relationships of rabbits that takes place in the vineyard across from me. The walnut trees that line the northern border of my property are in full display, the vineyards are developing their grapes, fresh strawberries picked in the morning are available to me by the afternoon, and I get fresh veggies delivered to my door twice a month. Has there ever been such ease and bounty to enjoy?
Then there are endless choices of music to be had, whether by directing Alexa to play something or by sorting through my collection of CDs and just putting on my own concert. I also occasionally find myself humming a tune or two as I wander about my house. In a moment of sheer joy, I turned on 42nd Street today (again, Great Performances!) and tap danced and lip-synched with the British cast of the show.
And yes, there is pain and suffering in the world. Deep pain. Deep suffering. I watched a wonderful documentary this afternoon, “The Great 14th”, the story of the current Dalai Lama that is streaming this weekend. He says, in talking about the death of his tutor, that loss and sadness can bring enthusiasm and dedication. This resonated with me. With all the loss and sadness that is rampant in our world at this moment, I feel myself becoming more dedicated to what is truly of value to me. Finding ways to heal the pain and suffering that consume so many souls. Not just those who are marginalized by the color of their skin, or their accent, or their economic status, but also those who out of ignorance inflict the pain and contribute to the continuation of oppression.
We must learn to open not only our minds, but also our hearts. To heal our hearts, we need to change how we think. To change how we think, sometimes we need to experience pain as well as its absence.
The absence of pain this week has provided me with a pause. I have been able to experience the incredible blessings that surround me because of that pause. May you find your gap and may that gap be filled with love.