A helpful greeting for a rough day…

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The girls next door lose their tennis balls over the fence all the time, which Dane the mangy rescue mutt then chews into uselessness. This cheerful bit of mastication greeted me this morning when I opened the drapes.

His name is Claude and he presents me with a little study on the qualities of absurd happiness. I’m growing attached.

copyright Dia Osborn 2014

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Weddings and Funerals and Hospice, Oh My!

Required: Emotional Flexibility to handle wide swings.

There’s a lot going on these days.  First: A news headline.

Beloved daughter and longtime boyfriend get engaged on Valentine’s Day, set date for June.  Mother surprises herself and approves.

Why the surprise? Well, partly because I’m not a big fan of weddings.  In my teens, I used to have nightmares about being a bride trapped in a church ceremony from which there was no escape and I’d wake up every time with my heart pounding, scared to go back to sleep.  These dreams left an impression.  In waking life, I actually ran away during my wedding to the hubster and he had to head me off before I made it into the woods, then carry me back.  (He’s both quick and strategic, thank God.  But that’s a story for another post.)

And then, of course, there are all the other things to worry about where the post-wedding marriage is concerned, especially when entered into by a couple of novices who are all dazed and happy and oblivious to that circle of glowing eyes waiting just beyond the twinkle-lit garden.

But in spite of my entrenched dread of weddings and general worrying nature, when Beloved Daughter and Soon To Be Son-In-Law (SIL) sat us down and told us the news, my first response was enthusiastic and joyful and even…god help me but it’s true…optimistic.  You could have knocked me over with a feather.  I was actually happy for them which, I should mention, is an excellent sign since my initial, gut level reaction to things is usually pretty accurate.

So, reality #1: I’m in happy wedding mode.

Then there’s the other thing happening.

The hubster’s whole family is still in hospice mode, circling the wagons around Mon Pere as he cheerfully and busily packs as much as possible into the shining, beloved life that still remains to him.  I haven’t posted any updates in a while but he continues to amaze in his approach to the whole thing.

He’s slowed down considerably and is sleeping more and more, but even so he still goes out to attend classes at the local university, voraciously reads and replenishes a stack of books that would choke a pig, gets together with family and friends for every occasion possible, and has thrown himself into a cause that would be of enormous benefit to the safety of our entire community.

He’s extraordinary.  Really.  When I think of how much earlier we probably would have lost him if he hadn’t gone on hospice and started receiving good palliative care, I shudder.  There are too many lives being worsened or cut short these days because of overly aggressive treatment or uncoordinated care late in life, and I’m profoundly grateful…every single day…that Mon Pere managed to steer clear of those treacherous shoals.

He’s a wily old fish, that one.

So, reality #2: I’m also in emotional, unpredictable hospice mode.

Then there was this third thing that happened last week.

The hubster’s oldest and best friend lost his 90+ year old mother a week and a half ago and the family held the funeral Thursday evening.  The hubster and I attended, as did Mon Pere since he’s also close to Best Friend.

In fact, Best Friend asked Mon Pere (who is an excellent public speaker) to stand up for him and read a brief vignette he’d written about his mother during the funeral, since he knew he’d break down and sob uncontrollably if he tried to read it himself.  Mon Pere was happy to help out in any way he could.

What happened next was moving and astonishing to me.

In a curious turn of events, the hospice that cared for Best Friend’s mother is the same hospice currently caring for Mon Pere, and since the chaplain presiding over the funeral proceedings was the chaplain for this hospice, Mon Pere knew her quite well.

So before he started reading the vignette, he took a moment to express his appreciation for the chaplain specifically and the kind of work that hospice people do in general, and then things became startlingly poignant when he shared that the reason he knew her was because he was currently in hospice himself with prostate cancer.

I heard the woman sitting behind us gasp when he said it, and there was a brief, electric rustle that went through the room before things settled back down again.  It was only a few sentences spoken simply and sincerely, as though he was sharing that he and the deceased had an old school friend in common, and then he bent his head to read Best Friend’s story.  And that was that.

It was a brief moment, startling and fragile and honest and moving, but everything afterwards was made a little bit more beautiful and real and immediate for it. It was like he’d taken a needle and innocently woven an additional, luminous thread into the tapestry of all of us assembled there, and suddenly life was no longer just a two-dimensional kind of us and them thing anymore—those who are alive and those who are dead.

For a heartbeat he stood there, simple and shining, as a reminder that life isn’t so much a table that we fall off and disappear from as it is a perpetually flowing river, something that’s sweeping us all from upstream to downstream to a final spill out into a big ocean that was always waiting there to receive us.  Best Friend’s mother washed into that sea a week and a half ago while Mon Pere’s pace is picking up in a final, quickening rush to get there, but that doesn’t mean either of them will ever be gone.  They can’t be gone because no matter how far ahead they and their peers get, it’s still the same water carrying us all.

So.  In my third and final reality these days I am:

Wedding-happy, hospice-reeling, funeral-touched, and bobbing somewhere along the length of a winding, luminous river filled from headwaters to ocean with dearly beloved companions.

Which makes today another very, very good day.  Shakespeare (as usual) says it best:

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copyright Dia Osborn 2013

Morningful

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Early morning isn’t usually my time of day but I couldn’t sleep. My god it’s beautiful. I feel like I just went on vacation to some unexpected paradise with slanting fresh light and brave song birds and a sweet kind of stillness that’s so different from the deep silence of night. I think I love this, too.

Good morning world!

Break for Laughter: Is There Sex After Death?

image from Wikipedia

And now a small respite from advance directives…which I need.  Here’s a cute joke a friend sent me:

A couple made a deal that whoever died first would come back and inform the other if there is sex after death. 

After a long life together, the husband was the first to die.  True to his word, he made the first contact:

“Marion?  Marion?”

“Is that you, Bob?”

“Yes!  I’ve come back like we agreed.”

“That’s wonderful!  What’s it like?”

“Well, I get up in the morning, have sex, then breakfast and I’m off to the golf course.  While there I have sex again, bathe in the warm sun for a while, then have sex a couple more times.

“After that I have lunch (you’d be proud honey…lots of greens) followed by another romp around the golf course.  Then it’s pretty much sex again for the rest of the afternoon.  I have a little supper followed by more of the golf course.

“Then it’s more sex until late into the night after which I catch some much needed sleep before starting all over again the next day.”

“Oh, Bob…are you in Heaven?”

“No sweetheart.  I’m a rabbit in Saskatchewan.”

I love the play on the wide differences in afterlife beliefs here. There have been quite a few possibilities posited over the ages of course; Hades, ancestral worship, heaven/hell, reincarnation…and nothing at all… to name a tiny handful.

The belief that one can recycle back into other life forms as this joke suggests falls under the general heading of transmigration of the soul, or metempsychosis.  Kind of an interesting idea actually.  One can only imagine that a widespread belief in this idea might inspire a more enlightened stewardship of our natural world.  Self interest is always such a strong motivator.

Enough.  The next post will be about the blizzard of advance directives forms available out there, as promised.

copyright Dia Osborn 2011

Blip Two From The Book: A Curious Cure

(Still tied up with the class.  Here’s more filler until I have time to write real posts.)

“11/25/04

Thanksgiving!  I’ve got half an hour to write until the turkey goes in and true bedlam begins.

I seem to be spending most of my time with Janice these days reassuring her that, Yes.  Of course.  Just like everyone else who’s ever lived from the dawn of time, she, too, is going to die.  She’s survived so many things, so many times now, it’s gotten ridiculous and she’s starting to battle horrifying visions of immortality.  I can’t help but laugh, yet feel a wave of compassion at the same time.

Whenever she starts moaning about it I point out every sign of decline I can think of, and when I hit on something that resonates her eyes light up with hope. Yesterday, we talked about two things that have to take place before a person can finally go.  One is advanced disease in the body and the other is a surrender of sorts; a  person gradually lets go of the drive to live, the one that makes them get up day after day.  I’ve seen signs of this in Janice lately.  Since she moved to the nursing home she sleeps a lot of the time and rarely participates in any activities.  She told me yesterday there are times when she doesn’t want to eat and she even said she feels “dead” inside most of the time now, which is, of course, a classic description of the depression she doesn’t believe in and refuses to treat.

So, casting about for some way to cheer her up I mentioned, “Y’know, Janice, those things might be a sign that you’re finally surrendering.”  She perked right up.

“Really?  Do you think I’ll die after all?”

God, what a character.

She’s slowly, slowly turning in some kind of invisible womb, her head shifting gradually downward toward the birth canal, preparing for her journey through the passage that connects this world to whatever comes next.  Regular activities are losing their grip and she’s starting to drift, turning increasingly to the doorway of sleep and its other dimensions.  She tells me her daughter keeps encouraging her to take part in the facility’s activities, that she would be happier if she did.

But Janice looks at me, distraught, and says, “She just doesn’t understand.  I can’t.  I don’t feel good enough.”

It would be so hard to be ready to go, to long for it, and still be stuck here.  Day after day.  Year after year, dealing with constant pain and constant loss and constantly diminishing ability.  It’s so weird—how some people can want so desperately to live but die anyway, and how others seem to get trapped.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was some kind of cosmic barter system set up where we could trade final time with one another?

“I’ll give you three of my unwanted years for your quickie.”

“Done!”

I hope I don’t die of congestive heart failure or M.S. or Alzheimer’s, something long and protracted.  Please God, can I have cancer or something else shorter?  Not a heart attack or a car crash though…I’d like time to say my good-byes, to let Cal and Lorin and McKenna know how much I love them.  It would be unbearable to leave without being able to tell them one last time.

After we talked I drove Janice over to the bank, and while we were sitting in the drive-through she spotted a Dollar Store across the parking lot.  Boy, did her eyes light up!  I asked if she wanted to go in and she grew more excited than I’ve seen her in months.  She looked…dare I say it?  Happy.

(Everyone says that, during dying, hearing is the last thing to go.  But watching Janice yesterday I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps, with women, it’s really our love of a great bargain.)

She couldn’t shop for very long, of course, as it was a big store with a lot of stuff.  But she stubbornly managed to drag herself…doubled over her walker and sucking strangled huffs of oxygen in a way that alarmed everyone within hearing—up and down a couple of aisles before grabbing some crackers and gasping that she was ready to go.  By the time I wrestled her back into the car she looked bloodless, ghastly, and absolutely euphoric.

“That…was so…much…fun!”   She wheezed and gazed up at me with grateful eyes from where she’d slumped to the bottom of the seat.  “I really…enjoyed…that!”

She so delights me.  This Thanksgiving I’m grateful I took Janice to the dollar store.”

copyright Dia Osborn 2011

Thor and Mother’s Day

I apologize.  I’ve started three, seriously moving, insight-filled, absolutely blow-your-mind-and-suck-your-socks-off different posts this week but because of persistent interruptions (doctor, dentist, lawyer, fire-alarm, a cluster of canine epileptic seizures, and the rain-gutter repairman) I didn’t finish.  Not one.

So.  Instead, I give you a link to probably the funniest movie review I’ve read to date.  I laughed all the way through.  It’s written by Mike Ryan, published in Vanity Fair, and takes a shot at explaining the seriously convoluted plot of the movie Thor being released today. (i.e. Q: What is a Frost Giant?  A: “Frost Giant” seems to be a derogatory term that refers to the citizens of Jotunheim (not in any way pronounced Jot-un-heim), the mortal enemies of Asgard who want to retrieve what was stolen from them: something called the Casket of Ancient Winters.)  

I’ve asked the hubster to take me to see it for Mother’s Day.  And if we discover at the very last minute, just as we’re walking out the door, that my daughter has again planned something else for me, then I’ll invite her to join us and she’ll instantly forget the other thing and leap joyfully into the car, wreathed in smiles.  She’ll do this partly because this day is, primarily, all about me and she understands that.

But even more important, she loves good comic book hero movies as much as I do (like mother/like daughter.) So I ask you:

Q:  What better way is there to celebrate Mother’s Day than with the hubster, at least one of my beautiful children who lives close enough to come, and a Norse god?

A:  None.

   

That’s Just Anthropomorphism

the north wind

(This is actually taken from something I wrote in my journal last summer but it feels current again today.  I figured I’d polish it up and use it as my post for this week.  Dia)

The college I attended taught on the block system.  During the first year, we studied one subject at a time, eight hours a day, all week long, after which we tested on Friday and moved on to the next subject the following Monday.  It was intense.  Especially with a boring teacher.  So sometimes, toward the end of any given week when I couldn’t handle being stuck up in my head anymore (focused! thinking! analyzing!), I’d ditch class, borrow somebody’s car, head off to a state park about an hour away, and spend the next few hours hiking a forest trail around the lake.

And there, in that beautiful, silent place, the magic would inevitably happen.

Initially, I’d still feel disconnected, trapped in my thoughts and bouncing around the inside of my skull.  The chattering voices in there (teacher! students! educate! argue! question!) were so gripping they actually blinded me.  I couldn’t see the trees or hear the forest sounds around me for the first mile or so.  But then they’d start to drop off, those voices, one by one.  They’d get quieter and quieter until finally (miraculously!) they’d shut up completely.  I’d look up and finally see the waving canopy of green, hear the cicadas and wind and bird calls.  And that was the point when I’d feel all of a piece again.  Whole.  Quiet and tired and happy.

That Focused-Controlling-Thinking-Person-Up-In-My-Head would have disappeared and I’d just be myself.

Even back then, before the depression, anxiety, and deterioration that marked so much of my middle years, it felt like something extraordinary was happening.  Something I never really understood but sought out anyway, time after time.  There’s always been an old, cunning thing in my gut that knows where healing is stashed for me.  Out in the woods.  Up in the mountains.  Under the sky.

Nature’s always been the place where I never felt alone.

But my mind doesn’t give up dominance easily (the downside of having been born with a strong intellect that got a lot of encouragement.)  At first it’s fun, thinking about things.  It’s like flying.  Exhilarating and soaring and free.  But eventually, when I get tired or stressed or just spend too much time in front of the computer, they turn on me, these thoughts.  They lure me down from the sky with juicy chunks of rabbit meat and when I land, they slip a hood over my head, turning off my eyes and ears, even my sense of smell and touch.  The thoughts get so loud (so big!) that they cut me off from the beautiful, rich world around me and, no matter where I am or who I’m with, after that I feel alone.  Like I barely have a body anymore and my noisy, escalating brain activity is all there is left.

It would be really horrible except that, when I’m locked up in my head like that, I can’t feel anything.

Yesterday it was like that.  I’d been writing all day and the outside world had disappeared again like it does, swept away by an ever-swelling torrent of words and ideas.  My mind was tired and over-stimulated.  It would not (not!) shut up.  And then, as if it wasn’t bad enough, THAT voice showed up.

THAT voice is the worst voice in my head.  It’s horrible.  Crushing.  Relentless.  It’s ambitious and proud, glittering, intoxicating, and sophisticated.  It puffs itself up like some giant bird trying to make me think it’s important! and official! and true!  It tells me that I’m a writer (a writer!) with important things to say that other people need to hear, need to know, need to learn (from me!) and it tells me to compete and study and work my craft and be more professional and what the hell is wrong with me anyway that I can’t finish a project or get something published like everyone else?  (Everyone I tell you!  Everyone!)

It’s a miserable, fucking voice that sucks the heart and soul right out of me.  It makes the real me, the one who lives down, down in there somewhere deep, the one who believes that words are like pixie dust, who loves walking up in the hills and touching wounds gently (gently!) and is sooooo curious that sometimes it’s hard to even go to sleep—it makes her want to curl up in a ball and cover her head with her arms and tell that horrible, horrible voice to just go away and leave me alone.  It makes me not even want to write anymore, or care about anything, because if I do then THAT voice will come and take it over.  Take all my caring about things and try to turn it into something else—something powerful or profitable or influential.  Something other people will want or envy.  Something it can leverage or dangle or sell.

THAT voice makes me dry up.  Like a leaf that fell off its branch and now just lies there on the ground, shriveling.  I really, really hate it.

It showed up yesterday again so I did what I’ve always done.   I ran away to the hills.  I took Dane, left civilization behind me, parked at the bottom of a hill and started to climb.  I slipped out of the  cage in my head and skittered away, bent double, dodging under mental shrubbery where that miserable, fucking voice couldn’t find me, until I was finally out of range and free.  Then I looked up and suddenly I could see again.  The real world was there around me, with all my friends.  All the wildish life that the cunning thing in my gut knows and trusts and returns to every time.

There was sagebrush and dust puffs and stink bugs aiming their rear ends at the sky.  The ranging hills were there with all their shadows, and the clouds streaked with pink edges from sunset.  There were grasshoppers everywhere, and purple thistle just coming into bloom.  There was yarrow, St. John’s wort, distant mountains, and the peeping of ground squirrels, and as I climbed higher I gradually remembered that all these things are my friends.  They’re not just bushes, bugs, and rodents, great big mineral piles and water vapor reflecting the last rays of sunlight.  They’re my true companions on this journey through life,  the essential, necessary others in my fellowship, the friends without whom none of this is worthwhile or has any meaning.

Without them, there’s no point in writing anything anymore.

I know, scientifically speaking, that this way of looking at the natural world is naive and superstitious and stupid.  THAT voice sniffs and says That’s just anthropomorphism. But I don’t care.  I know I’m not supposed to look at these things as truly alive.  I understand I’m supposed to see them as inferior and less-than.  Brainless.  Non-human.  Stuff to be used or exploited or destroyed for what we want.

But I don’t believe that.  They don’t look that way to me.  They never have.  From my earliest memories the natural world has always been real.  The place where nothing lies to me and I never feel wrong or unwelcome.  Where I can finally (finally!) relax because when I’m there, the odd way I love the world and everything in it…the living and dying and dead…is actually okay and perfect.

It’s where just caring about things, just touching wounds gently, just being forever curious, is enough.

a wood carving we saw at the end of a driveway in the Olympic rainforest

copyright 2011 Dia Osborn

When Something More Important Than The Parachute Failed

image from Wikipedia

While I was browsing around yesterday researching skydiving and back-up parachutes, I came across a news story from February 2009.

It told the tale of a skydiving instructor, George Steele, who died of a heart attack mid-jump. Now, that piece of information alone would have made me sit up and keep reading because, even though I naturally link skydiving and the possibility of death in my mind, I don’t usually think of it as happening due to a heart attack.  But the story actually gets far more interesting from there.

It turns out this skydiving instructor was not alone when he died.  He was doing a tandem jump and had a novice strapped to his chest.  Now this piece of information electrified me.  Like a lot people out there, I’ve considered doing a tandem jump (someday) as a bucket list kind of thing.  But of all the risks I ever thought might be involved, the instructor strapped to my back having a heart attack was never one of them.

By now I’m on the edge of my seat.  I want to know more.  I have to know more.

Turns out the newbie, Daniel Pharr, was a 25-year old soldier trained how to respond in a life-threatening situation.  His instincts proved up to the task.

The two were the last of the group to jump out of the plane.  After a minute or so of free fall Steele pulled the chute.  Everything became very quiet, which Pharr commented on, and Steele replied to.  And it was shortly after this that Steele’s heart quietly failed.  Pharr soon realized Steele had become non-responsive so, going off of what he’d seen on TV (and our mother’s told us TV would just rot our brains) he grabbed the right steering toggle and guided them safely to the ground about a third of a mile away from the designated landing site.

This was turning into such great story!  Double surprise twist with a happy ending.  Dia, I told myself.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

But wait! she answered.  It does!

Turns out Daniel Pharr’s first thought, when he recognized the danger he was in, was , “So at that point I realized I was just going to have to do what I had to do to get down to the ground and try to help him.”

The article had been great up to that point but this part totally knocked my socks off.  I was inspired.  I was in awe.  I couldn’t help but compare what my own response would have been because…well…it just wouldn’t have been as good.  I’m self aware.  I know my own mettle.  I’ve been in enough emergency situations to realize that I’m primarily driven by self-interest.  Oh sure.  If my kids were involved I’d be a little more noble (as long as they hurried) but otherwise I’d be swelling the herd stampeding for the door.  I probably would have been cursing the poor guy for having a heart attack.  But not Daniel.  Oh no.   Daniel was thinking just as much, if not more, of his partner than he was of himself.

Pharr’s evolution from victim to survivor to hero was like food for the secret, emaciated Better Person languishing inside of me.  He gave me hope, a guiding star.  I fell in love with Daniel Pharr on the spot and wished him, wherever he was and whatever he was doing, continued good fortune and everything blessed and best in life.

But having spent all this time telling you the rest of this stuff, here’s the aspect of the whole story that I really wanted to highlight:

It looks to me like, as deaths go, George Steele got to die a really good one.  Yes, he was only 49-years old and sure, he probably didn’t want to die and most likely wasn’t prepared for it.  But having said all that, clearly he got to do it doing something he loved.  In his relatively short life he’d already done over 8000 jumps.  He’s already taken numerous people out for tandem jumps, sharing in the thrill, exuberance, joy, and rush of all those he introduced to his passion for the first time.  And even though at the end he was doing a tandem jump, he was lucky enough to be doing it with someone experienced and savvy enough to survive the dangers his sudden death created.

But even with as great as all that is, this is what really got me: George Steele didn’t die alone.  When he took his last breath, he got to do it with another warm, pulsing, vibrant, strong, caring, enthusiastic companion strapped to his chest, someone sharing in the same sense of wonder, excitement, and joy that he was feeling himself.  Here’s how Pharr describes what turned out to be Steele’s last moments, floating up there in the sky:

“He pulled the chute,” Pharr said. “It got super quiet. It’s eerily quiet up there. I made the comment to him, ‘It’s surprising how quiet it is.’ And he’s like: ‘Welcome to my world.'”

Welcome to my world. Those were the last words he ever spoke.  I only hope mine will be so great.

I’m not happy for George Steele that he died.  At all.  But I am very happy for him that when he did, he died well.

copyright 2011 Dia Osborn

P.S.  By the way, when asked Daniel Pharr mentioned he’d be willing to jump again himself, but his family put the kabosh on it.  What a guy.


Master of Surprise

October is a big month for me.  It includes my mother’s birthday, my daughter’s birthday, my patron saint’s day, the anniversary of the day I was initiated into Eastern meditation (I used to convert a lot,) the anniversaries for my mother’s wedding, my brother’s wedding, and my own, a dentist appointment, a trip back east for the hubster, and what is arguably my favorite holiday of all time, Halloween.

So guess which one the flowers are for?

(If you guessed the dentist, you’re wrong.  Everything went okay this time.)

No, these are an anniversary surprise from the hubster, something he arranged to have delivered while he was far, far away in New Jersey on our special day.  The card is actually signed in his handwriting so I know they aren’t just an FTD.com cover-up.  He really pre-remembered and went to all the trouble of setting things up, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy and loved, but then totally awful, too, because I pre-forgot and didn’t arrange anything.  (Which is why I’m now writing this blog post.)

Unlike me, who can’t keep a secret long enough to surprise our dog, the hubster is a master of diversion of surprise.  Yesterday morning at the crack of dawn, just as he sat down on the edge of our bed to wake me up to take him to the airport, I surged up from a dead sleep in a panic because I just remembered that I forgot.

Oh no! I wailed.  I forgot our anniversary!  I didn’t do anything for you!

Then, crafty devil that he is, he assumed a look of chagrin to match my own, hung his head a little, and echoed, Oh no…I didn’t do anything for you either.

And because not only am I incapable of keeping a secret to save my life, I’m as gullible as the day is long, I believed him.  I was wildly relieved and made him promise not to do anything to try and make it up, and then I promised him I wouldn’t either.  We agreed to do something when he got back after which I thought I was home safe and guilt-free.

But he lied, he lied, he lied…which is just one more reason why I adore the man.

Happy Anniversary, sweetheart.  And thank you, too, for marrying me on that breathtaking, autumn day back in Jefferson County Park all those years ago.  Thank you for chasing me when I took off running during the ceremony, for catching me before I got to the trees, for carrying me back to the preacher in your arms, and for understanding why, after my first marriage, that I just really, really needed to make sure.

I sure do love you.

copyright 2010 Dia Osborn


Alf and the Fly, Part II

When we left Alf last week he was lying in state at the front of the room while the rest of us sat politely listening to the pastor (who clearly never met his subject) reiterate the sterilized summary of his life as laid out in the obituary.  I was doing my level best to stay awake and fend off the head-bob when the Fly first started buzzing around me.

This was just one of a number of remarkable photographs published in The Daily Mail. It was taken by physiotherapist Miroslaw Swietek at around 3am in the forest next to his home.

I was surprised.  For one thing, it was hard to believe that something as wildish and chaotic as Musca domestica could survive in a place like that.  The room felt as sterile and life-sucking as the sermon currently bouncing off its stark, white walls.   Call me wrong but I’d have bet good money that anything smaller than, say, a finch or a bat would have died and dropped to the floor the instant it hit the atmosphere.  Equally amazing was the fact that the Fly (fat, hairy, and droning) had to negotiate five doors and a security force of germ-phobic staff to penetrate that far in.  Truly, this was one determined fly.

However, my wonder was soon replaced by consternation.  The Fly, after buzzing in circles above my head a few times, commenced a series of land-and-crawl maneuvers targeting places like the top of my head and the side of my face.  At first I just brushed it away while still maintaining my focus on the pastor, but after the third or fourth time The Fly finally had my undivided attention.  I studied the situation.  When I glanced at our Social Worker and Nurse on either side of me it was plain they were outside the fly zone.  Neither displayed the harassed look I was rapidly adopting.  And when I looked around at everyone else in the immediate vicinity I realized they weren’t being bothered either.

Naturally, this annoyed me.   So the next couple of times I swatted the creature towards the Nurse, to see if it would switch victims and crawl on her instead.  But it didn’t.  It not only came right back at me each time, it seemed to redouble its efforts.  That was when it struck me that, for some odd reason, the Fly seemed intent on making my life, and my life alone, miserable.

It got worse.  After a few swipes the thing started dodging my hand, feinting to one side in the air before diving back in to skip across my forehead, my cheek, my nose.  Or, if I swung after it had already landed and was doing the Tinkerbell dance across the back of my neck, it would leap into the air just long enough for me to slap myself before gracefully alighting again in a swift succession of tiny steps.

The Fly was really starting to get to me.

Yet it wasn’t until it began lifting my collar to crawl under my shirt and down my back that I truly began to panic.  What the hell was this thing?  It was like no other bug I’d encountered, intelligent, crafty, and motivated.  Like something out of a Jeff Goldblum movie.   I was right on the verge of making a full-blown scene, shrieking and jumping to my feet, writhing madly while trying to slap my back and tear off my shirt, when something stopped me.  I had the strangest thought.

Alf?

The Fly stopped in its tracks.  It stayed still for a moment, huddled there under the fabric between my shoulder blades, then turned around and crawled back up out of my shirt, lifted into the air, and began to fly around in front of my face in a figure eight pattern.  I couldn’t believe it.  My mind was spinning.  Just how is that kind of thing supposed to work?  My imagination took off and I wondered wildly whether Alf had temporarily turned into the Fly itself, or if he had just rigged a tiny, leather bridle and bit and was now sitting astride its back, grinning and waving at me with a cowboy hat.

It was at that point that the Alf Cloud descended.  I felt it wrap around me like something warm and soft, and then an image of him…smiling, standing with nary a wheelchair, walker, or cane in sight…exploded in my mind.  It felt like he was right there in the room.  I could almost smell the clean soap coming off him, feel something warm like body heat.  He was chuckling and I almost laughed out loud, too, but then remembered where I was.

It was odd and wonderful and such a relief.  He still felt exactly like Alf only without any of the weakness and strain.  No frustration, irritation, or pain.  He felt strong and easy and laughing, not at me but with me, like he knew that I of all people would appreciate this new-found freedom he’d found.  And I did.  I really did.  The last tattered remnants of sadness and guilt washed away and there was nothing left inside but happiness for him.

I grinned.  You rascal. And as soon as I said it, the Alf Cloud was gone.  The Fly stopped its circling and meandered away, bumping into people and chair backs and walls as it went.

I told our Social Worker about the experience on the way home and we shook our heads, wondered what it all meant, then chatted for a while about what we thought might happen when we died ourselves.  I told him I was hoping for a lot of love.  He said he’d be happy if he could still experience anything that felt like sex.

The next day when I arrived at the office our Social Worker had already been there for some time and was sitting at his desk when I walked in, studying a small fly crawling around near his coffee mug.  He glanced up at me and smiled.

I was just wondering, he said, then looked back down at the fly.

Mom?


copyright 2010 Dia Osborn

Searching for a Positive Thought

Question:  Do I have a positive thought in my head today?

Hmmmmm…..

Mmmmmmm…….

Ummmmmm……

Nope.

Something is munching on my just-emerged seedlings in the new garden plot.  All of them.  Anything young, tender, and vulnerable is getting eaten alive and the pace is accelerating.  Two nights ago it was a nibble on a single cucumber shoot.  Last night they took out two chards, half the marigolds, and they seem to be eating the black bean shoots before they can get their little, green heads above ground.  At this rate I might lose everything tonight.

Of course, I could always go out there and do something about it.  I could cut more plastic rings to keep the freaking, tiny terrorists away from my plants.  Or break out the diatomaceous earth and sprinkle it around the stalks to slice the bodies of whoever’s-doing-this to pieces as they crawl toward my babies.  But that would be intelligent and productive.

No, no.  Better to just sit here paralyzed in front of the computer instead, wasting time and life surfing all the bad, bad news and worrying, worrying, worrying.

It appears that, just like the pace of seedling munching in my garden, the pace of bad news out there is accelerating.  Sovereign debt crises.  Persistent unemployment.  Gargantuan budget deficits.  Deepening recession.  Floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, geopolitical conflicts, domestic discontent, drag-on wars.   Gulf oil spill.  Gulf oil spill getting worse.  Gulf oil spill getting catastrophic.

I mean, really, I want to stay abreast of the news.  I do.  I aspire to be an informed citizen.  But where-oh-where is the balance between staying informed and protecting one’s mental health?  The other day when I told our neighbor about a funnel cloud that blew through the valley the previous afternoon, she said she didn’t know anything about it.  My jaw dropped.

“Didn’t you see it on the news?” I asked her.

“Oh, we don’t watch the news anymore,” she answered and smiled.  She looked serene.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since, wondering when the last time was that I smiled like that.  When did I last feel that kind of simple peace?

Oh yeah.  It was when I was working out in the garden, that magical place where troubles tend to first crumple, then disappear altogether.  It’s like getting a lobotomy, only reversible.   I can temporarily forget everything by sticking my hands in the dirt, pulling weeds, building compost, or just kneeling there in the grass lulled by the bees buzzing.

It’s a perfect place where birds sing, rain falls, and flowers bloom.  A place where new life is always beginning, over and over again.

Like Disneyland, where the horses only poop in the service area and all the ducks are male so they never mate in front of small children…

Okay.  Maybe it’s not perfect. Maybe it’s more real than that.  In fact, when I think about it, there are terrorists in my garden world, too.  Little No-See-Ums who try to stop all that new life by devouring anything and everything young and tender.  But in all fairness I can’t really fault them for it.  They’re just hungry and trying to live, too.

However, I can try and stop them.  I can give my beautiful, beloved little seedlings some protection and the opportunity to grow…

…and mature…

…so that I can eventually eat them instead.  (Who’s the terrorist now, eh?)

Silly, silly humans with our trans ocean oil rigs that are too deep to fix, our financial engineering that is too complicated to understand, our banks that are too big to fail, and all our other magnificent, wondrous innovations that may well be too brilliant to work.  We can be so absurd!

Which is perhaps not the most positive thought in the world but it does make me laugh.

copyright 2010 Dia Osborn

Observing the One Year Anniversary

Tomorrow will be one year to the day since we lost her.  June 10, 2009.  Karling Evelyn Shaver Wheelock Kolter died peacefully, surrounded by family that all loved her.

Now they all miss her, too.

As I sit here and hail back to the events of that day, I thought I’d post the notification letter I sent out a week later so you could hail back as well.

This is in memory of Mom.

June 17, 2009

To all those who’ve been holding my mother and all of us in your loving attention:

Our entire family was deeply touched at the outpouring of love and support that came in response to my last email…I can’t tell you how much it’s helped.  The stories so many of you shared about the way in which Karling touched your lives were profoundly moving.  We knew, of course, how much she had influenced our own lives.  We suspected she had influenced a great many more but we honestly didn’t realize just how many or how much.  Thank you for the education.

For those of you who have not yet heard, Karling died a week ago yesterday of colon cancer.  It seemed sudden to us all, primarily because her symptoms didn’t seem severe enough to indicate an illness that serious until a few weeks before the end.  She actually died a serene, peaceful death in a beautiful hospice facility in Las Vegas surrounded by gardens and fountains, a central courtyard garden and an aviary full of the birds she so dearly loved.  It was soothing to be in a place of peace and calm, surrounded by people who view dying as a profoundly valuable time of life.  The entire family made it to her bedside in the end—her husband Jim of course, all ten kids with their various spouses, her brother, sister, and a dear nephew, a smattering of grandchildren and great grandchildren and a few close friends.  We were a boisterous, emotional bunch but the hospice staff welcomed that, too.

She was largely unconscious for the last four days, resting for the most part in a state of deepening silence–we think she was probably just waiting for the last of us to arrive from the far flung parts of the world where some of us reside.  There was a strange thing happening to her body, too, as she lay there.  At first we thought that perhaps it was just our imagination but every day she began to look younger and younger–her wrinkles and age spots simply disappearing.  Her skin grew increasingly soft, supple, and clear, taking on a translucent quality that appeared almost radiant, and at the very last her face looked more like that of a young girl in her twenties than the seventy two year old woman she actually was.  It was really quite extraordinary and made us sometimes laugh out loud and wonder.  During this time she also seemed to be making the rounds.  It’s amazing how many of us either felt her around us, dreamed about her talking to us, or actually heard her laughter or voice at different times.  (These kinds of experiences continued to a lesser degree in the days immediately following her death, which has really helped as we try to navigate the transition into a world without her arms, her voice, her smile, and all the other myriad, everyday gifts of physical presence.)

India 1969

Through an extraordinary set of seemingly random and disconnected events, most of us wound up assembling in her room minutes before she was to take her last breath.  Various family members read scripture passages or said prayers from a variety of spiritual traditions, which seemed absolutely perfect.  She had helped to foster a deep love of spiritual life in each one of us, always embracing Grace in whatever form it happened to present itself—it seemed right that it presented itself in multiple forms at the end.  For myself, I had a kind of vision as she seemed to be leaving her body that both surprised and comforted me.  It was as though I could see her–feel her–filling up the room, filling up the facility, getting bigger and bigger as she spread out over the city, over the country, finally blanketing the entire world like a gauzy layer of blue and rose tinged atmosphere.  The expansion made me think of descriptions I’d read of supernovas and I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that her physical body had managed to last as long as it did–trying to contain something that huge for all these years.

She died a good death–just as she lived a good life–and I’m deeply grateful for the final lessons and insights she gave us even in her passing.  She was always, always a great teacher.

UC Santa Cruz, 1989, Bachelor of Arts

…with grandchild

And now, for some of us, the winding journey of bereavement and adjustment begins.  For myself I find that it’s constantly changing.  Sometimes I remember and ache, sometimes I remember and laugh, and sometimes I forget for a little while and enjoy a brief respite, dreaming that the world is still the way it always was.  I realize this passage is going to take time and some parts will just hurt, but it feels like it will all still be okay. This is my first time with a significant loss and I still have much to learn.  But I suspect that as pain goes, the kind that comes from loving without limit through the wounding of great loss is probably about as good as it gets.  Certainly, my mother is the one who taught me the courage and wisdom of loving that much.  Strangely enough, I wouldn’t trade this sweet, sweet ache of loving her for all the gaiety and happiness in the world.

Lastly, I’d like to thank you all for loving her, holding her in your hearts, and valuing her through her final passage.  And thank you, too for surrounding us all with your kind thoughts and gentle concern.  I can’t begin to describe how the waves of prayer and support and beautiful, loving attention coming from all over the world really, physically helped and sustained us in our final efforts to care for her during her transition.  We all felt it.  It was like being spun in a cocoon of light and grace and strength with her at its core.

Jai Guru Dev

Dia

Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho, 2006

copyright 2010 Dia Osborn

Predators, Bagels, and Rodents, Oh My!

My wife-in-law, who co-writes non-fiction books on subjects like happiness and love, once observed that writing about a topic for any length of time usually translates into having to live it, too.  She first mentioned this to me while working on her book about love, when issues surrounding both love (wonderful! fantastic! fabulous!) and not-so-love (bummer…sadness…lowly low) had ballooned in her life, forcing her to grapple with the subject matter in a way that an intellectual treatise alone didn’t require.

I’ve noticed a similar dynamic while working on a book about dying I started after nearly six years with a local hospice.  Only instead of the love/not-so-love polarity mentioned above, I’ve been wrestling with a fear-of-dying (worrying…fretting…clinging) versus a really-truly-living (grateful! wonder! wowie kazowie!) one.  I’m trying to figure out just how exactly this whole thing is supposed to look.  How does one live a no holds barred, balls to the wall, drink it all in and keep on dancing kind of life in the inevitable face of dying?

And am I?

Yesterday afternoon I took our hundred pound, five-year old, rescue mutt up in the hills for our daily romp.  As usual, as soon as I gave him the all clear, Dane ranged far and wide off the trail, scouting out the endless smorgasbord of mangy and malodorous things he always finds to eat up there.  (He was abandoned young and lived on the streets for a while, nearly starving to death before animal control finally caught him.  The experience left scars.  I imagine if he could write a book, it would be all about food.)

He’s an avid scavenger, which is often disgusting, but something I can live with.  The challenge is that he also has the strongest predatory instinct of any dog I’ve ever had and he’s got a knack for hunting.

The first sign we saw of this instinct was innocuous and involved a dozen onion bagels I left on the kitchen counter the week we first brought him home.  The whole incident was my bad.  First off, he’s a really big dog and kitchen counters clearly offered no meaningful deterrent.  And second, he’d surreptitiously eaten two loaves of bread (and the bags) while I was showering on previous days so I should have known better than to leave the bagels out like that.

At first I thought he’d eaten them all.  But a half hour later I noticed him trotting towards the dog door with something in his mouth and, yes, it was a bagel.  Turns out he’d only eaten six and cached the rest.  During the ensuing treasure hunt we unearthed the others under pillows, inside shoes, behind drapes, and one that he’d carefully placed inside a box which he then closed.

Did I mention he’s smart?  He’s smart.

The bagel incident was annoying but pretty cute.  The one involving the warm and flopsy, back half of a wild rabbit we confiscated a couple of months  later wasn’t.  (He caught a wild rabbit!? you exclaim.  Only half?! I reply.)  There have been a few other victims.  Mainly rodents  and an occasional bird.  The number has fallen over the years as he’s gotten older but it’s still nothing I ever get used to.

And then yesterday he caught and killed a young ground squirrel.  A baby.  It was awful.  When I first spotted it outside its hole, I hung onto his collar until we’d scared it back inside.  I thought it was safe to let him go after that but the damn thing suddenly popped back up out of the hole and skittered away across open ground.  Dane was after it in a flash.  (It kind of takes my breath away how fast he moves when hunting.)  He scooped it up, chomped it three times like it was a squeak toy, and then just dropped it and walked off.

Now it’s not that I would have let him eat it had he tried, but he didn’t, and that kind of horrified me and ticked me off both.  I mean, what did he even kill it for if he didn’t want to eat it?  It’s so hard sometimes, trying not to put all my moral judgments onto a dog.  I realize it’s not that complicated for him.  Hey…it runs, I chase it lady. But I still struggle.

Then I realized the little ground squirrel wasn’t dead yet and I crouched down next to it uneasily while it twitched and spasmed there on the ground.  My father’s voice in my head told me I should put it out of its misery but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I just couldn’t.  I once drowned a litter of mice and (even though it’s probably not true) swore afterwards I’d never do anything like that again. Killing is a tough job, and it doesn’t get any easier just because it’s the compassionate thing to do.

Then I noticed the ground squirrel was heading into shock.  It’s eyes glazed over and the spasms slowed, so instead of having to search for a rock with which to crush it I thankfully knelt down in the dirt and started to sing.  Soft.  Crooning.  I told it sorry and thank you.  That it was beautiful to me and the hard part would soon be over.  I murmured words of encouragement, strength, and caring, and as its little body relaxed and grew more peaceful, I relaxed and grew more peaceful, too.  And it ended like that, a minute later.  The sunshine was warm and the breeze lifted fine dust all around us, gently.  Dane was snuffling around in the sagebrush a little ways off and everything felt quiet.  So very, very quiet.

It was a good ending.  Peaceful.  Sad.  Bittersweet.  Loving and tender and still.   It was a useless death but then, really, most of dying is.  I’m not sure, in the grand scheme, there’s anything wrong with that.  What was most important to me was that the baby didn’t suffer long and it didn’t die abandoned and alone.  (Of course again, in the grand scheme, I’m not sure any of us ever dies abandoned and alone but still, I think it makes a big difference, us being there for one another.)

So back to my original question, when it comes to life, am I or am I not balls to the wall, drinking-it-in-and-still-dancing?  Well, yesterday it wasn’t exactly dancing but it sure felt balls to the wall.  It’s never been that hard for me to live with gusto when the living is good.  I’ve always felt like the true testing comes when life turns to the darker side like it did yesterday.  And when it suddenly mushroomed up bloody and appalling I didn’t run, I didn’t rationalize, and I didn’t beat my dog.  I just gathered up a broken, little body and did my level best to keep on loving through the whole mess.  And for those few moments it felt like I’d unclenched my fists, dropped my arms, and let the whole twisted, shining shebang wash in and fill me.

No holds barred.

copyright 2010 Dia Osborn

More Role Models and Superheroes

Cerebral Palsy Man was not the only role model that helped me see how happiness can prevail in spite of having every reason in the world not to.  There were two others who illustrated the mechanics of this for me–Maggie Full of Grace and David the Scaredy Cat.

Maggie, a victim of one of the final polio epidemics to sweep across the U.S., lived out the following fifty some-odd years from a wheelchair as a near quadriplegic.  Shortly before she died, she shared one of her keys to maintaining freedom in a low-functioning body with me, which I’ll cover in a following post.   But for now I’d like to talk about David.

David was a cat, literally, and an important part of the apartment package I agreed to house-sit for, one summer during college.  I’m not generally a  cat person–god help me I’ve tried but I just don’t understand a creature that blows hot and cold like that.  However, David was one of those strange cats that behave a lot like a dog and was therefore, to me, one of the more engaging members of the species.  He was both affectionate and hugely fat and loved nothing better than curling up in a nice, warm lap to sleep, thereby numbing the attached legs into a kind of appendage coma.

He was also agoraphobic.   I never heard the details of how or when it all began, but evidently once David developed a terror of leaving the apartment he never did so again except for a yearly trip to the vet during which he was heavily sedated.  Years had passed since he’d experienced the outdoors in a conscious state.

I had no problem with this.  David was content to live inside and seemed no worse the wear for his annual drug-induced stupor, so far be it from me to pressure him to change.  But as the summer progressed he and I developed a little game around his condition.  He would accompany me to the door whenever I left to go anywhere.  I would then open the door, pause for a moment and invite him to step outside with me.  He would then carefully consider the invitation, stick his nose over the threshold and take a few sniffs.  But then he’d always pull his head in, step back, and look up at me as if to say, Y’know?  Thanks awfully, but I think I’m gonna pass today.  You go ahead.  Knock your socks off.  Have a great time out there.

We did this every day, every time I left, for two months.  It became our little joke.  He never intended to go and I never expected him to, but we’d pretend like it was a possibility anyway because we both got such a kick out of it.  But then one day, out of the blue, David changed his mind and with no warning at all, stepped through the door and down onto the sidewalk.

I was floored and just stood there staring at him, slack jawed and goggling.  I had no idea what was going on and wasn’t at all sure how to proceed.  But he looked so confident there at my feet, jaunty and gazing around him, surveying his new domain,  that I quelled the scream of excitement rising inside me and tried to assume an equally casual attitude.  I walked forward slowly, testing him, and he kept pace with me step for step, calm and curious.  There wasn’t a trace of fear in him so eventually we strolled off down the street together, nonchalant, as though we did this all the time.  As though we were heading to the club for martinis, arm in arm, top hats tilted at rakish angles.

Eventually, David grew so bold that he even stepped off the street to explore some of the low brush growing alongside.  The road bordered a large pond full of cattails and nesting, red-winged blackbirds who instantly and strenuously objected to his presence.  He ignored their dive bombing (you vulgar birds…we do not notice you) and proceeded to thread his way through the vegetation like a pro.  He looked like such a cat all of a sudden.  Stealthy and smooth, feline and graceful, all signs of the fat and dumpy slug he was at home gone.  I was proud of him.  Happy for him.  Intoxicated with his success.

And then came the wild cat.

It showed up out of nowhere.  No.  Out of  nightmare.  It was tiny in size but mighty in ferocity and it hurtled straight at David, spitting and hissing like some writhing, poisonous, pit creature.  It scared the living shit out of both of us and David immediately panicked, bolting for a telephone pole sticking up out of the brush about fifteen feet away.  The other cat took off after him and  I started chasing them both, waving my arms (threateningly I thought) in the air over my head and shrieking unintelligibly.

There was a brief moment, as David scaled twenty feet of pole in an adrenaline fueled blaze of lightning speed, that the wild cat and I both paused in surprise and grudging respect.  But then he scooched over and hung himself by the armpits from a crossbar, dangling there like some weirdly displaced flour sack, and chaos erupted again.   The wild cat pursued him about halfway up the pole then stopped, clinging and spitting curses there like the demon spawn of hell it was, threatening him with god-only-knows-what kind of cat horrors while sticking all its fur straight out as if it was being electrocuted.  I, in the meantime, was on the ground spitting curses of my own and clumsily throwing rocks, broken glass, and any other debris I could pry out of the dirt at the impossibly small target hanging off the side of the pole.

And here I apologize but I’m going to have to leave you hanging for a while longer with David.  This post has totally gotten away from me and I’ll have to finish it next week.  Stay tuned.

copyright 2010 Dia Osborn

Irrationally Happy

Until I met Cerebral Palsy Man I secretly believed that my happiness was determined by circumstance.  I’d never admit that of course, because I know I’m supposed to believe that I determine my own happiness.   But I didn’t believe that.  Not really.  How could I?  I’d never seen it before.  I had no role models.

That was before I met Cerebral Palsy Man.

I discovered him while doing my clinical hours in a local nursing home which…may I be frank here?…repelled me.  It’s not that it was filthy or filled with evil staff or anything.  It wasn’t.  While there was a faint aroma of urine that pervaded the place, and the quality of work smelled of a corresponding by-the-hour ethic, no one I met there seemed to harbor any ill intent towards the residents.  The place itself just seemed to drain them.  Physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  It was like a black hole for positive energy–no matter how much you started out with when you first arrived, by the end of the day the run down furnishings and endless, linoleum hallways littered with sagging people in wheelchairs sucked it right out of you.

I’m not alone in thinking that institutionalizing illness and aging isn’t working.  Pretty much everyone dreads these places.  I’ve never met a single human being that’s told me Boy howdy! I just can’t wait to get old so I can go live in a nursing home. While there’s an excellent movement afoot to try and change this sorry state of affairs, to date (as we all know but still deny whenever we have to we drop off one of our own elders) nursing homes are by and large depressing places.

Yet strangely enough it was here, in this horrible environment, that I discovered the surprising existence of Cerebral Palsy Man.  He was a gentleman in his seventies who’d been living with the disease all his life–had in fact resided in a string of nursing home-type environments since he’d first been institutionalized in his twenties.  To my mind, after what must have been a long and miserable existence (right?) he should have been reduced to little more than a lump–a morose, dejected huddle of a human being just waiting and wishing to die.

But au contraire!

How wrong and riddled with stereotypical thinking I was.  Instead of some sad and depressing lump of a man I found a total radical.  In spite of the fact that he couldn’t bathe, dress, toilet, shave, transfer, turn, or feed himself, he was outrageously happy.  Contagiously so.  Everyone loved him.  The only time I didn’t see him smiling was when he had to stop and open his mouth for a spoonful of the pureed, mystery meat they served for lunch that day.  Otherwise, he sailed up and down the hallways in his electric wheelchair, singing out a warm and (to my inexperienced ear) totally unintelligible greeting to everyone he passed including his new roommate and blushing bride–a plump and cheerful, equally helpless woman who shared his name, bathroom, and cerebral palsy diagnosis.

So what was wrong with this man you ask?  Why didn’t he just knuckle under and curl up in defeat as required?  Everyone else living in that awful place seemed to get it.  The majority of them were actually far more independent than he was but still obediently complaining and morose.  Why didn’t he conform?  What made him think he could be different?

Aha!  But our Cerebral Palsy Man was no novice.  He had a gift that few of the others there shared–an entire lifetime of dependency and debilitation.  He’d had over seventy years to adjust and adapt to not only the strict boundaries his body dictated, but the grim institutional settings they’d landed him in.  And–here’s the real kicker–he’d used that time to nose around and discover a secret that most of us never do:

Limits don’t in any way restrict our ability to make miracles. Because they can’t.  How could they?  Limits and miracles don’t even exist in the same dimension.

It’s like the difference between the world of time and space that exists within the speed of light and then the mystery that exists out beyond it.  His body (and the dreary hallways and overworked staff and pee odor and bad food) all belonged to the slower, visible, measurable world.  But Cerebral Palsy Man had managed to launch out somewhere beyond into a radiant realm brimming with unreasonable joy and enthusiasm.  Trapped for life in a nursing home for godsakes, and this man (my role model, my idol, my superhero) was totally and irrationally happy anyway.  That was his miracle.

Well, let me tell you it didn’t take much time spent in his company for the sleeping radical in me to sit up and take note, too.  She studied him for a little while, then looked back at the gray people, then looked back at him again, and finally whistled low and long.  Whewee, she said.  Fuck following the herd then.  I want whatever he’s having.

And really I ask you–if he can do it, then why can’t I?  So what if I’m a depressive?  So what if I’m a multi-phobic person with a dissociative disorder?  So what if I spend more time curled up in the fetal position than your average Joe?  Evidently, if I want to go ahead and be irrationally happy anyway, I can.  All I need is a cape, a grin, and somebody to show me the way.

Bingo!  And now I want to be just like Cerebral Palsy Man.

copyright 2010 Dia Osborn