Hebba-lubbo, frebbends! (Does anyone remember the PBS show Zoom? Ubby-Dubby language? Anyone? Beuller?) Are you wondering where I’ve been? Why I went AWOL? Have you missed me? *looking up, fluttering my lashes* Well, I feel a need to justify my absence anyway. Silliness aside, I need to take time to write again.
I am anticipating the end of the season for my job at the living history museum, Old World Wisconsin. By the end of next month, I will need to make up those wages by doing something else. Fortunately, my previous employer still values my skills as a proofreader, and I have been able to contract with them for some work I can do at home. Hopefully, I will be able to pick up some new voice students as well. I have been spending my home days working on those enterprises and helping Steve with the book business. So, I have not been spending my home time in leisurely rambles of creative writing. And the memory card in my camera is full, so I haven’t been taking pictures. I have been thinking, though….
Steve and I will soon be hitting the 5-year milestone in our relationship. Our first date was October 4. The evolution of our partnership has been an intense journey toward maturity, and keeping that energy going is quite a commitment. The other day, I went back to some of our early e-mails (yes, I still haven’t deleted them) and came face-to-face with my former self: a grieving widow struggling to be a single Mom for the first time. Yikes! The more dramatic e-mails were the ones I exchanged with my 17-year old daughter. Our grief, our survival, was such a strong agenda that we were hardly communicating anything besides our fears, our wants, our upset feelings. It was very hard for us to listen to each other and be generous. Steve stepped into that gap and calmly spoke his observations without judgment, even when my daughter’s anger was focused on his role in my life. A metaphor that he uses is “clearing the windshield”. We often have so much mud covering up the clarity of what life is and how we want to live it. Steve has always come back to articulating his vision, one that he’s known since he was very young. He’s been very patiently illustrating it over these past 5 years, and I’ve only recently felt that my windshield has been clear enough to see it.
I have been reading a little book he gave me — Finding the Still Point: A Beginner’s Guide to Zen Meditation by John Daido Loori. Here’s the nugget I will keep returning to:
“From birth we have been conditioned by different events and people — our teachers, parents, country, culture, neighborhood, friends, and peers. Everything we cherish — our positions, attitudes, opinions, all of our attachments, all the things we think give our life identity — is found in our conditioning. Now here we are, decades later, trying to live our lives out of this random programming we call “my life”. We feel so strongly about parts of the program we are ready to die for it. And it is all created in our own mind.
There is no escaping the fact that getting beyond this accumulated conditioning is a long process. Thirty or forty years of programming takes time to work through. We look at the thoughts, acknowledge them, let them go, and come back to the breath. Day by day, we uncover what is underneath all of the conditioning. What we discover is called freedom. It is called human life. It is called wisdom and compassion. It’s the nature of all beings.”
Living freely is the reward of maturity. Cleaning the windshield is an arduous, stinky task at times. I am tempted to hide behind the caked-on guck and call it my safe cocoon, expecting my partner to join me there. He will not. Is that ungenerous? Or the most loving thing a friend can do? Sometimes I have a hard time deciding. Even when he doesn’t join me there, he has waited for me to emerge. He finds that very frustrating at times. He would like to see me free. He would like to see all people free, including himself. His sadness and disappointment when we are not free shows in his face and posture. I think of where my daughter and I used to live. We have emerged joyfully from that place. We know freedom. But we are still cleaning the windshield. There is more to be done, and the view from that one clear corner is my inspiration to continue the work.
I am alive. I am maturing. I am working on my life. And I enjoy taking time to write about it every once in a while. Thanks for listening!