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Thursday, December 22, 2016

The New Room

Today Di and her mother went to see the room she's going to. Now they're packing and unpacking, discussing chairs and bureaus, what to do with the window etc. Rather Diana is asking the questions and answering them as well. I don't hear Shirley. What I kind of know but can't really get hold of is that this move is as ... if not traumatic... monumental for Diana as it is for Shirley. It is astounding her connection to her mother, the love and caring... sometimes exasperation but never resentment. Even though it's meant driving her to her day program every day, bringing her to the store, giving her 'jobs' to do, keeping her entertained in the evenings... and on and on. Attention and love. Attention and love.

I have to say she is frequently exasperated with Shirley's inability to remember things from moment to moment, or when Shirley hides her soiled underwear in the closet, producing a stench Shirley is unaware of and totally denies, as if Shirley were to her daughter still a 'real' mother who should be expected to accomplish the normal day to day activities we all do without thinking. It's hard for me to grok that Diana still sees her mother as a mother, even as she herself has become the mother.

For years in Florida, and then in Smithville where Shirley and Gord lived, there was a crockery dog who stood sentinel on the front lawn, its leg now broken. In my world we would throw it away. In theirs, I spend a half hour finding the epoxy, the clamps, the counter space, the newspaper, to cobble the thing back together so Shirley can take it to her new place, put it at her apartment door, maintain the tradition, the memories to help her feel at home.

They will spend the evening together checking out this and that, packing, arranging, thinking about decor, until Shirley needs to sleep.

When I'm ready to go, my children won't do this and I'm glad. Oh... they'll drive me and make sure I'm comfortable. But I don't have the tradition in my bones. Who am I? Where did I come from? It's not all that important. Should I bring a banjo, a fiddle? Will I still be able to play? What pictures should go on the wall? Will the room be done in blue? It won't matter.

What will matter, I think as I age I would like to see a familiar face from time to time ... coming to my room... wherever I am... as long as I can recognize a familiar face.

I'm 74 years old. There are people my age living in those homes. And I'm still making love to beautiful women. I still coach people,. I still run a workshop program. I'm still living in this world, not that one. Although there are words I can't find when my mind goes blank. But I still muddle through. I still stand on stage and bring people to tears. I still find succor in the exquisite nest of human connection.

The new year is coming. Where will I be in a year?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


A bull fighter died last weekend... gored to death by the bull.  Scenes of a bull being killed by a matador would not have interested me, but there was something about a primitive desire for revenge that motivated me to google the videos.

The first ones were of the running of the bulls in Pamplona... a three minute stampede of 6 bulls where people measure their defiance of death by how close they come to the ten tons of angry beast hurtling by.  Some get a vicarious thrill standing on balconies above the street.  Others run into alleyways or press against the doorways.  There were 15 injuries.  The worst: two who were upended unceremoniously and landed on their heads.  One bull turned into an alleyway and gored the few who, I guess, thought they'd be safe.

The way I see it, dashing across the 12 lanes of the 401 in Pickering at noon would be just about as death-defying and dumb.  Only the centuries-old tradition would be lacking.

The bull fight was much more sinister. First the bull was taunted and teased.  The matador, with chest puffed and shoulders back, stood like a peacock in heat behind his magenta cape.  He egged the bull into a charge, and got the beast to whiz by as close as possible while avoiding being stabbed.  He did this a few times and then lowered the cape which confuses the bull, turned his back and strutted away as if fearless of a charge from behind.  Then he got on his knees and repeated the ritual, making a fool of the noble beast and of himself: little more than a schoolyard bully.

Then came the real torturing of the bull, with picadors to weaken his haunches with lances so he couldn't raise his head, and banderilleros who snuck up on his blind side, pierced him with spears, and pranced away.

Then the matador returned for a few more passes before the applying the sword which would come from above, between the horns, slice alongside the backbone and pierce to the heart.  Except this time the wrong character in this lurid drama was killed.  I watched it from several angles.  Instead of standing straight and tall as the bull circled him, he bent his knee and it got caught in the bull's horn.  Down he went and the bull stabbed him in the heart.

In seconds they were there to distract away the bull and surround the dying man.  After that there were no pictures of the victor in this medieval debacle.  The bull was killed off camera.  Maybe shot, maybe stabbed, we don't know.  But what we know is the bull is doomed... doomed from the day it is born... doomed from the moment it is pushed out onto the street to the moment the fight is over.  Victim or victor, it is doomed to die.  My desire for revenge was hollow.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Mini Workshops Save My Life

Mini workshops save my life.

Diana and I are going through very difficult times.  Family members have been spitting hateful venom, attacking us since Diana’s father died over a year ago.  Our darling Ava has moved out. Then on Saturday I had a terrible morning that involved a car crash and some very painful strife with someone I love.  With everything weighing on me, I broke down in tears.

A half hour later I was to drive to the city to lead a Mini workshop.  A voice in my head said, “If you call and cancel, people will understand.”  The idea of retreating to my bedroom was seductive.  But I realized that putting myself in the room of love for two hours was where I’d rather be to contrast the hatred and judgement we’re receiving daily, compounded by the present emergency.

The workshop is about being intimate, and how could I be, sitting with this lump of pain in my heart?  When people ask me, “How are you?” I often don’t answer, because “Fine” is not an answer for me and if I express my pain they’ll usually want to hear more, which is not good for me.  Or they’ll look upon me with pity, or need to suggest fixes for the situation, or any number of responses that don’t serve me. 

But to be authentic this afternoon I knew I needed to express the pain in my heart.  So I decided I would also tell people I didn’t want to be fixed and didn’t need them to hear the story.  Then I remembered we’re taught in HAI simply to ask, “Is there anything you need?”  So I decided to share that little tool with the group, and let them now I needed hugs, caring and love… and that’s exactly what I got.

A HAI Mini workshop is a two-hour blossoming of compassion among people, many of whom have never met before.  We create a room of love where people can let go of issues, guilt and judgement, and just notice who they are as human beings.  The workshop ends with a very touching exercise where folks stroke each other’s face and share the connection of being human without agenda, where the event simply equals the event, and all there is is love. 
As I led the exercise, surrounded by that compassion and intimacy, it was as if warm waves of love were washing over the icy pain in my heart, melting it away.  I was left with a sadness that the folks who strike out in fear and hatred don’t get connected to the love I do.  And I felt gratitude to HAI for offering the opportunity to do the work I do to witness the beauty of people’s humanity.

Do HAI Mini workshops save my life?  Yes that’s an exaggeration.  But it is certainly one of the many ways I hold myself in love in this world.