I’ve Been Celebrating

Turning three quarters of a century is worth a month of celebrating and that is what I’ve been doing and why you haven’t heard from me for awhile.

The festivities began on July 7 when my friends, Kathryn and Sharon, were visiting. Nicole joined us for a feast at Salar, a Peruvian restaurant in the Oregon District in downtown Dayton. The pouring rain did not dampen our spirits.

Linda, Nicole, Kathryn, and Sharon

On July 10, the Angels helped me celebrate. Carol, our resident bestower of gifts, baked me a pie. She knows I prefer pie to cake. And, I forgot to take a picture. But this picture from 2015 captures the spirit, though as I look at it, there have been many changes.

Carol raises chickens, and she gave me a dozen of the best eggs you will find in the area. The yolks are even more yellow than those I purchase at Whole Foods. And sneaky gift giver that she is, she hid a butterfly charm in the carton.

Sue, Carol, Marti, Gay, Linda, Rosie, Ruth, Mary Lou, Gloria, Ginny, Betsy, Meribeth

On July 13, my friends, Diana and Prema celebrated with me at Amar India near the Dayton Mall. Then Diana went out of her way to take me to a book signing for a local author. She also gifted me with a kitchen towel that she designed to match my decor. It is lovely.

Prema, Linda, & Diana

On July 14, my friend Carol took me to First Watch at the Dayton Mall. Then she and I went car shopping for her. That is a tale in itself and worth a separate blog post. We single women have to support each other.

No pictures for the big day, July 15, but my daughter took me to a new Greek restaurant in town, Gyro Delight. I had one of my favorites … Moussaka.

On July 19, my friend Dan and I celebrated both our birthdays at Basil’s on Market in downtown Dayton. Dan’s birthday is July 25, just ten days after mine.

On July 20, the Sage Sisters met at Jasmine’s and they showered me with birthday gifts. Cindi, the artist and foodie in our group gave me the great butterfly card which she embellished with the big 75 and a huge batch of basil. I made some yummy pesto with that. Sue gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

Jasmine, Sue, Cindi, and Linda

Cathy, our fifth Sage Sister, wasn’t able to be with us that day, so she took me to Wheat Penny in the Oregon District on July 27. And I totally forgot to have our picture taken. It was restaurant week in Dayton and we were so curious about the delicacies that were being served, it totally slipped my mind.

Thanks to my wonderful friends, I had a great 75th birthday…all month long. And it simply does not seem possible that I am three quarters of a century old. The good news is, I’m still going strong, and that is worth celebrating!

 

You Make Sense to Me — A Priceless Gift

Oprah Winfrey often says that what she learned in her twenty-five years as a talk-show host is that people want the same thing — we want to be heard and understood … we want to know that we make sense to someone.

In my past life (1993-2012), one of the many professional hats I wore was as an Imago Relationship Therapist. Imago Therapists teach couples a listening skill that goes beyond active listening (repeating what you hear the other saying) to seeing the world through the other person’s eyes and telling them how they make sense given their life experience, and then walking in their shoes by telling them what you imagine they must be feeling as a result. None of this requires agreeing with how they see the world or having their feelings. It just asks us to suspend our own judgments and experiences to be in the world of the other.

And it is not easy as our polarized world attests.

For couples in troubled relationships, using that process skillfully can transform their relationship. Often, the assistance of a compassionate therapist is needed to help get and stay on track.

During the time I was an active member of the Imago community, one of the highlights I enjoyed was attending the annual conference, visiting another area of our country, and re-connecting with colleagues who had become friends.

One year, probably before 9/11, our conference was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I decided to stay an extra day, rented a car, and planned a trip to the Acoma Pueblo Sky City, located on top of a mesa about sixty miles west of Albuquerque. A colleague from Houston, Texas, Damian Duplechain, heard about my plans and asked if he could join me. I didn’t know Damian at the time, but welcomed his company.

Damian and I had a lot of time to get to know each other that day. We found we had some experiences in common beyond being Imago Relationship Therapists. We each had addiction in our family backgrounds and found twelve-step spirituality, The Spirituality of Imperfection, to be a healing force in our lives. After this trip, we went back home and had little contact after that beyond a few e-mails.

In 2009, I developed lymphoma. I was diagnosed on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, was sent directly to the urban hub of the hospital, and talked into staying the weekend. If I had to do it over, I would not have stayed the weekend, but that is another story. The word went out to the Imago community about my situation and colleagues from around the world began praying for me.

That weekend, I received a phone call from Damian. What a shock. He wanted me to know about M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He told me about a friend who had traveled a distance to be treated there. He said that if I wasn’t happy with the treatment I was getting in Dayton, OH, to give him a call and he would make all the arrangements for me to come to Houston for treatment. I doubt that you can imagine how touched I was by that. It told me even more about what an extraordinarily caring person Damian is. And it told me how fortunate I was to have so many wonderful friends extending love to me. Despite his generous offer, I didn’t find it necessary to seek treatment outside Dayton. I have been in remission since December 2009.

Eventually, I stopped participating in Imago conferences, opting to attend workshops and gatherings with my Imago friends in the Detroit, MI area. At one point, I contacted Damian about sending him a referral. But other than that, we had little contact for several years until Monday of this week.

Unbeknownst to me, Damian has been following my blog and has made a few comments. Since I didn’t receive them, I didn’t respond. He thought that was strange, checked my webpage, didn’t find his comments, and wondered if it was a cyber gremlin at work or if he had offended me in some way. He sent me an e-mail and stated that if he had offended me, he wanted to offer his deepest apology and state his willingness to hear my hurt.

I was floored. I doubt you can imagine how deeply touched I was. I find it a rare experience to have someone care that much about my feelings that they would send me an e-mail to inquire if I had been hurt and express a willingness to listen, if needed. I couldn’t have received a better gift.

My daughter who lives with me has a condition that blunts her emotions. She gets very uncomfortable when I express mine. So at home, I mostly keep them to myself. I often go for long stretches of time with no one inquiring about or listening to my feelings. And I am a feeler … on the Myer’s Briggs Personality Type Indicator, I am an

INFJ.

I have a rich inner life full of feelings, and I experience myself as most cared about when someone is interested in hearing me express them. To me, my feelings are the best, most authentic, part of me. Sometimes they get in the way, but they get out of the way faster when I can talk about them with some one who cares and understands … someone who is willing to stretch to see how they make sense to me.

As a single person living with someone not attuned to feelings, I often write about them in my blog. It is an exercise in vulnerability, and often after posting I wonder if I should have pressed that “publish key.” That uneasy feeling stays with me … until I get a comment.

Comments are important to me and I appreciate every one. They help me know if I am on the right track … if I make sense … if I say something of value for someone else. Sometimes they help me clarify my thoughts on a topic. I want my blog to be more than a self-centered exercise.

After assuring Damian that I didn’t get his comments, my curiosity was piqued. Actually, I found his comment in the spam folder. But I’m glad I didn’t find it until after writing this post. You will  see why in a moment. I wondered, “What could he have said that might have offended me?” I wrote and asked him. Here is his response:

“My comments could be summed up as: You are a wise woman who makes total sense to me, and I appreciate your blog and you because they are both wonderful gifts to me and to the world.  Keep up the great work.”

WOW!! I think I’ll keep writing. 🙂

Are Cyber Gremlins at Work?

I need your help. As a subscriber to my blog, you get an e-mail copy. I have heard from two of my subscribers that they make comments as they are invited to do at the end of the post. But I don’t get them. I sent myself a test message from the e-mail I get, and it came through, so this is a real puzzle. Are Cyber Gremlins at work?

I am trying to determine if this is a widespread problem. If you have ever made a comment to my blog from the e-mail post you receive and you didn’t get a reply or you don’t find your comments on my webpage, would you let me know.

My tech man is on this and it would help to know how big a problem this is.

Please send me an e-mail at Linda@LindaAMarshall.com and let me know if this has happened to you.

Many thanks,

Linda

 

Christmas Memories

Carillon Park – Dayton, OH

During lunch today with two close friends, we shared about Christmas’s past and present. I teared up when I shared one of my favorite Christmas memories and they encouraged me to write a blog about it. So here goes.

The one time during the year that Mom and Dad tried to make special for my brother, Phil, and me was Christmas. When I was six through eight and Phil five through seven, we lived in Sidney, Ohio. We attended Christmas Eve service as a family. That in itself was a big deal because Dad didn’t come with us any other time.

While we attended church, our neighbors, John and Celeste and their daughter Annie, put our presents under the tree. When we arrived home, they told us they heard Santa’s sleigh flying overhead and wanted to see what presents he brought us. It didn’t take my brother and me long to figure out what was really going on, but we didn’t care. Sharing this special time with the Voress’s was what mattered. We loved them like family.

We moved away from that neighborhood when I was nine. But we carried on the tradition of opening our gifts on Christmas Eve and sharing the evening with neighbors or family.

We were not a rich family and Phil and I knew not to ask for extravagant gifts. But Mom and Dad did their best to get at least one special item we asked for. I remember asking for a boy doll during this time, not a doll often seen in stores. But they managed to find one wearing boys clothing. I don’t remember it being anatomically correct. This was the 1940s after all.

We moved to New Bremen, my mother’s hometown, when I was ten. My most special memory came when I was thirteen, several months after my Uncle Wayne married. So that particular Christmas, my newly married uncle and his bride, Aunt Rosie, joined us. I wanted a watch but didn’t expect to receive one, thinking that was too extravagant a gift to request.

My best friend also wanted a watch. (I’ll spare her the embarrassment of identifying her.) Under her family’s Christmas tree was a beautifully wrapped gift with her name on it. She became curious, and one evening when her parents were out, she opened it. She got her watch. And it was a fancy one. She, however, couldn’t re-wrap the gift so that her parents wouldn’t know she peeked. When they discovered her transgression, they grounded her. We were both relieved they didn’t go so far as to take her gift away. She still received her lovely watch.

When our family gathered on Christmas Eve that year for our gift opening ritual, I was allowed to open one small gift but had to wait until everyone else opened their gifts before I could open the package shaped like a shoebox. I thought it contained a pair of house slippers and grew irritated that Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me open it. They all seemed to take delight in my irritation which only irritated me more.

Finally, they let me open the shoebox. You guessed it. It contained a watch. It wasn’t as fancy as the one my friend received, but to me it was the best watch in the world. I felt so loved and valued, I burst into tears. 

Soon all the adults in the room were tearing up with me. For years, Uncle Wayne and Aunt Rosie referred to that Christmas as one of their all-time favorites. Mom and Dad sometimes relished in that memory, too.

And obviously, that Christmas continues to be one of my favorites. After sixty-one years, the memory still brings tears to my eyes.

Searching for Inspiration

In the face of the shock, fear, disorientation, PTSD-type symptoms, sleep disturbances, and physical manifestations many of my friends and I have been experiencing following our recent election, I have needed to spend time in sacred silence … a time apart for reflection. During this time I have been strengthened by encounters with strong souls who have the leadership qualities I admire. These are the people who have come my way through film, literature, and television. I will continue being on the lookout for more of these massive characters because they give me hope and help me transcend my shock and fear. I pray that this blog post contributes to the strengthening of the souls  of all who read it.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ~Khalil Gibran

In the face of the election of a man who has threatened to use the nuclear option, has little-to-no impulse control, and who will have access to nuclear codes, I am

Inspired by Courage

librean-women-ii

Friday evening following the election, friends loaned me a DVD of a documentary about courageous women from Libera engaging in peaceful protests for peace: Pray the Devil Back to Hell. According to the filmmaker, she had difficulty finding footage of the original events because journalists perceived these women as “a pathetic-looking group” that didn’t warrant their attention. This “pathetic-looking group of women” took down a violent dictator without firing a shot and brought peace to their country. speaking-truth-to-power

Their leader, Leymah Gbowee, hadn’t led an exemplary life and didn’t think herself worthy of directing this peace movement. The women reminded her of the failings of Biblical leaders who grew into their greatness and insisted she had the qualities to lead them. She grew in her courage to speak truth to power and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for providing leadership for the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. The courage of these women inspires me and gives me hope.

~ ~ ~

In the face of the election of a man who displays blatant disrespect for and abuse of women … a man who threatened to incarcerate a woman challenging his bid for election … who sees women who work outside the home as “a dangerous thing” … a man who mocks disabled people like my daughter … who tries to disempower others by calling them “losers,” I am

Inspired by Wisdom and Greatness

mandela-love

Then on Monday evening, I watched the 2013 movie, Mandela: Long Road to Freedom. I watched as several other men were imprisoned with Mandela on Robben Island  from 1964 to 1990 … twenty-six years of their lives. Those other men came out bitter and revengeful. Mandela came out angry and forgiving. I wondered how these men who went through the same prison experience came out so differently. I wish I could remember Mandela’s exact words to the white men in the government who had imprisoned him. His sentiments were that he didn’t want to become like them. He didn’t want to live in their hell … the one they created for themselves by victimizing people who they feared because of their difference … by imprisoning and trying to silence those struggling for basic human rights and freedom.mandela-live-in-a-way

Mandela refused to take up arms, even though many wanted him to. He refused to stoop to the level of his captures. His Spirit could not be held captive. And because of that, he became one of history’s greatest leaders. He tackled issues related to institutional racism and ended the practice of violent racial segregation in his country. He advocated for racial reconciliation and developed methods to achieve it that are practiced even today.

“There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” ~Dostoevski

victor-franklThen I remembered having read Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. He chose how he would respond to being imprisoned in Auschwitz. While his outer life was being ravaged by the infliction of hate and cruelty, he developed a rich inner life focused on love and beauty. Inspired by those martyrs he witnessed in the camp whose inner freedom was not lost when they suffered and died, he chose spiritual freedom and dignity.

Mandela and Frankl made use of the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation afforded them. They chose to be worthy of their suffering. They are examples of true winners. These great men inspire me and give me hope.

~ ~ ~

In the face of the election of a man who has so much difficulty saying, “I’m sorry,” I am

Inspired by Authentic Connection

“Err in the direction of connection. We long to know each other soul to soul.” ~Elizabeth Lesser

Elizabeth Lesser, one of four sisters, was a perfect match to serve as the boneelizabeth-lesser marrow transplant donor for her sister with lymphoma. Elizabeth describes herself as the “woo-woo” person in the family. And so her sister, a nurse practitioner with a scientific mindset, was surprised that Elizabeth was her perfect match. However, she had lymphoma and time was of the essence, so she was willing to risk trying Elizabeth’s “woo-woo” suggestion. Elizabeth wanted to give the bone marrow cells the best chance at healing her sister and believed that the unforgiven, broken, unexplored places in their relationship could weaken their effectiveness. She asked her sister to enter into a process of healing their negative assumptions about each other, the assumptions that had calcified into disconnecting behavior.

marrow-a-love-storyIn her memoir, Marrow: A Love Story, Elizabeth describes what she calls the work of a lifetime … finding the balance between loving yourself and another well. Her book is one of the next on my list. I heard her describe the journey she and her sister embarked on — a journey of finding that balance in their relationship. While Elizabeth acknowledges that not everyone is safe to be this vulnerable with, she and her sister took the risk. They didn’t have time to waste, so they plunged in responding to the question, “How did I hurt you?” They listened deeply without their usual defenses and assumptions. Then they asked, “Will you forgive me?” They did this until there was nothing left between them but love.

Elizabeth’s sister described the following year as the best year of her life. Even though it was filled with pain and fear, she had never felt more clearly herself. She had come home to herself. Elizabeth learned a valuable lesson, too. She learned that she didn’t have to be a perfect person to be just the right person for her sister at this crucial moment in her life. Elizabeth said she felt more “at one” with her sister than with anyone else … the great mystery of knowing themselves in their grand simplicity when two “enoughnesses” meet.

Elizabeth’s earlier book, Broken Open, inspired me during a time of struggle in my life and I had the opportunity to tell her that when I met her while attending classes at Omega, the life-long learning institute she co-founded. I consider her one of my spiritual teachers.

Elizabeth is a woman who, having tasted the dignity and goodness of her own soul, sees and respects the dignity of others. She inspires me and gives me hope.

“Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts …” I Corinthians 14:1

It would mean a lot to me if you shared in the comments section of this blog or on Facebook:

  • who inspires you

  • how they inspire you

  • and how their inspiration contributes to you.

Changing How We See

“Your eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light; but when it is not sound, your body is full of darkness.” ~Luke 11:34 RSV

In my October 8 post, “Scales Falling From My Eyes,” I shared how my former students enthusiasm about seeing me again and sharing about the difference I had made in their lives led me to go back to my motel room, look in the mirror, and say to myself, “Linda, I think it’s time you started looking at yourself differently.”

When the student is ready, the teacher appears

I find it interesting and awe inspiring how the Universe conspires to help us grow. Almost as soon as I said those words, I was led to listen to Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I was aware of Susan’s book at least three years ago and knew I wanted to read it, but somehow I didn’t get to it until just the right moment to be able to garner its wisdom for me.

Teacher Number 1

quiet

In Quiet, Susan addresses how our society moved from being a “culture of character” to a “culture of personality.” Whereas we once valued good deeds performed when no one was looking, we now value magnetism and charisma. Instead of Abraham Lincoln as our ideal, we now idolize movie stars with just the “right” facial features and body types.

Listening to Quiet, I heard  Cain point out just how significant appearance is in our society. That has become abundantly clear in a most hurtful way in our recent presidential election. Our success in life is judged by the standards set for supposedly “the most beautiful people in the world.”

Awakening to the effects of our “culture of personality’s” influence on me, I didn’t like what I saw. I didn’t like it that I felt the sting of viewing myself negatively because I fall short of our society’s standards of beauty. I didn’t like it that I look longingly at the women who do possess our society’s standards of magnatism and charisma. I didn’t like the difficulty I have seeing beauty in those who don’t fit our cultural standards.

I wanted to rid myself of this scourge.

Teacher Number 2

In my October 29 post, I wrote about meeting Rick Guidotti at the Myotonic Dystrophy Conference held in Cincinnati on October 22. As an award-winning fashion photographer, Rick has photographed women and men who are considered the most magnetic and charismatic among us … our culture’s most beautiful. But he grew frustrated with being told who was beautiful and who he had to photograph. Because he sees beauty in diversity and finds it in places where others wouldn’t even think to look, he changed his life and is making an enormous difference in the lives of many others.

Because he SEES beauty in everyone

 

The mission Rick committed to through Positive Exposure is to transform the way the world views beauty. Wow, do we need that today. He wants to change public perceptions of people living with genetic, physical, intellectual and behavioral differences. One out of five children  in the United States is born with a disability making the need for society to understand and respect children and adults living with these differences critical. Positive Exposure’s educational and advocacy programs reach around the globe to promote a more inclusive, compassionate world where differences are celebrated.

Rick’s book, Change How You See, See How You Change features over 50 genetic syndromes through portraiture and personal narrative, giving expression to each individual’s heart and soul. It invites readers to see beyond diagnoses to the humanity we all share.

Thank you, Rick, for changing how I see.

I look forward to seeing how I change.

Now that my eyes opened to my faulty way of seeing, some synchronicities (The Divine’s way of remaining anonymous) began popping up all over:

More Teachers

A Tribute to Discomfort

On Pushing Through A Struggle:

“There’s incredible amounts of raw human and natural beauty happening everywhere.” ~Cory Richards

 

 

and

Sir Elton John speaking about his modernist photography collection:

“I was seeing through different eyes. I saw beauty that I’d never seen before.” Sir Elton John

Link

Glass Tears

 

 

and

thriver-soup

Heidi Bright noticing my attempts on Facebook to find beauty in the midst of cultural ugliness and sent me her latest blog post with this quote from Elsie de Wolfe:

“I’m going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life.”

Read about Heidi’s experience finding beauty in the midst of a terminal cancer diagnosis in her memoir:

 

and

Then I picked up one of my favorite spiritual books, The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul by Sandra Maitri, and read this:

spiritual-dimension-of-the-enneagram

 

“Yes, I see who you believe you are, but let me  show you what and who is truly beneath those beliefs. Let me show you your jeweled possibilities.”  ~Sandra Maitri

 

 

 

 

I am beginning to see my jeweled possibilities.

Link

8a35f-smiley2bsun2bface

Rare Resilience

“Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” ~Zen Proverb

My experience at the Myotonic Dystrophy Conference on Saturday, October 22, reminded me of this Zen proverb. The morning was full of hope as the doctors and researchers enlightened us about the progress they are making. In their work, they chop wood and carry water looking for a cure. Their excitement is contagious as they move closer to their goal.

Then in the afternoon family sharing group, I experienced almost immediate discouragement as we began to share our experiences of chopping wood and carrying water. While we wait and hope for a cure, we deal with many frustrating day-to-day challenges caring for our loved ones.

kathleen-cain-facilitating-faminly-support-group

family-support-at-dm-conference

shields-family-at-dm-conference

Nothing discourages me more than the overwhelming challenge of interfacing with or hearing others’ stories of interfacing with a callous bureaucracy that doesn’t understand or seem to care about our needs. I’m not sure I could take it all in, but this is what I remember from the group meeting.

Painful memories were triggered as I listened to parents share about challenges I faced in the past:

  • Two mothers of preschool children shared their challenge in finding a school with a suitable special needs program.
  • Parents shared their concerns about their children’s difficulty making friends and being bullied at school.
  • Several shared their challenges receiving social security disability and other vital services.

Fear surfaced related to current challenges Nicole and I face:

  • One Ohio mother shared that they have been on the waiting list for a medicaid waiver for ten years. Ten years. We just applied in July and knew it could be months. But ten years. I may not even be alive in ten years. I think I was the oldest parent there.
  • The difficulty finding suitable housing for our disabled loved ones. The facility where we applied told us about three weeks ago that it could be years before there is an opening.

Sorrow arose related to our fears for our children’s future:

  • We all worry about what will happen to our children after we are gone.
  • Because cognitive impairment, emotional blunting, and social apathy are features of the disease, our children manifesting these symptoms have little contact outside of their immediate family. We worry about who will love them after we are gone.
  • Who will care for them the way we do now after we are gone? That is why I held such hope for being granted a medicaid waiver. Then Nicole would have an aid and a case manager who would help her with the things she can’t manage that I take care of now. Apparently, if she hasn’t received the waiver before I die, my death will create an emergency that will generate approval. I wish we could be proactive so these services were in place before I die. Then, at least, I could die in peace.
  • One father related his fear that if they don’t leave their child enough money, she will be forced to live in inadequate and scary public housing.
Pam Speer Lewis, MDF Project Development Manager

Pam Speer Lewis, MDF Project Development Manager

I am so grateful that MDF has broadened their base beyond just looking for a cure, as important as that is. Talking with Pam Speer Lewis after this support group meeting helped lift my spirit. MDF is now advocating for easier access to the services that meet the day-to-day challenges DM families face. They have added “Care” to their mission of finding a “Cure” as their bracelet conveys.

care-cure-bracelet

I looked around our circle and felt such admiration for each person. Despite all our challenges, we keep chopping wood and carrying water, putting one foot in front of the other and doing whatever we can to make life better for ourselves and our loved ones.

Our last activity was responding in small table groups to two questions:

  1. What do you struggle with the most?
  2. How can we be of more help?

When I shared the responses from our table, I emphasized the need to support caregivers because some of us experience our own health challenges related to the stress of caring for our loved one. A much younger caregiver than I am at our table had experienced a recent stroke. Thankfully, he is recovering nicely.

As the conference was breaking up, a man who has adult onset came to me to thank me for advocating for caregivers. He told me a bit of his family’s story. He deals with his own challenges with DM as well as serving as a caregiver for family members experiencing a totally unrelated healthcare crisis. He knows both sides of the coin. My heart went out to him.

dm-image

I could not help but notice what rare resilience each DM Warrior in that room demonstrates — those who carry this rare genetic neuromuscular disease, those of us who love and care for them, and the doctors and researchers who won’t give up until they find a cure. We are quite a community.

Scales Falling from My Eyes

After the 50th reunion with my former Port Clinton students, I went back to my motel room, looked at myself in the mirror, and said, “Linda, I think you need to start looking at yourself differently.”

I arrived a little late for the reunion because I couldn’t find the Yacht Club. When I walked in, the class was gathered at the far side of the room for a group picture. I walked behind the photographer looking for Yvonne, the student who called me on June 29 (See June 29-30 posts). She spotted me, jumped up from her seat, and ran to give me a hug, exclaiming “My goodness you’re tall,” just as she had done when she walked into my shorthand class in 1964. She escorted me to my seat next to her husband before scurrying back for the picture.

yvonne

Miss Marshall and Yvonne on her tip toes. She refuses to call me Linda.

She reminded me why I had such an influence in her life. She came into my class a week late and was having difficulty catching up and grasping this strange shorthand language. She tried to drop out after receiving an “F” the first six weeks. I allowed other girls to do that but said to her, “You will get it. Just don’t give up.” Then, after receiving an “F” the second six weeks, she spoke to me again about dropping out. This time I looked at her with “very caring eyes” and said, “Yvonne, I have faith in you. You will get it. Don’t give up.” The next six weeks the light bulb went off and she got it, receiving an “A” every grading period from then on.

Yvonne also told me how strict I was while teaching typing (See July 1 post) and how disappointed she was that I only taught at Port Clinton for one year. The teacher who followed me was too lenient. She credits me with preparing her for the outside world. During her 39-year career, she used her skills at the U.S. Department of Interior and the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station. Every time she wanted a promotion and had to perform well on typing and shorthand tests to receive it, she said to herself, “Okay, Miss Marshall, you have faith in me so let’s get this done.” I had instilled in her the faith that if she wanted it badly enough, she could do it. And she did.

I am grateful I said what I said, but her career success says more about her than it does about me. Still, I am pleased that as a young woman of twenty-two, I had the presence to give her the support she needed.

Other students attending the reunion were also eager to tell me how they had used their typing and shorthand skills in their careers.

Joyce worked for three judges throughout her career.

Linda and Joyce

Linda and Joyce

Linda sidled up to me asking, “Do you remember me?”

Linda and Linda

Linda and Linda

In truth, I remember very little of my time in Port Clinton 52 years ago and in my usual fashion, what I remember reflects negatively on me as their teacher. Linda told me a delightful story that challenges these damaging memories.

She said it was unlike her, but when she came into my shorthand class, she found something funny. She sat in the back and created a disturbance with her giggles. “And there you were, a young teacher. (I’m only six years older than these students) I could tell you were frustrated, but you didn’t say anything for three weeks. I thought I should apologize to you.” She used one of her hands to make a slicing motion across her other hand adding, “Then one day you cut me in half. I was so embarrassed.”

I have no memory of this. I do remember having some difficulty in my student teaching keeping order in the classroom. I am a soft-spoken introvert, after all. But I must have learned. Still I have difficulty visualizing myself saying something that embarrassed her so much, and she wouldn’t tell me what I said.

But I’m glad I said whatever I said because Linda went on to say, “I got serious after that and I want you to know I did you proud. I worked for the State Department in Washington, D.C. for three years and walked by the White House on the way to work everyday.”

Sharon won this award and then said she wasn’t fast and accurate enough to use shorthand in her administrative assistant position. She thinks she tried to draw the characters so they would be perfect versus write them. Oh, Sharon, how well I know that “perfectionist trap.” At the reunion, she was having a lot of fun with and quite skilled with a camera.

award

Linda and Sharon

Linda and Sharon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My last connection was the most remarkable because it really had nothing to do with what I did as a teacher but with who I was being as a person.

Linda and Judy

Linda and Judy

Judy and her husband approached me toward the end of the evening. She said, “I didn’t take any classes from you. I was in your homeroom. I thought you were beautiful and I wanted to grow up to be just like you.”

She wrote next to her senior picture in the commemorative booklet provided for the event,  “Thank you  for being such an awesome role model for us.”

While she wrote, her husband said, “Yes, she talked to me about you and told me how she wanted to grow up to be like you.”

I said, “This is blowing my mind.”

In 1978, fourteen years after I taught at Port Clinton, I had a conversation with Harold Platz, the professor who led my core group while I was a student at United Theological Seminary. I loved and respected Harold, one of the pivotal influences in my life. I think I was seeking his wisdom, sharing with him my puzzlement about how someone had reacted to what I said during a core group session. He looked at me with gentle caring eyes and said, “I don’t think you realize the effect you have on others.”

I didn’t know what to say. He was so very right. That was 38 years ago.

Throughout my life, I have often heard, “You are so hard on yourself.” Even when I have been in the process of making a concerted effort to be gentler with myself, I would hear this. Often I was puzzled because being hard on myself felt normal. When someone liked me, I was puzzled about what there was to like. I could not and still have difficulty seeing who I truly am. Today, I know where this comes from. I am sensitive and when a sensitive child receives a lot of criticism, they internalize it. That is what I did.

Through the years, many friends and mentors who have loved and believed in me have tried to help me see myself more realistically as they see me. I’m a slower learner than Yvonne. Sometimes I’d catch a glimpse of how they saw me, but thick scales of conditioning cover my eyes.

Miraculously, on September 17, when I returned to my motel room after attending this reunion, I looked in the mirror and realized as never before that it is time to see myself differently. A chunk of scales fell from my eyes and I caught another, even clearer, glimpse of my true self.

Yvonne, Joyce, Linda, Sharon, and Judy served as agents of a Divine Presence who clearly wants my sight restored. I am still amazed that Yvonne searched for me until she found me 52 years later. Those are extraordinary lengths…not just for Yvonne…but for the Spirit working through her to finally open my eyes. I think the least I can do is begin to cooperate with the process of having my sight fully restored. My therapist has given me an assignment to further that process. What a priceless gift of grace. I am in awe and eternally grateful.

“So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored.” Acts 9:17-18a NRSV

An Idea That Changed My Life

For the past seven years, I have participated in a contemplative writing group. The six of us choose a topic and all write on that for our next meeting. It is amazing the different ways we all approach the same topic. For our meeting yesterday, we wrote on an idea that changed our life. They thought I should include what I wrote on my blog, so here it is:

In 1935, Bill Wilson, a New York stockbroker, was in Akron, Ohio on business. At the end of the day, the bar in his hotel’s lobby called to him. He was scared. He had achieved a tentative sobriety before this trip and didn’t want to fail again. He entered the phone booth located outside the bar, closed the door to the sounds of music and gaiety, and began calling clergy in town seeking the name and number of a drunk who might be willing to talk with him. His hands shook as he fumbled through the phone book and dropped coins in the slots. He was directed to Dr. Robert Smith, a surgeon who many in town had tried and failed to help stop drinking.

phone booth

Dr. Smith answered the phone through slurred speech and was greeted by a strange request. This New Yorker seemed desperate to talk with him because if he didn’t, he was sure he’d get drunk. Smith didn’t know how talking with him would help, but he agreed. He was a doctor, after all. Dr. Smith opened the door to another professional man, a fellow sufferer, who had achieved success at maintaining sobriety, something that continued to elude him.

This meeting between Bill W. and Dr. Bob, as they came to be known, proved fateful. Both men had been exposed to the Oxford Group, a largely non-alcoholic group that emphasized universal spiritual values in daily living. But what had helped Bill W., something that was news to Dr. Smith, was the idea that alcoholism was a disease—a malady of mind, emotions, and body—not a failure of morality or will power. Bill W. said the only way he had found to stop drinking was by talking to other drunks, which was the reason for his visit.

During the duration of his business trip, Bill W. stayed in the Smith’s home. He and Dr. Bob began visiting other drunks at Akron City Hospital. Dr. Bob and one of the men they visited achieved sobriety. With the experience of these three drunks undergirded by the Oxford Group’s spiritual principles, Alcoholics Anonymous was born.

~ ~ ~

That same year, 1935, my mother, the oldest of six children, was fourteen. Her youngest sibling, my uncle, was two. They were oblivious to the history being made just two hundred miles and three hours from their home in New Bremen. Their own alcoholic drama was being played out. Seven years later, in 1942, while my mother was pregnant with me, my grandmother had had enough of her husband’s violent drunken episodes and womanizing. She filed for divorce, the mind, body, and emotions of the whole family scarred.

~ ~ ~

Lois, Bill W.’s wife, had spent years trying to get her husband sober. It was her life purpose and she felt needed. Once he did achieve sobriety, she was surprised to find that she wasn’t living “happily ever after.” It was a bitter pill that his success could not be attributed to anything she had done. And she was as neglected as before. Instead of drinking, her husband went to meetings. One Sunday he asked her if she’d like to go with him. To their astonishment, she threw a shoe as hard as she could and shouted, “Damn your old meetings.”

That was a turning point for Lois. She decided to change her attitudes and behaviors by using the same spiritual principles her husband was using to stay sober. She and other wives of recovering alcoholics met independently to work on themselves. They came to view alcoholism as a family disease, an idea that changed my life. Al-Anon, the spiritual recovery program for family and friends, was born.

 ~ ~ ~

In April 1983, forty-one years after my grandmother divorced my grandfather, I was as miserable as Lois W. Despite seventeen years of trying to make my  husband over into one that would make me happy, we and our children were worse than ever. Then I attended a weekend intensive workshop with Anne Wilson Schaef. She was in the process of writing a book called, When Society Becomes an Addict.

When Society Becomes an Addict

Hearing for the first time about the effects on the family of an alcoholic’s drinking, I was led to read It Will Never Happen to Me by Claudia Black. I read it to better understand my mother. But as I read about how the family disease operates and the survival roles adopted by the children, I found not only my mother, but myself. Even when the alcoholic drinking is not present, the behaviors and attitudes get passed down to the next generation.

It Will Never Happen to Me

As oldest children, my mother and I block our emotional pain and disappointment by trying to excel. I also avoid stress by losing myself in books. In these books, and, later as an adult, in workshops and training programs, I hoped to find a better way of living and relating.

In September 1983, I began training with Schaef in Living-in-Process, a spiritual way of living compatible with twelve step programs. Trainees were expected to identify their addiction and to work a recovery program that addressed it. In late February 1984, I attended my first twelve-step meeting. I was so nervous, I had diarrhea. It took me until July to feel as though I belonged. Eventually, as I changed my focus from how my  husband and children needed to change to what I need to change about myself, I began to achieve more serenity and equanimity—the very spiritual qualities needed by a person who fits the Enneagram One (Perfectionist) and Four (Romantic) personality styles. I found in the twelve steps the practical spiritual approach I needed for guidance.

women meeting

The trials I have been given in my  adult life have born a striking resemblance to that of an active alcoholic/addict’s family, even though drinking/drugging has not been our problem. Focusing on my spiritual growth meant I needed to change my attitude and behavior in specific ways. Whatever success I obtain in…

  • turning my challenges over to a greater power;
  • living one day/one minute at a time;
  • doing the next right thing in the easiest, simplest way possible to the best of my ability focusing on progress, not perfection;
  • accepting what is;
  • asking myself how important whatever it is that is bugging me and letting go of trying to control it;
  • reminding myself that this too shall pass;
  • detaching with love;
  • putting first things first

…I owe to Bill and Lois W. and Dr. Bob, and all those who helped them find a way out of suffering, not only for themselves, but for countless generations to come. I am grateful to be one of them.

fire-hell-inferno

And as I come to the end of writing this piece, a vision of millions of suffering souls holding hands and walking together out of the pits of hell emerges in my consciousness. My heart fills with awe at this community…our common unity…and for the idea that has changed all of our lives.

friend hands

~~~

Confession: When I am under stress as I have been these past couple of months, the pain I experience carries me back to old attitudes and patterns of behavior. Thankfully, by connecting with other sufferers who understand and empathize and by continuing to utilize the principles of the twelve step program, I just don’t stay there as long.

8a35f-smiley2bsun2bface

Healing the World

holding the world

As the world around me swirled (I awoke with vertigo this morning), I began listening to Chapter 2 of Krista Tippett’s new book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. I had barely begun listening when words of wisdom about the mystery and art of my own life circumstances emerged. 

“We are all healers of the world. It isn’t about healing the world by making a huge difference. It is about healing the world that is around us. That is where our power is. How would I live if I were exactly what is needed to heal the world?” ~Rachel Naomi Remen

Remen’s words remind me how important extending “conscious love” to my daughter is—the treasured “opportunity” that awakened within me while rummaging through the darkness that emerged when it became clear she would be living with me full-time for an extending period of time.

Remen’s wisdom, learned from her Hasidic Jewish grandfather, places this “opportunity” into a larger context. I am exercising my power to change the world.

My True Self, the higher part of me who already knows how to love, watches. I move through my days extending love in quiet ways no one around us would notice. The difference I make is not huge, but, in the week since I’ve been “consciously loving,” I do see a difference for my daughter…and for me.

I will continue keeping Remen’s question before me: “Am I living as though I am exactly what is needed to heal the world?”

The question Elizabeth Alexander asks at the end of her poem below touched my soul:

“And are we not of interest to each other?” ~ Elizabeth Alexander

Ars Poetica #100: I Believe by Elizabeth Alexander

Poetry is what you find

in the dirt in the corner,

 

overhear on the bus, God

in the details, the only way

 

to get from here to there.

Poetry (an now my voice is rising)

 

is not all love, love, love

and I’m sorry the dog died.

 

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)

is the human voice,

 

And are we not of interest to each other?

And Fr. Killian McDonnell’s reminder in his poem below bestowed levity:

Perfection, Perfection by Killian McDonnell

(“I will walk the way of perfection.” Psalm 101:2)

I have had it with perfection.

I have packed my bags,

I am out of here.

Gone.

 

As certain as rain

will make you wet,

perfection will do you

in.

 

It droppeth not as dew

upon the summer grass

to give liberty and green

joy.

 

Perfection straineth out

the quality of mercy,

withers rapture at is

birth.

 

Before the battle is half begun,

cold probity thinks

it can’t be won, concedes the

war.

 

I’ve handed in my notice,

given back my keys,

signed my severance check, I

quit.

 

Hints I could have taken:

Even the perfect chiseled form of

Michelangelo’s radiant David

squints,

 

The Venus de Milo

has no arms,

the Liberty Bell is

cracked.

Such a rich way to begin my day. Thank you, Krista and Company!!
1 2