Posts Tagged ‘Joy

24
Sep
13

Dancer Down: an unexpected seclusion

The morning of August 7 was unusually bright and sunny. A series of personally difficult life challenges had come to resolution and I was filled with immeasurable joy. Driving to my dance session that morning, I felt glad to be alive. Normally an experience like this would have made me eager to dance, but I had a vacation coming up in two days and things to do in preparation. I didn’t really want to go, but the body can get rather lazy. Like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz, it can come to a rusty impasse. I didn’t want that, so I drove on and arrived—all smiles—without a hint of the disinclination I really felt.

Jane, my teacher/partner, was not her customary, cheerful, and optimistic self. Something was off. Normally we will match each other in body-spirit whether we start out that way or not, so I didn’t think to question, nor did I state the truth of my disinclination. Undaunted by the disparity, I was confident we would find each other eventually, and so we began as we often do, moving in our separate spheres, performing for each other. Midway through the hour Jane put on the album I’d brought with me: Picture, by Night Ark (a quartet of musicians known for their fusion of instrumental jazz with tradition Armenian tonalities). Little did I know: I was about to meet my Waterloo.

I felt this hypnotic, seductive rhythm as a call of connection to the culture of my ancestors, hidden deep within my DNA, and my joy quickly increased to excitement. Although far beyond my improvisational abilities, I threw myself into moving interpretively to this hauntingly beautiful music, without the willing consent of my aging hips, and in a manner I think may have looked something like my little diagram drawing.

Within minutes, there was an audible a POP sound, followed by white-hot, searing pain! I knew something had torn inside. Groaning, IThe fatal twist 2 crumpled to the floor, where I stayed motionless and incoherent for several minutes, as the shock of the experience overtook reason. Time lost dimension and I was swimming in painful slow motion—a curious 4th dimension of my customary reality.

Having spent much of her life as a professional dancer with a collection of her own dancer’s injuries, Jane sprang into action, as I laid there in stunned disbelief. Prone to responsible problem solving and somewhat stunned herself, she tried her hardest to get me to consent to an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital emergency room. There was no way I was going to see the inside of one of those buses, before my time was up! Absolutely not! I took ibuprofen and arnica and continued to try… unsuccessfully… to reach my partner, Judy, by phone as well as text message.

As an InterPlay leader of 20+ years, with a talent for cleverly overcoming roadblocks, she reassessed the situation and applied InterPlay’s signature principal of incrementality to moving things along. She would suggest a move and I would try it. Little by little, I was miraculously on my side, then sitting up, then standing on one leg, and then leaning on the back of a chair. Using the chair as a walker, with Jane cheerleading, I hobbled to the elevator, out the door and into the car. Within 10 minutes, Judy arrived on the scene and drove me to an immediate care facility, where we learned that no bones had broken, but the pop had indeed been a tear, requiring weeks of rest, ice, pain medication, and a walker, along with patient acceptance of the situation (a challenge for me).

A stunned state of shock persisted for the first week, deepening as Judy and I felt our way around and through the daily realities of a crippling injury—a disability of unknown durWalker after immediate careation—to a person of a certain age. This was something I couldn’t accommodate without anticipating a measure of public chastisement. Had I been a bit too pleased with myself for having a fairly agile, old body? Perhaps I’d pushed it beyond reason…colored too far outside the box? Won’t people think I fell and broke my hip, like many older persons before me? But I knew I hadn’t crash-fallen; Jane taught me a dancer’s fall and that’s the way I went down.  Still, the idea haunted me and I didn’t want the humiliation of being thought of as a silly old lady playing at dance in her old age. The truth is: if I could have been anything in my life beside a visual artist, it would have been a dancer. To dance now, even past reasonable age, has been life affirming. All things considered I was even pretty good at it…for an old lady. 🙂

It wasn’t until a follow-up orthopedic appointment 10 days later that I learned my pop had been an avulsion, i.e., a tearing of the Sartorius tendon where it attaches to the iliac spine area of the pelvis. (The Sartorius is the longest muscle in the body, resolving in a tendon attaching to the pelvis.) This accounted for both the bone and tendon pain I was experiencing. No bone chips, no fractures—just a painful separation between the tendon and its point of insertion. I was assured that it was a common athletic injury—particularly in football—one that occurs when the muscle is stretched beyond its capacity. Well, I clearly did that, without doubt…but football? That was worthy of a laugh out loud!

Laughing or crying, in 3 weeks I would begin a course of physical therapy that would help me regain 95% of my former function. My inquiring and restless mind finally had an understanding of what had happened and a course of action. Between the relief I felt with the diagnosis and prognosis—along with the homeopathic care I knew would hasten healing—I returned home ready to welcome this secluded time out as an unexpected gift.

The story continues…

13
Jun
12

art then / art now

I need to reorganize the house I’ve been living in for the past four years!

In 2008, we moved from a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright house to a small, unassuming, 1960s tri-level with joyous expectations of becoming part of a particular church community in the neighborhood. Shortly after moving the housing market fell, leaving our FLW house without a great many qualified buyers. At the same time, we entered into what became a long, painfully drawn out series of backwards and forwards efforts to become part of this church. Toward the end of that first year my sister died and I was heartbroken. Then partway into the second year our dear friend Bettina discovered her cancer was on the rise and she moved in with us. We were a chosen family of three working for inclusivity until the end of May, when the church body proclaimed that it could not, would not make the leap to inclusiveness. We were stuck with two mortgages, taxes, and much deep bruising around the heart and brain. By January of 2010, when it was clear that her cancer was unstoppable, we turned our home into a hospice dwelling encompassing all of us. Then, when she died on March 6, 2010, my world fell apart for a very long time.

We lived here in this little house for four years with shattered dreams and could not make it a home. Now we are on the brink of finally selling our FLW house, albeit at an enormously reduced price. It is time to move into this unassuming tri-level and make room for the next chapter of our lives. Making room means re-organizing and that requires cleaning out and thinning down my files…all those things I’ve carried around thinking that they will be needed at some future time. As I am in my seventh decade and climbing, I think the future is now.

The process of reducing files requires opening and looking through them. I could only manage four drawers without mental/emotional exhaustion overtaking me as I walked back into my life, folder after folder, making decisions that sometimes brought unwanted memories to the surface. In one of those folders I found correspondence with a friend from the past—an artist from Armenia whom I’d met a decade earlier when Judy and I were visiting friends on the east coast. It was a period of my life when I was doing a lot of genealogy in an effort to understand my heritage as a building block for knowing myself. This period culminated in an exhibition I produced involving nine Armenian/American artists.

Inheritance: art and images beyond a silenced genocide. (The electronic version is hosted by the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota.)

Curious about this old friend and somewhat lonely for people of my own ethnic temperament, I looked him up online and found he was here in this country, with a partner of six years and still a practicing artist. I sent out a Facebook friend request, Twittered and emailed him at the art center address where he teaches ceramics. About a week later I received an email from him that made me happy; he is a person like myself in so many ways, and one of the few remaining links to my own heritage. When he asked so plaintively why I got out of the art world, I had to give a brief history of the past decade since I’d last spoken with him. Haven’t had a response to this yet…must be busy…

His question brings me front and center, having been asked by others from time to time: Why did you get out of the art world…why would you? Revulsion is one answer. Cancer’s clearer vision is another. I am a professional artist gone AWOL. There is an article in the New York Times—How the Art Market Thrives on Inequality—that simply renews my sense of revulsion. I recommend reading this for all art lovers. It’s educational.

I will always be an artist. That is my temperament and training and it filters into everything I do. Some have questioned why I pour so much of that artfulness into the church I attend when they see so little reason for doing so. My answer is: Why not? The Church having separated itself—to its own detriment—from visual art at the time of the Reformation, is in desperate need of beauty for soul’s nourishment. I can do it and it gives me pleasure rather than pain. When I hear that someone’s experience of the sacred has been enhanced by a bit of beauty I’ve had a hand in providing, I am blessed, because I’m acting in accordance with having been Called by Name back in those gloomy days of cancer treatment and recovery. Clearer vision, that’s the reason.

Art created for one’s own pleasure is personal and edifying, but in a broader, societal sense, it is one hand clapping. Art created out of one’s own spirit and shared freely with others is two hands clapping—communication, pleasure and edification all around. As many of my friends and acquaintances know, I’m big on movement, hands, feet, whatever. Clapping counts.

Now I go to my weekly dance class where I can be art as well as make it…where I can be beauty as well as behold it.

This is the street where I live now…

27
Feb
12

Mondays not Sundays

In the 1970s I was a member of an intentional Christian community north of Chicago. It was a mixed bag of positive and negative experiences in those days. Living in Community was a total immersion experience with shared purse and decision-making. The positives could reach beyond imagining and the negatives could inflict deep wounds that only confession and forgiveness and the passage of time could heal.

I met my life partner there. We left together at the end of a very dark time, re-entering a world that had changed in a myriad of ways. Time passed…30 years to be precise…with the best aspects of community living ingrained within us. Although we prospered in many ways, we could not even remotely re-assemble the best of those times. These were years of growing and learning the ways of the world. We did well.

In 2006 our world fell to pieces when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgekin lymphoma. I survived the attack of the cancer beast, fell in love with God again, and a year later found myself  returning to the church, which was and still is, in change-process. Change within the church, or any large organization for that matter, is slow and tedious with its own litany of hits, runs and errors. It has been both a painful and an enlightening experience, as many of my previous postings can clearly show. Writing this, remembering the events of the past half decade, I feel battle-scarred and tired. I am an artist, a seeker and a visionary. Moving forward within the church structure is a slow and burdensome process. I do not naturally travel slowly. Sometimes I wonder why I am still here…in church…any church at all for that matter? Good question.

Yesterday was another Sunday survived. Today is Monday, the day of healing—the day I get to dance in a spaciously beautiful room—with beautiful Jane, who is my teacher and friend. We come together in this place, with its strips of colored sunlight streaking across the old wood floor,  and a ceiling that dwarfs us by its height. We come with our body spirits as is—a come as you are party of two. Through the various InterPlay forms, and her years of expertise and training, we shake it out, sing it out, shout it out and dance it out. We dance for ourselves, for each other, and with each other in familiar forms. We even create new ones. We are clay on the potter’s wheel, laundry on the line, birds unfolding, flags unfurling. We are movement in time and place—each of us doing our best, reaching for our personal sense of wholeness within and without. And when we achieve it…when it happens…we are altogether amazed and elated. We are uplifted—a Lazarus moment in time that requires a bit of exclamation and a roll or two on the floor!

And that is why I find myself so looking forward to Mondays with Jane, when my body-spirit regains its equilibrium and I am One with all of Creation.

19
Dec
11

christmas letter – 2011

Christmas Greetings from me to you!

(Text:  Last year we celebrated our daughter’s marriage to JM, a widower with two little girls. We became instant grannies. This year, while learning the ins and outs of granny-hood, we took advantage of Illinois’ new civil union law, and after 34 years together, got civilly united, i.e., wed, in our own church, by our own pastor, Gentle Spirit. We wove the ceremony into the morning worship as a sign of relational commitment to the congregation that voted yes to moving forward in love. The service was historic in terms of the Mennonite Church in Illinois, and amazingly beautiful as well.  We are experiencing a newness to our relationship we could not have anticipated. Having legal status does make a positive difference.)

09
Dec
11

Dancing me back together

I said I would talk about aging, most specifically my own, but in fact have said pretty much nothing since my last entry, about 6 weeks ago. I am mortified, and plead the second amendment. I’ve been busier than I’d like. Today I am catching my breath and writing about something very important to me: dancing. I used to say that if there is re-incarnation, I want to come back as a dancer, but now in my later life, I find that I am a dancer, not a trained professional, but a dancer nonetheless, thanks to InterPlay. The flyer that the leader of my group sent out this week reads:

InterPlay offers a soulful place to discover practices that develop ease in movement, voice, stillness, contact and storytelling. InterPlay is a practice and philosophy rooted in the power of play. It’s an easy to learn, creative process that uses movement, storytelling, and voice—but does it in ways that don’t require particular skill or even nerve. It balances experiences of reflection and activity. Integrating body, mind, heart and spirit, InterPlay creates connection and community. Through this simple form of play, we learn more about ourselves and each other. It is incremental, affirming, and something that anybody can do! It opens paths of connection between people—between cultures and faiths.

I began playing last February, after several difficult and painful years of loss and personal trial, culminating in a time of deep despair. A dear old friend of mine had been involved in InterPlay almost from its beginning on the West Coast, but I never gave it much thought. Seemed silly to me, but I’d become desperate and willing to try just about anything. So I looked it up online and found, behold: a group within a half hour’s drive from my suburban home! I emailed the person who was listed as group leader and made plans to try it. On February 4th, 2011, I began what has become a life-line for me. Within 2 visits, I was convinced. After 3 visits, I shed tears of relief and jumped in, lock, stock and barrel. Since that time I have gotten younger inside, where Spirit meets flesh. Outside, I am still qualifying on senior citizen discount days.

By November, I chose to deepen my involvement and added weekly, one-on-one sessions with the leader (now, teacher), which we loosely think of as Dancing Spiritual Direction, using the principles of InterPlay. I love Mondays. I am immensely happy on Mondays because I am neither old nor young, thin nor fat, tall nor short. I am just me, the same me that entered the world so long ago. And I am dancing! What a miracle!

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 18:3)

I think this is about living out the truth of ourselves…at the center…without ego and artifice…just like children. This truth is with us from the time we are born to the time we die, oftentimes blanketed by the demands of the world, but there just the same. When I dance I am all together—one person, freely in tune with Spirit. I do not think, I dance and am.

Kimerer LaMothe, Ph.D., author of the book, What a Body Knows, sees the practice of dancing as vital to our survival as humans on earth. Her blog on the Psychology Today website begins:

To dance is a radical act. To think about dance, to study dance, or to practice dance in this 21st century is a radical act. Because if dancing matters—if dancing makes a difference to how we humans think and feel and act—then dancing challenges the values that fund modern western cultures.

She goes on to flesh out this radical statement about a radical act, and what she says wraps words around my own experience of dancing. I am so happy to be finally living in my body instead of alongside it. This is how it should be. Whether he danced or not—and presumably he did at weddings—I think Jesus knew all about this and spoke from his Divine Center, as I do when I dance.

30
Aug
11

streams in the desert

On August 21, 2011…33 years, 10 months and 47 days from when we first met…Judy and I were legally wed in the presence of our congregation, friends and family…in the little church at the edge of the city. We are pretty sure this marriage will last…

Last spring, knowing that civil unions would become law in our state on June 1, our little church voted unanimously to support and officiate at same gender weddings and unions. Despite denominational hedging, this decision was a natural progression for us—a long-standing, open and affirming church body. Nevertheless, Judy and I, along with several others, were catapulted into a level of happiness we hadn’t known was missing. Initially we were only planning on applying for legal status, but upon learning that the license required a ceremony for completion, we knew a church setting was what we wanted. (See previous posting, getting from here to there for an account of this.) We began talking with our pastor. Slowly, ideas dreamed themselves into plans and the plans shaped themselves into a celebration of life, bigger than anything we’d known previously.  We walked, talked, skipped, ran, stumbled and sometimes flew through the weeks leading up to the ceremony and day of celebration.

The ceremony, lovingly performed by our pastor, Graceful Spirit, was woven seamlessly into the morning worship hour. It was an incredible time…a very thin space indeed…full of music, dance, *spoken word, prayer, Communion and friends…lots of friends from near and far. It was a celebration for everyone, but especially for our congregation, without whose vision and courage, it could not have happened. We welcomed them into our lives in a way that is different and distinct from baptism or church membership. We are asked if we feel different now. Yes, we do! We are accepted and acceptable, no longer just individually, but together, as the journeying twosome we have always been. Affirmation, Acceptance, Appreciation. These are the A’s that all of us need to live healthy and productive lives as members of the human family.

The promises God made to us way back at the beginning have been kept…streams did indeed flow in the desert…we are thankful. With the blessing of visionary and courageous leadership, we are moving forward. Praise God!

*You can read the pastor, Megan Ramer’s Homily and the antiphonal Reading from the ceremony on the church website – Chicago Community Mennonite Church • Recent Sermons: Homily (21 August 2011).

  Naomi is smiling. Judy was in shock, but she got over it. And now we are living happily ever after.  🙂

05
Jul
11

getting from here to there

Late Thursday evening, June 30th, I took a closer look at the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Illinois Civil Union law. Yes, yes, yes, I thought as I read quickly through, I know all this. Then saw what I should have seen before: …the civil union license and civil union ceremony must take place within the same county. Whoa! That makes a big difference. Judy and I were all set to head out to our county seat first thing the next morning. We would have procured the license and then found that it would not have been valid at our little church at the edge of the city.  Woe would have been us, to be sure. Thanksgiving to God for saving our behinds once again, then a quick online check for the nearest appropriate county office, along with Mapquest directions.

Early the next morning, my sister agrees to come along for the fun of it and we all set off for an auspicious day—one we think will mark the beginning of the end of marginalization and ignominy. It was all sort of romantic in a way, despite our 34 years together. We were ready. Excitedly, we parked the car and entered what we found to be a queue inching its way toward the approving/disapproving swash of the detection wand, judiciously held by a uniformed man.

Once through, we searched, found what we thought was the proper office and presented ourselves. Two attendants look at us quizzically and ask us if we were looking for a divorce. “No, we’re looking to apply for a civil union license,” we blurt out.

“Oh. We do divorces here. You have to go across the way to that other building. Call this number. They will tell you.”

We called the number, got directions, trudged over to the proper building, walked through the door, and found ourselves staring at a darkened office with a sign on the door informing us that the office was closed for the day due to mandated furlough policies.

This was disappointing to say the least. First thought of the marginalized—bad omens—was quickly buried in a unanimous decision to go forward for the fun parts of the day that had been planned as celebration. So we did and my world did not come to an end.

Bright and early today, July 5th, we made our second trip to the county building. Success. I was nervous with accustomed expectation of veiled judgment from the people behind the counter, which I would have to stuff somewhere, as I have for so many years. There was no judgment—veiled or otherwise. Relief was palpable for me and my witty, comedic twin came pouring out with abandon. (She doesn’t get much of an opportunity, so I couldn’t get her back inside very easily. She thanks me for the opportunity to have made this rare appearance and wishes you were there to appreciate her.)

Judy and I have signed our names to a document that will make us part of an historic movement. That, in itself, is exciting. After surviving cancer and the loss of many loved ones, I wanted my life to be meaningful. I wanted to make a difference…and so I am. Thank you all for walking this journey with me for the past several years. I am excited to see what lies ahead, especially our ceremony happening right in our church…in the presence and loving acceptance of our congregation. This is enormously important and supersedes the private commitment ceremony we had in 1995. This time it’s public and legal…and believe me…it makes a difference. I had no idea what a difference it would make. Something like coming in from the cold…into the warm of acceptable and included…being part of the human face of life.




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