Friday, December 25, 2009

Reflections

It's been a rough, horrible year for me. Yes, I can honestly say that without malice and without negativity. It is merely fact. The good rough part has been the opportunity to spend time with some of my bio family and get to know them - warts and all. I divorced one of my sisters this year who has done nothing but be hateful to me. That broke my heart, but now I am much happier. I have three other wonderful sisters, so it was a fantastic trade-off for me. Sadly, I am reeling from the destruction caused by my previous sister. But if nothing else she has made me be more honest if less positive.

I have learned that no matter how smart and experienced and talented I am, there are small minded people in the world. It was this that led me back home to people who absolutely love me and who have given me more joy and belonging than I've ever known in my life. In finding this place, I have learned that it is not always about how strong or passionate or happy I am. My surroundings are a huge part of what keeps me balanced. Surrounded in love, I am full of love; surrounded by poverty of joy, I fight to stay joyous. I have chosen to be surrounded in love, to be surrounded by loving and giving people. In this there is symbiosis of love. That is amazingly beautiful, freeing, and caring.

This year has brought about a mirror in front of my face that says "you don't allow romance and love in your life" and I have taken steps to amend that. It is working. I have hope and finally believe I am worthy to be loved for who I am and for the goodness that is me rather than having to beg for the crumbs of what looks like love. I have borne witness to a love that was forty years in the making, and which is new every day, by being in the home of two people who love deeply and who are absolutely devoted to each other. They hold hands, wrinkled skin and liver spots, but still they hold hands as they walk down the street. And they argue as all couples do. And that no longer scares me. They have taught me through their behavior that disagreement is loving when conducted in a loving manner.

This year has been one of humility with work being nigh to impossible for me and so many of my friends. I've watched as we have gone from hopeful to devastated - emotionally, financially - and then become creative in our ability to make life work. We have found inner wells of passion and compassion to keep on keeping on. That is some seriously good lesson living right there.

And finally this year I have learned to be a taker. I have learned that after 40 years of giving, I am just about out of give. I have ended dry, brittle friendships and allowed myself to be taken care of. I have accepted the goodness that comes my way and have let go of those that would just take without conscience, those who would steal my spirit and wonder, insisting that I continue in peace. I have fought for my little sapling of love to grow, and it is. I have found my own authority to trust myself and to run my life in a way I have never done before. I have found people who give freely and who receive freely. In this kind of relationship, I have learned that love does not keep score. It also is not lopsided.

Thank you my good friends who give and who take, who have creativity and devotion to life, to those who prop me up and who let me prop them up. Even those horrible people who have taught me that life will slap me in the face if I surround myself with those people, I thank. And finally I thank those who created this me, this wonderful person who is becoming so much. I have learned that I am pretty darned fabulous... and worthy. That was a long time coming.

Blessings and joy to you all,
sunshine

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Mornings







It’s dark here, early morning. There are ribbons of light just beginning to streak across the sky heralding a new day. A new day. Yes, that is what it is. A new day, a new dawning.

I sit under the Christmas tree, hot cup of coffee next to me, a bowl of oatmeal warming my hands. The tree is covered in love, each ornament carefully selected to express a fond memory, a place, an experience, a person that warms the heart. It is my aunt and uncle’s tree. Such a life they’ve lived! Each one married to another and then finding themselves alone, seeking out their old high school flame. And now forty years later they are closing in on ten years together. It is such a joy to bear witness to their love.

We decorated the tree together, they and I. The fireplace glowing and the Jimmy Stewart classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, whispering from the television. They have told me the story of each ornament – the bells from their wedding, the replica castle form one of their cruises, the John Deere tractors that bring such joy to my uncle, the teddy bears that call to my aunt. Kokopelli, a man surfing on a dolphin, the cardinal airplane, the snow people sexing it up – they are all there. And the white twinkly lights to bring focus to each one.

I think of how I would have missed that night if I’d gone away. I think of all the magic that has happened in my life in the last few weeks. Here in this house, I have found a home. I can eat what I want, I can turn music on that I like, I can do my laundry or cook a meal. I am accepted here, and the love they have for me has made me a part of their family. I belong.

And that, my dear friends, is the true miracle of this holiday season of light and warmth. The complete acceptance of people who love and trust your heart. I have never felt this way before. It is like being able to relax and to breathe deeply. I do not have to pretend to be happy. I am happy. I do not have to search inside to be caring. I do care. I don’t have to like walking the dogs, but I do like it. In this house, I am free to be who I am. And that is wonderful, that is freeing. I am me, completely, when I am here.

Thank you, dear Aunt Fab and Uncle Kindness. Thank you for your love.

Happy holidays everyone! May you too experience the miracle of love.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yoga

The part I didn't write to the below portion is my feelings about inadequacy. The following article is about my inability to do something that I try to do, something I've practiced for years - yoga - and I still can rarely complete a pose. I have some embarrassment about that. I'm accustomed to being accomplished, to being able to do "anything that I set my mind to do". How many times was I told that in the past? You can do it! Just do it! Anything is possible!

Sadly, it's not true. I couldn't get my visa approved. I couldn't make the system work for me. I couldn't pass their test. I don't even know what their test was.

So, here is my veiled attempt to make lemonade from lemons. I missed out on an opportunity. Perhaps it wasn't my opportunity to begin with. Perhaps it was just a pipe dream. But I have an abaya in my closet - the over dress and the scarf. I have 3 hair holders. I have half a dozen new ankle length skirts.

My bubble was burst. But as always, I have a new bubble... stay tuned for it.




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Many years ago, I fell and found my ankle swelling bigger and bigger and BIGGER! I went to the doctor and after x-rays and exams, he tells me that it's just sprained, and take these meds, and don't walk, etc. As I was leaving, he off-handedly said, "when did you break it?" When did I break it? "I've never broken it," I tell him. "Sure, you have. Here and here. You can see it clearly on the x-ray." And there it was - a bump, a zigzag, a non-smooth place on my bones where in fact I had broken my ankle and never been treated for it. This same scenario played out several times in my adult life. Finally, a doctor said to me,"It's no wonder you have pain. You didn't get treated for your scrapes."

I heard somewhere that yoga would help me with my pain, would be a good way to relax, would help the pain in my back, so I tried it. After two weeks, the back pain was gone, but the pain in other parts of my body began to creak out of me as I let go of muscles that had been tight for years in response to all the modifications I did to reverse the pain I felt.

For over ten years, I've been practicing yoga. A long time, ten years. Some months I do it more than others. The last year, I practiced almost not at all. But I keep going. In class last night I had a realization - there were maybe half a dozen poses that I could accurately do. Seriously, a half a dozen. After ten years of yoga, I was still miserably unaccomplished.

But it is in yoga, that we learn to honor our bodies, to quiet our minds, to live with a body / mind / spirit melange that we don't often have in other areas of our lives. Well, I don't have anyway. So in my failure to strike the exact pose, I am still a success. It is in the honoring of the body, living in the moment, and quieting the mind that I succeed. No, I will never be a yoga guru. I will never hold myself up on one foot or put a foot behind my head or any of the other intricate moves that others can do.

But, this I know. Each time I practice yoga, I release new fears and pain. I live in the moment and love myself. Yoga is the one place that I know of where the practice is more important than the perfection. Perhaps my own failure in other aspects of my life would be well served by integrating a little yogic thought.

Namaste

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Joy of Man


“Come visit me,” he whispered. “I could kidnap you, make you walk the beaches with me, torture you with great dinners and wonderful conversation. You could bring your angst and allow the time away to make it go...It’s amazing what time away can do.”

He is the friend of a friend, a man who handles things. He solves problems and fixes difficulties. With an invisible finesse, he took the weight off my shoulders and dispersed it to … where? I don't know. But I know it was peaceful to be with him. I know I could breathe with him.

The wind blew through my hair as we walked along the beach, and he listened as I spoke my rusty Spanish to the Mexican waiter who asked for my phone number. He checked in with me when I drove to the next town over, making sure I knew how to get where I was going, and he patiently waited as I answered the age old woman’s question. What should I wear?

Sitting across from this man, I realized how precious are men in my life. The touch of a man can quiet the most profound fears and can soothe the fiercest worry if we allow it. And in that moment, it became visceral that this will not be an option for me in a very short time. Soon I will not be able to talk or flirt with a man. Soon I will be discouraged from even looking at men. My eyes lingered over his face, the lines a testament to his serious ways and his raucous joy. Touching his hand, I knew I’d rarely get this chance again for the next year, and I enjoyed it. I felt the impending abstinence acutely; I lived boldly in the moment. I couldn’t get enough of touching him, looking at him. There was no satiation. It was not enough. Nothing was enough. Truly, I felt like a woman with a man who was that - a man. It was deliciously juicy.

As our time came to end, I cuddled up close to him, feeling his heart beating against his chest, smelling his masculine scent, and listening to the deep rumble of his voice as he soothed my worries. It was a good week. Too quick, too short, but still good. He woke me up.

And you know what? He was right. It’s amazing what time away can do.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

This ain’t my first rodeo.



Years ago I decided to move from Philadelphia to Nashville and see what I could create in that place. Music is great, the weather is lovely, and I have friends in the area. Why not go there and get away from the cold of the north? I hate cold. And so I packed my belongings, my cat, my memories, and I moved.

During the process of putting my life into a little green box, people came to me, criticizing my decision. Taunting of the southern way of doing things, these friends told me I would never see art, participate in intellectual discourse, or experience life as one of the beautiful people. In short, I would no longer be in a “worthwhile” city with “worthwhile” people.

And I defended my decision. Over and over.

Time passed, and one move became two and then three, and a new way of living was born in me, and people became accustomed to my gypsy ways. They saw me see the beauty in the world where others saw despair. They listened as I told of the world of love and not the world of money. They walked with me down memory lane as I recounted the mistakes I made learning to speak another language. They awed at the photos of a tree stretching high, growing in the desert. They appreciated the story of ridding myself of my fear of heights and gawked as I found my self esteem while dancing on a bar, surrounded by cheering people half my age.

Finally, they understood.

And now I am off for another adventure. I am going to a place that is obscenely different from what I know. It is a world that holds values that are completely against many of my personal beliefs. The culture and its rules frighten me. Yes, of course, I am afraid.

And still I go. I go for the experience. I go to learn from these people. I go to find who I am not and who I am at my deepest core. I go to learn to trust others and to be interdependent. For in this new place, women can not be, are forced to not be, independent.

Such a lesson to be learned, in such a drastic manner....

I prepare for this move, and I am shocked and appalled by the response around me. I have been preyed upon by people whose fears have been vomited upon me. They speak to me as if I am a child, ignorant of what lies ahead of me. I have been asked to justify my decision by people who don’t know me, people who have not walked even a single step in my moccasins.

This is what I say to you. I do not owe you one single explanation. I do not owe you one single reassurance. I do not owe you anything except civility. I do not want to hear your concerns, your fears, your worries. Do you know why I don’t want to hear? Because you have no right to ask me, to demand of me, to give your opinion.

There is a handful of my close friends, my family, and fellow travelers who have the right to ask direct questions. Why them? The weight of our relationship and the similar experiences they have had makes their words considerate-worthy. To these people, I speak my truth because they have perspective. I tell them because these concerns of mine are not drowned out by ignorance.

The only thing I want to hear from the rest of the world is your own personal version of “fare thee well, dear soul, fare thee well”.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Magic in the Air


It's quiet here. Winter is twisting and twirling through the branches of trees that no longer hold their leaves clutched to their branches. Gently drifting away, they dust the path behind the house. The chill turns our breath into tiny ice crystals as we call a simple hello and as laughter falls from our lips. The fire bushes are turning red... and still the cold comes.

As has become my habit, every night I step outside looking for my old friend Orion. I don't remember learning how to identify him, how to find him, but he's been with me as long as I can remember.

I once heard a man say that when you are on your way, you are already there. Some part of me is in the desert, waiting to feel the shifting sands, the wind blowing a scarf in front of my face, the heat dripping into my skin as the sweat drips down the crevices of my body. In my heart I have already begun the journey, I have already turned my face in the direction of the heat. Even so, my friend Orion will be with me, as he has my entire life, shooting the monsters from my dreams and bringing me hope as only night's magic can.

Look around you , my friend, see the beauty that you have, and love it. Hold it, claim it, dance with it. For it is here for you. And say hello to Orion. He is waiting, up in the sky to chase away your monsters and to brighten your night.

blessings,
pamila jo

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tempting the Fates


I am traveling alone. It’s a question on the application for my visa. Who will you be traveling with? And it hits my heart. No one. I will be traveling alone. Yet again.

Some people say I am running away, looking for trouble, putting myself in crazy situations, or in more lyrical terms - Tempting The Fates. Perhaps. In the quiet moments, I admit the truth – yes I am doing these things. But don’t we all run away? Don’t we all look for a bigger boat, a more tempting risk, a bigger challenge, a faster time? Is this any different? Like most things, the answer is complex.

And here is where I tell you of the love that haunts me, a memory that I run from – the one man I ever loved. Before him, I never thought I could love, didn’t think I was capable. And then, there he was. Big as life. He was full of laughter and humility, passion and discipline. He made me feel innocent. He made me feel worthy. And I opened my heart to him. He required it. And I obeyed.

And then one day it ended as so many love affairs do. It was a dreary day, the wind whipping my hair, the cold biting through my clothes. A day to freeze. A day to end time, like in that book – oh which one was it? The clock is stopped on the wedding day when the groom doesn’t show. One of the Bronte sisters or Jane Eyre. (ETA: Great Expectations, Charles Dickens) Those dreadfully painful to watch but you can’t look away kind of books. Like in the story, my heart froze. My clock stopped that day.

I don’t know if love will ever come my way again, but it has left me with a gaping hole of yearning. And now I fill my yearning with excitement – with challenges, languages, cultures, religions, daring adventures. I fill this longing with music and movies and books and fantasy so I don’t have to remember the yearning that is the aftermath of love.

Even now, he inspires me to live. He tortures my heart. And I wonder. Will I ever find a way to fill the emptiness, the gaping hole of lost love?

I don’t know the answer, but I do know that I will NOT waste away in my sadness and hide under the covers, hide behind a business suit, hide behind a well ordered life. I will live, even if that means an adventure bigger and a challenge more absurd.

Perhaps it is true. Perhaps I am running from something. But wherever I go, I am still there – he is still there, haunting me. Where ever I am, I carry him in my heart.

How can I be anything but grateful for the life that I have? The life that he inspired for me?

Friday, September 25, 2009

To buy an abaya

I've spent some time discussing the reasons behind my decision to go to Saudi Arabia. I don't know that I have more to say than I love to teach. I love adventure. I love experiencing the world in a different way. Yes, I know the restrictions. And yet, I move forward despite the fears and concerns of those who love me.

Today I found an abaya. It is black, of course, and it has a shiny stripe or two. It covers me - all the way - 12 inches beyond my ankles. My hands are covered to the tune of 6 inches of extra cloth beyond my fingertips. A sewing machine is in my future. The scarf, thin and black, made for summer and yet opaque, will keep me from feeling the horrible heat that a winter scarf brings. I put on the dress, covering the blue and red and yellow striped sleeveless blouse, the black skirt, decorated in lace, the little pink and blue and tan socks that keep my feet warm in this weather. And there I am. Nothing but my face, the rest of me swathed in black.

I wonder if I will learn to love this garment. Will I come to hate it? Will it be a combination? Most things are a combination. "Why do you want this garment?" the man asks me, looking at my pale, pink face, so different from the others who come into his store. Efficient and holding my files, all my various forms for the embassy, I smile at him and say the magic words,"I'm going to Saudi Arabia for a year." His face lights up and he recounts his own trip to that world, to Mecca. "My pilgrim" he says, "to the holy city." He takes $5 off my purchase. And then he asks, "Will you be able to go to Mecca?" With a frown, I say, yes the city, but not to the place of worship. Only Muslims can go there. I tell him that I am not a Muslim. He nods in understanding and tells me how beautiful the land is, how he loved his own pilgrim.

I teach English. I listen for mistakes. It is an occupational hazard. This time, though, I stop myself from saying "pilgrimage - your pilgrimage." For it is now that I remember why I do what I do. It is to connect with people, to share our experiences, to know their perspective. This man, this wonderful Muslim man, here in the USA, shares with me his experience of Mecca, the one I will not ever be permitted, and I listen to his words and his message.

Today, I bought an abaya. Today, I have made the next step toward my journey. The Chinese say that the longest journey begins with a single step. It is a joy to know that one step, and then another and then another will bring me people, connection, and understanding.

I am on my own pilgrim.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ramadan

I have been calling agencies to help me with my visa process, and noticed on one of the websites that the Saudi embassy will be closed from today until next Monday for Ramadan. Rather than getting overly frustrated, I decided to do some research on the holiday. Seemed like a good use of my time.

From boston.com:

In Muslim nations and regions around the globe, this is the first week of the holy month of Ramadan, a time for followers to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual activity during the day, breaking their fast each sunset, with traditional meals and sweets. During this time, Muslims are also encouraged to read the entire Quran, to give freely to those in need, and strengthen their ties to God through prayer. The goal of the fast is to teach humility, patience and sacrifice, and to ask forgiveness, practice self-restraint, and pray for guidance in the future.


The goal is to teach humility and patience and sacrifice. *sigh*
Ask forgiveness *groan*
Practice self-restraint *eep*
Pray for guidance in the future. That one seems not so difficult. "Help me, help me" is not an unfamiliar phrase.

Perhaps (I really wanted to use the word "mayhap" but it seems so pretentious.) Perhaps, this is the lesson in the closed embassy.

I've been able to do many of the additional tasks for my visa via the internet and phone calls. It's been a tough challenge. I am, after all, from the "instant" generation. One at a time, I was able to talk with people who can help me. The university is writing a special letter for me. The school in So. America is setting up a replacement certificate for me. The man at the visa agency near Washington DC talked me through step by step how to do this process.

And it reminded me that I'm not alone. I need to stop being so vain as to presume I must do it all. I need to let others have the blessing of offering the very help that I need, that is so readily available.
Is this humility? This letting go and letting others lead? This trusting their wisdom and knowledge? Following what they tell me to do? And if is, why must I become so frustrated, so overwhelmed before I ask for the help?

There is a reason I suppose that self restraint, patience, forgiveness are lumped together in this holiday. W
ithout each, the other is much harder to embody. Where is forgiveness without self restraint? Where is self restraint without patience? It is like the egg. The yolk, the white, the shell are all part of the egg, but what is the egg? They each are the egg - individually and together. So, too are self restraint, patience, and forgiveness a holy part of life.

This holiday, perhaps it is good to forgive oneself in order to move on and to practice the things that are noted as the focus of these days.

Whatever is the way to that place of peace, I want some.

Al-hamdu-lil-lah ‘All praise is due to Allah’.

*edited note: It was pointed out to me that I made a mistake about Ramadan. Now is the POST Ramadan celebration. No disrespect was intended. Well wishes to all, and thank you, my friend, for pointing this out.
pamila jo


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Trusting Strangers


“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese
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There have been so many exciting experiences in my travels. I've been happy and sad, frightened, even terrified, anxious, and overwhelmed. Like Stella, I've depended on the kindness of strangers. And this I've learned - people generally are kind. People want you to love their country, they are proud of what they have, they want to show off their truths, their landscapes, their art, their culture. And in the showing, they become the teacher.
When living in Korea, I had this amazing experience. I had gone to the grocery store and realized I couldn't read any labels. Oh sure, I could sound out the letters, but I didn't know what the sounds meant. The only ones I knew were "bap" (rice) and "oo yoo" (milk). That didn't help me much because I'm lactose intolerant, and I wanted lactose free milk. How do you say THAT in Hangol? I looked around me and realized that this must be what illiterate people feel. It is disconcerting to say the least. So what to do? I went to an adjumah (an older lady) and said "oo yoo" and then made a face and wiggled my fingers in front of my belly saying "blub blub blub" ... "Odi oo yoo ah nay oh blub blub blub?" (Where is the milk no blub blub blub?) Well, I could have felt silly, especially when she looked at me "ah nay oh blub blub blub?" She turned to her friend and fired words at her and between the two of tehm they figured out what I wanted, one went to the cooler and got me lactose free milk, and I thanked them profusely (kam sah hamnee dah). And I was able to have my cheerios the next morning.

Yes, we step out of our comfort zones, but in so doing we give others the opportunity to help, to connect, to share. What a gift to give and to receive!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Lesson of the Hoops


Bureaucracy. Red Tape. Problems to be managed. Hoops to jump through. Roadblocks.

They are all the same thing. They are all steps toward the goal. The steps lead us to where we want to be. They are the reminder that we are forgetting the now and focusing on the future. They teach us to wait, to create patience in ourselves, to listen to the quiet around us - if we can dull the rush of noise in our own heads. I've a number of hoops to jump through, hoops for others to jump through. In the end they add up to one thing. Trusting the process.

Each hoop feeds my hopes. Each hoop brings one more fear to the surface. Each time we say yes to one thing, we are saying no to another, to many others. This yes is big. It is exciting and thrilling. And disturbingly simple. Trust. Faith. Trusting the place I'm going to, trusting the research I've done, the people with whom I've talked, the courage in my gut to go someplace so amazingly different and gloriously unique. It is trusting myself in the day to day as I move through the world here in Ohio and then day to day as I move through the world there. It is trusting the person that I will become.

There was a time when most things were done in this slower pace. Letters arrived weeks after being written, dinners were simmering for hours, the harvest was brought in one field at a time by large groups of people. We as people knew time in a different way, experienced ourselves in a slow wiggle to be who we are, to fit within our world. And now we have instant. Instant messages, instant rice, instant relationships, instant
authorizations, instant everything. And perhaps we have not remembered to value what we have because it is so readily, so quickly available.

The Quakers believe in simplicity. One step. Then the next. And the next. Much like my hoops. One step toward the land I will be shifting my life to - a land of shifting sands. A slower pace is natural for me. It is when I move too quickly, try to follow another's rhythm that the fear rises up. But as I quiet myself, listen to the wind, watch the corn sway, and make this phone call, and then that, I find the calm that I need to live in this new life. I trust this travel. I trust the people I am working with. I trust my future self.

There is only a hoop or two left. And then an airplane or two. And then a whole new world. As much as I love the one I am in, as much as I will miss the familiar, it is in the newness, the excitement of the difference, in the learning and teaching that I find my passion. And in passion, I am true to myself. A slow burn, that passion.

What is your quiet, true passion?
n.b. the photo above was taken by my dear friend Alana when I returned from my trip to Argentina. She is a great photographer. She also took the photo I use in this blog as my primary photo, upper right. I have her permission to use these photos.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

May you live until the moment you die.


From Braveheart:


All men die.
Not every man lives.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

The decision is made

It has been decided. I've accepted a job teaching in the Middle East. I will be required to wear the abaya which is a black covering that women wear - covering their hair, their bodies. Only their hands, face and feet will show. Or rather only MY hands, face and feet will show.

I love color. I love to wear pink clothes, clothes with flower prints. I dislike wearing sleeves in hot weather, I love the wind in my hair. And green. I love a green blouse to bring out my beautiful eyes. This is the sacrifice. This is what I lose to lead this daring adventure I call my life.

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I used to wear black to work every day. All black with one whimsy - troll earrings, a pin with a silly face, crazy shoes, a quilted jacket. All black and one whimsy. That was my uniform.

I'm seeing the abaya as just that - a black uniform. It is intimidating. Not frightening, just intimidating. Respectful appreciation for the culture I'm going to is what is leading my logic. And THAT is good. But no whimsy. Who knows what the rules will be for westerners, for in the class, for being in the women only malls? I have questions out to the recruiter, I've requested a discussion with a current woman worker there. Perhaps my intimidation is just my imagination. But I don't think so.

Perhaps my words will become my whimsy? Time will tell.