Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death is a book I’ve stared at many times.
Yesterday, when I was staring at my son in the midday sun …
… I got the very sad, unexpected, and darkening news that my long-time friend Eleanor had passed away.
Eleanor, who was described in an online memorial as “sunshine, determination, kindness, humor, a keen mind and a really great friend” brought the sun into my life for over 45 years. Here’s a portion of her obituary:
Eleanor was a caring and giving person, made up of pure love and light, and left nothing but warmth and care with everyone who knew her. She had a contagious smile and strong will. She was the sun on a dark day, the cool breeze on a hot day. The twinkle in her eyes could warm the darkest, most inner part of anyone’s soul. We now have another angel on our side to help us fight for peace, which is what she always wanted. May her spirit continue to guide us through this life, and always remind us to live and lead with our heart. There will be a private ceremony. To make donations in Eleanor’s honor please consider Project Bread, http://www.projectbread.org/, the Kestrel Land Trust https://www.kestreltrust.org/, or the Equal Justice Institute https://eji.org/.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY ANN!
And this mother thanks you for all your posts over the years – what I look forward to each day to amuse me, inspire me, make me ponder, and just enjoy.
Peace and love to you
Eleanor was a caring and loving friend who gave me advice, cards, tickets to wonderful events, rides to appointments when I was dealing with health issues, and — during rain and shine — her fabulous company (described here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here,). We talked about cats, haircuts, food, work, politics, children, husbands, other people, social justice, the present, the past, the future, love, and everything else under the sun.
Whenever I asked her if I could put her picture in my blog, she’d say, “Some day. Not yet.” I can picture the sunshine of her kind, curious, and loving face, right now.
Eleanor gave me these avocado socks …
… and I believe that the last time I saw her we had avocado toast, dining under the sun at a cafe near the shore. There was such synchronicity and connection between us, we often finished each other’s sentences.
I took many photos yesterday, staring at the sun and the new reality that my long-time friend Eleanor had passed on.
That last photo of a couple staring at the sun makes me think about Eleanor’s husband, Ira, who sent me the email yesterday about her passing. May her memory be a comfort to him, her two children, and all who loved her.
As always, I’m staring at gratitude for all I have, here and now.
When I search my old posts for “What do we want to remember?” the only thing that comes up is Day 454: My brain is like a sieve. This might be a bad sign, since what’s on my brain today is how to memorize and remember the words of my 5-minute “Ted Talk” for my college reunion in three weeks.
I want to remember that …
I don’t have to be perfect delivering my speech, even though I sometimes felt like I had to be perfect to keep up with the other people at my Ivy League school.
Yesterday, when I was being a little bit different than anybody else I know, I noticed this:
and I knew that “a little bit different” was a little bit different from any other blog title I’d used before in the past six-and-a-half years.
When I looked at all my other photos from yesterday …
…they were all a little bit different, so I knew I would use that title for today’s blog post.
This morning, I realized that this post might be a little bit different from most published today by not mentioning Father’s Day up front. And then, when I looked at my photos again with a little bit different perspective, I realized they all related to my father. I guess I see them that way because I’m related to my father and we are both a little bit different.
My late father was humble and kind.
He cared much more about other people than he did about money …
… but he worked very, very hard to be a good provider for his family.
He had a beautiful singing voice and was very musical. He bought us a piano when my sister and I were young.
My father paid for piano lessons for his little-bit-different daughters but never learned to play himself. That calendar photo of the dog playing piano (which is a little bit different) arrived yesterday in the mail from my wonderful cousin, Lani. Lani, like the rest of us, is a little bit different and she also loved my father.
Lani, and everybody else who knew my father, would say that my father was incredibly funny, although they might tell that story in a little bit different ways. My dad told me he wrote little-bit-different rhymes for his high school year book, including this memorable one (which is a little bit different from totally kind):
Jerry is a drummer rare.
If he didn’t play, we wouldn’t care.
Perhaps you can see his influence in this little-bit-different certificate I’ll be presenting later this week to an exiting board member of my group therapy professional organization:
When I was very young, my father moved us to a little-bit-different home which was a block away from the ocean, on the North Shore of Boston. I’m now living on the little-bit-different South Shore of Boston.
I think my father would have noticed the irony in that little-bit-different last photo in that sea-side montage.
My father was a life-long Democrat and so am I, although we were a little bit different in our politics.
That very different photo reminds me of my father in several little bit different ways. He brought home all the different magazines from the pharmacy he owned but never ridiculous rags like The Globe or the National Enquirer. Also, he would sometimes ask my different friends this little question, “Are your parents still together?” Leave it to my father to throw in little-bit-different conversation starters when talking to my friends.
Harley, pictured there, reminds me a lot of Tuffy, in looks and in temperament although, of course, they’re a little bit different. My dad and I used to play a little-bit-different game with Tuffy, where we would sit on the floor in the kitchen and roll back and forth little-bit-different balls made of Challah bread, with Tuffy trying to catch them. Tuffy, who was a little bit different in her taste in treats, would catch the bread balls and eat them.
My father was a married to a clean freak …
… who was a little bit different from most clean freaks by letting us sit on the floor and toss bread balls back and forth with our cat. My father had this little-bit-different joke he used to tell about my mother:
I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and when I got back Weezie had made the bed.
Leave it my father to tell a joke that was a little-bit-different from the truth, even though he was impeccable with his word.
I took driver’s education in high school, but my memories of learning to drive are all of my father.
My father was one of Boston’s safest drivers (which believe me, is not saying much) and because of him, I am a safe driver, too.
After my father retired, he and my mother travelled abroad …
… but I don’t think they made it to Barcelona. My traveling has been a little bit different but I haven’t been to Barcelona, although I did travel to Spain with my beloved friend Jeanette. I have memories of Jeanette and my father getting along really well, although they were a little bit different from each other (but who isn’t?). Maybe someday I’ll make it to Barcelona, which I understand is a little bit different from the rest of Spain.
My father grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household and so did I, although our upbringings were a little bit different. Whenever we ate out, we only had fish or meatless dishes.
My father was sensitive to other people’s feelings and was pretty sensitive himself. We hurt each other a few times in our lives, but we always forgave each other, keeping the connection alive as long as he was.
I only heard my father swear once, and that was when he was very angry about a young man who had hurt me when I was in my early 20’s.
My father took care of much of what grew on our property when I was growing up, as my little-bit-different boyfriend Michael does today.
My father had a wonderful smile, which he did not keep to himself.
Actually, neither of those animals really evoke my father, but this one does:
I think my father and I were a little bit nuts, in a little bit different ways, but who isn’t?
Also, I have vivid memories of my father on Saturdays eating pistachio nuts, which he was nuuuuuuuttssss about.
My father had a wonderful zest for life, which I believe I’ve inherited. Yay!
I’ve tried to color in some details about my father in this little-bit-different post, which is not by the numbers and which attempts to capture the magic of my Dad. I hope it’s no mystery why I miss my father, every little-bit-different day.
Whenever I read my past blog posts, it’s like traveling in a time machine. For example, when I was reading all those posts about Megan, I definitely traveled through time …. all the way back to 2013, my first year of blogging, and beyond!
This week, I’ve spent some time traveling in the time machine of memory to my May vacation week of exactly one year ago, during which somebody made me lunch and then travelled in a time machine to recount years of resentments. Personally, when I travel in my time machine, I prefer to visit moments of love, not times of resentment (even though my time machine goes everywhere, to moments of pleasure and pain).
My time with Megan and her daughter, yesterday, was truly a reparative experience, which I hope you can see, as you take the time to travel through my latest photos:
Throughout time, I’ve been sending photos of pugs to my friend Jenn, because she loves them. Yesterday, I sent Jenn that photo of Megan’s neighbor’s dog, Ruby.
Here’s a comment about that video of the Pat Metheny Group circa 1979, in which nctomatoman is time traveling:
1 year ago
My first Pat Metheny concert was in 1980 at the chapel on the UVermont campus in Burlington. He played this, Unity Village, Phase Dance, San Lorenzo – and an early version of As Fall Witchita, among other songs. Breathtaking – changed my musical life for good and I’ve seen Pat nearly 20 times in concert – Waltham, Philadelphia, Seattle, Raleigh….The Way Up, to me, is the peak of his art. I so hope that the PMG reunites, though the Unity Group is wonderful as well.
The last line of that comment and the word “wonderful” takes me back to yesterday, when I took this photo …
…. assuming, at the time, that the title for today’s blog post would be “Wonderful.”
So, my wonderful readers, where would you go in a time machine?
Now I’m going to travel through time to recall years of gratitude, here at the Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally, for all those who help me create these daily posts and — of course! — for YOU.
We’re moving. How do you experience moving? Most people find moving a stressful experience.
Moving often involves letting go of old stuff, which can be a moving and emotional experience.
Yesterday, I was moving, packing up, and recycling many things in our basement, including that chart of emotions I used when my son Aaron was very young. I was moved by many of the emotions on that chart as I sorted through what we had moved down into the basement during our last moving experience.
I have excuses and alibis for including the seven videos below — moving on YouTube here, here, here, here, here, here, and here –because of all the moving memories I experienced yesterday.
If you want to share your experience of this post, please move down to the comments section below.
Moving thanks to all who helped me experience all those moving memories yesterday and inspired me to create today’s post. More moving thanks to you — of course! — for bringing your moving experiences here, now.
“Fun to Know and Easy to Love” (because people in my life are fun to know and easy to love), or
“1 in a Million” (because we’re all one in a million).
What do YOU think the name of this post should be?
That’s the Halloween costume my son, whose name is Aaron, wore many years ago. Carrying a spray bottle, Aaron asked people to name what he was, spritzed them with water and said, “I’m partly cloudy with a chance of showers.”
I’m thinking that the title of this post should be “1 in a Million” because, on a 1 in a million chance, I reconnected with an old friend yesterday, who is a 1-in-a-million musician and a 1-in-a-million friend, David Smith, whom I first met at the Berklee summer program in 1969.
Here‘s my old friend Dave conducting the Clarksville Middle School Wind Ensemble:
Actually, perhaps the name of this post should be “Reverberations.”
No matter what your name is, what do you think the name of this post should be?
As always, the name of today’s post could be “Thanks,” because that’s what I’m feeling, here and now.
Déjà Vu. That strange feeling we sometimes get that we’ve lived through something before — that what is happening now has already happened.
Way back in the 1960’s, I learned that Déjà Vu is a glitch in our cognition — an experience going into the memory section of the brain too quickly. Since then, whenever I feel that strange feeling of Déjà Vu, I just go along for the ride.
Here are some quotes about Déjà Vu:
It’s déjà vu all over again.
For a few precarious seconds, the chaplain tingled with a weird, occult sensation of having experienced the identical situation before in some prior time or existence. He endeavored to trap and nourish the impression in order to predict, and perhaps even control, what incident would occur next, but the afflatus melted away unproductively, as he had known beforehand it would. Déjà vu. The subtle recurring confusion between illusion and reality that was characteristic of paramnesia fascinated the chaplain, and he knew a number of things about it. He knew, for example, that it was called paramnesia and he was interested as well in such corollary optical phenomena as jamais vu, never seen, and presque vu, almost seen. There were terrifying, sudden moments when objects, concepts and even people that the chaplain had lived with almost all his life inexplicably took on an unfamiliar and irregular aspect that he had never seen before and which made them seem totally strange: jamais vu. And there were other moments when he almost saw absolute truth in brilliant flashes of clarity that almost came to him: presque vu. The episode of the naked man in the tree at Snowden’s funeral mystified him thoroughly. It was not déjà vu, for at the time he had experienced no sensation of ever having seen a naked man in a tree at Snowden’s funeral before. It was not jamais vu, since the apparition was not of someone, or something, familiar appearing to him in an unfamiliar guise. And it was certainly not presque vu, for the chaplain did see him…
Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (1961), pp. 52-53.
We have all some experience of a feeling, that comes over us occasionally, of what we are saying and doing having been said and done before, in a remote time — of our having been surrounded, dim ages ago, by the same faces, objects, and circumstances — of our knowing perfectly what will be said next, as if we suddenly remembered it!
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850), Ch. 39.
There are some places which, seen for the first time, yet seem to strike a chord of recollection. “I have been here before,” we think to ourselves, “and this is one of my true homes.” It is no mystery for those philosophers who hold that all which we shall see, with all which we have seen and are seeing, exists already in an eternal now; that all those places are home to us which in the pattern of our life are twisting, in past, present and future, tendrils of remembrance round our heart-strings.
E. C. Bentley and H. Warner Allen, Trent’s Own Case (1936), Chapter XV.
In the condition of “deja vu” it is probable that what takes place is that one or several elements in the present situation are like those which had been experienced in the past, but that the dissimilarities in the situations are not observed. The individual has a memory defect in that he parallels or identifies a complex present experience with a similar complex past experience, although in the present experience the number of elements which are the same as those in the past may not be very great. In other words, the present experience is deemed to be the same as that of the past because of the fact that the past is not accurately remembered and properly localized in time.
Shepherd Ivory Franz, “Delusions”, Popular Science, January 1915, Vol. 86, p. 90.
To the category of the wonderful and uncanny we may also add that strange feeling we perceive in certain moments and situations when it seems as if we had already had exactly the same experience, or had previously found ourselves in the same situation. … I believe that it is wrong to designate the feeling of having experienced something before as an illusion. On the contrary, in such moments something is really touched that we have already experienced, only we cannot consciously recall the latter because it never was conscious. In short, the feeling of Déjà vu corresponds to the memory of an unconscious fantasy.
Sigmund Freud, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901), tr. A. A. Brill (1915), pp. 320–321.
When some French were assembling an encyclopedia of paranormal experiences, they decided to leave déjà vu out, because it was so common it could not be considered paranormal.
Kim Stanley Robinson, Galileo’s Dream (2009), Ch. 13, p. 284
Rather than use the words “waitress” and “waiter” these days, I often use the term “wait people.”
You don’t have to wait, people, for me to tell you why. I tend to avoid gender specific labels, like waitress.
If you want more examples of that, you don’t have long to wait, people. Instead of saying “Chairmen,” I’ll say “Chair People.”
You don’t have to wait, people, for me to show you two pictures I took last night, which “Chair People” is now bringing to mind:
Chairs AND people, right?
My posts are like the New England weather. If you want them to change, just wait, people. And you don’t need to wait, people, for some more photos from yesterday.
That’s the first photo I took yesterday, after some people waited to see me for therapy. I saw that at the hospital gift shop, where there’s often a short wait, people. If you want me to explain exactly what a “Littlest Red Sox Fan Den” is, you’ve got a long time to wait, people.
People I work with in therapy sometimes wait, people, before letting go of unhelpful, critical, and judgmental things other people have said about them — like “She is taking up too much space.” Yesterday, people waited no more and let go of some of those internalized, toxic messages. Why wait, people?
Wait, people! I usually don’t swear in these posts, but that was a helpful phrase for a person I waited for in therapy, yesterday.
Good health care is not something people should wait for, people.
Those waiting for fall around here don’t have too much longer to wait, people.
Bostonians need to wait, people, for reasonably priced parking for events. If you ask me what event people were waiting for at Fenway Park last night, you have a long time to wait, people. But wait, people! Our friendly fellow-blogger Mark Bialczak might look that up and tell us, after a short wait.
Speaking of reasonably priced parking, last night I found a free parking space in Harvard Square without a wait, people! I went to Harvard Square to see this new musical.
take several adult education classes, including percussion, jazz theory, cartooning, and “Stand Up Comedy” with Ron Lynch (and if you can’t wait, people, to read more posts about Ron Lynch, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).
I rarely wait, people, to get chocolate or to connect with sweet people.
That’s Lina. She was kind enough, as she waiting on me, to tell me she took the job at L.A. Burdick in Harvard Square because “I like the way people talk about chocolate here.” As I was waiting for her to ring up my purchases, I took this photo:
and said to Lina, “I’m always taking photos for my blog.” Lina didn’t wait to say this, “That’s the way art works.”
I didn’t wait, people, to eat the chocolate Lina sold me …
… while I was waiting for Waitress to begin.
After I saw Waitress, I couldn’t wait, people, to see my boyfriend Michael, who was waiting for me in Harvard Square after helping his brother wait on people for five long days. While I was waiting for Michael last night, I took pictures of places we waited and where wait people had waited on us on our first date, five years ago:
Wait, people! There’s one more thing I want to say, before I publish this Wait People post.
Tonight, after five months of planning and 45 years of some people waiting to see each other, I’m going to my high school reunion.
No more wait, people!
I won’t wait, people, to thank all those people who made this post possible. And special thanks to you — of course! — for waiting, people, for the end of this post.
Here are some things I feel lucky about this morning.
I feel lucky to have a job that engages my brain, my heart, and my soul — doing therapy groups to promote healing and growth.
I’m lucky that this work — because it takes place in a hospital* — gives me the opportunity to move forward in my own process of healing and growth.
I’m lucky that I get to work with doctors who are palpably committed to good patient care.
I am lucky that I get to blog about my anxieties and my hopes about doing this work, because it helps me feel less alone in those feelings.
I’m lucky that I have readers, like Louise Gallagher, who say wise and helpful things (like Louise’s comment on my blog post yesterday).
I am lucky for each and every person who has ever read this blog, because whether or not you ever press “like” or write a comment, my knowing that you are receiving these words, as I move forward this year, helps me more than I can say.
When I started this blog post today, I thought I might be using a Magic Wastepaper Basket, because I was thinking of throwing away some old beliefs that contribute to my anxiety about public speaking.
Instead, I wrote about luck.
Throughout this year, I’ve created various “magical” receptacles, including this box for “Emergency Messages” (see here):