Monday, January 14, 2013
So, I posted last week about the reporter who had asked about the quote at the bottom of my e-mail. I had contacted her to tell her about another story I thought she might want to write (see my previous blog). After several e-mails and a couple of phone calls, we were quite stunned to awaken last Tuesday morning to our picture on the side column of the front page of the paper (we don't get a lot of news here in Lincoln, NE).
The story was inside, of course. With just a couple of small errors, the story was nice. I thought you all might like to see it! You can find it at:
Thursday, January 03, 2013
I recently had an e-mail exchange with a local newspaper reporter here in Lincoln. I was telling her about a good deed my neighbor had done and hoped that the paper might want to capture it in print (or picture). Although, it didn't really work out, the reporter was taken by a segment of a poem in my signature line. She had just received another poem by the same poet as a comforting quote from a friend. She asked me how I came to know about the poet and is considering doing a column on his poetry. I thought you all might enjoy my answer as I know there are many poetry lovers here. By the way, the "internet friend" I mention in the letter is, of course, Maha!
I am happy to share how I came to know about Rainer Maria Rilke and his poetry.
I never took a poetry class in college, and in high school found the poems offered in my classes to be dull and boring -- perhaps that was more about me than the poems or poets, but it kept me from poetry until much later in life. At some point, however, poetry found me!
Now I find that I have developed a love for poetry, but I'm a picky poetry lover. I used Ted Kooser in my Enivonmental Leadership class at UNL, I post poems that are currently meaningful for me on my door at work and in my office at home. I seek out poems to soothe, motivate, calm, or energize me. My favorite poems are typically somehow related to human struggles or conditions, seek answers to "big questions," are almost always about nature, and leave you with an "aha" feeling at the end.
I noticed that my love of poetry becomes even more intense during times of great emotions or stress. I somehow seek refuge in them. During my dissertation writing phase, I felt like poems just "came to me" -- sent by friends or found in columns. Then, one day, an internet friend posted a poem that was so stunning, I asked her where she got it. She told me about a website called Panhala.net. A man named Joe Riley posts daily poems there. You can subscribe to have them delivered to your inbox each day.
There I found some of my favorites: Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Ted Kooser, May Sarton, Joy Harjo, Wendell Barry...and was introduced to some new ones: Rumi, Hafiz, John O'Donohue, David Whyte, Naomi Shihab Nye, and of course, Rainer Maria Rilke (among MANY others). This place is a treasure chest of poetry (sometimes even song lyrics presented in poem form) with accompanying pictures at the archive site at panhala.net. There are other poetry sites, of course, but Joe seems to understand exactly the kind of poem I love! I began consuming not only the daily posting, but also visiting the archives and finding treasures there! There were many offerrings of Rilke and I fell in love!
The day my favorite Rilke poem "came to me," I was baffled by the revisitation of Cancer in my life - not ME, but a significant other. I lost a partner in my early 30s to a rare form of Cancer (Bile Duct Cancer), and now was faced, almost 20 years later, with the same situation. My partner of 18 years had been diagnosed with Stage 3a Ovarian Cancer. I was devastated and trying to understand why I could have this particular life challenge visit again! I even wrote a blog "Struck Twice by Lightning" that I never let anyone read. How could this be happening?
That day, I remember coming across a Rilke poem (excerpt from Letters to a Young Poet, It is the one I sent you earlier in this thread). I had probably read it before, but this day had had a very strong meaning for me:
..I want to beg you, as much as I can,
to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms
and like books that are written in a foreign tongue.
Do not now seek the answers,
which cannot be given you because
you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it,
live along some distant day into the answer.
Resolve to be always beginning - to be a beginner.
- Ranier Maria Rilke
For some reason, I found it comforting, this permission to not understand and to seek the questions rather than the answers. I began seeking out Rilke poems and even bought a couple of collections of his poems. They comfort me, challenge me, sometimes bring me to tears, and always leave me with a sense of awe at how someone can capture exactly what is in my head -- all this from a poet who died in 1929. And, as a bonus, since they are all translated to English, there are often many versions and interpretations of the same poem which bring out different meanings.
So, here is another poem (one version of it, at least) that I find stunning -- with its wonderful, descriptions and captivating ending. Although it may be specifically about a woman who is losing her physical ability to see, to me it demonstrates the transcendence of "seeing" into a new way of understanding. I hope you find it...exactly as you need it to be:
She sat just like the others at the table.
But on second glance, she seemed to hold her cup
a little differently as she picked it up.
She smiled once. It was almost painful.
And when they finished and it was time to stand
and slowly, as chance selected them, they left
and moved through many rooms (they talked and laughed),
I saw her. She was moving far behind
the others, absorbed, like someone who will soon
have to sing before a large assembly;
upon her eyes, which were radiant with joy,
light played as on the surface of a pool.
She followed slowly, taking a long time,
as though there were some obstacle in the way;
and yet: as though, once it was overcome,
she would be beyond all walking, and would fly.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Monday, December 31, 2012
This Blog post started out as a response to a Blog written by Debra0818 called "Addiction (Dec 26)". It started getting out of hand for a response entry. Debra seemed to have struck a nerve or conjured up something I needed to talk about. So, I offer it here as a Blog entry with thanks to Debra for the inspiration!
My father was a brilliant, kind, quiet, well-loved man. His response when anyone would ask how he was, was always the same, an enthusiastic and jolly, "fat and sassy!" Everyone loved him and his ability to make fun of himself. He laughed, too!
In truth, he would have likely been considered morbidly obese. In today's world, I imagine he would have been recommended for bariatric surgery, but in the era in which he lived and on the income we had, it was not an option. It was also MUCH more dangerous then -- probably more dangerous than the weight he carried. He tried many times to lose weight, but never really lost more than a few pounds...and even then, they would come back on at the first celebration of any kind or holiday which in our family was ALWAYS about food.
Despite his size, my father was a VERY active man. He worked and supervised hard labor construction and road jobs. He was outside all day and came home exhausted, usually sunburned and sweaty -- even in the winter. Through all of that he was a gentle man who loved his children, his wife, and the miscellaneous pets we collected. He was a serious businessman and worker who was well respected by his superiors as well as the laborers who reported to him. I obviously adored him!
Despite his deeply private self and quiet ways, he told me once through teary eyes that he thought he had an addiction to food. I was young and not sure I understood, but had the good sense to ask him why. He said almost every day he vowed to change his ways, to eat less, to eat healthier. But, when the food was put before him, he just loved it so and wanted to eat it. It made him feel GOOD! He felt he could not resist it, that he was somehow addicted.
I often wondered why he chose ME to tell this to. The truth is that I was the one most like him. I looked like him, shared many personality traits, cared about education as he did...and I was also the one who struggled the most with my weight. People would often say, "YOU must be one of Mr. Matkin's daughters! You look like him in every way!" While I was flattered, I always assumed that they also meant I was fat, just like my dad...a confusing thing to process as a child.
My father died 20 years ago, very suddenly at age 66 from something that had nothing whatsoever to do with his weight. He was a healthy man and we were shocked to lose him. When I think back to the day he told me that he thought he was an addict, it makes me incredibly sad. Sad because I think I know how he felt and what he went through...
It is an odd thing to lie in bed at night hating yourself for messing up again, but by morning making a promise that you will never feel that way again. THIS is the day! Everything will be different! I'll make a few small changes -- just a few. Then I'll keep going! I'll feel good about myself! Then...a week or two later or even the very next night, it begins again with more self hating, judgment and promises to change! But, THIS time...
It is excruciating to HATE having your picture taken because you are always surprised and repulsed at your own image when you see it. Smiling, laughing with friends and family, or doing something you love...it should be a celebratory thing. But, when all you see is that body -- Is it the angle? Is it the clothes? Can I REALLY be that big? I look gigantic next to (insert almost any name here). How do I even live with myself? How do OTHERS put up with me? I obviously am a failure. Just LOOK, and you will see!
Is this how my father felt? My lovely, wonderful, kind, smart, compassionate father? Did he berate himself in the middle of the night? Did he HATE all of the pictures that I so cherish of him?
It may seem too late to be talking about this, but, I DO believe my father and I can do this together now. I truly believe I did not lose my connection to him when he passed on.I admit to being very afraid. How can I fail so many times and then keep trying again? "Fall down 7 times, get up 8," right?
So, here I am getting up again. Actually, I "got up" this time a few weeks ago after another major backslide. But, I still fear the end of the holiday break and a return to a very busy job -- which I love, but is incredibly demanding! I'm going forward and hoping, committing, vowing, that I can be the person my father would want me to be...and more importantly, the person I want to be. AND I'll try not to be so hard on myself if things don't go as I had planned...again. I'll get up again.
This, like any other habit...or possibly addiction, must start with caring about myself and then doing what needs to be done to be kind and loving to me and also to those around me by bringing my best, most fulfilled self forward. This is the legacy my father left for me, and one that I can pass on.
GinaBug (a nickname given to me by my father, by the way!)
Sunday, December 30, 2012
The moon has been on my mind the last couple of days. This month's moon is known as the Long Night's Moon by some Native tribes as it is the longest night a full moon will see occurring the closest to the Winter Solstice. I awakened yesterday at 4 a.m. seemingly summoned by the moon and arose to watch with great awe the shining beauty, the shadows cast on the snow by her light, and the twinkling of the glittering snow being bathed in the glow. How could anything be more beautiful, more contemplative, than this?
I awoke again early today and immediately searched for my friend. I found her in the west sky blanketed by a thin haze, but glowing through in beauty...
After a time of basking in her glow and feeling a bit of frost on my toes, I came in to find my breakfast and coffee. I was deep into the morning news when R arose and came in. She stopped dead in her tracks and said 4 words, "look at the sky!" Since we cannot see the western sky where the moon was setting from our living room, I glanced out the window facing East. There, on the horizon were the brightest crimson red hues intermingled with bright golden rays! I had not even looked at the sunrise being so caught up in the moon, but it was breathtaking! Believe me, the camera does not do it justice, but here is a glimpse:
Again, I found myself out in the cold, frosty morning being mesmerized by the beauty in front of me. I went to the front of the house, and yes, the moon was still there. I wondered how often we miss something remarkable because we are fixated on something else. There is so much beauty, so many blessings -- but if we focus on just one thing, it can easily be taken away. I think the real blessing is to be grateful for many things. Not just my health, my wonderful job, my relationship, my lovely home, my friends and family... My blessings abound.
That is why I love the gratitude threads and groups here on SP. I am reminded daily (well..almost daily when I post) that I have so many things for which to be not only grateful, but sometimes astounded by! I read the posts of others and am humbled by the offerrings and sharing of the smallest "noticing" to the large life events that are posted there.
I hope to continue this practice this year with new enthusiasm! I hope to notice more and more of the blessings I have been given...and...when I am focused on one blessing, to remember to turn around!
Blessings and joy to all of you. I am so grateful for you...each and every one!
Thursday, November 29, 2012
I am working hard to find inspiration these days...to begin again. This journey has taken me to so many places. And, yet I find a sense of hopelessness creeping in at times. My own struggles with weight and feeling fit and healthy seem pale in comparison to the people I have known and loved who have survived great loss, Cancer, or other tragedies.
And yet, I am working too hard, forgetting to be grateful some days, wishing I could be more, loving my life, but not living it as joyfully as I could, feeling as if I am not giving back in meaningful ways to those in need...yet, ironically also feeling unappreciated at times.
Some days I feel like a whiner for even talking about my own challenges. But then, that is what I tell everyone else to do. I have been so blessed with riches -- love, meaningful work, family, friends, a warm, safe home, healthy food and clean water in abundance. So, what is there to complain about...cause unhappiness?
I feel "heavy." Not just in body weight, but mentally, sometimes spiritually. And then, a bit of magic happens and the Universe gives me a gift. As usual, in the form of verse:
This is what the things can teach us:
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~
rs_II_16.html for the full piece.)
I am learning to trust the Universe...but, I have a long way to go.
Blessings and joy to all!
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