Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Embellishment May 28, 2014

My friends, For the next two weeks I’ll be re-posting a few favorite posts from the past.  I hope you enjoy this one from August, 2011.

Last Saturday my half-Italian husband told me about a funny thing that happened earlier that day when he was at the grocery store with his brother-in-law, Gary. “Where’s the tomato sauce?”  he asks Gary. Gary looks up and points to a sign and says, “Aisle 3. It says ‘tomato sauce.’”

They go to aisle 3 but all they find is ready-made spaghetti sauce in jars. “Hey!” Fred says.  “I’m not using that Paul Newman, Chef Boyardee crap.  I’m Italian.  I make my own spaghetti sauce.” Just then a 50ish blonde bimbo-type comes up behind him and in a nasal New Jersey accent says, “Hey! Don’t ask a man where something is in a grocery store. It’s in the next aisle with the vegetables. I know how to make spaghetti sauce.  I’m married to an Italian. My license plate says: “Fugeddaboudit!”

So they go to the next aisle. He sees cans of tomato paste, tomato puree, whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, but no tomato sauce.  He’s complaining to Gary about this when a very proper, well-groomed Atlanta matron standing nearby says politely, “Excuse me, sir. You’re looking for tomato sauce?  It’s in the next aisle!”  This cracks him up. As he tells me this story he’s giggling so much he can barely talk.

My husband’s ability to tell a good story is one of the things I love most about him. I used to have trouble with it though. Coming from scrupulous-minded, strait-laced Dutch stock, I worried about his blatant distortions of the truth. Maybe he had a serious memory problem. Maybe even a character flaw. “That’s not how it happened,” I’d say in shocked disbelief.  “I was there!”

His whole family’s that way.  I think they got it from his step-mother, Helen.  His youngest brother, Tony, and I were talking about her the other day and he said, “You know, I think the word that best describes her is…” he paused for dramatic emphasis… “Embellishment.” “Embellishment?” I asked. He nodded emphatically, “Embellishment!” He would know.  He’s an interior designer who jokes, “Never done ’til overdone!”

While I was pouring my homemade limoncello after our spaghetti dinner Saturday night Fred told everyone about an incident at a friend’s villa in Florence, Italy many years ago.  “So,” he says, “after we’re installed in the guest cottage we go up to the villa where the chef has prepared a fabulous meal and our friend tells me to go to the wine cellar and pick out a good wine. I’m down there looking at all these dusty bottles thinking they have to be old and expensive. I didn’t know much about wine in those days and I didn’t want to take the best one so I choose a smaller bottle thinking it’s probably less expensive.  Upstairs I open it, pour it in our wine glasses, and it’s yellow! Turns out it’s limoncello!”  Everyone had a good laugh while I did a mental eye-roll.  “There was no guest cottage.  There was no chef,” I told them. “That’s embellishment.” More laughter.

Unfazed, he went on to tell the story of our wedding. “Jeanie’s mother made her dress and said she could either give us $300.00 or spend it on a fancy wedding,” he said. My mother didn’t make my dress, and it wasn’t $300.00.  It was $200. I know. I was there. Embellishment.

So what’s more important?  Telling a good story or telling the truth? One of the happiest outcomes of my inner work is that I’m learning the wisdom of lightening up. Sometimes truth is overrated.  Like limoncello,  a little bit of embellishment can be good for the soul.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

 

Five Effects of Aging I’d Rather Not Acknowledge May 23, 2014

Dorothy'shouseOkay.  Time for a confession.  Until recently I’ve been quite mature about aging.  I’ve believed platitudes like, Why fight the inevitable?  It’s just a number.  Accept it with grace.  It’s a phase everyone goes through…if they’re lucky enough to live that long.  Stay active. You can still be a useful member of society.  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera….  Then, about halfway into my 70th year, the s**t hit the fan.

It began with some pain in a toe after a few weeks of vigorous walking on brick roads in wornout tennis shoes.  The coup de gras was delivered on Thanksgiving Day when I squatted for about three minutes in front of a low kitchen cabinet looking for just the right serving dish.  The next morning my toe was so painful I couldn’t walk without limping.  Determined to tough it out, I didn’t consult a podiatrist until January.  The black boot I had to wear until my stress fracture healed wasn’t pretty, but at least it brought me a lot of sympathy! Squatting, for heaven’s sake?  Who knew squatting could be a health risk?

Then one day in February I woke up with the lids of my right eye stuck together.  When I got them open I was appalled at the intense shade of pink staring at me from the mirror. Could I get an eye doctor to see me?  Of course not!  I’d just have to tough it out until next Monday.  Fortunately, I had an appointment with my podiatrist that afternoon. After his eyes widened at the sight of mine, he asked his assistant to make me an appointment with the eye doctor down the hall. The good news is that I saw him 30 minutes later.  The bad news is that the next day both eyes were stuck shut and as red as alligator eyes in the glow of a flashlight at night. Eat your heart out, Bob Costas!  Speaking of… that was a weird coincidence, especially since I had made such a big deal about his case of pink eye at the Winter Olympics only a few days earlier.  “Look at that, Fred! He’s got something wrong with his eye.  Gross! What is that?”

The third indignity, this one even grosser than pink eye, cropped up soon afterwards.  One day I developed an annoying itch in the center of my upper chest.  Several mornings later I awoke scratching a wart!  A wartSeriously?  I’d always secretly suspected that only people with character flaws got warts and now I was one of them! How could that be? Luckily, specially treated Band-Aids make them go away, but I have to tell you, hiding mine was a wardrobe challenge for the next three weeks!

So now I was hobbling around with a bum toe, alligator eyes, an unsightly growth and high-necked blouses! Next came a sinus infection. What was happening here? After a few weeks of moping around the house feeling as sorry for myself as a child, I finally had to admit the universe was sending me a humbling message:  “Wake up, Princess.  You’re not in Kansas any more!  Aging is no tea party and you might as well get used to it!”

I’m trying. So here, thoroughly chastened by this latest wake-up call and determined to handle it like a grownup so I can get on with my life,  I present my top Five Effects of Aging I’d Rather Not Acknowledge.

1.  To my horror, health complaints are getting to be a common conversation topic.

2.  When I don’t feel well I get cranky, petulant and depressed.

3.  Your reflexes actually do get slower as you age, which explains why your driving does too.  I’m thinking that if you see me behind the wheel 20 years from now  (I’m determined to be optimistic about this) you better hope I’m headed the other way.

4.  I don’t laugh at people who watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune in bed any more.

5.  I’ve been sitting at my desk writing all day every day for so many years that sometimes just walking requires aspirin. I hope I haven’t done myself some permanent damage.   At any rate, now I get the Tim Conway shuffle.  (Check out the link for some good laughs.)

I still intend to live this phase of my life with grace, but after this winter I’m aspiring to more kindness and humor too.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks .

 

 

What Exercise and Dreams Have In Common March 16, 2012

If someone had told me three years ago that one day I’d enjoy working out twice a week I wouldn’t have believed them. I’ve never liked to exercise,  never felt the need. But sore shoulders and lower back pain from sitting hunched over a computer every day for years have a way of creeping up on you, and I finally had to admit I needed an exercise routine.

So when my friend Nancy asked me what I wanted for Christmas two years ago, I said, “Sign me up at the place where you work out!” A few days later I got a call from a trainer named Tom and he scheduled me to come in from 12 to 1 every Tuesday and Thursday starting in January. To my immense surprise, it turned out to be one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received!

Except for the annoyance of having to leave my computer, get dressed, and drive a mile down the road (I know. Big deal, right?) I love everything about it! Most of all I enjoy my conversations with Tom. He’s a great guy with a kind heart and a sincere interest in social justice and spiritual matters. And he’s so funny that I usually come out with 2 or 3 major guffaws per visit, which definitely adds to my enjoyment! But it was when he started asking for help understanding his dreams that I knew I’d found a friend with magical powers to motivate me for an extended run.

So today I asked him if he’d had any interesting dreams lately and he told me about this morning’s dream in which he’s standing with a neighbor on a second-story balcony of a three-story condo and she’s pointing to the top of a stone chimney that intersects all three floors. There are flames coming out between the stones near the top. While he’s thinking this could be a real problem, his brother and brother’s friends bustle around him erecting a bizarre L-shaped scaffolding from which they’re going to bungee jump! Tom thinks they’re being absurd.

As usual, I had no idea what it meant. But as he described his emotions in the dream and his associations to his neighbor it became apparent it was about how angry he feels about the way people are talking about a recent local shooting. To paraphrase what he said, “I guess I’m feeling inflamed about how emotional everyone’s being and I’m looking down at them from this ‘higher place’ for being so illogical and absurd.” This was a big “Aha” for him. “I guess that could be a problem,” he said.  “So does this mean I should stop talking with my clients about issues that stir me up like this?”

Here’s what I told him. Absolutely not! Dreams don’t judge us or tell us what to do. They simply show us the way things are with us so we’ll be more aware of potentially problematic qualities and emotions.  With more knowledge of what’s going on inside we can choose to act in healthier ways outside.

On the way home it struck me that dreams are a lot like exercise. Many of us find it’s not just our bodies that get stiffer and more inflamed with age. The same thing can happen to our minds.  One purpose of dreams is to make our minds stronger, more balanced and flexible. Healthier, and therefore happier with ourselves. Easier to be around.  But we won’t experience these benefits if we won’t rouse ourselves and commit to this work over the long haul.

Thanks for the insight, Tom.  And for the blog topic.  See you next Tuesday.

 

Compulsive Computing: The Perils and Pleasures of Writing 600 Words February 7, 2012

It’s noon on Monday and I have five hours to write and schedule a post before I have to get ready to attend a Magic basketball game this evening. My posts come out twice a week, at 12:01 a.m. every Tuesday and Friday morning.  I’ve been doing this for almost two years and am kind of obsessed about staying on schedule.  Last week was unusually busy so I’m under the gun today.  Only five hours to come up with a topic and 600 words. Holy crap!

I’m a fast thinker. This makes me a slow writer because so many synapses fire at once that it takes some time to assemble all the input into something understandable to others. It also makes ordinary conversation problematic since I have a habit of coming out with non sequiturs. I’ve been subjected to many a blank stare when, for example, we’re talking about Magic basketball and I’m wondering aloud about dinner. It makes perfect sense to me. I associate basketball games with arena food and arena food makes me hungry and hunger reminds me of dinner. In fact, writing the above sentence made me hungry so I had to stop and make lunch.

But I digress. Another reason I’m a slow writer is that I need to know how I feel about something before I’m ready to write about it, and I’m a slow feeler.  Well, I don’t really feel slow; I’m just slow to recognize my feelings. As an aside, (and to illustrate my point about firing synapses), I need to digress again: When I say feelings, I don’t mean just emotions.  I mean feeling in the Jungian sense of valuing: assessing phenomena in terms of what is meaningful to me, what is not, and why. For instance, I saw the movie A Dangerous Method about Jung, Freud, and Spielrein a few days ago and enjoyed it, but I still don’t know exactly how I feel about it, so I’m not ready to write about it yet.

It used to take three or four days to get a post together and I worried a lot about meeting my deadlines. Why? I don’t know. After all, they’re self-imposed!  Nowadays I trust my unconscious to send me something: but in five hours? Last night I awoke several times and each time I was thinking about what today’s topic would be. But nothing gelled.

Then this morning it hit me that this post would be my 200th, and when I checked my blog stats I discovered I now have 200 e-mail subscribers! Now that felt meaningful! So I pondered this computational coincidence over my compulsory morning sudoku, while reading and answering my compulsory e-mail, and during my compulsory check-in with my other sites. Finally, I settled down to write. I refilled my coffee cup. I lit my candle for inspiration. I closed my eyes to meditate.  I heard, “You’ve got mail!” It was a series of cartoons from Fred’s office manager about working with computers. All this was too synchronistic to ignore, and the result is this post on blogging, computing, internet networking, and the inefficient wiring of one writer’s brain.

In closing, here’s my latest favorite quote about writing from author Paul Auster, “Becoming a writer is not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.”

600 words? Exactly! Hard? Yes, but also way gratifying.

Okay, this last sentence takes it beyond 600 words but I thought you’d  like to know it took me 4 hours and 53 minutes!

 

The Perils and Pleasures of High School Reunions November 25, 2011

Our high school reunion last month began with a school tour. We pulled into the same parking lot I used mmffffeennttey (excuse me, my hand slipped) years ago when, as a senior, I finally got to drive my mother’s ffflllimmerrrtty-fraammph (Oops! There it goes again!) Chevy to school. I was unprepared for the rush of memories: of friends who rode with me, a boy who occasionally thumbed a ride home, the Home-Ec room where I learned to make the dresses, blouses and skirts I wore to school from then on…. Okay, that dates me! Girls didn’t wear pants to school in those days.

We walked past a new building that occupies part of the once-expansive front lawn and there was the elegant old red-brick facade with its gracefully arched doors and mullioned windows, some of which were stained glass. I marveled that as a teen-ager I had never appreciated its beauty.

Then we noticed the group standing around the flagpole. Who were all those old people? Were they really our classmates? At first our greetings were awkward because everyone was pretending we weren’t trying to read each others’ name tags, but eventually we gave up and just introduced ourselves. Once we got over the initial shock, familiar features began to emerge from the masses of wrinkles and gray hair. This was both reassuring and bemusing. Okay, it was great they were still alive and all, but really? Did we look this old to them? At 10:00 a.m. sharp a young man approached our group. I assumed he was a senior assigned to be our guide. I saw more than one incredulous look when he introduced himself as the principal! You get the idea. High school reunions are not for the faint of heart. But we all survived to enjoy the tour.

One highlight was stepping into the auditorium and being assailed with a wave of deja vu. There in front of me was a recurring image from my dreams! The same thing happened in the corridor outside the cafeteria. I hadn’t remembered what either place looked like, yet they inspired all the auditoriums and cafeterias that have shown up in my dreams since high school. How many of our issues originate in adolescent experiences we’ve completely forgotten? Quite a few, I suspect.

We had a great time. It was especially fun reconnecting with my old girlfriends. Since Linda’s husband went to school in Mississippi he didn’t come, so Sylvia and Rita decided not to bring theirs either. Sylvia said that at the previous night’s football game her husband (who was in a different class) acted like the reunion was all about him so she wouldn’t let him attend the rest of it. Rita said her husband (also in a different class) “tends to talk a lot” and she didn’t want him stealing her thunder so she told him he couldn’t come either! I love it. We’ve come a long way from the days when bolstering the male ego was part of every teen-aged girl’s job description.

The weather was predicted to be cold that weekend so in the midst of packing Fred came out of the closet with his old football letter jacket! Delighted to find he could still snap the waistband, he wore it to the outdoor buffet the first night. In my eyes he was the hit of the party. He says I was. I think that’s sweet. I’ve decided old love is better than young love. How lucky are we to still be together after all these years? Forget it. I’m not telling you how many!

If you want to feel better about your age, I highly recommend turning off the TV shows in which everyone looks 18 and going to your high school reunion. Blessedly, no one there will be younger than you! (Unless the principal leads the tour.) By the way, now that I’ve reconnected with all these lovely people with whom I share so many warm memories, I’ve decided we’ve aged every bit as well as our beloved old school.

 

Embellishment August 16, 2011

Last Saturday my half-Italian husband told me about a funny thing that happened earlier that day when he was at the grocery store with his brother-in-law, Gary. “Where’s the tomato sauce?”  he asks Gary. Gary looks up and points to a sign and says, “Aisle 3. It says ‘tomato sauce.’”

They go to aisle 3 but all they find is ready-made spaghetti sauce in jars. “Hey!” Fred says.  “I’m not using that Paul Newman, Chef Boyardee crap.  I’m Italian.  I make my own spaghetti sauce.” Just then a 50ish blonde bimbo-type comes up behind him and in a nasal New Jersey accent says, “Hey! Don’t ask a man where something is in a grocery store. It’s in the next aisle with the vegetables. I know how to make spaghetti sauce.  I’m married to an Italian. My license plate says: “Fugeddaboudit!”

So they go to the next aisle. He sees cans of tomato paste, tomato puree, whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, but no tomato sauce.  He’s complaining to Gary about this when a very proper, well-groomed Atlanta matron standing nearby says politely, “Excuse me, sir. You’re looking for tomato sauce?  It’s in the next aisle!”  This cracks him up. As he tells me this story he’s giggling so much he can barely talk.

My husband’s ability to tell a good story is one of the things I love most about him. I used to have trouble with it though. Coming from scrupulous-minded, strait-laced Dutch stock, I worried about his blatant distortions of the truth. Maybe he had a serious memory problem. Maybe even a character flaw. “That’s not how it happened,” I’d say in shocked disbelief.  “I was there!”

His whole family’s that way.  I think they got it from his step-mother, Helen.  His youngest brother, Tony, and I were talking about her the other day and he said, “You know, I think the word that best describes her is…” he paused for dramatic emphasis… “Embellishment.” “Embellishment?” I asked. He nodded emphatically, “Embellishment!” He would know.  He’s an interior designer who jokes, “Never done ’til overdone!”

While I was pouring my homemade limoncello after our spaghetti dinner Saturday night Fred told everyone about an incident at a friend’s villa in Florence, Italy many years ago.  “So,” he says, “after we’re installed in the guest cottage we go up to the villa where the chef has prepared a fabulous meal and our friend tells me to go to the wine cellar and pick out a good wine. I’m down there looking at all these dusty bottles thinking they have to be old and expensive. I didn’t know much about wine in those days and I didn’t want to take the best one so I choose a smaller bottle thinking it’s probably less expensive.  Upstairs I open it, pour it in our wine glasses, and it’s yellow! Turns out it’s limoncello!”  Everyone had a good laugh while I did a mental eye-roll.  “There was no guest cottage.  There was no chef,” I told them. “That’s embellishment.” More laughter.

Unfazed, he went on to tell the story of our wedding. “Jeanie’s mother made her dress and said she could either give us $300.00 or spend it on a fancy wedding,” he said. My mother didn’t make my dress, and it wasn’t $300.00.  It was $200. I know. I was there. Embellishment.

So what’s more important?  Telling a good story or telling the truth? One of the happiest outcomes of my inner work is that I’m learning the wisdom of lightening up. Sometimes truth is overrated.  Like limoncello,  a little bit of embellishment can be good for the soul.

 

 
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