slow and determined

“To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to
go right in someone else’s.”

― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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(box turtle / Julie Cook / 2016)

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(brown rabbit / Watercolor Resort, Santa Rosa, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

One thing I’ve never been accused of being is slow.

Determined,
stubborn,
even hell bent…

yes…

but slow….

never.

I’ve never been one to be still for very long.
If I’ve got to be somewhere, I prefer early.
If I’m driving someplace, I drive as if life depends on it…
none of this Sunday driver, leisure business for me.

And it’s not as if I made some conscious decision early on
to take the fast lane in life…
Rather it’s just that I’ve always been like that….like this…
Always seemingly in some sort of quickness or hurry.
Straight from point A to B…no distractions with C, D or E in between…

I have made a point of mostly making the most of my time.
Filling it with as much productiveness as I can….
Maybe that comes from being a teacher as teachers are conditioned
to do so much with so little…
squeezing everything possible into a short space of time…

So you should know that with this disc and nerve business…
slow and determined has oddly become the name of the game and my new normal…
Sigh…
It’s as if my world has suddenly been cast into a slow motion stop frame
of agonizingly slow movement and speed.

As I now have to think long and hard about each and every movement—
nothing herky jerky fast or quick,
lest some shooting, searing new pain emerges out of no where.

And speaking of—this nerve business…

Are you familiar with a cilice?
Something like a hairshirt but worse.

Did you ever see the Dan Brown movie…Angels and Demons?
You may remember the poor monk Silas who wore a metal spiked ban
around his thigh under his habit.
He would tighten the ban as a form of self mortification…
unto bleeding….

I’m all for piousness.
I am gratified and humbled by those Desert Fathers and Mothers
and various saintly ones who have sacrificed both comfort and self
for the union of soul to the Spirit….
but this nerve pain gives new meaning to mortification…

It’s kind of like shingles, without the shingle.
Angry nerves running from the left of the lower back to the top thigh to the groin.

Is it bad if I confess that I have cut the elastic out of my underwear?

And may I add that hasn’t helped?

And that the whole thought of just going naked is making perfect sense…

I had shingles once—long ago—and caught it relatively early enough…
Such that it was short lived.

This disc business however has not been short lived.
And being a modest individual, naked would not be my first choice,
but I am a firm believer in drastic measures for drastic times…

I received notice today in the mail that the insurance company has approved the doctor’s
request to perform a nerve block next week.

How kind of them—

Because I fear if they had not been in agreement,
I might just have found myself in their office holding a cattle prod
asking for the individual who decided I did not need the nerve block.
As perhaps being prodded with electrical pulses from a naked person
might just persuade them otherwise…

I have learned a lot from lying on the floor.
I call it the perspective of a cat.
Not so much that I now know all too clearly that the ceiling fans
need a ladder and dusting…
or that dust bunnies can show up just about anywhere out of nowhere….

but rather that things can look overwhelming when looking up…

Yet the cats are undeterred by their short stature…
It bothers them not that the majority of their world towers over their heads.
They confidently saunter about here and there,
even onto my stomach while I’m flat on my back…
which is not a positive when 17 pounds walks on your stomach
and you’re already in grave pain…

I have even found myself telling my husband that I fear I am no longer earning my keep…
seeing that I’m spending more time on the floor then off the floor.

Now before you feminists out there have a hissy fit,
you need to understand that my take
on marriage is that of a constant continuum of contribution.

Each spouse contributes to the relationship.
My part / his part sort of deal.

When one party feels as if he or she is contributing more and more
as the other gives less and less—-resentment builds.

Ours has always been pretty much unspoken as we each have worked hard at contributing.
Be it going to work to make money to pay the bills…
to actually paying those said bills.
From cooking to cleaning to laundry, to ferrying growing child, to ferrying sick pets,
to cutting the grass—

As there must be balance and an evenness to what is done in a marriage.

Yet there is that whole “in sickness and in health” business….
and sadly ours is a society not too keen on that “in sickness” part.
We can “do” colds but when it comes to catastrophes,
sadly we tend to want to run and hide.

My husband reassured me as he looked down at me on the heating pad on the floor,
that I was very much keepable….

Or I think he was looking at me and not the dust bunny I had found….

So whereas I am not so quick these days, I am gaining in wisdom and appreciation.

I appreciate that I am on the floor by choice and
not because I’ve had one too many drinks to deaden the pain…

I appreciate that I don’t think the ceilings needs repainting…
as that is what I stare at now most of the time…

I appreciate the fact that the cats are well fed and perhaps actually
over weight…
yet love their mommy enough to wonder why she’s on the floor…
obviously there for their enjoyment—
cats are self-centered that way…

I am wise enough now to know that slow and steady are ok and as is often such…
goes to the winner of any race.

I am wise enough to know that things could be worse…
as I think…Dad…

I am wise enough to know that I can cry, and have, but trying to find
something, anything funny, is better…

And I appreciate that I can drive to Dad’s today to met the Hospice Nurse..
thankful and appreciative for people who want to come into people’s lives when life is
looking pretty darn bad…

I think we call that running to the sound of battle rather than from it….

Here’s to not seeing me naked holding a cattle prod as I saunter down the street….

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?
So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.
They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly;
I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control,
lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Hurdles

The boy who is going to make a great man must not make up his mind merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses and defeats.
Theodore Roosevelt

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(St Kevin’s Tower / St Kevin’s Monastery, Gleandalough, Co Wicklow, Ireland/ Julie Cook / 2015)

At some point or other during the course of living,
difficulties and trying times will engulf each one of us.

No one is exempt from the various hurdles Life places in our paths.
We will be faced with two options…

Either we just keep running and jumping
or
we stop.

We can stop before each hurdle, pondering the height and possibility of clearing each safely,
opting to drop out of the race all together…
or
we can decide to simply keep going.

Some days the prospect of continuing the race, with all of the hurdles needing to be cleared, seems more than we can bear.
We may actually even trip over the hurdles, temporally losing our balance…stumbling wildly while trying to recover…
Or
We may actually fall, crashing down onto the track scraping up knees, elbows and even damaging muscles and bones.

Then the choice will be…

Do we just lay there bleeding while grimacing in pain, bemoaning that the hurdles are simply too high and have just beaten us
or
Do we pick ourselves up, bruised and bleeding, and continue on with the race?

As I ccurretnly find myself laying on the track grimacing in the pain and bleeding, having stumbled over Life’s most recent hurdle… I received some very wise counsel…

“God always hears [sees] you.
You are just seeing things from the perspective of this moment,
while He is looking from the perspective of resolution of all these issues.
He is busy getting you to that point, too.”

So as my perspective,
while having tripped over life’s latest hurdle with me now being down for the count on a track that has just torn me to pieces, is limited.
I’m holding on to bruised, bleeding and broken limbs while staring upward at something that seems nearly impossible to clear…
through clenched teeth I pray…albeit it frustratingly.
Yet what I can’t see from my perspective on the ground,
is that God is already seeing the finish line…
He knows the outcome…
I just need to get back up to finish the race….

With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall.

Psalm 18:29

“you say you want a revolution. . .”

Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.
Anne Frank

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(detail of an antique fire bonnet/ Julie Cook / 2014)

Whoa retired art teacher. . .those are some pretty strong words are they not?
I suppose you’re right dear reader, the word “revolution” does evoke all sorts of radical connotations.
Just posting the word on the blog probably has some government top dog out there curious as to the tom-foolery this retired educator is trying to stir up. . .

With the ongoing escalation of tensions between the US, Europe and Russia regarding the state of the free and democratic country of Ukraine, the continuing saga in the Middle East between Palestine and Israel–peace talks on, peace talks off. I’m 54 years old— these “peace” talks have been ongoing and the tension ever present. . .long before I ever entered this world and it has all been going on almost since the beginning of time. Even before Israel became an independent state, the discord has existed, and will continue as the biblically minded among us simply nod in a sad understanding. . .it does seem that the world at large is indeed in need of some sort of Revolution.

And then there were the headlines out of Chicago this past week. . .

I was fortunate to have visited the toddling town this past August, falling in love with life on the shores of Lake Michigan. The city itself is full of delightful green space, attractions for the eyes, the intellect, the tastebuds, the sports minded, as well as for the outdoor enthusiast. We walked to most destinations and took taxis for those out of reach. We felt safe and thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

I am also quite familiar with Chicago’s darker past of the bygone days of Speakeasies, Gangland activity and Government corruption. Sadly it seems, however, that the past may never have truly been eradicated and redeemed as news from this midwestern hub of commerce and charm appears most dire and grim.

Over the course of the Easter weekend, there were a reported 45 shootings in the city, out of which there were 45 wounded or dead.
(see the full article here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/22/how-chicago-became-chiraq.html)

Many of the victims were children. Reportedly, involving one most disturbing incident, when a car pulled up, at a park were young children had gathered after Easter Church services to play— a passenger in the car points a gun at a group of kids, with the oldest child being age 11, asking if they were members of a gang. Before the children could respond, they were all shot.

I should have suspected something was a rye when, on the morning of our final day in Chicago, I had flipped on the morning news. It was a Monday in mid August, the first day back to school for the kids of Chicago. The lead story was of the neighborhood safety watches, with individuals literally posted along sidewalks, in order for the kids to be to able to walk to school without fear of gun violence. “Wait a minute,” I silently muttered, “we did not see anything like this during our visit!. . .” The teacher and parent in me filed this away as most unsettling.

The city, of which I have recently learned, has the dubious nickname of “Chiraq”—a butchered mixing of the words Chicago and Iraq—and with 45 shot dead or wounded during the course of a single weekend, I can understand the war zone distinction. But I suppose we could say the same for the streets of Compton, Detroit, Atlanta. . .as the list goes on and on.

We can argue that all of this is a direct result of guns or that it’s because of the drugs, or it’s because of the gangs, or it’s because of the broken family unit, or it’s because of welfare, or it’s because of unemployment, or it’s because of race, or it’s because of the social structure, or it’s because all of the above and them some. . . etc, on and on, ad infinitum, as it does go on and on.

We can tout that if we simply eradicate, educate, communicate, placate, eliminate, etc, then we can fix our mess of violence in this country as well as in this world.

Did any of that intellectual rumination matter this week in Kabul, Afghanistan when the man chosen to guard, defend and protect 3 American doctors and medical volunteers, who were in that country to help save the lives of woman and babies, thought it better to shoot and kill these selfless aid workers at point blank range?

How simple was it to understand that their mission was merely one of service and aid, yet even that didn’t seem to matter to one who convinced himself that their death outweighed their service.

Who thinks like that?!
Who thinks it’s ok to shoot kids?
Oh I best not start with the questions, as we’d be here all day. . .

The revolution of which I speak is a not a Revolution of unrest, violence and destruction but rather a Revolution of Love.
Not some dippy hippy, day of yore, let’s make love not war, mubmo jumbo. . .but an actual revolution of Agape.

Agape–ἀγάπη, agápē
Greek for unconditional love.
Not a romantic love, not a sexual love, not an obsessive love, not a self love, but the love of one human begin for another–the same love of the omnipotent God for His creation and in turn, His Creation for Him.

Unconditional, meaning without strings attached–the concern of another human being without regard to self and self’s wellbeing—just like what those doctors in Afghanistan possessed. . .

But Julie, how can one love others when staring down the barrel of a gun, when one is holding a dead or dying loved one in one’s arms, when all one has spent a lifetime working for and building is destroyed and or taken. . .? Does not violence, hatred, death and destruction beget only more of the same?

Examples are indeed all around us—as they have been down through the ages.
Notable examples of such are the Polish priest Maximilian Kolbe who voluntarily gave his life in place of a jewish man in the death camp of Auschwitz. Mother Teresa who spent a lifetime picking up the diseased and dying Hindu and Muslim in the streets of Calcutta. Corrie Ten Boom, the Christian Dutch resistance underground worker whose family spent much of the War hiding Jews in their home, who were all eventually arrested, sent to Ravensbruck Concentration camp, where she alone survived. Her book The Hiding Place documents this harrowing and dark time of the world’s history.

We can also say that individuals such a Mahatmas Ghandi and even Martin Luther King Jr were also shining examples of what peace and the demonstration of Love can accomplish when staring at violence and death head on.

I for one have grown weary of the gangs, the drugs, the wars, the hate, the resentment, the needless killings, the disregard for human life and human dignity.

When will enough ever be enough?

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right?
All right, all right
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re all doing what we can
But if you want money
For people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right?
All right, all right
You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right?
All right, all right!
All right, all right, all right!
All right, all right, all right!
All right, all right!

(Lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney)