Sunday, September 23, 2012

Masters Degree

Sometimes healing involves chasing phantoms.  Memories and emotions haunt and can enslave the psyche with after-images on the retina.  Other times, recollections are a calming presence that quiets the mind with the understanding that I am fine…that it’s OK to forget about things for a while.  And so I do.

I am very nearly always OK.

I have heard it said that if you want to be good at something, you find a master.  Shakespeare said, “Everyone can master a grief but he that has it.”

Shakespeare never met Carter.

Well, I could live in a nest of wizards and wise men and never arrive at the intrinsic nature of the human experience so well as having a sleep-over with our grandson, Carter.  He is a creator and a wordsmith.  His brilliance always dispels my dullness.

I can be a tangled ganglion of dualities, complexes and contradictions.  I can pound my bulk down the pavement, battling fear and anxiety, searching for a small measure of deranged tranquility.  And then Carter arrives with his imaginative universe, re-organizes my cranium and conducts me into the brave new world of my own mind.

And we play.

Carter entertains me with his kinetic talking.  His mind is a network of psychic energy…a lightning rod for the paranormal.  It’s the Tao of Carter.

We begin every adventure with timed trials in competitive eating, which is our privilege as apex predators of fast food and pizza home delivery.  “Pop-top thumb” is a natural consequence  of opening copious cans of root beer to guzzle throughout the course of the evening.  As soon as our basic survival needs are met… and exceeded…the fun begins.

We invent worlds without end and universes without rationale or reason, populated by inhabitants with alien protoplasm, melon-heads, and human growth hormones.  Of course, there is always a measure of foul slime waiting to suck us into its depths.

Carter considers me a kindred spirit with a degree of competency.  He is generous.  I work hard not to disillusion him.  But I do acknowledge his ingenuity is often as ungraspable as a Zen Master’s riddles.

One day, he seemed to be talking in tongues.  It was akin to a medieval language.  His fantasy universe centered on pawns, minions, peasants, beasts, shields, dragon-slayers and lairs. There are a lot of “forsooths,” “quoth he’s,” and “over yonders.”  We even got out the marbles and played “Bowling for Serfs.”   Well, I got so caught up in it all, I began to quote Chaucer in my best middle English:        


Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licour

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Carter was duly impressed and asked which video game I got that from.  I told him it was called “The University of Utah Master’s Program.”  He just smiled.

We are inventive in creating our empire.  We have the “Pillow of Death,” the dragon-slaying bobbie pins, the cottonball of mercy and the Q-tip of justice.  Things that might appear commonplace to the uninspired. 

Our mission is a holy crusade to vanquish evil, avenge the despicable, and eradicate fiends, demons and adversaries. 

Above all, Carter admonished me never to be “strongless.”
Hmmmm.  Strongless, you say?

Yes, strongless.  If you are strongless, you are in danger of becoming “courageless” and  “weakful.”  It diffuses your power.
I thought about that for a long time.  I do not want to be strongless, courageless, or weakful.  I cannot afford to have my power diffused.  I concluded I would harness Carter’s philosophy and go out into the world bold and confident as I face my demons and dragons.  I will NOT go over to the Dark Side.

The other day, my son-in-law advised that I need to get shots for flu, whooping cough, pneumonia and tetanus.  Really??!!!  Are you sure???  CRAP!  Deep in the private chambers of my soul, I dread the whole idea.  It makes me whine and use obscenities. But I have learned to be intrepid and gritty from the Master of Valor, and I will not disappoint.  Tomorrow morning I will use my powder puff of Might and my blush of Right. I will clean my teeth with the dental floss of Truth.  And then, like Don Quixote, I will run where the brave dare not go, face my fears, and conquer the malevolent Superbugs of the Universe.  I will not shrink from my appointed rounds.  I will enter Dave’s clinic, confront his nurse, and with a robust voice of beefy determination proclaim, “HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT!”  And then I will leave the exam room, trailing streams of glory like smoky vapor on the horizon. 

Crap.  I just hope I remain continent.

Becoming master of one’s self is a daunting task.  But I am determined to prevail.  I owe it to my young Yoda, Carter.  However, due to scheduling conflicts and prior commitments on my day-planner, eradicating fiends, demons and adversaries is extremely inconvenient at the moment.  I may postpone becoming my own Master until next week, when Dave’s nurse is on vacation. 




Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Prune Juice and Equilibrium

Autumn is singular.  It is the only time of the year with a name and an “aka.”  You can always predict the exact moment autumn arrives.  We do not ease into this season as with the others.  It accosts the world precisely at 8:00 a.m. on the first day of school.  It is abrupt and unmistakable and startling. 

Its entrance is heralded annually by a homogenous collection of children sporting new clothes, new backpacks, new braces, and new teeth – all under a canopy of sun-streaked hair and bronzed faces.  In attendance are mothers sporting tears and relief.

Summer careened by with cold-blooded speed, leaving my catalog of well-intentioned adventures woefully undischarged.

I do not sleep well the night prior to the beginning of school.  Never did.  I’m preoccupied perfecting my saber-rattling and flapping my excessive arm flab to ward off bad karma regarding my tribe.  I once saw a warning posted on a trail we were hiking in Washington.  It read:  “BEWARE!  There are new elk calves all along the Hoh River trail.  You may be perceived as a predator.  If you are chased by the mother, run until she stops chasing you…and then a little further.”  The same can be said about grandmas.  Personally, I’d rather hazard an encounter with a whole herd of mother elk than confront one protective matriarch.

Anyway, Monday morning, as per tradition, I arose at an insomniacally imbecilic hour and prepared for this annual rite of passage.  I successfully fogged a mirror without cracking it, so I felt confident enough about my personal body mass to proceed.  I dressed quickly and hurried to meet my grandkids for the tri-generational migration to school. 

All week I’d rehearsed my taut, maternal “everything’s-going-to-be-all-right/aren’t-we-having-fun?” smile, but only succeeded in looking like an over-caffeinated Cheshire cat.

Upon seeing each child safely into class, I loitered outside the rooms, my heart a little bruised.  This year is the same as all years prior…but not quite.

And then I went home to try to dislodge the smile that spasmodic muscles held unrelentingly frozen.

And re-gain my equilibrium.

I’m unclear just how to re-gain one’s equilibrium.  It’s so easily lost, but not found.

So I asked Auntie Fern, my darling 96-year-old aunt whom I adore, what her secret is.  How does she stay healthy, centered, balanced, harmonious?  She is the Dorrity Family Yoda.  Surely, she has THE ANSWER.

Without a moment’s hesitation, she replied, “Prune juice.”

Not sure I had heard correctly, I asked incredulously, “Prune juice?”

She reiterated with enthusiastic accentuation, “PRUNE. JUICE.”

Then she launched into an infomercial endorsement of this magical elixir, this nectar of the gods, with unrestrained rapture, making claims of health benefits worthy of Sham Wow testimonials!

Well, who am I to take issue with someone who once changed my diapers?  She has always been my  mentor, my consultant, my tutor.  Why, once she explained the technique of wringing the neck of a chicken with such vivid, graphic clarity, complete with appropriate hand gestures, sound effects, and chicken-face miming, that my nerves were left in tatters, and I went clammy. I threatened to go vegen.  “Colonel Sanders” is now the anti-foul, and “chicken tenders” a vulgarity.

Auntie Fern assured me that my life would not only have harmony, but regularity.  And harmony and regularity constitute equilibrium.

Well, I was convinced.  I became a believer.  It all sounded so simple, and never at any time of my life do I need harmony and regularity more than I do now.  I became a juice-totin’, hand-clapping, hallelujah-singing convert of “The Potion.”

I sipped from the grail. 

At first, nothing happened.  I began to suspect that I’d been a casualty of gullibility and a delusional aunt.

But then – Harmony hit Regularity with a vengeance.  I couldn’t leave the house for three days.  Auntie Fern was right.  I have never been healthier.  Being quarantined, I wasn’t exposed to a germ – or another human being – for nearly a week.  Ergo, I never contracted a cold, West Nile virus, or the plague.

“The Cure,” however, can be isolating and solitary, and I am a reluctant recluse.  So I now sing the praises of the prune with diminished vigor.

That’s powerful stuff.  You can’t control it.  You can only adjust.

So I think from now on I will seek equilibrium from alternative sources than from juice that could blister paint.

Recently, I saw a card with a wise man sitting atop a mountain.  He says, “Life is simple.  We are born.  We have birthdays.  We shrink.” 

Shrink, heck.  I shrivel.  I am beginning to resemble a prune.

But I’ve also heard it said that the wrinklier the prune, the sweeter the fruit.  I will own that.

 I will search for equilibrium in other places.  I am tired.  I will sit in the autumn sun, let my mind wander, and listen to my thoughts, should any materialize.  I will procrastinate.  I will pursue coherency and see if I can establish a new pattern.  And claim my own space.

I will contemplate the efficacy of a diet of chicken and prune juice.  And I will trust that autumn will bring renewed balance, solace and equilibrium in all things familiar.