Truth

::GONE BEFORE::

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Those Gone Before Us

There’s been a lot of loss lately. Death. People much younger than I am, going home. “Home.” And yet, here I sit, typing on my laptop. Wondering, “Why them, and not me? I’ve pretty much done all I came here to do, right?” And the answer is, apparently not. If it were true, you’d be home too, Cece. Breathe.

Sometimes I feel a fleeting pang of jealousy. They’ve reached their final reward. I grieve the loss of their presence, but I’m very clear about the fact that God’s timing is perfect. Who am I to question that? And who am I to think I’m done here … I’m the boss of me, alright, but not to that extent.

There’s much to learn from these people who have gone before. How did they live their lives? Whose lives did they touch? And when the final moment came, were they ready? I pray so. And I wonder if I’m as ready as I think I am …”All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”

I’ve seen the accounts of people who were pronounced ‘legally dead‘ but who ended up coming back. They’re still with us. What they said, every one of them, is that they had to be told, “It’s not your time. You must go back.” In other words, they were happy to be where they were: home.

The world is a chaotic place. So many people of divergent opinions are positively convinced that they are correct. Protocol is gone, respect for self and others seems dwindling. I remember the saying, “Discretion is the better part of valor.” I doubt many people even know what than means today. For the uninitiated, it means it is better to be prudent than merely courageous. Mind your mouth, and your choices. In other words: thoughtful. Be thoughtful.

I asked my attorney one day, in the midst of my divorce, “What should I do?” She said, “Go home. Plant flowers.” That was almost thirty years ago, and the weight of that advice has never left me. It’s saying, plant flowers to show your hope for tomorrow. Even if your time is up, you’ve made the world a more beautiful place.

Since then, I’ve given that same advice to others in counseling sessions; I think of it when I plant flowers today.

No one lives forever. But blessed are we who are still here and bear witness to the gifts left by those who are gone; the music, art, kindness, architecture, love, heart-stopping light – each individual “Magnum Opus,” are the flowers planted for us all.

Let’s live our lives, big and bright, as thankful celebration in their honor.

::The Dance::

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DANCING SHADOW

He had no choice but to betray me. Did he? Did he have a choice? No. I don’t see how he could have avoided it. I was too much. I was every single thing he both loved and hated.

I am a dreamer. I was born singing, and madly in love with life. My arms are flung wide, embracing all of it.

I’ve never stopped being that person. Detours? Yes, of course. I’ve gone off on a fool’s errand more times than I can count. But I’m always guided back by the lighthouse of my heart, and the musical joy that lives there.

The perspective at my center is maddening to someone who can’t see it. Generally that’s a cynic; someone who finds their own center unloveable. They define everyone else by their  lack of personal acceptance. Cynicism runs deep, denial is creed, because if they lose a handle on the lie they’re living, if the mask slips the slightest bit, who they claim to be falls apart. It’s come to me gradually over the years that yes, he was one of those. I take no pleasure in knowing it. But it explains a lot.

Okay, so the die was cast; we were young, beautiful, and almost immediately became caught up in the dangerous dance dreamers and cynics love. Maybe that’s it.  We each fell in love with the dance itself. I’ve never really seen it that way before. It must be time.

After a few years it started to dawn on me that about half the time I was dancing alone. He partnered with me when he needed an injection of the mad love, the joy, the dream I brought to bear. Once he was filled, I depleted, he was off again, climbing his ‘success ladder’ on the energy I gave. This act of transfusion happened repeatedly, and became central to the dance itself.

Some started saying I was too open, too forgiving. Too willing to glue the shards of us back together again and again.  There were those who called me stupid; co-dependent. I was neither. I knew what I was doing. I was holding in place a life that represented everything I was born loving so madly. I did it for my children. I did it for myself. Hell, I did it for him. And no, he still doesn’t have a clue.

Three pregnancies – one miscarriage and two healthy children – were born of that union. If nothing else came of it, that is a gracious plenty. My children are beautiful, and they have at least a portion of my madness flowing through them; my eager love, my spiritual center, my excited fascination with life. The music, which always came through me, pulses in them. They are music makers because, well, I’m their Mama.

Eventually his betrayals of ‘us’ became a routine part of his dance. But my dance steps had started changing too. I was no longer able – or even willing – to hold together the shattered pieces of who we’d become. I would like to say, simply, “I walked out.” But it was more like, “My life exploded, his final betrayal was so outrageous; there was nothing left that could be saved. He made it his mission to destroy everything.”

So. There’s that. But the interesting thing is, I’ll never regret the dance. And through the years I found my way back where I started; a dreamer, madly in love with life, arms outstretched. The lighthouse of my heart guided me home. My faith, and my music, and my beautiful children keep me here.

::All I Am::

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All I AmThere are certain things I’d never call myself. Beautiful, for example, is one. Extensively educated, at least in the formal sense of the word, is another. Lord knows I’ve learned a gracious plenty, but the really important lessons rarely happened in the classroom.

Life starts telling us who we are early on. As little ones, we’re blank slates, eager for the information. And we don’t know better than to swallow whole what adults tell us about ourselves.

When I was three years old, one of my dad’s friends, who I only knew as Cuz, called me “muscles.”

Even at that young age, it felt like a bad thing. I didn’t want muscles. I wanted blonde curls and blue eyes like my cousin Joanie.  But there I was, a sturdy little girl with black ringlets and hazel eyes. A kid who in summer turned brown as a biscuit in ten minutes flat.

On the playground at school, the nuns would cluck disapprovingly as we lined up to go back inside. “Cecelia’s voice carries. You can hear her above all the other children.”

I remember, at around ten, being at my Nanny’s house in the summer. Old lady North, who lived the next street over, would come across the alley and in the back door for coffee. I dreaded that woman.

“Myers,” she’d say to my grandmother while studying me, “I think this child is an Indian.” Then she’d reach out and take hold of  my upper arm. “She’s brown as an Indian,” she’d say. Nanny didn’t argue. She just passed the half and half, lit another Chesterfield, and changed the subject.

As innocuous as they may have been at the time, those descriptions from the grownups in my childhood delivered the bad news to my sense of self. They informed me about who I was.

And the fact that after so many years I can still go back to those moments, see those people, observe them observing me, tells me just how impactful the comments were.

It’s taken decades. But eventually and deliberately I let go of my tendency to be defined by what was said long ago. In fact, those statements serve me well now. They’ve made me pay attention.

When I talk to children, I’m purposeful with what I say to them about who they are. Because the words adults use have staying power; they will frame – for a while, or forever – how those kids feel about themselves.

And when they think back, I want to have contributed tender words about their own beautiful truths.

::Shoeless Joe and Me::

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SHOELESS JOE 2

God knows I gave my best in baseball at all times, and no man on earth can truthfully judge me otherwise.” – Shoeless Joe Jackson

I got up this morning, flipped on the TV, and discovered−happily−that Field of Dreams had just started.

Field of Dreams has to be one of my all time favorite movies. It’s about listening to that voice inside, following your gut, and discovering that the dreams you dream are often found in places and forms you least expect.

The movie centers on a family who lives on a farm in Iowa. The man−Ray−plows under a huge portion of his land and turns it into a baseball field. He goes all the way, with flood lights and bleachers. His extended family and the town community are skeptical, they say he’s lost his mind. But his wife, Annie, and his daughter, Karin, stand by him.

Ball players who’ve passed away show up on Ray’s field. But the only people who can see them are Ray, his wife Annie, and daughter Karin. The ball players are invisible to the cynics. Which only reinforces their contempt for the whole set up.

One of the ball players who shows up on Ray’s field is Shoeless Joe Jackson. That jogged my memory, and I started thinking; I knew there’d been a scandal that forced Shoeless Joe out of baseball, but what was it? What did Joe do?

So I read up on what’s called, “the Black Sox Scandal.” Joseph Jefferson “Shoeless Joe” Jackson and seven teammates on the Chicago White Sox were accused of conspiring with gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.

But here’s where it gets interesting: Joe claimed that his teammates gave his name to the gamblers even though he never agreed to participate. And the teammates admitted that Joe never attended the meetings where the fix was discussed and arranged.

There’s no debate that, during the games in question, Shoeless Joe played his ass off−throwing nothing, and hitting everything.

Joe and his teammates were acquitted following a jury trial in 1921, but newly appointed baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis barred them all from professional baseball, for life.

Jackson always claimed his innocence. He contended that teammates got him to sign a document of confession he didn’t fully understand.

That is very likely; Shoeless Joe could not read or write.

Ever since the 1921 ruling, folks have continued to fight to restore Shoeless Joe’s name.

People who knew Joe were clear: he couldn’t be guilty. Joe was the kind of guy everybody wanted as a friend. He was an honest man with a huge heart, and his love of kids was even bigger.

Today I was told that an appeal sits on the Commissioner’s desk right now, to clear Shoeless Joe Jackson from the lifetime ban. This would allow Jackson to take his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Many fans are waiting for word on the decision, eager to see the ban removed, and to gather in Cooperstown to at long last celebrate Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Shoeless Joe died on December 5, 1951. So he will not be present for any induction. But he lived his life, and died, knowing the truth about himself. I trust that gave him some comfort in the dark moments.

So I’m watching this amazing movie, wiping my eyes when Ray meets his departed dad, John, and thinking of my own situation.

I feel passionately for Shoeless Joe Jackson, in part because I know what it’s like to be falsely and publicly accused. And I know how, even after being declared innocent, the stain of accusation remains.

Many people you once knew as close friends look at you through that distant lens of “guilty even though proven innocent.” It is a buckling burden; a yoke I’m still getting used to.

I remind myself that the wheel turns slowly, but it does turn. Sometimes it seems like it doesn’t. But it really does.

In the movie I hear Ray’s dad, John, ask Ray,
“Is this heaven?” Ray says,
“It’s Iowa. Is there a heaven?”
“Oh, yeah. It’s where dreams come true.” Ray responds,
“Maybe this is heaven.”

I muffle a sob, and remind myself that it all evens out in the end.

And if Shoeless Joe could bear up under all that till he finally reached his own Field of Dreams − I will, too.

::TRUTH LIVES HERE::

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Hand World

Truth is something I think most claim to be aligned with. Many people swear they are always on a quest for truth. But I wonder: does anyone know what they’re saying? And if they do, do they really mean what they say?

I go through deliberate periods of brutal self-examination. I’ll confess, I don’t do it as often as I should. But when I’m in the process of it, I have a “no bullshit” rule; I force myself to face the true things about me and how I view life. It’s not fun. It can be exhausting, and humbling. But to live authentically, or “in truth,” isn’t it crucial? For me, the answer is yes.

I think we want to believe we are who we claim to be. But pretty much always, in many ways (sometimes most ways) we’re just not; it’s very easy to get off track and not even know it. And to not even think about that possibility.

We often choose positions and embrace opinions about things, and then “back the information in” that will support what we’ve already decided. It’s true. We all do it.

And we gravitate to others who agree, because it’s so much easier to surround ourselves with people on every strata who reaffirm our stories. … Then we can convince ourselves that what we’ve chosen to believe is authoritative; good, and noble. Being a member of such a group renders us reassuringly superior. It’s great to feel so right.

With the best of intentions, we dress our parsing, our denial, in beautiful stories … stories of bravery and justification; stories of righteousness and independence.

And yet, truth just sits there. It does not shout. It does not defend itself or try to convince. Nor does truth move, or shrink, or change, based on our opinion about it, or our unwillingness to acknowledge it.

Every night, when the darkness comes, and we lay our heads down on our pillows, that truth … that quiet, unassuming truth that lives at the center of every good thing … revisits our hearts. We know. In that deepest part, we all know.

And every night, in each of these quiet, private moments shimmers an opening; the chance to say “yes” to the rattling of our tidy preconceptions. Relaxing our hold is the willingness through which we can climb, into a world fraught with things that were, things that are; a vast universe of open-ended questions and limitless possibilities. The mysterious and miraculous are waiting for us there.

It only takes one brave, courageous moment to let it pull us out of our defensive rightness.

Just once, let’s refuse to roll over, turn our backs to it; let’s refuse to continue the nurturing of our own self contempt.

This one small choice; this different choice – when applied in enough hearts – is sure to transform this weary, broken world.

::PEACE, AND WHERE IT’S HIDING::

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Woman Arms Outstretched

Y’know, I have my phases or *periods*, sort of like Picasso. Maybe we all do, I can’t really say. But mine usually include the following:

*Reflective (can get preachy, but means well);

*Outrageous (some would call this one “obnoxious with fits of long, deep laughter” … );

*Tenderhearted (the part who wants to scoop up every hurting baby/child/person);

*Pragmatic (the “let’s just get this crap done and behind us” part);

*Maria Von Trapp (the part that wants to organize all of civilization into groups, make their clothing out of drapes, and have everybody sing in three part harmony, and in rounds)… I’m sure there are others, these are just the ones I could think of off the top of my head.

And so … *FAIR WARNING* … I’m in *reflective* mode today, and have been thinkin about this for awhile now:

When all’s said and done, I truly believe that all people, everywhere, want fundamentally the same thing. We all want to be loved, to be heard, to feel like our presence on earth matters. We all want to be safe, to live a happy and a peaceful life; we long to use our gifts to express our celebration of life.

When asked what they want, many celebrities state that they want an end to war, to have peace in the land. They speak for us all, really. We all want that. But I believe that we are blinded to the path that will lead us there. We have come to believe, many of us, that governments, or ideologies, will “give us” that. That if we vote for the right political candidates, they will bring this peace about. They, quite simply, cannot. But here’s the interesting truth:
They don’t have to “give” this to us. We already have it.

See, here’s the deal: Inside each of us, buried deeply at our core, beneath the belief of our absolute unworthiness, in there snuggled up next to our burgeoning self-contempt … there lives our truth: a thriving, pulsating, everlasting *light* … the very light we crave shines and waits inside of us; it was restored to perfection by our Redeemer’s purchase. But we live our lives in shadowy darkness, as if the gift was never given; like it never arrived.

And let me tell ya, the ego has worked one heck of an insidious job, convincing us that it is noble when we beat our breasts and declare our own revolting state. This is a self-manifesting prophecy … and it is the one that breeds envy, resentment, covetousness, greed, anger, jealousy … all the “deadlies” (and they are fatal) … ultimately the sense that we must “fight for what is rightfully mine.” This all comes from that seed of “lack.” These elements are at the center of every war, every murder, every scam, every betrayal … every corrupt company, government; every violation of real peace comes from fundamental self contempt.

And notice this: the beliefs we hold about ourselves are reflected perfectly in how we treat others. It can be no other way. When you see someone behaving negatively to others, or when you see someone relating with gentle kindness, think about that one. *Profound* truth.

It is the brave Spirit who awakens to their own authenticity and is willing, in the midst of naysayers, to reveal that to the world.

And it will continue to be a brave thing, until it is not. Until enough people start digging internally, determined to live a “self-examined life.” Then it will become the *norm*, and we will have returned to the Garden. But we go there by conscious choice, and one by one.

May each individual find the courage to *live* from their Spirit.
This is how we will change the world. ~ ♥ ~

::THE BOY IN THE BAND::

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Broken Heart Guitar Pic

I was a child of the sixties, and grew up in a household centered around the Holy Catholic Church and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. My parents were children of the Great Depression; they learned that life means do without, stretch a dollar, work hard, drink harder, and show up at Mass every Sunday. I was their first child, born to them when they were young, tragically beautiful, and very much in love.

When I was a little girl I would study my mother’s face … her hazel eyes, long eyelashes, full red lips. She was clearly a movie star. I wondered what she was doing in that two bedroom house on North Marion Street, with its linoleum kitchen floor and parched sapling in the front yard. Even at four-and-a-half, I knew she’d been miscast. Through the years, five more babies, and alcoholic chaos, it became an undeniable fact: my mother belonged in a different movie.

As the oldest daughter, my job was laugh inducing peacemaker. Lots of oldest daughters have that role. My brother, two years younger, was mother’s tenderhearted caretaker. We spent our childhood together in the family foxhole. Nothing will bond siblings like friendly fire. It’s a sort of hellish, heartbreaking love that no one else knows. But at the time, it was our family’s brand of ‘normal;’ imagine my surprise when, years later, I learned that some families had no foxhole at all.

I grew up and, with what I’d learned of how life works, and my place in it, I went out into the world. Within short order, I said “I do” to the boy in the band.

The boy and I were a textbook example of symbiotic dysfunction. Our fractured parts fit together perfectly. Through twenty five years and two children, we cut ourselves and each other on those jagged edges. Part of his brokenness included repeated indiscretions. Part of my brokenness included denying they were happening, while blaming myself that they were.

It was his final, spectacular betrayal with my sister that made me sit up and say, “No. There is no amount of glue that can put us back together this time.” I gathered up the pieces of my heart; I left the boy in the band.

The next eighteen months were like a slow motion train wreck. All I could do was hang on, and wait for it to stop.

I remember the date. May 10, 1991. That morning the phone woke me up. My attorney, calling to tell me the divorce was final. She’d used the word, “Congratulations.” I think I said, “Thank you,” but I wasn’t grateful for any of it. I hung up, and laid in bed, waiting. I didn’t know what to expect, but I thought I would surely feel … relief? Excitement, maybe? No. Just silence.

I threw off the covers, walked into the bathroom, and stared at the face in the mirror. Who will I be now? I whispered at her. A sincere question. I’d lurched through the decades, constantly reinventing myself, determined to be whoever those claiming to love me told me I was. Now I had no one to tell me. I was at a loss.

The next months and years were like being born, over and over again. I was the mother giving birth;  I was the baby shooting out of the canal into what I prayed would be a gymnast landing. I wanted a 10 from the judges.

But it wasn’t working anymore, as if it ever really had. I finally raised the white flag of surrender. I’d run out of things to try, people to be. I was exhausted. All I had left was me. When I finally gave into myself, it felt like declaring bankruptcy.

For months, going out in public unvarnished was really frightening; but there was also an undercurrent of excitement. And eventually, slowly, what I’d feared most became easier, partly because it was natural. And I’d have to say the surprise for me was that while life is always full of challenges, showing up in it doesn’t have to be hard. Sometimes there are still glitches, but every day I’m moving closer to the center of someone I’ve always known; the person God put here and breathed life into. There’s a peace in connecting with what’s true in me; authentic perspective gives a clarity like nothing else.

During those years, I was living in Toluca Lake. On my walk one morning I glanced at a flower growing up through a crack in the asphalt. I went past it, then stopped, backed up, and studied it. That little flower was blooming and reaching for the sun, in spite of the considerable efforts made to stop it. “Wow,” I thought. “That’s me.”

Ever since I was a tiny girl, I’ve felt a check in my spirit … like a tiny thread of light, deep inside. Piled over with years of Catholic school, alcoholic parents, sweet babies, abusive marriage, broken dreams … you’d think that thread would have snapped, or caught fire, or disintegrated. It never did. And that’s what I’m back in touch with now.

These days, I know where home is. I’ve discovered that I was right here all the time.

And I have to smile because the truth is, I’ll always love the boy in the band.