Splat and the New Year

Splat“You want I should wash the dead bugs off the windshield?”

Elwood, The Blues Brothers

“Life seemed to be going along fine and then, splat,” was how H phrased it.  We were talking about how a moment occurs when life suddenly changes. S-P-L-A-T.  It’s the fly breezing along in the wind when suddenly — it becomes little more than road kill on a car’s window shield. Its ride is over.  There is no way to reclaim its former life.  It no longer looks like it once did.  Like it or not, realize it or not, in a seeming moment, transformation occurs.

In H’s case, it was her multi-decades marriage to a seeming pillar of the community that collapsed under the dual strains of alcoholism and affairs.  No matter how much she might have anticipated the end, seen the signs, the “splat” moment felt like a surprise.  The big house was sold.  She moved to the city.  Took a job, then another.  The old life becomes a distant memory.

S-P-L-A-T.  Until the conversation with H, I hadn’t thought of these situations under the auspices of “splat” but it certainly made all the sense in the world.  If you live long enough, the “splats” simply can’t be avoided, which isn’t to say they don’t occur when you are young, as it did when I was just two years old and climbed up the stove that would change my life.

As far as I know, there is not an instruction manual to guide you through a splat.  As a child with a life-threatening injury, I think my coping mechanism was to fight.  Fight, in the sense of pushing hard to regain my physical ability not only to walk to but swim, do gymnastics, play tennis and the like.  Fight, in the sense of pushing myself to achieve socially and academically.  Today, when I think of my “splat” situations, my approach is very different — more surrender than anything else.  Pema Chodron, the beloved Buddhist teacher, author, nun and mother says it this way, “Don’t run away from your fear.  Lean in to it.”  Our natural tendency is to fight, flee or move away from what is uncomfortable just as I did as a child.

From talking with H, it seems she did what Pema suggests in per post-splat life and that is to open her heart and experience what it is to be genuine.  What it is to be human, what it is to experience life truthfully in all its pain, with all its beauty.  Even when you still don’t believe life will get better.

And then there is another thought that seems to go hand-in-hand with her new-age advice:

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”
Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

As today drew to a close not only for the work day but for the year, H and I were the last to leave the office.  “Here’s to good things in 2015,” I said.  “And to a no-splat year.”  She who coined “splat” nodded in agreement.

Good luck to us all in the New Year.  May we not be squeamish about taking a good look at ourselves.  Let’s not let life harden us.  Let’s try to always see the tenderness, beauty and grace in being alive, together.

Tell me about your S-P-L-A-T moments.

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Over and Through

I know.  I know.  I think too much.   That’s just the way it is.

“Aren’t you over that whole burned leg thing?” was the question and of course I nodded and said, “Well yeah.”  I had explored, questioned, delved, dissected and practically fried the whole topic.  This I knew.  But over it?  How can you get over things that are a part of you?  What if I didn’t want to get ‘over it’?  What if I what might seem a devastating experience actually was something I realized had positively shaped my life?

These questions swirled around like noodles in a boiling pan, like so many other thoughts I have.  They arrive simply.  Or they simply arrive.  And then they secure their place in the brain’s parking lot, coming out from time to time when prompted or when another thought crashes into them, upend them or taps them aside the head.  It’s a lot to manage.

I started yoga at the beach about a year ago.  On Saturday morning, I grabbed my pink rubbery mat and walked the sandy shore to the community center, dipping my feet in the water to gauge the temperature.  It seemed eminently swim-able.  Our yoga teacher opened the class with a laugh.  She likes to talk about smiling meditation.  That is, smiling as you do whatever it is you do.  “The heat has been intense all week and everyone has been telling me they are so over it,” she began.  “Well, you know, we never get over things but we sure get through them.  There is a difference.”

I was laying on my back on the mat.  Her comments collided with the dormant thought in my brain.  It woke me up with a jolt.  “Over, she’s talking about that concept,” my brain  spoke to me.  It was just past 9:30 a.m. and I wasn’t ready to dissect anything.

“People place too much emphasis on getting over things,” she laughed.  “We never need to do that.  Just get through them, like the heat this week and everything is alright.  We tend to make ourselves work harder than we have to.”

The class began.  Over.  Through.  Over.  Through.

It made a lot of sense.  I don’t need to get over the experience.  I got through it and grew because of it.

The thought in my head started its engine and drove out of the parking lot in my brain.  There was now room for something else.

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A Fresh Look at Illness and Death

Micrograph showing that the papillae in papill...

Micrograph showing that the papillae in papillary thyroid carcinoma are composed of cuboidal cells. H&E stain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Considering how pervasive illness and death is in our lifetimes, it still usually comes as surprise when you hear about it.

When I learned my voiceover compatriot Lynne had thyroid cancer, I gasped aloud.  When her note explained she had thyroid surgery, my eyes bulged in shock.  Now writing in her blog, Prognosis Positive, even Lynne explained that some 27 million Americans have some sort of thyroid issue.  When you think of 27 million people having a thyroid issue, it stands to reason that a someone you know would likely have a thyroid problem, even thyroid cancer.  But logical theory always seems to shock when the practical reality becomes a living, breathing person you know who has an icky disease.  The news was especially tender to me since I am one of those 27 million people with a thyroid condition (hypothyroidism) as are two of my siblings (hyperthyroidism).

And then I heard about the death of cousin Marv.  Marvin was 75 and still his death was sudden and to many of the us relatives, unexpected.  Seventy-five is a respectable and (by today’s standards) a somewhat young age to push up daisies.  Just as the news of Lynne’s thyroid cancer shocked me, so did the news of Marv’s death.

At Marv’s wake in Wisconsin, relatives and friends packed the funeral home, with an hour or more wait in line to pay respects.  Amid illness and death, everyone looked vital and healthy.  Chatter of relatives and friends filled the room, catching up, checking in, learning what was new and interesting in everyone’s lives.

“How is your book coming along?” cousin Joanne asked me when we found time to have a chat.  A little like molasses, it slowly moved forward. Of all my relatives, Joanne is among the most interesting.  Single at 50, she adopted her first daughter.  At 60, she adopted her second.  As she career as a nursing professor waned, she hung out her shingle as a solo practitioner in healing touch.  “Have you looked at the chakras affected by your accident?” she inquired.

Leave it to Joanne, in her late 70s, to remind me to look at the metaphysical issues behind illness and death.  There is always a voice to illness and even death, if you care to look deep enough.  I took her suggestion to heart and took a look at the chakras, once again.  When someone reminds you to look again, maybe it’s a voice you should hear again.

Thyroid is a 5th chakra issue.  The leg relates to the 1st, or root, chakra.  This from www.chakrahealing.com:

Fifth Chakra/Throat
Resting at the back of your throat, the throat chakra is more than just the words you speak. It is the mouthpiece by which you communicate your truths. Energy from the fifth chakra is rightly associated with a pure blue color – representing the ‘true blue’ essence of your soul. When you express your thoughts, beliefs, and opinions to others, you are sharing this essence through your energy. Appropriately, the Sanskrit word for this chakra center is vishuddha, meaning “pure place.”  All forms of human expression – including body language, spoken words, writing, dance, music, or art – profess certain truths inherent to our existence.  As we find ourselves progressing through life, we must learn to effectively communicate our ideas without bringing harm to others; simultaneously we need to be able to obtain what we want using our own words. It can be difficult to achieve a balance between speaking up and being quiet.

A person with a closed Throat Chakra might feel as though they ‘don’t speak the language’ – that is, they aren’t able to use their words to share their thoughts with others. This inhibition might stem from fear; past experiences of ridicule or embarrassment can cause some to choose to remain quiet. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some people who experience fifth chakra imbalances talk incessantly, where their fear lies in hearing silence. People that resort to lying to hide their true intentions, or to avoid hurting others also deny the energy of their Throat Chakra. Fifth chakra deficiencies can also contribute to physical ailments including bronchitis, ear infections, hearing problems, laryngitis, mouth ulcers, and tonsillitis.

1st Chakra/Root Chakra

The Root Chakra  is a flowing spring of energy which connects us to the earth and to each other. As the first of the human body’s seven energy centers it is the source of the low-frequency waves that drive our most basic survival needs, including our primal urges. In ancient Sanskrit, this place is referred to as muladhara, the foundation. It is the scarlet red Root Chakra energy emanating from the base of the spine that accounts for not only our connection to the physical aspects of our being, but also our sense of comfort, security, and belonging within the world. Beginning at birth, we are faced with situations that challenge our very existence. In these instances it is energy from the Root Chakra that feeds into the adrenal gland above the kidneys and activates our instinctual “fight-or-flight” response.

Given this role in our well-being, it is not surprising that a blocked Root Chakra center can result in difficulties meeting or moving beyond essential needs. Recurring financial struggles, weight and food issues, deep-rooted family problems, and an inability to create long-term happiness or stability are all manifestations of a deficient Root Chakra center. Blockages can also be observable as variety of physical ailments, including chronic fatigue syndrome, Epstein Barr virus, colitis, Crohn’s disease, or cancer.

So, I must ask:  Have you ever lost your voice or felt you weren’t grounded?

If we keep looking at the cause of “dis-ease” maybe then we won’t be so surprised by it.