March 24, 2020 by Grace Cooper
Cyber Circle: March 24th
Our team aims to stay mission-driven during these questionable times. While the world feels like a sci-fi movie, we continue to encourage the writing and sharing of personal narratives. We continue to support shared reading and shared writing. We continue to rely on the most important of human traditions: sharing stories, because every story contains lessons for the audience. They spark questions and curiosity. Stories teach us to love. To forgive. To be just. To strive for something better. Stories connect us, even–or especially–when we feel isolated and alone.
Each afternoon, we at ConTextos will engage in shared reading and writing to help us connect, to reflect on our pasts, to envision the future. To author a brighter future. Over Zoom, we will provide a short reading or a prompt, write for no more than 10 minuets, and share our writings as a group. Please fill out this form if you’d to join us.
Prompts: A) Write what is on your heart or mind, B) His light was too bright, C) Just when you think you’ve caught her.
When Caryn died, the rabbi told us that she was lucky, she would be forever young. And as these years have passed, her photo frozen in time, twenty-eight-years-old forever while everyone gets older, that blessing seems real.
My mother is at high-risk. 79-years-old with lung problems. She had smoked since a teenager, the typical 50s girl— in the wedding photos, my father had a cigarette in every single picture. And while lung cancer didn’t kill him, it is what forced him to lose a lung. When Laila was 16 and we were at the beach and my sister, her mother, Michelle mentioned that Poppa was a cancer survivor, Laila couldn’t believe it. “What do you think that scar is from?” Michelle asked, referring to the 16-inch line that snaked around my fathers rib cage. “I figured he had fought an alligator. Or a shark.” Poppa’s light was bright.
My mom somehow got old while my father was sick. But it was in the years after Caryn died, so many years after she had quit smoking after so many years of change smoking, that she started smoking again. I was in high school and she found a pack in my belongings and took a cigarette from me and in a moment of fighting she lit it. “You can’t smoke in the house,” I remember screaming, more floored by breaking this obvious rule than her returning to that habit.
Both of my parents spoke often about the desire for a cigarette never passing.
It was restarting the smoking— a pack of cigarettes snuggled under the take-out menus, a secret from my father for years— that most likely caused the respiratory problems of my has now. She’s in Florida and still going to the supermarket and I wonder if she wants to die, even if just a little bit. To be old, to not be forever eternally young, seems so daunting. I know she worries that her light will only dim. Will only continue to dim. She must be afraid, and not just from this disease, but from aging.
Caryn’s light was too bright, that sort of moniker was frequent in those days, weeks months after she died. She was too good for this world. Too smart. Too beautiful. Too kind. Words that never brought comfort, words that felt too Christian in our Jewish home. There was no afterlife in our story, just her death, giving birth to an eternal youth.
His Light was Too bright – whose? Nelson Mandela? Desmond Tutu? Mother Teresa? Dalai Lama? People we love or have loved. Some alive, some still alive in our hearts and minds, with so much gratitude for their generosity of love and peace and commitment to a better world. Most people have heard the speech Nelson Mandela gave at his inauguration. It has been such an important passage in my life ever since I learned of it. (actually penned by Marianne Williamson – who was running for president early on in the process!)
I just recalled it – memorized it, although I always get caught up in the God part – seems a bit too…I dunno…. There.
In this day, in this age, in this world I see glints of belief in human beings across the world that we beyond where we as a world have seemed to settle in the past few years.
From Nelson Mandela’s Inauguration Speech 1993- Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking, so that others won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us: it’s in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
I’m an eternally hopeful person. Eternally hopeful that we can pull together to overcome so many challenges – this being the biggest, most daunting in my and many of our lifetimes. Eternally hopeful that we can move beyond the selfishness of current leadership and bring new people in who care, are empathetic, and realize the importance of righting the many wrongs that have happened in our country. Eternally hopeful that we can, somehow, with much patience and openness, heal and close the wounds of the explosive growth of racism, devaluing our brothers and sisters. Eternally hopeful we can turn back our rapid climate changes. Eternally hopeful.
I find myself waking up each morning feeling anxious. Sometimes it fades throughout the day sometimes it doesn’t, or it goes up and down in waves. This morning I woke up feeling anxious about getting old. This is one of my weaknesses I hope to overcome. How do I stop thinking about my life as an hourglass, ticking down. Sometimes I cant respond to these prompts because the time limit stresses me out and I can’t think of the right thing to write about. I was in college my boyfriend at the time told me that everyone always says college is the best 4 years of your life, and he believed it. I said I hope to god that’s not true. Imagine your life peaking when your in your young 20s, and the rest of your life is a downhill spiral of wishing you were young and stupid again. I fear of getting older because of things like marriage and childbirth and my body deteriorating. What if my stupid ex boyfriend was right and being in my 20s is the peak of my life, and I’m wasting it being worried and anxious and often times sad. What if I end up with the wrong person, or no one at all, or what if I have children and I don’t like being a mother, or I don’t have children and I grow old being lonely. My mom always told me I’m a “grass is greener on the other side” person. No matter what decision I make after a long grueling process of being indecisive, I wish I made the opposite.
I want to shift my mindset of being overwhelmed by the infinite decisions I have at my disposal to being grateful and inspired by the fact that I have any choices at all. I guess I’m worried because I haven’t figured out if I believe people can really truly change, maybe I just haven’t been alive long enough to see it with my own eyes
Today tastes different. My rhythms feel less frantic, more grounded. I know this space of liminal unknowns. Rich and scary, promise underneath.
I remember after each surgery having this tender, expansively yawning, deeply disorienting window of healing. Holed away in a cocoon and learning how to sit up, how to change bandages, how to be still, how to ask for help.
Each day held a universe of possibilities and questions, Was this pain normal or a sign of infection? Did that sharp shooting pain reflect a nerve coming back to life or something out of order? Do I need to change my nightie? Distant goals like walking stairs, taking a shower, even reading a book, remote on the horizon. Normalcy was remote.
My daily schedule dominated by incessant tasks: drinking a certain amount of liquids, taking specific meds, hourly movement of a limb or a torso, responding and connecting with medical teams and loved ones. Immediate and intimate. Oddly exhausting.
I was astonished how self care would actually consume an entire day. The complete opposite of my daily life fabric habits of many decades.
On this new moon I pray that the world’s wounds are closing, the stitches are holding and new habits taking root.
For once it feels like my mind is not on my money, and my money is not on my mind. While racing with my son around the block my son gave me a pep talk where he told me that i always have my power in my heart. That is what is on my head and in my heart. I hope to keep it that way. I’m grateful for all that this experience has been so far.
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