Saturday, March 31, 2012

Life's Eternal Spiral

Years ago I attended a women's spirituality conference where I had an astonishing experience during an exercise in opening ourselves up to the voice of Wisdom (however you define that.) We sat in a large circle, chairs facing inward, with our eyes closed. One by one we took turns circling along the outside and when we felt we had had a "message" for a particular woman, we would whisper it in her ear. I have no idea whether what popped in my head answered any questions for the woman I whispered it to, but it did answer questions I had at the time about what felt like a bout of failure. The message that popped into my head was "Life is a spiral. Don't be afraid to turn back along the way." It still gives me goosebumps. The image of a spiral is a very powerful one and a very feminine one as well. The power of a spiral lies in the fact that though we keep turning back we are never in the exact same place twice. Anyone who has walked a labyrinth as a spiritual practice has experienced this fact in a profound way. As we turn and head back in the direction we just left, our feet are in a new place. So there is both a sense of familiarity and a sense of something completely new.

Life is like that. Every beginning has certain characteristics--hope, fear, anticipation--that it shares with every other beginning though we might be talking about very different experiences. Reaching our thirteenth or eighteenth or fortieth or sixtieth birthday. Going away to college, or saying goodbye to children who are leaving for college. Getting married or getting divorced. Giving birth to or adopting a baby. Beginning a new career or a new phase of the same career. We think of these as very different experiences, yet they are similar too. Each time we experience a new beginning feels as though we are repeating a process we've been through before; beginnings carry an imprint or memory of every other beginning--ours and those of others who have been there before us.

It's been said that every ending is also a beginning. The reverse is true as well. In order for something to begin, something must end. When I married I was keenly aware that I was giving up a certain freedom as well as taking on a great responsibility. The moment I recognized my unborn baby's complete and total dependence on me for life and health was another epiphany. Each of these experiences was full of promise but also of loss, for I would no longer be free to do whatever I liked, someone would be depending on me.

The image of a spiral has come to me many times since that women's conference. It offers comfort when I feel like I'm in a rut. It offers the promise that a new experience I'm frightened of will have something in it I can understand, something familiar. The spiral is nothing more or less than the spiritual experience of our twisting DNA, the spiralling whirl of stars in our galaxy, the very stuff of life.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

An Anachronistic Excuse

Well, February has somehow disappeared without any blog posts making it out of my head and onto this site. I have a good excuse--really. I had mono. Yes, you heard me right. I know I'm 47 years old. No, I have no idea how I caught it. The only people I kiss on the mouth are my husband and sometimes, when no one is looking, my dog. (The cat won't let me and that stopped feeling like a good way to greet my daughter once she was out of diapers.)

I am, of course, a piano teacher. A small army of puny people march through my living room several times a week, use my potty and play my piano. They represent a dozen different elementary, middle and high schools and many of them have little brothers and sisters who go to another dozen different preschools and mothers-day-outs and frequent parks and playscapes where the equipment is probably sterilized once every decade or so (if we're lucky.) So in any given week I am probably exposed to more germs than many people encounter in a life-time. I am very careful to disinfect the piano keys, doorknobs and bathroom fixtures after my piano students have left for the day. I use so much sanitizer I have to buy in bulk. One never knows where those little fingers have been. I did actually witness a student pick his nose right before playing his piece once. It happens. But apparently, in spite of my usual vigilance some happy little Epstein-Barr virus took up residence and had a party in my throat for more than a month.

I started feeling symptoms right after the Zumba dance party I threw myself for my 47th birthday. I don't know whether there was any connection. I was pretty tired after the dance party, but I'd also had a Tae Kwon Do class right before so I guess that would be a normal reaction. What I do know is that I was certainly tired for far longer than one should be and when I started to feel like a golf ball had lodged itself irretrievably in the back of my throat I finally went to the walk-in clinic where a blood test confirmed the anachronistic diagnosis.

It has not been fun. Even having an excuse to sit on my behind and knit does not compensate for that icky feeling in my throat. I am sick and tired of cough drops. I am sick and tired of sitting. I am, well, sick and tired. So much for the "I will write a blog post every week without fail" plan. Oh well. In any endeavor worth doing set-backs are inevitable. This one really kicked my butt.