I am on a spiritual quest. I am trying to understand the nature of life, to achieve communion with the divine, to better myself at every turn. I don’t always succeed in being the best person I can be, though I try. I am as prone to err and fail as anyone. But I have this goal. And along the way, I wrestle with the questions that come up, as an engaged and present human being, in daily life.
The Passing of Friends
Yesterday I received news that the best friend of my former mother-in-law died in a car crash. She was driving with her son and daughter-in-law and with her significant other, a good man with whom she had recently bought an apartment. Only the daughter-in-law survived the head-on collision.
This woman was bright, interesting, and always kind to me. She went out of her way to make a connection with me, and she was warm enough that it felt like she did so not just for my former mother-in-law’s sake, but for mine as well. I remember her with fondness. I still own a small red purse with which she gifted me on my birthday, some thirteen or fourteen years ago. The red purse is a long, flat rectangle like a wallet, and I dug it out when I bought my iPhone. It made a perfect iPhone carrier. Whenever I picked up the purse, I remembered this generous woman and smiled. It was an unexpected gift, all those years ago, and has brought me much joy. It feels good to be remembered, and I have always felt that generosity is close to Godliness. Indeed, generosity is a trait that this woman had in common with my former mother-in-law; it must have been one of the bonds between them, and it’s a quality I admire in both women.
So this posting is in your memory, RR: may you and your son and your mate find peace and joy on the other side. May your families and loved ones who remain here remember you with love and the sweetness of having richly enjoyed your presence in their lives. And may they find comfort in knowing that you are always in their hearts, never forgotten, with a spirit that continues on forever.
Last night I was interviewed on the “New Perspectives” radio program, an internet program found at www.rocklandworldradio.com/program/new_perspectives/
I have four children. Three daughters and a step daughter. My step-daughter and older two daughters are teens, my little one is 3. They are all feisty, opinionated creatures, beautiful and intelligent and bursting with life and mischief.
And they are all out to get me.
Mostly it’s subtle, though my oldest daughter did warn me that she wanted to watch me get beaten to a bloody pulp in the boxing ring. Ah, the sweet words of grateful offspring. But usually the blossoming fruits of my and my husband’s loins operate in more roundabout ways.
Like when I was invited to read from IMMORTAL at Sundance. They staged a palace revolt and refused to allow me to wear my trusty Levi’s to the film festival. For some reason they were determined that I would not wear my baggy, comfy, beloved jeans on the cold slopes of that Utah mountain. What is wrong with a trusty pair of Levi’s, one wonders? It mystifies one.
Racking my un-hip maternal brain, I remembered a certain incident when my husband remarked that my middle daughter was wearing jeans that resembled mine, and the aforementioned daughter burst into tears.
“Take that back!” she sobbed. “I do not wear mom jeans!”
But this pales in comparison to the time my oldest daughter saw a picture of the gorgeous, talented Julianne Moore and turned to me with a smile. “I like actresses like her, mom, who remind me of you. You know, attractive middle aged women.”
I can only apologize to Ms. Moore and assure her that, while I now know that I am middle-aged, despite whatever lingering delusions that I had cherished to the contrary, she certainly isn’t.
Back to Sundance. My middle daughter coolly, and relentlessly, dragged me to a nearby boutique and bullied me into trying on twenty five pairs of jeans. 25. Until she found the perfect pair that cupped my ass JUST SO.
This is disturbing on many levels. How would a 13 year old know to think this way? It mystifies one still more. And how does she have the stamina to try on that many pairs of pants? Is it the hormones, antibiotics, and pcb’s in the food supply? I was exhausted by the ordeal, and had to drag my middle-aged self home, clutching two pairs of jeans that cost more than a week’s groceries.
On Thursday evening, Miyoko “The Hawaiian Mongoose” Olszewski defeated Elena Reid to win the WIBA flyweight title.
Miyoko is a longtime friend and I was there, screaming and cheering in the audience. Those of us who had come to root for Miyoko wore leis, nodding to Miyoko’s Hawaiian origins. What a fight it was, all 10 rounds! Miyoko came out strong in the first few rounds, fighting in her trademark crisp, thoughtful style. For a few rounds in the middle, Miyoko seemed to conserve herself, and a few voices screamed, “Jab, Miyoko! Double jab!”
I laughed to myself when I heard the calls. I’ve sparred with Miyoko, and her jab is like a solid brick wall. There’s simply no getting through it. Miyoko’s jab is so tough and skilled that there’s not even the possibility of a few atoms making use of quantum tunneling to get through it.
Then in the 8th round, Miyoko brought it. She came forward with powerful, relentless punches and dominated the fight. By the 9th round, Reid’s face was swollen to twice its original size. It was a clear, decisive victory for Miyoko, and her fans yelled themselves voiceless.
Miyoko deserved this win: she has worked long, hard, and consistently to achieve World Champion status. She exemplifies values that I revere and that I try to teach my children: hard work, sacrifice, self-discipline. These are not glamorous values today. Our culture has been overly psycho-therapized into mediocrity; we think any old half-hearted effort is just swell. We teach our kids that losing soccer games is just as good as winning them. And while good sportsmanship is imperative, and everyone needs to learn to deal gracefully with defeat and failure–we’ve done our children a disserve. Losing is not the same as winning. Mediocrity is not okay.
Winning matters. Being the best matters. If being the best isn’t an option for genetic or other reasons, then hard work, self-discipline, and sacrifice still matter; those qualities differentiate between mediocrity and excellence. The 4000 failures that are required along the path to success matter. It’s a question of persistent integrity, another value that is not considered important in today’s moral relativism.
But people who persist in these terribly old fashioned values are world champions. Some of them win a belt and acclaim, as Miyoko did. Some just win a quiet internal sense of self-esteem.