Break for Freedom – Day 3 (Spaghetti Squash)

Day 3 – Sunday, August 13, 2017

7:26 a.m. – Ugly morning. First awake moments loaded with all kinds of discomfort, emotional, physical antsiness.  You don’t plan a day’s first moments; you live them.

In the shower, a few minutes ago, I realized the isolation has separated me from my body. This new awareness, I am pleased to report, riles me up, makes it far more likely I’m getting out the door this morning. I cannot shake the images of violence from the White Nationalist/KKK/Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday. I’m sure Donald Trump’s response-statement further secured his white-racist voting bloc.  If the man ever walks in front of my car I am not going to let my dislike for him have so much decision-making power it makes me to forget the brake-pedal is on the right.

8:47 a.m. – Home. God, what a beautiful word. I walked the same distance, again, without the armor of dog, walking stick, music, pepper spray.

It felt cool out. Three minutes in, I am soaked through and unable to tell if I am actually cold or not. A mishap of sorts from yesterday has me burst into laughter a few times, and that helped. I recently got on Instant Pot, a kind of pressure cooker. My friend, Annie, had suggested it as a help for someone like me whose patience mirrors the size of a gnat when it comes to preparing meals. I thought I’d begin with Spaghetti Squash.

I cut the squash in half, put some water in my new pressure cooker, saw it was set for 10 minutes, and on it went. I suppose the best way to let you know the outcome is to give you a paraphrasing of the conversation I had with Annie afterwards. I called her in Hawaii.

  • Hey, Annie. I just wanted to thank you for the Instant Pot idea. It’s great.
  • I’m so glad.
  • I had spaghetti squash!
  • Wonderful! How was it?
  • Drank it through a straw.
  • You drank – How much water did you use?
  • About three and a half cups.
  • Oh my God!
  • Too much?
  • (Laughing) Peter, maybe three-quarters of a cup.
  • I drank both halves.

Anyway, Day 3s’ walk is under my belt, next to the spaghetti squash.

Break for Freedom: Day 2 (Ha!)

Day 2 – Saturday, August 12, 2017

I’m going to have to get out of my own way if I am getting out the door again at eight today. They say, Keep it simple for a reason. As my friends, Maria and Annie like to say, Ha! They say this to me in a text or email from time to time, and at the best moments too. Maria lives in Florida and Annie lives in Hawaii. Recently, I suggested to Maria that we either have a baby boy, or adopt one, and name it Mueller, after Robert Mueller III, the man heading up the investigation in Russia-Trump and a man who, by any measure, represents all that much of our country needs to wake up and remember our country stands for.  Maria responded with a glorious, “Ha!”

The, Ha!, is loaded with humor, love for life, and the radiant, healthy defiance (playful in these instances) found in the face of one who is not about to have their love for life and equality tampered with.  Every time one of them fires off a Ha!,  I want to hug them. My life is far better off for the presence of Annie and Maria. For those who think men and women can’t be just friends, Annie’s been a friend of mine for 30 years at least, and Maria’s been a friend of mine for 40 years.

So, it is now 6:48 a.m. in the opinion of a digital clock that sits on the cluttered top of a two-tier filing cabinet. Oops! Changed its mind, it’s 6:49. Eight a.m. is coming into view. I need music and movement and a shower.

I suppose, too, if there is going to be any benefit to either of us, I’d be wise to offer a glimpse of my emotional state, which, of course, is physical and, spiritual too. I’m packed with fear and the sweat has started. Emotional, spiritual and physical equal one because they are one

7:42 a.m. – I’m out the door. (No dog, no music, no walking stick, no pepper spray.)

9:04 a.m. and I am finally home, another soaked shirt under my belt. Same distance walk as yesterday, followed by a trip to the store. Walking outside is something like being in another world. It’s overcast today, damp out. There is a street I walk on near here with large beautiful houses. I like looking at the care and love and creativity people bestow on their property is great fun.

There are gifts to going into the world you don’t expect. I walked past a tall, older woman with a Scotty on a leash. I said, “FDR would be proud.” She laughed and we talked for a few minutes. Here face had some serious scars and skin discolorations. It gave me great joy to continue looking right at her, smiling, listening, keeping our eyes connected. The discomfort you might feel when looking at an appearance influenced by scars, discolorations or whatever has nothing to do with the person you are seeing.

I told her I used to say dogs are people too until it occurred to me I was insulting the dogs. She burst out laughing and said, “That’s a good one!” We parted smiling.

Day 3 of this effort awaits. The good news is, it ain’t here yet. I’m going to have a cup of coffee now.



For Annie & Maria

Getting physical: it’s all dance to me

Movement comes from the inside out, not from the outside in. At least that’s my truth. Someone asked me once how I decided to dance to a particular piece of music. “It’s not up to me,” I said. “It’s up to the music.”  Let the music in and out the movement comes. You’ve got to keep self out of the way. In other words, don’t interrupt.

Movement: a form of dance like jazz, ballet, modern, a form of what society calls exercise or sport: running, swimming, climbing mountains, hiking, biking, walking, kissing, love making… hell, it’s  all dance to me. I’ve seen definitions of dance I like such as, to perform or take part in as a dancer, and, to bring into a specified condition by dancing. These help me understand why, when live wounds or rewards deeply, getting physical is inherently part of my response. When my mother committed suicide in 1992 I ran two marathons in two weeks in 1993. When my daughter was born, I could’ve danced forever.

Of late, swimming is my “dance floor” and  get-physical refuge, though I’m eyeing some challenges on my bike (summiting Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts’ tallest peak at a modest 3,491 feet) and a few others  I’m keeping off the page (for now).  I’m quietly joyous about my relationship with swimming. I can swim a mile freestyle now. For me this is a big deal. It was fall 2012 when I (finally!) decided to face my fear of water, deep over-my-head water.  Now when life wounds or rewards I’m in the water early morning, churning through, moving, dancing all the way. That movement experience when body, spirit, mind, heart and soul are one.

No better place to be fully alive than in the moment, the only place you have to be, in the moment.

Into the Arms of Fear

Other than flying out to California to visit my mother Leona when she was dying of cancer, tomorrow will be my first time on public transportation since I was shot in the head in 1984. I was shot in New York City and early tomorrow I am taking a train to New York City. I am giving a speech there tomorrow. The chilly veil of fear has me thoroughly engulfed, but I am allowing it no decision making power.

Over the years I have learned that, with rare exceptions, the healthiest way to manage fear is to stride into it, not away from it. I particularly love the phrase, It’s okay to be afraid, don’t let it scare you. It is a phrase that underscores the notion that we have a relationship with all things and, in this case, with fear. Relationships can be healthy or unhealthy, including those we have with our emotional conditions. And so, tomorrow I board a train and travel to NYC. I never thought I’d be able to do this. But, as Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until its done.”

Lest you think I have not prepared, let me assure you I have. Today I drove to the train station so I could go inside and see it and familiarize myself with it. I picked up my tickets so the task of doing so in the morning would not sit in my mind and morph into an event that would be highly problematic and, well, scary. I scoped out the parking area and visualized myself walking from the parking area to the train. I saw a newsstand and a coffee counter and, to my delight, realized I could buy a New York Times and coffee there in the morning just like my Dad did when he worked in NYC. There is something comforting to me about the presence of newspaper stands and coffee counters

I will be getting up early and so have pulled my small coffee maker out of the cabinet and have it all set up so when I wake up I will push the button and speed the comforting aroma of coffee into my day.

I will, of course, bring a book and my journal along with a twig  from my father’s grave. While I am damned scared at the moment, I somehow know I am going to have a wonderful day tomorrow.

Just ‘Round the Bend

It’s been many years since I’ve had a good relationship with August. We just don’t get along. I never wronged August, least I can’t remember if I did, but I must’ve. After all, August contains some of the biggest wounds of this man’s life. Shot on August 24th, mother commits suicide on August 12, and the biggest wound of all, my father dies on August 16 when he is 55 and I’m 15.

Now don’t be whipping out any sympathy violins for me, that’s not the point here. I am alive and well and happy and testimony that things can be survived and grown from and while wounds leave their marks and shapes, they don’t mean to stop your life, ‘less you hand’m more control then they deserve. Life happens to us whether we like it our not, it’s how we manage it that makes the difference, our living breathing relationship with it – that’s the point.

Suicide’s anything but fuckin’ painless and the same goes for getting shot and your father dyin’ when you’re fifteen’ll fuck your world up too. But you know what? Sunsets are beautiful and the same goes for sunrises. Friendships and family are precious and Springsteen songs make my heart soar and the sound of children laughing will lighten the heaviest heart and have you seen the flowers blooming lately?

Old wounds don’t stop life. Old pains don’t slam doors. Old scars don’t close your eyes or shut your ears. Open wide your soul and breathe. Lift your hearts up by the fuckin’ bootstraps if you have to. Open your eyes and ears, love people, love life. There’s life gifts in front of you and there’s life gifts ‘round the bend. You might not see’m now, but they’re just ‘round the bend. I know it’s scary, but don’t let it frighten you.

We all got our Augusts. You got yours and I got mine. You keep living now – and I’ll be seein’ you ‘round the bend.