There are moments in our lives when we are given the great privilege to witness a deep, unimaginable love. It is during such moments that I wish I could bottle it up. And, whenever I feel a moment of high-test overwhelm or forgetfulness of what is most important in life, I could just pull it off a shelf, remove the top and take a nice deep breath. Perhaps that is why writing is so important to me, as it gives us that opportunity to hold fast to those moments in our hearts, and share them with the rest of the world in high hopes that it will simply multiply with every reader’s eyes and connecting spirit. Although, you wouldn’t know it by the unexplainable break I have taken from blogging!
But this daily prompt is another perfect opportunity to get back into the game of connecting with the brilliant hearts and minds reading this blog now. A year ago today, my grandmother, Gertie, passed away after a long life in a place called Long Island. With her passing I was left with one of those cherished privileges to witness this deep love that I have described, that resulted from a grand moment of togetherness and a mutual experience of grief. As her funeral occurred over “Valentine’s Day 2013” it would seem uncanny to not take this opportunity to recognize not only my grandmother, but also my entire family, as “My Funny Valentines” this year (I’m allowed more than one Valentine, right?).
It happened at the end. Bonding through wake after wake, and then the solidifying funeral. There we all were, hanging out in the living room of my Uncle Joe and Aunt Sue. My Uncle Joe’s obsession with DVR “cheese” was taking place over the television, and everyone was exhausted eating their desserts after a final meal together. But there was one gem within his DVR madness- the song “Ho Hey” performed by the Lumineers at the most recent Grammy Award celebration. My little niece and nephew, who were both 3 and 2 years old at the time, loved to divide the chorus between the two of them.
My 3 year old niece, belting out the words “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart!”
My 2 year old nephew doing the same with, “Ho! Hey! Ho! Hey!”
We all sang with them in our melancholy and gratefulness, hence that song does not play to this day without the appearance of a tear running down my face. I love you all, my funny valentines! And most of all, I thank you grandma, for bringing us together at the end of your life for a smashing moment of enduring love that will flourish in my heart forever. Just remember, “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart!”
In the spirit of the infinite space that resides within our hearts, I say let’s just “Rock Big Love” this week anyway, and forget about the hallmark holiday!
Sometimes this picture is the perfect physical expression of how I feel inside. When I look at this picture right now, I see a beautiful Buddha. A representation of the creative, divine nature of my being slowly emerging from the lanky, strong root system of an ancient tree obscuring my truth and happiness at this very moment. That’s right folks, I said it- an ancient tree rooted into the ground with all its might. Such are my old perceptions and belief systems that give rise to this feeling of helplessness and a desire to run like Forrest Gump from the fire I have created (2 Tom Hanks’ references in once sentence- yes!). Here I am, wrapped up in feelings that must be connected to a place where my ignorant mind dwells searching for an identity that doesn’t exist like a child playing a game.
I am face to face literally with this part of my existence that is grasping in the form of attachment to some perception of who I am supposed to be- yes this is really how I feel! This perception is the root I see in this beautiful picture, linked to a feeling of massive overwhelm. At times I simply wonder why life can feel like this grueling process of emergence when it has the potential to be so simple and easy. How do we move these roots of obscuration out of way? I hear myself singing the same old song of expectations on how I am “supposed” to be feeling.
It’s Process Time!
When you look at this picture, what do you perceive at this moment? Start with your feelings and ask yourself-
“What moment, person, or expectation do these feelings link to in my ignorant mind?”
Then breathe in the awareness you have shined into your heart.
Feel how simple it is to love yourself, no matter what you see in the world around you.
Ask to see any barriers you might be imagining between you and your greatest desires and imagine them easily dissolving in this love.
There is an excerpt from a poem by Anne Hillman in the book “365 Prayers, Blessings, and Affirmations to Celebrate the Human Journey” by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon that I’d like to share as it relates-
As we experience and accept
All that we really are…
We grow in care.
We begin to embrace others
As ourselves, and learn to live
As one among many…
Let’s Rock Big Love together everyone, we’re all we truly have on this human journey.
I know I have my opinions about music, but there is one thing about pop music in the present moment that drives me batty- the lyrics. And how fitting, to see this recent “Taylor Swift feminist doppledanger” created by Clara Beyer, a rising senior at Brown University, in the news creating more empowering lyrics for Swift’s music! After living much of my life in a co-dependent fog I can’t help but notice how often lyrics are very reflective of a co-dependent state of mind, feeding a monster within our society that says “I need you” under the guise of love. Between the neediness and the victim mentality I seem to find myself plugging in my mp3 player almost immediately upon entering my vehicle or being that really annoying person that keeps changing stations with the hope that something listenable will magically start playing.
The ignorant mind thrives on lyrics like “This is the part of me, That you’re never gonna ever take away from me” from Katy Perry in her song Part of Me. I mean, no one can ever take a part of you away without your general consent- hence the continuous victim droning that plays over and over again on the radio. Most of the listeners of Katy Perry are young girls that are buying into this fake sort of empowerment, rather than learning that relationships are not about compromising your integrity to have someone in your life.
In reflecting, it is difficult for me to know that other girls really believe this stuff and continue to act it out because I used to do the same thing, and it caused me a lot of suffering. Not everyone has the tools to walk out of the fog of these types of limiting perceptions, and they continue to teach them to their own children, hence the cycle continues. My meditation teacher taught me that the greatest way to help the world was to meditate on my own inner peace. I am so grateful every day for what he taught me, and will continue to work to help all by working on the healing of my very own heart.
There is this great scene in Sex in the City, the first film, where Carrie is reading Cinderella to her goddaughter and she pauses at the end to make sure the little one understands that life does not always turn out that way. The little girl naively shouts for her to read it again. Carrie ends the scene with “Another one bites the dust.” It’s funny, because it is true.
Lessons learned out of my pop song dilemma:
Perceptions that thrive on “me versus you” are rooted in the ignorant mind.
I am accountable for me and how I perceive the world- no one else.
I always have a choice to either accept someone else’s feelings or indulge in being a victim of their feelings.
My self-perceptions will always reflect in the way a relationship is unfolding- the more I shift my self-perceptions into purposeful perceptions, the more my relationships will reflect these perceptions rooted in empowerment and joy.
About 4 years ago I saw the above music video made for Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, also a spoken word artist, poet and marathon runner. The video and poem blew me away and I knew I would never be able to get it out of my head. Which is funny, because it is all about being in your head. I love this video because it incorporates something very relatable to me. Some of my attachment in this life has to do with electronic music, and combining music with imagery and profound words really gets my heart going. I feel joy, joy, joy! What can I say?
I love this poem by Rinpoche because it expresses the passion I have in my heart to explore perception also in a relatable way. In the end of the video he says:
When you’re happy, I’m happy.
That’s the formula.
First you, then me.
That’s all happiness is…
It’s just the heart being free.
The ignorant mind’s primary sense of being comes from the idea that it’s just “me”. It strives to prove every day that we are separate from one another through habitual thinking. But when you decide to train your mind to think outside of itself, and see that everyone’s experience around us is our experience then happiness becomes abundant. When we see happiness in others, it grows within us. Envision a garden that thrives in the joy of others- that is our heart.
I remember coming home one night from a dinner stopping at an intersection with a homeless man holding a sign in need of assistance. It was probably 30 degrees outside and 8:30 pm. I had nothing but a $20 bill, so I decided to just give it to him. All I could do was cry with joy on my way home because he felt so happy. Doing things for others changes our self-perception from being all about me, to being all about us. This is the development of purposeful perception, and another opportunity to love from the heart.
Please share this video with others if you feel inspired by it too.
This is a poem and photo story displaying my heart’s connection with the perception expressed in the poem- connecting the words with pictures I have taken on my journey to a more purposeful perception daily in my life. The journey is important, as it is part of reflecting where our perceptions have come from. I urge you to reflect in your heart where your most limiting self perceptions play out in your life regularly and share in this blog. Remember to scroll down and click through each page!
Remembering feelings sparked by a note
A sound, so sweet and subtle
Only your heart knows it is there
Giving rise to feelings light
You forget what is weighing you down
The ignorant mind trailing behind you like a predator
Wondering why you are not paying attention
In its small, small world
A perspective limited and stuck without motion
Yet my heart- tugging me forward like a child
I shall follow, carry me into this knowing
Remind me of what it is to be
So light and airy- remind me of love’s truth
A truth so full it explodes in the sky before me
Yet it continues to be, forever full.
When I noticed the Weekly Writing Challenge this morning, I was grateful, because when I thought of all the people I would like to write about at this time, it was my Grandmother. Gertrude Grzybowski, daughter of Dziadek and Babcia Perkowski- I don’t really know their first names- just grandma and grandpa in Polish. They were potato farmers from Poland with a farm on Long Island, New York. They had a legendary flower pot on their front lawn made from an old toilet- a piece of cultural history.
My Grandmother has been very sick, in her late 80s living at a nursing home and trying to find ways to enjoy the last moments of her life, as she felt sad and lost trying to adjust to a strange place she was forced to call home due to her ailing health. One of her last enjoyable activities was buying necklaces made by other ladies in the nursing home and wearing them all at one time. It wasn’t NY high-fashion and it drove my aunt crazy, but it made her happy. As I pondered about how I would write about her quirky character that she played in this life, I received a phone call this afternoon that I had been waiting for without any knowledge of when it would come exactly.
In my heart, I wanted her to be free of this body that was weighing her spirit down, and causing her the inability to live as independently as she has enjoyed for so many years. My only living grandparent, Gertie, died this afternoon peacefully after suffering a stroke almost a week ago. As people’s bodies start to break down, you find yourself as an outsider trusting the natural process of passing from one reality to another, but it is hard to stay in the present moment with them at times because you are constantly wondering- will this be the day? I feel in her own mind, she was wondering the same thing.
You never knew what was about to come out of Gertie’s mouth. She might shout the funniest thing, like her phrase that came to be her own, “That guy’s a bumb!” Or she might just talk about how tired she was, and how she felt really alone, as all of her friends passed away with each year. Life seemed more and more like a foreign country to her with each passing moment. She was not always the nicest person, but I always thought of her as this funny character in a film, navigating through this life as if it were one thing after another. She loved Poland, and as a kid we always gathered our outgrown clothes for my Grandmother to send to our family there that had nothing because of the “communists.” We were told, “They didn’t even have real ice cream.” “Their” ice cream was more like half frozen sweet milk, barely recognizable by us spoiled Americans.
She prayed her rosaries every morning over her stacks of prayer cards, and every Friday she cleaned the altar and pews at St. Hedwigs Catholic Church. I remember going to the masses growing up when visiting New York where the legendary priest would talk so quickly that it was like listening to someone pretend they were saying a mass and forgot the words. Even though I didn’t understand anything because he was saying it so quickly, and with a New York accent, I was more than happy to spend 15 minutes less in a mass on a Saturday night. Her collection of ceramic nuns in her living room and plates of the Polish Pope John Paul hanging on her walls would dance to the sound of her attempt to whistle while she swept the floors every morning in her house coat.
My Grandmother didn’t make it easy for anyone as they grew up in her house. I was fortunate to be a granddaughter in her life that was told on her 16th birthday, “sweet sixteen, and never been kissed” with a giggle following her attempt to tease me. She grew up in a time that lacked emotional education, a time where there was war and great financial uncertainty, and even though there were dark times in the house where she brought up 6 kids, there was a certain light around her that I enjoyed, and I will be grateful for every day. During her last lucid days in the hospital my mother said she overheard a conversation with a male orderly who struck up a conversation with her. He asked her about being a nurse, as she was, and how many kids she had in this life. She said 8, which was correct- 6 living and 2 stillborns. You never know what experiences people have had in this life. Underneath the surface, there is always something lingering in someone that may be causing them pain and cause their personality to become distorted. But the one thing we can always be sure of, as I was with my grandmother, our Gertie, is that inside their heart there is a place that just wants to be loved.
And so, as I come together with those that knew Gertie in many different ways- from sister, to aunt, to mother and grandmother- I shall remember that all you wanted was to be loved, and I shall send you that love with the hope that you are joyful in your freedom from the human body and in a place of peace in your heart. Thank you for saying “I love you, Jess,” and reminding me that life does go fast, and every now and then we just need to remember that we are all human and subject to the foibles of our mind- but it is not our true nature. I am grateful for all I have in my life, including you, and will remember to try and see beyond personalities into the human desire to be loved when we do not know how to love ourselves.
In one of our last conversations you said to me, “We used to have fun, right Jess?” Yes Grandma, we did have fun.