Rambling Anecdote, Personal Imagery, Secular Epiphany and Powerless Rant -- My opportunity to express my opinion, whether anyone ever listens or not. Instant gratification, another two-word phrase.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Philosopher's Walk

     On the northern side of the Neckar, you can walk the Philosophers' Walk (Philosophenweg), so-called because Heidelberg's philosophers and university professors were inspired by their conversations during the walk. Ha! Only if they were younger and fitter than most.
     For normal older folks, the walk is a challenge, more than 50 stories high, much of it inside narrow high walls, covered in moss, steep step after step, eventually coming out above the castle (schloss). Along the way, there are rustic cabins and gardens, memorials, statues to writers, even a cemetery. But best of all, there are several viewing spots where a tired climber can recover and look at the most amazing views in Heidelberg. 
     Rather than give up and take the "easy" way back down, each stopping place inspired me to go on to the next.
     Each narrow passage blinded me to the insurmountable heights above me, but each stop reminded me of the heights I had reached. Bypassed by people who were actually running up the steep passages and left behind by children who saw it as a lark, I was so proud when I reached the top of the top.
     Rainy and overcast all day, the sun came out, lighting the whole hillside and bringing Heidelberg out of its shadows. An Aha! moment that looked like an Aha! moment.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ecstatic Mortality

I never expected a recent brush with possible death to have made me feel so alive. Of course, I spent several days asking, "Why me? What did I do to deserve this?" before I embraced the inherent joy.

At 62, I decided to unretire for the third time and tackle a teaching job in Heidelberg, Germany, and that challenge nearly overwhelmed me. I started every day with a To Do List that never ever got completely done. I do not jest when I say I have hundreds of pages of paperwork filled in, filed, and filed away.

Everything has been more complicated than back home. In Oklahoma, if I want a new iPhone, i can have one in 15 minutes. In Heidelberg, I couldn't get a telephone until I had a German-accepted bank account which I couldn't get until I had an official DoDEA ID which I couldn't get until I was in the database which I could not be in until the principal's secretary filled in the proper forms.

So, complain, complain, complain...no joy here.

And then I had a pulmonary embolism (clot) in the lungs which knocked me down and could have killed me. My doctor says that 26% of all sudden deaths are pulmonary embolisms.

More, "Why me? What did I do to deserve this?"

Three days after the initial incident, I decided to try and enjoy Heidelberg -- Nothing To Do, nowhere to go, no one to account to but me. I got on a bus and just kept riding through Heidelberg, getting off when something caught my eye, downing coffee with cream here, chugging gassy water there. I wandered through the farmer's market, tasted my first ever Walnuss brot (walnut bread) and fell in love with roasted chestnuts along the Neckar.

As my streetcar headed back to the Hauptbahnhof, I felt at peace for the first time in days. If, and I don't want it to be a true IF, but if I had died that Wednesday, it would have been a good time to die. Then and there.

I grab a butter pretzel with watercress at Yorma's, walk outside into the failing autumn sun and I am exhilarated by the sudden joy I feel. I am alive

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Everything Matters

So I am watching an old DVR of an In Plain Sight episode and the recurring theme is "Everything matters." My first instinct is to quibble with the assertion. So, not true, does it really matter whether I have real half-and-half in my coffee, or go for the fat free half-and-half (whatever that really is)?

OK, I like cream in my coffee, but I'll settle for half-and-half -- 9 calories versus 20 calories per cup -- three cups a day -- 365 days a year = 12,000 calories. That matters.

My biggest recent indulgence is a sudden craving I have developed for the large cookies-and-cream milkshake from Chick-fil-A (700 calories) and I'm not even going to do that math.

At a recent conference I attended, the organizers handed me a stamped addressed envelope with a reimbursement form inside and reminded me to mail it as soon as I got home. So, I didn't have to locate the form online, download it, print it, find an envelope, address said envelope, stamp it, and dig all my crumpled receipts out of the bottom of my purse. Just put them in the envelope, fill out and sign the form, and voilĂ  I get my money by the end of the month. Three steps, not ten. That matters.

I've finally committed to flossing every night, in spite of resisting and making excuses for years. I want to die with teeth in my mouth, so I hope it matters.

I recently retired from teaching for a second time, this time with some betrayal and bitterness. I wrote several exit speeches in my head, went so far as to compose the email I didn't send. And, yet when I had my moment, I smiled and accepted the goodbye present, silent. That matters.

My cowardice will eat at me for a while. I will even feel guilty that I didn't warn the teachers I left behind to be less trusting. All my anger is still pent up inside and I'm grinding my teeth. BUT there is absolutely nothing I could have said that would not sound petty, whiney, self-serving. My silence embarrasses me. It's not who I thought I was. That matters.

Everything matters.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Red Dress

After losing more than 100 pounds, starting in a size 32 and ending in a size 16, I went to Costa Rica and had cosmetic surgery. Mamma Lieberman, one of my surgeons said that when I was all recovered, I'd be in a size 12. I just laughed at her because I couldn't even remember when I was that small (and I know that doesn't sound small to many of you). She said, "Size 12. Send me a picture. In a red dress. Every woman needs a red dress. Every woman deserves a red dress." 

Now I know why.

What Do Women Want?
by Kim Addonizio

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

Wish I had written this poem!