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Monday, July 23, 2012

Whirling Dervish

What do you mean I have to sit still for 6 weeks?  I had three children and went back to visit the fine folks at work when they were 2-3 weeks old.  How does one sit still?

I looked across at my counsellor and she smiled at me.  Her arms were folded across her lap and rested on top of her knee.  Her eyebrows raised and she smiled.  "Yes.  You have to learn how to take care of yourself.  We will not begin the process for second career until you have completed your time off."

A stray thought passed my waking memory right at that moment.  It echoed, "Be careful what you pray for... you might just get it."  Except I didn't pray for this.  I kept sending out resumes to every email box, fax number and walk-in address I could find on the Job Bank, and the various sites that clutter up my favorites bar under "Jobs in Sudbury."  I actually managed to land two jobs and couldn't keep either one of them.  I kept doing the same thing again and again, expecting different results.

So, the first day off I went to my friend Sam's house and kept my promise about us getting together that I've been stealthily avoiding for months.  I stay in denial of my inner recluse; but I assure you she spends lots of time finding ways to cancel appearances of any kind.  Busy, busy, busy... Alice's white rabbit poofs down the hole and disappears. 

Sam is a librarian for all things spiritual.  I walked into the inner sanctum of her house and her house actually has an inner sanctum!  The incense was burning and I could feel the breeze lifting off of the stone floor waiting for bare feet to be cooled to the touch, calmed.  We sat and talked about "what's next."  I babbled on and she listened, she babbled on and I listened... and at one point we drew out the Marianne Williamson cards and shuffled.  Sam pulled one from the deck that said, "It's okay to cry."  I put that puppy back in the deck and shuffled, hand over hand.  I all but did a Vegas shuffle trying to bury that card.  Not crying, today, thank you.  Have been crying since January.  No More Tears shampoo, please.  Shuffling, I knocked on the deck to remove the negative energy I was feeling and chose my card.

"It's okay to cry."

Very funny, God.


I travelled with my daughter to a new friend's house to go to a birthday get together; both for the day she was born and the day she chose sobriety as a way of living.  Of course, I always follow directions well and made sure to feed both the kid and I at the Scottish restaurant that features Big Macs.  I thought the birthday meant cake so I didn't want to show up hungry.  I had forgotten that it was a birthday dinner.  When I got there, I looked at my steak and all of the salads she had prepared and decided I was going to put that on top of my 30 minutes ago meal.  The women around the table were diverse and we were briefly joined by two men who were ploughing on the owner's property.  When they came inside, she offered to feed both of them, as well.

There's something about homemade potato salad that requires me to eat it.  It's not a choice, really, more of an obsession.  That and devilled eggs.  I will sneak at least 2 devilled eggs while pretending to carry plates to the kitchen.  Hide them!

After the plates were cleared and dessert (yes, I wanted to slide under the table and fall asleep) one of the women mentioned that she enjoyed the energy present for the meal.  She wasn't talking about the food.  Another woman to my left explained, "Yes, we all have gifts of one sort or another; we may just not know what they are yet."  The energy woman explained that she was a second level Reiki practitioner and one of the other ladies said, "I have degenerative disc disease...and it hurts here."  So, while the conversation continued and the tea cups clinked; I watched the practitioner position her hand where the pain was as if nothing in the world was unusual or different.

I want more dinner parties just like that one.


Today, Monday July 23rd was the first day I didn't have anything planned.  I got up with Sarah, promptly missed the camp school bus and drove her to Camp Sudaca.  I looked for the bear we spotted on Saturday (no blueberries to be found anywhere) and was relieved I didn't see him again.  Then I drove to Timmies to have a coffee and read among people.  One thing about this time off -- I have to have time around people.  Just being by myself in the house is not only boring... it's kind of lonely.  Not that I need people 24/7 -- I just need to get out a bit in the sunshine.  I use our beagle as a social foray and wander out with him a couple times a day, ball-thrower in hand and treats in pocket.

As I was sitting at the Timmies, I read something that I wanted to share:  "Rumi is said to have discerned in that sound the dhikr -- la ilaha illallah, There is no God but God -- and was so overwhelmed with joy he began to turn.  I can imagine what the good people of Konya must have thought of him then, or later when he turned at the funeral of a friend, in a spontaneous celebration of his life.  The sema, as the whirling ceremony is called, is loaded with symbolism.  Individually, each dervish, or semazen, is turning toward the truth, opening to it.  The head is tilted to one side, out of the way.  One arm is held high, in another world, and the other low, in this world.  With each turn, he or she says silently, 'Allah, Allah.'  In a group, the dervishes orbit one another, re-creating the movement of the heavens.  The way we in the west use the term 'whirling dervish,' colloquially, as in 'He's running around like a whirling dervish,' is all wrong.  Whirling dervishes may be ecstatic and intoxicated, in the Sufi sense of the word, but they are not out of control; they are very much grounded, more so than most of us." (Found in "Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine" by Eric Weiner).

I put down the book and the thought occurred, "Tom asked for visitors."  One of the group members at the Sunday meeting said that Tom was in hospice care and asked for people from the group to come see him, even for a few minutes at a time.  This may sound a little bit nuts to you and if it does, well, I am.  When I have stray thoughts like that -- that come out of nowhere, supposedly -- I follow them.  I believe that I receive direction from my Higher Power that is usually received at the most awkward times imaginable and I'm usually muttering, "Really?" on my way out the door.

I suppose I should mention that I didn't have a clue who Tom is.  I just knew that he's a long time member of the group and is located in the last room on the right at the hospice.  I parked the car and walked past a hand-painted fence post in a serene garden.  There was a babbling brook and two mint green, wrought-iron benches.  I made sure to wash my hands in the sterilizing soap before entering such an unbelievably quiet space.  There was even a place to remove your shoes and put slippers on.  I've got this thing about communal footwear; and my sandals smacked a bit on the floor.  I'm alive, I have loud sandals.

See?  This is why I remain silent and aloof -- speaking aloud is a sure way to alienate at least half the room. 

I introduced myself to the man up front and said, "Um, I'm here to see Tom but I don't know his last name, I only know he's in the last room on the right and he's asked for visitors.  We're in kind of a group of people that doesn't use last names, okay?"  The man grinned and took me straight away to Tom.

Oh my Lord, I know him.  Not only do I know him but he's one of my most favorite old timers at the group and this is why I haven't seen him lately.  I love Tom because he embraces irony.  He's tall and thin, a wiry intellect that always explained what he was saying with just a hint of "I've read a lot and thought a lot... researched my entire lifetime and this is what I've found..."  I ran into him at bookstores.

I have such grace.  My first words, "Well, are you ready for the next leg of the journey?"  He laughed, physically moved back with his hand to his chest and said, "I'm not dying yet!"  Then he leaned forward and whispered, "I had this cancer years ago and I had radiation, two or three years in remission.  I am somewhere in the middle of living and dead."  He asked what was happening with me and I felt very ridiculous telling him I was off trying to decide what to do with the rest of my life.  I felt very...ungrateful.  He said, "Well, have you thought about working with people doing home care because you know, you aren't too cheery."  I gaped and giggled.  He said, "No, I'm serious.  I get people in here every day -- a new one each time -- and they are so over the top cheery."  He placed his hand on his chest again and held up five very long fingers at a "stop" positioning.  "I want to tell them, please... I just need my space.  And when the visitors come in a bunch, I need to concentrate on just one person at a time.  It's hard to hear me whisper."  I heard him.  How could I not hear him.  Our visit was ended by the nice man coming to give baths and I thanked him under my breath because I suddenly didn't have a whole lot of wise things to say.  I promised to come back and walked on unsteady legs to the nearest volunteering pamphlet.

My car came to a stop at Bell Park and I decided to go see Carmen's gardens.  Carmen is the lady who was digging weeds out one by one at the park.  We talked late last week and she told me that she had kept golf greens for the last twenty years.  One day she looked up and realized that the club owner wasn't going to repair the equipment she needed to perform her job.  So she quit and started on her second life of making swans out of flowers.  I didn't see Carmen, but I was passing by her flowers and Monarch butterflies were lit on top of the purple flowers, two and three in a bunch.  I tried to take pictures but all of them came out blurry and distorted.  I don't think He meant it as a photo op.  I watched the butterflies circle one another and dive like orange and black kites.  I thought about how curious I am to see where He is leading me... and that I might be resting, but I'm going to have a great time doing what I thought was just whirling.


  1. Nice piece, SueAnn. You'll find your calling. I think it's in healing somewhere xo Bev

    1. Thanks Bev -- I sure hope so. I want to work with kids who have addiction issues.