Mao and the Holy Ghost — Strange Bedfellows for a Pandemic

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The other day, as part of my routine of checking in on friends hither and yon, I sent a text to M who lives downstairs. I could have just pounded on the floor but we hadn’t worked up a code for bangs before the pandemic grounded us. M is one of the most diligent followers of social isolation among my friends. This is partly because from the early days of the pandemic, she has been receiving regular WARNINGS! and YOU-BETTER-DO-THIS! messages from her mom who got stuck in China where she was visiting her mom. A mother’s protective care for her chicks has no boundaries. I, too, have benefitted from Mom’s advice and M’s care for me.

Anyway, I miss her so much and our weekly binging of Crazy Ex Girlfriend episodes that I feel sad if I don’t at least get her texting words and occasional drawings — she is an amazing illustrator. So this week was no exception. The text exchange started out normal enough:

Me: How are things downstairs?

M: It’s good. Just working …

See, all normal, then M writes:

M: Writing about seeing Mao in the first grade.

Me:  The Mao?????

M:  Yeah, but he wasn’t alive.

Me:  This gets more interesting

M:  We saw him at the “Mao Tse Tung Memorial Hall”

I had no idea that Mao had been embalmed and put in a cooler for M and her first grade class to visit. Sort of weird and scary for those little kids. I remember seeing one of my uncles in his coffin at his wake and was freaked out for months (maybe years? still?) afterwards. Actually, I can still remember trying to move my kneeing knees backwards out of his line of vision as we said a rosary for him. But, he wasn’t put in a cooler for later visits, thank goodness, because I know the Eyerman kids would have had to go visit him.

The conversation continued. Me, not wanting to be outdone by a Mao sighting, wrote:

Me:  Me and my whole first grade class once thought we saw The Holy Ghost in the form of a white pigeon. Felt Blessed.

M:  LOL. That’s great xD

Hmm. I didn’t LOL about Mao but didn’t bring that up because I was now deep into the memory of my Holy Ghost sighting.

Me:  I just remembered that day and even that I was wearing this cute, little plaid dress.

M:  Would you say it was more of a peaceful experience rather than crazy and weird.

Too bad I didn’t ask her that same questions about her Mao sighting.

Me:  Exciting.

And it was. We had been on the playground at St. James the Less Scool when the sighting happened. We told our nun teacher (Sr. Melita?) all about it and, she, God bless her soul, took us back outside so we could have another look , Then, just like on cue, The Holy Ghost came back for an encore fly-by so we would not be laughed at by grown ups. I mean, after all, it was these same grown ups who told us that those little foot prints on our little reading chairs were made by the book fairies and not some creepy animal that lived in the building — which was probably the real story.

I’m glad that Mao and the Holy Ghost — aka Holy Spirit — made a return visit to my life here in the age of isolation and fear. I needed those memories as I think M needed hers. And we both needed the laugh.

 

 

 

 

 

One Word at a Time Will Get Me On My Way

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Now that I’ve made the promise to myself, that this year, this 2019, I would do things differently, think new thoughts, try scary things and break through some of these fears and self-doubts that I’ve been wearing all these 72 years, I’m finding that it ain’t as easy as writing the words. I didn’t think it would be a breeze, but I had convinced myself that I was ready and even eager to take this challenge on. I thought I was ready to propel myself into this adventure but forgot that all of those fears were still sitting inside of me waiting to rear their ugly heads and put the brakes on my otherwise rosy plans.

All this self-recrimination started when my good friend, M, sent me the seat sale for Westjet. She didn’t write anything, just sent me the advertisement. We had talked about it earlier in the week and she had told me that their sales were fantastic. So her intentions were all good and I had told her — and myself — that this year I was going to travel. Go Someplace Where I’ve Never Been Before, I boasted. Get myself back to an ocean somewhere in this world. I was going to pack my bag and head off to one of my great unknowns. But I couldn’t do it that day. I couldn’t be spontaneous and just pick a date out of the blue, pluck my credit card down, and plan the trip afterwards.

I was greatly disappointed in myself. I felt like I had, in the first month of this new year, negated all my promises. I sent M an email and asked her if she thought my reluctance to just go-with-it and get a reservation was a sign of my “old demons” rearing their ugly heads. She wrote back that only I could answer that question.

That made me feel worse.

I had to do something to pull my spirit out of the toilet. So I decided to put the whip back in the closet and stop the shaming voice inside my head — which, as you probably know, is utterly worthless. Instead, I took a smaller, but a very important, step towards my 2019 goals. I started reading one of the books on my Ann’s 2019 Reading List.

Earlier this year — can you even say that when you’re still in January? — I decided, as part of this New-Ann-In-2019, it was time to wean myself off of the steady diet of period mysteries I have been reading for the past ten years or so and challenge my mind with something a little more substantive. I knew I couldn’t be trusted to pick out a new reading list on my own. I’ve had too many disappointments in the past. After reading glowing reviews of books in the New Yorker or in the paper, I would eagerly put them on hold at the library. By the time they came in, I couldn’t figure out why the hell I ordered it as I struggled to get beyond the first fifteen pages. (My friend, L, told me never to trust book reviews, “They’re written only to sell the books, Ann.”)

So, this time, I didn’t put my reading future into the hands of strangers. No, instead, I sent an email to a bunch of my wonderful, eclectic friends, and asked them for the titles of their two, or three favourite books. The results have been amazing. I have a list of 24 books so far that are as varied and interesting as the people who gave them to me. There are classics I’ve never read, a trilogy on witches and vampires, another trilogy described by the friend who recommended it, as an “Indian soap opera,” tell-all memoirs, a heavy Canadian content that I have avoided reading these past 23 years, and lots more. I probably won’t like them all but I’ll read them all. It’s another one of those promises I made myself.

And, there are added bonuses to this method: 1) I have my friends right here to talk with about the books afterwards and, 2) when the time comes when I do make that reservation to go someplace I’ve never been before, I’ll not have to even think about what I’m going to take to read on the trip.

Now I’m off to start Book II on the list.

Are Goals Different Than Resolutions?

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A few months ago, I was talking with my Japanese student, Nozomi, about setting goals. He, in his late 30s, was feeling a bit stuck in his job and wanted to make moves that would bring some of his dreams closer to reality. I — in my mid 70s (Yikes) — thought it wasn’t a bad idea if I did the same if for no other reason to quiet down that tick-tock of time.

I — being the teacher with some rights — gave us each two weeks to produce our Goals for the Next Five Years in any form that we chose. Having tried this “goal setting” numerous times in my life when I felt stuck in whatever quagmire I was inhabiting at that time, I didn’t have much confidence that this time around would be different. I did not share my pessimism with Nozomi. No reason to dampen his enthusiasm for the exercise.

I vividly remember one of those goal setting challenges I failed. I had gone across the Duke Ellington Bridge, past Mama Ayesha’s tiny restaurant where she would read your future in your tea leaves for free. I should have stopped by for a reading before I trudged on to Connecticut Avenue. I was having tea with my friend, Christina’s dad. His daughter and I had walked through the Black Forest together a year or so before so I had heard stories about some of his adventures in his life. Would someone who had been a conscientious objector during the war, be put off by my wishy-washy political stances?

Leo was a very gentle soul and very smart. He asked what were my plans for my life. I started to get nervous having made no plans past the temp job I was working at for the moment. He suggested I might want to set some G-O-A-L- S for myself so I’d know when I got to where I wanted to go. Having no idea whatsoever and having zilch confidence in me and my abilities to get there, I felt cornered by this lovely man. I was sure, as I walked back across the Duke Ellington Bridge, that he was back in his apartment shaking his head at my wasteful, uninteresting and definitely not goal-oriented life.

Fifty-odd years later, here I am enthusiastically setting goals. May I have a drum roll, please: My goals for the next five years are Laugh More, Love More, Walk More, Write More and Learn More. I decided I couldn’t just write them down on a piece of paper. For sure, a month from now I’d find it and wonder, “What the hell is this?” No, I’d go with visuals. Trouble is, I’m not artistic at all — I have good ideas but not much talent. But cest la vie the banner above is my end result and I’m proud of it. I meant to go back and create a new Learn More since it didn’t get much love but it’s done now. Hmmm, I wonder if my learning will be affected???

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This post is dedicated to my social media and all things technical Guru, Sarah, who got me started today