Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Callings’ Category

Popeye and the illusions that save us

When I was a little girl, I loved the TV cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man. Popeye was a crusty old sailor who rose above his lot in life to fight for justice, rescue the girl and generally save the day. His secret power was spinach. He got a boost of heroic energy when he consumed a can of spinach – sometimes inhaling it in through the pipe, perennially hanging from his mouth.

Popeye had a theme song — a memorable nonsensical tune. (I’ve posted the lyrics below.)

The child (me) who loved Popeye was, unfortunately, often burdened by adult responsibilities — with no clue how to carry them out. Despite this, I was optimistic and resourceful — with an imperative to survive. Illusions of powerful super heroes are fortifying when one is as young and powerless as I was.

For example, I knew if I could just get my hands on one of those cans of spinach, I too could be able and strong and my problems (shame and confusion at my incompetence) would be forever over.

When I grew up and entered the work-a-day world, I felt called to the field of social justice. Back then, my illusion was the adult version of believing I could save the world. It amuses me now to think that it might have been Popeye the Sailor Man setting me on this path.

I do not remember my mom serving us spinach often, if at all. I do have a vague memory of being offered spinach once, but not in a can (like Popeye), and feeling angry and disappointed. It was obvious to me that the can was essential for the power, and the spinach by itself was yucky.

I do remember the exact moment when I realized Popeye wasn’t real. I was in a library arguing about it with a taller child  — who I could see was making a lot of sense, and as I walked away, the truth sunk in. It was bound to happen. It was like losing Santa Claus.

I have shed a lot of fantasies and illusions as the years have gone by. The romantic ones were the hardest. (Those are stories for another time and a bottle of wine.)

Today, at age 62, I am uncomfortably having to coexist with hard truths about our leaders, my fellow citizens and the humanity of the world in general.

It is in my dreams, however, where I experience the ultimate falling away of illusion and encounter the abject terror of being a soft small vulnerable mammal on a ravaged planet in an incomprehensible universe.

The truth can be cleansing and invigorating, but it can also be painful — like standing in an ice-cold shower.

I am harboring the illusion now – that it is this truth that will set me free.

 

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man,

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

I’m strong to the finich

Cause I eats me spinach.

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

 

I’m one tough Gazookus

Which hates all Palookas

Wot ain’t on the up and square.

I biffs ’em and buffs ’em

And always out roughs ’em

But none of ’em gets nowhere.

 

If anyone dares to risk my “Fisk”,

It’s “Boff” an’ it’s “Wham” un’erstan’?

So keep “Good Be-hav-or”

That’s your one life saver

With Popeye the Sailor Man.

 

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man,

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

I’m strong to the finich

Cause I eats me spinach.

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

 

Advertisements

The heart and the not so lonely hunter

Screenshot (77)

I have been on the lookout for heart-shaped rocks on beach walks near my home. It was only a casual effort at first. I usually have an eye to the sand anyway, looking for interesting debris tossed up by the waves. Lately, I almost always find a single small rock with a tiny hole through it (for a necklace I am making) — but never a heart rock.

WP_20150414_001

Heart rocks are pretty common. If you Google “beach heart rock”, you will find hundreds, if not thousands of images. Last weekend I walked for two hours on a rock strewn beach and did not find a one.

My heart rock search has picked up notably as I have started searching for the next big thing with heart for my life. Normally skeptical about the power of signs and omens, these two searches have become entwined. And because my next big thing is still hazy and unknowable, the easier thing seems to be to rely on a magical rock.

While musing, walking and heart rock hunting last weekend, the song, “The Shape Of My Heart”, which Sting sings so hauntingly, looped over and over in my head –  one of those cryptic messages my subconscious doles out so sparingly.

Hearts, of course, are symbols of love. I knew my next big thing had to do with love, but that the question had changed from “When will my prince come?” to “What shape will my love take?”

The past great and grand loves of my life – romantic love and mother’s love – aren’t the right shape anymore. They feel too small, like a beloved sweater that has shrunk in the wash.

Beach walks are usually great for finding clarity. Yesterday I tried out all sorts of ideas for my future passion, but none took hold. As I walked, I began to compose in my head this piece I have written right here about my fruitless search for the heart rock and, low and behold, I saw something in the surf that looked kind of heart-ish. It went under a wave and then emerged again. I waded out into the water and picked it up. It was not quite perfect, but pretty close. I think it will do for now.

I know this is too happy and pat an ending for this post, but I really did finally find a heart rock yesterday. I wish I could say that my future was magically revealed in that moment also, but it wasn’t.

So, I will use this rock as a talisman – as a sign to me from the Goddess of Mystery that I am going in the right direction.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying walks on the beach, magical thinking, playing games of hide and seek with my subconscious, the joy of the search, feeling my way through the mist with my own two hands and the glorious possibility of another iteration of love in my life.

WP_20150429_002_edited-1

The Invisible Woman?

Invisible collage 002

Me and Invisible Me

 

Last week a sales clerk gave me the senior discount automatically — without me having to ask. Whoa! That was a first.

I had dressed up too. Made an effort. Had my makeup on. I’d also recently lost a few pounds. I thought I looked good, middle-aged perhaps, but certainly not a senior. Apparently it is time for a reality check.

Or quite possibly, the clerk hadn’t read these breaking news stories:

Middle age begins at 60, says researchers

Middle age now lasts until 74 as baby boomers refuse to grow old

God bless the baby boomers. We are not going down without a fight. If we don’t like the rules, we’ll change ‘em. You wait. We might just outlaw old age altogether.

I am still sorting through what old and senior will mean for my life. My memory slips now and then. I sometimes strain to remember the title of “that book.” “You know the one,” I say to my friends of a similar age. They nod. They DO know, but can’t find the words either. Apparently we can now communicate telepathically. This is good news.

On the other hand, I can no longer learn a new language (I’ve tried), knit an Icelandic sweater, or move a furniture item of any weight and bulk up a flight of stairs. I am having to face up to some new limitations. Sometimes I look in the mirror, stretch the skin on my face, and toy with the idea of surgical intervention.

There are the jokes about aging and there will be the optimists piping in with things like: “Age is just a number!”, ”Aging is mandatory, but growing old is optional!”, “Embrace your age!” etc. My favorite one is, “You are only young once, but you can be immature for a lifetime!”

I see other people are sailing through just fine. I came to parenting late, having spent the last 15 years using my dwindling energy to make sure my children survived to adulthood. I have emerged from that absorbing effort to find myself a senior. It is going to take some getting used to.

And why am I surprised I am old?

Because inside, as other seniors will tell you, it is a different story. Inside I am stunning, a force of nature, a blizzard, a tropical storm, an avalanche, a hurricane — for god’s sake. I have it going on. I know what’s what. I have big ideas, plans and dreams. All systems are go.

And finally I have a voice!

But will anyone listen to me – senior that I am? What are these words I hear whispered on the wind: “Irrrrrrelevant” . . . . . . “Invvvvvisible”

There is something familiar in this actually. It is my home turf in many ways. As a woman I have been grappling with some stage-of-life version of “invisible” my whole life. From petitioning for the right to wear pants instead of dresses to school, to the right to choose, to the right of equal pay for equal work – to name a few.

So now it looks like I must add ageism to sexism.

And how about love and the “invisible woman”? I would like to fall in love again. I thought I would be over this by now, but apparently it goes along with being a human of any age. I’d like a chance to do it better and make – ahem – better choices. But, as my neighbor lady says, “That’s a topic for another time and a bottle of wine.”

The advocates push old as bold and empowered. I am having trouble building up enthusiasm – but maybe I’ll get there. Obviously I need consciousness raising. But, there are the grand words and then there is the reality — which seems to me to need a total societal remodel — which I do not feel up to tackling at the present time.

Being old and getting even older is the unknown. I have few close models. My parents didn’t make it to 60, like I will – if my luck holds – this August 2015. I am a little scared. The end – MY END – is coming closer. Losses are multiplying faster. If I don’t go first, I will lose someone.

So I guess it is time to get busy making long awaited dreams come true – which I am doing as best I can.

Hopefully my body and my bandwidth can keep up the pace for a good long time.

Collage artist

The Collage Artist

The mother mandala prophecy

Mother Mandala

Mother Mandala

The weather has turned here.

Thunderstorms, gusty winds and heavy rain have been pummeling my classroom apartment night and day. After many weeks of stunningly beautiful sunny weather, this is new — but welcome. I am ready to get to work on the many art and writing projects languishing in my head. I have cleared the deck of distractions and non-essentials. I am now gratifyingly holed up, alone and enjoying many creative hours .

I am participating in an art show Nov. 2nd in Portland, Oregon. While checking my image archives for suitable work, I ran across this early mandala drawing from several years ago. The original is sold, but I made a print for myself today.

Maybe back then I created my longing — or a prophecy for my future — as it expresses perfectly the grounding and expansion of my present.

My bucket list has dwindled to just this. To now.  I am in the flow — safe, firmly rooted and all wrapped up in a mother’s arms, wanting for nothing — doing exactly what I need to be doing.

Skating on thin ice

skating on thin ice tree

Drawing by Betsy Lewis

The Walkabout Woman blog has been languishing. The truth is . . . I have been busy making a living.

The loss of my pension in February sent me off in a new direction, one with less time for writing or art. I am actually enjoying my foray back into the working world.  I find meaning and value in the work I am doing.

I am also grateful for the previous months of solitude I spent in deep communion with myself.

Everything seems to come in its right time and place, but I am aware that I am living more on the surface of life now.

It is as though I am skating on a frozen pond, with just a thin sheet of ice between my busy everyday life above and the shadowy depths of my inner life below.  I am relishing the frosty air on my cheeks and my strong graceful competent movements.  I feel joy and exhilaration with this new slippery speed that sends me careening into contact with other people.

My months of solitude taught me a lot about the magic of being present — and I have not lost the habit.

As they say, “It’s all good.”

I joined a writing group made up of  nine women – The Portland Nine.  I am # nine, the new one. Each Thursday night, from 6:00 pm to  8:30 pm, we gather, respond to 10 minute writing prompts and share what we have written.

There is a lot of freedom in this and I feel myself loosening up as the evening goes on. It is only with these women now that the sheet of ice cracks and I fall through to the depths below.

Sometimes when I am reading aloud, it touches a nerve and I cry.

And try as I might, I am unable to write a scrap of fiction or come up with the colorful adjectives or metaphors that the others do. I can only write plainly and starkly about myself or myself thinly veiled. In this group, however, I feel accepted and appreciated for my voice. I am only slightly embarrassed by my tears. The other women seem unperturbed, and the  hostess just brings out the Kleenex.

What is profound for me is this — day by day, art or not, work or not (or maybe because of it), I am witnessing the unraveling of the tangled threads of my life. Sometimes my tears are  from the relief of finally setting the burden down.

I bought a scroll for my wall which says:

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” Buddha

As I welcome in my own humanity and claim the wisdom of the crone that I am, the love I have received and given so far wells up inside me. I see that, in big and small ways, I am beginning to be able to love myself.

Maurice Sendak and a transcendent moment on the walkabout

“There’s something I’m finding out as I’m aging — that I am in love with the world…I look right now, as we speak together, out my window in my studio, and I see my trees, my beautiful, beautiful maples that are hundreds of years old. And you see I can see how beautiful they are. I can take time to see how beautiful they are.”  Maurice Sendak speaking to an interviewer

Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak

Thank you Maurice Sendak. I imagine you at your studio window passionately waving and pointing at your trees trying to put into words the undefinable. To make the interviewer understand. To make us all understand how gigantic this shift is for you — this falling in love with the world.

It’s not that you have never noticed that your trees are beautiful. I know you have seen their beauty, but I also know that now it is different. In the context of your age, they have become beautiful in a way you have never experienced before . . . and it feels like love.

I feel it beginning too. My walkabout had led me to this place.

More and more I feel priorities shifting. A chunk of me is pulling away slowly and laboriously like a colossal iceberg breaking away from the mainland. I am setting out to sea into unknown realms which have nothing to do with achieving, winning, acquiring or succeeding.

The only thing I know for sure  is that my voyage will end with my death and, since I know that, I too have begun, bit by bit, to fall in love with the world.

Seeing is becoming feeling. All feelings are feeling like love. And, as I lay on a gurney awaiting cancer surgery some two years ago, I came to know that — in the end — Love is all there is.

The Bitter End . . . . . . . Not!

The Bitter End Pub on Burnside in Portland Oregon.

The Bitter End Pub on Burnside in Portland Oregon.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from my walkabout thus far, it is this:

All the clichés are true!

“Money doesn’t buy happiness.” “Time heals all wounds.”  “Life isn’t fair.” “It takes two to tango.”  “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  “Opposites attract.”  “Consider the source.”

And my current personal favorite:

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

I’ve been thinking about the suicidal investors who leaped to their death during the stock market crash of 1929. If you have been reading my previous posts, you know I experienced a financial calamity of my own just before Christmas.

For me “It ain’t over till it’s over.” I know from experience that life goes on. Bitter ends aren’t really ends. Pain fades over time, and everything changes to something else eventually.

I have become adept at “making lemonade out of lemons,” and my turn around time for this has diminished with age.

This is not to say that I didn’t cry, panic, or have tantrums about my misfortune. I did all of that and more. I spent a lot of time in my “dark place”– telling myself I was a failure, and that I didn’t deserve the financial security that others seemed to have. I was sure I was going to be pushing my belongings around Portland in a shopping cart. (And this would be a dang wet and cold place to do that.)

After awhile,  I told myself to “get over myself” and to stop telling myself bad things about myself.

And, in between bouts of sniveling, I managed to come up with Plan B for my predicament.

Today I can be philosophical. Things are always changing. Some times things feel good and fair and sometimes they don’t. I read a blog post about negativity by Kyle Mercer who made the profound statement that “the universe is neutral.”

It was a huge relief to know that the universe wasn’t really out to get me.

I knew that if I was going to be happy, it was going to be, as they say, “an inside job.”

So my new advice to myself is (and this is no cliche): “Listen to the voice inside you that wants you to be happy.”

This is perhaps the most profound lesson of my walkabout.

I am determined to live in this city and continue my walkabout.  I am working my social media business a bit more and with some success. This is not the worst thing – it is my calling after all. I love being the walkabout woman, but I also love the adventure of being an entrepreneur. So . . .

“All is not lost.”

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”

More than anything I am curious about where these new developments will take me.

Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” and “Better late than never.”

%d bloggers like this: