Never ending Tears

If there are tears on your monitor please forgive me. I made the mistake of inserting a certain CD in the player yesterday. It had been sometime since I listened to Evie Karlsson’s “Our ReCollections” CD. It was one of Marilyn’s favorites and in the last months of her life she listened to it over and over. Maybe it was the combination of the music, Evie’s unique sound, pictures of Marilyn on the wall or the combination, but whatever it was, the memories that came together brought a flood of tears.
Music was Marilyn’s abiding passion, along with her photography, but even her camera was a distant second to her collection of music. A testament to her patience was her tolerance for the total inability of her prince to hear the words of a song and hold the meaning close to his heart.
The important things in her life were, in order, her son, her music, her camera and her work. Her prince’s place in that order was a variable. At times he was ahead of music and at other times he could slip as far down the order as last place, but he was never in first position. That was Peter’s place … always.
I struggled for the 22 years of our marriage to hear the words of the songs that were so dear to her heart and yet I never heard them. I can hear a song on the radio and tell you when it came out; the year always, occasionally the season. I can tell you where I was the first time I heard it, because the sounds always evoke a picture in my mind. However ask me the title, the artist’s name or the words beyond the chorus and I draw a blank.
At times the memories that spring to mind can seem completely irrelevant. I never listened to music at all until I was a senior in high school and then it was music chosen by Gayle while we were “getting acquainted” in the front seat of Dad’s Lincoln. That music was the ultimate in romantic; “KLUB Sprinkles Stardust” to strings and brass tunes like Bobby Hackett’s “Night Love”.
Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole and The Beach Boys always remind me of The Lagoon amusement park north at Farmington, Utah. Those memories are all from the very early ‘60’s. The only other thing I remember from that time frame is a visit to Vince’s apartment in Salt Lake City one evening in ’63. Vince was the one who turned me into a Mathis/King Cole fan, but when he put on a recording by his latest musical discovery I thought he’d totally lost it. Bob Dylan? How in the world did my best friend’s taste in music take such a fall?
After that, my mental music library is practically empty, with a few exceptions, until the early ‘70’s. The only music from the late ’60s I remember is “Baja” by the Astronauts from Boulder, Colorado, and all I really remember is the sound of that record. I had to look up the name of that instrumental just now. Little LeRoy VanDyke’s “The Auctioneer” fits in there, probably because the worst hangover of our life began the morning after his performance at Sky High Stampede in Monte Vista, Colorado in July of ’68..
Other songs such as “Knights in White Satin” by Chicago elicit memories of the past and have their place in my memory but only the melody and refrain; never the words. The odd thing about the emotions evoked by musical memories is that they are nearly always happy, pleasant memories. True, there are some melancholy moments, but they are few. That was the nature of my/our musical mentality … until Marilyn’s death.
I sometimes wonder if she had a conversation about me with Abba soon after her arrival in His presence, about what she might have wished for me, now that she was no longer there to steer me along. If He asked her what she wished for my future I suspect that the most important thing for her, was for me to be able to hear the words, and just as important, to feel the words of all those songs she loved, and the ones I cherished.
Why do I suspect that? I suspect that because it wasn’t long after she left us that I realized I was actually hearing the words. It wasn’t a conscious effort. It just happened. So, yesterday when I heard Evie singing, once again, “Live for Jesus” and “Special Delivery”, the river of tears that never seems to run dry, overflowed once again. That is the only music that makes me cry. I think it will be a long time before I listen to her again. Marilyn never liked it when I cried.

Alice in Wonderland?

You know this isn’t the first time I have taken a look at the list that I maintain about ideas to expound on and thought, “For crying out loud, (one of my grandmother’s favorite exclamations) what in the world was I thinking?” This is no exception, other than it did give me an idea. It may be the same idea but who knows? I certainly don’t. Anyway, sometime back I wrote in my list of ideas, “Alice in Wonderland!” I don’t remember what I was thinking at the time, but I know what comes to mind now.
It has been a long time since I saw Alice in Wonderland, but it is not one of those movies you easily forget having seen. However, in my case remembering that I’ve seen something and remembering exactly what I’ve seen are not necessarily the same. So, before going any further with the thought, I decided that it was incumbent on me to watch it once more. It’s amazing what the memory can do with reality.
As the story begins, there is this beautiful little blonde girl with big beautiful blue eyes, in a perfectly fitting blue dress and a white pinafore. She’s sitting in a tree playing with a kitten. Someone, a governess it appears, is reading to her from a history book. Alice isn’t happy with the way things are going in her world, and expresses the desire for her own little world in the first song of the movie, “A World of My Own.” The lyrics impart her idea of what she would like in a world that was suited just to her. How many times have I considered what a world of my own design would be like?
For starters, how about looking like Alice? Well, maybe Alice in her twenties would be more appropriate. Like Alice, I certainly wouldn’t want people telling me what acceptable behavior was. There was a time when I wanted people in my world to be just as comfortable with Georgia as they were with George. (That’s assuming, of course, that they were as comfortable with George as I liked to think they were.) If I woke up on any given morning and wanted to go to work as Georgia that would be perfectly acceptable, and in fact encouraged, because after all, employers would be delighted with the diversity that I brought to my job. Spouses would be equally delighted with both parts of their spouse’s persona. (Well, I was designing a “perfect” world wasn’t I?) And my children would find me absolutely terrific either way. (A “perfect” world, remember?) Well, anyway I’m getting sidetracked.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a “White Rabbit” comes racing into Alice’s world, and Alice finding herself overcome with curiosity about the “White Rabbit,” and where he’s going, races after him. She squeezes through a very tight hole under a tree and continues her pursuit of the “White Rabbit” into his world. She becomes so wrapped up explaining this pursuit to her kitten she doesn’t pay attention to where she’s going and suddenly finds that she has gone too far. She is beyond the edge and tumbles down and down and down into another world. I was a “White Rabbit” that came racing into George’s world once. I remember that one of Dad’s favorite cartoon strips was “Pogo.” In one particular episode was a line that he loved to quote, Pogo utters the line, “We have met the enemy and they is us.” Well, “George had met the White Rabbit and it was me”. The White Rabbit in George’s life was me, and George crawled into the hole and didn’t pay any attention to where he was going, went over the edge and in a freefall into another world; Georgia’s world.
At that point in my life, and it was a much younger point, over thirty years ago, I felt I was pretty much indestructible and that I could handle just about anything that came my way. I was so absorbed with the pursuit of whom I was that I ended up in a pretty screwy world. I did some pretty screwy things. The first thing Alice ran into was a door; which opened to a smaller door, which opened to a smaller door, and so on until the last door which was just large enough for her to fit through on her knees. This last door opened into a large empty room with one very small door on the opposite wall and through which the “White Rabbit” was just disappearing. In my case I kept going through door after door, each one of which was a little more difficult to go through; a little tighter fit. In other words each experience as Georgia was a little further beyond the past I had known. I was behaving just as a young Alice; immature and totally self-absorbed in my quest for the “White Rabbit”.
The door on the other side of the room had a talking door knob that had the solutions to her dilemma. I find it somehow odd that in her attempt to get through that final door the solutions kept changing. Then, finally it was her tears, brought on by frustration, that washed her through the keyhole into “Wonderland”. If my bride was here to tell you about it, I’m sure that she would tell you that is pretty much what happened to me. It wasn’t so much a flood of tears that carried me into “Wonderland” as it was a flood of emotions, which of course are always behind a flood of tears. My explanations as to what was happening in our lives kept changing and my solutions kept changing in pace with the changing explanations. The problem with all of these explanations was that I was in much the same predicament as Alice when she was trying to get directions from the caterpillar. Instead of giving her directions he kept demanding, “Explain yourself.” Alice’s response was pretty telling.
“I can’t explain myself … because I’m not myself.”
At that point in my life I was not myself, at least not the self that I was accustomed to and in spite of the comfort level I felt I could not explain it anymore than Alice could. The situation was not made any easier by the fact that, like the Cheshire cat who presented a perfect representation of my life, Georgia kept disappearing in parts and reappearing in parts. When Alice asked for directions the cat’s response was, “It doesn’t matter which way you go … unless of course you want to find the ‘White Rabbit.'” She was told to visit the “Mad Hatter and the March Hare”. My Mad Hatter and March Hare turned out to be a couple of psychologists who didn’t have any better grip on things than the Hatter and the Hare. Going to them turned out to be an experience like the one Alice had when the trail kept disappearing behind her and then finally disappeared everywhere except where she was standing at the moment. At that point she just sat down and cried. That’s what visiting with psychologists made me want to do. I saw no way forward and couldn’t go back the way I’d come.
Somewhere in the dialogue Alice comments that she will “write a book about this place … if I ever get out of here.” Before she gets out of there she goes through a “trial” at the hands of the Queen of Hearts. All through the trial the queen keeps shouting “Off with her head”. There were many times that my bride shouted “Off with her head”. In the end I returned to “reality” just as Alice did. But in Alice’s world we are left with the feeling that she remained forever in the reality she had tried to escape when she visited Wonderland. In my reality I eventually revisited what I had been trying to find, as opposed to trying to escape, all those years ago. But this time it was with a far better understanding than the one I had the first time. I had fifteen years to think about, and consider the mistakes of the first visit, and the wrong forks in the road. Most important I had a grip on reality the second trip. The difference that made was to make Wonderland a reality that could be experienced and lived on a daily basis. All that was required was for “Georgia” to grow up so that I could recognize the difference between silly dreams and livable aspirations.

Which way does the door swing?

Really! Which way does the door swing? That’s a question that’s been popping up in my head for a very long time. It has to do with choices, realizations, efforts, and careful consideration of how these things affect the path, or paths we take in life. You see, there have been years of my life spent, or a better description might be “wasted”, that I engaged in fruitless efforts to “get somewhere.” I can’t begin to remember, much less recount all the attempts to “get somewhere” in life only to look back and realize how wrong my assumptions about what was required had been.
I have no clear idea why I associate the notion of which way a door swings with “Alice in Wonderland” but I do. Maybe it has to do with all the doors she had to pass through in her quest to catch up with the “White Rabbit.” But that’s a whole nother subject all together. What I’m dealing with here is the realization of how my choices affected the efforts I expended much of my life on. The reality was that early in my life, I was convinced that happiness and joy were totally dependent on my efforts to succeed. My efforts to succeed were completely dependent on my understanding of how much effort should be put into accomplishing the particular goal to make it worthwhile.
Some choices made required much more effort than I was willing to make and so the choices were deemed either bad choices, or choices that were not clearly thought through beforehand. Other choices were given all the effort I could muster for as long as I could sustain the effort. Many were a combination of both. The point of all the choices was to find happiness and happiness was dependent on the relative success of the effort. Success was always measured in dollars and cents. After all that’s the way I had been I had been taught that the world worked.
The door that led to happiness as defined by success just wouldn’t open. I watched as people all around me were opening doors with ease, but try as I may my doors wouldn’t budge. Then one day it suddenly occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I needed help. The result was akin to a child who had been struggling to open a door by herself, and had repeatedly turned down offers of help from Dad, finally saying, “Please show me how to open this door.” Dad simply tells her to stand aside as He reaches for the door knob, turns it and swings the door open with ease. She/I had been trying to open the door the wrong way all along. It opened out, not in. All the pulling and straining to open the door simply required a gentle push.
How many doors had I spent so much time trying to open could have been opened had I just paid attention to which way the door was hinged? At first, I wanted to race back along life’s hallway to see if all those unopened doors could have been opened if I’d only tried to open them in a different direction. But of course this is reality and not a video so there is no rewind button. I could only move on to the next door which beckoned on the other side of the room. Beyond that door was the realization that I was the only person who could define what my happiness would be.
Beyond the next door was my definition of happiness and it was defined by the talent and purpose Dad (read that, God) had assigned to me. When I figured out which way the next door swung, I found myself in a world where my happiness came in knowing what to do with my talent and applying it to my purpose.
It all became so simple when I finally understood that the doors in my life seldom swing the same way the doors of other people swing.

A Matter of Faith

If you know me at all, you know that the issue of “faith” is at the heart of so much that I think and talk about. Well this is not going to be an exception. I talk about faith in “Dear Mom and Dad” a number of times; starting with the sermon delivered on August 18th 1963 by Reverend Mark H. Miller. It took a long time for the concept which he presented to soak in.
The concept, as I understood it then, was a matter of will power. Did I have the will power to facilitate the results and benefits of maximum faith? In other words, as Dad put it, did I want faith “bad enough?” The experiences in my life that followed had no faith at all; lots of wishful thinking, but no faith at all. My experiences became a matter of repeated disappointments and a sense that I just wasn’t good enough, or just didn’t have the will required to succeed. An addiction to alcohol and the havoc wreaked by the effects of alcoholism ultimately led me to a better understanding; not a perfect understanding mind you, but a considerably better understanding of faith and its benefits.
The understanding which I eventually acquired came in bits and pieces. Sometimes the pieces were big and sometimes the bits were tiny, but they came. The crux of what I eventually understood was that, at least for me, faith of any kind required two key elements. The first was surrender, resignation of my will. That took a lot of work. In AA meetings I repeatedly heard people refer to “taking their will back” and the results of doing that, which were always dismal. In my case it was a matter of expecting my ambitions and desires to become reality. It just didn’t register that since I’d surrendered my will that my ambitions and desires had to accompany my will. Surrender isn’t a matter of just not fighting the inevitable anymore, and just sitting down on the battlefield and never moving. It meant that I had to give up my aspirations for outcome of the conflict and accept a new direction for my life.
The second element of understanding the requirements of faith was trust. Trust didn’t come easy for me. I was suspicious of God. I was fearful of what would follow surrender. Would I, like surrendering soldiers be placed in a stockade surrounded by guards and barbed wire? Obviously it would have been a “virtual” stockade and not a physical stockade, but would I be placed in a “stockade” nevertheless? Would I be subjected to a lengthy period of re-education and indoctrination? Each of life’s inevitable potholes was construed as part of that process. After all I’d been taught to believe that misbehavior was always followed by punishment and/or discipline. It took a long time for me to quit emotionally flinching each time I realized I’d “misbehaved.” I finally quit thinking of God as a demanding, punishing parent, and instead began to trust Him as a loving parent whose primary interest was in seeing that I recognized my own worth and abilities.
And now back to faith. For me, faith is a difficult concept to live within and can only be fully applied to my life when I completely surrender the outcome of my life, the current efforts and situations, and then place complete trust in Abba. Do I always remember to do so? Not hardly! I only find peace and beneficial outcome to whatever situation, pleasant or unpleasant, when, as they say in AA, I “turn it over;” surrender and trust; have faith.