Sunday, November 20, 2011

Out of the Blue

One Tuesday night in 2008, I was late getting home from work.  I wasn’t in the mood to make dinner and I didn’t want pizza.  The closest fast food place was KFC.  I didn’t particularly enjoy their chicken because I always had a grease overload within minutes.  At the time, I didn’t really care because I had to feed my teenage boys.
Since it was a “Toonie” Tuesday, and the store was packed.  I stood in line trying to decide what I wished to order.  I really wanted to have lasagna which a chicken joint doesn’t have.  Disappointed with my options, I decided to hum under my breath.  Whenever I hum or sing, it always calms my nerves.
As I was humming, I unconsciously was swaying left to right, it is a self smoothing method and oh boy, does it work.  I was the fifth person in a line out of 10.  I was approached by a man in a suit.  He was about 6 feet tall and his suit was bagging on him.  He didn’t say anything, he just held out a $20 bill. 
I stopped humming and swaying and I stared at his hand with the bill.  The other customers began to watch us.  I push the man’s hand away from me.  “Sir, what are you doing?” I finally asked him.
He still didn’t say anything but he showed me the $20 bill again.  I asked him if he wanted me to order something for him.  No response.  I told him I didn’t need the $20, as I showed him my wallet full of $20s too.  Still, he didn’t respond.  One customer in the line said, “just take the money, if you don’t I will.” 
The man turned towards that customer with a frown on his face.  He just wouldn’t leave me alone.  I reluctantly took the $20.  Once the money was in my hand the man walked away.  He didn’t say one word throughout the whole experience.  I was not sure what to do.  I never had someone out of the blue hand me money for no reason at all.  I was playing many different scenarios in my mind and I thought he wanted something more from me. 
It was finally my turn to order and the cashier asked if I was okay.  She asked if I wanted to call the police.  ‘Call the police’ and what would I say, ‘officer, this strange man handed me $20 for no reason.’ I’m sure the officer would put me in handcuffs because I was wasting his time.  Again, the other customers shared their opinions.  I decided I would keep the money but only because he left.
As I was walking with my order towards the doors, I spotted him.  He was sitting at the side with his head down.  He didn’t even notice me.  I walked over and put the $20 on the table in front of him.  “Sir, I can’t take your money because I don’t feel comfortable doing so.”
He then looked up and shook his head in disapproval.  I felt even worst.  I was worried that he would follow me home.  So, I sat down in the seat next to him and I watched him.  I never saw him before and I wanted to know exactly what he looked like.  He was an African-American man, about 50 years old.  He had fine smile lines on his face and his eyes were very caring.  He didn’t talk and it clearly didn’t faze him that I sat there.  He stood up and walked out of the store leaving the money on the table.
I had no choice but to keep it.  To this day, I still don’t understand what happened.  I felt guilty for taking the money and I still wonder why he felt the urge to give it to me.  Maybe he was moved by my humming and calmness.  Maybe he was an abundance angel and I just didn’t know how to be grateful for the blessing that he gave me.  So, right now, I am saying, “THANK YOU, MISTER FOR THE GIFT THAT YOU GAVE ME THAT DAY.  THANK YOU, SIR FOR YOUR KINDNESS AND YOUR GENEROSITY!”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Who Inspires You?

Many people inspire me and it just happens that I have a story to share.  This one is about a colleague who inspired me to write ‘Music as Sandpaper’, in my first chapbook entitled, Turning Pink, Published by A Beret Days Book - The Ontario Poetry Society, ISBN: 978-1-897497-61-6.
This was during a time, when I was a client service and portfolio administrator in a financial services company.  I just separated from a long term relationship and my self-esteem was extremely low, almost non-existent. It was difficult for me to go into the office because of my emotional and mental state. Anything that someone said either hurt or uplifted me.  I was sensitive with a capital S.
I changed my mood by singing or humming in the office.  Many people knew I was coming by their desks because of this.  Unfortunately, there was an office mentality of "us verse them", which I personally disliked. You’ve guess it; my area was known as the “dark side”. Yet, I knew, we all worked for the same company and we really needed each other there for it to run smoothly.
The mailroom as on the other side of the office and that's where I would be told I was from the ‘dark side.’  One colleague that I knew for years and respected as a person, started to use these phrases ‘how’s the dark side?’ or ‘why are you over here, shouldn’t you be back where you belong on the dark side?’  He was only joking, but I was extremely depressed about life. 
One day, he said something about me being part of the ‘dark side’ and I was not in the mood to listen. I looked at him and stated, “it really hurts my feelings when you say, I’m from the dark side.”  I probably started to cry.
“Wow, you really are sensitive,” he seemed to be shocked.
No kidding, I was sensitive. I just didn’t need to hear people telling me that I’m from the ‘dark side’ anymore.  I knew it wasn’t true and I had to say something.  How would he know if I was hurting unless I told him?  When I finally spoke up it changed my relationship with him instantly.
He apologized and asked how he could make amends.  I responded by asking for chocolates or flowers.  He nodded and walked away.  Of course, I was still upset about it for a few days later because I was depressed and didn’t know how to let anything go.
One afternoon, I received an email, he told me to stop by his office because he had my chocolates.  What? He really did buy me chocolates.  I refused because I didn’t trust him.  That’s when he told me to relax because he really did buy them.
I ventured over from the imaginary barrier known as the crossing of darkness into light, where I expected to be tricked. I was pleasantly surprised because he did purchase a tasty selection of chocolates.  I was truly grateful that he went out of his way for me. We started to talk again as we did before, many years ago.
Over the next few months, we started to build a new friendship.  It was difficult for me because I was still unhappy with my life.  Since I would sing in the office it seemed that music was the safest topic. We exchanged private email addresses and discussed music, our favourite stations and bands. I began to value our time together.  During one of our many conversations, he explained his idea of music.  He revealed a bit of himself and said, “music is like sandpaper.”
After that statement a surge of creativity pumped through my brain. There was a flow of music and words on how it was like sandpaper.  I think I started the poem in his office.  I was bursting with excitement.  I took off and started to write.  I wrote a few versions of it on paper and then emailed it to him.  I had a tune in my head and I couldn’t do my work afterwards.  That night, I worked on it.  I created the poem and a separate song.  I didn’t know how to play an instrument well enough, so recorded only the voice part.  I emailed that to him too.
The next morning he gave me praise and appreciated my writing and singing.  Of course I wanted to share it; he inspired me just by being himself and partaking in a conversation.  I was truly grateful for his friendship.  He claimed he didn’t know that I could ‘really’ sing.  I swear he heard me in the office many times.  I made an agreement with him that I’ll buy him a coffee if I generate any money from it.  That’s all the acknowledgment that I’ll give him.  Well, I still owe him a coffee, but that can wait. 
So, who inspires you?  Think about that for a while.  We really don’t realize how we affect others.  To think, just a simple turn of phrase can cause a burst in a mind of an unknown artist and guess what? We are all artists.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Spooky, the Babysitting Cat

My sister owned a gray, female cat.  Her cat ran across the floor with her head facing one direction and her body another. It was similar to the old Halloween candy wrappers with the black cat hence the name “Spooky.” Spooky was truly a loving and tender cat.  She slept in my room quite often and enjoyed sitting on my books when I was reading them.   Oh, the beauty of having a feline companion.  
It was the winter of 1993-94; both Spooky and I were pregnant.  Of course I was near my third trimester when we found out she was having a litter of her own.  I’m using the phrase “litter of her own” because I was pregnant with twins.  I remember days when we both looked at each other and sighed.  Some nights, she would meow at me and try to take over my bed. 
One evening, she wasn’t sleeping very well.  She couldn’t settle down and I was so tired that I just passed out.  Later during the night, she was in labour under my bed.  The sound of a screeching cat under your head was not easy to sleep through.  I moved my bed but she hissed at me.  She didn’t want anyone to touch her or get close.  I looked down at her from above.  It was an experience I will not forget, because at that moment I didn’t want to have my twins.  The sounds that Spooky made was very stressful.  Ohhh, with a deep breath and I’m going to be next. 
I wasn’t the best coach as I found myself dozing off between each kitten.  She delivered 4 tiny kittens.  Each one of them made their blind way to her as she cleaned and nursed them.  She was a wonderful mommy.   Spooky kept them under my bed for quite some time.  She didn’t want them to go far from that area.  Unfortunately for me I had to clean up after them.  I was not impressed because being pregnant and moving furniture was not an easy task.
A week later Spooky took them down stairs to the living room.  She felt comfortable having people around them.  If I was in the living room and she wanted to eat, she thought it was okay to pick up her small kittens and place them on my pregnant belly.  She knew it was hard for me to get up so, I became the kitten sitter.
These kittens roamed around my large belly and somehow found a comfortable spot to sleep.  This happened often as Spooky was taking advantage of my condition.  She wanted to have a safe, warm, and non-moving place for her babies so that she could go outside or sleep.  To be honest, I actually loved it.  These kittens felt my boys moving and they chased a baby’s foot or elbow.  They were very gentle with me.
Another few weeks passed and my sister informed me it was time to give away the kittens.  It took awhile for us to find homes for them. Each time my sister gave one away a kitten, Spooky searched the house looking for her missing baby.  It was heartbreaking to watch her go through this. Spooky looked at me as if I did something to them.  I told her, "they were getting too big, they went to new homes. I'm sorry. I swear, Spooky, I didn’t do it.”
It was my turn to give birth.  My twins’ delivery was hard on my body (that is a story of its own).   When I returned from the hospital with my babies, Spooky was always by my side.  She watched as I nursed and cleaned them.  She would alert me to their every need.
I remember one day when I was exhausted from the night before.  I left my boys upstairs in their cribs asleep and I went to stretch out on the couch.  It was nice to have that alone time to snooze by myself because my twins slept in my room.  The baby monitor was by my head so I could still hear them if they needed me.
Approximately, 20 minutes of interrupted sleeping, I heard sounds coming from the monitor.  They were not crying but moving.  I was not jumping up quite yet.  Well, Spooky heard the sounds and ran up the stairs.  I heard her meowing through the monitor.  She was surely going to wake them up. The boys started to get restless.  Spooky ran down the stairs and stared at me then up toward the stairs.  “Really, Spooky, I’m tired,” I said to her.
She ran upstairs and my boys started to cry.  Spooky was panicking and ran down the stairs again.   This time she meowed loudly and was determined that I tend to my children.  I picked up my tired butt. Spooky was only one step ahead as I ascended the stairs.  She looked at me and meowed expecting me to go faster. 
Once I arrived, they were fine.  They just wanted to be held.  “See, Spooky!”  I scolded her.  She watched me very careful as I took each child down stairs to their bassinets.  She watched as I put Andre down and walked up stairs to get Damian.  She stayed with Andre and licked his forehead.  Andre was calm when I made it down with Damian. 
Spooky always jumped to their every need.  She was the best babysitting cat, a person could ask for. Until they were able to move and pull at her tail that when she watched them from afar.

Beating of the Drum

One morning, I woke to the sound of drumming.  It was deep within my spirit.  I had this amazing surge of energy.  I danced and moved freely and openly.  I took an African dancing class when I was a teenager and all the movements of that experience flowed through me.  Joy was bursting out of every cell.  The experience was like no other I can express.
After my beautiful experience of spiritual dancing and a racing heart I needed to become aware of my physical body and surroundings, even though dancing is completely a physical act.  I had arranged two separate meetings with two men I met through a group about love and community.  The meaning of LOVE in a sense of DIVINE LOVE, which to me is AGAPE or METTA.  I’ve already spent time with these guys in other settings before and they agreed to share their personal time with me.
The first meeting, with one of them, we arranged  an exchange of a services, a massage for an energy healing session.  The second meeting was a family dinner, he was bringing his wife and daughter and I was hoping to bring my 16-year old twins.  I was pumped because I felt a great connection with both of these men.   As the day went on, I was getting really stressed out.  I couldn’t figure out what to wear.  I had no clue why I was feeling that way.  I decided on a dress that I felt like a goddess in. Hey, why not?  Right!  It was made of cotton with earthly tones and colours. 

Before heading out for the day, I checked my emails to confirm if everything was on schedule.  I felt there might be a few changes but my messages didn’t indicate otherwise.  I left some money on the table for my twins to have pizza for dinner because they were not interested in share a night with people they did know.   They expressed their feeling as they went to school that morning.
The meetings were on the other side of the city and I travel by TTC.   I was excited and also nervous about my first meeting because I realized on the subway that I actually liked this guy.  After I realized that I had to play it “cool”.  I didn’t want to let him know that I was interested in anything more than an exchange of services because that would be wrong, right?! (Don’t answer that question.)  I’m not good at acting cool.  My natural state of being is playful and light, so trying to act “cool” I became stuffy and stiff.  I needed a massage for sure. 
Our greeting was as usual, we hugged and we had to decide who was being treated first.  I knew, he noticed I was acting strange but he didn’t ask why I was behaving oddly, compared to my regular oddness. WELL!  I was not going on the table first.  NO WAY.  We planned a two hour exchange so each of us had one hour on the table.  So, he was first on the table - with clothes on. 
I prepared for a regular healing session, meaning that I did only healing energy work.  I placed my healing cap on which is my innate nature.  Through the sessions, I called upon all healing energies to help me.  There were blockages around his heart and lower chakras.  At one point, I saw him as a little boy playing ball with his brother and the joy and love was overwhelming yet very peaceful.  When the session was done he stated that he felt more grounded. 
Well, it was my turn and I wanted to run away, because I was nervous and thought, ‘what am I doing?’  I had to take off my dress, oh man.  I knew that he would be completely professional because that’s what he does.  He asked all the questions that massage therapist do.  Yet, I felt some where more personal that others.  With his training he noticed that the alignment with my neck was off.  So that would be the focus of the session. 
It was time for me to get on the table.  A number of deep breaths helped and I relaxed.  He did a great job and there was only two embarrassing moments for me.  One where I let out of an audible, let me call it - a sigh.  The other was when I started to giggled.  Well the giggle caught his attention because I started to wiggle.  His questioned, “what’s going on?” I told him I was thinking of a cat getting their neck stroked and I started to chuckle.  “Okay,” he said, as if it was nothing and continuing working my neck.  (Side note, the first time I had a facial, I laughed because the woman was slapping my face, okay tapping it. ‘Why in the world was I paying someone to slap me.’ It still makes me laugh today.) The session was over.  I felt a major difference in my neck and back.  “Thanks, man” was my comment to him.  I didn’t want to stick around to talk much more because ...  well, because!  I made my way out of there quickly and again I was playing it “cool.”
I had over an hour until my next meeting.  I sat in a beautiful park and asked myself a few questions of why I really arranged that meeting and what was I truly feeling.  I couldn’t be honest with myself at the time.  I drifted my attention to the clouds and birds.  I let go of the self judgment and started to sing.
My next meeting, I was at easy.  I was going to meet this guy and his family.  He was bringing his 4-year old daughter.  I haven’t had the joy of spending time with a little girl in ages.  Most of my family and friends have boys.  There is a charm that little girls express at that age and I relate to their innocence.  As I arrived, my friend was sitting alone.  That was interesting and I started to worry, ‘what would we talk about.’ I really wanted to meet his wife and daughter because he would share his experiences with them at our group meeting.  We greeted each other in the same way as usual with a big hug.  His wife was feeling ill and he tried to contact me to cancel.  Since he couldn’t, he and his wife agreed that he should still meet with me.  How considerate of them.  I asked if he was certain and he was.  We decided to eat. 
Our conversation was amazing.  I felt like I was with an old friend from childhood or with a brother that I just didn’t meet yet.  We had many interesting topics to go over and because we both are intuitive we bounced ideas around about spirituality, divine love and community.  Our Indian food got cold, as we spoke for at least 3 hours. We gave each other encouragement on your individual journeys and praise for the hard work we just completed.   Even as we parted we hugged and gave each other a high five!
I was on a high, there were people in the world that sees life the same way I do.  I felt joyous and expansive.  I start to walk toward the subway.  ‘What’s that sound?’  It was drums.  OH, my God!  I was heading toward a sacred Aztec drumming circle. Was this for real?
My heart was calm and as I drew closer, the reality hit me. It was real!  I sat and watched for a few minutes.  There were men and women dancing in unison in a huge circle.  Each dancer had a red sash around their waist and danced in bare feet.  I so badly wanted to join, yet I knew I had to be invited to the sacred circle.  One of the male dancer notice a few people eager to participate and I was one of them.  I didn’t have an offering to share with the circle and another man gave me some tobacco.  I was receiving gifts from the universe in every way.
I shared my gifted offering to the circle and we danced.  The earth shifted under my feet.  I was out of sync with the group but they still encouraged me to continue.  I was so humbled by the experience and the knowledge that they shared with me that night.  I participated in blessing and showing gratitude to the four directions, heaven and earth.   After the dance, I was asked to hand out the offerings of food to each person that was involved in the circle.  I bowed to each person and shared a smile.  The experience was one I would never forget.
It was a long night for me in my goddess dress and I was tired from the vigorous dancing.  I returned home to my children that where enjoying pizza and video games.   I shared the story of the drumming circle and we laughed together.  That night, I returned home as a different person.  I knew that I will be dancing to the beat of my own drum.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Purple Tree

It started with a purple tree.  I noticed it in the distance when a large bird swooped down from the sky. It went under the branches near the ground and up into the tree.  It was so fast that I thought I imagined it. I skipped over to the tree which was a fair distance from the gathering.  I wasn’t sure what to do but I felt light and bouncy.
I had to duck under that large branched then lift myself over another one to get to the truck.  It was dark under its crown.  Are the leaves really purple or was it an illusion?  They looked more bluish-green than purple.  I stared up the centre to see the bird but I had no luck.  It was silent under that tree, so peaceful.  The limps of the tree were syrupy and it had a sweet scent.  If I could get away with it I would stay under there for a long time.  A nap would be delightful.
I wanted to take a leaf but I didn’t want to steal it from the tree especially when there were leaves on the ground.  I found one that seems to just be waiting for me to take it.  The shape was still in tack and the colour was just as bold as the ones on the tree.  As I started to make my way out, I heard, ‘Take one more.’  I realized it meant to take another leaf.  I couldn’t find one that was the same.  I picked up one that was slightly damaged but its beauty was nevertheless there.  
As I ventured out from the tree I saw a woman from the group watching me.  She was heading towards me.  I had to run back to the gathering because the poetry reading was about to continue and I didn’t want to be rude.  As I looked back I noticed the tree was truly far away from our meeting place. 
The woman agreed me, “that’s a beautiful tree with the purple leaves.  I wanted to go over there but it’s too far away from the event.”  That’s when I realized I was slightly out of breath. 
“It’s not really a purple tree.  The leaves are more bluish-green than purple. I have two leaves, do you want one.” I gave her the flawless one.  It felt like it belonged to her.  The smile that graced her face was gentle and genuine.  The host of the event called everyone to their seats and we parted.
It was her turn to read, Geneva M. Neale (Audian) and she shown us how to use your smile.  She stretched, twisted and curled her beautiful smile.  She whistled, hummed and sang and maintained her grin and joy just radiating from her.  I had to talk to her again, but I had to wait until the other writers and poets finished. 
It felt like a long time to wait until I needed to speak to her once more.  I waited until other people greeted and complimented her on her work.  I slid in beside her and thanked her.  I didn’t think to use my smile the way she did.
The tone of our conversation changed suddenly.  Her smile faded from her face.  Her shoulders curled inward and she became extremely dishearten.  She asked me if I heard of JackSoul, a Canadian soul and R&B group, as she pulled out a photo album from her bag.  I’m terrible at remembering names but feelings and love - I pick those up.  She asked if I knew the lead singer, Haydain Neale, and I searched my memory then it hit me.  I saw them perform years ago at First Canadian Place when I was doing my co-op work with Nesbitt Burns.  His music moved me and I enjoyed the way the he sang about love.  Then I realized, he died last year.  Why is she talking about him?
She opened the album and she said, "Haydain was my son."  She flipped through the pictures of him as a child and where they lived.  She smiled and pointed at some of the pictures.  She recalled beautiful moments where he lit up her world with his humour and charm.  She wanted him to fulfill his dream of singing and she completely supported him. 
She shared that the two of them sat under a purple tree.  It was similar to the one that was at our venue.  She thanked me for the leaf and put it in her album.  It was as if he was with us and wanted her to have the leaf so she could remember their glorious day under the purple tree.
She taught me that day that every moment is every precious.  I felt so honoured that this woman, a mother shared stories of her son and their love for each other.  To think I just wanted to watch a bird in a purple tree which led me to meeting Ms. Geneva with a story about smiles, love, and family.