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Monday, August 13, 2012

Moving outside the tangle of fear-thinking

Moving outside the tangle of fear-thinking…..

…so I am having a day, and I want to write about it and blog it so that it forever is writ upon modern day water, i.e., the interwebs. And I want to share this not because anyone is a good person, a bad person, although we are (in this tale) a bit polarized in behavior… perhaps. And yet in my own un-awareness, of which I know only there is a lot of it, I am certain I have yielded the same to my most beloved helpers…. But before I preface more:

Today I spent a few hours in the dentist’s chair. I love my dentist. He is so calming, his voice is as soothing as any massage therapist. (And I should know!) “good… very good….” He murmurs sotto voce with his Russian accent. It wasn’t very fun when he grew suddenly quiet and turned to look me in the eyes. “I am not so happy,” he said. “You have big, giant cavity behind broken tooth. You need crown.”

Why does going to the dentist make us think we have the leisure to be coddled? Okay, maybe only I think that, but I left with a painful tooth and the promise of the final new crown in a lovely pearlized white in two weeks when the Dr. returns from his vacation. In text messages to friends, I whined a bit while running errands. My tooth really hurts. Dang.

Home again, home again, jiggety, jig. I am moving out of my place and in with a terrific friend and so still wincing from my Dental Adventure, I pulled into my garage only to remember that my parking spot is temporarily being used by my roommate while she is out of town. We have only one spot per unit…. Doh! This is the kind of building where people are particular about their parking spots, so although I had thirty moving boxes in the backseat of my car, (apparently dogs are illegal and I would never give up my Henry! So when the landlord said, “he goes or you both go,” you can see which way I decided.), I decided to pull out of my building to find a spot on the street… just in time for an accident to happen on my busy street, thereby taking me about ten minutes to park four spots down from my house.

Nooooo problem. I finally got my spot, and in my 3” spiked heels and jeans and tank (I had, early this morning, gone to a successful meeting with a new potential agent and I had not brought more comfortable shoes with me), I unloaded my car and all my boxes. Hm. How was I going to maneuver a purse, a bag full of books, a backpack with my laptop, and thirty moving boxes? A little maneuvering and voila! I felt so tough, yet girlish. Like Lori Petty or something. Or maybe more like Gwen Stefani. I noticed I was so very tan from last week in Colorado and, I will admit it. I was feeling pretty good about myself, despite the tooth.

I got to the front door and dropped the boxes, ‘cause there was no way I was gonna fish my keys out of my purse with my arms laden like that. I opened the front door, ran around the corner to my unit, said hello to Henry, dropped my purse, backpack and bag, and ran out to start bringing the boxes in. I stuffed two flat boxes under the wide front door to keep it open as we have no door stopper to this building. It disappeared years ago! Then I started bringing the boxes in.

It was on the second trip I ran into one of my neighbors. I get along with all my neighbors, some better than others! Some I consider good friends and some I consider “people I pray for.” Please, I know I shouldn’t admit that but I might as well. This gal is one I pray for. She is always confusing me with the girl upstairs, who looks about as much like me as you do, and is always yelling at me for making too much noise above her. I tell her it’s not me and she tells me I need to go tell that girl to shut the f^%$ up. At that point I smile and wish her a good day. She’s an older gal, I’d guess 70s, and fairly blind. She moves very slowly, and I imagine it’s because of her being so hard of seeing. Anyway, she is difficult but I try always to be extra kind to her because I imagine it must be very tiresome to be legally blind. I also have lived next to her for two years and have never seen anyone come visit, come or go at all! She has mentioned to me in the past that she has grandkids in college, but they never come visit her. So I fancy she is lonely, and I have a special place in my heart for loneliness in people.

She was coming out of the door with her garbage and her mail. I knew she would have trouble with the boxes and I know she doesn’t hear very well and doesn’t always know if there is a person around, so I said, “Hello!” very loudly. Then I said, “I have all these boxes here, so watch your step!” She said, “That’s really inconvenient for me!” “I’m sorry,” I said, “they’ll only be here for a few minutes as I bring them inside!”

“I doubt that,” she said, feeling along the side of the building for support as she made her way to the mailboxes.

“Can I help you?” I asked. “Maybe I can take the garbage down for you.”

“No, I just need to take the garbage out and mail these letters,” she said. I took her hand and she let me help her over the boxes keeping the door propped open. Then I brought in a few of the boxes and when I came out, she was really struggling to get her mail in the outgoing mailbox.

“Here, let me help with that,” I said.

“Are you moving in?” she asked.

“No, it’s me, Erin. I live right here,” I said, tapping on the wall of my apartment. “I’m moving out.”

Apparently she does not take part in the gossip of the building, because, really, everyone else has been talking for a month about this illegal dog thing here in our place! We all didn’t think it would be a big deal, but it was and is. I respect that! Had I known, honestly, I probably still would have gotten Henry if I had seen him, because he is my boy! Maybe I wouldn’t have gone looking. Maybe I would have. At any rate, I am moving and that is all there is to that! I think it will be a great thing because I am moving in with one of my best friends. So, yay for me! J

“Oh,” she said. “Is Pinya still alive?” She asked.

Pinya is our former manager, who retired last month. He’s an older gentleman from Russia and I love him. He is so dear. He always smiles and waves at me, and he and his wife love to tell me about opera singers they knew in Russia.

“Yes!” I answered, surprised. “He just retired as manager and now Marla is manager.”

“Oh, yeah. I know that,” my neighbor said.

She began feeling her way along the side of the wall toward the front door so she could take out her garbage.

“Here! Let me help you,” I said, taking her elbow. I started walking slowly with her down the steps. I thought about just insisting on taking the garbage but she seemed so insistent, and I had the thought that maybe she could use the exercise.

 “Oh!” she said. “Are you that opera singer!?”

“Yes,” I said, swelling with pride. Most of my neighbors seem to like the music in the building, and those that don’t have never said anything. Also, just in general, I try to be respectful- singing in the late morning and early evening only so as to not wake anyone prematurely or keep anyone awake, etc.

“You’ve been driving me nuts for months,” she said.


I am sure my mouth dropped for a moment, but since she was blind and looking at the ground to watch her footing, she would never have noticed.

“Well, luckily for you, I am moving out,” I said, praying at the same time that I was not being sarcastic but just responding without reaction.

“You ain’t that good, honey,” she said. “You’re just runnin’ those scales.”

“Thanks for the feedback,” I said. Then I walked back up the steps to take in the last of my boxes.

“Uh huh,” she answered.

Now, I was really upset. Why? Why does it matter if she thinks I’m not that good? Who the hell is she? She doesn’t know me. Then, I admonished myself. Erin, stop it. Oh my god. You’re triggering out on some blind and lonely curmudgeonly old lady that no one in the building likes and you think because you helped her she should not share her opinion with you? Let no good deed go unpunished, as Mike (my ex boyfriend) used to say…. Besides which, maybe you aren’t that good. So what? You’re living YOUR life.

It went on like that for some time as I cleaned up inside my apartment and hooked Henry up to his leash to walk him around the block. I’ll admit, I cried. Maybe I’m PMSing. Maybe I worried she was right. Maybe I was hurt that I thought I was being such a good person and doing such a nice thing to help this old biddy and….

As Henry and I walked out the door to our apartment, I watched my neighbor slowly trudge back up the stairs. I thought for a moment about going out the back way so as to avoid her, but that is not my policy. My policy is to embrace what is in front of me. So Henry and I walked outside, and I said cheerfully, “Stay cool!” I wanted to say, “You have no grace, and you’re an angry old bitch.” But that was my anger and that would not have been an appropriate response, at least not in the moment of trigger. Perhaps, if, in 24 hours, I thought, I felt there was value to ME as a person to assert that my feelings were hurt, than that would be appropriate.

Ah. The ego runs RAMPANT.

As Henry and I rounded the corner past the Chateau Marmont, I caught myself using another tried and true coping mechanism, fantasy. I was imagining that Ryan Gosling would come walking down the street and say, “Hey pretty lady, why do you look so sad?” And then I would say, “Oh, I’m having a rough day- a broken tooth, a crown, and then a mean old lady.” “Tell me about it,” he’d say, taking Henry’s leash, and ….

Wait a minute! That’s not a fair use of coping with mundane fears, sorrows, triggers and situations, either, I thought to myself!

Then I went to my heart.

I always want to be a better person, a kind person, a loving person. I was taking this stupid comment from my neighbor- who is entitled to her opinion- WAY too far. But it was touching me somewhere deep and vulnerable- just like this aria I am preparing for an audition: Rosina, in the Barber of Seville, sings exactly about this: Io sono docile. Sono rispettosa. I am sweet, I am respectful…. Me se mi toccano dov’e il mio debole? Saro une vipera! But if you touch me where I am vulnerable? I turn into a viper!

Well, I thought to myself, no viper. Prayer.

So I prayed, as best as I could staying out of ego and staying in heart- and hurt- for my neighbor. Then I prayed for all lonely people, including myself. And for anytime I have thoughtlessly dropped words of acid upon another’s heart out of my own intolerance or ignorance. Then I imagined that it was fine, that maybe I was or wasn’t that good, but it was all an opinion and I sing for the love of music, not for the approval of others.

(well, mostly.)

And then,

A four leaf clover.

Henry and I walked back inside. I put all my four leaf clovers in my book of Rumi poetry, which is now encased in a plastic bag as it houses literally hundreds of four and five leaf clovers, as well as other artifacts of magic that I have discovered in the last 11 years of owning it. The book fell open to this poem:


There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street,
and being the noise.

Drink all your passion,
and be a disgrace.

Close both eyes
to see with the other eye.

Open your hands,
if you want to be held.

Sit down in this circle.

Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
the sheperd’s love filling you.

At night, your beloved wanders.
Don’t accept consolation.

Close your mouth against food.
Taste the lover’s mouth in yours.

You moan, “She left me.” “He left me.”
Twenty more will come.

Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought!

Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.

Flow down and down in always
widening rings of being.

And now, it’s time to warm up. I like singing. And I sing for joy. So I will be the disgrace, but with the intention of blessing all who hear me.