Friday, March 28, 2008

How Not To Be

I've been watching, "What Not To Wear" while I work out on my exercise bike. It's mildly entertaining, but here's the show I'd really like to see: "How Not To Be."

Voice over: Welcome to, “How Not To Be!” On today’s show we have a woman who is disgruntled, whiny and indignant. The gift shop at her clinic won’t carry her book because she is an employee! Today’s hosts are Guatama Buddha and Jesus from Nazareth.

Jesus: We’ve been filming her for the past week. In this clip we see her in the gift shop talking to the managers.

Debra: Hi! Where’s my book? You don’t have my book here!

Manager: Soon, soon!

Debra: Wow—I can’t help but notice that you’ve got five other books from my publisher. One of them is even a book by a doctor at Harborview! And you didn’t order mine? It's about cancer! Patients love it! It will help them!

Manager: Soon, soon!

Buddha: Jesus!

Jesus: What?

Buddha: No, I just meant—well, she certainly is persistent. In this next clip we see her talking to her boss.

Boss: By the way, the rules are that they can’t sell your book in the gift shop because you’re an employee.

Debra: Criminy! It’s book about cancer, about this very place. In fact, it’s a great big valentine to this clinic. If they should ever make an exception, it should be for this book!

Boss: (shaking his head) Those are the rules.

Debra: You know, Boss, I know the chain-of-command and I understand that you are my direct supervisor, but you know what my dream scenario is? It would be that several administrators over you would call me in and say, “Debra, we love your book! And we’re so sorry we can’t carry it in the gift shop.”

Boss: I’m sorry.

Buddha: Well, cue the violins!

Jesus: (sarcastically) Yeah, wow, my heart is breaking.

Buddha: In our final clip, here she is complaining to one of her fellow chaplains.

Debra: So they said everyone wants the gift shop to sell their stuff: jewelry, cards, etc. If they did it for me, they'd have to do it for everyone.

Chaplain: But this book can help our patients! Do you think any of the administrators even read it?

Debra: I doubt it. I even gave one of them an advance copy, a bound galley and I didn’t hear a word. Well, you know, a prophet has no honor in her own country.

Jesus: Hey! That’s one of my lines! Funny how people seem to remember only the scripture that supports their position.

Buddha: Tell me about it! You should hear how people bring up “non-attachment” when they’re dumping someone.

Jesus: (laughing) I thought that was the only kind of file that Buddhists will e-mail—you know: non-attachments. Ha-ha-ha-ha! Get it?

Buddha: Jesus Christ!

Jesus: What?

Buddha: So let’s go find Debra and see if we can break up her Pity Party.

[Cut to Debra dozing on the couch while waiting for her husband to come home. There is a half-empty glass of wine on the coffee table.]

Jesus: I see the wine, but where’s the bread?

Debra: (waking up) Huh, wah? Oh, you guys!

Jesus and Buddha: Yes, dear, we’re here from “How Not To Be!”

Debra: Oh, man. Who nominated me?

Buddha: Your No Self.

Jesus: Your Inner Soul

Buddha: Your Spacious Awareness

Jesus: The Holy Spirit

Buddha: Pure Consciousness

Jesus: Seraphim and Chera-

Debra: (interrupting) Whatever. What’s the problem?

Jesus: What’s the problem? Well, first of all, how much wine have you had?

Debra: Just half a glass. I mean you know, “Drink some wine for thy stomach’s sake,” and all that.

Jesus: (to Buddha) See what I mean about scripture? (to Debra) I didn’t say that—that was that boozer Paul writing to Timothy. Anyway, let’s take a look at what’s hanging in your Anxiety Closet. Buddha?

Buddha: Oh, my God! So much of this went out in your twenties! Righteous indignation, self-pity, anger, unappreciated, arrogance, vengeful.

Debra: Wait--that’s not really vengeful. That’s wait-‘til-I-win-a-big-writing-prize-then-they’ll-want-my-book-in-their-stupid-gift-shop.

Jesus: Well, clearly Buddha you haven’t mentioned childish, juvenile and deluded! Listen, honey, it’s all gotta go!

Debra: What? Can’t I just keep righteous indignation?

Buddha and Jesus: No!

Buddha: Okay, we’re giving you five thousand years of sacred scripture to go through. And you’ve got to come back with things that replace all that crap in your Anxiety Closet.

Debra: (grumbling) Fine!

[Cut to Jesus and Buddha watching a video of Debra on their laptop.]

Buddha: (happily) Well, there she is reading about the Four Noble Truths.

Jesus: And yes, I see she has the Gospels open and next to that the Bhagavad Gita. But wait!

Buddha: Oh, Lord!

Jesus: Yes?

Buddha: She's reading her own book! We told her sacred scriptures!

Jesus: Do you think she believes her own book is a sacred?

Buddha: We’ll find out after this!

[Commercial break featuring the show "Project Fun Day" in which people compete to inject a little fun into the day of a down-trodden person. Hint: provide food, water, clothing and shelter first!]

Jesus: We’re back! Let’s bring Debra out and see what she’s found!

Debra: First of all I had to find compassion for myself because once I started thinking about it all I realized how unevolved I am and then I felt ashamed of myself.

Buddha: Yes, yes, compassion for yourself—very Buddhist.

Debra: And I saw that staying angry is getting me nowhere. In the Psalm 37 I read,

"The angry ones draw their swords, the angry ones aim their bows
To put down the poor and the weakened and to kill those who walk on the path of righteousness.
But their sword hits their own heart, their bows will be broken.
With his poverty, the righteous one is richer than all the angry ones in their abundance."

Jesus: (grinning and high fiveing her) Shut up! Love those Psalms.

Debra: Then I read about the Eight Wordly Conditions: Gain and loss, praise and blame, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute and we’re all grasping after gain, praise, pleasure and fame 24/7.

Buddha: Yes, you go girl! Very important to understand.

Debra: Then I read: "To be angry is to let others' mistakes punish yourself. To forgive others is to be good to yourself.” So I’ve forgiven them and that's good for me!

Buddha: And we have to ask why you were reading your own book It's Not About The Hair.

Debra: In the introduction I do go on about being whiny and tragic and stuck. So I’m taking my own advice and letting go.

Jesus: So you’re letting go of this whole book-in-the-gift shop thing?

Debra: I’m letting go of my emotions around it all. The Bhagavad Gita reminds me that I’m entitled to my actions, but I have to let go of the fruit of my actions.

Jesus: Does that mean that you’re going to take action around this?

Debra: Stay tuned!

Buddha: Good God!

Jesus: Yes?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Take Note

Just when I think I'm all totally grown up and able to clean out my closets and basement and purge my life of extraneous crap, I run into something I've been saving since sixth grade. And I can't throw it away. It's a note that was somehow intercepted by my friend Russell who got it from his friend Mike.

Background: I had a huge crush on Dan (the subject of the note) since fourth grade. We were good friends because in spite of the fact that I talked a lot, I also listened. So that made me the confidant of almost all the boys because they could tell me with whom they wanted to go steady or were going to ask to go steady (whatever that meant!) and up with whom they were breaking. (I'm pretty proud that I did not end that sentence with a preposition. Where are you Mr. Scheckler?)

ANYway, Katy and Martha were two girls in my class who were best friends. What I remember about Martha is that she talked about how she put her pubic hair in doll hair curlers. What I remember about Katy is that she had beautiful handwriting. They too had a crush on Dan until THIS NOTE.

In case you can't read it:

Dear Mike,

Don't tell Dan Our dreams. You can tell him we are loseing [sic] interest in him because he doesn't like us anymore and he loves Debbie Jarvis. We would like him if he liked us. (Tell us what he says!) We would tell you more but its [sic] embarrasing [sic]("forget it" is crossed out). Don't show any body [sic] this note, please.

From, Martha and Katy F.

I remember getting such a thrill when I read that. He loves Debbie Jarvis? He loves me? He loves me?

Of course everyone saw this note including Dan and that's when he stopped talking to me. He mostly talked to me about "loving" Nancy G., but now he didn't want anyone to think he "loved" me. But for one day I believed that I was the object of his affection. I read that note over and over. And in a very weird way, reading it now still thrills me, but for a different reason.

It thrills me because I can see how from the beginning, as far back as I can remember, kids, people liked to talk to me about their secrets, their desires, their hopes, their fears. This is pretty much what I do now, just be a friend and listen. I hated this in Jr. High because I wanted a boyfriend, not a "friend" friend. Thank God I went to a different high school from my childhood friends. Nobody at the new high school knew I was the girl who was "just a friend" to all the guys---although that's how High School turned out too.

This note takes on a special poignancy because a couple months ago I reconnected with an elementary school friend who let me know that another boy on whom I had a crush was still living in the area. He married his high school sweetheart and she had just had a recurrence of cancer. I immediately sent them a copy of my book. But last night I found out that she is dying and has just entered the hospice program.

How can this be? I can only see him and his wife as Jr. High school students and Jr. High kids don't die of cancer. News Flash, Jarv: You're not in Jr. High school anymore. My friend requested prayers for them. So of course I will pray for them, that they would have courage, and peace and comfort and ease.

I'm keeping that note and I love that forty years later I can still be a "friend" friend and offer up prayers. I wouldn't want it any other way.