Jason Listman and “You’ll Be Okay” by A Great Big World

“Early morning singing signals to other birds

about the strength and vitality of the singer.

Singing is an essential part of bird life,

but it’s costly in terms of time and energy.

CND path

Singing loud and proud first thing in the morning

tells everyone within hearing distance that you were strong and healthy enough to

survive the night.”

~ Mary Bates, “Why Do Birds Sing in the Morning?”

Yesterday one of my best friends, one of two college roommates, posted a phenomenal music video to her high school American Sign Language students. She happens to have been hearing until age three, and Deaf ever since. I happen to have been fully hearing until of late and I’m proudly heading toward my fifties. She and I both took dance lessons for many years prior to college. But, with a huge buffet of academic and arts choices available when we arrived at college, she tended to study what she had always loved, and I tried to branch out. She majored in English and if I remember right she also enjoyed environmental science. I majored in Communication Arts/Theater and attempted to branch as far as my credits would allow into religion and all other performing and visual arts. We both still took dance classes most semesters and I enjoyed learning a little bit about choreography. One of my best memories was a final project in which she graciously put up with me trying to choreograph a dance for both she and I. I’m not sure what music we used other than wind chimes. Did I have a classmate read a story or poem? Could be. I don’t remember.

No matter. It was so fun and she raised the roof with applause at every student performance in which she performed.

Hmmm. That makes me wonder, did we think to tell her how loud the audience was hooting? Doesn’t matter now – we had a great time and our friendship is still solid.

So, this week I’ve been putting up with some most annoying ear pain that feels like infection. They took a peek and the insides look perfectly healthy. A few weeks ago the ENT said the same thing – “everything looks perfectly healthy…we don’t know why this discomfort happens.” I wasn’t in a questioning mood that day, but I managed to get an appointment again in a few weeks and I need to let him know that I have an inquiring mind and I won’t rest until he at least gives me some “it could be” scenarios.

After a good bit of research I think he is going to tell me that this discomfort is likely hypercusis : sound intolerance, frequently accompanied by tinnitus. If I do have otosclerosis  as suspected I will have won a prize in comparison to other hearing loss conditions because hearing aids, a specific surgery called a stapedectomy and sometimes cochlear implants are all practiced options to possibly restore some or a lot of hearing. I also have the choice to just let it go, which I consider a fine option as well. The trick is that I’m not yet sure if any of the hearing aid or surgical options treat the symptoms and some can make them worse.

Which stinks.

I am patient and my life is blessed though, and to some this will seem strange, to others it will really resonate:

What is bothering me right now is the realization that I’m losing my voice. Literally.

People more frequently say “huh?” and tell me that I pronounced one thing when it was another, or look at me all wonky about the sound of my voice.

I also can hit all the right notes of a song very, very rarely. It had been hurting my pride a bit for a while. Now that I understand why, I’m relieved to be able to kind of grieve the loss of a cherished companion. From my college years, graduate years, baby raising years (two out of three – the youngest hated lullabies) up until about 5 or 10 years ago I could hit almost every note, almost every time. And since performance isn’t the career I chose, harmonizing with James Taylor without effort was and is respite care – not grocery money.

Good things are happening though – I am learning to listen and let others sing for me because I certainly can hear the chords and technology gives me the option to look up the words if needed. JT hasn’t given up on me and I can still hit our harmonies if I am alone, rested, relaxed and hydrated.

And there is this – the video that my college Deaf bestie shared – it’s phenomenal in every single way. The performer is a professional video director, Deaf, and studied college at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Here you go, enjoy. And happy Remembrance Day: Jason Listman in

“You’ll Be Okay” by a Great Big World in American Sign Language with lyrics.

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An Ignatian approach to Letting my Sons Grow

Photo by Linda Douglas, Ripley Ohio

Photo by Linda Douglas, Ripley Ohio

To those of you who have ever followed the suggestion to take a difficult life transition and pray over it: Have you ever done just that, only to be left with the feeling of being even more exposed and mixed up than when you sat down with your (now luke warm) coffee?

That’s what happened for me just now.
Morgan and Theo gift

Rather than the familiar: “golly gee, thanks God, that was a nice little hug” type of reflection, I ended up with an unwound ball of yarn pile of emotions. I started with an Ignatian reflection by Maryanne Rouse (Creighton University, College of Business) and followed her suggestion to imagine I am a part of the first reading in today’s Catholic Lectionary.

Here is what she wrote:

Can you imagine–40 days of face to face conversation with God? That is the experience of Moses, according to today’s First Reading. We don’t know who was speaking more of the time–God or Moses? The conversation transpired behind a closed tent. What we are told is that at the end of this time, Moses comes out with the “words of the covenant,” the Ten Commandments in hand.

This First Reading cries out to be addressed with Ignatian Contemplation prayer, that is, the form of prayer that Ignatius did not invent, but popularized in the Spiritual Exercises. Imagination is a key tool.

To enter into this form of prayer, you need to set aside thoughts that you are not imaginative, that God cannot speak to you through this tool as God does through other tools, e.g. thought, feelings, senses, to name a few.

First, read the entire text, Exodus 33: 7-11; 34: 5-9. 28. Next place yourself in the scene: What do you see? What can you hear? Smell? Feel? Taste? Maybe not so much to taste in this story, though you may be aware that this entire time, Moses neither ate nor drank anything.

Then rewind the story in your mind after inserting yourself into it. When I have prayed this, I have found myself taking the part of a serving girl, totally left out of the action and not happy… Next step: what might God want to say to me through my place in this story?

I tried imagining myself as several different people – I was Moses, the wife of Moses, a pregnant mom, a too old to be pregnant mom…no matter how I read it though…I was a mom, and my son was going off to try to understand what instructions God was giving him.

Behind my closed eyes, no matter how my imagination sliced and diced the scenes, these plans involved travel for him and none for me. For days on end there would be no communication with my son the pilgrim. By allowing myself to imagine this as the time of Moses and young Joshua (an assistant to Moses) a good old-fashioned pile of letters wasn’t even coming forth.

It was me, a dusty tent, and a bunch of stars with no answers while the rest of the campsite snorted and snored the night away.

This all happened in ten minutes of prayer. Fertile imaginations are not necessarily something to envy if you struggle to let your mind wander.

After making some Eggos for our 11 year old, I went back at the reflection for another five minutes or so. It was like the maddening experience I’m having with one of our computers: we turn it on, it boots up, then boots itself back down…then, brrrzzsssuuuppt beePbEEp…it boots back up in an endless loop without ever actually starting up.

Same images, same tears, same not knowing where my kid is or what Moses is telling him to go off and do with his life.

Internet access denied, quick and easy answers unattainable.

On one hand, I didn’t need 30 minutes of tearful prayer to know that I am having trouble coping with the fact that my son, the one whose personality tends to mimic mine, is looking at colleges that are eight hours away. As in, he is waking up this morning in a hotel with his dad and is right now on campus with energetic and brilliant tour guides. As I sit here and type, a young Jesuit scholar is chirping away about how great life became as soon as he left his weeping mother, and for the first time in his boring life, he discovered the depths of his being and mind in the hallowed halls of the University of ForgetToCallHome.

I’m exaggerating. I could not be more excited for this kid. He is bored. He has been bored in school for a very long time, and I’ve been saying forever that college will be his time to shine and let that intellect of his go hog-wild.

Sunrise on the Ohio River, Ripley Ohio

Sunrise on the Ohio River, Ripley Ohio

So, that’s what I’m up to this morning. If you too are feeling jagged emotions that are about letting go, I’d recommend a beautiful song by Kate Rusby called “Underneath the Stars”.

It is making me feel better able to sit with the unknown. What choice do we have anyway?

Eeyores Advice to the Gloomy: ‘Brains First, and then Hard Work’

I’m not the first one to think this, but let’s pretend, just for the day, that I am the first person to decide that Milne’s World of Pooh is an ode to friendship. I’d like to add though…that it is also all about cherishing quiet, and imagination. Is this not what the world sorely lacks in many of our eyes?

And, the lack of patience in every corner of the kingdom?

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“I didn’t want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn’t know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I’d cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.”
― Sylvia Plath (from Good Reads)

A quick read of some pages of The World of Pooh is helping me process how I feel about reconnecting with some of my best friends of my college years. I can’t decide which Milne character would have been who at the time.

Right now, with no question, I am Eeyore and am quite fine with remaining in that role forever more. If you don’t love and appreciate Eeyore…I ask you to turn your head and go play else where. This kind friend is the Abe Lincoln of the kindly woods of Pooh.

I am no Abe. or Molly Lincoln, but I do continue to plod along. With the gift of modern interventions, I am gratefully stocked with a lighter set of brain games and my load has lightened indeed.

The chapter I just reread is titled:

IN WHICH A house Is Built at Pooh Corner for Eeyore

On this “one day,” Pooh is wandering around as usual looking for someone to hang out with for a bit. Sound like college and young adulthood yet? Yuppers.

So he checked on his fiesty little pal Piglet, “…and the more he looked inside the more Piglet wasn’t there.’ “

Sound like waning connections to old friends because of the busyness of work, family life and “real adulthood?” Yes sirree Bob.

” ‘He’s out,’ said Pooh sadly.”

“That’s what it is. He’s not in.

I shall have to go a fast

Thinking Walk

by myself. Bother!”

whole wrld

My oldest son John, at three against the world.

That’s what two of my college roommates and I miss the most. I don’t even need to text, Facebook, snail mail or tweet to them to inquire: we miss going for walks together to our playground. The pace and stress of college often made no sense to any of the three of us. Nor does the current world of noise and rush make what should be very common sense amidst the buzz that we are plodding through that many years later.

Sadly, the cost of travel and the commodity of time stands in the way of “in real life” connection. Not so sadly, we manage quite well to keep in touch. Never enough, but we try. Not so much in person, yet the genius of the invention of virtual connection provides some fun in between gaps of “real” exchanges of voice and better thought out exchanges such as email or instant messages.

Now: Back to Pooh, Piglet and Eeyore.

In this part of the story, Pooh’s social dilemma increases as he decides to cheer Eeyore with a song and invites Piglet. Piglet is impatient as Pooh drags him through a windstorm to find Eeyore:

‘Pooh,’ he said at last, and a little timidly,

because he didn’t want Pooh to think he was Giving In,

‘I was just wondering.

How would it be if we went home now and

practiced your song,

and then sang it to Eeyore tomorrow -or-or  the next day, when we happen to see him.”

No go. Pooh dragged that poor pig through snow and sleet singing “Tiddley-Pom” the whole way through.

Meanwhile Christopher Robin is trying to talk some sense into Eeyore who won’t leave his “gloomy place” of no cover from the snow storm.

Eeyore justifies to his human friend:

” ‘I don’t know how it is, Christopher Robin,

but with all this snow and one thing and another,

not to mention icicles and such-like,

it isn’t so Hot in my field…In fact Christopher Robin,’

 

he went on in a loud whisper,

 

‘quite-between-ourselves-and-don’t-tell-anybody,

it’s Cold.’

 

‘Oh, Eeyore!’

Now. Here comes that attitude and thought process that I’ve yet to give up, which on one or two occasions, has driven my family to hysterics:

” ‘And I said to myself:

The others will be sorry if I’m getting myself all cold.

They haven’t got Brains, any of them,

only grey fluff

that’s blown into their heads by mistake,

and they don’t

Think.’ “

And on Eeyore discerns and plods about, in a snow storm, thinking about the snow on top of his very back. Meanwhile, not one, not two, but three friends are milling about the woods trying to resolve his gloom by rebuilding his house and trying to lead him to a more comfortable place.

Pope Francis should be proud indeed of the humble scene in which Eeyore returns to the house that he thinks he built:

” ‘ There you are,’ said Piglet.

 

‘Inside as well as outside,’ said Pooh Proudly.

 

‘It’s a remarkable thing,’ he said.

 

‘It is my house, and I built it where I said I did, so the wind must have blown it here.

 

And the wind blew it right over the wood,

and blew it down here,

and here is as good as ever.

 

In fact, better in places.’

 

‘Much better,’ said Pooh and Piglet together.

 

‘It just shows what can be done by taking a little trouble,’ said Eeyore.

 

‘Do you see Pooh? Do you see Piglet?

 

Brains first and then Hard Work.

 

Look at it!

 

That’s the way to build a house,’

 

said Eeyore

proudly.”

I was thankful for my college friends then, but I am more so now. Communication gaps or no, they mean a lot to me.