Sunday, April 10, 2011

Contract Renewal 2011

"Go ahead and open one of the envelopes. They each have an identical contract for your renewal date of April 11", came the voice on my cell phone. I fumble through my stacks of papers and retrieve one of the overstuffed envelopes and slide my finger under the flap. The contract looks similar to last year's. And the year before. And the year before that. "We want you to especially focus on Section 3, paragraphs a, b, and e, wherein the signee vows to do no intentional harm to him or herself. You were being observed during the past 12 months. That deal with the wine and sleeping pills - not cool! And what's with the bacon on Sunday mornings? I hope you got that wake up call from the workplace health screening a few days ago. Your cholesterol level is no laughing matter. And need I remind you of your trip to the ER with your high blood pressure out of control?" I feel exasperated now, but replied,"Ok, Ok, let me just read through it for a few minutes. You know, in my own defense, I was really depressed and upset a lot this last year. I'm on an antidepressant now, does that make the Management happy?", I asked, with just a hint of sarcasm. The voice came back, caring this time. "Look Hon, this isn't about making us happy, it's about you making the most of your life. You know, showing up and giving it your all every day. Which brings up another concern of Management; you really weren't putting your heart and soul into it for quite a lot of the time this year. Somedays, it seemed like you didn't show up for Life at all. We've been sending you helpers all along." I felt chastised. I was being chastised by some unknown "Management" that was far too intrusive in my day to day life. I cleared my throat. "I know. I've really appreciated the helpers. And all the cool things I'm learning to do by just being open to the possibilities. I'm even taking my husband and daughter over to Hawaii, where my son lives. It's my birthday present to myself." "Now that's more like it. Management, of course, does not guarantee no adverse outcomes along the way. But it has been very good that you've learned not to dwell upon the worst case scenario. So, how about it? Are you ready to sign up for another year? And you realize, too, that just because you sign the contract and agree to accept another year of living on this planet, does not imply that Management will not relocate you at its discretion. Understood?" The voice sounded stern but caring. What a strange combination. "Yeah, yeah - I get it. It's just like every other year." I sighed and hesitated, then reached for the pen across the table. I signed my names. The voice came back over the phone, "Alright then. Thanks you! We'll be in touch again next year - or sooner." My phone screen returned itself to the blue bubbles arising endlessly.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Contract Renewal 2011

My cell phone is ringing incessantly again - or incessant in proportion to the number of rings on which I've set it before the call is sent to voicemail. It must be between 4 and 6 rings and I could reset it to just 1 or 2 rings but now my ringtone is a ukelele tune to get me in the Aloha spirit for my upcoming vacation to Hawaii and I like to hear the whole tune.. The voicemail message indicator goes off and I check the "missed call" number; UNAVAILABLE. So it isn't one of the numerous debt collection calls for someone of the last name of Nguyen, who must have had this phone number until last year sometime. Those calls - with the assorted butcherie of the Nguyen name pronunciation - aggravated me no end. But this - this UNAVAILABLE number - is more disturbing. Especially since this is the 4th call today with the same number. I don't want to take the time to listen to the voicemail message, not right now, not in the middle of an otherwise perfectly mediocre day at work. I check my mail box in the office later in the day. Updated employee roster, check stub for electronic payment directly to my account, cell phone reimbursement check, notice of an upcoming seminar...all the usuals and one UNusual piece of mail - an overstuffed lavendar envelope with only my first name followed by my birthdate. A brief feeling of panic mixed with annoyance washes over me, but I don't have time to break into that envelope. Not right now. Not in the middle of a perfectly mediocre life. Driving out to see my last patient of the day, I glance at the billboards and road signs as I pass them at 68 MPH. McDonalds. Wanker Corners Store exit 1 mile. Oregon City Molalla Gladstone. Panera. And a new one, smaller, set closer to the highway. "Have You Renewed Your Contract Yet?" It is enigmatic, like those stupid Snickers ads two years ago or the fantastic Timbers billboards all over town. Those I like. "Have You Renewed Your Contract Yet?" I assume it's for cell phone service as my car and I whiz by. My work day approaches the end. I had to tell Mrs. Smith that her father is transitioning towards death. It was news she already new but still didn't want to hear. I wonder how I will react when it's my father or mother dying. I push through the traffic and head home. Had to get my mailbox key replaced this week, and the new key is a little sticky in the box. The door finally opens, and I pull out all the usuals; electric bill, grocer ads...and another damned lavendar envelope with only may name and birthdate on it. How in the hell...? My husband and I share a dinner that surpasses mediocre. He goes to bed early, and I settle in for a night of internet surfing. I open my email and count fifteen - FIFTEEN! - new emails from "Contract Renewal Specialists". Shit. Can't I get a few hours of peace? I move on to facebook...boring tales of other mediocre lives. I dream of Hawaii, my son, the surf, and hear a pleasant ukelele tune in the background. It takes a few seconds before I remember that it's my new cell phone tune. Oh. My. God. Can't a woman get any rest at all?! It is said that a coward dies a thousand deaths. Deciding not to put it off any longer, I push the button to answer the call but say nothing. There is absolute stillness on the other end, and then a man's deep voice asks, "Rhonda? Shusli?" I would like to think that my cousin in rehab has been granted one phone call and he chose to call me. That idea makes my codependent nature glow. But I really know better. I clear my throat and affirm my names to the caller. "We've been trying to contact you, Rhonda-Shusli. You DO know that it's time to renew your contract, don't you? We have less than a week to get everything filed. Are you ready?" I stare at the facebook computer screen for a full 30 seconds before answersing. "Yes. I suppose I am." (to be continued) " WRITER'S NOTE: NEW FORMAT, SORRY, HAVEN'T FIGURED OUT HOW TO DO PARAGRAPHS!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day, 2007

It must have been on a Tuesday that I knew you didn't want to see me anymore. We had already stopped sharing a home, but when I saw you at our usual meeting place that evening, I knew it. You had decided to be done with me. You didn't say it, or say much at all.

Later, over dinner, I finally put it on the table: You don't want to see me anymore do you? You hung your head...stammered reasons why it wasn't working for you. I was disgusted by the whole thing - all the effort I'd put in to it and what I considered a half-hearted effort on your part.

Half-hearted. That's a good one. Valentine's Day was just a few hours away when the conversation ended with me flouncing out of the restaurant. It seemed doubtful that you noticed or cared.

I celebrated your complete departure from my life by seeing a lighthearted romantic comedy starring Diane Keaton. The people onscreen gave me plenty of opportunity to cynically laugh at the stupidity of believing in love.

A few days later, sorting through things in my purse, I pulled out a small tissue-wrapped object. Opening it, I saw the clay figurine I'd intended to give to you for Valentine's Day; two people embracing. I shoved it in to a drawer and hoped to forget about it. What a cruel joke this "Valentine's Day" crap was. Not so much as a chocolate bar to honor the memories of what we had. Well, I washed my hands of all that nonsense - once and for all!

By Friday night, the opiate was leaving my system, and I needed a fix. I called and begged to talk to you...but no. Not now. Maybe...not ever.

On Saturday afternoon, I lay across my bed, crying, feeling my life ebbing away in a pool of sorrow. My friend called on me with a blood transfusion in the nick of time. "Pray to Mother Mary, or whatever female deity you can relate to, my sister. Pour your heart out to her." She comforted me with kind and loving words.

I turned to my tacky glow-in-the dark Virgin of Guadalupe. I knelt and prayed, telling her everything, and then kept her by my bed. If I awoke in the middle of the night, she was there. She, the endless source of comfort. She was better off an eternal virgin than face this pain.

The days that followed brought a kind of numb healing. Scar. Yoga eased my mind. I wrote poems and stories. I walked through the park every day. I bought a new, white, pristine, full sized bed. For me only, in my reclaimed and perpetual celibacy.

I bought candles and oils and wrote love letters.

Of course we reunited.

The pieces of broken heart were swept up from the floor. There were some in the drawer where the figurine lay, and these were put into the pile of red shards. A few had landed under the sofa, but I got them out with a long-handled duster.

So, I got my heart put back together. It's bigger now. It's really pretty.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Owl Medicine

There's an idea that when a person sees or hears an owl, it is prophetic of impending death.

One time, my cousin was driving to work in the early morning. An owl skimmed the windshield and roof of the pickup he was driving. His father, my uncle, had been quite ill, and so his death a few days later was not completely unexpected.

Another time, this time walking through the woods near a battle site between my cousin's and my ancestors and the encroaching white people, I saw an owl in a low-hanging branch. As I was bounding down the trail, I noticed the tiny bird and stopped dead in my tracks (so to speak...). Our eyes locked and I spoke to the owl; s/he waited a few moments, and then flew off. The next morning I was told my grandfather was near death.

On the other hand, I've listened to owls hooting many times as darkness descends in a forested area. Once or twice, I hooted to them and a conversation of sorts ensued. So, I don't imagine that anytime a person hears or sees an owl, it means someone is about to die.

But, I would still get upset and wonder under some circumstances.

My father (Karuk/Chetco/Euro) tells me that owls don't represent death, but that they do symbolize something like mysticism, intuition, wisdom, and a kind of spiritual awareness.

Owls are mentioned in the book, "Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies", by Bobby Lake-Thom ("a traditional Native healer and spiritual teacher of Karuk and Seneca descent"). He says, "All Owls are a bad sign, but different kinds bring somewhat different messages, and different degrees of power and knowledge....The Owls is considered a bad sign and a bad power by most Native American tribal groups. It is a messenger of evil, of sickness, or a fatal accident. It is also considered a sign of death."

Lately, though, another kind of owl medicine has caught on. My mother (Chinook/Euro) has sent me links to her beloved "Molly McGee", a barn owl of worldwide fame. Live cameras have been put into the owl box she and her mate - and two subsequent clutches of owlets - call home.

It really makes me feel good to know that so many people are tuning in to watch owls do whatever it is owls do. A forum has sprung up around the owl surveillance, and even people who are ill and homebound can cultivate a love for a little winged creature. When I asked Mom what she has gotten out of watching the owls over the past months, she said, "It has kept me from going nuts." (That's debatable. JK, Mom!)

This is the new Owl Medicine. We are not so lost as humans that we can't still be fascinated by our owl relatives. At the end of industrial civilization, how ironic that the only way we can view them is via high-tech computers and internet.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Idle promise

Mmm. I can almost smell it.

Idle promise: If California's Prop 19 to legalize pot passes on Tuesday, I am relocating forthwith to northern Cali. I've been wanting to be close to the redwoods...walk on Karuk land...make offerings to the spirits who linger at Yontocket...and live near the ocean, anyway. I will get high and stay that way for at least a year. Reggae by the River, shopping at the North Coast Co-op, grooving in Arcata, looking at trilliums under redwood trees. Maybe I'll take up painting..or spinning yarn...How could life get any sweeter?

No, I don't use pot - although it would be a cinch to get a medical marijuana card for my chronic pain(s). BUT - if pee-tested and found to be pot-positive, chances are 99% that I would lose my employment doing the work I love. Even if I smoked it legally while holding a card.

A woman can dream, and dream she does.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Heil Portland!

My little northwest haven for liberal thought has apparently shown itself to be tolerant of at least one nazi sympathizer, police captain Mark Kruger.

The wheels were set in to motion in 2002 by Alan Graf, the Hippie Lawyer to investigate the allegations that Kruger had put up in a park memorial plaques to nazis Shows what can happen if you keep talking loudly enough for long enough. (Of note is that Graf's Jewish grandparents were murdered in nazi concentration camps during WWII.) Thanks to Rev. Chuck Currie, Graf (who no longer resides in Portland), and Dan Handleman of Copwatch for keeping this in the public eye.

Read a more complete story on Oregonlive's website.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

eat pray love barf

Julia Roberts, looking placid
in an Ashram in India

Rachel, my daughter, had seen the book when we were shopping at Goodwill one day about 6 months ago. She had picked it up and considered buying it, saying that it was popular amongst some of the young women she knows. She ended up putting it back on the shelf, saying she didn't have time to read anything except her books for her college courses.

The previews of eat love pray captured my attention. The main character was a woman who seemed on the verge of an epiphany, one Gloria Steinham put succinctly decades ago: "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle". I made a mental note to watch for the release of the movie.

In the past month, my amazing and beautiful daughter had endured yet another heartache over a man she'd been involved with. I showed her the trailer for eat love pray, and we both giggled over the line, "I've either been in a relationship or breaking up since I was 15." So true of Rachel. I thought seeing the movie would give Rachel another perspective about life and relationships.

So, the release date of Friday the 13th of August arrived, and Rachel and I circled the Roseway Theater here in NE Portland, looking for a parking space a few minutes before the 2nd showing of elp. There were about 10 women lined up for admission. We got our parking space, bought the tickets, and settled in to a theater 1/2 filled with women.

Long story short: Self-absorbed, privileged woman who holds her partners to a higher level than she does herself paints herself as some kind of victim and goes globe-trotting to culturally appropriate other peoples' spirituality to assuage her pain.

First, she goes to Italy, where she grows to an immense size 4 from her liberal ingestion of comfort carbs. Next, she's off to an Ashram in India to meet the guru of her past lover. (Ironically, the guru is in New York, from where the main character hails. Coulda saved a trip.)
The essence of the movie, for me, is when the main character is in a cab in India, and she is exposed to the abject poverty of the people there. The audience is left uncertain of her feelings upon seeing these sights. It was a stark representation of the insulation money and americaness provided to this woman.

The scenery was luscious as she went from India to Bali. Here she works with a medicine man whom she had met a year earlier. She also meets up with Javier Bardem, the fantastically bad baddy of No Country for Old Men (which I liked exponentially better than eat love pray). At last, it seems, our heroine has bought sufficient enlightenment to enter into a healthy, loving, mutually satisfying relationship. But wait! A critical moment arrives when Bardem's character professes his love for the leading lady. He wants to take her on a boat trip to a nearby island for a few days. She gets weirdly panicky and there is a standoff between the two forces. I was tempted to jump up and yell, "CALL IT, FRIEND-O!"
Javier Bardem

In the end, after a whopping 140 minutes, the heroine's enlightenment earned her the love of a hunky guy. It's a Cinderella story. Pretty typical mainstream cultural hollywood bullshit.

Anyway, Rachel and I shared a few good laughs about the movie over a bottle of wine after we got home. I know she'll be fine without flying to Bali to get enlightened.