Mahler Speaks

Earlier this year, a colleague gifted me with tickets to the L.A. Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Music Hall. I was ecstatic, for they are one of the few symphonic orchestras to regularly perform flawlessly in public. The Disney Concert Hall, an architecturally sacred space for me, is equally flawless. The match is extraordinary.

Then, he told me the piece was Mahler‘s 9th Symphony. I took a deep breath and told myself I would take the opportunity to learn something new and be open to new experiences. It’s not that I don’t like Mahler…I just don’t know much about him. I’m only familiar with his first symphony, which I like very much…so I hope I’ll like his 9th just as well…although I’m certain he will have changed over his lifetime.

Then he tells me that Gustavo Dudamel is conducting. I instantly transcended. I had never before seen Dudamel conduct live. I had tried on numerous occasions to obtain tickets, but they were always sold out before I could get to them. I didn’t care if he conducted Ives or Schoenberg, I was going.

To say that night changed my life is a little extreme, but certainly accurate. I sat behind the orchestra and watched Maestro Dudamel’s face as though he were conducting me. The only research I’d done prior to the performance was to read the portion in the programme minutes before the concert began. Yet, I experienced the piece as though it were a living, breathing entity…a soul of its own. I not only conversed with Mahler and the piece, I also conversed with the Source of the music…along with Maestro Dudamel and the musicians. Three months later, I wrote a 6-page essay on that night’s impact on me…so great it was, it took that long to find the words. 

Since then, I have watched for opportunities to learn more about Mahler and listen to his music. When this documentary popped up on Netflix, I eagerly added it to my queue. So much of what I learned while experiencing his music, confirmed in this documentary, made me chuckle at this quote:

You want to know me? Listen to my music.

I wonder what I will create that will allow people to experience me long after I have transcended to a different form.

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Gluten-Free Wizard

This truly is a perfect example, of many in my life, of how nothing is accidental, and everything has a perfect time and space. It’s also an example of the many reassurances I receive from Divine Mother that all will be well, I’m not alone, and that The Universe is conspiring for my benefit.

The day after my close call in succumbing to wheat, the small refrigerator my boss ordered for the main office was installed and plugged in. I also began unpacking a shipment my boss had purchased. This shipment had been in the main office for some time, but because my office was so full, I waited to open it until I had room. I had room the day after my near melt-down. In amongst other selections for young adults and children, was this cookbook.

I saw only the cake. I am not a cake fan, which she knows, but I held it up and burst out, “The way I’m feeling today, I’d eat this if it were in front of me and deal with the consequences later.” In stunned surprise, I heard another co-worker say, “But look! It’s gluten-free!” After a few seconds, the title registered with me and I exclaimed to my boss with astonishment, “You bought this?!” She laughed and replied, “I thought you might be interested.” All I could do was nod affirmatively as my throat choked up and my eyes watered excessively. “Oh!” she continued. “Feel free to bring any wheat free/gluten-free items to work and keep them in the refrigerator. That’s one of the reasons why I bought it.”

All I could say was: Thank. You.

I took this cookbook home that night and poured over the recipes and pictures (which are quite lovely). I found myself giggling with delight. It’s so cleverly and wittily laid out, I instantly fell-in-crush with the chef. Phil Vickery definitely deserves all the awards he’s been given…and probably more. Recipes include many of my favorite things, such as crepes, pie crust (I despise a heavy, unyielding crust), butterfly cakes, muffins, carrot cake, a flourless/dairy-free chocolate brownie torte, Simnel cake, parkin (sigh), Indian-style flatbreads (yes!), savory biscuits (NOT small lumps of questionable origin), focccia (BLESS HIM), and brioche. Alas, no scones. BUT. Given the tools he provides in the first pages, I now have options for experimentation. 

Again. To all involved: Thank. You.

Communicating Kindly Part 2

After my previous post on communication, I’ve become even more aware of how frequently communication breaks down…not only between me and another person, but also between others. I noticed that for me, this issue happens frequently with the people I care the most about. Repeatedly, I come away from conversations frustrated, helpless, discouraged and unsatisfied. I knew I was missing something, but I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

In the middle of September, I stumbled upon the website for The Center for Nonviolent Communication. The title quite startled me, and I sat there, staring at the screen debating the pros and cons of such a title. Why would someone use such a strongly worded title?! My first reaction was fiercely opposed to the use of the word “nonviolent,” for all I focused on was the “violent” portion of the word. “Who wants to communicate violently?!” I asked incredulously, and then I stopped, once again startled. Well, me. Because it feels good. But does it help? Huh. Well…as a parade of images flooded my mind of past communication epic failures, I had to grudgingly admit…not in the long-run. Then I thought of all the other places in society where communication is violent and as the list progressed in my mind I became aghast. No wonder there is so much violence in our culture…because we foster a violently based language and form of communication.

At that point, I knew it was no accident I had stumbled upon this website, and I realized this was my missing piece. I also knew how deeply I wanted to change how I communicated with others. In exploring the website, I found teachers. And, not only teachers in my area, but also a free class through my local community college…beginning in two days. Unhesitatingly, I registered.

This is the now the sixth week of an eight week class, and I have to express gratitude for such a fabulous resource. I have learned so much about myself…about how I communicate and how my communication either connects or disconnects me with others, and how to remedy it. For example, I tend to respond to others by sharing a similar story from my experience. I think that by doing that I’m demonstrating empathy and understanding. However, after much struggling with that impulse during class practice, I experienced something quite different when I focused only on the other person and kept my internal revelations to myself until a more appropriate time. There is such a deep satisfaction that accompanies such an interaction, both for the speaker and the listener, that I found myself pondering the implications of this experience for quite some time. Then, I got to practice this skill outside of class.

Last week, a dear, dear friend reached out to me in a moment of deep overwhelmedness. This same dear friend is one with whom I often feel helpless during our communication. We’ve frequently talked about this disconnect and my sorrow at my inability to know how to help her best when she needs it most. I am so grateful for her patience with me and continued trust in my intentions. It is this gratitude that was one of the biggest motivators for taking the class. I was honored to have my first out-of-class practice with her.

This time everything was different! And I knew it was different as the conversation progressed. As I used the tools taught to me in class, I watched her progress through identifying her emotions and needs which then empowered her to express her needs and identify appropriate solutions. I simply offered support in the form of reflecting emotions back to her…nothing was about me. Afterwards, I felt myself tear up with joy and gratitude at the opportunity I’d just had. I was able to connect rather than cause a power struggle or judgement or shame or frustration for either party. I finally was able to be the friend I’ve wanted to be for so long. It truly was an empoweringly magical and beautiful moment.

Sober and Sane Qualities

Sober and Sane Qualities

Another snarky typeface note!

Ok. It’s possible that it wasn’t intended as such, but as I’m the one reading it, I have deemed it thus.

The note comes from a book titled, “Censoring an Iranian Love Story” by Shahriar Mandanipour. A well-loved and controversial contemporary Iranian author, this is Mandanipour’s first novel available in English. It’s a sweet and tragic story, told in beautifully descriptive language that’s discreet yet imaginative. It’s also a love story that unfolds amongst the books in the library. As a lover of libraries myself, I’ve always considered such environs the most romantic of places because so much history exists there…people’s thoughts that never die away, insight and wisdom documented and shared with future generations, observations that change one’s perceptions, information that requires a response from the reader, but best of all, the expressions from deep within one heart addressed to the same secret parts of another…all of which sometimes require a revolution of some sort.

As the typeface note describes, this book is actually two books intertwined together to form one large framework of a very intricate existence. The lighter font is the story that can be published and is officially being told…except for the parts that have been stricken through for future removal yet are still readable. The darker font is the story the author wishes to tell, explaining why he cannot.

Sorrow and Joy weave through and manage to co-exist as the characters face many obstacles in their love for one another. But, by the end of the book, through all its alleys and byways, the author has melded me, the reader, and the characters into an intimacy that might be called friendship…even though we exist in culture so vastly different from one another…and in spite of the little fact that they might not even truly exist (my existence is a different topic altogether).

In spite of such potentially heart-rending material, the author’s clever and witty sense of humor allows for the reader to come away with hope. In spite of so many rules and limitations and arbitrary decisions, one can still think for one’s self and maintain humor in challenging situations…in this way, hope is kept alive. Such a delightful bit on the typeface at the end of the book proves rather serendipitous in this light. I don’t think the author could have asked for a better Epilogue than “reading qualities [of] lightness and grace [with] sober and sane qualities.”

Really?! No Wheat?!

Three weeks ago, my doctor informed me that it was official. Wheat and I just can’t be friends. I suggested therapy…she suggested divorce.

On the one hand, I was grateful and relieved to have some explanation for all the odd things my body was experiencing (from my mouth to my brain: You Suck!), but on the other hand, wheat is in EVERYTHING (my mouth: waaaaaa!). All I can think about is pie crust and baklava and panini and burritos and focaccia and scones and…and…and… !!!

The week following the diagnosis I began to notice how much better I felt, my energy began to increase, my clothes began to grow, and I slept with a restful ease that I didn’t know was possible. But, gosh! If only I didn’t struggle with temptation at work everyday!

My job provides meals…and fairly good ones as well as snacks throughout the day. Every morning there’s a lovely waffle bar, among other things, and some mornings there are freshly fried pieces of French Toast…all that gooey Cinnamon yumminess my mouth just aches to savor. Alas. I had to walk away. I don’t think I can quite explain to you the magnitude of will it takes to do that. It’s been three weeks now, and every day I’ve still managed to walk away. By some standards, I’m told I’ve created a new habit at this point, so this walking away bit should be easier. Not so. It’s still torturous.

One of the more challenging moments is at 10:00 am when I routinely take a break for tea and a nosh…which usually is a slice of cinnamon raisin toast spread with a lovely layer of Nutella. That crunchy butteriness interspersed with soft, melt-in-your-mouth sweetness, overlaid with creamy chocolate…heavenly, I assure you. Somewhere, I know, there’s a study proving that my memory of this experience is just as powerful as actually putting that explosion of texture and flavor in my mouth, but I think those people just have no idea how to live, for my mouth protests quite loudly that that study just isn’t quite accurate. My brain chemistry agrees…it’s just not as satisfying.

Yesterday I almost caved. I was so desperate for the bread that I sat, transfixed on this dilemma as to how I could justify or substitute or do whatever I could to satisfy this craving. The solution quite surprised me. Normally I’m not a huge fan of celery…too fiberous and many times limp (iyich!). But, five tender stalks did the trick! The crunch was perfect and it held just the right amount of Nutella and somehow, that wee snack satisfied my craving (and no, I wasn’t the messy one with the knife…although, it’s entirely possible that I could have been, given my state of things).

So yay for me and I’m doing The Happy Dance. But. That was just too close of a call. I seriously have to come up with another option in case that doesn’t cut it in the future. Off to find the Wizard of such things!

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