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With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90  days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.

21 July 2010

21July: It's Not Only Ego

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Today's Post:
* Reminds Me of the Time - Why Doris Roared
* It's Not Only Ego

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Reminds Me of The Time
Why Doris Roared

As I found out almost as soon as I met her, Doris was a formidable force when she was angry or upset, something that was not apparent in her polite and reserved demeanor. I met Doris outside my office for a welcoming hug on the day she arrived at Miriam's House. What little I knew of her - that she'd been drinking most of her 59 years and had only just recently been diagnosed with AIDS - didn't begin to tell me about this woman who would become so beloved of all of us. Nor did it tell me the lesson she would teach me that very day - the day I made Doris roar.

On the afternoon that my impatient and impulsive action brought Doris to my office in a well-justified rage, I was only vaguely aware of the moving-in activities going on outside my office. Thank God for Donna, our Office Manager, and the interns, who handled these things: I was glued to the computer trying to finish a grant application due the next day. These deadlines are written in stone - if you don't get the application in by the exact minute of the deadline, your application will not be considered. Knowing this, I was more than nervous as I realized how much I had left to do.

So, glad to close my door and settle in, I gratefully left the moving-in protocol to staff members, the protocol that, we'd learned the hard way, needed to include the Roach Inspection. Many of our residents came to us from shelters, which are not the cleanest places from which to bring bags of clothing and cardboard boxes filled with old paper and stale bags of chips. Other creatures sometimes accompanied a new resident - most particularly, roaches.

I cannot stand roaches. Mice, I'm OK with. Spiders, thousand-leggers, etc., I might scream when I see them but I am not afraid to grab a tissue, sweep 'em up and flush 'em. But a roach gives me the creeps as does no other living creature (possibly excepting Mike Meyers playing that slimy, Bond-esque secret agent). That's why Donna knocked on my door so tentatively.

"Carol, I need to ask you something."

Ugh. Donna never interrupted me unless it was important. "Oh, no."

"Yeah. Well, we just inspected Doris' things and found roaches in her TV."

Following close on her heels was Necie, the Personal Care Aide on shift that afternoon. Necie had a vivid way of expressing herself. "Miss Carol, don't go near that TV. Must be a thousand roaches up in there, hiding in the dark, ready to creep out at night ..."

Unsuccessfully suppressing a shudder and near desperation at the thought of my now-neglected grant application, I sort of exploded. "Where's the TV?"

"In front. I put it in a bag. Should we bomb it?

"No. I'm pitching it." I swept past a startled-looking Donna and an amused-looking Necie and out the front door. Grabbing the bag - which, thank God, was tightly knotted - I hustled it to the back of the building, heaved it into the dumpster, and hurried back inside to wash my hands and return to my computer.

Or so I thought. Within seconds, Doris was at my office door. I don't actually know what she said. It's not faded memory after all these years, it's that she did not speak, or even shout, so much as ROAR at me. That is the only way I can describe the shock wave of sound booming from her mouth. The sole distinguishable word: "... TV! ..."

There was only one other time in the 14 years of my life at Miriam's House that I was terrified of a resident. In this instance, I did not stop to think: not about my application, not about whether we might salvage the dumped TV, not about anything other than my gut reaction to Doris roaring. I lingered only for the few seconds it took to utter a hasty assurance, and I was out of there.

One hour later, I returned with a television. For Doris: a 19-inch, color screen and remote control.

For me: no roaches.

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It's Not Only Ego

As if the admissions of my 19July post (Get Thee Behind Me, Ego) weren't humbling enough, honesty compels me to reveal that I possess other flaws that prevent me from being present to God.

I know. Shocking, isn't it?

I might as well just list them:
* Laziness - Another word to use is inertia. If I am at rest, I really want to stay at rest, which, in this context, often means lazing on my comfortable chair with a cup of tea and a piece of pumpkin bread beside me.

* Distraction - For example, an NPR broadcast that I simply MUST listen to, even though I know that if I do, I'll not have time in the day's schedule for my morning meditation and yoga.

* Impatience - Sometimes I resist as too slow-moving the reality of the moment - as in: won't you please get on with your story; won't you please speed up so that I won't get stuck at next light; won't you please just do what I want you to do?

* Writing this blog - Even as I type those words, I realize that I have neglected my morning meditation out of excitement and eagerness to edit tomorrow's post and draft this post. (I create the first draft of my posts at least one week ahead of publishing them.)

It's not only my morning routine that is affected by the above characteristics. I allow laziness, impatience, distractions and busy-ness to keep me from phoning a friend or reaching out to someone I know is in need; to affect my ability to be lovingly present in conversation; to make spur-of-the-moment decisions that I almost always regret later (see Reminds Me of the Time, above); to enhance my isolation and feeling of separateness. And because it's simply not possible to be present to the people in my life or to the Now (as Ekhart Tolle would term it) when I am in these states, it is certainly not possible to be present to God, either.

DISCLAIMER: I do not mean that laziness, being distracted, having an ego and a blog to write are always bad. I try to avoid such categorical statements because they are just not true 98.9% of the time. And what looks like laziness for me might be good practice for you. I am not trying to create a mandate for how to practice the presence of God.

And now I must go to my quiet space for my morning meditation, prayer and quiet.

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Next Post: Methods for Practicing Presence

I'd love to hear from you. Use the Comment box below, or email me at acrold.marsh@gmail.com

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