Hawaii legislators recently passed a bill supporting marriage equality for same sex couples. The Governor signed the measure almost immediately after it was passed. I was supporting from the outskirts, I watched hours and hours of testimony and dragged my son down to the Capitol the evening that the final vote took place on the floor of the House of Representatives. It was tense. It was confrontational. It was celebratory. It was fabulous and it was history.
When I saw that there was going to be an interfaith service at the chapel at St. Andrews Priory focused on gratitude and healing around the same sex marriage issue I was intrigued. I was raised Catholic because that was my dad. Once my parents got divorced all religion was off. And there’s been none since. Honestly during testimony on the bill, after listening to hours and hours of church folk saying awful things about gay people, well, I felt that I had made the right choice about religion. It helps that despite all of the Catholic schooling I had as a kid (I remember going weekly to religion class) that the whole believing thing never actually sank in. I went and did all the stuff. Stood. Sat. Got confirmed. But I never believed. Maybe I just never understood that that was the purpose of the entire thing. That I was supposed to believe. Speaks volumes about me really.
As a bit of a disclaimer, I forgot to take my hormone pill to iron me out today until too late in the day so I may have had some excessive emotional stuff going on (and now is the time that I need ironing). But when I thought about the interfaith service, I just got kind of choked up. I knew that I needed to go. I’m going to have to admit that I didn’t realize that St. Andrews was more accepting of all lifestyles. It was a nice discovery. The service was church-like and not. The women’s choir sang “Going to the Chapel” to laughs and clapping. I found myself comforted by the singing of the hymns. The gentleman in the pew beside us had one of those strong, I am a believer, singing voices. The kind that drag you along into singing despite yourself.
I loved the affirmations. And the sense of community. Of raising our voices together, even if we sounded awful. The entire experience made me feel like this was something that was missing. Something that could help me put more into the life I was living. Again, it could have just been a low hormonal day but I don’t feel like that was it. I felt like I was supposed to be there. To see and understand that there are places of worship, whatever the definition of that is, that could be OK for me. Tonight to be in one place and listen to Buddhist, Episcopalian, Jewish and Native Hawaiian worship touched me. Lately I’ve been feeling the tug. The tug that made me quit my job and move to New York for six months. And while I’m not planning anything that drastic, I feel a change in the air and in my bones. And as much as it makes me tear up (hormones?) it gives me strength to recognize and walk towards it, the change. Whatever that may be. And it may start off as being something as small as attending some sort of service somewhere on a regular basis. Or maybe it is at various somewheres. And I feel good about that.
Posted in Hawaii
Tagged acceptance, change, church, Episcopalian, equality, Hawaii, Hawaiian, hormonal, Jewish, joy, religion, same sex, support, weepy, worship
Today, Veteran’s Day, is my father’s birthday. The good thing about that is that it is really easy to remember. Despite that, it got to a point in the day where I just about forgot to make the call. My dad is on the East Coast so he is now five hours behind the time here in Hawaii. Part of me wants it to be too late. To have that excuse for not calling. The time difference. It is not a good excuse as I talk to my mother each weekend day and she is also on the East Coast. But it is the excuse that I have. It is the excuse that makes me feel OK about it. I did not use the excuse today though and I called my dad at about 6:30 p.m. his time to wish him a happy birthday.
I have to admit that I was concerned. I’ve spoken to him the past and he seemed, mentally foggy. I wasn’t sure what I would do if that were the case today. It was not. My dad was full on and completely engaged today. He is currently living in the house of his caretaker. He is not healthy. He had a stroke many years ago and has never truly been well. He is suffering from a myriad of conditions. The phone conversations with him are mostly him documenting his medical maladies even though I know that he has gone through the entire litany with my sister earlier in the day. I listen and make the appropriate responses back to him. I can say that his is a true story of the failure of the Veteran’s Administration to ensure that Veterans are able to obtain appropriate care but that is another story.
My dad did remember to ask about my son, his only grandchild, surfacing in the midst the discussion. Well, it’s not really a discussion. Discussion implies give and take. On the phone with my dad is mostly give whether or not you want to take it. I suppose for me, it’s better that way. I’m not much of a giver anyway.
Then, my dad mentioned the horrific storm in the Philippines. He talked about how he had been in Manila years ago. He told me that he had been talking about all of the bad global weather with the family he lives with. The discussion had been around why there were so many awful storms and if it was meant to signal the end of the world. To warn us all that it was almost the time of the second coming. That we were being warned somehow. I was stunned into silence. After spending days hearing people discuss this same sort of thing in relation to same sex marriage which was being debated at the legislature, I was distinctly horrified. Global warming, global warming was running through my head and my dad did say that it could be that but then poo-pooed the very idea. I had no words. It was too close to the ugliness of last week. So I just listened some more until he was beckoned away for birthday cake and I could get off the phone. And I was left feeling, somehow sadder about our poor relationship than ever before.
Sometimes when you are falling it is like you are flying. For a very brief moment. Until you hit the ground. Usually you have no time to enjoy the feeling that you may be flying due to the hitting the ground panic. It all happens so quickly.
When you are falling you react instinctively. Your hands go out to try to prevent your face or head from slamming into the pavement. This is great for your head and your face but not so great for your hands. They generally end up bruised and scraped.
The next part of your body that hits the ground is a crap shoot. Last time it was knees. This time it was the left thigh of all things. Quad muscle acting in a brake-like fashion. Skin against pavement almost always assists in facilitating stoppage of the forward motion.
And once you are done falling. You almost immediately get up. Like nothing. You wonder if anyone has seen. You see how much you are bleeding. You determine if anything seems broken. You walk a bit to see if it is possible to keep running.
And then you run away. Like nothing happened. You are dirty and bruised. You are sore and embarrassed. You wonder if there is a reason for the falling. Did you trip on something? Did your feet just get tangled up? Did you just will it to happen?
In the end it doesn’t matter. Falling is falling. Much later, the injuries always seem less worse than they did in the harsh light of day. As you examine them, you consider that you have left behind a bit of yourself. DNA, skin scraped onto the sidewalk. Ripe for the taking from those wishing to cast spells or create clones. Luckily no such witnesses exist to know where to look to take advantage of genetic shenanigans.
And already wounds are healing. Soon it will be like it never happened. Maybe next time, the flying part can be acknowledged, experienced, wondered over. Although, that does not seem likely. The best to hope for is that there is no next time and if there is a next time, the extent of the injury consists of a bruised ego.
Sometimes you hit an age where, when something aches for too long, you immediately self-diagnose with Alzheimer’s or cancer or a heart attack, stroke or other potentially life threatening condition. When you are beset with these thoughts, you take stock in your life. You consider where you are and wonder what the hell you’ve been doing all these years. The fact that your entire family lives in a rented one bedroom apartment. That at the rate you are going you will never move out of said one bedroom apartment. Then someone asks you if the young idealistic you would be disappointed at the you who you are today. And you are really not too sure. And then you start thinking about building tree bridges so that golden lion tamarin monkeys can cross the highway without being run down. Or trying to find a place what wires money to see if you can send a solar lamp to people in Haiti. I seriously cannot make this stuff up.
And then, on October 1st, health insurance exchanges open across the United States. They open and begin providing a means for uninsured individuals to obtain health care coverage, whether they had been unable to purchase it because they had been ill in the past or they just couldn’t afford it. Maybe they purchased medical coverage but were not able to get prescription drug coverage because it was just not offered to individuals at any price. People who put off obtaining preventive screenings like mammograms or colonoscopies. People who had just given up on health care coverage and were chancing it. Hoping that they would not fall seriously ill or get in an accident. All these people. All these circumstances. All of this potentially goes away today on October first.
Yes, it was glitchy. There were technical issues. In Maryland 90,000 people visited and crashed their exchange site. But then there were anecdotes from individuals who said that they would have waited six days to get coverage so the six hour timeframe they did wait was nothing. In Kentucky 1,000 applications were submitted by 9:30 a.m. with 24,000 visits throughout the day. This is what the Republicans intent on denying coverage to millions of Americans are afraid of. Success. The more people who gain coverage; who see a doctor; who become healthy; remain healthy; stay healthy. This is what they fear the most.
So my golden lion tamarin moment is this, my teeny part in getting this behemoth off the ground, even if it is just barely hovering. I was an infinitesimally small cog. Like, in the immortal words of Frenchy, an amoeba, on a flea on a rat. But that doesn’t matter to me. The stories of people signing up, submitting applications across the U.S. makes me really happy. Like I helped to make a difference. So I am taking this day to just feel good about myself. If you want to feel good too, tell someone to check out their state exchange, they might qualify for help to pay their premiums. Then you can feel good about helping someone. Success. It is sweet.
My friend and co-worker recently left town. She had left her position about a month before actually hitting the road. I think that I can say that of all the wonderful folks who have filled that particular position in my department over the years, I was probably closest to her. Part of this was due to the fact that my teeny department physically moved, we moved down one floor and were completed separated from our boss. In addition to that, on our new floor we sat right next to each other, side by side. In our old digs, her desk was across a walkway from mine. It might as well of been a highway between us it was so far. This inhibited conversations to only once in a while. The proximity of our boss ensured that conversations were never about her. This was the set up for all of eternity. For all the other people who had been in that position. And then we were moved to ten. And we were right next to each other.
The close proximity and the absence of sitting next to the faux wall of our boss’ office had a direct impact on our relationship. The content of our conversations. It all changed. It also helped that there were just some things that would make us laugh ridiculously hard, like to point of snorting. Very, very ladylike.
But she has been gone now for what could be two entire months. I realized the other day that I feel very lonely without her. I miss her being there when I am there. I miss being able to call her after a particularly feisty external meeting and just debrief. I have found myself on other floors, seeking out the company of certain co-workers to chat. Very unlike me. But there I am, under the guise of looking for chocolate, trying to talk to people. I didn’t think that I would feel this lonely but I do. When you feel lonely at work, you start to think about all of the other ways in your life that you are lonely. You contemplate the place you are in at that moment. You wonder why you are not working in Brazil to assist golden lion tamarin monkeys by building a bridge that will save them from being run over by big trucks (this is a real thing: http://www.npr.org/2013/09/19/224101468/beloved-brazilian-monkey-clings-to-a-shrinking-forest). You question yourself repeatedly and find no good answers. And the loneliness grows on your skin like some weird plaque. And you wonder if there is a solution as easy as a salve to just clear it all up. And there isn’t. There is just you and your thoughts and your doubts. And there is no clear path. Just the thought to pull your head back in and carry on. Because that is the easiest thing to do. Nothing.
I grew up in New York. I grew up spending summers at my great grandparent’s summer cottage on the North Fork. I grew up swimming in the bay and the sound. Bodies of water which are gray or dark green. Murky with lots of unknown beasties ready to pinch a toe or suddenly squish under a foot. We would always go in no matter the weather (unless there was lightning) and no matter the temperature. I will admit that there was a brief swimming respite the summer Jaws came out. But that aside, I don’t ever remember not swimming because I thought that the water was cold.
Fast forward many years later and here I am living in Hawaii. Living in Hawaii where, when I go to the ocean, I generally feel like I want to go in. I always feel like I want to go in. I am on the beach. I am hot. Maybe sweaty. The water is blue, blue, blue and clear. And I want to go in. But then I get to the water’s edge. I walk out to my waist and suddenly I am freezing. The slight cooling breeze feels like an arctic wind. I get goose bumps. And then I turn around and escape to the warm sand. Wrap myself in a towel and warm up. I am always chided by people who remind me that I am from New York. While that may be true, after living in tropical climates for over ten years, I can say that while I may never be Hawaiian, when it comes to my body’s reaction to the weather, I’m about as local as they come.
Lately I have been feeling not great. Off. Anxious. Not great. I remembered years ago when I would boogie board and there was something mystical about being in the water. I remember that being in the ocean made me feel right, pono. So after feeling not so good for a few days I decided that I had to get in the ocean on Sunday. Really get in the ocean. Complete submersion. A salt water baptism. Due to the sporting event going on down by Kapiolani Park, we ended up at Ala Moana. A place full of small children, stand up paddle boarders and swimmers. We found a good spot (although not good enough for my son) and I decided to just go in. So unlike me. I worried as I walked to the water’s edge that I would wuss out. That I would stand up to my waist gazing forlornly across the water wishing I could do it. But I knew as soon as my toe hit the water that this would not be the case. The water felt almost warm and inviting. There was no arctic wind blowing. I walked out and then took the plunge literally. Without my glasses the entire world turns to extreme fuzziness. And that was OK. I was under water and floating on the water. I was out where I couldn’t touch in the bluey blueness of the ocean. It was good stuff.
I’m not going to say that I was healed. That I was miraculously feeling fine. That was not the case. But I felt better. I felt calmer. More grounded. In my head? Likely. Does it matter? Not a bit. I’m considering going back for some more this weekend. Look for me. I’ll be the one who goes right in, all the way, with no hesitation.
Months ago I randomly happened to see that Chef Chris Cosentino, of Top Chef Masters fame and the restaurant Incanto in San Francisco was coming to town for a cooking demonstration. The event was part of the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. Chef Cosentino is a “nose to tail” guy. He won his season on Top Chef Masters by cooking dishes made of beef heart, tripe and blood sausage. Despite this meaty background, the Festival had Chef Cosentino putting on a rice cooking demonstration with current Top Chef Masters contestant Chef Sang Yoon. Rice cooking, not pig slaughtering 101, rice cooking. My vegetarian heart sang.
The truth is the reason I wanted to go see Chef Cosentino cook had little to do with his cooking. It had more to do with the fact that he is the spitting image of my ex. Spitting image. The ex who I moved with to Hawaii almost 15 years ago. The ex who, after a seven year relationship, dumped me via email from Korea. There’s not a lot of love lost there. This I can say with relative certainty. But Chef Cosentino looks just like the big J (as the ex is referred to at my house). And I couldn’t resist. I bought a ticket. I told one person. I sort of felt ashamed. I had no interest in his rice cooking but plenty interest in seeing him live and in person.
Then today was the day. I had no idea what to expect. The session was held at the Convention Center. Long tables were set up in front of the stage. Each place was set with a spoon, napkin, bottle of water and two wine glasses. It was about twenty minutes till the session was to start when I arrived. I grabbed a seat in the second row which turned out to be in direct line of Chef Cosentino’s cooking station. He and Chef Yoon seemed to have a great time cooking. Each made a main course rice dish. They bantered throughout and shared the dishes with the audience. A local sommelier paired the food with wine. There was laughing and innuendo regarding salami. The food was excellent and I had a great time.
The Chefs took questions throughout but there seemed to be more at the end. Maybe it was the effects of the alcohol. Chef Cosentino was asked about how he came to be the nose to tail guy. His answer was nothing short of breathtaking. He told the story of three goats that were raised for him (I think I’ve got that right, I should’ve taken notes) and the fact that after the butchering, almost half of the animal was going to be thrown away. And then he got very emotional. He had to stop and take a breath and wait a moment. He talked about the difficult choice to take the life of an animal and how he felt that that life wasn’t being honored by discarding so much of it. Having lived in rural Thailand, I got used to seeing whole animals. I remember visiting a village one afternoon and two school aged children were defeathering a chicken that the family would eat later in the day. It is a place where there is a distinct understanding of where food comes from and what it takes to get it. Chef Cosentino cautioned against not knowing that and being so disconnected from food that meat equates to plastic wrapped packages of unknown origin. As a vegetarian, I loved listening to him advocate so eloquently and lovingly about using the entire animal. So much so, that I told him afterwards how much I really appreciated it. I wouldn’t eat it but it seemed more right. I think guys like Chef Cosentino and locally, Ed Kenney of Town, have the right idea. And at the end of the day, like a ridiculous school girl, I got my money shot with the Chef who was nothing but gracious. And while his resemblance to the big J did not initiate any cathartic moment, I did walk around with a shit eating grin on my face the rest of the day. Totally worth it. Thanks to both Chefs for sharing so much of themselves.