Michael Row the Boat

Halleluja! The river is deep and the river is wide, Milk and honey on the other side. Can you hear slaves singing this spiritual during the Civil War? I learned this song as a child and I was comforted by the repetition and simple melody. Of course no one explained the origin of the song, we were too young to understand. Or were we? Maybe we were steeped in whiteness, and black skin and black history were simply too far from our rural Iowa experience. But that’s a different road, and I want to talk about the comfort I get from this song today.

The cadence and repetition feel like a pendulum swinging back and forth, back and forth. The feeling is the same I got when I sang “rock a bye baby”to Tyler. I fell asleep, he did not. So Michael rowed and rowed till he got to the other side. I will be getting on a very large boat on Saturday, but I won’t be rowing it. I am going on a cruise to the Panama Canal with stops in Costa Rica, Columbia, Grand Cay and the Cayman Islands. So I guess I will be getting to the “other side” when we pass through the Panama Canal. There could be milk and honey on the other side! Milk and honey, prosperity and abundance, I’ll take it. This trip is a “stretch” for me: my first cruise, I am leaving the country, and I can’t swim.

One day I came to visit Roger at Meadowlark Assisted Living and he was having a low energy day and was napping. I peaked in and his eyes were open so I laid down beside him. And before I knew it we were reciting nursery rhymes and singing all the childhood songs we remembered. Roger had dementia but childhood memories were intact. We went from “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to “B-I-N-G-O was his Name” to “Jingle Bells” and somewhere in our musical journey we sang “Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore”. I know Roger got to the other side on November 1, 2015. To milk and honey forever…

Michael rowed the boat ashore, halleluja
Michael rowed the boat ashore, halleluja

Sister helped to trim the sails, halleluja
Sister helped to trim the sails, halleluja

The river Jordan is chilly and cold, halleluja
Chills the body but not the soul, halleluja

The river is deep and the river is wide, halleluja
Milk and honey on the other side, halleluja

Michael rowed the boat ashore, halleluja


It Plays The Same

Isn’t it weird the best “protest song” about Donald Trump is a rap slam by Eminem? You Tube it. He speaks for me, profanity included, I can’t say it any better. This is comforting to me, to be able to “hear the message” delivered in a way that is unfamiliar to me. The heart of the matter is not for sissies, but I really hear it and feel it. This makes me think about how we communicate, how we talk to each other. I am using “talk” loosely as texting, tweeting and emailing are ways we talk to each other.

There are some rules: Don’t interrupt. Don’t type in all caps, (Donald). and then that odd axiom about listening to what someone is saying. So wait a minute! Silence and listening, or pausing before responding to a text or tweet or hitting SEND, are as important as what comes out of our mouth? It turns out that what we don’t say is as important as what we do say. Sarcasm is a special way of talking to each other that is meant to communicate contempt and is usually easily understood by both parties. How we say something can communicate something other then the words we say. It’s so complicated and messy, it’s a miracle we can talk to each other at all.

There’s this little thing called motivation, why am I talking or W.A.I.T.. Am I trying to tell you how much I love you, or trying to convince you that you are wrong and I am right? There are times when motivation to listen and and try to understand is dangerously low. Of course in the heat of an argument all bets are off; I don’t want to listen to you and I want you to understand me and see I am right! Words can build someone up, or tear someone down. Considering how powerful words are and the maturity needed to handle words with care we could use a “speaking” license just as much as a driving license. A yellow light means proceed with caution whether you are driving or talking, a red light means stop or shut up and listen. If the light is green, proceed but still look both ways. I am talking now and I need to be aware of speaking respectfully and honestly. Yelling and screaming at someone could be ticketed as reckless talking, endangering the hearts of others. Talking too fast for conditions, speeding through a conversation, drunk talking…

Rap and/or tweets can be the vehicle to carry a message. What does Eminem rap and what does Donald Trump say on Twitter? We don’t have to listen to either one if we don’t want to, but both are attempting to communicate with us. Eminem says that Trump is “orange” and doesn’t give a “shit” and when I figure out what Grump is saying I will let you know!


New and Improved

You have 15 updates, my IPad informs me. How can I have so many updates? I just updated a few days ago. It seems in the world of apps everything is always being updated or improved. The shelf life on computers is very short, there is always a better model (details leaked) waiting to be introduced at a big news event. In the world of advertising “new and improved”is standard sales talk. Fashion is quickly out of style and there is a new style that is trending. Phones are constantly being updated and pretty soon “Beam me up Scotty.” will be reality. Old or older models of phones and computers are referred to as “fossils” Think about it; we may be dated by anthropologists using the Apple phone( 6,6s …10…infinity) uncovered in layers of rock.“They must have lived in the IPhone 10 era, just before climate change destroyed human life on earth. Hard to believe that some doubted science and fought for “fossil fuels”.

So absolutely, new and improved is good in medicine. Self-improvement sounds like a good idea, we can always improve and change, but what about the belief that may be underlying our drive to improve, our belief we are not “good enough”. There’s a problem with feeling we must always be improving and bettering our lives. As humans we are flawed and perfection is not attainable. There are some people who believe they are perfect, but they are crazy! I can get so focused on “fixing” myself and believing I am 10 pounds away from perfection I forget to pay attention to today and withhold self-approval. I will be O.K. when the scale registers what I have deemed my goal weight, when I can speak 3 languages, climb mountains and be a professional singer and banjo player. As if!

I am realizing the “I’m not good enough” belief is not really all that motivating for me. In fact, it can be an impediment to realizing positive change. Maybe it would work better if the starting point were “I love and accept myself just as I am.” and I want to make changes that reflect my self-love. I don’t mean I love myself in spite of the fact that I am ugly, stupid and fat; it means I stop labeling myself as ugly, stupid and fat to begin with. I don’t have to earn “good enough”, I am already good enough just as I am. This is quite a stretch for me after years of most definitely, most decidedly not being “enough”.

So what do I do with all the time I used to spend on improving myself and failing to improve myself and beating myself up for lack of willpower? I probably have to stop saying I am really bad for eating that cookie and relax my shoulders and my body and explore how GOOD ENOUGH I truly am. Wish me luck…