Learning to Lean


Jagged Little Pill album on blast. Alanis is screaming at me through Forgiven in this moment. I’m nose deep in my blog archives and some of these experiences require spirits in a shot glass, but I’m settling for alternative rock. Come on down memory lane with me, again, if you remember reading this one.

I got text. Hola! Hope u are doing better than I. We haven’t communicated in a while… My world is slowly unravelling. Scary reality it is. But I just became aware of the fact that I am somewhat calm as a leaf and it’s surprising and I can’t understand why I’m so calm. It’s weird. (Scratches head) The calmness to me is way more intriguing than the ugliness that’s showing itself.

I responded. Tranquility of mind derived from favourable conditions is not durable peace. Yours is there despite the negatives. You’re onto something…

He responded. I hear you but it’s weird as heck tho. I can’t understand it. Anger, depression, sadness, worry. All of the above I would accept and I am calm. Why? The small fact seems to unnerve me more than what I am experiencing. I’m laughing now because it sounds paradoxical, but it’s true.

I responded. Someone asked: unless we aspire after a state of being and consciousness higher than the ones we live in, what good is our spiritual practice? I’d say you are reaping the fruits of your labour. Keep on keeping on.

We’ve had bouts of ‘conscious’ conversations that led to sudden silence. There is only so much to be said before the Powers That Be expect us to act upon what we heard. Now we’re at texting as I’m not the best babysitter. If I text a line that he does not understand, he would respond by saying I am speaking ‘rinaldese’ and ask for clarification. He is challenged in so many areas of his life that he finds it difficult to even start addressing one and he would really appreciate me jumping in and helping out. Been there, yet I am not rushing over to hold his hand. Perhaps because I’ve had Teachers who prefer to point the way rather than play with my hands, and I’ve become the sum total of those experiences.

I was recently saying to a friend that over the years I think I have formed the conviction that while our leaning on each other for support is necessary and forms a part of every type of relationship, it is also representative of our need to lean on something within that is intangible. For example, the Christians who speak of ‘leaning on Jesus’ have to develop a mental structure, over time and through their spiritual practices, that is strong enough to provide tangible feedback of support to the point where it is so real that their physical reality accepts the affirmation as true. Otherwise, they would just be muttering words. So we treat with respect the strides a person is making to do inner leaning because it enhances their quality of life and makes them less apt to inconveniencing the lives of others through their need for external attention.

Over the past year I have probably practiced more inner leaning than the combined efforts of the years prior and it is indeed a great source of strength and adds refinement to the quality of my life. This week I went out to work with two clients in a Home. I saw one upon arrival and on my way inside I passed by the bedroom of the other and looked in but did not see him. I wondered if he had to be hospitalized. He had arrived at the Home in a feeble condition. The left side of his head had a visible dent and part of it had an upside down L-shaped unsightly scab that was about three inches across and two inches down. I was told that he fell… Probably after the stroke hit him. Details are still sketchy because people are still of the belief that Massage Therapists don’t need to know much to get their job done. The stroke has affected his right side. His left hand had sores because it was busy undoing his pampers and played up in fecal matter while he enjoyed a sweet scratch. The Nurses restrained his hand. I headed for the entrance eager to learn why he has disappeared. I paused in the doorway. My client was seated in a chair and bent over trying to pick up his rag which had fallen to the floor. Then he began fidgeting. He wanted to get out of the chair but could not because he was tied to it with a sheet about the waist. I found the Nurse and asked her what happened. She said: Oh he? He walking. Walking since when? Since after the massage. I did one massage for that man. In the moment I realized that it was not me or the massage, but rather both being conduits of something else. The something else that comes with inner leaning. I felt deeply humbled. Had my clients not needed continued treatment, or had I not needed an income, I would have returned home and lay quietly for that was the fittest way to observe the moment. But as I said before, such does not require time away from regular activities, so I did my job and contemplated.

The day before meeting Mr. Upside-down L, I had a visit from a lady with a million stories, all leading back to how her inner leaning on her morals and her God has made her life a success. One of nine children, she grew up in the country-side (which now no longer is) with her siblings and parents who were Teachers. Father, Principal. Mother, Assistant Principal…after father retired. Upon her father’s passing her mother was heard saying that if there were two good men, he was one, and if there was only one good man, it was him. Stories of him extended through the village and beyond. Years after she met a woman who paid her respects and said had it not been for him many days her children would have had no food. Each week he took vegetables and the odd tin of milk for them. This got my client to thinking… Her father had diligently kept a sizeable garden though they never used much of its abundance. They never knew he had a whole charity going on. Her mother was most surprised to learn that the reason he came home each day with his clothes very dirty (for a grown man, and being the Principal too) was because the children loved him so much they were always jumping on him and hugging him and it did not matter to him if their hands were dirty or if the little ones were standing with muddy shoes on his lap. He nurtured the love, and maintained discipline too.

Anyway, ting, ting, ting. She grew and got her subjects and opted for a profession that was a ‘man’s job’ because she loved what she loved. She said there was no way her parents could have seen every move she made, to compliment, or upbraid, so she relied on that something within. And being in a man’s world she saw that her father was truly one of a kind. She could not find a man who would show respect, intellectualism, general skill, humour, spirituality, etc. like her father. She kept finding men who had a few with the others lacking, and it was very frustrating. And the more she came into her own as a woman, the more difficult it became. And she saw that she would have to settle for momentary gratification, but the something inside her would not let her. And one year faded into the other and the other, until she was celebrating her 50th birthday and a friend suggested she get a vibrator. This was her good friend, and it pained her to think that her friend honestly felt that she was missing something. One can understand her friend’s perspective as not every day we celebrate the lives of 50 year old virgins. But the friend could have considered that sex is not limited to vaginal penetration. Clitoral orgasms abound. Hence an intact hymen does not mean one’s life is void of a certain euphoria. Now she is about 63, and her morals have thoroughly permeated her life and she sees no sign of a man wiggling on her anywhere on the horizon.

We spoke of some of the propositions she got and it turned out that the men who wanted to marry her back in her prime were the patronizing witless ones. Totally unrepresentative of her father. She was tired of folks telling her to settle down. Settle down? She was settled. She could not understand why they could not see that she would be most unsettled with an incompatible husband. She opened up to the dating game again and found that the men who wanted to take her out were her very accomplished colleagues who hated her. The hatred was in no way overt. They worked well with her, but they hated her untouchable femininity that they’ve been rolling the dice over with no success. They also hated the finesse and professionalism she brought to her work each time without fail. So she figured, if she ended up in bed with one of them, they would use the opportunity to subjugate her in the name of pleasure, then the next day, they’d get back their covert disrespect. Jeez! Talk about overthinking a situation! I can’t see her too often. She might be bad for my social health. But I do appreciate exploring the magnitude of influence fathers have on daughters whether negative or positive.

Her parents were on vacation in Canada when her mother dreamed that someone had stolen her car. She woke her husband and told him. He told her to go back to sleep and dream Commissioner Burroughs and he will find the car for her. Some of us are too young to know who that is. Still on vacation, Pops went to heaven shortly after the dream. Life went on. My client continued to live a fulfilled life by her definition despite remarks that she will become an old miserable woman. At one point, everywhere she turned she bumped into married men who had the most endearing things to say that their wives could benefit from. One, a former MP, whose wife was a friend she vacationed with and experienced diplomatic treatment, suddenly became interested in her after she built her house. They lived next door. She said a few afternoons when she got home from work her friend would come outside to wave to her and her husband would come over and open the gate for her to drive in. When she alighted from the car and he would grumble through clenched teeth: I’m going to need a personal housewarming. And she wondered where was the respect for his wife, and his respect for her.

I took the talk into the men’s camp about women living all their lives without penetrative sex and one of my clients was happy to oblige an opinion. He is 60 years old and has a wife, but he is also at the top of his food chain which puts him in a position to see all the desirable female employees who are ripe for his picking. He said he has noticed that women are able to go for long periods without sex, but none must be a sin. His being baffled by women’s contentment with infrequent sex might be equal to some women’s incomprehension of a man’s need for it several times per week. But he says it’s not just sex a man wants. He needs something to play with. He explained that there are the breasts men, and butt men. And as far as possible, this play with the breast or butt (or both) must be uninterrupted. Play time is no time for intellectual conversations. A man wants a dumb ass, literally. The ass must not suggest or protest, just allow whatever is being done to it to be done to it. (Perhaps this is why many men who hold significant positions have wives who do not seem to fit into their category; wives they never leave, not for all the intellectual beauties in the world). He’s thinks humans being publicly nude should be a rule. Women would then recognize that they are very much as visual as men when faced with erections at every turn, and the sight of such would get them in the mood so that men would not have to spend time on coercion. When approached by an erected male, it would be clear that he is not standing there hoping to make conversation. The female would perceive that he is ‘leaning’ towards her because he needs the special support of being enveloped in her body and would hastily consent to his embrace. Did I mention that this was a conversation with a very intellectually man?

I took this enlarged version of the conversation to my resident friends at the Home and one lady said quite frankly: “Men are pigs.” She asked: “Could you imagine what position that puts women in? They are taking advantage of their educational freedom and are making something of themselves, but still have to deal with backward thinking men. I don’t trust people who don’t read, so I insisted that my children read as much as possible. Now my daughter is (a very significant professional who is) not married because she cannot find a suitable man and I’m not vexed with her. If she marries a pig he will just make a mess of her life.” Ouch! How did I get here? I think what I intended to say is that there is something that is more elevated within us that does not belong to our tangible world and this is the something on which we must learn to lean. This is not to say that we are to give up our physical strivings such as education, sex, etc. Balance is necessary. It means that we should continue to consciously work on ourselves in two directions at once; the tangible and intangible.


Re-posted from my 2014 archives.