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Friday
May112007

My Nana's Bowl


When I was a little girl, my Nana served us carrots in a bowl that I called "the purple bowl." Now, in reality, it was periwinkle, but I didn't know that as a color then, so I called it purple. My sister called it blue. Depending on how you looked at it, depended on what color it was. I loved that bowl. Periwinkle is still my favorite color.

When Nana died, the only thing I got from her was the purple bowl, but because I was moving around, my mom kept it for me. She used it, unbeknownst to me, and one time, when she was carrying something in it, dropped it and broke my purple bowl. She didn't even tell me about it for years.

The worst part of that story is she threw the pieces away. She didn't save a sliver of the bowl for me to look at. Not a shard of color to remember my Nana's colorful carroted meals by. It brings tears to my eyes 30 years later.

Over the years, I've watched Martha Stewart-type shows that take broken mementos and turn them into beautiful picture frames, glass table tops, crystal outlines for mirrors - all sorts of great ideas of things to do with once-trash-able items. My heart aches for those periwinkle pieces lying in some landfill somewhere in Florida.

My family knows this story. They all know this story well. A storyteller that makes people laugh, I also know how to make people feel pretty sorry for me, too, when I want to. I use this story as an object lesson to keep my family from touching my things. They know the message.

So, the other day when I looked up on the mantel and saw my wedding (to my former husband) champagne glass upside down with the stem broken off (see pictures above), I was a might alarmed. I asked what happened and was told the wind had blown down a picture I had propped up (that was supposed to have been mounted on the wall already) and it'd knocked down the things on the mantle, including my champagne glass.

"Where's the bottom?" I implored.

I was told it had been cleaned up and thrown away. You can imagine my concern (to put it mildly).

My voice rose and I asked where the shards were and they said they were in the trash, probably still in the kitchen. I immediately got up to go rifle through the garbage. I don't think I was shrieking, but was told I was. I felt I kept my voice in check, but was saying, quite firmly, "Didn't you THINK to keep the pieces?!? Didn't you remember my Nana's purple bowl? How could you throw the pieces away? You saved the top! You knew to save that much!" All the while I am flinging disgusting yuck on the floor, not caring what it is or that I would have to clean it up in later.

"Was it in a paper towel? Cardboard?" They told me they'd put it in a baggie. Blinking, I thought it seemed they'd meant to save it, but tossed it as an afterthought. I waved my distraction and burrowed further.

Sarah said she thought she heard it. It was near the bottom. A mound of trash sat on my kitchen floor.

There, at the very bottom, with the coffee grounds and wet Kleenex, was the Ziploc baggie with the pieces parts of the stem of my wedding day champagne glass. I brought it out gingerly, as if it would break all over again if I weren't careful. The family heaved a huge sigh of relief and hoped that my tirade might actually subside and thought the kitchen might really find order again - sooner than later. I cradled the baggie and crooned to it, ignoring them all - the people, the stench, the slosh. I went to sit down and count the glass fragments.

In Eckart Tolle's A New Earth, I listened as he described my Ego-Self continuously. I learned so much about myself (and others, but I didn't listen to the book for anyone else's education but my own) from this book. It was recommended by my Psychiatrist when I told her I was Secret-ing; she felt A New Earth would really be a great adjunct to my self-education. I can't wait to see her again and thank her. While the book is extremely droll in places, other sections were electric zings of light in my heart and brain - yes! that's me! yes! I need that information! yes! now! play that again! yes!

Tolle's definition of ego is that part of ourselves that claims a name (whether we voluntarily attribute that name or not) - a woman, lesbian, midwife, mother, etc. It moves further into every single aspect of ourselves including "woman in the grocery store," "lady driving a car," "lady who used to be chronically ill," "woman who coughed out a tampon," - like that.

So, if we use the ego in this way, and we use the labels in the millions of forms that we think of ourselves (and allow others to use upon us, and we do, admit it), how flippin' limiting is this? VERY!

If we toss into the mix the negatives of "I suck," "he hates me," "they're going to sue me," "I'm going to be fired," - besides the emotions that come into play with all of that, the ego also has to live in a place of claiming... er, juggling... dozens, hundreds, thousands... of roles at a time.

The quiet (important) aside comes now.

With each of these roles, things come along: an image, a lifestyle, a stance, a closet, a car, a way of living, being, walking, even standing.

Who is the genuine you? Are you your labels?

Well, let's do this differently.

I'll speak in the "I."

Who is the genuine I? Am I my labels?

In most of my life. Absolutely. I am extremely attached to my labels. It is certainly why my Psychiatrist felt it would be great for me to read A New Earth (among other reasons).

When I was sick with the Coccidiomycosis, I was sick with it. It was me. Losing my hair for 2.5 years was an important part of the process. It was an outer statement of my illness. I didn't have to announce I was sick. It announced itself before I could say it outloud. When my hair was growing back, it was weird. For a few months, I found myself saying, "I was sick...." I nearly have to clamp my hand over my mouth now to shut it to keep it from blurting out my former illness. I am not my former illness!
I am not any of my labels. I am me. In the present.

Briefly...

Tolle says, in essence, that the ego's motto could be, "I have, therefore I am."

So many of us are what we own. Our cars, our homes, our clothes, our children, our jobs.

My Nana's bowl and my champagne glass.

As an unevolved woman, I cling to these things because I use them to help define myself.

Nana's bowl = Nana's great-grand-daughter, Nana's namesake, Nana's look-alike, wondrous memories, etc.

Champagne glass = Wedding day, tender memories with kids' father, something with him no one can take away, etc.

As an evolved woman, I know how ridiculous these things sound and recognize these "things" are nothing but pieces of glass. They were sand, now glass. Nothing more. It is my mind that imbues them with meaning. Even the closest people in my life didn't know to impart a fraction of the meaning I would have wished for them to give to these pieces of glass. How could anyone further from my tight ivy vine of family be expected to?

Tolle says the underlying emotion controlling the ego's actions is fear (and I'd have to agree... I have plenty of that)... the fear of being nobody, of not existing, of dying.

Tolle says, “Deep down, every human being knows that no form (label) is lasting, that all forms pass away. So the ego always knows a feeling of insecurity. Many people therefore live in a permanent state of unease, restlessness, boredom, fear and dissatisfaction.”

Was I clinging to the champagne glass because I know I am going to die someday and I want someone (my kids?) to know the joy that day brought to me? Do I want to take the slivers and press them into a picture frame and put the three kids in it for myself because it reminds me of a time before Sarah, a time that was very brief, but that did make me smile and was loving and beautiful? Have I not told the kids enough about the time with their father? Was the crashing of the glass a message for me to speak more openly about our short time together?

Tolle tells the story in A New Earth of a dying woman who accuses her care giver of stealing a precious ring of hers a few months before her death. Tolle, helping her through her spiritual walk towards death, watches with curiosity as the woman, typically very, very unselfish, clings to the anger towards the woman about the ring, demanding its return. Having given away nearly all of her "things," Tolle questions her about her motives regarding the ring - why such a huge emotional grasp on the one physical representation in her life. She defends the emotion be explaining the ring's history, that she wants to give the ring to her children, that it means so much to her... sounding much I did up in the paragraphs above.

Tolle asked her to listen to herself, deeply, and Be. Without ego.

How does one think without ego? How do we let go and Be, even for a split second, without our egos (labels)?

Tolle (and so many others) say the one and only way is being in the moment. The absolute moment. Meditation. Breath Work.

If there is no "thing" to worry about, work towards, no label to consider myself as being seen as, then I can just BE. Just me. In the moment of now.

The dying woman was way more evolved than I was because she let go of the ring and died peacefully not worrying about the ring anymore. It eventually turned up in the medicine cabinet - no one knowing if it was misplaced or if the care giver put it there. Knowing this story, I plowed through the garbage, feeling the panic rising in my body, wanting to lash out at the people who threw my memory glass in the dung heap.

How could they not know? Couldn't they see the thing, the glass, was responsible for my very image at that moment? Couldn't they tell if those pieces went to the landfill, I might lose my identification as the former partner of the kids' father? that the memories of our wedding might be gone? that they might be wiping out the very paternity of their existence?

chuckling

It sounds so absurd. Eckart Tolle would be so proud.

I'm still not throwing out the champagne glass. I'm still not that evolved. (Although, I am working on it and do feel closer to it than I did before writing this.)

Tolle also speaks eloquently about awareness being the main point of removing ego from the picture, so in my acknowledging the ego while my head was in the trash can, even as my hands tossed gross piece after disgusting piece, I was taking one fraction of a moment closer towards my spiritual evolvement and learning to stay in the moment. Small steps... minute. But, steps, at any rate.

An interesting question I would pose to Tolle: How does a writer keep ego out of writing? (This would probably be an entire piece/article/book!)

One last aside. If any of you ever come across a purple bowl... a periwinkle bowl that you put carrots in during Sunday dinner... let me know and I will gladly pay to have you send it to me.
My unevolved Self hungers for my Nana's purple bowl.