Category Archives: Learning Together

“Patience,” she laughs . . .

Many paths to patience . . .

I used to ask nuns to pray for me to be more patient.  This is funny because I’m not Catholic.  However, one thing I’ve learned in life is that if you have a hard task ahead that most would dismiss as hopeless, the nuns have a better than average chance of getting it done.

Knowing how busy the nuns are and being an independent sort, I waited to make my request until a myriad of other attempts (meditation, relaxation, visualization, yoga, walking, dietary changes, reframing, etc., etc., etc.) produced only lackluster results.  I had an “impatience” problem and was pretty much at “my wit’s end” when I turned to an often-overlooked strategy:  prayer.  I prayed and I sought assistance from some of the foremost leaders in prayer in the world — the nuns.

My impatience tended to coalesce most quickly around gender injustice, although race and socioeconomic issues could also set me off.  In my estimation, my impatience was entirely justified.  After all, had patriarchy not been a social system in parts of the world for 5,000 + years?  Be that as it may, the rage my impatience induced was unhelpful, exhausting, and taking a toll on my well-being.  The “p-word” was winning again. 

A memorably troubling moment occurred when a wise friend who worked with gender disparities globally (not a nun) patiently explained that impatience was “a western problem.”  Gulp.  The inherent truth of her words hit me in the gut.  Who, but members of the most privileged societies, would be arrogant enough to assume that an issue that has dogged and impeded humanity for thousands of years could be resolved in a single lifetime?  (Overdue or not.) 

Healing an impatience problem can feel like walking on cactus . . .

Being a pragmatist, I realized that if patriarchy was not going to be vanquished any time soon, I had best turn my impatience problem over to higher powers AND look more deeply at the privilege inherent in its roots.  This journey began 18 years ago.  I’ll always be recovering from my impatience problem and there have been more relapses along the way than I can count or care to admit.  Happily the two-pronged approach of letting go and asking for help while compassionately exploring my accountability seems to have strengthened my patience muscles and freed me to engage in steadier, more productive courses of action.

Hopefully, you don’t have an impatience problem. Since you’re human, there may be something that’s causing you and the people around you to suffer more than necessary. If you’re lucky perhaps you know some nuns who can help.  

Oh, What A Difference A Year Makes

Off to an auspicious start at the Brooklyn Museum . . .

In late March 2019, just a little over a year ago, two friends and I had the privilege of spending 48 hours in the Big Apple.  The original purpose of the trip was to see the Off-Broadway production of Gloria:  A Life*, a play focusing on Gloria Steinem’s life and path to activism. 

A PBS interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tipped me off to her childhood visits to the Brooklyn Museum.  Curious to learn more, research revealed that Frida Kahlo:  Appearances Can Be Deceiving, the largest U.S. exhibition in ten years devoted to the Mexican artist, would be underway.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Frida Kahlo

Our plane touched down at LaGuardia and we made a beeline for lunch in Brooklyn before spending an afternoon at the Frida exhibit, which was the first to include a collection of her clothing and personal possessions that had been locked away after her death in 1954.  From there we wandered through Washington Square before enjoying a glass of wine at the iconic Caffe Reggio.

The following morning was open.  It was decided that after a stop at Bluestone Lane, an Upper East Side café adjacent to the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, we would make our way to the Guggenheim.  It was a delightful surprise to find 95% of the storied museum displaying the work of Swedish artist and mystic Hilma af Klint.  Winding our way up the museum’s spiral, I learned that her significant collection of abstract work predates what has long been to be presumed as the first purely abstract compositions by Kandinsky.  It was refreshing to find an entire museum filled with the work of a ground-breaking woman artist and teeming with women and men, many of whom were learning about Hilma af Klint for the first time.

Featuring her works between 1906-20, Hilma af Klint’s first major solo U.S. exhibit spiraled up the Guggenheim’s rotunda walls . . .

On our way to the play that had been the impetus for what had miraculously become a 48-hour organic Women’s Learning Journey in New York City, we happened upon a bronze statue of Gandhi in Union Square Park. 

Who could know then that migrant workers in India would be walking thousands of kilometers to return to their villages during a global pandemic just a year later?

Once inside the theater, we signed a poster board birthday card for Gloria Steinem before taking our seats in the circle theater to watch actresses explore and engage us in her life and legacy.

A heartening outpouring of birthday greetings for Gloria . . .

The next morning, our 48-hours of enrichment nearly up, we caught a car back to LaGuardia.  I headed home grateful and buoyed by women from three countries — Frida, Hilma and Gloria — and by my eager and willing companions without whom I knew I would not have made the journey.

Fast forward to the previously unimaginable March 28, 2020, a moment when New York was the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus.  Museums and cafes in the city closed.  Broadway and Off-Broadway dark.  Iconic streets and famous squares empty. As of today, May 14, The New York Times reported that the city had experienced at least 192,314 coronavirus cases and at least 19,815 deaths.

Lighting the candles last year for women & girls everywhere, and this year for all whose lives have been upended by the virus . . .

I look back at our 48 hours with a mixture of awe, admiration, and sorrow.  The air travel, freedom of movement, museums and theaters, cafes, and sense of safety and security we experienced seem part of a distant past.  Especially in the wake of COVID-19’s ravages, it feels important to express my gratitude to New York City for its rich tapestry, the sweeping grandeur of its vision, and the moxie and resilience of its people.  Sending healing, strength and appreciation to our nation’s largest city and its more than 8 million residents.

With care and gratitude,

Sherry 

*Gloria: A Life will be featured on PBS this summer.

May I Remember to Pray

I hold prayer dear and, still too often, forget to seek Divine guidance . . .

When my partner and I were looking for a home to purchase together, we made a list of needs and wants, a budget, and agreed how we would handle differing priorities. After several months of looking at listing after listing online, stopping at open houses, and touring homes with our real estate broker, our discouragement was palpable. We had been commuting between three locations and it was starting to take a toll on both of us, yet we couldn’t see ourselves living in any of these homes. We began to wonder if buying a home was the right move at this time.

It came to me to pray, to ask for help, to seek Divine guidance. Less than 24-hours later, a listing popped up on my screen. I opened it expecting once again to be disappointed. But I couldn’t believe my eyes. This listing seemed to include everything we needed and wanted, was in our price range and I could see us living there.

Enter our front door and you’ll pass by a cross we received on the occasion of our house blessing, which was officiated by an Episcopal priest and a group of visiting Tibetan monks.

Trusting the Outcome

The daughter of a real estate broker, I know buying property on impulse seldom pays off. Fortunately for us, my partner was out of town for 10 days. Our realtor arranged for me to the see home first. We made an appointment to see it again in 10 days when my partner returned. I loved this home so much I feared we would lose it. In an attempt to quell my anxiety and to help us make a prudent decision, I prayed that if the house was meant to be ours, everything would work out and if it was not, for the ability to accept the circumstances with grace. Long story short, we now live in what we call our “Dream House” or “Casa di Sogni” in Italian.

Tibetan Monks blessing the Dream House . . .

Too often, I forget to pray. Life tosses me around, as it will, and I choose to struggle. Sooner, but more often later, it hits me. Ask for help from my Higher Power.

I’ve prayed daily for a number of years. However those petitions are general and often for people or organizations in need.

Praying for myself is an act of humility. It is an admission and a remembrance that I need help during times of a global pandemic and in everyday life and work situations.

I pray for the wisdom to remember to pray.

With gratitude,

Sherry