The House of Flushing

toiletmary

The first fish in our story was named Five. Five died trying to live out of water because Claymore insisted, as a goldfish, he could do it. Five believed and leapt from the water. Goldie tried to stop him, but Five wanted to believe so badly, nothing Goldie said could dissuade the ambitions of the follower. Five flopped for a bit on the tank stand after his leap of faith. After a several minutes Five expired and began bloating.

This all took place in and around a small aquarium, in a small apartment in a large building in a big noisy city. The walls of the apartment, where the fish could see, were dingy gray except in the bathroom where the walls were a soothing green-gray. The toilet sparkled cleanly from where the sunlight streamed in from a small window that wasn’t visible from the tank.

The remaining fish in the aquarium were: Claymore, a beautiful maroon Betta fish, Goldie who shone like the sun, Flipper who had black fins, and Tipper who had a black tipped tail.

Claymore was an intelligently charismatic Betta fish. He loved to coax the unintelligent goldfish that lived with him in the aquarium to believe in silly things. His nemesis, Goldie, a voice of reason, couldn’t be convinced of the nonsense. Goldie never believed anything Claymore said because Claymore was always wrong.

When Five died, Claymore held a meeting.

“Tonight, when the human comes home, we’re going to watch as Five is carried away in holiness. He will be released into the water where he will become baptized as a new fish, then sent to a better place. Behold, the holy fountain filled with rejuvenating water!” Claymore gestured with his fin towards the porcelain stool visible in the bathroom. Hanging above the toilet was a beautiful wall hanging with a human woman wearing a blue robe and pointing to a rose encircled heart on her breast

“I can see it. I believe it. Oh, Claymore, you’re so smart. Will I be sent to the fountain when I become like Five?” inquired Flipper. “I do hope so.”

“Of course, Sister Flipper.” Replied Claymore with false wisdom. “If you follow me, I’ll make sure you get there. The Mother of the Holy Fountain will guide your way if you only believe.”

Tipper, the follower, decided that if Flipper was going to do it, so would he. He wasn’t very good at coming up with ideas of his own anyway. He depended on his friends to show him what was right. If he ever felt like he had an idea, he’d just talk to Claymore or Flipper and they’d set him straight.

But Tipper knew that if he went to Goldie, all that fish would tell him is, “Think for yourself. Don’t be a follower.” Goldie made it impossible to get anything accomplished.

That evening, their human returned to find Five bloated and quite ripe next to the aquarium. Claymore called Tipper and Flipper to the worship service.

“Just as I predicted, our human has discovered the failure of Five to survive his leap of faith.” Stated Claymore in a stage whisper which caused Goldie to burble angrily.

The female human set down her belongings with a frown on her face. She disappeared into one of the rooms that couldn’t be seen, returning with a pair of long slender tongs.

“See how the human won’t taint the body with her flippers? She is using tools…”
“What are tools?” inquired Tipper.

Without allowing the interruption, Claymore continued, “As she carefully lifts Five, watch as she transports him to the holy fountain. Pray with me.” He intoned as the human dropped Five’s body into the commode. “Dear Mother of the Holy Fountain, accept the body of our brother Five. Rejuvenate him into a whole and living flesh.”

The human pushed the holy fountain’s silver button, a whoosh of swirling sound, and Five’s body was carried down the tubes.

“And now, my dear brethren, we wait. In three days, a new living Five will return to us.”

If goldfish could blink, Tipper and Flipper would have been in rapturous prayer. As it was, Tipper blubbed a bit, imitating Flipper. The wait began.

During the period of waiting, Goldie spent a lot of time swimming around, thinking deep thoughts. Like Claymore, Goldie taught himself to read by observing anything the human set near the tank. He could even proudly recite his address, understood there was more than just the aquarium they lived in, and despised Claymore for toying with the others of his kind.

As predicted a new fish showed up on the third day, a fancy-tailed goldfish with white tipped fins and tail. Tipper and Flipper rushed to greet the new Five.

“My name isn’t Five. I’m Gardita,” flounced the newcomer. “Why do you keep calling me that?”

“Because! You returned to us, just like Claymore told us you would, Five.”

“I told you. My name is Gardita, not Five.”

Gardita hid in the plastic plants near the bottom, avoiding contact with the two lunatics. She and Goldie watched as Flipper and Tipper followed Claymore around the aquarium as if he were a God. She watched as two of the others gave up extra shares of food. Claymore grew larger.

The two leaders of the aquarium approached the new fish at the same time.

“My name is Claymore, welcome to our place of holy pilgrimage.” Articulated the Betta-fish. Tipper and Flipper swayed behind him with pure faith seeping from their scales. “I apologize for the ardent fervor which my disciples are enraptured by, but they just saw you resurrect as the new Five.”

“Don’t pay attention to him. Welcome, Gardita.” Interrupted Goldie. “I’m the only sane one around here, it would seem.”

“Why do they keep calling me Five?” probed the pretty new fish. “No matter how many times I tell them.”

“That,” said Claymore as he slapped his flipper over Goldie’s mouth, “is because I showed the way to holiness to my swimming friends.”

Goldie bit Claymore’s fin.

“No, that’s because he lied to them. He told the last fish here, whose name WAS Five, that he could live outside the bowl. He convinced him to jump to his death.”

“No, I showed him the path to righteousness.” Countered Claymore.

“You killed him just because he believed you.”

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” Disrupted Gardita while swimming between the fighting fish. “Claymore, you killed Five?”

Tipper and Flipper swam in front of the large Betta-fish. “Not at all. He showed Five how to become holy by taking a leap of faith.” Chorused the submissive fish. Claymore merely watched as his two faithful followers described the rousing tale of Five’s glorious death and subsequent resurrection into Gardita.

“But, I’m not Five. I’m Gardita. I was hatched in a giant store among many other fish. I was chosen because I was the prettiest one of all of them as you can tell,” the pretty fish fluttered every so prettily. “I am a girl, not a boy.”

“They can’t hear you. They believe anything that idiot tells them,” urged Goldie. “You’d be best to avoid them.”

“I think you’re right.” Agreed Gardita.

But her promise didn’t last long with Claymore constantly whispering in her ear. She fought valiantly against Tipper and Flipper reassuring her of Claymore’s holy message. Gardita couldn’t take it anymore. She committed to Claymore’s message. She became Five.

Five died trying to live out of water because Claymore insisted, as a goldfish, she could do it. Five believed and leapt from the water. Goldie tried to stop her, but Five wanted to believe so badly, nothing Goldie said could dissuade the ambitions of the follower.

Five flopped for a bit on the tank stand after her leap of faith. After a several minutes Five expired and began bloating. The cycle continued.

 

I can’t but I can

I can’t tell you where to find your peace of mind

or to hear the voice of the Universe coursing with power

or to notice the song of the world’s orchestra as it plays

or even to taste the brisk of sharpened words.

I can’t show you the color of your balanced spirit

or tell you the tale of your sacred birth

or cherish the moment of truth you witnessed

or embrace the love you so rightfully deserve

I can’t marry you to your passion for life

or point you in the direction most profound

or take away anything you’ve learned

or dictate your growth rate in any form

Loving you Always

Loving you Always

What I can do is:

hug you

reassure you

encourage you

believe in you

support you

hear you

see you

love you

Discovering Death

NOTE: Some of these details may have become foggy over the years although the feeling of profound has not. If I’ve erred in my memory, it is not meant with any disrespect, but depicted to the best of my personal recollection.

Death is a religion with a universal name. It wears shrouds, platitudes, religion, and tradition to ease the minds of the living. It is a great Truth. It is indiscriminate and unavoidable. We create rituals to bring order to what we have no control or power to stop. Although we have first-hand knowledge of the results of physical death, we are ignorant of what we witness because before the body has even grown cold, something happens that we don’t understand. It’s not a journey any have taken that lived to tell the tale of what happens after we die.

When I was in Junior High at Iroquois Middle School, Aimee Mann, a pretty girl in my math class died from complications of diabetes. I’d experienced death before with goldfish, kittens, and even my Great Grandmother when I was four, but Aimee was the first time I realized there was an absence.

I wasn’t her best friend. I wasn’t a close friend. I just knew her and had spoken to her a couple of times after class about mundane things. I didn’t know she was struggling with a disease. I just thought she was nice. The day after she died, I heard about it all over school like an infection spreading rumors at an epidemic rate. One said that she died because she wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom. Another said she died because she hit her head. Some were so far-fetched that even in my ignorance I knew they weren’t true.

When I got home from school, I told my mom about Aimee and asked to go to the services. I wanted to see for myself what death looked like up close since I had no point of reference that I remembered solidly. We checked the obituaries, found out when and where, and I dressed to attend the solemn wake.

The funeral home was near where I’d lived as a young girl. It was a plain white and brick single story building with an ample parking lot in the back. There was a lot of people of every age and color lining up to go inside. Their outfits ranged from black and solemn to bright Skittle colored dresses with wild hats. I felt intimidated and awkward in my clothing choice of a plain black skirt and a white blouse. I wasn’t sure what to do. My mom got out of the car and walked with me. I remember dragging my feet. I wasn’t sure how to act. I was even more afraid to discover what death looked like up close.

I entered the vestibule where a nearly full white guest book rested on a podium with a feathered pen locked into the holster with a ball chain. My mom picked up the pen and signed her name. I followed her example and did the same. The hallway smelled like slightly rotting flowers and armpits. It made me wrinkle my nose. My mom put her hand on my shoulder and guided me to the room where my classmate was dead.

The whole room was lined with massive bouquets of flowers. Lilies, roses, carnations, and a variety of flowers filled the room with a strong perfumed scent that, although wasn’t unpleasant, wasn’t exactly a smell I’d like to remember.

Just like in the movies, the crowd parted and I could see the pale tan coffin at the front of the room. Aimee’s mother sat in a chair sobbing while various, I assumed, relatives attempted to console her. My mom guided me with her hand on my shoulder.

“I’m so sorry for your loss. My daughter was her classmate.” My mom offered her words of comfort. I mumbled something and couldn’t meet the grieving mother’s eyes. She thanked us for coming while sniffling back another sob.

My mom guided me to turn to face the coffin.

The pale tan of the outside and the pristine white interior looked odd to me. The inside lid had diamond shapes patterned into the lining. A spray of flowers lay on the top and I could just make out the top of her head from where I stood. My mother guided me closer and whispered to me that we had to pay our respects.

Walking up to the edge of the casket, I peered into the face of death. Only, it didn’t look any different, really, than the girl I talked to. She looked like she was sleeping. Her face and hair were pretty as always and her hands were folded neatly on her chest protecting her heart. I didn’t know what to do. My mom tried to guide me away but I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to understand.

I got the idea of death. I knew that when someone died they no longer got to hang out or talk or any of the things living people do. But there I was, face to face with it and I wanted to wait until it was done. It didn’t seem right. She was my age. She still had things to do. Why was she laying in a box at (I think) 13 years old?

That was the first time I remember realizing the permanence and absence of a person from my life. I knew that she would no longer be in my classes. I knew that after the mourning period was done, her friends would go on to live their lives, grow old or not, have kids or not, go to church or not. They had choices that she’d never have.

I cried. I cried a lot for the girl I barely knew. I cried because I knew that someday I would lose people that I was close to and that scared me. On the way home, I stared out the window at the passing houses. There was probably some classical music playing from WOOD-FM that my mom liked to listen to when my dad wasn’t in the car. There was probably traffic lights, cars, and other such ordinary things. People sitting in their living rooms as I rode past catching a fleeting glimpse at someone reading the newspaper not realizing that my friend was dead. Life went on.

Over the years, many people I’ve loved have passed away. I’ve attended funerals, paid my respects, gone through the many different rituals of their family and my family traditions. I’ve used boxes of tissues mourning their death and my losses.

“There is a wisdom holy that I must pass to you and give

There is truly only one life you have, one life for you to live.

When your eyes drop down with despair, the tears they freely flow

Remember in your heart and soul that you already know

That love is the only answer, that giving is its boon

Gyrate your hips to the music you hear, spiral the cycling moon.

Lift your maudlin mourning eyes for love isn’t found beneath

Don’t believe that you’re not worthy, don’t heed whispers from deceit.”

From the poem, “What You Give Up” by Mare Martell

From death, an ultimate truth, an unavoidable circumstance, comes a valuable lesson to each of us that, if embraced, creates a comfort in its own. For every person that you’ve loved and lost, live your life with your heart wide open, grateful in your spirit, and filled with the knowledge that you’re taking that part of them, that you held so dear, with you for the ride. Make it a great one!

The Learning Curves

I’ve struggled for most of my life with self-destructive behaviors, bad attitudes, and I couldn’t figure out why these things kept happening to me. I estranged myself from my family, I got divorced from bad relationships that I’d picked. I just couldn’t find that peace of mind that everyone else seemed to have. About 15 years ago, I realized it was my own doing. I know, right? Who knew?

I began to seek out a different way of doing things, a different way of thinking because what I was doing and thinking were clearly not working. Using my rather unique experiences as a springboard, I read, talked, shared, took in, observed, and processed how other people lived happy lives. Since I was seeking clarity in my life, this made sense to me. This gave me an understanding of how my life works. But, how does one find clarity in the chaos of difficulties that arise in daily life?

  1. Ask for help: “Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful.” –Ric Ocasek. It is difficult to believe that someone else has dealt with the same or similar issue that you are going through right now. But one of the keys to being human is understanding that you are not alone. Although the problem you’re facing may seem overwhelming, someone, somewhere has gotten through the same thing. Seek their guidance and wisdom by simply asking how they did it. Take what applies from their experience and use that tool to accomplish your own success in handling the issue.
  2. Help Others: “Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy.” –Sai Baba. What you give you receive. If you’re helping others to become better in their lives, improve their situation, be more productive and you’re doing it with love in your heart, the love that you gave returns and returns and returns. It can’t help it. When love is present in a giving heart, the return rate to the giver is exponential. It doesn’t just stop at the act of giving, it gets paid forward. It spreads more love and encourages others to give as well.
  3. Meditate: “If you know how to worry, you know how to meditate. It means to think of something over and over.” –Joyce Meyer. This term is used frequently, but how and what do you do? Inside all of us is a place that is silent. A place filled with nothing but your own experiences, thoughts, actions, and yet it’s filled with nothing. It is the place where your inner voice speaks loudest. In order to find that place of peace within yourself, you must first seek it. Sit in a quiet room with soft music playing. New age music helps me. Focus on your breathing. When you breathe in, breathe in peace. When you breathe out, breathe out love. Be patient and wait. Thoughts will spill through your mind with the “Woulda, coulda, shoulda’s” let those pass. Soon and sometimes not, the thoughts will ease and settle and the silent place within allows focus on the issue at hand. You may hear wild voices pushing you to act, but I’ve learned “When in doubt, wait it out.” The silence within will offer your own wisdom and guidance and it’s comforting to hear the voice of reason from within your own mind.
  4. Look for Omens: “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” –William Shakespeare. When things feel like they are out of control it is easy to not see the messages the Universe sends. Sometimes it will be a well-placed and very obvious sign that points your way. Sometimes it’s hidden in plain sight but gets overlooked because it couldn’t possibly be that easy. Maybe a friend will call just when you need them to and they have an opportunity you hadn’t considered or you’ll see something that makes you want to act because it strikes deeply within your spirit. If you listen, you will hear and see them. They are everywhere and they wish you nothing but the best.
  5. Adjust your Focus: “Your destiny is to fulfill those things upon which you focus most intently. So choose to keep your focus on that which is truly magnificent, beautiful, uplifting and joyful. Your life is always moving towards something.”-Ralph Marston. Some days are the “bad days.” Maybe the dog woke you up before you wanted to be awake or before your alarm clock went off. Maybe when you do wake up and begin to get dressed you discover your favorite pants or blouse are in disrepair. Maybe your coffee pot decided that you really wanted to go without coffee today when it quit working. Whatever the catastrophe, it’s very easy to be inundated with the “Why me’s?” Shift your focus. Instead of bemoaning the negatives, look for the blessings offered. Waking up earlier than planned allows extra time to spend with your little dog or to go out and get a new coffee pot or a new favorite outfit. Every cloud has a silver lining if you look for it. When you focus on finding that silver lining, attitudes begin to shift. When attitudes begin to shift, the Universe says, “Oh! You want more positive! You could have just said so!” What you spend your time focusing on is what will be attracted to you. “I hate my life,” for example will send the message that you like the situation and the Universe will continue sending it to you. The Universe doesn’t understand hate. “I don’t want this to happen.” The Universe, again, has no knowledge of don’t. It hears “I want this to happen.” It responds to the negative thoughts with what it hears. If you say, for example, “I love my life,” The Universe hears this and responds accordingly.
  6. Be Grateful: “Every blessing ignored becomes a curse.” –Paulo Coelho. Similar to the Universe responding to your positive energy is the act of being grateful. Small things, big things, in-between things, all have reasons to be grateful written in their existence. Grateful hearts attract more things (not necessarily material goods) to be grateful for simply by refocusing from complaining to changing. People who live by the law of gratefulness live a happier life because they’re not seeing only the negative of a situation. They are looking for reasons to be grateful and they will find them.
  7. Be joyful: “There’s no destination. The journey is all there is, and it can be very, very joyful.” –Srikumar Rao. Do things that bring you joy. If you feel happy dancing, dance. If you feel happy writing, write. If you feel happy working numbers in an accounting book, do that. Whatever brings you joy is the path you should be following not because I tell you to, but because it’s where your bliss lay waiting. Go ahead and ask people what they wanted to be when they grew up and the majority will not be anywhere near the field they first imagined as a child. As an adult, it is easy to be sucked into the responsibilities that are necessary for our own survival as well as of those we love. In the meantime, that responsibility, when not balanced with our personal joyfulness, becomes a yoke that can become unbearable. Seek joy and balance in everything you do and that unwanted yoke all but disappears.
  8. Remember to take care of yourself: “Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get.” -George Bernard Shaw. There is such a thing as being too polite or being a doormat when it comes to dealing with other people. It’s one thing to take into consideration the feelings and opinions of others, but it’s an entirely different beast when what they want goes against what you need for yourself. By allowing someone else’s wants and needs to supersede your own you give away a piece of your personal power. It’s okay to say, “I want…” “I need…” and further, by maintaining those ideas a healthy compromise can be reached. A favorite saying is, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s a favorite because it is a reminder that your opinions, wants, needs, and objectives not only have merit but also have value.

As my behaviors shifted from self-destruction to self-construction, my attitudes have gained a stronger perspective towards positive living. My world has become a more beautiful place to live. The results of taking into daily practice that which I’ve learned has allowed: Reparations with my family, a happy marriage, and a joyful, giving of love and time to others while maintaining balance in nearly every aspect of my life. There are still cobwebs that need to be cleared, but as my vision expands to include wonder, awe, and amazement of the world around me, I can’t help but think just how lucky I really am as well as how much my hard work has paid off.