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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Señor de los Milagros (or why everyone was shorter than me)





I love signs from Spirit.  I live by them.  Dreams and visions inform my days and nights.  They leave a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow, and sometimes, an entire organic, whole grain loaf fresh from the oven. 

There are many ways that Spirit communicates with us, and when I say Spirit I mean God, your Higher Self, your True Self, or your angels, guides and loved ones in spirit, who are with you always.  There is help and support available at all times, and I use it. 

A hermit in midtown Manhattan, I work at home and live alone.  It’s been this way for quite a while, all the more so since my last two pets, a dog and cat, died 12 and 18 months ago, respectively.  I was too upset to get more animals, and determined that I’d spring for a human the next time. I’m due a relationship. 

However, Spirit has other ideas about this.  They’ve been keeping me in quarantine, with an etheric chastity belt to boot.  They keep telling me there’s more work to do before my long awaited partnership happens.  This does not make me happy, for I am human, and have longings for company and intimacy.  However, I also believe my soul chose this path, and that I’m not an unwitting player.  I understand and embrace the agenda, yet get frustrated from time to time.  For the most part, I’m pretty damn happy with my life right now.  I’ve learned to raise and keep my vibration at a consistently high level.  Whatever momentarily glitches get my knickers in a twist, I’m able to recover from quickly.  With great ease, I bounce back.  Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down. 

Apparently solitude has been essential for my spiritual incubation, the fertile soil I needed to process my grief, angst, and what have you. Stuff.  I’m human.  Very human while yet a decidedly fervent mystic.  Embracing the seeming paradox of the human and divine worlds is the basis of my credo.  This world is full of contradictions.  It is a world of duality.  We have to conceive beyond limitation.  To transcend duality into triality, the point above the fray.  The eagle’s eye vista. 

I was told more spiritual and creative doors have to open for and within me before I am mated.  I must climb higher on the ladder of ascension, and that my most important mating is with my Higher Self.  This is not the hot date I’m looking for on a Friday night.  I’m the only bride I know required to wear a freaking halo on her head for her wedding day. What kind of lace goes with that?

I want to discuss with you here how signs and symbols from Spirit work.

For instance, I’ve been dreaming of dumplings lately.  Don’t ask me why.  Chinese dumplings.  You know, dim sum?  Steamed, pan fried, whatever.  Dumplings.  I make note of my dreams as they are insightful, potent and prophetic.  For someone who regularly interprets her dreams, dumplings represent… an enigma.  What the hell do dumplings mean?  Beat me.  But I wrote it down anyway.  I record my dreams every day. There were at least three separate dream dumpling incidents over the course of six weeks.  Mystifying, in a very doughy way. 

Well, recently, I had a breakdown.  Not new.  I break down all the time.  And that does not mean that I am broken.  It means that I am sensitive, and in touch with my feelings.  I don’t put on a happy face when I ain’t happy.  In fact, I read recently that babies (very in touch with the “other side” from which they have freshly emerged) will often cry not because something is wrong with them, but because something is wrong.  Period.  They pick up on the energetic malcontent on the planet.  There’s a lot of it.  Are you surprised? 

Perhaps I’m depressed, neurotic, a sad sack, a fanatic, a genius.  Or perhaps, I too, like the babies, pick up on the pain on this planet.  Or recall my own.  From this lifetime and others.  Who hasn’t suffered?  The Buddha nailed it.  Life is suffering.  From one perspective.  From other perspectives, it’s all a joke, an illusion, a game to be conquered, a realm to be enjoyed, exalted, and, in so doing, uplifted to a higher dimension.  Suffering is one perspective.  It’s not the only one.  The Buddha transcended.  So can we.

I wake up at 4am.  It’s when I take my new thyroid medication, which I plan to quit pronto.  I’ll be letting my thyroid doc know when I see him shortly.  I suspect he won’t be pleased, but then, he’s just my doctor.  It’s my body.  This imbalance is a new condition.  I was convinced he’d want to medicate me, but Doc was content to just monitor me without treatment (to my delight) until he learned I was having knee surgery, at which point he freaked out.  “You’re having surgery? You’re doing it backwards!  You should be balancing your thyroid first, then getting surgery.”  Why surgery necessitated taking thyroid pills, I don’t know.  He didn’t explain.  He just huffed and puffed.  But, as against meds as I am generally (I’m a vitamin girl) I went along with Doc. 

I had a bike accident six years ago and suffered a complex tear of the medial meniscus (torn cartilage at the middle of the knee) which has caused pain ever since. I’ve waited years for the right insurance, the right surgeon, and the right time to get the situation remedied.  The hospital gave me an epidural, fabulous crutches, a turkey sandwich and cranberry juice.  It was Thanksgiving come early. 

They gave me two pain killers after I came to.  “Is there happiness in here?” I inquired skeptically, as I was already pretty darn happy.  “Yes, there is.”  I was happy as a clam for a full 24 hours after surgery.  Then I stopped taking the pain pills and it all became clear to me.  Surgery is fun, but it’s not that much fun.  I was high as a kite for a day.

In fact, I had a medical dream team, from a top surgeon to a darling anesthesiologist who looked like Roger Sterling from Mad Men. “Hi, I’m your bartender,” he coyly introduced himself,  Yes, a compadre! “Speaking of which” I said, “can I drink tonight?” assuming I knew the depressing answer. “Of course!” (I was shocked, but thrilled) “What are you having?” he asked. “Wine.” I returned.  “Red or white?”  “Well, it’s still warm out, so I think I’ll go with white.”  “Good choice” he replied.  I glanced over at the nurse to my right who was attempting to thread the IV into my hand, a first for me.  I’d heard it hurt a lot (it hurt a little).  “I’m trying to distract you,” said the darling anesthesiologist.  “Thanks.”  I turned my attention away from the nurse with pointy things and back to the good-looking doctor who encouraged inebriation.  I was careful to skip my happy pill with the wine at dinner.

Back to normal life.  You have to take this thyroid pill first thing in the morning, 30 minutes before eating.  I like to eat when I wake up, after a brief meditation.  It’s a celebratory way to start the day.  Since I wake up in the middle of the night to pee, I decided that’s when I’d take the pill.  When I wake up for real, I don’t have to wait around to get the party started.

At any rate.  4am.  I wake up and record audio books.  Since I live in NYC and don’t have a sound proof studio (which costs tens of thousands of dollars) I have to work around my sound constraints.  It’s relatively quiet at 4 and 5 in the morning.  I get some prime recording done, then edit later.  But the recording necessitates silence.

By 10 am I’ve been up many hours.  I have lunch, sometimes, between 10 and 11.  Sometimes I have a glass of wine with my lunch.  I look at myself askance as I glance at the clock, but then I do the math.  I’ve been working for hours.  I have a glass of wine a day, at most.  If it’s at lunch, I don’t have it at dinner.  I’m a moderate person.

At any rate, I had an early lunch, replete with glass of wine, and, for whatever reason, I also had a nervous breakdown.  Tears, loneliness and frustration all welled up within me.  I work.  I exercise.  I just had surgery.  I meditate.  I’m practically a perfect person, all things considered.  I’ve survived death, death and more death, of loved ones, both human, feline, and canine.  I’m deathed out.

This glass of wine tipped me over the edge.  While I believe marriage is in the cards for me (though in which deck, I don’t know) I have no idea when it will happen.

In the past, while maudlin and tipsy, I’d look for love online. This time, I went to the website of an adoption center.  They had a tiny little kitten there called Dumpling. That was all I needed, a big fat neon sign from Spirit.  I grabbed my wallet and identifying paperwork and headed to the shelter in the pouring rain.

I cried on the way down to the shelter.  I cried on the way back.  The whole thing felt tortured, as cute as the kittens were.  It felt like defeat.  I didn’t want to die a crazy cat lady, or “the gal with the dog”.  So much for my holding out for a relationship.

Here I was, regressing.  A kitty recidivist.  But better a stray cat than a stray man.  I adopted two females.  Now, I could die happy with two cats, one dog (someday) and no husband, just like God intended.  I’ll probably get a freaking hippopotamus and zebra, too.  

Apparently, other people had been dreaming of Dumpling, too.  Because everyone was at the shelter to get her, though I was there first.  A Russian girl and her husband felt Dumpling was meant for them because their other cat was named Taco.  Like they go together?  Totally mismatched cuisines.  I relinquished Dumpling to a half-Asian, half-European, all-gay couple who brought their little appetizer home in a snazzy purple carrier.

There was little Steven, white and ginger, and even with only 3 legs (he was sleeping in a car to keep warm when they started the engine and his leg got caught in the fan belt.) he was still the terror of the kitty room.  The shelter amputated his back leg.  Always knock on your hood to wake up sleeping animals if you park outside. 

Little black and white Eggplant seemed depressed, or sick.  I asked the shelter’s cat wrangler about this.  Her siblings, Broccoli and Squash had been adopted the day before. Perhaps she was sad.  I selected black and white “tuxedo”  Eggplant and renamed her Marlena (after Dietrich, the original tuxedo wearer) and a tiny tiger tabby, Celeste. 

Most people get pregnant when they get drunk.  I got kittens.

The sign from Spirit regarding Dumpling was crystal clear.  While she was not my intended kitten, her name was the trigger.  That’s how signs work.  I was meant to have these two furry lunatics.  My initial trauma about yet again committing myself to the care and maintenance of two little rascals has melted into a pool of purring. 

On to more magic and miracles. 

I’m pals with a nun I met eight years ago at a new age retreat.  She’s a new age Catholic nun.  Wouldn’t expect such a combination, but there you have it.  She’s from Ireland and lives in Texas. 

We share the same birthday, though she’s older than I, and the same “out there” metaphysical taste.  She sends me things from time to time, mostly books, sometimes inspirational decks like the “Ascended Masters” oracle cards, and articles about health or spirituality. 

Being hungry for mystical experience, she’s been to healer John of God in Brazil, and Lourdes in France.  She sent me a tiny plastic vial of their holy water, embedded in a color card of our Lady of Lourdes, sealed in plastic.  I taped the whole thing to the wall by my desk. It stayed there a good year until I noticed the water table was dropping.  Even in hermetically sealed plastic and shrink wrapped in yet more plastic, the holy water was evaporating, somehow.  Well, I didn’t want it to disappear into the ethers without my taking advantage of its healing qualities.  So, I broke it open, poured a drop or two on the crown of my head, then swallowed the rest. 

As there was yet a milliliter of holy water in it, I left the plastic tube on my desk.  I’d let the magical residue evaporate. 

Working at my desk a day or two later, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye.  When I record audio books it is of the utmost importance that nothing move, including me. I wear soft, silent clothing and keep my head steady.  There are no stray sounds or rustling movements, just mouth to microphone.  I’m a talking mime. 

Puzzled by the movement on my desk, I stopped recording.  The little tube of plastic from Lourdes (an ellipse, not a cylinder) was rocking all by itself, as if someone had just tapped it with their finger.  Except no one was there.  I hadn’t rocked my desk or knocked into anything, heck, you can’t even raise an eyebrow without the sound picking up on the mic.  Nothing else on my desk moved.  Nothing anywhere moved.  Just the tube that had held the holy water.  It continued to rock for several seconds.

Who tipped the container with a flick of their spirit “finger”?  Beats me.  Could be anyone.  I don’t see ‘em.  But I know they’re there because it’s not possible for something to “just happen by itself”.  There’s always a reason or source.  Cause and effect.  If it’s not physical, then it’s metaphysical.  It’s all energy anyway.  Matter is just energy vibrating at a slower rate.

There’s also no physical explanation for how the tiny wind chime I have hanging in my bathroom started swaying by itself.  It’s way above my head, to the right of my sink. If I want to ring it, I have to get up on tippy toes and practically jump to nudge it with a finger tip.  There’s no window in my bathroom and therefore no wind.  I was brushing my teeth.  As clean as my teeth are, my brushing does not produce gusts. Even with an electric toothbrush, this was not a wind event.  

I saw or sensed something moving, and looked up.  They didn’t make a sound.  But the chimes were swaying.  As if someone had just gently touched them. My first thought is always, “how the heck did that happen?”  I look around for the plausible, logical, physical explanation.  When there isn’t one, I say, “hola!” 

Then there was the time I heard sound coming from two rooms away.  I continued working, late at night, but when the sound continued for five minutes or so I finally went out to investigate.  My living room speaker was on, and my iPod, in shuffle mode, had turned itself to one of my favorite Pat Metheny songs. Those who understand just go, “cool!” which is the proper response.  Those that don’t, why are you reading this?  We're here to have fun with Spirit, interacting, playing, and breaching dimensional walls.  

My fourth tiny miracle was when I recently walked down Lexington Avenue in midtown lunch hour foot traffic.  It was a sunny September day, the street filled with people scurrying to and fro.  A large bug flew at me.  Not a common occurrence, I warily looked down to see what it was.  A baby dragonfly (hello, this is Manhattan) flew right onto my heart.  To boot, I was wearing a tee shirt with a big heart in the center.  But this little animal totem flew directly to the left of my chest and parked.  I didn’t move.  I pulled over to the side of the sidewalk, with the lunch crowd rushing past me.  Right in front of Victoria's Secret, no less, with a bug perched on my boob. It stayed there a good 5 minutes.  Gorgeous.  Special.  No mistaking the sign from Spirit.  Dragonflies signify transformation (change, adaptability, joy, lightness of being).  So, my heart was being transformed.  God was tinkering with me. 

I’ve been going to a lot of spiritual events lately, the opposite of my hiding at home stunt that I did for the better part of a year after my dog died.  I’ve finally got some spring in my step, and while I didn’t leave the house before, now you can’t keep me in.  I’ve got ants in my pants.  I went on a rampage signing up for events, but one event I was on the fence about.  Just wasn’t sure “what was in it for me”.  So, I didn’t pre-pay.  The morning of the event, I was exhausted, and relieved I hadn't bought a ticket.  Ten minutes later, I was restless again, and decided to go.

I got a reading that morning from a terrific channeler,  Nicole Gans Singer, www.teachingsofthemasters.org.  Her guides commented on my upcoming event that day, acknowledged that it was important that I go, and that I should meditate prior.  The event was part of a big new age extravaganza, one I’m not partial to.  It’s a cheesy event in a cheesy hotel.  If there was anything to turn a person off of new age, this was it.  And I’m new age.  It’s a carnival of crazy. 

My speaker is someone whose work I greatly admire, however his 90 minute event was a debacle of sorts.  His team, audio visual and otherwise, was disorganized.  It was practically a joke.  Fortunately, he got the joke, and laughed.  I like him.  Despite that, on a conscious level I learned nothing, gleaned nothing and was with a bunch of weirdos, one of whom (next to me, of course) reeked of garlic. The event seemed a waste of both my money and my time.   If I hadn’t known Spirit was gunning for me to be there (they explained the energetic reason) I’d have felt disgusted.  But I know better now.  And I felt better, not being at home. I left the carnival lickety-split and decided to walk home from Herald Square.  It was a sunny, October day.  I needed some exercise and some grounding, so I called my cousin. 

She’s new age, too, and she understands crazy.  She’s dating a hoarder, a new relationship, and this quality of his is not to her liking, as she comes from a family with a tendency toward it.  She helped him weed through his piles of stuff recently.  “I asked him if I could throw something out.  He didn’t answer, so I pretended I heard him say yes and got rid of it.”  While we were talking on the phone I made it to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.  There was a mob there.  I thought it was a protest.  No.  Was the Pope there?  No.  I edged in closer to the crowd.  Everyone was taking pictures.  From the center of the church's dark interior slowly emerged a heavy, purple religious float hoisted on the shoulders of many mocha complected men.  In fact, I was surrounded by people who were all darker than me.  They were not, however, taller than me.  And I’m not tall.  This was a short, Hispanic population. 

Women wearing lace scarves over their heads swayed smoky silver incense holders, giving the pretzel, chestnut and hot dog vendors aromatic competition.  This was heavy duty ritual, and I was mesmerized.  I studied the float.  Jesus was hanging in his usual depressing pose.  On the back, the Virgin Mary held baby Jesus, reminiscent of happier times.  I got excited when I saw a silver dove on the back of the float. 

I finally asked someone what this was.  Australian tourists answered, “It’s the Procession of the Miracles”.  Huh?  I’d never heard of that one, have you?  You know why?  It’s a Peruvian ritual.  The Catholic Church must be on hard times if they’re hitting up South American countries for their customers, renting out Gothic St. Pat’s for parties.  No wonder I was the tallest person in sight save the Australians. I said, “Well, the miracle is making it through this mob!” “Yeah, and when you push through, you’re gonna be a billionaire!”  he replied.

But I didn’t want to push on just yet.  I was caught up in the ritual and mystique of this event.   I was still on the phone with my cousin, who was vicariously enjoying the proceedings.  Bells were clanged.  Incense wafted as the procession continued through the packed crowd.  I blurted, “Oh my god, there are live doves!”  A man clutched two white doves to his chest, preparing to release them.  Remembering the last time the Pope pulled that stunt (Weren’t they immediately attacked and eaten by seagulls?  Talk about a bad sign.) I was eager to see how these two would fare on Fifth Avenue.  One flew up in the air to be met by a dark gray pigeon.  Would it attack and kill?  Nah, it probably just wanted a date.  The other, freakishly, flew right back down into the crowd, near me. 

People went crazy touching it, holding it, clutching it to their faces, taking photos with their families.  I was concerned that this symbol of peace was being man-handled, albeit by eager and pious people, it didn’t mean this dove wouldn’t get crushed in their enthusiasm.  I finally got the dove, taking it gently from a tiny (three feet tall?) old woman in a black shawl who’d been monopolizing it.  I let it stand in my hand, no clutching and crushing.  I wondered why it didn’t fly, was it hurt?  It was covered in green bird crap, obviously from being trapped and petrified prior to being released.

The old lady tried to grab it back from me but I barked, “No!” I walked away from the crowd, toward the giant statue of Atlas across from the church.  There were planted flowers on a granite ledge in front of the statue.  I put the dove on the stone shelf.  It seemed dazed, then meandered over the flowers.  A guy near me offered to take it home, but I somehow didn’t trust him.  I wanted her to escape.  When someone yet again attempted to grab her, she flew up, but only as far as the Banana Republic sign, clutching the metal in an incredibly awkward position, like she was holding on, sideways, for dear life.  Why didn’t she just fly away?

Someone shouted, “her foot’s stuck!”  They jumped up to try to dislodge it, and with that final assault, the dove flew up and away, into a tall tree.  Finally!  Then she dove right back down into the crowds.  Was there a dove shrink somewhere? I didn’t see what happened to her next. I was done with my watch. 

The Miracle Jesus float had turned the corner, west up 51st street, along with his Peruvian entourage.  Jesus’ ripped and bloodied hands and feet don’t look all that different from mine, shredded and skewered by tiny kittens. 

Life. 

There’s blood, drama, death, sacrifice, smoke, magic and mystery at its very core. 

© 2014 Valerie Gilbert, all rights reserved.

My newest book, SWAMI SOUP is now out in ebook and print, audio book in a few months! 

MEMORIES, DREAMS & DEFLECTIONS: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion is out in print, eBook, and audio (recorded by me!) 

RAVING VIOLET the book is out in print, e-book and audio (recorded by me!) both books available from Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, KOBO, SmashWords, Sony Reader Store, The Book Depository (international print) AllRomanceBooks.com, and Black Opal Books.  

Valerie's audiobooks are available at Audible.com and iTunes.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Day In The Life



I am a “weird” magnet.  This kind of weird can only be attracted in New York, a vortex of concentrated human extremes.  Contemplate my odd assortment of vignettes as an ambling film sequence.

Scene One, Take One: Returning home from tap class, I stop into my local wine shop, which I recently recalled used to be the neighborhood bakery when I grew up here.  Still the treat corner since fourth grade!   

As I left, a very attractive man was standing in the sun against one of the buildings, about thirty feet away.  Someone I know, and have avoided since the passing of my beloved dog almost nine months ago.  He’s a silver fox from Brazil, gorgeous, gay, and a dog walker.  He used to be particularly attached to my dog, even though no one ever walked her but me.  He would see her and light up, as many people did since she was such a supremely loving creature.  “I love you!” he’d gush with his accent as he scooped her up in his arms, cuddling her to his face and rocking in bliss, eyes closed, while leashes and dogs radiated out from him like a maypole. 

He saw me as I walked up the street, and I smiled at him.  He mouthed and mimed as I approached, “Where is she?” Shaking my head soberly as I walked closer, his smile diminished as he awaited my explanation.  “She’s gone.” I said as I stood in front of him.  He was speechless. 

Now, I’ve had some pretty hideous reactions upon informing people of Mimi’s passing. “You’re killing me!” screeched a morbid neighbor, a dog-owning matron with black shellacked hair and huge black sunglasses who allegedly poisoned her husband (perhaps she was quoting him?).  She offered not one word of comfort to me.

One day a fellow doxie owner approached and I decided not to dodge her and her giant longhaired dachshund, whom my baby used to French kiss.  The two dogs were a love match, although it was clear Luigi was seeing other women.  Norma adored my baby, joyously exclaiming as vociferously as my girl, who squealed in delight and flopped on her back, tail wagging, upon seeing the tiny old lady and her big dog.  Mimi engaged in this super friendly behavior often.  My senior neighbor Shirley, who refused to touch her, but clearly delighted in her from afar, called her a slut.

Shirley screamed when I told her Mimi had died.  “But I never let her into my apartment!”  No, she hadn’t.  She missed out on having her home sniffed and searched by a very low, loopy dog who hopped and skipped due to her deformities. 

Back to Norma.  I thought Norma, who reveled in all things Mimi, would be devastated when I told her about Mimi’s passing.  I sobbed as I choked out the sad tale.  Norma was unmoved and said simply that I had to get another dog.

The next time I saw her was months later, and I was ready for her.  I was better, less frail.  She said, “Where’s the puppy?”  Norma’s old, and I thought she was losing it.  I sighed, patiently, “She passed, Norma.” “I know,” she retorted.  “Where’s the new puppy?”  Not senile.  Pushy. “I’m not getting a new puppy Norma,” I spoke quietly. “Why not?” she barked. “Because I’m not ready.” “Why not?” She barked again. “Because I don’t want another dog.  I’m not ready” I defended. “Why aren’t you ready?” She needled. “I’m just not. I want other change in my life, not another dog,” I tried to explain, but she persisted in pressing her dog dictate, “Well, you can have other things and a dog, too.  You’re just stubborn, that’s what you are!”  Suddenly, this heretofore cute little old lady I adored had become my prosecutor, while the Black Widow (who still has her dog) had acted as if my loss had been hers.  That’s why I don’t talk about it. 

But my Brazilian friend, the silver fox standing in the sun, just looked and listened earnestly as I spoke. “She became paralyzed, and I couldn’t put her through surgery with all her other health issues.  I know you loved her”.  As I teared up he reached into his pocket for a soft, neatly folded white paper towel, obviously a backup maintenance tool for his line of work.  I demurred, used to wiping my fairly frequent tears on a sleeve. But he insisted and put it in my hand.  I dabbed the folded rectangle to my eyes and continued, “I haven’t been able to talk about it.  She was only five and she was the world to me.  It’s just too sad.”

Sergio did the kindest thing a person can do when one is distraught.  He offered no comfort (beyond "the quicker picker upper") and no counsel. He just listened, beholding me while absorbing my story, a witness to my pain.  It was the purest expression of love. Hugging him, I offered. “She loved you”. He looked me in the eye and blurted, “Be careful,” his Brazilian attempt at saying “take care”, I suppose.  As I walked away he blurted, “I love you”, just like he used to say to my little baby.  “I love you, too.”  I said. 

Since I was now all weepy and in need of succor, I clutched the just purchased chilled sauvignon blanc and headed over to my old stomping ground, the Catholic Church across the street.  While not Catholic, I like the sanctuary to contemplate and regroup.  Before Mimi, I used to sit there and weep when my mother was dying. With Mimi, I’d sneak her in her bag and we’d bask in the chill air on blisteringly hot days, or thaw and re-heat on the freezing ones. It is a modern church and usually quite empty, which is just the way I like it.  A respite from the noisy world outside. 

On this day it wasn’t empty at all.  There was no mass in progress, but a dispersed and disparate “crowd” of six were praying in earnest.  I could discern the energy of their prayers, providing a very Wings of Desire air.  A white woman to the right in corduroy jeans kneeled in front of a statue.  A white woman to my left kneeled in front of St. Francis (a personal favorite of mine).  A black woman in a powder blue suit and hat sat in front of me.  A black man was to the left.  Human pieces spread out on an invisible Catholic chess board.

The black lady in the blue suit started waving her right hand before her face, silently “testifying”.  This went on for a while and I took in the spectacle, one I’d never seen at this church, concluding that she was conversing with Jesus.  She dropped her hand briefly but waved it again for a stretch. To my far left was a very old, tall white priest who always sits in the same chair.  He’s friendly but quiet and has a bum foot, his bones and bunions exploding out of his dirty, black, velcrow-trussed sneakers.  His eyes were fixed on the bible in his lap, the same book he’s read over and over for decades. Doesn’t that get dull after a while?

An attractive young Asian business woman was in church only to text, eyes glued to her glowing appliance in a back pew.  Her phone rang.  This was a first for me, and I was appalled that she’d add insult to injury by making noise on top of being so textfully disrespectful. She left the main area to turn it off, I supposed, but wouldn’t you just know it, she took the freaking call in the outer hall.  I departed, leaving the Six Characters In Search Of An Author behind.

Speaking of crass, I ventured boldly into an institution I’d spent my entire life near, but had never been in.  Central Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in New York City, established in1846, with the building dedicated in 1872.  While I venture freely into churches because they have open doors and people coming in and out, I had never done so in a synagogue.  But a young lady in business attire climbed the steps toward the entrance, which made me think it was open.  In all my life it had never seemed open or active.  It was a mysterious, impenetrable fortress.  I seized the opportunity.

On my way to physical therapy, I was wearing shorts, sneakers and a tee shirt.  Now, I know God doesn’t mind about that kind of stuff cause God Is Everything, however, the people who run the synagogue might mind.  That person that day was a big guy in a beige suit.  He looked a bit like a Jewish bouncer.  Given how he was dressed, I thought he might give me some tsuris for my getup.  The pretty Israeli girl (she had an accent) kept him busy with questions while I slipped in and sat.  I explored the right to left, back to front reading material in my Jewish pew and took in the décor.  It looked just like a church.  Throw in a Jesus here and a couple of crosses there, and you could house a whole other crowd.

Now, the physical therapy.  I have a new insurance plan.  I was very excited about this new insurance plan until I started using it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m very grateful for it.  My audio book work through my union entitled me to pay for the privilege of having this insurance.  I was thrilled to find out that they covered both chiropractic and acupuncture, both of which I rely on.  I’m an alternative therapies type and don’t count on M.D.s for my well-being.  I prefer preventative, holistic care and use M.D.s on an “as needed” basis only.   

In the midst of enjoying my chiropractic and acupuncture benefits, I discovered that I was entitled to only half the number of treatments I thought I was.  A real pity, for the healthier I am, the less actual medical treatment I need (the old "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" thing). Getting weekly acu and chiro was putting me in fine form and spirits.  But I was also entitled to four physical therapy treatments, so I decided to cash in on that benefit, since I have wrist pain from my audio recording and editing work, and knee pain from an old injury. 

I needed a referral for it, so I selected the G.P. closest to me, which wasn’t all that close.  But she was a girl, which I wanted, and had a cushy address just opposite Tavern On The Green in Central Park.  And they could take me immediately, so I could start my P.T. immediately, with only a month left to this insurance quarter to cash in on those four sessions. Strangely, they were open for walk-in appointments only.  I was advised there usually wasn’t a long wait, and appointments lasted only about 20 minutes.  

Her office was on the main floor of a classic Central Park West building.  The front door was on the sidewalk.  I crossed the threshold and was suddenly in The Wizard of Oz.  In reverse.  All the Technicolor drained from my day as I entered her desiccated den from another time period altogether — somewhere between the 1940s and the 1960s.  This joint was untouched by time, money, renovations or a cleaning crew.  Everything was brown.  The miniscule bathroom, which I needed to use, abutted the sidewalk.  The toilet was right by the thin window so I could hear footsteps inches away from me as I sat, pants down.  My need to relieve myself vanished.  I saddled up and went to the sink, which looked distinctly…unclean. I’ve seen cleaner bathrooms in fast food restaurants.  What kind of a doctor’s office was this? 

The shop was run by three old women.  A black woman so large it proved difficult for her to get out of her chair.  She remained seated against the wall in the anteroom for the duration of my visit.  A petite Latina woman was friendly, efficient and ran the desk and phone.  She’d been with the doctor for 30 years (she told me this on the phone when I’d asked if the doctor was nice). And then there was the old battle axe herself, a white gal who’d graduated from medical school in 1943.  Now, I knew that little tidbit going in, the insurance site listed her stats.  But I was not prepared for the full Grey Gardens effect created by her and her medical practice. 

A 90 year old former show-girl stood before me. The good doctor was rail thin, sporting bright red lipstick and long blonde hair coiffed to Barbie doll perfection. Her breasts were reminiscent of Carol Burnett’s Charro’s mother costume as they were thin, long, low, and, it seemed, irregular. Her colorful polyester shirt and pencil skirt were a throwback to the 1970’s, when they were undoubtedly purchased. She wore her purse around her neck in the front, like the sporrans that Highland Scotsmen sport over their kilt.  The rectangular shoulder bag hung from a long, thin gold chain and was as thin and two dimensional as she was.  The edges were totally frayed, and I could not tell whether it was made of decomposing black patent leather faux “alligator” or authentic cardboard and plastic.  In addition to assorted jewelry her final accessory was a vintage stethoscope.  My face registered the same shock exhibited in the countenances of the Broadway audience in Mel Brooks’ 1968 masterpiece, The Producers, upon realizing that they were watching a musical homage to Hitler. 

I was frozen in an episode of The Twilight Zone, a David Lynch film, or The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Take your pick.  I was on set. 

I signed a few forms, my uneasy smile trying to mask my mortification. What would happen to me in this geriatric house of horrors?  There were piles of paper everywhere, on top of army green metal filing cabinets and card-holders from the 40s, 50s and 60s. Labels were hand scrawled “Medicaid” and “Medicare”. There was no computer to be seen, but a fax machine collected dust.  My eyes scanned the joint from top to bottom.  It was a museum exhibit.  A total time warp to the 1960s New York City of my childhood.

“The doctor will see you now.” The receptionist jarred me out of my reverie.  I entered the examining room. This equipment was from the 1930s and 1940s, including a vintage baby scale and examination table. Young Frankenstein’s lab now came to mind.  The antediluvian table had stirrups for gynecological use, and musty mechanical cranks beneath. Scalpels, tweezers and antiquated metal tools were scattered about, mixed in with rubber bands, vaccines, needles and pens.  More file cabinets were piled haphazardly on top of each other.

“What’s wrong with you?” blurted the old woman as she entered the room.  “Uh, nothing.  I need a referral to see a physical therapist.”  She sat down across from me on one of her mismatched chairs.  “I told you to sit on the other chair, it’s more comfortable,” she directed me.  She’d told me to “sit on the round chair” so I'd sat on the round wooden stool.  Apparently she’d said “sit on the brown chair”, which was 1970s padded pleather and chrome. My stool was white and the cleanest, newest thing in the room.  I stayed put. 

“Do you have any illnesses?” “No,” I replied.  “Family history.” I gave her a brief rundown of how everyone died, including my mother’s death from cancer.  She took laborious longhand notes on an oversized index card, then looked up at me abruptly, “Breast cancer?” “No,” I replied.  She didn’t bother to find out what kind of cancer my mother actually had.  She asked me my weight and height without bothering to verify my claims.  I grew a couple inches and lost a couple pounds.  If she was living in a dream world, then so could I. 

Dr. Norma Desmond instructed me to me hop up on the edge of the gruesome table.  If ever a piece of equipment was haunted, this was it. I could feel the fear from myriad patients emanating from the frayed pad and rusted metal.  She listened to my heart with her trusty stethoscope.  She felt my left breast then got distracted when I told her I had fibroids.  She briefly palpated my lower abdomen.  So much for my right breast. 

She looked in my ears with her ear thingie, then tried to get her flashlight to turn on so she could look down my throat.  She fiddled with it, but it didn’t work, so she banged it on the stirrup.  Bam.  It was on. 

That over, we discussed my wrist pain, the very reason I was there.  She placed my wrist on the stirrup.  I kid you not.  Maybe this contraption did double duty back in the day, but to me, now, it was a gynecological stirrup, and my wrist was on it. Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers leered from the side of the room. 

She asked if I wanted blood work, and had she been a real doctor, I would have accepted it.  But not trusting her to hit a forearm let alone a vein, I declined.  Perhaps this was where the large black woman came in.  It’s possible she was a nurse.  But drawing my blood would necessitate her getting up, and this seemed unlikely. 

Norma Desmond hand scrawled my referral for the physical therapy, said “anything else?” then suggested I take two more, one for a gynecologist and another for an orthopedist.   This then, was her specialty.  Penning referrals. 

Relieved to be done, I was shocked to find other people in the waiting room.  All women.  All older.  What were they doing here?  What did this doctor do all day?  Right.  She handed out referrals. It was clear neither she nor her staff were in any condition to treat anyone for anything. 

I approached the front desk with $20 for my $10 co-pay.   “Doctor,” her receptionist ventured, it seemed to me, with trepidation.  “Do you have $10 change for this lady’s co-pay?”  Here was the meaning of the shiny, dilapidated purse swinging from doc’s neck.  She was the bank.  She didn’t trust her employee of thirty years to hold the $10s?  Well, just add that to the pile of crazy. 

I walked to nearby Sheep’s Meadow on this glorious May day to regroup as I slowly adjusted to 2014.  An iced coffee from Tavern’s pleasant take-out window aided in my recovery, and a Garage Band workshop at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue completed my reentry into today’s time space coordinates. 

Cut to me, medium shot, walking the streets the next day wearing shorts, tee shirt and sneakers, clutching my hard-won P.T. referral as I exit Central Synagogue.  From there I went to my new physical therapy office in a very respectable office building, only to find that this operation had not been renovated since the early 1980s.  This is not encouraging in a medical establishment.  One wants the latest, the newest and the best. I was having medical disappointment déjà vu. 

I was hoping for some nurturing medical massage as part of the package, but all I saw were boring weights and machines.  Looked like I’d have to do all the work.  Sigh.

My therapist was a tall, no nonsense gal, and her very basic equipment also seemed, well, quite old.  She measured my wrist with a glorified tape measure from a plastic box of supplies that could once have housed a Lego set. The joint was uninspired. Even Norma Desmond had some freaky flair.  

I tried to crack a joke but my therapist was a tough customer.  She alternately boiled and froze my wrist with very hot and very cold things, then sono-waved it.  She showed me a few stretches and the proper way to sit at my computer. Snore.   

While she was taking my carpal deposition we were seated inches away from each other, face to face in a little cubicle. At one point she sighed and said, “You have to take better care of yourself.”

Tears started rolling down my face.  This threw her totally off her game when she finally looked up from my wrist.  She was offering physical therapy, not therapy therapy.  She tossed some paper towels at me so I could clean up my emotional mess.  Her turf was repairing tendons and muscles, not the tender buttons she was pressing.  I needed nurturing, not needling. 

That being said, she gave me some good advice about posture, and her seminal “you have to take better care of yourself” had struck a nerve. I thought I already was.  But there’s always farther to go.

My journey is about taking better care of myself, emotionally, financially, physically, spiritually and mentally, the whole shebang.  These realms are simply different facets of the same Me.

A day in my life includes smiling, celebrating, crying, napping, pontificating, dancing, cooking, eating well, biking, blading, solitude, more solitude, writing and recording.  Day by day, gently, and sometimes more forcefully, I edge toward beautiful new vistas.  Sunset.  Music swells. Fade to black. 

©Valerie Gilbert, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

My newest book, SWAMI SOUP, is now out in ebook and print, audio book in a few months!

MEMORIES, DREAMS & DEFLECTIONS: My Odyssey Through Emotional Indigestion is out in print, eBook, and audio (recorded by me!) 

RAVING VIOLET the book is available in print, e-book and audio (recorded by me!) both books from Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, KOBO, SmashWords, Sony Reader Store,  The Book Depository (international print) AllRomanceBooks.com, and Black Opal Books.  

Valerie's audiobooks are available at Audible.com and iTunes.  


Author Interview http://quietfurybooks.com/bestsellerboundrecommends/getting-to-know-author-valerie-gilbert/