Friday, March 28, 2008

Health care

I'm applying to the Peace Corps--it's been an ongoing process of over a year now. They tell you they need all these medical exams done, and you can have them done at a federal facility (like a VA Hospital) that PC pays directly, but that will take a long time. Or you can have them done yourself, paying with your own money and/or insurance, and receive set reimbursements for your out of pocket expenditures from the PC. Being unemployed--or self-employed--I have no insurance. But I thought it would be good to try to get this done and receive the (rather paltry) reimbursement from the Peace Corps. I'm really suffering from sticker shock. I found out, for one thing, I have a heart murmur. So I'm supposed to have an echocardiogram--to the tune of $925. I can't afford that (that's like my month's rent and gas bill). God knows what a mammogram will cost, and I'm also supposed to get some exam by a shrink since I have seen a psychologist in the last 10 years. They really seem to want to weed people out in this process. Understandably, I'm sure. We are representing the United States and they don't want us sick or dying over there when we're supposed to be helping villagers dig wells or learn English. I guess my next gambit is to look into the options for using a VA hospital. I tried to contact my PC medical services representative, but am still waiting to hear back from him or her.

But my aspirations for the Peace Corps are fading fast. I'm starting to think just surviving here and maybe doing some volunteer work might be my best option.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Kundalini happiness

It is about as easy to describe why I like Kundalini yoga so much as it is to describe color to a person who has been blind since birth. Maybe that's an exaggeration. But you get the idea. Last Saturday night I went to the local ashram (local means it's about an hour drive) for a gong meditation. In a spacious room with beautifully polished wood floors we lined up on our mats and sheepskins. There were several very large gongs at the front of the room, and a raised stage for the teachers. This was very near the full moon, which I think had been the day before. It was also just after the vernal equinox, so the days are getting longer and there seems to be that renewed energy of spring, despite the continuing cold New England weather.

We did a Kundalini yoga set--Surya kriya, to welcome the sun energy. Then we all laid down on our backs, covering up with blankets, and experienced the gong. The kind of relaxation that I get in a Kundalini yoga class is unlike any other. My mind was busy at first, but then my body started feeling the huge gong vibrations and relaxation crept in. I went through some dreams--I couldn't tell you what they were now. Some people fell asleep.

After we came out of it, we did two meditations with chanting and mudra (hand positions). One was for the full moon and the other was for our creativity. At the end of the class I felt as if I had been bathed in that moonlight. This is what it was like: I remember this feeling as a little child. A feeling of connectedness and yet of my own individual presence. A feeling of safety and completeness. Like the way I used to feel in the summer when I sat in a sunny field across from my house with my arm around my dog, Poochie, who was perfectly content to just sit there with me. That's about the best way I can describe it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

visiting my brother

Yesterday I drove the 3 1/2 hours out to Western Mass. to take my brother out for lunch, in kind of a half-hearted recognition of Easter, a holiday that has hardly seemed relevant to my life for years, since my children were too old to really "need" an Easter basket. But, the world seems to recognize it as a holiday, and knowing the loneliness that accompanies these world-recognized holidays, I tend to want to show some support for my brother and in turn, receive some back from him.

We took a trip to WalMart. He felt he really needed a new vaccuum. I don't relish going to WalMart, but it was surprisingly easy with R. He walked purposefully through the throngs of seemingly stupified people hypnotized by the glitz of material things. I followed him, noticing his worn sneakers with the holes in them. (He assured me in the past that he has other shoes, he just likes wearing these ones.)

As an aside, I should mention that my brother has a mental illness, although I'm not sure what his diagnosis would be today. Over 30 years ago it was schizophrenia, but it might have changed. He seems very normal in most ways, except for the fact that he is reclusive, wears cotton in his ears all the time, and has hardly ever held a job.

Anyway, we got the vaccuum and I persuaded him to pick up a new toilet seat as well. We were in and out of WalMart in record time, and I was amazed. Usually such trips are drawn out and uncomfortable.

Then we went to his favorite diner--pretty much the only place I can persuade him to go out to for a meal. It's a 50s style diner, with posters of Elvis and James Dean on the walls. We ate quite a bit, since I'd decided this was our "Easter dinner." He got a hot roast beef sandwich with gravy and fries and a salad. I had "Veggie linguini" which involved a lot of butter and pasta, but tasted okay. And a salad too. We mostly ate in silence, with comments here and there initiated by me.

At one point I looked at my brother's profile--he was looking out the window. And I noticed his nose hairs--too long. I thought it might be something that could bother me, but it would never be something I would mention to him. He's too sensitive for that and sometimes I feel he doesn't trust me. Then I remembered my father. His nose hairs were long too. I remembered distinctly his nose, large and beautiful to me, and his hands, with the beat-up fingernails--I thought from hammering and building the house I grew up in. I could almost smell my father then, smell the comfort of him. And I was grateful to my brother for reminding me.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sunday out

I own a copy of the Woody Allen movie, Manhattan. While watching it can be a little -- what's the opposite of deja vu? Presque vu? -- anyway, it's weird because it was way before Woody decided to make his adopted daughter his mistress and then wife. And in Manhattan, he's a 40-something writer having a "fling" with a precocious 17-year-old, Tracy, played by Mariel Hemmingway. He obviously crafted her role to be a middle-aged man's fantasy woman: she's beautiful in an innocent, almost virginal way, but she's sexually rambunctious--"How many times can you do it in one night?" he asks, and she answers, "Well, a lot.." and he snaps back, "A lot is my favorite number." She's also smart and perceptive, and this kind of backfires on him when, since he's fallen for the attractive, neurotic Mary played by Diane Keaton, he attempts to break up with Tracy in a "let her down easy" kind of way. He tries to convince her that their age difference means they could never be a serious couple, and that she has a whole lot of other options. He even starts naming off some of her high-school aged possible suitors, "Biff, or Tommy, or Scooter." She's not buying it. They're, quaintly, having this break-up scene at a soda fountain (probably one of the last existing ones in Manhattan in the 70s). She asks him why he's trying to make it sound like it's to her advantage. He persists, asking how can she think she's in love with him, and what is love anyway? Her answer--so simple and wise-- stands out: "We have laughs. I care about you. Your concerns are my concerns. We have great sex." At one point he tells her to stop being so precocious. He's patronizing and paternalistic, but we know that she is the only "real" character in the film, the only (and how I hate using this word now, it's so overused) authentic person.

There are other lines I love in that movie--it's one of the best for witty dialogue. In another break-up scene, Diane Keaton is getting dissed by her married boyfriend, played by Michal Murphy. She knows what's coming and she won't even look him in the eye. She seems to have a permanent smirk on her face, kind of a wise-guy defense to rejection. He tells her they should stop seeing each other, and she says she knew this was coming. She could tell by the tone of his voice on the phone. "Very authoritative, you know, like the Pope, or the computer in 2001." I have heard that voice, and I'm sure many people have, maybe not in the same context of this kind of relationship, but as a foreshadowing of things to come (usually a loss of some kind.)

And then there is the sad line that I think was possibly a mistake left in because it worked. Diane Keaton has called up Michael Murphy to see if he can come out for a walk. It's a Sunday and she's bored and lonely, but of course he has a wife and has plans with her. Diane Keaton, who obviously usually doesn't take the initiative, says she called him because, "It's Sunday out..." I think she mean to say "It's sunny out," because the day significantly turns rainy when she's finally out walking with Woody Allen and they get soaked. But how sad and plaintive is that "It's Sunday out." She needed to fill up her Sunday and was trying to get out into it, leave her apartment container, and pretend for a while to be "normal." Sundays can be the loneliest days (for me it probably goes back to the discomfort of getting ready for church, my mother's tension around that, and the forced, uncomfortable family dinner in the middle of the day). And "it's Sunday out" seems perfectly descriptive.