Life’s Music

‘I’m playing at the theatre at the end of March,’ our 18-year-old son Federico, declared during the winter months. After 15 years of performing, he had, or rather we had become so tired of recital dates and all the preparation involved, one more didn’t raise any eyebrows. We figured, like always, obsession would set in, projections about being the best in ….whatever. And, there would slowly, leading to the performance itself, be no room for greetings, thank you’s or even decency. We knew, as the performance date approached, offensive remarks would become more common, neurotic behavior would peak and perfection would be at stake. Everything, everyone else sat on a lesser plain. I took in a deep breath and resigned myself to what would be.

Fedy was selected to play a sample of his best repertoire for a matinee concert at one of the main theatres downtown. The conservatory selects a few musicians towards the end of the school year to represent the ‘up-and-coming’ generation of musicians. Usually those chosen to perform have won contests around Europe or been selected to solo with local orchestras, which means they play violin, piano or maybe harp or cello. He plays guitar so it was an unexpected honor to be invited.

All seemed standard modus operandi with some big exceptions. First, Federico was approaching 18. Oh yes, the year he had always said he would go live somewhere else. 18!? There it was staring at all of us. And here he was, toward the end of his high school career. What? He had only his ability to play guitar? He had started a rock band, notable for its originality, but….. Fear crossed his face and we watched as he took a look at what may lie ahead? Enormous questions appeared on his forehead and panic set in. ‘Was classical music what he wanted to do?’ ‘Could he even do it himself?’ Life was upon him and playing the rebellion would no longer help.

Second, the unthinkable happened. He fell in love – something he vowed not to do because his guitar would never allow a rival. To boot, she knew nothing about music. After a few surprised responses, on our part, over spending so much time with his new girl, we just let go. If he decided not to perform at the upcoming concert, performed at half his ability, or even gave up classical guitar, that was his business now. Our insistence and even direction had exhausted itself. He would have to take the reins.

One month to go, two weeks, two days, the night before. Yes he was intense on practicing and serious about his preparation but what we were seeing/experiencing was not a fraction of the torture of days gone by. Was this really all we were going to have to bear? I was perplexed but had no more energy to push the river in a direction it wanted to travel alone. I stayed quiet.

The morning of the performance arrived. I drove Fedy to the concert, a role that had got me in trouble in the past. Fighting would set in and then blaming after the concert that I was the cause of his dis-concentration. But without a second thought I put on my Sunday best and was off. The city on an early Sunday morning was delightful. I parked, walked to my destination and even had a coffee with and an honest-to-goodness sense of enjoyment.

The director of the conservatory greeted the parents immediately with a knowing smile, even giving the mothers an orange gerbera daisy. We probably all looked rather exhausted. Raising musicians, or most-likely any artist, is tough. Fedy said good morning too. What? Good-manners? Oh yes the new girlfriend was here. ‘That pulls out some charm,’ I mused under my breath and took my seat.

Fedy was first on the program. He prepared three pieces. The first, a slightly slower gorgeous tune by Weiss (1687-1750) which showed us the beauty of his strings and long fingers which willingly followed his intense resolve. The second, by Legnani (1790-1877) was much more striking, sometimes playful, but daring in its pleats and bursts. His last piece was by Barrios (1885-1944). This is a name I have seen on his sheet music only in recent years. It’s what you might call radical and strikingly difficult. But more it’s an enormous challenge to communicate its laborious qualities without being heavy or demanding on the listener. Yet we, all the audience were right there with him You could hear a pin drop. Federico aced the notes and the music itself. But more he was inviting, in his music, open, available for everyone to enjoy. My eyes filled with tears and his too. He bowed deeply, then came back for two more encores.

I slowed my breath feeling too emotional to sit up straight. ‘Smile,’ I reminded myself. ‘Just be nonchalant.’

We all quieted down and waited for the next performer – a pianist, considered the best in a noteworthy list at the conservatory. And he did not disappoint us. Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, and lastly Sergej Prokofjew with a piece teasingly called ‘Sarcasms.’ He was brilliant, intense, finger movement beyond belief, stunning. His face was red, his fingers too. His glare, oh yes, I knew that gaze. His panorama was music only. But where he was looking was not just at a combination of notes. It was a terrain beyond all else. We clapped again and again at his brilliance. He looked at us as he bowed yet he was not there. He was alone, deeply involved with an esoteric exchange unreachable by mere mortals. He was commanding, yet commanded by a pull to…be complete. Yet, where was this place anyway?

The third performer is what I carefully call a protégé,  10-year-old Alida Shahrazad Igbaria. Her mother is from North Europe. Her father is Arab. He came to town to direct the country’s only Muslim Mosque. It’s a religious center that has gathered fame because it’s the only mosque in Italy with no separation based on nationality.

Alida’s black hair was pulled up in a pony tail that dangled down to the back of her thighs. I noticed she had on a mini-skirt, black leather at that. What a difference from the bobby socks I saw last year.

Her playing was brilliant and heavenly, leaving us all amazed and giddy. Surprisingly, she played quintessential masterpieces as if she were not quite aware she herself as the musician. She frequently smiled at the audience as if she too took pleasure watching herself play. Her pieces were short, friendly and pure. She was indeed a musical genius. Yet her youth still kept her own involvement in the music at bay.

Our thoughts, everyone’s thoughts went back to Fedy as he joined the others on stage for mutual bows. His pieces were perfectly selected, perfectly staged and perfectly delivered. In these last 15 years, he had indeed learned how to perform. He knew how to communicate and he executed his talent perfectly. He was technically excellent. Maybe he was not the most brilliant in a strictly musical sense but he was the best presenter – a communicator of music, administering an expression for which we could all access, together!

Was it his new girlfriend to offer him a balance? Maturity? Reflection?

Flashes of frustrated exchanges and feelings of failure raced through my mind. No matter, this morning was not one for groaning. It was one to celebrate life. Ah yes, that friend of ours who takes our hand through it all and shows us what we are – an expression of Itself. Maybe the challenge is not so much to see the citadel but to concede to the participation of others, everyone, in the seeing.

Thank you son! Bravo!

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Grace

There is a sensation beyond love

yet composed of nothing more –

Freedom

Not from bondage in a physical sense

But from the mind that interprets

Who I Am.

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Wholehearted

You, my fingers points.

How dare you puncture me so.

Be gone from this wound of wounds.

The command booms

more than the words

or the mouth as its vechicle.

It’s pulled from its entrenchment,

just like the interveneous tube

pulled out abruptly after cancer surgery.

O U C H!

Tears ROAR.

OOOUUUCCHH.

Silent screams.

My heart hurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrts.

My heart.

God, my heart.

H E L P G O D M E.

Your Heart shows Itself.

Whole,

Without a sword.

And I spot myself

as the inserted blade.

And Your Heart

is Mine.

And Mine Yours.

One Heart.

Only.

One.

 

 

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How are you?

Well this is a tricky one. Here I am at the computer. My hands are typing. My eyes are looking at the screen. My mind is reeling a bit with the seeming catch-22. There’s no stress involved, maybe a bit of a jig-saw puzzle buzz. But there’s a feeling the ship is in safe seas and I am so enjoying the ride.

 

The question you ask: How are you?

 

Gosh. Sounds simple. Sounds lovely. Thanks for asking. All is well, thank you. And you?

 

Yet the I who is smiling, the I who has an illusion of being well or not well, the one who is talking really, is…ah…has no problem to begin with. I am I yet I am the Great Not-I. In the absense of I, there’s no doubt, no question, no good, no bad, no….perplexity about….being.

 

I know, the words get tangled even though the ruffles aren’t there.

 

I want to stay in touch. But there’s not much me here to report.

I want to write about it. But there’s no longer a sense of describing one moment more than another to tell you about.

 

It’s a paradox I guess even though it feels like divinity just have a very good time.

 

Just know there’s a smile on my face. I participate in what comes my way. I’m fine, really but then again “I” has little to do with me.

 

Holding, being held in Love, E

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Full of Nothing

As I sit in the morning light and watch the soft air curl around me, I watch as I see It is in all Its glory, all Its immensity, all Its beauty – Nothing – through me, about me, in me, around me.

 

Sounds funny, I know, to be, have, know, do Nothing.

 

It’s the opposite of emptiness. It’s on the other side of loneliness. It’s not separation but the elimination of any and every line that separates. I live in It’s embrace now.

 

Who am I? What am I here for? Ahh, such serenity as those questions stream out the door as well. Peace lies in revealing who is asking the questions.

 

Namaste.

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Eyes of the Cyclone

I have known rage.

 

My chin lifts. I have a good Mussolini-stare out onto the horizon. I am unflinching, steadfast, intent – a survivor.

 

The wars fought in its name are still well within my field of vision. I was so faithful to its causes, so proud to be its number one soldier that I forgot for whom I was battling.

 

Who was the author of these fights? For whom were the struggles, the judgements, the pronouncements, the appeals, the crying, the begging, the following, the drama? My intimacy with it was so ingrown I no longer questioned the source. I even began to think it was my identity.

 

But…funny thing…now that I really consider the matter, it has not known me. It doesn’t know me. It has never had anything to do with me.

 

This understanding strikes me, not as an attainment, like passing a test or completing a race. It is a knowing of sorts, done through experience. The discovery finally arrives when I come face to face with its overwhelming and intrusive occupation of my life. I turn to face it and feel like I am running into an imploding mass of denseness – evolved from the my conviction. Without that certitude or stamina, it’s block-like phenomenon would never have formed.

 

 

By beliefs! There they were. My fear that God was a pimp. Do you want to really know what that looks like? My thinking I was better than you. My conviction I was right, just, certified and honorable. Does that begin to give you an idea of the combat zone?

 

I met what I believed every single solitary day. And I reluctantly admitted to myself that my beliefs commanded that trickery – be done so that I could battle it. I demanded that wrong doing so that I could correct it.

 

I remember the day well. After a lifetime of its seismic activity and tsunami-created wastelands in my life, I stood aside from it just a wee bit, enough to observe without, just for once, splattering my innards over the destruction it creates. What I found was….a solid form with no….ah, person attached to it. I could see that its “motion” was really my constant thrusts or projected justification. It literally did not have a life-force of its own, but received all that came its way in a constant gravitational pull from my insistance, pulsating, until the mass seemed to feed on its own, increasing in strength as it went.

 

Calm.

Breathe.

Gaze.

Let’s take this slow.

 

Anger can be such a source of motivation. What is so so subtle here is the need to find injustice, to see what is wrong to then justify it or correct it, or push it, or pull it, or adjust it, or point it out, or be on the lookout at all times for it, to point my finger and keep it fixated, and avoid the begetter.

 

Coming to terms with the need to be angry is not a momentary exercise. It came out in deeply seated visions – who knows, maybe past lives, not mine as much as ingrained on personhood. Nevertheless I felt the scenes so intensely I could see the etching they made directly onto my experience.

 

The furor. The loss. The bewilderness. The separation.

 

Neverthless, let me say something on behalf of extreme anger. It is out of control, I know. I know. It is unjustified, I know, I know. But the howling happens to be heard. I realize the ears must be first from the self. But when an individual can’t hear, help her do so. Listen completely with compassion, understanding and wisdom. Ugh, I don’t like it when I plead. But this one catches me as I remember time spent in verocious resentment.

 

Mighty mighty winds blow. I twist, turn, tumble, keep breathing. I look up. It’s a full moon tonight. The sky is clear, the trees sway so beautifully in the night’s light.

 

Who am I? Can I say “I don’t care?” That would be too….indignant, right? “It doesn’t matter,” ditto.

 

It dawns on me with the weight of the world that the question doesn’t matter as much as who is asking it. And, who is it that is uncomfortable with the answer? The mind? Identity? The person identified with the mind?

 

It all seems interesting but I have trouble keeping the investigation going. The questions fall as I get to the doorway of each. I literally can’t hold on. Instead space replaces their girth within and Openness cups me in Its Heart.

 

Awareness, Grace overflow as identity falls away and the I becomes fully Known.

 

The block of anger? It’s no where to be found – not because I have worked through all its issues. But because there is no way such density can remain intact, in Heaven.

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Parental Benchmark

Both boys come in late, just as we’re finishing dinner. We haven’t seen them all day and they’re popping with animated pep, wanting to debrief. Usually in moments like this, they wrestle each other for the spot- light by interrupting and making noises or stupid gestures. We are used to being facilitators, trying to halt the tidal waves offending remarks can bring. So, at this late hour, we both shift in our chairs a bit to muscle up the energy to “be” parents.

But…wait a minute…could it be….there is a slight change to the rhythm this evening.

First of all, they are happy to see us. We catch one another’s eyes to touch base. Yes, it does appear they have a “Ah, we’re home and we can let down” air. The boys tussle a bit to decide who’s first with the rundown of the day. But the decision is made with little problem. I brace myself for the usual complaining.

But….it doesn’t come.

The younger starts to talk about his after-school science lesson and he gets to the part when his older brother comes in at the end of the lesson and rants about how they’re late, how he should think of others, blah, blah, blah. I understand what I’m hearing but I can’t believe he’s complaining to us about his brother’s behavior right in front of his brother – up ‘til now a totally off-limits no, no – that would boot us into a point-counter-point melt down and shouting match. The younger doesn’t accuse his brother as much as describe the scene. We try our best to be nonchalant. The older listens respectively and then says, “Yeah, that was really inconsiderate of me. I feel bad. Mom, would you please help me write a note apologizing for the outburst. I was in a rush and under stress.”

Nobody breaths. Nobody gasps. Nobody says anything. “Sure son,” I respond. “I feel really bad,” he repeats. Both boys say they are tired and easily take turns brushing their teeth. “Good night” they say and get into bed without as much as a sarcastic remark. End of evening.

Next morning, another possible critical moment for the family dynamic. Everyone’s tired. There are a few tests at school that day and we just hope enough studying has taken place. We’re running late as always: things to do, places to go, sack lunches to make, hot tea to serve. Steps are quick. I missed a beat and woke up our oldest 10 min late. That meant more tension would be added to the already pressurized morning. “Good morning son. I’m sorry it’s a bit later than usual. It’s 6:45 so you still have 20 min to get ready.” I braced myself for the curt response that usually comes at such moments. But I only hear, “Ok Mom” from under the covers.

He comes right in for breakfast, looking tired. He needs some help and instead of stewing about it, he reaches out for a hand. “Could I get a ride in your car (instead of using his put-put scooter-thing.” “Of course son. We can leave in a few minutes.”

I drop him off at the appointed stop. He gets out of the car and tries to open the back door to get his pack. As does happen every once in awhile, the “kiddy door” lock goes on accidentally and none of the back doors can be accessed without a switch on the dashboard. I listen as the door stays closed and winch a bit at the frustration that would come my way, as he loses vital time for his dash to the bus. Instead, he opens the front door and asks me kindly to turn off the extra lock. “Sure son.” Back door opens. “Have a good day son,” I call out. “Thank you, Mom. You too.”

I return home, slowly, wanting to relish the full light of the morning turning into day. Fall colors catch their autumn beauty in the sun. “Corners soften,” I smile with contemplation, “Edges round. Roughness lessens. Rigidity blurs.” We’ve been standing guard to exaggeration all these years, just to make sure no one shoots off the deep end without noticing that Grace is already here, very much Present in our lives.

The pleading dies down. Trust grows. Release happens. All is…..just fine.

Parenting. Maturity. Love. It all plays a part. And I know my involvement is important still. But there is an allowing I now know and a wonder at what is here despite my efforts to make it different. “Thank you” I hear myself say as I resonate to the very vibration of gratefulness. The words offer me a bench to rest. I sit quietly and watch on as all the thoughts “I’m doing it alone through my own willpower” fall away.

Namaste.

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RSVP

It’s really any moment, any pause, any inward glance that shows me. Yet it’s easy, oh so easy, to step over the invitation. It comes in a stopping sensation, a “not-so-fast” halt to the usual doings and processings that life seems to show us. The Observer in me is most apt to bring me to more. But I know it is merely the willingness to look that takes me beyond.

“How are you Elizabeth?” you ask. I tell you about the events, about the sensations and thoughts associated with the movement of life. But that activity, that feeling, that experience in life’s stories feels…cramped. That small small small self I squeeze into when I depend on the happenings to draw the picture of me has become boring and uncomfortable. I like what I heard a politician say about his work recently, “it’s not political,” That’s how I want to say, “It’s not about life.”

But I can’t say that.

Most likely all these breakthroughs I speak of brings to your mind an exotic life alone somewhere in the Seychelles. Yet I’m here with the same people in the same location. “Tell me more” you say. I certainly don’t want to be rude and I love interacting. But I am baffled with why words find it so easy to describe the visible and not the non-visible doings of life. “Yes my sons are this and that. I’m this and that, work life, a new recipe.” The superficial movement does its very best to maintain interest and importance yet I can no longer hold it up.

Breathe deep. Joy comes despite the apparent puzzles. The moment is revealed, shared with the One who is here, now. The unfoldings, no matter what or with whom direct me to the same place, a singular or ‘unico’ position that surprisingly doesn’t change yet is no where near stagnant. Life includes the doing but It is much deeper than that – it is the Source from which doing comes.

Silence. Peace. Another deep breath. White flames engulf me in a warmth that only a log consumed with the glow of a fire can understand. It’s a burning Grace tends. All-that-Is remains, leaving no identity I can call “me” in its aftermath. I Am, not-seen, yet fully present.

My eyes are at half-mast. It is more and more difficult to look too much into phenomenality. I wonder what will become of writing with my vision so deeply inward.

“Thank you,” I hear myself say. “Thank you for the invitation.” My head bows at the feet of the Master as acceptance overcomes the questions and the I becomes what it already is – Life Itself.”

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Steps Toward Maturity

Seeing our oldest off on the train early this morning for a weekend youth program in Rome. He looked comfortable around others and smiled so beautifully even though his cool teenage face was “on.” He seemed ready for the challenge even though his little boyness asked me if I lay his clothes for him out for the day.

Holding him but so thankful he can begin to fly independently. Loving him but understanding that care only takes him to the starting line of his own life. Helping, organizing, supporting, reminding, I’m glad now to come home to silence in the house this morning.

Feeling the same within myself. The period of protectiveness of my own life, my own personality has been essential to get me where I am now. But the days of constant nurturing are finished, priorities change. That’s not to say I love any less. But the role, the identity in the role fades. Noticing….yes….just taking note within that this self, this body, this role, this task, this this-ness is not all. It’s an awareness that beyond beckons and is-ness….is absolutely.

Sitting quietly a….horizon appears. Words or even conscious thought can’t quite follow but no matter, something is…there, something on a very very deep level…..is. It is….real in a way physical existence, phenomenality is not. It is a state of being. No, that’s not quiet it. It’s beingness Itself, Truth Is.

I breathe in and let realization take it’s course.

“Use any discomfort that may arise as a way to discover its source,” says a recent YouTube video of Sri Mooji. “Resistance,” he continues, “Who is the resister, and for whom is the resistance?” As I follow the guidance, anxiousness, embarrassment, disillusion reveals itself and immediately falls away. Space becomes my….place.

I continue looking at resistance. Who is it that resists? Is there a resister, ne who is resisting? “It is not I,” I respond. “I want my son to grow strong and autonomous. It is not I,” I say. “I want to have a quiet morning and enjoy silence at home with no one around.” But what is it that holds on?

Guidance once again tells me, “Use the sensation to find the source of it.” Some fear comes up but that trick has long since lost its power to intimidate me. I’ve traded my focus on fear for fine tuned scanning skills. “Go to what is holding back,” I tell myself. “Who is there? Who is there?”

Slowly, quietly, I find……..no one. I find nothing. No one is there to resist yet resistance is there. How did this happen? How real is this grippness or limiting the limitless-ness if I cannot pinpoint a limit-er?

Identity comes to mind. This is what I thought I was/am. But I am seeing the limits and can quickly realize I cannot be that which I see. I cannot be that which is limited.

Control is a shape-shifter and quickly becomes the one asking the question. But I catch it too. Letting go, space guides me. My head spins with false yet convincing dialogues but it not longer twists me into a tizzy. Sri Mooji’s words come to mind again, “Let it be exposed, that is enough for now.”

My thoughts come back to my son. “I want you to be alright. I want life to be alright for you,” I say. Yes, I caress myself, my nerves and nervousness.

“It’s the fear I cannot do it like God does it” a thought shoots out of my psyche like an orphaned child screaming for life. The arrogance of the idea would be laughable if it were not such a prominent force in my life. So I keep a straight face and let the illusions fall with their own weight. There is certainly no need to reprimand the child and no need to punish. The suffering has already happened and any price paid.

The rest is not mine to digest, work through, understand, straighten out. The unreal has shown itself. And I know recognition and light will do the rest through me in gentleness.

“Time to clean the bathroom and get ready for the day,” I say with a smile.

Namaste Love. Thank you.

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Condition of the Heart

Sometimes I wonder if our two boys made a deal to be complete opposites just to have some balance in the family. One likes chocolate, the other vanilla. One likes to sleep the other no. One is a strict vegetarian, the other likes meat and junk food. One likes tv and just about anything with a remote control, the other wouldn’t dare take time to watch a screen because he wants to use his time more productively. One has a brow constantly in a frown with considerations and criticisms about life, the other is happy just breezing through the day. Deep down, I know they are both working with similar growing pains but they have very different ways of dealing with their….issues.

 

Take heart trouble as an example. When our younger son Gilbert felt some pain in his chest last spring during soccer practice, our family doctor encouraged us to get it checked out. At the hospital the appropriate appointments were made. Gil would go in for two different mornings for tests, be fit with something called a Holter Pacemaker for 24 hours, plus have an array of blood exams.

 

Day One was anticlimactic. There was nothing on the electrocardiogram or other scans that would result in any concern. The blood tests were equally bland. The only reading to catch our attention was a result of a  previous run-in with mononucleosis which showed it was still in his system, “Not actively,” said our family doctor, “but the body was still healing from its effects.”

 

Day Two, Gil was tested on a stationary bike and was hooked up to what looked like 50 electrodes that would measure his heart movement. His blood pressure was taken every 60 seconds. Everyone looked very competent and kind. I wondered if Gilbert was a nice change of pace from elderly chain smoking heart patient, several of whom I saw sitting in wheel chairs as we entered the ward. Gil listened to the instructions non-chalantly. His task was to maintain 60 rpms as the pressure on the pedals was increased. When he got too tired, he could say STOP at any time.

 

First minute, 100/60. The nurses looked at one another, “Is anything wrong with this boy?” their perplexity seemed to say. Second minute 110/66, same perplexity. Third minute 120/80. Gil’s mouth was still not open from breathing hard. Neither did he appear red or in the least bit sweaty. One nurse mentioned, just as a matter of protocol, “Just let us know when you’re ready to stop.” Gil must have taken this as a sign he could stop, and said “I’m ready.” The second nurse took one more reading, still 120/80 – perfect – and helped Gilbert wind down on the bike so that he wouldn’t get cramps in his legs. “Ok mam,” looking at me with eyebrows raised as if I were a hypochondriac-mother having her children tested for phantom problems , “we’ll let you know when the doctor is ready.” I had a bottle of water ready for Gil along with an empathetic look. But frankly Gil looked more spry than the rest of us and I didn’t bother opening my bag for the mid-morning snack. (I knew it would be no time before he asked me for a coke and a candy bar from the machine just outside the main entrance anyway).

 

We waited in the corridor for almost three hours. This cardiologist seemed to be in high demand. And the morning’s emergencies took priority. I would see her fly out of her office every once in awhile, head bowed in concentration, notes in hand, jaw determined to find the next problem….I was beginning to feel a bit sheepish.

 

Finally we were called in. A perky face greeted us. I wondered if she had found something and needed to prepare us with a false smile. “Let’s see here. Hello Gilbert. Tell me about your symptoms.” Gil started in on the sensation of something gripping his heart when he started to work out. “Um hum,” she said, reading over his various heart exams. “Well I don’t see anything here. Your stress echocardiogram is….how can I put it….honest….it’s not as long as a 14-year-old could do.” Gil looked perplexed. “Yeah, well my legs started hurting.” “Oh,” she smiled, “you’re a little out of shape.”

 

“By chance, Gilbert, do you eat a lot of chocolate?” I perked up. “What?” I thought. Chocolate is the most likely billboard Gil could cart around representing his favorite thing in life. He loves it on everything, for every meal, at any time of day, in any form. “And, by any chance, do you tend to lie down after eating?” Gasp! “Does she know Gilbert or something,” I asked myself. “Why would she ask about his number one favorite thing to do after eating?”

 

“What do you mean?” I said. “Well,” she started in. I could see immediately why she had the reputation she did. Her manner was impressive and her reading of the exams impeccable. “The gripping around the area of the heart may be caused by the stomach-esophagus conjunction. He had mononucleosis in the early years of puberty when the organs in the diaphragm tend to respond by increasing their protective layers. Most likely his stomach is getting squeezed by the other organs so it’s already pushed a bit out of its normal position. As well, chocolate is the number one food for relaxing the dilation mechanism between the esophagus and the stomach. When the opening becomes too wide, the acidic acids from the stomach tend to push up into the esophagus as well as the top neck of the stomach itself. The reaction from the esophagus is to shut tight immediately in defense. The sensation comes from what may feel like a gripping of the heart but it’s not. It’s the esophagus closing in a kind of spasm movement.”

 

My mouth dropped open.

 

The doctor did a brief check up on Gil’s breathing and labelled him as “timid,” meaning he didn’t take the deepest breaths but did the minimum necessary. “Bingo again,” I thought.

 

“Gilbert. You don’t have a heart problem” She looked over the blood tests one more time. “There is one reading,” she said, “that requires a little attention. His iron level is ok but here,” she pointed to one of the many numbers that support iron levels in the blood, “I would suggest he eat meat, even more than legumes or spinach. I also suggest you cut down on the chocolate, especially before a work out. And don’t eat it at night just before lying down. Relaxing the body after eating chocolate will only enhance already undue stress on your esophagus-stomach interaction. Also, sleep is the best remedy. Right now the mononucleosis is not an active virus in his system but it shows up in what we call a memory. Until the illness is complete resolved, rest is the best way to health.”

 

I piled up all the papers I had collected over the course of heart exams and gave a big thank you as we shook hands to say good-bye. “You’re in good shape, Gil,” the doctor said with just the right tone. “No need to worry you can’t workout.”

 

We were both quiet on our way home. “Thank you so much for everything you have done,” Gil said out of the blue. “I feel a lot better.” I didn’t realize until that moment that Gil was so worried. His easy-going manner can be misleading.

 

Once home, I headed straight for the kitchen to prepare lunch for the gang. “Well,” says Federico to his younger brother, “Is anything wrong with you?” There was a bit of concern in his question, but more he wanted to know what took us so long. “Well Fed,” Gil started in with his most matter-of-fact-easy-go-lucky voice. “I’m supposed to eat meat everyday and eat less chocolate at night. I can sleep as much as I want. Even though I don’t really have mononucleosis, my body remembers it and the best way to forget it is to sleep.”

 

I took in a deep breath and walked into the living room ready to split up an inevitable argument. Instead I found Federico mumbling into the air, “More meat, more sleep, chocolate? What kind of doctor did he see? Did she also recommend what PlayStation games to use?” he said in disbelief as he glanced up at me. Gabriel got out his favorite computer game and started in.

 

I smiled under my breath. Yep, hanging-loose may really be a dressed down call just to enjoy what’s here – the right help will come when it’s needed.

 

Chocolate and a good movie anyone?

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