I started out Saturday spending an hour down own my knees.
I started out Saturday spending an hour down own my knees. This after letting my squirmy Labradorian out the back door to head for the yard. No, I wasn’t praying. I was cleaning up an accident Andre had deposited on the Oriental rug at the foot of the stairs shortly before coming to the bedroom door to wake me.
Cleanup finished, it was time for our morning walk. “Blamb!” Lightning sounded as I approached the back door, which I opened to see torrential rain pouring down. “Figures,” I sighed as I pulled out my yellow poncho, changed to rain shoes and set out toward the alley carrying a trash bag full soiled paper towels.
“Prayers aren’t working,” I said matter-of-factly to Linda when she met me at the back door to help dry off the dog after our walk. “I’ve tried Hail Marys, Our Fathers, Rosaries, Novenas, singing the Angus Dei and chanting the psalms. We need to find a shaman.”
Just in case you’re not up on the term, a shaman is somebody who acts as a go-between for the physical and spiritual realms and is said to have particular healing powers such as restoring balance to the life of a person, family, community, or nation. Shamanism has been practiced in parts of Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, Greenland, and Native North and South American throughout history. The Native American term is “Medicine Man” or “Medicine Woman.”
Shamans typically enter, at will, an altered state of consciousness to contact and utilize an ordinarily hidden reality in order to acquire knowledge or power, or to solicit the help of the spirits.
In our case, we need a full-blown, extended family healing. Over the past couple of months we’ve been visited by heart attack, pneumonia, shingles, cancer, chemical dependency, and stroke — not to mention an unexpected death, two job losses and two emergency moves.
How have I been handling all this? A couple of weeks ago I called my plumber, Rod “The Flowmaster” Wood and told him I’d left the basement door unlocked so he could get in to check my hot water heater, which didn’t seem to be keeping the water as hot as usual.
A couple of hours later, he called from my basement on his cell phone. “J.T., I’m here in your basement. Heater’s fine. Water’s hot. No problems I can see.”
“That’s strange,” I replied. “Yesterday I filled the tub using only hot water and stepped in. Didn’t even burn my feet. I never could do that before.”
“Well,” Rod said after a short pause, “maybe you’re getting’ numb.”
“HAAAA!” I laughed. “I’m gettin’ numb all right. HAAA!”
After hanging up the phone, I reflected on the fact that I had been consciously numbing some feelings — like worry, fear, and anger — over the past few weeks so as to not go nuts … or end unable to climb out of bed.
I’d been getting by doing the “rope a dope,” a term coined by Muhammed Ali. The rope-a-dope, which Ali used successfully against George Foreman in the “Rumble In The Jungle,” is performed by lying against the ropes in a protected stance and allowing your opponent to hit you until he punches himself out and starts to make mistakes that you can exploit in a counter attack.
I knew I’d been doing the emotional “rope-a-dope” but I had no idea I’d been doing such a good job that it had carried over to numbing my body.
Late last week I decided maybe a haircut would help, so on Friday afternoon I went to The Pro Shop for my 3:30 appointment.
“Hi J.T.” Pam said when I entered. “You don’t look so happy.”
“There’s no requirement to be happy to get a haircut,” I deadpanned.
“No,” she smiled. “How’s the weather out there?”
“Mariah,” I said.
“Mariah? I don’t get it.”
“Way out west, they have a name for rain and wind and fire. The rain is Tess. The fire’s Joe. And they call the wind Mariah.”
The lady getting her comb out finished in the chair in front of Pam (a spirited woman whom I later discovered was Betty Grisham) began to sing along and harmonize, “Mariah, Mariah. They call the wind Mariah.”
What followed was a conversation on our shared love of singing — in glee club and church choir, with family, on high school dates, Friday mornings at Sunset Manor, and to our kids when they were little. All interspersed with a few bars of good old tunes.
“You know,” she said after I slid into the chair and she’d donned her coat to leave, “you remind me of J.T. Knoll, who writes for the newspaper”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Lately I remind myself of him too.”
J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or email@example.com