Friday, February 19, 2010

Thank You for the Music, ABBA.

On my daughter Vikki’s birthday 3 weeks ago, I thought of a comment she made to me about ABBA, the Swedish rock group.

Both daughters, Vikki and Kristi, encouraged me to start a blog so I could post my travelogue stories and pictures of the many places I have visited. So I set up a blog and filled out my profile. The profile had a place for my favorite music and among the listing of Pink Floyd, Yes, The Stones, Billy Joel, The Eagles, Loggins and Messina , and so forth, and I added ABBA.

When Vikki read this she wrote me a one word question. ABBA? I am not sure exactly why the question but I assumed it was either that she didn’t know that I liked ABBA, or ABBA did not appeal to her high standards of music or she didn’t feel ABBA fit in with the others in my list.

I wrote back to her that I would answer her question in a future post on my blog. So here goes.

During the mid-80’s, I lived in the Soviet Union for about 6 months, spending most of my time in Voronezh, Russia, with temporary stays in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Moscow. Actually I got to Moscow several times, one or two weeks at a time. But that left plenty of time to while away the long, dark, cold winters days and nights in Voronezh.

Vilnius and Moscow were capitol cities and even in the dieing days of the Soviet Union, one could find time to eat caviar, drink Champagne, trade shots of vodka with the men, and dance with the women. In fact, I had a blast, greatly influenced by the lovely and vibrant companionship of Natasha when in Moscow.

Voronezh was 200 miles south of Moscow located on the Don River where forests were so thick, the Tsar created the Russian Navy there due to the available lumber and access to the Black Sea and Mediterranean, Outside of the circus coming to town or an occasional night club (if you want to call it that) or going to the ballet whose dancers were class “C” leaguers to reach the Boishoi big league. Most everything else was ennui.

 I brought in a lot of jig saw puzzles to work on and I finished them all, never to ever want to put one together again. A hot shower in the morning was almost impossible as the water came from a central system in another part of town. I couldn’t be heated fast enough to supply the need in the morning and of course there were the heat losses that occurred between loci.
The place I worked was never warm enough and my nose was cold all day except when I could stick it over a steaming hot bowl of watery soup provided at lunch. None of meals in Voronezh provided any sort of culinary delight accept the pizza I made from a boxes of Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix from my suitcase, plus tomato sauce, garlic, cheese, and sausage all locally available sometimes, When I saw any of these things, I bought them right then because tomorrow they would be gone. Even without the oregano, they were tasty and American.

And with me in Voronezh and Natasha in Moscow, the lack of a warm body next to me at night certainly was a minus. Physical contact with someone is part of my mantra of how to achieve a happier life. It was missing. So in summary, I was cold, lonely and bored.

ABBA was first popular in Europe at that time and I was able to hear ABBA sing “Dancing Queen” and “Take a Chance of Me” in the night spots and sometimes on the short wave radio. Granted they are not the mood changer that Mick Jagger can be, but I found there songs uplifting. They were a small, but important improvement to my days and nights. During an R and R week outside the Soviet Union, I bought a portable tape player and some tapes of ABBA and Pink Floyd and took them in with me.

When I left the Soviet Union I gave the player and tapes with Natasha and she gave me 3 small jars of black beluga caviar. I was not happy to leave her.  I am so thankful we met and shared our lives with each other. I will not ever forget her.

For many months after I returned to the U.S. whenever I heard ABBA my thoughts never dwell on the loneliness, coldness, or boredom but only the good times I had. So ABBA, “Thank You for the Music”.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Forgiving Dr. Mengele"

My thoughts after seeing a film in a class about "forgiveness."

The movie "Forgiving Dr. Mengele" was documentary about a woman, Eva Kors, who survived Auschwitz and Dr. Mengele.
In order to be free of the terrible mental pain afterwards, she found a way to forgive the people that were so cruel to her and in so doing released the pain inside and found peace. She was so strongly convinced that if others when through the process of forgiveness (please do understand it is a process) that she lectured the world over.

I had a lot of therapy in my late thirties. I had alot of anger inside me and in therapy I released it gradually, and not without a lot of resistance to doing so, my re-feeling it and directing it at the images of my parents. And after repeating the process over and over, the pain mostly went away and I found as though I crossed over to another side. I found peace and as a byproduct forgiveness toward my parents came with it.
Forty years ago my wife died suddenly. The key element of my successful grieving process was to direct all my anger towards her first, then me second. And in so doing I was able to forgive her and then myself.

The documentary didn't show any part of the steps involved in getting to forgiveness. It didn't show the hard, long and painful getting over process necessary to get to the forgiveness part.

The key to the path of forgiveness therefore, is to confront the anger aggressively, feel the pain associated with it, and after awhile forgiveness comes. But one will never find forgiveness without acknowledging the anger and dealing with it. One can not just decide to forgive, it doesn’t work that way.

Many in the class, during the following discussion period, seemed to find it strange that forgiveness should be an endeavor to want to achieve. The film showed a courageous woman more than it showed how to achieve forgiveness. Many didn't even believe the woman truly had forgiven.

But then, they probably didn't go through therapy