to Out on a Limb,
a monthly newsletter from Martha Clark Scala. This free e-zine
is meant to invite and inspire you to maximize the joy in
Hankering for Harmony
I have been sending out this monthly Out on a Limb for more than six years. You may have noticed that I steer clear of political topics. That is because, in my opinion, joy and politics are like oil and water. I am allergic to divisiveness and hostility; it makes my heart feel both heavy and hurt. I register deep resonance with Rodney King’s famous plea, “Why can’t we all just get along?” I will keep my pledge to stay out of political discourse but let me explain the personal relevance.
You did not receive a newsletter in October as I was back East spending time with my dying sister, Margo. She succumbed to metastatic melanoma on Halloween morning. Even though I have known her for the past 57 years, I realized something new about Margo in the past couple of months. Those who knew both of us would marvel at how different we were. She was tall; I am small. She was brainy; I am sensitive. She had kids; I did not. She rode horses; I was afraid of them! She looked like my Dad; I look like my Mom. What I saw in her final months, more clearly than I had ever seen before, is that she revered harmony more than just about anything. I do too. It will be an everlasting gift to celebrate our unity on this topic. However, the desire for harmony can bring great suffering, too.
In the four months since Margo’s diagnosis in late June of this year, I feel more battle-worn by the conflict between those assembled to help her than by the daily witnessing of her demise. Illness and death can bring out both the worst and best in people. Just like politics. I found myself wanting to shout out Rodney King’s famous words on a number of occasions when the divide felt equal to that between Democrats and Republicans, Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, or the Capulet’s and Montague’s. I chose not to do that because I was guided by a desire to do what was best for Margo: promote harmony! We needed every single player in Margo’s orchestra of helpers; disharmony could have messed up the overall performance.
One day, while commuting to or from the hospital, this Euclidean phrase popped back into my head: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each person played a unique orchestral instrument by helping Margo in her final days. Some were good at nursing. Others shopped for groceries or made warm meals for the caregivers. Some took on administrative tasks; others helped Margo accomplish some final wishes and bequests. It was a most amazing symphony, actually, but at times, the individual instruments were too busy sniping and griping about their different-ness, rather than relishing the symphonic whole.
I mourn for my sweet sister; I suspect I will mourn for quite a while. My heart aches even more, however, for the lapses in solidarity that made things much more difficult than they needed to be. If you ever find yourself in a situation fraught with differences or divisiveness, I hope you can muster your own version of “do it for Margo” to move past it toward a harmonic convergence. In our case, our fondness for Margo was the unifying force. In the political realm, I sure do wish for an equivalent force for unity. Perhaps harmony is most possible when love (of a person, or a country) outranks ego or personal agenda. There is so much joy to be tapped!
Do It For Margo
I mentioned above that I was scared of horses, but here is proof that once upon a time, I overcame some of that fear. I did it for Margo.
My sister, Margo Clark Potheau
8/13/47 – 10/31/13
Your November 2013 Prompts for Joy
Click here to see an amazingly orchestrated performance done by 12 players, and only one piano.
(Keep ‘em coming, Dee Vogel.)
Click here for a Sesame Street exploration of feelings difficult to name. (Thanks, Jan Austin!)
Joy-Gram for November 2013
Especially since this is a month focused on gratitude, give a sibling a squeeze and tell him or her how much s/he has made a difference in your life. If you have no siblings, I trust you can do the same with some kind of equivalent!
This is one of Margo’s favorite places to walk, in Marlborough, MA. Alas, it is just a cell phone photo but I hope it gives you a glimpse of Fall in New England at its best.
By no means
do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume
that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for
myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this
pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience
of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!
Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·