Something for the Mind to Chew

I was invited to a gathering around the table at the lovely suburban Philadelphia area home of my friends Gary and Clare. Each person who was there is a beautiful blend of the mainstream and metaphysical, intelligent and inquisitive, willing to take a deep dive into all types of topics, things that make you go, “Hmmm…”

Gary is an Administrator in the mental health field. Clare is a Physician Assistant and Episcopal Priest. He entered my life back in 1998 when my husband died and he came to my house when we were sitting shiva, as an ’emissary,’ which is how described it last night, from an interfaith community that we are both members of. He and Clare met and married a few years back and her loving and steadying presence is a wonderful balance for Gary’s high energy enthusiasm. Joining us was one of my longtime friends, Janet who showed up in the early 1980s, as I delved into the spiritual practice of A Course in Miracles.

Janet is a colorful artist, actor, and Peer Counselor for those with mental health diagnoses. She was also, along with her husband Phil, part of the ‘village who helped me raise my child,’ following Michael’s death. It was clear that as a single mom, I wanted male mentors for Adam. Phil (and Gary, as well) were that for him. They adopted each other, initially as Big Brother and Little Brother and then it became a father-son relationship. When Adam married Lauren, Phil and I had planned to walk him down the aisle together, but it wasn’t in the cards since Phil died from a congenital heart condition, less than two weeks prior. Instead, Janet and I accompanied him. Len is a Data Management Consultant and Zen Priest who teaches mindfulness and meditation. He is also Phil’s cousin who I met when Phil and Janet married (I did the honors). Sadly, the last time I saw him was when Phil died in 2017. Joni, who rounded out the gathering is an Interfaith Minister, Coach, and Consultant who speaks at the United Nations on a regular basis. She is also the author of a newly birthed book called The Alchemy of Power: Mastering the Invisible Factors of Leadership. The book was the jumping-off point for much of what we discussed.

The food, lovingly prepared by Clare, was healthy and scrumptious and the talk around the table, soul-nourishing. Gratitude was the icing on the decadent brownies and pumpkin truffles that finished off the meal that also included the mushroom-infused entree’, butternut squash, biscuits, green beans, and cranberry/orange relish.

As you can imagine, the conversation was punctuated with laughter and it meandered through the topics of life and death, parenting and politics, embracing differences, celebrating unity, digging through heaps of family histories, coping with loss, managing to remain sane and vertical given the state of the world. We spoke of ways we each make a difference and what our passions and purposes are.

Clare enlightened us about the origins of the Episcopal church, which harken back to King Henry the 8th. A tale of intrigue, indeed. We spoke about how each of us is called to honor the other as the Messiah as I shared this story with them.

The topics of happiness and mental health found their way to the table in the forms of the Happy Movie and Crazywise.

The evening’s conversation brought to mind the 1981 film called My Dinner with Andre, starring Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn. Sort of wish we were being videoed since there were tidbits of wisdom that were too numerous to recall.

As I sat with these kindred spirits, and the sweet pupster named Sheba who was all too happy to offer and receive affection, I smiled, believing that we were called together as family of choice in what I refer to as overlapping soul circles to enrich each others’ lives and be a greater force for good in the world. Bon appetite!

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