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Ambivalence: Dealing With It, Understanding it is Fear’s First Cousin

2 Sep

I always experience a blend of excitement and sadness this time of year. It feels like each day is suspended on a great curve or a massive arch, and having passed the midway point in yet another season, summer achingly descends toward its inevitable end while fall waits around the corner, giddy with anticipation. For summer, each ever-shortening minute seems to mourn the loss of delicate carefree days, but fall is like a child anticipating the first day of school, bursting with energy and full of endless possibilities. 

I hate to see the flowers go, but I love the spectrum of autumn colors, and savor the thought of shorter days and lengthening nights; its nature’s way of slowing us down, bringing a little work/rest balance to our lives.  When the forest erupts in nearly indescribable color, there’s pep in my step that is missing in the heat of deep summer.  I love the bounce and the crisp air that carries with it a hint of wood burning in distant fire pits and fireplaces.  Still, I miss the elegance of blossoming flowers, the sound of bees congregating over the oregano and thyme, the fragrance of sage and rosemary, lavender, Thai basil and lemon eucalyptus.

my love affair with flowers continues MY STUFF1

Each year the changing of seasons is a bit different from the last.  If it’s been a particularly wet summer, the landscape captures the story of persistent rain beating the ground, distending the earths belly with forced feedings that erode fragile ecosystems, destroy newly fallen seeds, and drown insects and other small creatures.  The bodies of summer are carried by rushing streams of rainwater until snagged by mounds of debris that have collected in nooks and crannies across uneven ground.  These makeshift cemeteries will be their last resting place as they ferment and dissolve back into the earth that bore them.  The initial fragrance of rain intersecting dry earth deepens to a musky scent before succumbing to the eventual stench of decay. 

Even the trees seemingly weep, their branches weary, and bark swollen.  While I celebrate the bounty of water, simultaneously I mourn the loss of my precious flowers as they lay their heads to the ground in absolute surrender.  Manically, I’m up again watching the birds feed on fat worms plucked from sodden grasses, easily satisfying their appetites in a ritual of sustainability and regeneration.  If summer has been cruel, if skies have refused to provide water to the dry pleading soil below, the landscape withers in brittle tales of want and desire.  And the earth splits in spidering cracks and crevices, creating safe havens for insects, invertebrates and small mammals. 

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The trees on the horizon shrink in rising dust, their parched leaves defeated, and dropping by the handfuls with even a hint of a breeze. And as far as the eye can see, there is a backdrop of scarcity and woe.  Soon we move indoors in search of something more, leaving the earth to endure the scalding heat alone.

Evenings are one of the few rewards we find for having suffered the dog days of summer.  Late afternoon often marks the arrival of migratory birds in search of something to eat or drink,  Their musical voices are soothing and reminiscent of old women haggling in a market place.  By dusk, when fireflies begin to light the hem of the woods, we return to the thick, warm air, languishing in lawn chairs, shooing flies and gnats from the corners of our mouths as we talk about the weather, or dream aloud of cooler days to come.

I match each season to the cadence of my own life.  On the cusp of fall, I find myself finishing projects I began in the spring and nurtured all summer long, and compiling list after list of things that must be done in preparation for the cold, dark void of winter that is building just around the corner. 

I’m plucking the dry heads off daisies, sunflowers and Echinacea and scattering their seeds throughout my gardens.  I’m preparing a list of bushes and tree limbs to prune in late October.  I’m harvesting and drying herbs to use in the cold months when their roots are resting beneath ice or snow.  I’m starting construction on small Halloween gifts for the children on my street who delight me year after year with their eager faces squealing “Trick or Treat!”

MY STUFF 2 halloween door

I’m a little early with what I call my Annual Fall Clean-Out, the time set aside to sort through everything I’ve collected or saved since early spring. I’m editing the clutter.  If I don’t, everything I own suddenly owns me, and I become a slave to their upkeep.  I’m getting too old for heavy cleaning and shuffling stuff from place to place anymore, so I’m downsizing in my own way.  I admit to the absurdity and obvious conflict of being both a serial cleaner and one tittering on the abysmal brink of hoarding, and confess that I run myself wild saving for what may or may not ever happen, while throwing away what isn’t actually needed.  I understand that I am my own particular disease just as much as I am its own particular cure.

bandaide on heart

Today is September 2nd.  Outside, if feels as if summer is still with us, but our calendar is filling with autumn activities.  Soon the leaves will turn and begin to fall, and I will pile them on top of all my flower beds to insulate against the bitter cold that lies ahead.  Summer was slow starting for us this year, and already the night temperatures are dipping into the 60’s.  I remember standing on our deck on the fourth of July and telling my husband that winter would arrive soon.

“Sooner than we’ll be ready for it, I fear,” he said.

Time passes so quickly these days.  It seems we are always looking over our shoulders toward yesterday, yesterday when the babies were born and life was joyfully packed with activity and pseudo-drama.  Yesterday, when everyone we loved was still alive, still laughing or causing grief.  Yesterday, when tomorrow seemed a million years away.  But I’ve no time for ambivalent thoughts today.  My sister telephoned; she and her husband and my brother and Mom are coming for a visit at the end of the month.  I have so much to do before they arrive…and there is so much to look forward to, so many busy pleasures and rich experiences for Rich and I to explore before the bone cold winter hand knocks at our front door and whispers our names.

old couple in love 1

  

 

 

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A Wise Defense

26 Jul

If you try your best, it is still quite difficult to shut out the noise of the world, perhaps that’s not a bad thing because little would change without collective outrage against the status quo. But there is only so much energy a person can expend before annoyances burgeon into total outrage. A thoughtful person who deeply knows him/herself respects the boundaries he sets in efforts to keep enough energy available to successfully run the Mother Ship. A good rule of thumb: Carry social concerns and controversies in direct proportion to weight you can safely bear without causing damage to your mental and physical balance. Do what you can to further causes you are passionate about mindfully; that’s another way of saying the same thing.

The desire to continue my own inner journey is often inspired by observing the chaos of others. The further they move from the light, the more driven I become to reflect its radiance.

Life is the teacher, we are students. Some learn quickly, others never try. Some people in the classroom act out, hoping to illicit a response from others. Often it works, distracting many from tasks at hand. There are pools of negativity everywhere we look. They have always existed, but the smaller the world becomes with the tools of social networking, the more aware we become of their existence. Social media consists of many students of the world. Some use global social media in an attempt to increase numbers in their angry crowds. Like follows like, but loud attracts the attention of many who have not yet formed strong consciences regarding issues presented; thus, it is a formula that, sadly, works.

When I hear, read, or witness words of hatred, I am inspired to react in two different ways. The first is to fall into the abyss, heat rising in my gut, evoking a primal urge to strike back. The second is to intercede and settle the matter, hoping against all odds that the terrible hate-filled events were mere misunderstandings. These are initial reactions, but both are far from practical responses.

Throw hatred in my path and even though I want to kick it out of the way, I have learned that’s like kicking a hornets nest, or trying to reason with a rattlesnake. But as a human, emotions must be respected, so I allow myself to experience the feelings of having been offended, and then I move in.

For me, the best way to accomplish this is to try to identify the source energy of the particular hatred involved, examining everything I discover from a philosophical perspective. Almost always hatred can be traced back to fear. Each of us shows our true colors by the words we choose to speak, by the banners we carry, the projects we begin and the arguments we end. To create something beautiful and beneficial does not require one to be a god, but a steward of positive intentions, deliberate actions, and unwavering focus. All that is needed to destroy is a carefully chosen word of dissent angrily spoken.

Words are powerfully constructive tools when used to build, but they are weapons of mass destruction when intended to destroy. Conflict cannot be avoided in life; for me, the goal isn’t to be giddy with hope or combatively defensive, but to counter the extremes in a spirit of generosity, choosing to use language fostered in the quiet, practical countenance of inner peace before speaking, or setting words to paper.

Throw a rock at my right eye; I will not offer my left as your next target. I will not throw another stone at you. I will not satisfy your cruelty with screams or tears. But I will look you in the eye and I will know you. I will see your weakness and your fear. I will maintain my peace, and the fact of knowing you as I will, shall weaken the hatred that propels you to do and say irrational things.

I cannot shout louder than an angry crowd, but wisdom and introspection will protect me from catching hatred’s demoralizing disease. There is a cure for hatred. To find it, we’ve only to look inside.

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Day one, June first: be kind dear month, merciful, dear season. Refrain from shaking too hard these ticks from your magnificent body.

1 Jun

Sitting in my storm shelter, I wonder if we’ve lost sight that we are part of nature or if self-importance has only inflated our sense of superiority.  The fact that anyone these days, take me, for example, can sit in front of an innocuous computer, and between sips of coffee, (or from a storm shelter), espouse a litany of personal beliefs, emphasizes the dilemma of having more venues to share than actual facts to present. 

Now, enter: personal experience and bias, we all have it to one degree or another.  Next, enter, (take cover), politics and religion, two devilish,( pardon the pun), components in an emerging super storm.

I wish I would, (not could), walk the explicit way of my own words, and see myself as an equal to ants and spiders.  But I am an animal that steps on those I categorize as creepy bugs when they invade my space, apologizing even as their guts squirt around my shoe.   I say I wish I would, not I wish I could, because certainly I could if I’d a mind to.  But I don’t; my bias, my perspective, my pick and choose variety of practical wisdom leaves its imprint across every hour of every day in my little world.  And while I may shake in horror as I do the things I do, I continue to opt to do them.

Today is June first.  2013.  Dawn of the new age.  (Cough, gag, choke.)  In fact, today is the first day after yesterday and the day before tomorrow.   I don’t know about you, but not too much changed overnight at my house.  The weather outside is still raging.  It’s the great mirror to what’s going on with people all over the planet.  It’s the duck legs below the waterline struggling while the swan only appears to glide. 

The earth is a seed perpetuating new seeds, or maybe it’s only a dog. 

We, on the other hand, retro-evolving parasitic life-forms, seem to be moving backward in thought, rather than fast-forward; hence the emergence of a super race of resource exploiters bashing our way across mother/planet/seed/dog earth. 

Yes, of course, we have our holy women and wild men roaming the forest primeval prophesizing and recording, but mostly their numbers are dwarfed by frightening numbers of consumer/ticks sucking the blood directly from the foundation they’ve built their homes on.

Dumb?  Yeah, I think so; short-sighted, for sure.  But are we, or let me make this more personal, am I save-able?  While the jury is still out on that one, the signs are imminently clear.  We’ve reached the limit on ignorant bliss…it is time to wake up, to come to the storm shelter and sit peacefully in the company of ants and spiders. To ask ourselves the question: are we living a sustainable lifestyle: emotionally, spiritually, financially, physically and of course, environmentally.  And most certainly, it is time to take notice of what nature is saying, time to listen up as she does her best impression of a dog driven to the cusp of madness by colonies of ticks, and to take action, positive action, to help ensure we survive on the back of this great dog that has begun the process of shaking her problems loose.

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Contradictions in Place

17 May

Is it just me or is life full of contradictions?  The sweetest people I know have diabetes and can’t eat sweet things, those with the biggest, most generous hearts have heart disease, and the friendliest folks I’ve ever met, often are pretty lonely in everyday life.  Those with the biggest smiles have been forced to invest thousands in rotten teeth.  And some of funniest people in the world are depressed. 

I’m in a new phase.  I am the consummate observer these days, working like mad to detach myself from the prospect of falling into modern culture’s habit of discounting or discarding the elderly amongst us.  I’m in this phase as a matter of self-defense, being that I am one of the elderly amongst us these days. Populist judgment isn’t the only conceptual ideology I’m detaching from either; I’m dropping old wives tales, cultural mythology, political rancor, mainstream media and processed foods.  (Well, I’m giving that whole process food thingy my best shot anyway.)

I’ve been forced to reevaluate my life once again, (seems its a cyclical process), and as I enter that whole practice of introspection, I realize I’m in the autumn of my existence, but not to worry, fall has always been my favorite season, (followed by winter and spring.)  So I’m looking at it this way: I get  to spend, hopefully, years in my all-time favorite seasons!  Also, how apropos for a person like me who believes in an afterlife, that spring should follow winter’s death.

My mother is 86 years old.  She often tells me the Golden Years are hard and cold.  I hope not.  I’m personally expecting them to be the most introspective years of life.  I’m visualizing a quieter, slower time with a great deal of rocking in my favorite old black rocking chair, staring at the trees off my deck, and spending long hours in the peaceful solitude of quilting.  But the truth is, I don’t know what to expect, no one does. So, under these particular circumstances, the best thing I think I can do is to be aware and not waste precious time being frustrated.  I believe I can save myself a great deal of grief  by watching the signs along the way, because I know that everything is connected.  One thing leads to another, and that leads to fresh opportunities and change.  My observation that life is full of contradictions arose from my introspective space where I concluded a person can be so sweet or kind to others that he ends up giving pieces of himself away, never fulfilling his own need for sweetness, and out of a sense of exigency or self-preservation, his body responds; his pancreas slowing, or simply shutting down.  Maybe the same can be said of one who has dealt with a broken heart, or the person who continually helps others, but never asks for help himself. 

I know this is the truth: the earth is changing.  I see it in the woods where I live.  I see it in the animals here.  We are all part of this good earth, an extension of naturalness under assault.  I can live with as small of a carbon footprint as is personally possible, but I cannot change the velocity of world-speed, or the stealth-like consequences of progress. Still, I have power; I can observe and consider paths chosen and paths ignored, and I can add those observations to the well of learned wisdom I share with others.

My bones are tired; they are swollen and sore from a life full of activity.  Still, they press on.  The person with the greatest heart I have ever known is my husband, Richard.  He has persistent heart disease.  Rick and I met and married in 2003.  I thought our love would heal him.  What it did was make him stronger and more determined to do the right thing for himself. I can’t list everything marrying Richard has done for me; there’s not enough paper in the world, but his love saves me everyday.  

I recently shared my life philosophy with a blogger friend of mine, telling her I approach every day as if it is a vacation day.  No matter how busy I am, no matter how many tasks must be completed, I’m off the clock!  On vacation, you give yourself time to rest, time to heal and regroup before stepping back into the real world.  Vacation is my real world.  I have permission to sit out a day, or a week, or a month, whatever I need because  I give it to myself.  And I watch the signs, follow the trails and mysterious hints nature gives.

Today it is overcast outside, drizzling rain, cool, crisp breeze;  a day best spent tending to inside things … like sitting on the covered deck blowing bubbles.   

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My Comfort Zone is a Fortress

12 Apr

Stepping into someone else’s life is good for the soul. When the time comes to return to your own reality, you find the walk on the other side has added new dimensions to your perceptions, altering, to one degree or another, your philosophies, enhancing your focus and outlook on the big picture, or fine tuning a smaller one.

Universally speaking, I embrace change, but on a more personal level I cling to long held rituals and habits to carry me from day to day. My comfort zone is a fortress of lessons learned. Inside its walls, I explore the options of adding my personal insights into the vast ocean of public opinion, or withdrawing from society all together. But having walked beside, if not in, another’s shoes, I’m left with a collage of fresh insights which will result in new questions that I will attempt to answer to satisfy the philosophical detective in my brain.

First observations in this new journey simply did not match any of the preconceived notions I’d packed for the occasion. I was terribly overdressed for such delightfully casual sincerity. I was the only person wearing armor in a room full of authenticity. While on the surface, I blended, in my mind I was forced to deal with the dirty truth that the assumption I’d made that I would be judged by others, was itself a judgment, making me a cynic at best, or a hypocrite at the other end of the ruler I was packing.

Reality was shock therapy; thank goodness I was surrounded by compassionate people, good food and playful children. In the end, Karaoke pulled me from the hard grip of fear, and I rose from self-imposed darkness, walking purposefully toward new light.

Day two was more delightful than day one; but with all experience comes self-revelation, and having already blundered my way through a buried mine field of my own fixed opinions, horrifying as it had been, it was time to dig through another pile of soiled undies; and all I could do was to smile and hope for the best. Ultimately, it ended well, but better even than that, the celebratory encounters of two distinctively diverse families moving closer, bridging social gaps, effortlessly forming a comfortable cohesion between contrasting tribes, created bonds that will not be broken.

The week was evolution stuck in fast-forward, covering more ground than shining black Starlings feeding mid-spring in Texas. For me, it was more; it was college. It was a revival of the spirit, a well-deserved kick in the pants jolting me from the status-quo back into the boundless realms of new possibilities.

How glamorous the intoxication of ease, how refreshing not to try to mow one’s yard using only a pair of scissors. But intoxication isn’t a one way street; it’s a thoroughfare, traffic teeming, horns blaring from all directions. It is an invitation to reevaluate the furniture in the brain along with each and every particle of its structure. Intoxication from extremes is an invitation to a dissection and probing study of intellectual properly lines you claim.

My visit to the other side was the holiday that made my reality more beautiful magically. It was the most perfect planet I’d ever visited although I found it lacked the amenities of home, the dust bunnies and loud, clanging dishwasher, the worn oak floors creaking beneath my feet, the quilts softening old chairs and cold plaster walls, hot tea from my favorite cup that was a gift from my eldest daughter, and my Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Tinker Belle sewing turntable, a handmade gift from my youngest daughter.

The truth is: I attended a gathering with preconceived ideas of what I would find there, but what I discovered was inconsistent with anything I might have imagined. Enjoying the lavish lifestyles of people whose paths run parallel to mine, but without an unexpected twist of fate would never cross my own, was an unforeseen opportunity to reassess my values. What I found caught me off guard.

I discovered I had grown intoxicated by the story I called my life, a collection of perceptions of all of the experiences I have had; and I saw that I’ve carried a handy-dandy label maker with me at all times, completely unaware I was doing so. I’ve limited myself, unnecessarily, and it took a walk on the other side of the street to suggest there is a great deal out there I’ve missed. I have the life I want; there is no one in the world I would change places with, but I need to invite the unexpected into my life. I need to stop making excuses for myself, to quit believing it’s too late for anything new and exciting to happen to me. I need to quit asking the question, “Who the hell do I think I am?” and admit that question is an excuse I’ve used to avoid reaching higher.

Why would anyone be interested in reading anything I have to say; who the hell do I think I am anyway? Well, I’m one voice in a Universe of many voices… and after breaking out of my comfort zone, I find I still have a lot to say.

Watch the Signs…

21 Feb

Not street signs, although it’s always a good idea to know where you’re going and what rules you must follow to get there, but when I say Watch the Signs, I’m shooting lower and deeper.  Reality isn’t something you witness with your eyes; it’s the place you live under your skin, beneath your bones, inside your heart and mind.  Reality isn’t easily recognized; you’d think it would be, but actually, you’ll probably spend a great deal of your life occupying space, nesting in a specific place, wearing a variety of particular roles and calling it all real

Lately I’ve noticed more and more people seem content to play that game their whole life, never asking if there is anything more, or if there is something they might have missed. I did that myself for many years.  When you’re busy taking care of a family, there isn’t a lot of time left over for considering the philosophical implications of the decisions you make in daily life; but if you run full blast on empty long enough, you’re going to collide with something so powerful; it knocks you off your feet.  For me, being down was the perfect time to ‘go in’. 

What I discovered in the long process of introspection, was alarming.  I made a list of the qualities I believed most fairly represented me as a person.  Every day I had to mark something off of that list.  The list was a litany of illusions; it was protocol for being me. I would have liked to believe I’d simply outgrown the list, but by this time, I’d quit lying to myself.  I had to take the truth on the chin.  As I came to terms with each illusion, it was easy to see why I’d felt one way or another, why I’d made one choice over another; and it was easy to forgive myself once I identified and embraced the source of my need to please others more than to take care of myself.

This wasn’t the blame game; it wasn’t a pity party either; this was solid interior work.  Every so often, I fall off the philosophical wagon, but I don’t stay in the dirt very long.  It has become second nature to remove myself from the chatter and clatter of messaging meant to demean, rather than to elevate or educate.  I am careful of the quality, intent and content of things I put into my mind through television, books and articles, and banter with friends and acquaintances. Once introduced, even if not fully digested, information alters the process of perception. *  ** 

The voice I’m most interested in is my own; that does not make me selfish, rather it acknowledges the importance of accessing lessons I’ve learned as I’ve grown from a child into a mature woman in the autumn of life. 

Self-Is, I say daily. Self-knows. 

There is a line we cross to reach nirvana, once crossed, you can never go back, but even if you lose your footing, you understand you will not die in the fall. 

This morning I was thinking of all the things on my to-do list and feeling overwhelmed.  I walked to the window in my bedroom and looked into the forest.  It was 8 o’clock,but still dark; thunder rumbled from the north side of the mountain to the south, and sleet fell in crystal sheets.  The mobile art my father made that hangs in our pink Dogwood tree, was encrusted in ice, long icicles spinning in the wind like kitchen knives.  Young pine trees were bent to the ground forming surreal arches; bright, yellow Daffodils gleamed like yellow diamonds, and I spoke out loud to the God of such things, asking

Why do I feel as if there isn’t enough time to get everything done, why not just begin?  Why does today feel like a burden?        

I’d scarcely gotten the questions out of my mouth when a large piece of bark peeled from the side of a tree, falling to the frozen ground, revealing the answer.

The tree used a storm to rid itself of unwanted diseased bark

I can use this time to deal with old wood I still carry.  I’ll have ample time to go inside again, to dig through my own storm, to deal with lingering or new issues, and to mindfully prepare my inner soil for the promise of spring.

If you follow all the signs, you’ll see that the answers are hidden in plain sight, and instead of feeling as if you’re carrying an insurmountable weight on your shoulders, you’ll begin to understand that weight grounds us only for as long as we need. 

And that revelation in itself, will give you wings.

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  • The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
  • The Biology of Belief by Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D.