Sunday, April 26, 2015

4/26/15—Loving the Haters

For the past couple of weeks, I've been wanting to write on this topic. Then I looked in my vast archive of posts and found I wrote a good post on it almost exactly a year ago. So here it is, with a little tweak here and there...

My greatest inspiration and motivation in my journey of personal and spiritual growth has come from the people who dislike me the most. 

It's true. The crushing insults and lies of a bunch of online bullies a dozen years ago caused me to shore up some fears and insecurities and dive deeper into my spiritual journey. A criticism from a family member about how I never do anything to help others (which is untrue anyway, because I have been volunteering my time in one way or another for half my life) inspired me to start this blog, which if I can believe y'all's input, has helped a lot of people. In fact, all the thoughtless treatment I received at the hands of people I thought were my friends at various times in my life have nonetheless spurred greater growth in my life and helped me define who I am, what I stand for and the message I want to carry in my life. 

The truth is that I get all riled up inside when people paint me in an unfavorable light, regardless of whether it's true or not. First it hurts a lot and makes me cry. Then my inner warrior comes out to smash their hateful notions of me all to hell. :D

Adversity can either crush us or make us stronger. It has certainly done both for me, depending on where rears its ugly head. But mostly, even my most heinous detractors have been a force for good in my life. Sometimes it's an instantaneous transformation. Sometimes these people and situations hold enough truth that they make you work through your stuff. And sometimes, like I said, these incidents can cripple you for a long time.

I've noticed that the older I get and the more experience I have with these situations, the faster the growth and reward. And then the more I grow, the less of a negative impact they have on me and the better person I become as a result. It has gotten to the point for me that the time between the stress these situations cause and the good I'm able to create from it is negligible. Which isn't to say I don't still get stuck on stuff. I do. It's just not very common in relation to how it used to be. I'm even beginning to giggle with anticipation and delight when struck with one of these situations. Well, maybe not quite. But the day is coming. I can feel it. :)

I remember maybe a decade or more ago struggling with the notion of our worst enemies being our best angels. I understood it intellectually, but couldn't quite let go of the victimization and drama that felt so comfortable around situations like that. But as drama slips off me more and more like eggs from teflon these days, I really do see the haters as an amazing gift. In fact, it's completely changing the way I deal with conflict and fear and all the other stuff such situations dredge up. Everything—positive and negative—is energy. You can choose to channel that energy as a force for growth in your life or as a source of stagnation. It's up to you.

One more thing I'm noticing lately is that I have tended to weigh more heavily the opinions of haters than the opinions of those who support me in my life. Dr. Phil has a saying that "it takes 1000 'atta boys' to make up for one 'you're worthless and no good.'" In other words, we replay our criticisms over and over in our heads while we let the praise fall to the wayside. It's human nature. But what I've noticed is that the more I've seen my detractors as angels and the more I channel that energy into positive stuff in my life, the more the complimentary things people say are also inspiring positive changes in me. 

It's like a Two For One Sale on personal growth! And it all began with opening my mind to the notion that the haters might actually be doing me a solid. The fact that they're not trying to benefit you doesn't matter. It's all in how you use the energy they send your way. 

They say living well is the best revenge. That's a bit too materialistic sounding for me. Happiness, peace and fulfillment are my best "revenge." As long as you seek to hurt or undermine another person, you are not at peace. Unkind, critical, controlling people are not at peace. So I know anyone who seeks to insult or hurt can't be at peace. So nurturing my center of peace and not allowing others to distract me from it (at least not for long) is my best "revenge." Haters gonna hate. That doesn't mean I have to engage with their hate.

As long as we channel the words and actions of detractors into pain and stagnation in our lives, they remain as ever-present spectres, poking holes in our spirit. But once we channel that energy into internal good, the haters not only disappear, but our spirit learns to soar. It doesn't work if you're just doing it to spite them. But if you focus on your own learning and growth and see the situations as the gifts they are, your genuine happiness and peace will cause their negativity to echo back to them, where it belongs. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

4/20/15—Noticing Our Sunsets

We all know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. But technically, that's only true two days a year—on the spring and fall equinoxes. Here, the setting sun moves north of west throughout summer and south of west throughout winter. 

The casual observer may not even really notice this until 6 months have passed and they ask themselves, "hey, didn't the sun used to set over there?" But because I frequently watch sunsets from my porch year round, I notice how striking the difference is between summer and winter. From my perch, it's like the sun moves two property widths, crosses a street and moves another two property widths between the summer and winter solstices! But on a day to day basis, the shift is so subtle that it can't even be noticed. 

Sometimes personal and spiritual progress seems to work the same way for me. You can't really see much from day to day, but then over time, you notice the needle moving. Like I have one of those Fitbits, so I can see how many steps I take each day, month, year. So I'm more active, on average, than I was a year ago. And I remember that a year ago, it took a lot of effort for me to try to be more active. And now it's just my "way."

That said, it's not like I've made monumental strides. So I still feel like a slouch. Until, of course, I notice that I'm moving steadily and strongly in the right direction. And then I feel better. But I don't notice that until I compare it to this time last year. 

I think sometimes we move through life and forget to take measurements or mark milestones and so it seems like we're making no progress when we are. And while it's nice to look back five years later and see the huge difference, it helps to try to take notice more frequently, too. Like each season or so. Just so we know we're still moving in the right direction. 

When I look at the things that were weighing heavily on me three months ago....all of those issues are resolved! Noticing that takes me back to another lesson of the sunset. While we may not notice the movement across the sky on a day-to-day basis, we can easily notice that the sunset looks different every day. 

Some days it's a crap sunset. And some days it's spectacular. But the important thing is to learn to have gratitude for the crap sunsets, because tomorrow's might be worse. But even if it's progressively worse many days in a row, one thing is for certain—the beautiful sunsets will be back. 

The same is true for us. Three months ago, I felt like I was stuck with a lot of crap sunsets. But now my sunsets are lovely again. And while I didn't remember to be grateful for the crap sunsets while they were happening, I did remember they were leading me toward fairer skies. And now I'm glad that they came along, because they were just what I needed.

Like the sunset, nothing ever stays the same, even if it feels you've been stuck for a very long time. Even the earth has to tilt and wobble before you can see the sun's progress across the sky. We are all cycling through seasons and tilts. It might get worse before it gets better. Or it might get better before it gets worse. But one thing is for sure—progress is being made, whether you notice it or not. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

4/13/15—Being the Pear Blossom

Every year I worry that my pear blossom tree won't blossom before the two maples that flank it get their leaves. Yet every year it blooms. 

The worry is that there are two maple trees that overhang the pear blossom and the pear blossom is kind of skinny and sad as it is. Once those two trees get their leaves, then the pear blossom stops getting sun...at least the sun needed to leaf and flower properly. But every year it gets its leaves and blossoms and by the time the blossoms have fallen, it becomes enclosed by the two trees on either side. It gets just what it needs to keep its leaves and continue living, but not quite enough to spread out and grow. 

Nature has a wisdom that cannot be denied. 

For the past 8 days I've been miserable. I came back from a business trip and immediately got an awful flu and sinus infection. I literally lost three days of my life because I was either sleeping or delirious. After that passed, I was still sick, but I could think. So I worked all last week and looked forward to the weekend when I would feel well again. And then I got food poisoning. No kidding. Add it all up and I have never been this sick in my life. 

When I travel for business, I usually have to work extra hard for my other clients to make up for the time I'm taking off. And I also have to get everything in order for my dog/house sitter. So there's little free time in the week or two before I go, then the whole traveling thing takes a lot of out me. I do like it. But it's a trade off. So I was so looking forward to getting home from my trip and just chillaxing for a day or so before I started in all the spring stuff that needs to be done...planting and mowing and taxes and stuff. Since I was coming home to a slower week and a clean house, it was going to be just the break I needed. But instead I got sick. 

In a way, I guess, I couldn't have picked a better week to be sick, right? I wasn't going to miss much at work. My schedule was manageable while my head was all stuffy. It was the perfect time. And since I rarely ever get sick—it has been at least five years based on the expiration dates of the Nyquil I saved from the last time—I really can't complain. On top of that, I'm well in line to meet a weight loss goal I have to meet next week with my nutritionist. Food poisoning is great for that kind of thing. 

So I guess nature has a wisdom with me, too. 

Sometimes we need to hop entirely off the hamster wheel to get rest. I've slept more this past week than any other time I can remember. Clearly I needed it. And the more sleep I get, the better I treat myself all-round. When the universe has to knock you on your ass—twice—to get you to listen, you start paying attention. 

But it doesn't have to be getting sick. It could be about waiting to hear some important news and not hearing it. Or anything else that you worry about like I worry about a pear blossom tree. Outcomes come along at their own pace. That pear blossom is very tall and narrow, as it needs to be to survive in its living conditions. Triggers within it are telling it when to grow leaves that feed it, when to blossom and when to drop the blossoms when they're drawing too much energy. 

I completely indulged my sickness, because what else could do? It had to take its natural course. The still-unsolved exhaustion I endured last year that made even a walk around the block feel like climbing Mt. Everest...same thing. It passed without explanation. In all of it, I've learned how to treat myself with more kindness and gentleness. I've learned something about how to place my own needs front and center and how to block out all the helpful voices that really don't understand and, therefore, are not helpful at all. 

Some things don't need worry. Or a fistful of medication. Or beating yourself up. Or regret. Most things, I think, just need patience. Surrender. And trust in the natural order of things. When I look back, I see that, like the pear blossom, the details of my life have never failed to serve me. Even when when they were ugly or painful. Even when they had me growing me larger than most wisdom would recommend. Nothing comes to us without a gift. And if we push against it and insist our ego's wisdom is better than nature's, chances are we won't get the gift—or much satisfaction—until the lesson comes around again. Because it will come around and around and around until you finally learn it. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

4/9/15—Going To Bat For A Hero

Infatuation can inspire you to do things you might never imagine you'd do. Especially when you're young. Anything that can get you closer to the object of your affection is fair game. 

And so it was that my little-girl crush on a baseball player named Steve Garvey got me interested in team spectator sports for the first, and only, time in my life. As a certified loner, I guess, I've always been more interested in individual sports. But because Steve Garvey's heart made my heart flutter, I became a rather avid fan of baseball for a number of years. 

Fortunately, I didn't have to go very far to learn everything I needed to know about the game. My older brother John was a baseball, football and basketball playing jock. He devoured sports statistics with same the voracity that I embrace a box of Godivas. 

In that way, and many others, John and I were total opposites. He was a jock and I was a couch potato. He was an extrovert and I was an introvert. He was left brained and I, very often, leaned right. But despite these differences and a critical five-year age gap (I was 14 and he 19 at the time), he took me under his wing. 

From John, I learned the rules and rituals of baseball. I learned my National League from my American League. I learned how to read the stats and scores printed in the newspaper, how to calculate an ERA and that a .300 batting average (or getting three hits for every 10 at bats) is pretty darned good. And I also learned the lost art of how to score a game. For example, a fly ball hit to center field is an F-8..."F" for fly ball and 8, the number assigned to the center field position. I even knew the tricky things, like how a strikeout would go down as a K, like a knockout in boxing. Scoring games became a fun way to keep involved in the game because, you know, baseball moves kind of slowly. Besides, it was so cool to have "secret knowledge" of a game nobody would ever suspect me to know about. 


Bat Day at the stadium Ripkin built with the guy
who taught me all I know about the game.
John was a Cardinals fan. And because we lived in St. Louis at the time, he brought me to my first major league baseball game—the Cardinals vs. the Dodgers. THE Dodgers! The same Dodgers that my precious Steve Garvey played first base for! Over the years, I would watch a handful of games with my brother, including Orioles games when we lived in DC. It is a special bond I shared with a brother who is no longer here to enjoy the game. 

But back to Steve Garvey. Throughout the 70s, there was nobody more all-American in the sports world. Except for maybe Bruce Jenner or The Juice. Garvey was the poster boy for baseball, earning the nicknames "Mr. Clean" for his squeaky clean image, "Iron Man" for his work ethic and "Popeye" for his freakishly large forearms. 

Fans voted him the National League All-Star first baseman 10x in his career, including every year between 1974 and 1981. In fact, in 1974, he wasn't even on the All-Star ballot—he got so many write-ins that he started the game at first base and did so well he won MVP. He won Gold Gloves four years in a row and, among winners, has the most putouts in a single season. He had the most hits in the NL for two seasons in his career. He was an All-Star MVP twice in his career and a NL MVP once. He was part of one of the most enduring infields in baseball history—he, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey and Bill Russell commanded first, second, third and short together on the Dodgers for 8 1/2 years. And, to this day, he holds the National League record for the most consecutive games played. 


He led the NL in hits for two seasons.
I do not stand alone in my admiration of Steve Garvey. Jimmy Kimmel is a known baseball fan and Steve Garvey is his favorite all-time player. When Garvey left the Dodgers for the Padres, the Girl Scouts—the effing GIRL SCOUTS—picketed the stadium in defiance. In his first year on the Padres, season ticket sales increased by 6,000 seats. I think it's fairly safe to say, he was an American hero in his heyday. 

I haven't thought much of baseball for a very long time. Sometime in my college years Steve Garvey left the Dodgers and nothing was ever the same again. I also had forgotten this bit of history with my brother. And even though a big campaign I worked on was splashed all over the National's stadium while they were in the playoffs a couple of years back, it wasn't until someone challenged me to write about baseball that all the memories came flooding back. So in preparation for writing this piece about Steve Garvey and my teenage crush, I went looking for the happy ending...the happy ending all the greats enjoy. I didn't find it. 

For all of Steve Garvey's accomplishments—his retired number "6", his career .294 batting average, 272 home runs, 1308 RBIs, 2332 games played and decade-dominating hero status—he has not made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Which means, so far, the game of baseball has filed him under "trivia", instead of "hero". This makes me sad. This is a man whose dream began when his father drove the team bus and he was just a bat boy. He was consistent and dependable and excelled in the clutch. He once played 193 consecutive games at first base without an error! Stories don't get more legendary than that. 

The theories of why he's been overlooked are many. At one point he got divorced and lost his squeaky clean image. There were a couple of paternity suits. That's one excuse, though his sins are nothing in the context of today's "sports heroes". Then there's the theory that when they crunch the numbers, he just doesn't measure up. While I get the formulaic approach, it doesn't measure the impact he had on baseball in his era. 

His powerful forearms earned him
the nickname "Popeye".
Imagine what it's like to give so much of yourself to something—and to be so good at it—and still not be able to join the club of the elite. I'll bet the walls of Steve Garvey's study are plastered with shiny awards, yet none are so precious as being recognized a legend in Cooperstown. In that way, he's like many of us, working at something all our lives, and even winning awards, but never breaking through that glass ceiling. Very few of us, however, come as close to "legend" status as he, however. And yet, he's known to be very gracious and humble with fans. I read a story that his son didn't even really know who his father was until he started playing baseball himself, and even then he found out through other means. 

The story's not over for Steve Garvey. He's fashioned a career in television and motivational speaking for himself. He may still gain entrance to the Hall of Fame via the Veteran's Committee. But anyone who was fan during his reign would have to agree that no number crunching and no paternity scandal is big enough to overshadow who this man was to the game. The soft spot I have for baseball rides entirely on this man's shoulders and I know I'm not alone. When you boil heroes down to numbers, you deflate the spirit of the game. You distill an integral American pastime down to the driest of dregs. Sure, we love our legendary sluggers, but heroes are more than just numbers on a page. And they're also more than their failings. We turn men into gods, then punish them for turning out to be mere men. 

The musical Damn Yankees has a song that sums up the player experience. It goes, "you gotta have heart. All you really need is heart. When the odds are saying you'll never win, that's when your grin should start." Baseball is all about heart. My god, the hours of literally nothing happening that fans endure for that one moment a fly ball pierces a hole in the outfield is ALL about heart. Multiply that by 162 games a year and a numbers-crunching, zero-forgiveness approach to identifying the greats just doesn't measure up to the weight of our all-American pastime. 

Because of the Hall of Fame's "heartless" approach to a game filled with heart, one of the biggest heroes of the 70s and early 80s has not yet gotten Hall of Fame status. His legacy can't and shouldn't be reduced to an algorithm when such a big part of what he did as a player was to build dreams and strengthen the sport. AND he had the numbers to back it up. And not to open a huge debate, but one of the greatest players that ever lived, Pete Rose, has also been dissed based solely on an (admittedly bad) scandal. These unforgiving ways of determining what matters can't erase the contributions these men have made, but they try to. And that does more damage to baseball than anything these men ever did. It's time to let us have our heroes back, warts and all.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

4/6/15—Singing Your Passion

My mom had a really beautiful singing voice. While she was dusting or washing dishes, she would sing. Quietly, so you had to listen to hear it. I was never sure if she sang so softly because she was shy or because it was just for her. 

I was curious, so I asked her one day. I said, "you have such a beautiful voice. How come you never did anything with it?" For her, the question seemed to come out of left field. I don't know whether she was surprised I liked her voice, surprised by the question or surprised that her singing was happening out loud. Her answer was essentially that it had never really occurred to her. It just was never something she cared to pursue...no choir she wanted to join, no gin joint she wanted to sing torch songs in, no stage she wanted to perform on. 

At the time, it was an important question to me. I was probably 16 or so and was struggling with similar questions myself. It seems there are two schools of thought—either you find something you're good at in life and pursue that. Or you find something you're passionate about in life and pursue that. 

There were so many things my mother could have done with her life. She was intelligent and very well suited to many paths. Whenever we lived in Washington, DC, she worked in politics. And she was good at it. At times when we lived on military bases and my father was a big deal, her job would be to be his wife...a first lady of sorts, entertaining and leading the wives of the men my father led. And she was good at it. And when we lived elsewhere, she raised six children and cared for my father. And she was good at that. 

I spent a lot of time with my mother during the last months of her life and I don't think she died with any regrets. But at the time I asked the question, I was looking ahead in my life and struggling within myself...do I do what I'm good at or do I do what puts a fire in my belly? By being a writer, I think I ended up doing a little bit of both. But there were a lot of things that I was good at and passionate about at the time. I also loved to act and sing, which was a special thing my mother and I shared—our love for the performing arts. I was also good with numbers and science and other more intellectual pursuits. But those things didn't capture my excitement and imagination the way writing and, at the time performing, did. 

So I struggled. I wondered if my mother was happy or just compromising...or if it was a question she even asked herself. And my father was very practical. He was an engineer and I think he liked engineering, but his career choices were always driven more by practicality than passion. He was very successful...a two-star general. But I think he did what he was good at, not what he was passionate about. He might have preferred being a mechanic or a fishing boat captain, perhaps. 

So there I was, wondering how I should go. Certainly being an actress wasn't considered practical or smart, nor was being a writer. Somehow I managed not to listen to the "practical" side and, instead, chose to pursue my passion. This didn't make my dad very happy, but my mother at the very least suspended disbelief and supported me.

One of my areas of specialization as a marketing person is higher education branding. I often think about how kids struggle with what they want to pursue in college. Not that the two have to be mutually exclusive, but do they go after what they're good at or do they become good at what they're passionate about? I would always recommend the latter, because I think that when you're passionate about something, you can be excited about learning ever more about it every day of your life. I've been writing ads and headlines for 27 years now, and I still have stuff to learn...and I'm enthusiastic about learning it. There is no currency as valuable as that. 

When I was growing up, people who were passionate about something and who just wanted to live a happy life were called hippies. They were looked down upon for opening their silly small businesses and speaking at environmental and human-rights rallies and growing organic foods and whatnot. They were seen as non-contributors to society, but time has affirmed many of the missions they held dear.

The pressure and pull of how society seeks to shape us can often be so strong that we lose the very things that make us special in the process. I wouldn't have been a very successful songstress or actress. I know that now. And I get why my mother never even really considered being a singer. Just because you're good at something is not a reason to do it. But I do think if you're not happy doing what you're doing, that there's value in revisiting those dreams of the past and seeing what they have in common. 

A few years back, my job had me interviewing executives and identifying that common thread that ran through their dreams. It was a branding exercise to see what really drives the people in that company to excel. But the interesting thing that came from it was that they all had the same passion...to help others create a greater impact in the world. Whether they liked their jobs or not, they were pursuing their passion. And chances are, you are too. And if you're not happy with it, then the adjustment you need to make isn't as big as you think. Identify that common thread and find something else you can do that might make you happier. 

For me, most of my threads have to do with somehow affecting, touching or healing people with my words and ideas. It's what I do now as a copywriter (well, maybe not the healing, but that's the hole this blog fills) and, as I look toward the future I see me continuing to do it, but in a different way. It's a theme in my life that reaches back to my first pleas for an audience as an infant. My mother's theme might have been in helping others shine and feel good, so she was following her passion whether she knew it or not. My father's might have been in problem solving. Again, that's what he ended up doing in his life, whether he realized it or not. You have a theme, too. All it takes is to look back at what you've always loved, find the common thread  and follow it to what brings you joy and fulfillment. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

3/30/15—Continuing to Learn and Grow

Last night I went to a Krishna Das (KD) concert. I have written about these concerts before, because I always learn or experience something new. There was the time I met Richard Gere and an angel named Michael came to my aid. Then there was the time the buttoned-up concert-goers in Washington, DC just sat there, stone-faced in the audience. 

Anyway, if you don't know, Krishna Das is a chant master. He was part of that whole thing in the 60s and early 70s where people went over to India and found a guru. Like the Beatles, he has a great, rock and roll voice. Unlike the Beatles (but kinda like Cat Stevens) he stayed to give his life and his voice over in service and devotion to his gods. Whatever he believes is somewhere in the Buddhist or Hindu realm. His concerts are a mix of devotional chant in a style called kirtan and some spiritual teachings. 

With kirtan, he sings a line and you sing it back to him, so it's a sing-a-long. And the idea is that the sounds you make during this "singing prayer" or chant vibrate in your body, offering spiritual healing and bringing you closer to god. I imagine there are many of other religions that would mock all the "hare Krishnas" and "hare Ramas" and whatnot, but it's the exact same thing as church singing and singing of "spirituals" that happen every Sunday in the US. Just in a different language and to a different god. 

Which leads to something he does in every concert. All of the songs, except one, are done in Sanskrit.   He makes a good point when he says that (because it's your native language) English is the language you berate yourself in. It's also the language others berate you in. But if you do these chants, the words defy definition, but are nonetheless words of love and devotion. They're words that take you out of yourself and focus on the god (Rama, Shiva, Hanuman, whatever) that you're singing about. And when you're singing, it's harder for your mind to wander to other things, like self abuse. So the songs bring you into another place, as long as you're chanting and listening to the call and response. And they bring you closer to your god and further away from self degradation. 

Anyway, as I said, only one song is in English and he sings it every concert. Surprisingly, it's Jesus on the Mainline. Last night, the crowd went wild when we began singing it. But KD says that every time he does it, he gets angry emails. And that's why he does it. He's a rebel. And he was born Jewish. And he says adulthood is the time to do all the things you were told you couldn't do when you were young. Clearly he couldn't sing Jesus songs as a boy. And there may have been a time that, like me, he had a negative view of Christianity and so he learned the song to open his heart wider. I know that that's usually the way for me...the things I resist the most are nothing more than invitations to open the heart wider. Which can be hard. 

What he didn't say, however, is that those devotees who complain about him singing about a god who isn't one of the countless Hindu gods (and there are a lot) shines a mirror of hypocrisy in their face. Buddhism and (possibly to a lesser degree) Hinduism, are religions of yielding, inclusion and acceptance. The "rules" are more open than in Christian religions. So when someone from that religion complains about a song like that, they're coming right up against a place where they're stuck. All their elitist complaining is counter to their beliefs. And their anger is an invitation to open their heart wider, as their gods would want. 

Religion is only one part of life. As we interact globally more and more, our planet becomes smaller and smaller. And there is less and less room for intolerance. You see it everywhere you look, from racism to LGBT rights. There is a softening of edges happening around the world that is beautiful. And all of us are being called out of our comfort zones to expand and open our minds to more diverse things. The good news is that, no matter who your god is, tolerance and love are part of the teachings.   So it's god's plan to open your heart wider. 

The couple sitting next to me was a totally normal couple from Pennsylvania who had never heard of KD or kirtan...they probably don't do yoga or, if they do, they don't think about the yoga songs (which are almost always devotional regarding a polytheistic religion.) They just thought they'd try something new in their 50-something, empty-nester lives. It was a beautiful thing, because whatever bounds were limiting them from exploring eastern religions and practices prior to last night, were coming down. Their hearts were widening. And they loved the concert, especially Jesus on the Mainline. And I think they really "got" it...it's all the same, just different names. 

People love to say they're open and tolerant, but we can only be as open and tolerant as our need to judge allows us...as our need to be right or have the only acceptable view allows...as our need to hold ourselves to "rules" allows. And there are many kinds of tolerance. Americans will soon have many "invitations to open their hearts wider" as presidential candidates start to square off. To me, it seems sad when someone decides they know all there is to know, whether it's about god or politics or personal freedoms or whatever. Because they close themselves off to possibilities. They close themselves off to learning. They close themselves off to growing. 

The couple next to me (I'm imagining...haha) reached a certain place in life and decided to continue learning and exploring and opening up. I think we all reach a crossroads like that at one time or another. In many ways, my life's journey has been about opening ever wider to things that cause a strong negative reaction in me. It's the basis of spirituality, I think, because it brings you closer to god. And it doesn't matter whether you sing about Vishnu or Jesus...the name means nothing. What has meaning is what's in your heart. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

3/23/15—Bringing a Mystery to a Close

The Pig, forced to serve as so much
fluff for a mysterious, demanding master.
Today's post brings a long-standing mystery here at the Daily Draw to a close. But unlike many of my  (now) weekly blog posts, there will be no moral to this story. No deep lesson to learn here. It's just a story, like all the many others that play out on the streets of this big, blue marble known as Earth. 

It begins, as most stories do, with a stuffed pig, complete with reindeer antlers. This pig was a favorite point of contention in back yard battles between Magick and Mystic, two of my dogs. Until Mystic came along, we had a strict "no stuffed toys in the backyard" rule. I'm not at all what you'd call a fastidious person, but when it comes to the thought of bug-infested stuffed toys laying wet on the ground, then possibly making their way back inside, I draw the line.

But Mystic is a force mightier than me when it comes to this. So when The Pig, The Squirrel, Blub Blub and The Racoon (not a part of this story at all) made it into the back yard, I relented. I didn't even notice them disappearing, one-by-one from their fresh-air lair until...the pig situation. 

Anyway, for a couple of weeks I had noticed something sticking out of the side of my house. Figuring it would just fix itself, I ignored it. This is a strategy I frequently work with around this home. But after a few weeks, I could ignore it no more. So I went around the side of the house to investigate and what I saw shocked me—The Pig, antlers and all, was no longer in the back yard. It was in the front yard in the roof vent of my home!

How did it get there? Who put it there? These questions would burn within me and my online friend's circle for 2.5 years, bringing new developments on a regular basis, before it would finally get solved. 

So I noticed the pig for the first time in fall. Clearly someone had built a comfy nest in my roof vent, but who? The Pig, though missing stuffing and squeakers throughout its body, was too large for a single bird to carry, but a visual inspection of the vent indicated that the space wasn't very deep for a nest and the slats were probably too close together for a squirrel. 

The Pig, cast asunder when it was
no longer useful. 
The first new development came in winter. The Pig was spit out of the roof vent, left on the dead
branches beneath to languish as if its life held no meaning. Along with the pig was the rest of the nest. Clearly someone had been evicted in the middle of the night and all their furnishings left on the curb. 

Then, the following spring, I noticed the pig had moved! It was no longer in the branches as it had been. It was now down on the ground and moved a couple of feet. Someone was trying to rebuild from the eviction! They never got the pig back into the vent, but that didn't deter them. Months later, Blub Blub, a slobber-soaked, fully-stuffed fish appeared beneath the roof vent, too. 

Now to illustrate the degree of difficulty, the perpetrator would have to remove the animal from my back yard, climb a tree/jump a fence, then make its way 20-some feet into the air. While a branch did reach up that way, was it strong enough to hold a squirrel with a toy in its mouth? It didn't appear so. And since the dropped toys were always found just beneath the vent, I concluded it must be birds working in a gang. I mean, a squirrel could drop a toy anywhere...it could get caught in the branches of the tree, etc. But the toys were always found in the same spot. 

Blub Blub, an innocent victim of a land animal.
And about the time Blub-Blub was vent-napped, I noticed a clamor coming from the side of my house. So I went out to investigate and found, sure enough, a large gang of birds, wearing what appeared to be black hoodies. When they saw me, they immediately started to act casual—and guilty! At the time, there had been a rash of car break-ins in the neighborhood and the thought that whatever was stealing spare change from car consoles might also be fingering my babies' toys—chilling!

So this is where the story left off for nearly a year. But before the snows came this year, I saw The Squirrel—the toy my dog had used to torment the squirrels that tormented them in the back yard—was now laying prostrate, still stuffed, beneath my roof vent. I left him there, because that's what I do. I had tried to return Blub-Blub back to the yard..to reintegrate him to his old life. But oddly, we have not seen Blub Blub since. At least if I leave them by the roof vent, I know where they are. 

With this development, the mystery was soon solved!
Anyway, flash forward a year. I'm returning home from an errand the other day and, as I'm getting out of my car, I glance up at the roof vent and see the culprit enter the vent! After all this time, I had an answer! And I also had a good laugh. 

So the answer is...it's a squirrel! And just when I doubted that a squirrel could squeeze himself through the vent slats, I had one in the back yard demonstrate their special talent. They can flatten themselves out like a pancake, like their bones are made of rubber or something. No kidding. They can do it effortlessly and on the fly, too. Some squirrel dude (possibly the culprit) did on the top of our fence as a demonstration before my very eyes. 

I did not have a camera for any of this, so you'll just have to trust me. But my big laugh came when I imagined what it must have looked like for the real squirrel to be carrying a stuffed squirrel up a tree to stuff into a vent for his added comfort! So maybe you can carry that vision with you throughout this week and you can smile, too.