Sunday, July 24, 2016

7/25/16—Taking A Summer Break

Maybe 20 years ago I visited a storefront psychic. It's one of maybe a handful of readings I've received from "strangers" over the years. If/when I get a reading, it's usually from someone I know and admire. Anyway, this man told me I was going to be a prolific writer.

I laughed when he said it, because of course I already was one. Foremost, in my advertising career. I mean, I remember a day I wrote 24 ads. In a single day...haha. That's a bit extreme, but when you consider I've been writing ads, brochures, webpages, emails, TV and radio spots, etc. every working day for 30 years, we're talking in the 10s of thousands of original compositions. Also, at the time I was journaling pretty much every day. So that's a lot of writing.

"That's not it," the psychic said. "It's something else...something published...short stories...I don't know...I can't say quite what. But it's not in your future. You're already doing it or are about to do it." Well, he was wrong about that. But maybe he was talking about this blog, albeit that was WAY in the future. There weren't blogs or social media or even the internet as we know it today back then. Even though I don't write every day anymore, I have averaged 250 posts per year on this blog over a 4.5 year effort. That's pretty prolific.

While the psychic was kinda right and kinda wrong, I have thought about his words many times over the years. He had no idea what I do for a living or who I am as a person. I think by any standards I'm a prolific writer, but I had never considered myself as such until after he said it. It's funny how how just hearing someone say something can make you look differently at yourself. When I think of how I thought of myself as a writer then and how I think of myself now, I'm definitely more confident in my skill and more accepting of my prolificness...prolificity...ability to generate lots of good quality, original work. 

That said, right now I want a break. I can't take a break from my day job of writing, but I can take a break from this. For a few weeks at least.

It's not that I've run out of things to say. I may never run out of things to say. This summer has been both emotionally difficult and significantly insightful for me. I have lots to say. I have lots to think through on paper. I have lots of thoughts that need to marinate before I discuss. I've peeled a layer or two off the onion this year and as it assimilates, I'll want to talk all about it. But after 1100 fresh posts over 4.5 years, I just need a break. And right now I also need to just be with myself and the people I trust and not share for a little bit.

So I'm going to pick some classic posts from the last four years, including some of the tarot ones, and regurgitate that for a few weeks. When I return, I might tell you what I think is behind all the fear and hate in the US. Or how I jumped through a final hoop in the medical issues that have been dogging me for years. Or how I'm seeing more signs from the universe lately. Or how I'm reclaiming lost parts of myself. Or how I'm releasing myself from some of the fears I've had most of my life. Maybe I'll even write something about what it feels like to not share my deep thoughts after sharing them all these years. :D

If I could write it all out in 15 minutes, I would. But many weeks I give up the bulk of my Sunday to compose something that plumbs my depths and I guess I'm just plum plumbed. :) I'll probably start up again in the (Northern Hemisphere) fall, which isn't far away. In the short term, I plan on being prolific at self care. Or enjoying the summer shade in my back yard. See you on the flip side!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

7/18/16—Being Watched By The Birds

This season of Alone is over now. I wrote about this show before. Survivalists are each left alone in separate parts of Vancouver Island and they live there as long as they can take it. The winner usually lasts about two months. 

Well, this year, they had three women in the mix. Two left fairly early in the game. A man left first. I don't think he was even there but a few hours. Then one lady injured herself. Then another realized she couldn't handle the bears, cougars and emotional fears there. All three were gone in the first few days. Then you get a few people who last a few weeks. Then you get the ones that are dug in for the long haul. 

The third women was one of those people. She lasted 57 days. She was a cheery, sweet scientist, safari guide and mom with multiple sclerosis, named Dr. Nicole Apelian. She addresses her MS dietetically and herbally, which seemed to me to make this trip a huge risk for her. But then her knowledge of edible plants put her ahead of many of the men in terms of nutrition...until the frost. After that, I think she was doomed because her gill net became a convenience store for the bears and otters and seals. In the end, though, she left for the same reason most do...it's too hard to be alone and away from family and society (while starving and bored out of your mind) for that long. 

I was really rooting for Nicole because it seemed like less of a chore for her compared to the others. And she seemed to have fewer issues finding food. She made a home on that island. This challenge was suited to her. I mean, my god, she was out there for nearly two months alone with only 10 survival items—nothing more than she could carry on her back—and she outlasted six other, equally qualified people...by a good margin.

But this entry isn't about girl power. It's about Nicole's "way" of living in nature. She was just another animal in the woods. She was careful of bears, but not so fearful she wouldn't go scavenging on their turf. She knew the bird calls and had a feel for what they meant. In short, her understanding of the task went beyond survival skills to a deeper organic connection with nature. 

When Nicole left, she remarked about how all the animals knew her and were used to her. The bears knew her. The birds stopped warning each other when she would come and go. She had integrated into the ecosystem.
And I thought about all the animals in my suburban back yard. I spend time back there pretty much every day. In the mornings I drink coffee with the pups. When it rains, I sit beneath the soffit and listen. When it's cold I wear a blanket. I've been known to sit outside in blizzards and negative temperatures for quite some time in my blanket, in fact. It's only the hottest, most humid days that I don't go at least go out in the morning for coffee, the evening to water the herbs, at twilight for the sunset or late at night to listen to the quiet and hope for a random shooting star. 

It had never quite occurred to me that all the squirrels and birds in the neighborhood knew me. I know them, though I have a hard time differentiating one squirrel or cardinal from another. I know they know my dogs because they are a danger (or something to be toyed with.) But I never had the thought that they know me—probably better than I know them. They have been observing me all their short lives...or for a big portion of their long ones if they're birds. Yet it never occurred to me they might expect me in predictable spots at predictable times. And that if I died or moved, they might notice me gone. It never occurred to me I might matter to them, even if in a small way.

Working alone and living alone and being an introvert, it's easy to feel invisible and alone sometimes. It's easy to feel like you don't matter. I've been doing this for a long time, so I know ways to cope. But sometimes it grabs you anyway. And you don't even have to be a suburban hermit or isolated on a Canadian island to feel that way. I imagine we all feel depressingly marginalized or invisible or unheard from time to time. 

Those with faith know in their hearts know they are "never alone," but in darker times that faith is harder to find. And, in dark times or light, I think we all underestimate how much we are seen in this world and how much an intrinsic part of the larger ecosystem we are as individuals. We forget how much we matter to family and friends, neighbors and co-workers, and the people who work at the businesses we frequent...to our pets, the birds, the squirrels, the plants, the earth and to the collective consciousness.  

It turns out each of us matters more than we know. I can't count the times that I have received messages, signs, reassurance, etc. from time spent in nature. And while I always consider the messages delivered by nature as spiritual intervention—and they are—they can also be considered  comfort offered by my fellow organic entities who have witnessed me from afar and consider me worthy of their efforts to reach out. It's heartening to know we are seen, felt, needed, relied upon and heard, even when we think nobody is paying attention.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

7/11/16—Nourishing Society

I had a completely different post in my head for this week. I had even been taking notes throughout the week of things to say. It was about current events. Fear and injustice. Stuff that is way overdue for a healing in society.

I was pulled over by the police last year. I had four infractions, was rude and impatient with the cop and, instead of shooting me, he cited me only on the least of the infractions and then told me how I could get out of paying the fine. So that tells you two things. First, the temperament of good cops. If this guy were on a power trip he'd have hit me at least with my speeding infraction to pay me back for my bitchy attitude. And second, possibly more germinally, the difference it makes being white—and, in this case, a woman—in today's society.

The crux of my post was going to be that all sides—blacks, whites, cops, Muslims, NRA members, gays, children, adults, Republicans, Democrats, you name it—have legitimate reasons (from their perspective) to be afraid these days. This is the most unstable our country has been in our lifetime and probably since the Great Depression. A lot of points of history are repeating at once, from civil rights and massive division in society to government corruption and xenophobia.

America's dark side is showing. And the only way to combat darkness is light. Love conquers fear, yes. But not before a lot of painful shit goes down. So that's where we are.

Just prior to all of this, I had spent some quality time with my own darkness. And I decided to treat myself better. So not delving into the darkness in society today for hours as I write is treating myself better. It's a matter of saving myself first, like they tell you to do on airplanes. And treating myself better also had me finding and reading some old journals of mine.

I've mentioned before that, for years, I would wake before the sun, drive to the river and watch the sunrise. It was a sacred practice a couple or few times a week, and I've shared some of the stories from those journals here before. There were many purposes to it, but chief among them were a) getting spiritual messages from nature and b) practicing my descriptive writing skills...honing my craft.

So I got to reading some of those recently and found a gold mine of wisdom...haha. I chose one at random to share with you today. To quote myself:

"It's a summer morning at the end of spring. We've just been through a heat spell of three-digit humitures. Today is supposed to be the last day. It's 80 degrees and humid at 7am. The river is still. Devoid of a breeze. A few fish are jumping. But the river looks cloudy today. Uninviting. Lifeless.
What is interesting is the dew on the grass. Distinct little droplets cling to the blades, bending them ever so slightly under their weight. A process that we might not even notice or think about is, in actuality, a necessary and sacred symbiotic relationship. In the heat and dryness of the earth, the grass remains supple and nourished by the moisture in the air. That nourishment, in turn, nourishes the earth by dripping on the earth or holding existing moisture in to encourage new growth. 
We have the same kind of symbiotic relationship with the earth and the environment around us. Oxygen nourishes us and we give back CO2 in return, which nourishes the plants who then give us more oxygen. We love and are loved. What we put out comes back to us, perhaps not in kind, but in the way we need it to in order to grow. It's not a metaphysical theory, it's a natural law, exhibited in nature by birds who eat fish and leave the remains for other fish to use to grow. By bugs who feed on flowers and spread pollen to other flowers to create more flowers. The universe never loses anything because it constantly replenishes itself. And we can never lose anything without gaining something in return."
Interestingly, this does go back to the original idea for this week's post. In every part of our lives, we're creating relationships with people, places and things that feed on each other. If we smile, people smile back and think to smile for others. And if we fear, our fears are met with the fears of others and spread to others.

There really are no legitimate victims in a societal sense. If rape is a serious issue in society, it's because society isn't creating big enough consequences. Individually the person is a victim, yes. But to look down our noses at the rapist as if we're not part of the problem is hypocritical. In the US, at least, the people hold the power to change that. We've just forgotten we're in charge. Maybe not entirely, because there will always be sickos who don't care about the consequences. But when a college kid gets a couple of months of jail for a brutal rape, that's something society created and enabled. And you and I are part of that society. Over and over again, we neglect to exercise our powers to vote, think, spend and protest in ways that can change all this. We are complicit.

If we want the kind of hate and fear that drives police to shoot innocent men and men to shoot innocent police officers to go away, we have to heal that in society's heart. We have to shine light on the darkness, as I said above. Then we have to use that light to eradicate the darkness. But here's what people don't get...if you want "the white pigs" to stop killing black men, it's not the black men you need to show more love and respect, it's the white guys behind the gun. Yeah, I know. Holy crap, right? And complying at traffic stops isn't showing more love and respect if, in your head, you're nourishing fear and hate. It has to come from the heart. And if you want <insert racial epithet here> to stop killing cops, you have to learn to open your heart the very ones you're blaming for the pain. We need to start seeing each other as worthy, even when we disagree. And before we do that, we need to see ourselves as worthy.

The same is true on a personal level. If you're unhappy or fearful, it's the product of something going on inside you, not outside you. It may look like it's outside you and the fault of some other human or excuse, but it's not. So if you want to turn it around, you can start by putting the mask on yourself first. Then you can move to compassion and forgiveness for the situation. Faith in yourself and your higher power, and love for yourself and your higher power are the only way to bring light to any situation. They are the only way to combat fear.

Lord knows, our country has the most guns per capita (88.8 for every 100 people—nearly half the world's guns for 4% of the world's population!!!) and the most fear per capita. Guns aren't the way to combat fear. Hate isn't the way to combat fear. Violence isn't the way to combat fear. More fear isn't the way to combat fear. And yet those are the only solutions our society ever seems to turn to to make things better. It has to stop. And that has to begin with the people most capable of it, some of which are reading these words.

Right now fear and hate are the drop of dew we're nourishing our society on. All the way down to our most private thoughts—things we would never say out loud—we're nourishing something in this world. And if you want to nourish fear or superiority or righteous indignation in the world, have at it. But at least be conscious of what you're creating and how it comes back to bite you in the ass. At least see that this isn't a black problem or terrorism problem or cop problem or a problem created by the political climate or sensationalist headlines. This is YOUR problem and something you have to start solving for yourself...within yourself, as well as with the money you spend, the votes you cast and the way you respond when things don't go your way, people don't do what you want them to do and people disagree with you.

It doesn't happen overnight. And there's only so much we can do in a lifetime, both for own personal evolution, as well as the evolution of society. But the time to start doing that is now. If you've wondered "why is this happening?" anytime over the past week, it's happening to show you—yes you—where you're complicit in all of this. And if you think you're not complicit because you support all the right candidates, support all the right minority groups and do all the right recycling, you need to look harder within.

Ghandi said "be the change you want to see in the world." Lamenting how awful all of this is while you deny how you contribute, not only to fear and hate in society, but also to your own self hate and inner fears (not to mention whatever chaos and drama is happening in your own life) is not being that change. With every thought and action we're nourishing something in our lives and that, in turn, ripples out to society. So what are you willing to nourish today?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

7/4/16—Contemplating Freedom

It's the Fourth of July in the US, which means we're celebrating our freedom. But I'll bet most people don't think too much about being free. It's just a given for us...in the sense that the 4th of July is about. But how free are we really? 

I've mentioned here before about the weird experiences I had when I was 3, 4 and 5 in my creepy bedroom in a house about a mile or so from where I live now. Well, one of the things I remember contemplating there was freedom. I think I must have had a past life where I was somehow restricted, because my pre-school mind used to contemplate the notion that nobody can truly imprison you, unless you let them. What I mean by that is that freedom is a concept that resides in the mind. 

Sure, you can restrict someone physically—put them in jail or chain them to a metal stake you had installed in your basement for solicitors and Jehovah's Witnesses who don't read the unwelcoming sign clearly posted on your front door (not that I would know anything about anything like that.) But, without drugs, surgery or electrodes, nobody can touch your mind if you don't let them. As long as you maintain your mind's ability to go places without the limits of body, space and time, you're free. 

Yeah, I know. It's an odd thing for a 3, 4 or 5 year old to contemplate. What's weirder is that I felt I had to be ready to face the eventuality of being able to find my Zen under any conditions. And, with the exception of torturous pain, I probably can. I don't know for how long, but it's odd that I still think of this so many years later. I have no idea why I thought some of the things I did in that house, whether it was my age, my imagination, some sort of haunting, past-life thoughts or what. But I know I had many sleepless hours trapped inside that creepy, shoebox-sized crypt to think about all sorts of frightening things. And, for some reason, this was one of them. 

The way in which we lose the most freedom in our mind is by holding on. We grasp onto thoughts and fears and behaviors and they become our captors. Maybe we're holding on to the need to be right or the need to control something. Maybe we're holding on to past anger or regrets. Or maybe we've told ourselves some story about the way things are and we refuse to consider other options. All of these are prisons that make unable to be free.

The bad news is that we're conditioned to hold ourselves captive to thoughts and mindsets that distract us from being in the only place freedom exists—in the present moment. The good news is that we're the people most qualified to save ourselves from this conditioning and experience freedom instead. 

Freedom doesn't come from tossing tea into a harbor or slaughtering soldiers in battle. It actually comes from the opposite. It comes from surrender. It comes from giving up the fight against "what is". It comes from letting a higher power take command of the reigns that hold your life together. And it comes from giving yourself over to a world devoid of preconceived notions and filled with infinite possibility. 

While things like hunger, discomfort and torture make it difficult, if not impossible, the mind is strong enough to transcend any restriction you place on the body. There is a place within you that can't be touched by anything you don't allow it to—it's a seed of God...a chunk of the most powerful force in the universe. And you know it's always accessible, because no matter what conditions people face in this world, there are happy people everywhere, people who transcend, people who are free. As the universe expands, so do we. Freedom is about being present to enjoy the ride. 

This is a repost/refresh of a post from two years ago.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

6/27/16—Moving America Forward

How many times have you exchanged something for a newer model, only to appreciate the old model more? Like maybe you get a new washer/dryer and it washes and dries faster, but uses more energy and has frequent mechanical problems. We've all been there. And since you can't move backward, you move forward, lower your expectations and learn to adjust.

America is kind of like that dryer. Everyone wants a new one, convinced it's going to change things for the better. One side favors a more socialist way of existing, where everyone shares the responsibility for the whole and those with less get more. The other side favors a more isolationist bully approach, where one guy builds a wall to keep immigrants out, calls for banning an entire religion and shuts out those who disagree with him. Both sides think their ideas are going to make America great again. They both want a shiny new washer that does things the old washer doesn't.

I was watching America's Got Talent on TV earlier this week. There was a performer there named Vello who was a 52-year-old man whose thick accent was only eclipsed by his funny costume. I assume he is a naturalized American. The audience was doubtful at first, then sat stunned by the amazing things he could do with his feet locked behind his head—things you and I couldn't do under any circumstances, much less while contorting. When he was done, the audience went crazy. And in that moment, what I saw was a man who was so proud to be an American...on one of our country's largest stages...playing to a packed crowd...in front of TV cameras...and having everyone behind him. Who would have thought?

Imagine yourself in his shoes. He left Estonia for the hope of something better in the US. And he came here and was able, not only to earn a living teaching kids, but perform before millions. At the age of 52. As an "outsider." That right there is the American Dream. And if there's anything people around the world admire more about the US—and anything we're more proud of ourselves—it's how anyone can have a dream and achieve it here, if they put their mind to it. Evidence of that is everywhere in the US, across all origins and classes. It's not guaranteed, but it's possible.

So, if we were to close off or slow immigration here, we would have fewer hard-working, persistent dreamers like Vello to keep our American Dream alive. And the hard-working part is critical, too, because immigrants tend to have to work harder and in less desirable jobs than the rest of us. So if we screw with immigration, we lose that depth in the American work ethic we're so proud of and, over time, we lose the foundation of people doing the less desirable work that fuels the lifestyles we love, like keeping 7-11s open all night, running carryouts and performing maid service, to name a few. Over time, the immigrants that fill those positions and work hard will work their way out of those positions, and with further immigration stalled, nobody will want to fill them.

So will the "native" Americans left behind jump in and work extra hard in service areas or achieve the American Dream? Sure. Some will. But we have become so complacent and privileged that some jobs are considered "beneath us". And we've become so jaded that most people just settle into their comfortable-enough lives and skip the risk, hard work and possible disappointment. In places most of us don't even notice or see, a continued flow of immigrants is critical to keeping our country moving.  Their work ethic is critical to inspiring everyone else's and keeping us on our toes, and their ambitions are important to fueling the American Dream. 

In their heads, some think closing our borders will solve everything, but it will just create more problems. In addition to what I mentioned above, it has the potential to make us less knowledgeable and worldly at a time the rest of the planet is becoming more so. So we lose our leadership, our connections to the rest of the world, and we end up in a vulnerable global position. When you are only 4% of the world's population, you have to remain relevant and it's probably best not to be relevant for your xenophobia. We lose our diversity. And, what I consider pretty damning, we lose that spark that lights up in the eyes of people looking for a better life, because they cannot find it here anymore. That's not "making America great again" to me.

And that's just changing immigration. All the changes I mentioned on both sides of the fence have foreseeable consequences if you stop to think them all the way through...consequences that could change stuff you may even value more. But most won't stop to think them through, nor will they be able to think them through objectively. And if you don't believe me, think about the political conversations you've had lately with people whose ideas differ from yours. They can't stop to see your side and consider the validity of your side and let it sink in, nor are you, perhaps, able to do the same. If the conversations are frustrating to you at all, that means you can't do the same. All of these matters are highly complex considerations that go beyond "smart" and "stupid" ideas. So if you're seeing them in black and white, you're not seeing them objectively.

This past week our representatives showed us that, in some ways, our structure isn't so much broken as ill utilized. Things like filibusters and sit ins give voice to the people even if our representatives refuse to honor that voice. They make our politicians accountable in ways they are usually able to avoid. So we do have ways to work more effectively within the systems in place now. And their entire jobs there are (supposed to be) about progress and moving our country forward. They vote on new ideas every day. What they don't do is accurately represent the voices of the majority of the US while doing it. And yes, that's a problem. But it's a problem we can fix without restructuring big parts of who we are.

Will it be fixed? Probably not...not if we leave it up to our leadership. Will it be fixed by making wide, sweeping changes? Probably not, because every solution has inherent flaws when you're serving a populace of 300M individuals who feel differently about things. America is broken, no doubt. But it's not broken in the ways we think.

Our own individual inabilities to bend or even consider other views is the brokest part of the US. Because of that, we don't even understand the truth of what's going on around us, we only understand our own biased perspective. So we make ill-informed decisions. (Ask the British about that in the wake of Brexit.) Another big issue is our tolerance for representatives that represent private interests and not the people. We can only legitimately complain about how awfully our country is run when we recognize WE hold the reigns of this country and we exercise the power that comes with that. But instead, we sit on our sofas with a bowl of Cheetoes, complain, formulate the views that occur to us, dig in our heels, refuse to listen to the other side and continue to fuel the flames of discord and inaction. We have become complacent and complicit in our misery.

Because of that, I have made a concerted effort to listen beyond the sound bites of my (all-time) least favorite candidate which, no surprise, is Donald Trump. It's not all racism and hate. He has legitimate things to say about what's wrong in our country. The smart things he says don't really make the news. And for every smart thing he says, he says a couple of truly idiotic things. And I believe he's Politifact's all-time most untruthful candidate with less than 10% of the checkable "facts" he states being true or mostly true. But he does have some legitimate, interesting things to say that are worth consideration. I still believe he's a con man who will ruin our nation, but now I understand the people voting for him in a different way and I'm more educated on what America wants, and not just what I want.

I have done the same with the Bernie Sanders supporters, because some of their views are just as curious to me, albeit for different reasons. From my point of view, I would never vote for anyone who stirs up such supercharged blind passion in their supporters as Trump and Sanders. It's a turn off for me, even if I like some of the things they say. The violence at rallies, the rabid obsession, the ways it brings out peoples' dark sides—on both sides—is toxic.

Anyway, I don't think things are so broke as to take the radical measures that those on the far left and far right propose. I think those new measures are going to end up like the new washer. And, both literally and figuratively, I'm not someone who upgrades to new model just because one is available on the marketplace. That kind of thinking, from marriages to consumer goods, is a big place where our country is horribly sick in the head. It is a privileged mindset that is resented by others in the world.

Personally, there are parts of me that really miss things like the sound of a dusty record, being away from phones when I'm out of the office, reading things in cursive hand, and people who are present when you're talking to them instead of glancing at their devices. Progress has brought a lot into our lives and it has also taken a lot away. We continually move toward newer and better as a natural course of life as it is, without having to force it prematurely upon those who don't want it.

It's clear our nation wants and needs change. But right now I think we're throwing ideals at the wall to see what sticks. I don't think we're ready for that change because we want such different things, refuse to listen to each other and haven't thought things through enough to make adult decisions that consider what's truly best for our country, instead of just ourselves. We are a country divided. Both sides have legitimate arguments as to why their way is the "the American way". Both sides are passionate. Both sides are both right and complete idiots, depending on who you talk to.

Sometimes it's hard to see the real issue, even when it's right in front of your eyes. We—you and I—are our own worst enemies. We are the reason our politicians under-perform. We are the reason changes don't get made. We are what's blocking natural, evolutionary progress, not to mention the meaningful progress so many want. I am neither an organizer nor passionate about anything in particular (outside of the gun debate,) so I'm not the answer...haha. I'm actually ok with many of the ways we're broken right now, because I prefer them to what I believe will be the new problems that emerge if we make big changes.

But change doesn't happen just because you whine about how broken and "unfair" things are. You want to beat the NRA? Become as organized as they are. Or, like in an article I saw this week aimed at LGBTQs suggested, join the NRA and change it from within with your member votes. Split their agenda. Cause discord. Fight as dirty as they do. The beautiful thing about this country is that we have the power to do stuff like that, and under the current ways of doing things.

But I'm just not for turning America into Canada (or North Korea) in order to make it great again. We are great because, for now, we're still the land of opportunity. We're great because we're allowed to have this conversation out loud. We're great because we're diverse in our colors, origins, religion, attitudes and beliefs. We're great because we have a wonderful lifestyle, good education and are relatively "safe" within the world, despite all the homegrown violence we face.

And when we forget all the things we're truly proud of, that's when we're not so great. That's when we end up as we are now, believing we're broken, bickering over everything and solving nothing. In fact, we're like a profoundly unhappy couple who airs all our dirty laundry publicly and on social media. We've lost our pride in what made us great in the first place. We've lost our self respect. And we're embarrassing ourselves in the process.

Think back to a time when you thought America was great. At that time, we were less informed about what was going on in our government. We were more trusting of our government. We understood you don't get everything you want. We spoke to our neighbors and had actual face-to-face conversations with each other. The news we got was largely objective and not partisan. We had fewer outside threats, despite immigration laws. We were more cooperative, polite and respectful. We didn't draw lines in the sand. There were no memes proliferating lies disguised as fact. As individuals, we were less violent. We were different. (On the other hand, many Americans didn't have equal rights, like women, blacks and gays. So how "great" was that for them?)

The truth is, this isn't all the government's fault. When they refuse to get along, they are just reflecting the attitudes of Americans as a whole. WE don't get along. So the blame lies on our shoulders, on the shoulders of global intercommunication and travel, on the shoulders of progress itself and, sure on the government (and many other things.) But it won't get fixed until we fix ourselves. And some elements, like globalization, can't and shouldn't be fixed. So we have to learn to accommodate progress without losing our humanity. Because progress has been slowly chipping away at it, especially in the digital age, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

Normally I try to avoid politics and I tried to stay away from this campaign, too. But alas, I let buttons get pushed and I have caught some passion myself...I'm passionate about stopping all the whining for one...haha. And I'm no doubt a contributor to that from time to time, I'll admit. I'm afraid of what will happen if Trump becomes president and I know I'm in the majority on that score. And when you see Great Britain with a good deal of buyer's remorse over Brexit because they believed a liar and didn't even understand the implications of what they were voting on, it worries me we'll end up in the same place.

So, for my part, I've made a point to speak out more this year, instead of just be silent. The thing about Trump and the NRA (for example) is that they don't sit quietly waiting for us to pay attention their POV. They inundate us with it from every angle. They train advocates to take up their cause in social media. They indoctrinate their followers to "fight the good fight". It amazed me that Hillary won the primary, because my Facebook feed certainly didn't have anyone speaking her praises like the other candidates had. But then, the others were as successful as they were because they were so vocal. So I'm speaking out.

And another thing I've done was look at that which I find so ugly, in order to understand the needs of those who support Trump (and, to a certain degree, those who support/ed Sanders) so absolutely. That tack has not changed my vote or what I want for the country. That's not the point. It has given me an understanding of the different things people define as "great" and it has alerted me to weaknesses I hadn't considered in my own thinking before. Maybe because of that, my involvement in creating meaningful change will grow and I'll contribute more to the harmonious US I'd like to see.

So, instead of just complaining about what's wrong with America, what do you think is right and precious? And do the changes you propose impact those things in any negative way when you think it through from all angles? Have you researched the complaints and concerns of those in countries that have instituted similar changes? Are you willing to pay more taxes to fund your changes? And the biggest question, are you willing to open your mind wide enough to see where your thinking may be flawed? Before we can move America forward, we have to move Americans forward.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

6/20/16—Sharing Five Things About Happiness

Here's an odd piece of trivia: people tend to like enumerated lists of things. So if you get an email with a subject line that says "Five Things Weird People Do," you're more likely to open that than an email that just says "Stuff Weird People Do." 

Before you protest and tell me all about how you'll read any email with "stuff" in the subject line, there are, no doubt, exceptions. And you, a board-certified snowflake, may be one of them. But it's just one of those things the advertising industry does research on, then pumps into my head. So I thought I'd share it with you. Because tonight I'm really tired. And instead of writing a brand new post from scratch, I'm going to share a classic one from two years ago with you—Five Things To Know About Happiness. 

1. Happiness Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be. You very well may be happy right now and not even know it. It doesn't necessarily come with a balloon and streamers attached. It's not necessarily something you get in exchange for something good you've done. It's merely a feeling of remarkable wellbeing in body, mind, emotion, and/or soul. And by "remarkable", I'm not talking "rare". I'm talking, "hey, I'm remarking that I'm happy!" (Notice the lone exclamation point?) So it's not quite joy or bliss (which *do* come with streamers...AND a few extra exclamation points). Happiness is just a nice smile that comes from within. :) 

2. Happiness is Not a Destination. It's part of the journey. There's never going to come a day when you're happy and it stays that way. We all have ups and downs. We may be happy in one area of our lives and less than happy in another. It's not a place to land and plant roots. Nor do you want it to be. Because happiness should never become mundane. If it's how you felt all the time, it wouldn't be such a gift. 

3. Happiness is a Choice. In most moments, you can choose to be happy. You can choose to see your situation as a gift. Sure, if the bad guys are chasing you with guns, it's hard to be happy. Unless you like that sort of thing. But most of us lead pretty tame lives. And we can choose to let some inconsiderate person, for example, ruin our day. Or we can choose to focus on the positives, see how good we've got it and let our bodies and minds flow with gratitude. Now, chemicals in our body can make our moods shift. But even those can be improved improve through exercise or pharmaceuticals or whatever. But still, we're all human, so there will be times it won't be a choice. But many times it is. And since I promised you only five things...

3a. Gratitude is a Direct Route to Happiness. Want to be happy? Count your blessings. We are all so incredibly blessed and we don't even realize it half the time because we're looking at all the areas where life has fallen short of our expectations. Well what about the vastly larger number of areas in which it has met and exceeded...or at the very least mirrored the effort we put forth?

4. You Can't Know Another Person's Happiness. So stop looking over the fence and thinking that person is happy! C'mon...think about all the times you walk around with a smile on or tell someone you're having a good day, even though you're less than happy. Well, newsflash. Everyone else is doing that, too. In fact, some people are significantly better at looking happy than you are. The Dalai Lama is probably the happiest person on earth (that I know of, at least) and even his moods modulate. Besides, he's waited on hand and foot, worshipped far and wide and hugely respected. He was literally born to be a leader and a holy leader. But he was a leader in exile most of his life and his people were oppressed...all this happening to a very compassionate man. You want his problems? I didn't think so. So be careful what you're wishing for. 

5. Happiness Shouldn't Necessarily Be Your Goal. Contentment should. See, the ultimate goal in life is supposed to be balance, right? Well, happiness is weighted to one side of the spectrum. It's not in the center. And the things beyond center are harder to maintain. Not only that, but in order to have balance, things that are weighted to one end eventually have to be mirrored by things weighted at the other end. But contentment is at the center. It's satisfaction. It's upturned lips and a relaxed brow, but not quite a full-on smile. With contentment, there may be things in your life that are less than hunky dory, but you'll take it. Because it's pretty good overall...pretty good for a Monday. It's the wellbeing without the exclamation point. And it feels really nice. And, with the right mindset, you can maintain it longer. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

6/13/16—Peering Into the Mystic

Suddenly, my dog Mystic loves the back yard. She was always the first one inside, but now she spends hours out back alone, hunting for things and policing the perimeter. And I think I know why everything changed. 

As many readers are aware, the first few years I knew Mystic, I was in the midst of (what I now know to be) a three-year long asthma attack, the severity of which varied from day to day. But because I never coughed or wheezed, I went undiagnosed until I landed in an ER in the midst of a crisis. It was so severe some days that I would have to stop to catch my breath after walking from the kitchen to the living room, a distance of about 40 feet. It was miserable. It was scary. There were times it was so bad I thought I was going to die. All I did was work and sleep. And I napped a lot in between.

So that was Mystic's mommy for the first three years she was here. Mystic is a dog that needs a good bit of exercise and so she got walks as best as I could. A few days a week. Most days if I stopped everywhere they wanted to sniff, I could make it around the block. She's got behaviors that do not respond to training, but do respond to exercise. So it was a win-win for us to get her walked.

So the change Mystic made had nothing to do with me being more active now, because that's not even necessarily the case. But it did coincide with that ER visit, followed by a few days in the hospital. My disappearance, coupled with a strange caretaker, was traumatic on all three of the dogs.  

So maybe that somehow triggered Mystic's change. But I think it goes even deeper than that. Because while things appeared normal on the surface—I was going for walks, conducting business, doing the grocery shopping, visiting with friends—I was scared, panicked and miserable on the inside. My lungs were the only thing physically broken, but living that way for so long broke my spirit. And once I got out of the hospital, I was able to start feeling whole again. 

I believe Mystic was so dialed in to the heavy, thick sludge of my psyche that it changed her. Having brought her out a farm on a few occasions, I know her natural way is to just wander off and explore and stalk things. She was a rural girl. That is her nature. But all of that was suppressed because I was suppressed.

Another interesting observation is around the Kizzie situation. A few weeks ago, he ended up with a disc issue that may (and likely is) an indication of a larger issue with him. He's an old boy. And while the immediate issue of a ruptured disc is healed up, he's been having occasional issues indicative of ongoing spinal cord issues. So, until I came to accept that Kizzie is in decline, I was distraught. And during that same period, Mystic stopped taking part in her nightly fisticuffs with Magick. She resumed once I let go of my grief over this development with Kizzie.

Whatever it is, the bigger picture is that our pets know far more about us than we realize. I believe Mystic's story reinforces that we all transmit data that can be picked up by others without verbal, auditory or visual cues. Humans can do it. Dogs can do it. And probably everything in the universe can do it. In general, I think other animals are far more capable of doing it than humans. Our societal mores and critical natures get in the way of many of our natural instincts. 

And whenever a parent claims their young child isn't aware of issues in the home, I cringe. I remember knowing things I didn't hear or see, but sensed, as far back as toddlerhood. Two of those things, in particular, were later confirmed and I still can't shake off the feeling there's something more to one of them. So there probably is. The issues weren't concepts I understood at four, I had no words for them, all I knew was that something was fishy...something was odd, not quite right. 

But, back to Mystic. When I was growing up, dogs were just dogs. They were fabulous friends, but in the bulk of global consciousness, dogs were dogs. Separate. Lesser than. In my lifetime, that  consciousness has rather rapidly changed. Dogs may as well be people to most of those who have them as pets. Part of it is their distinct personalities, yes. But part of it is in this energetic exchange and intuitive understanding that goes on between us. 

We don't get to know and trust other humans as quickly and deeply as we do with a dog. And when it does occur between two humans, whether in friendship or love, we call them a soul mate. We hold the relationship sacred. We meet a handful of humans like that in our lives, but pretty much any old dog is capable of creating that experience, at least for me. 

I write this blog, in part, to explore the unknowable and spiritual in life. Myst became a completely different dog when I became different in energetic ways she could only sense, not see. She's not just a dog, and I have seen this capability in all my dogs. Children are not just children. And humans are not just humans. We are all connected to something we don't have the words for or even understand. And everything we do or hold inside us makes an impression on that collective consciousness (or whatever you might call it.) So what will you contribute to that vibe this week?