Sunday, March 26, 2017

3/27/17—Claiming My Senior Privilege

The first time he saw the ocean, he was a boy. Here he's seeing it as a man.
Kizzie is getting grumpy in his old age. 

Things he used to be fine with are now met with a snarl. Sometimes when I can't sleep, I come down and sleep on the sofa. It's not a terribly comfortable sofa. It has definitely seen better days. But it gives good sleeping. So anyway, the other night I came down and found Kizzie sleeping there. It's kind of his domain at night. But I figure I outrank him, so I give him a poke and tell him to scoot. And BOY, did I get an earful!

Kizzie has never bitten or started a fight with anyone ever in his life. People who know him will tell you he's the most gentle soul there is. But in his old age, he's getting really good at trying to convince you he's turned and he will snap your arm off. I laugh as I write it, because that's just not him. But he has learned the art of intimidation. And it comes in handy when Mystic won't stop licking him or Magick tries to steal his treat or when I try to move him off the sofa at night. 

Kizzie has a couple of things working in his life right now. One is that he occupies the role of top dog in the house. With that comes privileges. He gets to sit on the front porch with me, frequently off leash, and watch the sunset, while the other two stew in their jealousy inside. He gets secret treats sometimes that the others don't know about. And he also gets a larger share of the treats than the others. Granted, he's as much as twice Magick's size, but everyone knows the real truth—Kizzie has senior privilege. 

The other thing is that he's getting old. He's 13 and he's a 70 lb dog. This is a good life expectancy for him...average to good. So he knows that. He's getting warts and skin tags. He has a perpetually festering carbuncle on his butt. He's getting stiff in the legs. He knows he's nearing the end. He may very well have a couple years left in him. But he knows the score. 

So he really doesn't want to take any of anyone's bullshit anymore, thank you. He just wants to be comfortable. Unfettered. And dripping in senior privilege. 

Don't we all.

I've written before about how inspirational his self transformation was in the wake of Passion's death. The moral of that story was that we become what we believe. And Kizzie began to believe he was BMOC...big man on campus. He developed an inner and outer swagger that, combined with his lifelong ability to charm the ladies, turned him into a confident, compassionate leader. He found his groove. And now he's found his privilege. 

By privilege, I mean, he has found his voice. He is comfortable in his body, as ramshackle as its becoming. Although there are days he feels like 100, he's still eager to get out there and feel like 10 again. Or 8. He's at peace with his capabilities and limits. He is taking his aging with grace. He has earned his opinion on things. He's not afraid to take a stand. He's not shy about asking for what he wants. And the fear and anxiety he had when he first met us is all but gone. In a word, he has found his inner confidence.

If Passion was the dog that taught me how to love, Kizzie is the dog that is teaching me my rights to self confidence, transformation, inner peace and senior privilege. I've got the grumpiness part down, but still have a way to go on many of the other qualities. 

I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago. I'm still young, I guess. I'm 54. But many days I feel much older. I'm questioning some of the things I perpetuate in my life. I'm questioning my own self-torture over those things, too. I've been distracted by the question of what I'm going to do and who I'm going to be for the rest of my life. I feel a little lost in the world now. Maybe it's a post-menopausal version of a mid-life crisis. 

And sitting next to me on the porch each night is the epitome of someone who transformed himself entirely in mid life, without even questioning it. And now he's taking his senior years with grace, sometimes feeling 100, sometimes feeling 8 again, and wanting to be alive and face it and persist on either day. 

When I grow up, I want to be just like Kizzie.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

3/20/17—Remembering Who I Am

TBT: Me before the whole world went to shit.
A few weeks ago I disappeared from Facebook. At first I thought I'd be gone a week, at most. Now I don't know when I'll return.

It had been coming for a while. A few months back I decided to just log out and take a break. I left a message saying I needed a break, so nobody would worry. And during that break, I found myself logging back in and poking around, but not responding to anything. About a week into that, I was back to responding.

What I needed a break from was all the political posts. I just felt there was a lot of fear out there and it was reflected in the sensationalist and biased articles people chose to post, and the things we were all saying to each other. Heck, I had fear myself, which is why I needed to retreat into my shell. I needed to find out where my own sense of truth was in all of that, and everyone else's sense of truth was out there so loudly, I couldn't think above the din. And, no matter what the truth is, I wasn't going to live the next few years of my life in fear. So I retreated in search of my own lost balance.

I also felt that, while Facebook has been very kind to me overall, something that was once just a really fun way of socializing became an addiction for me. The difference between the two was in how I felt about myself in regard to what it was bringing me at the end of the day. It was no longer energy giving. It would often leave me feeling tired and disconnected and fearful. It was the same old Facebook. And I have some pretty cool friends. But I was absorbing all the collateral fear going on around me. And I was responding in ways that displeased me. And I began to wonder, "what did I do with my time BEFORE Facebook?" It had been so long, I couldn't remember.

So I deactivated my account. There was a last-straw moment for me that triggered it. Have you ever felt like some invisible something was right behind you—maybe you're walking up a creepy stairway or in an interaction with someone that goes weird—and you have that overwhelming urge quicken your step so you can get the hell out of there as fast as possible? That's how I felt. Which is why I deactivated my account—made myself unfindable, as if I was never there in the first place. In that moment, I just had. To. Get. Out.

I do plan on being visible again. I'm just not done with my mission of remembering what I did with my time before Facebook, yet. And I don't want to fall back into my old ways of peeking in just yet.

I feel bad, because I gave no warning. I mean, in my post a few months ago when I took a break, I basically said I might be unpredictable moving forward. But I never said (or even knew) I might actually fully disappear. And people knew they could come and see my Friday posts and my Sunday posts because I did them like clockwork...the Sunday post (which is what you're reading right now) has been posted every Sunday for seven years now!

And then one day I just disappear. Some people figured out new blog posts were still being posted here, at my personal website. Some realized I was still visible on Facebook Messenger and reached out. But I'm sure many more just thought I hated them or flaked out or something. So for that I'm sorry. But I can't stress enough how much I've been needing to take care of myself first lately. You'd be surprised how rarely a single woman with three dogs, a property, a house and a business to maintain takes care of herself first. I don't think single women get enough credit for all we shoulder entirely on our own. We may not be single mothers with toddlers, but it's not all bubble baths and bon-bons on this side of the fence either.

What I have discovered since leaving so far is that I get to bed earlier, which also means I get more sleep, which also means I feel healthier and get more done. Because I'm not checking Facebook compulsively, I'm less distracted, especially at night. When my attention isn't divided, I'm more engaged in one thing at a time, and I enjoy that thing more. In fact, overall, I feel more engaged in life, but all of that is also due to other factors. Work, for example, is going really well right now. I'm working on enjoyable projects, and I'm making money, which is always good. And spring is woven into our DNA as a time of renewal. So many things are driving positive changes right now.

I'm not going to lie, I'm terribly distressed by what is going on eight miles to the north of my house in DC. I'm heartbroken by some of it and appalled by some of it. And I'm still afraid of what this is making us and what it might make of our country. It's like seeing a wrecking ball repeatedly pound into your childhood home for absolutely no reason other than that it can....because the wrecking ball gets high on shock, destruction, attention and being in control. And there it is ruining everything you held dear in your heart for 54 years and there's nothing you can do to stop it.

I'm still trying to figure out a way to manage this period of my life with my inner peace and higher self in tact. I feel like we've been moving toward this moment for all our lives. It's revealing who we really are. As my dear mother would say, "it's shit or get off the pot time" for our souls. Do we want to be brothers or fearful, selfish savages? I'm shocked at the number of people in the WORLD who would choose the latter. And the funny thing is that they're often the ones who talk about Jesus the most. In their parlance, it's "are you ready to live Jesus' teachings or do you just want to use him as an convenient excuse to hate?" time. This period is revealing who we are at the core in contrast to who we claim to be, and none of us are coming out clean. We all have to do better.

So that's what I'm exploring these days. Kinda heavy stuff. But fear often works against healing ourselves and healing others. And if we want to heal, we have to be up to the challenge of addressing our own fear. Things actually could get worse, but only if we hold on to our fear.

A lot of what is going on in the world today feeds on that fear and cannot survive without it. Although I realized it before, I kind of had to break free of that for a while to realize my contributions to that, if not in word, but in deed and energy and attention. That's not who I say I am and it's not who I want to be. (And I'm not suggesting that that's who you are, either.) And I suppose I should be grateful to all of this for pointing that out to me. But now it's time for me to remember truly who I am.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

3/13/17—Finding Peace Within The Chaos

The sunset view we enjoyed at our noisy cottage near the beach.
I have felt outside of the mainstream all my life. Growing up, I never fit in...not in my family or society. I moved around a lot, which didn't help. I couldn't even find a key chain with my name on it. There just seemed to be no place for me.

And as I grew older, other things separated me even further. In fact, I don't know for sure whether I chose to be a loner or whether it was just the way dice rolled for me based on who I was.

Recently, I went to the beach for a few days to celebrate my 54th birthday. Well, we didn't stay at the beach exactly, but at a B&B a couple of miles from the beach. We had a little cottage all to ourselves, apart from the main house. We had a fenced back yard to ourselves. And the view was beautiful, for being in a neighborhood setting. 

But just on the other side of a thin fence was a well traveled road with a lot of loud, fast traffic. There's a 4-way stop half a block away, but a lot people seemed to be plowing through. Regardless, we were getting the sound of their engines as they cycled down and cycled up. It was unusually loud, seemingly made even louder by the contrast to the pastoral view I was gazing at.

As I sat there in brief moments of relative quiet between cars, however, it occurred to me that there is a place for me. There is a place for a tarot loving, dog-obsessed "mommy", writer, blogger, spiritual philosopher, awkward, hermity kind of loner. The places are few and far between. And I hate saying a really loud street corner is a place for me...haha. But B&Bs are for me. Cute little private cottages with kitchenettes are for me. And places that allow three dogs, but discourage children are for me...haha. 

And the thing is, I can work with the noise. I'm noise averse in my own quiet neighborhood, so I have tools. I have earplugs to sleep in, because I have loud birds outside my bedroom window. And when I'm outside at night and my neighbors are entertaining, I have noise cancelling earbuds through which I listen to music. So, between those two things, I barely noticed the noise at the B&B. In fact I think adding a musical soundtrack to the sunset and stargazing actually made the experience more Zen. 

I'm not into flashy or perfect or "grand" in general. And, again, I'm not sure if I choose to have fairly "pedestrian" tastes or whether I've just settled for them because they were what I could afford (and access with three dogs in tow). In fact, I've been thinking about that notion a lot lately. I wonder whether certain opportunities I have available to me—from the neighborhood I live in to the way I live my life—are things I chose because I wanted them or because I compromised at some point and just didn't think I was worthy of more. I feel like when I was growing up, I wanted for nothing. But that was because the things I wanted were always within reach. I wasn't exactly the little girl who asked for a pony for Christmas. So I wonder if I just extended that into adulthood, not wanting anything too sparkly so I'd never end up disappointed.

So all of this was swirling in my head as I blocked out the unfortunate traffic noise at the otherwise perfect B&B. And with my Chakra Chants blasting through my headphones, I looked up into the cloudless night sky, a 3/4 moon bright up above. A plane flew past and, with its quickly dissipating vapor trail illuminated by the moon, it looked like a slow moving comet streaking across the sky between the moon and Orion. Every 15 minutes or so, another "comet" would streak across the sky for me. It was a beautiful and inspirational sight, partly real, partly conjured by the trippy music and  partly created by my imagination.

And I thought to myself that the little girl who wanted a pony probably wouldn't have had this incredibly magical and mystical moment because she'd have no reason to block out the noise with Chakra Chants (which really made the moment...I used Native American flute music for the sunset), and she probably wouldn't sit for hours star gazing in 40-degree weather, either. In fact, she might not even know what Orion or a comet look like. 

If I'm being fully frank, many parts of my brief vacation sucked. My dogs get so filled with anxiety over new places that they didn't quite settle in for the few days we were away. And one is anxious in the car, making the trip home, in the snow, in high wind warnings while going over a bridge so scary that people actually make their living driving people like me over it, a nightmare. But the thing is, for better or for worse, this is the place for me. Most of the time I love it. And sometimes I cry thinking about how it might be somehow different or better.

It's interesting to note that last week's post was about being in the moment and, secondarily, dealing with disturbing noise. And as it turns out, this week's post is also secondarily about disturbing noise. In a way, that's what our spiritual journey is about, too—blocking the disturbing noise of our humanity long enough to access the peace and stillness of our divinity. 

It seems there's always going to be noise in our lives. It's not always the clatter of cars and birds and neighbors. Sometimes it's noise created in your head by a boss leaning extra hard on you. Sometimes it's the din of owing more in taxes than you have in the bank. Sometimes it's the cries of your own inner demons. And sometimes it's the long to-do lists required to keep ourselves fed and caught up on life. The ways in which we learn to calibrate life's cacophony go a long way toward defining who we are and how much peace we're able to find while we're here.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

3/6/17—Enjoying the Journey

I've been getting a lot of messages lately about being in the moment, and appreciating its beauty before it passes. Because it WILL pass.

The first message was when I was watching a sunset with Kizzie the other night. All the clouds were in the northwest, when usually most of the action is in the west and southwest. So I was looking up my street when the clouds took on an intense pinkness and this one house in particular was framed perfectly by the deep blue sky and intense pinkness.

As I noticed that and thought to myself, "it's a shame I don't have my camera out here, because those guys missed the most perfect shot of their house there could ever be," the sky changed. That quickly. And the perfect moment was gone. And, even though I was looking at it the whole time, I missed the transition because my attention was on cameras and perfect shots. My wandering mind wandered away from the moment.

So a few days pass and I'm sitting out back on a chilly, breezy, but otherwise gorgeous spring day, and I make a point to appreciate it. Then one of my neighbors starts in with some sort saw or something. It was in short bursts, completely unpredictable, off and on. So I decided to make a deal with the high pitched, brain eating buzz and I get some really good in-the-moment appreciation in in between the whirring, as well as some practice at non-judgment in regard to disturbing noises.

And as I drank in the Vitamin D of the sun on a cloudless day, appreciated my fully flowered ornamental pear, saw trees beginning their multi-phase leafing process, heard birds chirping and wind chimes chiming, a half moon easily visible in the midday sky, I was reminded again to appreciate the moment. And I lingered out there for over an hour. Maybe it was an excuse to postpone housework, but I gave myself that.

Because life is a lot like my neighbor's saw on a beautiful day. There are times when everything is in perfect alignment, life is perfect and you feel organically at one with nature and the universe. And then someone turns on a saw. And while the goal is to transcend the saw—and I get better and better at that all the time—eventually your moment comes to an end. Life intervenes. Your mind wanders. And you lose touch.

This is true about moments throughout your day. And it's true about life in general. It's true in the micro and the macro. Joy is rarely found in the thinking...thinking that the neighbors should really have a picture of their cute house with the clouds. It's found in the non-thinking...experiencing the fluffy pinkness of the moment and being within it as one of its many organic part of the cellular structure of the moment. (And there's really no reason the saw can't be part of that cellular structure, too. I just have a prejudice toward nature-made sounds, as opposed to man-made ones.)

Moments pass. Dreams pass. Life passes. And we get to decide when to be in the moment and when not to be. We also get to decide if, when something intrudes upon the moment, it's actually an intrusion worthy of giving our moment over to. Sometimes that means welcoming the intrusion into the moment, sometimes that means finding another moment that's free of intrusions, and sometimes that means removing the intrusion altogether.

I feel like I've been going through a big sorting process of intrusions lately. And as a result, I'm finding more peace and joy. Knowing that moments like these pass either suddenly or gradually without noticing, I'm making more of an effort to stop and enjoy them when I can. I have a habit of interrupting these moments too quickly with thoughts of chores and other distractions. But today I'm thinking the toilet will eventually get scrubbed regardless. So why not enjoy a perfect day?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

2/27/17—Spotting Your Reflection

Still waters reflect the truth of our heavenly and earthly selves. 
Today's post is a classic post from 2/6/12.

This morning, after a long absence, I returned to my favorite park spot to greet the sun. What I found both surprised and comforted me.

Everything was exactly as I left it three years ago when I gave up my sunrise trips in favor of sleep and blogging. The lone pine that bravely sticks its head above the canopy of deciduous trees—daring to be an individual, daring to claim the nourishment it needs—was still there. The constant din of traffic was there, still challenging the profound underlying silence of the park. And the same glassy water was right where I left it, reflecting the beauty of the sky above.

I confess I don't know enough about rivers to know why they always seem so still at the liminal times of the day. Maybe it has to do with the moon or tides. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it has to do with passing boats. But it seems like the river's surface is calmer at dawn and dusk than it is in the middle of the day. It could just be this particular location. A few miles away at Great Falls, the river is never calm.

We're kind of like the river in our spiritual journeys, aren't we? Sometimes we're calm and still, reflecting back both the beauty that beams down from above and that which gathers around us in our lives. And sometimes we're jumbled and chaotic, reflecting back a more distorted view of our reality. We move in and out of the pocket of love, flowing with the tides and the forecast. 

Looks like a pigeon, but it's a dove.
The other day, a couple of miles upriver, someone came across two doves that had been decapitated in some sort of ritual. The article said that doves and pigeons are pretty much the same bird. "Dove" and "pigeon" are used interchangeably and not even experts agree whether there's a difference or not. But you know the difference, don't you? Doves are those pretty white birds that mate for life. And pigeons are those nasty gray ones that poop on everything. Right?

Turns out pigeons and doves reflect something back on us, too. 

Looks like a dove, but it's a pigeon.
Everywhere we look in life there's a mirror. Our friends and family reflect back our strengths and insecurities. Our words and actions reflect back our beliefs and attitudes. Even the things we don't do or say...the people we don't hang out with...reflect back on us. We may be able to successfully hide our truth from others, but no matter where we look or what we do, our truth is always looking back at us. That's both good news and bad. The bad news is that, wherever you see something you don't like, you're responsible for it being in your life. The good news is that you also have the power to change it. Even if you can't immediately change your circumstance, you can change the way you view or approach it. 

So this weekend, see how many mirrors you can spot in your life. What does your home say about you? Your choice of a mate? Your pets? Your job? Your response to the email you just got? The quality of your friendships? The condition of your shoes? If you see something you're not pleased with, why is it still in your life?

Moreover, check the state of your internal waters. Are they calm enough to accurately reflect back some higher aspect within you? Or are they choppy, rough and discombobulated? If they're the former, don't take that connection for granted. And if it's the latter, consider what stills you and move toward that. Ultimately, the difference between living a pigeon life and a dove life is all in the way you see it.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

2/20/17—Letting Clouds Pass

Cloudy, gray sunset.
Last Friday (this is a classic post) we talked about how clouds make the sunsets more interesting and colorful, as do the "clouds" that come along in our lives. Last night's sunset kind of expanded on that. 

See, it started out all overcast and gray. And I was pretty sure the sunset would suck. But then I saw a tinge on pink on the bottom of one of the clouds and thought, "well now". Then minutes later, the sunset exploded into fabulous color. 

This reminded me of what happened at my last job. I said the wrong thing at the wrong time to my boss and she, in turn, completely handled the situation poorly and it became clear my days were numbered. So the skies on that day seemed pretty gray. But almost immediately it occurred to me to become a freelancer. The gray clouds got a tinge of pink. Then days later, I gave my notice. And, since then, it's been one wild, colorful, spectacular sunset! 

Kinda. :)
A hint of pink lines the gray.

It has certainly resulted in the best years of my professional life. So the very best thing that ever happened to me started out as gray skies. For some, the very best thing started out with a spouse leaving them. Or catching a disease. Or like something that happened as a result of an old friend's actions many years ago.

My friend drove drunk on New Year's Eve and it resulted in a boy's leg being severed from his body. She went to jail and hasn't lived a day of her life without thinking about that. But this boy contacted her 20 or 25 years later and told her losing his leg was the best thing that ever happened to him. He was going down a bad path and it was just the wakeup call he needed. Today he has a wife and children and he doubts that would have ever happened had he not been in the "wrong place at the wrong time". 

The sky explodes into glorious color.
Sometimes our gray clouds don't show their pink edges immediately. And sometimes the pink edges are very subtle and hard to see. But I can't think of anything that's happened in my life—even the really bad stuff—that didn't end up with pink edges and even spectacular color. 

We tend to think of things in terms of winning or losing or of whether or not the universe is on our side. But in the end, there is no loss. There is no such thing as an unsupportive universe. There are just people who prefer to live in perpetual victimhood. That sounds harsh, but the fact is that what you take away from an experience is your choice, not your fate. 

You see this in the video of the guy with no arms or legs who turned his disability into an extraordinary ability to inspire. And through the young girl singled out and shot by the Taliban for promoting education who, after recovering her ability to walk and talk, took her fight to a much larger and more powerful audience. And through John Walsh, who used his son's kidnapping to create a national sex offender registry and the precursor to the "Amber Alert". There is no telling how many lives have been saved or criminals captured as a result of this man's gray clouds. 

All these people turned their gray clouds into spectacular shows. Really, what challenges do any of us have that compare? There is a win in every loss we have...a bigger plan than we can ever imagine when we're down. Last night I waited about 15 minutes to see why the gray clouds had to be that way. Whatever you're going through may take longer. But it will change and the beauty of it will be revealed. All it takes is trust and making the choice to turn your eyes towards the gift.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2/13/17—Prioritizing Your Values

I do a weekend tarot reading for people every Friday evening that can be seen by the public on my Deck of 1000 Spreads Facebook page. And the card I chose for myself this weekend got me thinking.

It was an oracle card about priorities and the advice I gave was this: Time is not something that can be saved for later. So to make the most of your time this weekend, consider your priorities and values. 

I'll be the first to admit that I often fritter away weekends, then regret being unproductive. I know of ways to combat this, but I don't. My usual MO is to be a total lazy arse one day and do chores the other. Even as I write the words, it seems pretty reasonable to me. Especially when I'm busy as I am now during the week, I need the down day. But even so, I feel I could do better than just napping and eating a lot.

So as I considered my own advice, I started thinking about whether or not I prioritize things in my life according to my values. In some ways I do. But then I think about how I value my health, but don't prioritize it. I mean, napping could be considered as being for my health...getting more of that rest/repair time in. So maybe I should say I don't prioritize it necessarily in all the most constructive ways for what I'm trying to achieve, which is feeling better physically. 

Then the more I thought of all of all this, the more I asked myself what my values are and how I prioritize them. Of course, I know what things I value. But I'm not sure I've ever lined them up and prioritized them. In fact, I'm pretty sure I haven't put much active thought into my values (outside of politics) in quite some time. It just seems to be one of those things you develop, then place on cruise control. 

The problem with all that is that I effectively can't act in accordance with the things I value most if I'm always just winging it and doing whatever I seem to conveniently value in the moment. I do love to nap, but the thing my "health values" might prefer is something more active. And where is my book writing in all this? My spiritual work? My role as a doggie mom? Basic survival always comes first—earning money, maintaining a roof over my head and food and medical care for all. We can probably all agree on that. But how do our priorities shake out beyond that?

It's funny. I used to be a more disciplined person and I value discipline a great deal. But many years back I felt I was being too hard on myself, putting some things ahead of others that were more important at the time. And I stepped back from those things. I "gave myself a break". And now I'm seeing where it might be wiser to stop "being kind to myself" in favor of "doing what's right and responsible for myself."

I haven't figured it all out in the 36 hours since I gave myself that advice. I will probably be noodling over it a lot in the coming days and weeks. But my eyes are more open now. So, think about it. Are you living in accordance with your highest values? Where are you working against them? And have you thought about which of the things you value should take the most precedence?