Thursday, July 31, 2014

8/1/14—Contemplating the Veil

Something happened this week that changed me. 

Maybe it's something in the air. Summer in Washington, DC is known for its oppressive heat and humidity, but this summer isn't so hot or humid. Sure, we've had our days. But this week has been in the low 80s, breezy and not so humid. In fact, the other night I went to sit outside with my dogs and I had to grab a wrap to keep me warm. I don't get cold easily, so that was definitely something different. For July. 

The change is that I felt like a thin veil had been lifted off me and my mood was somehow lighter for it. The funny (sad?) thing is that I didn't even realize the veil was there, weighing me down, until it came off. I don't think it was depression as much as maybe stress. Summer tends to sort of pull down my energy, as if the heat sits upon my shoulders with everything else, making life more of a drudge. 

But like I said, the veil lifted. And I think it's the weather. I usually feel much lighter and more optimistic in autumn. It's like each falling leaf and each lowered degree of temperature comes right off the top of my head and shoulders where it's been perched all summer long. 

I never seem to feel the veil arriving, but I do feel it leaving. And so do my dogs. I'm not so grumpy in the fall. I have more patience for their obsessive behaviors and make more time for their gestures of love. This builds on itself and makes me feel even lighter. 

It could also be that this July has been particularly stressful, but the stressful parts are now in the past. It could be that and the weather combined. Regardless, I hope it stays like this for a while. For all I know, there's another veil on top of me that could also break free at any moment. It might just sweep me off my feet.

I didn't remember until I wrote that last sentence, but in my music healing visualization this month, I was both the person and a veil. The images that came to me were of a woman in a diaphanous gown holding a long, silken veil that undulated and danced in the breeze. At times, the woman and the veil moved as one, at times the veil had a life of its own separate from the woman, and at other times, the woman lay dark and prone as the veil tried unsuccessfully to fly free of her. Throughout it all, it occurred to me that the veil was what moved with life's changes and only the woman resisted. 

If I can see any message connected to both my healing session and what I experienced this week it's to fly free, regardless of what stressors may weigh you down. I'll be the first to admit that I indulge my grayer emotions too much. Working on that has been a lifelong project. And sometimes you have to feel the fear or work through the disappointment. But if the veil in my visualization is my spirit self, it's telling me I can be a drag...haha. Just like the veil that lifted this week was a drag on me.

I have two different veil metaphors working here, so sorry if it's confusing. Another possibility is that both veils are the same and my human self and spirit self dance about together and each of us brings light and clouds to the landscape of life. I'm not really sure what it means. But life feels good and on the upswing this week, so I'll take that. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

7/30/14—Thinking About The Future

So I overheard a conversation over the fence a few weeks ago. My neighbor was talking about me.

One of my next door neighbors is a stay at home mom. She has three kids and often hosts throngs of children in her backyard. Well, maybe not throngs. Maybe just a few on top of her few. Whatever. There are often extra kids over there.

I'm outside a lot, often on my deck box, meditating. You wouldn't necessarily know I was out there. So my neighbor is talking to a kid who is poking his hand through the fence to interact with Mystic and the conversation goes like this:

Neighbor: Quit playing with the fence.
Boy: But I'm talking to one of her babies.
Neighbor: Those aren't babies, they're dogs.
Boy: But my mom says they're her babies.
Neighbor: To HER they're her babies. But they're still just dogs.

My neighbor is, of course, right. In a way. That's not really why I'm telling the story. I don't really have an issue with what she said. I'm telling the story for two reasons. great is it that the kid's mom has an open mind like that and is teaching that to her son? These might be the kids that belong to the dogs that sometimes visit my neighbor's yard. So they get it.

But the second reason  is, just because they're not actual human children, doesn't mean my choice to have them and not humans is any less worthy of an endeavor. (Not that my neighbor was saying that, but more that it made me start thinking of that.) Moreover, remaining childless is no less important to the future of humanity than having children is. There's been a snobbery in the world for tens of thousands of years that favors those who "multiply". People truly believe it's the only reason humans propagate. But there's a growing problem with this mindset. Today's big topic of discussion is climate change and how that will affect future generations. Our grandchildren's big topic of discussion will be population control. 

Just for fun, here's how quickly people are propagating at this time. ( Check the difference between births and deaths. If that rate continues, some projections say the population will grow from 7 billion to 10.5 billion by 2050. What sounds like "just 3.5 billion" can also be stated as "half again as populous as it is now." That's 3 billion more people needing food, energy, infrastructure, medication, land. (Some may understand it better as half again as many cars on the road and people in line at the Safeway.) The more of earth's resources we use, the less resources there are for other species to use (species we call "food", for example), the more carbon dioxide that goes into the air and the faster we hasten along climate change.

Someone living in the midwest of the US might say "hey, there's plenty of room for everyone." But that's only because they live in a happy place with lots of land. For now. There's not plenty of room for everyone, especially if the temps around the equator get hotter, making that area unlivable and unproductive, and the polar ice cap melts, wiping away vast areas of land as water rises. Everything is connected. For example, the better medical care gets, the longer people live, the more populous the world becomes, the more overcrowded things get and the greater the risk for disease. For every action, there is a consequence. Or "no good deed goes unpunished," as people say. The more people there are on this earth, the more tension there will be between them as they fight for increasingly limited resources. The outlook is not pretty. 

Before anyone loses their top, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with having children. Clearly the future of our species depends on continuing to have children. What I'm saying, however, is that now, more than ever, the future of our species also depends on more and more people NOT having children. We're partners in this thing—not adversaries, not "greater than" and "less than"—equal partners. 

Very few people have children for the noble reason of supplying a future generation for humanity and very few people abstain from having children for the noble reason of containing the world's population. We all do what we do because it suits us....for what might be called "selfish" reasons. None of us are doing what we're doing as a favor to anyone other than ourselves. So why the superior attitude when it comes to parenthood? Why do we consider that the most noble thing a person can do with their life?

For tens of thousands of years, a human's ability to create and bear children has been an integral part of their worth and identity on this earth. A "barren" woman has, at various times, been cast aside in society. Or killed. Or pitied. Or a point of concern. This stigma has held over time to the point that childless people are paid less, worked more and given less consideration. They're also often judged as "less than" by many people who have children. They are, in every way from tax benefits to societal attitudes, second-class citizens. You may not even realize this is happening and/or that you're doing it unless you're the person without the children. It's that ingrained in our society. It's that accepted...that taken for granted.

So my neighbor is right. My "children" are not human and it's not the same thing as raising human children. But not necessarily for the reasons she might think. And her choice is no more noble or worthy than mine. Nor does it contribute to society any more than mine does. They are simply different choices, each with different, but equally important impacts on the future. So it's time for the snobbery and judgment to end. 

It's also time for people to realize that people who choose dogs over human children don't necessarily do so because they can't have babies or aren't married or are settling in any way. Some of us—myself included—do it because, like people who have children, it was what we dreamed of as a child and young adult. I played with stuffed animals far more than dolls as a kid. Back when I lived in an apartment and couldn't have pets, I went to dog parks a few times a week just to be around dogs. When I bought this house, I bought one with a large yard and pre-adopted a dog so it would be ready to move in the day after I moved all my crap in. Five years later I bought a new car that I didn't need other than the fact that it was bigger so I could transport another dog. There are vacations I will never go on and things I will never do...happily, because my first thought in life is always my dogs. I never wanted human children for even a split second, but my entire life I have ached to have dogs. 

My dogs ARE my children. Most people who have ever owned dogs understand that sentence and don't feel a need to say "my dogs are LIKE my children" or "my dogs are like children TO ME." I know many people who have both human children and fur children who also get that statement. For the people who have dogs and don't get that statement, I feel bad because seeing them as "just dogs" or as a security system or whatever is overlooking a lot of love and learning, imo. And just as my neighbor might think I have no idea what I'm missing, I can think the same thing of her. They're different levels of obligation and carry different levels of consequence and reward. Neither is "better" than the other when all is said and done. Neither is trivial or less than. Both are expressions of love that can sometimes overwhelm and always improve the kind of human being we, ourselves, become. If there's any more noble pursuit than that, then I don't know what it is. 

That said, I really don't have an issue with anything my neighbor said. I get it. I get her perspective. She is a very good mother to her children. But her comment led me to think of the attitude in society that dog parents or single people are contributing less than anyone else...that our quest is somehow trivial when held up against human parenthood. I agree that it's harder to raise a human child. But that's all part of the cost/benefit decision people make. To then hold that up as some badge of honor after you've decided to pay the cost to receive the kind of benefit you receive is a little martyred, imo. 

It's easy to focus on the positive impacts we have on society, but harder to see the negative impacts. In our lifetime, population won't be an issue. We'll die before the big issues caused by largely by population, industrial growth and the over-use of resources really hit. But, barring a disaster that wipes out huge portions of the earth, there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when it will be THE issue. And nobody will be looking to the Duggars as an example of how to proceed. Maybe then, people will finally get it. Everyone, no matter what the topic is, is here for a reason that moves the earth forward and none of us can lay claim to the higher ground. 

PS. Cats are babies too. I don't know anything about cats and the cat/parent relationship, so I didn't mention them. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

7/28/14—Moving Toward a Harmonious Whole

I can't remember the context, but I remember at some point in my girlhood someone told me that in friends groups of three, one person always felt left the third one time or another. And that would eventually cause conflict or hurt feelings. 

I have to say that, in my life experience, I've observed that to be true. I'm not sure whether it's just natural insecurity or what. The threesome can come together and have fun, but at some point someone tends to feel like the one liked least by one or the other party. Which isn't to say it can't work, but just that the dynamics change back and forth a lot, disrupting the whole. 

As you probably know, I have three dogs. It's hard to love equally with three dogs. For one thing, you only have two arms and, invariably, someone will get left out. When Mystic joined us, I gave her extra lovin' to the chagrin of the others, because I wanted her to feel welcome. But I could tell she felt left out, regardless. And how could she not? Kizzie and Magick and I had had five years together as a family. We had a groovy thing going and she, for no reason other than being new, disturbed that balance.

I've also always been concerned about Mystic fitting in because she's a bit of a square peg in our round hole. The other two dogs are very low key and can be a total spazz. So in the dog portion of the family, she often ends up being the third wheel. For example, if all three of them decide to wrestle together, Kizzie and Magick invariably end up double-teaming Mystic. Which she LOVES, actually. But she gets singled out in all sorts of other ways, too, that make me sensitive to her position in the family. 

Anyway, over the last six months or so, I've noticed some very interesting changes in the dog portion of the family. Each of them has found a way to spend one-on-one time with each build their individual relationships. Kizzie and Magick go outside every evening without me and Mystic and hang out together. Kizzie and Mystic often sleep together downstairs at night. (Because Kizzie is older, he can't come upstairs anymore.) This really warms my heart because Kizzie did NOT want a third dog and was annoyed about the situation for some time. He's very Zen and her energy is just too much. Finally, Magick and Mystic engage in fisticuffs with each other every night and usually also hang out outside together each morning after Kizzie comes inside. 

I didn't really notice this until recently, but I love how they all see their individual relationships as something important and worth nurturing for the sake of the whole. I've always made a point of forging individual, one-on-one relationships with each of the babies, too. These strong individual relationships seem to make the family stronger. Everyone manages to have their alone time. And everyone manages to have their buddy time. But most of the time we're all peacefully together in the same room. It just all feels very healthy and balanced to me. I worried about this for a long time because Mystic goes from 0-60 in a split second and doesn't seem to care who she tramples along the way. But it has worked itself out. 

We've all probably been Mystic at one time in our lives. For that matter we've all probably been Kizzie, Magick and me at some point. I remember having friend groups where there was someone I didn't like. So I would just avoid getting together when that person was around or whatever. But I never lived the role of the person wanting everyone to get together and work things out until I got my dogs. 

I've always been very compartmentalized with friends, rarely letting "worlds collide". It has been interesting to watch how these creatures that we deem inferior to us handle stuff like this. I grew up in a family of humans twice as large and, while some of us had individual relationships with another, for the most part we never even got to know each other on that level back then. The same can be said about neighbors, coworkers or another close group of people. We tend to separate, sort and filter when it's human to human. 

While we focus on ego concerns like who is liked the best or who said what to who, dogs just slowly shift and move themselves towards a harmonious whole. There is so much wisdom in a dog. So much of everything they do is love-motivated. What I've learned from dogs over the course of my lifetime is easily on par with what I've learned from my parents and other teachers. When I was growing up, there was a sense in society that they were "just a dog". But that's changing. The more time I spend with my dog family, the more I realize who the inferior beings really are.