Sunday, June 25, 2017

6/26/17—Turning Toward God

As I mentioned last week, I live right by three different neighborhoods I grew up in. And that kind of familiarity just naturally makes you think of your childhood from time to time.

When I was a kid, I remember we would haunt the neighborhood all day and into the night, playing with friends in front yards, hanging out on street corners, tromping through the woods looking for secret places to smoke, loitering in forbidden places.

I remember one time, in first grade, I intentionally took the wrong bus home so I could ride with a friend. I knew how to get home from her stop, so I thought, "why not?" I was clearly independent and a rule challenger even back then. I knew it was wrong. But I didn't factor in this sharp drop off between the land and the roadway. To this day there is no safe passage on that side of the road, and crossing the busy road was a challenge at my age—and I'd have to do it twice.

So just as I committed to navigating the dangerous, brambled precipice over the road in my dress (little girls wore quite proper dresses in those days, not comfortable clothes like jeans or leggings) my REAL bus driver rolled past, saw me and drove me home. I got in trouble for it, too. I remember my mother being both angry and perplexed.

It wasn't the last time her studious, well behaved daughter would get in trouble, either. I believe a well-timed family move when I was 14 changed my life and put me back on the straight and narrow, because I can honestly see where, if we'd stayed where we stayed, my whole trajectory as a human would have changed. I'd have gotten into drugs and I'd have just gone on a darker path at a time it would have overtaken me. I've done my share of drugs, and probably a little of your share, too. But it was all when I was older and had more of a handle on who I am and who I'm capable of being.

But I digress. I got in trouble for taking the wrong the bus and almost getting killed. Maybe. Who knows? But I primarily got in trouble because the road was dangerous and too busy for a six year old to travel alone. It wasn't as much because the world is dangerous and men prey on little girls so I can NEVER walk alone. Or play in the front yard. Or hang out on street corners. Or loiter in forbidden places.

The world I grew up in is a different world today. Kids can't even play unsupervised in their own front yards anymore. Men who indulge pedophilic urges, while not new, are more common today. And they don't just prey on girls, either. And it's not just that. It's hate crimes and bullies and school shootings, etc. All around, the world is a more dangerous place.

It's all a symptom of something with the power to utterly devastate humankind—it's a symptom of how we've been slowly closing our hearts over time. And now we have to limit our own freedoms to protect against those whose hearts have completely closed. And we have to suspect, not just creeps in cars, but neighbors and other parents—and even family members—because you just. never. know.

Our hearts just close more and more with each passing year or generation and, depending on how open you were to begin with, it's closing some hearts off to the point they just really don't care anymore. It's turning us into something different...something less human.

We are imposing an evolution upon ourselves that will eventually be our undoing. It shows itself in crime, drug abuse, bullying, racism, road rage, you name it. We close ourselves off more and more to certain types of people. We turn ourselves away from opinions that don't support our view. We don't trust those we don't know. We isolate ourselves inside our safe neighborhoods and social circles and workplaces. In short, we are losing trust and faith in god and humanity. And whether the belief came before the reality, or the reality came before the belief, this is where we are.

The rate of this evolution seems to be quickening lately, too. Maybe it's my perspective because I live in the US and everything has gone goofy here in the last year or so. But it seems like everyone and everything is darker and angrier. But then I'm darker and angrier. And frankly, there's a lot to be dark and angry about, regardless of your political leanings. I find it harder to hold on to my faith and trust in my spirituality. And it makes me sad. It helps to stay away from the news, but it's in the air. It's there, even if you don't participate.

I don't think it's too late for us. We may need to bring all this to the surface before we can heal. But it seems to me that something really big is going to have to happen to heal the ones who are the least awake. And that scares me. Like I said, it's a dark time. It's hard to see the light sometimes. But I refuse to accept that this is our fate...that we evolved to have this brilliance and all this ability, only to use it all to secure our self-destruction. But I know my countrymen are angrier than I thought they were and I know I'm angrier than I thought I was, and I don't see an end in sight until we shift focus...until we're ready to turn away from petty human hates and turn toward our spirituality once again.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

6/19/17—Seeing The Vine

There's a really pretty vine with bright orange flowers that grows wild here in Virginia. It's invasive, so you mostly see in less kept areas like the edge of roads or woods, but you'll also see it in peoples' gardens. And apparently it's toxic enough to make a person sick (but nothing near death) from coming into too much skin-to-plant contact with it. It's called Trumpet Vine and, besides looking pretty, hummingbirds dig it.

Not far from my house, there is a stretch of road I drive regularly. And when the trumpet vine is in bloom, I know exactly where to look on each side of the road to see it. It grows in the same spots every year.

Growing up, we moved a lot. The longest we lived somewhere was three years. The shortest was about two months. My father was in the military. It was the thing I hated most as a child. I hated it more than being bullied or feeling alone. In fact, I blamed those things largely on all the moving we did.

As an adult, I've only lived in two homes in the past 25 years. Both of them are in the same DC suburb. And both are also in the town I lived in the most in my childhood—seven years across two different parts of my childhood and in three separate houses, all accessible via the same, short two-lane road I live off today.

So as I was driving down that road this week, knowing just where the trumpet vine grew, all along the stretch in front of the house I lived in when I was four—the house where I lived in the creepy room where strange things happened—I thought about how comfortable and planted I had become.

Growing up, all I knew was a transient life. When I turned 27 or so, the transience stopped. I moved only once, because I bought a home. And now I've been here 18 years and know exactly where the trumpet vine grows along the side of the road. And because I live pretty close to the city, not much has changed around here in my lifetime. It was all built out by the time I came along. Nowhere to put new houses.

We even still have the same 5 & 10 I've been shopping for treasures at for 50 years. Not too many of those still around, but this place is usually bustling. I look at the little kids rushing to the toy aisle, the school supplies or the candy bins and can't help but be nostalgic. I don't know how they do it, but they have everything...any little thing you need. So it's all very comfortable and familiar.

When I was young, I used to long for a "home town" and for a sense of permanence. Now I think I have something equal to that. Better, actually, than living in the same place all my life because nobody's been all up in my beeswax all my life, and I also have the benefit of having experienced other places.

But, this week, as I caught myself spotting the trumpet vine on the roadside to my right, then looking to my left to get a look at the vine on the hillock in front of the creepy room house, it didn't feel comfortable the way it had in the past. It felt maybe too comfortable.

I love my home and don't want to leave. But this week I wondered to myself about the life I gratefully ran away from all those many years ago. There were benefits to moving. You got to start again with a clean slate. And it shook things up...added new anticipation and hope, along with the unknowns that brought anxiety. You were forced out of your comfort zone on a regular basis. I could possibly use some of that right now. But, for now, I'm still holding on to comfort.

I know that change is impossible to achieve without leaving your comfort zone. But comfortable is comfortable. Maybe it's an excuse, but it does seem harder to muster the courage to change the older you get. Just thinking of all the energy I had to move from apartment to apartment or to take off in my car and seek adventure when I was younger makes me exhausted. And it also makes me sad, because I felt more alive back then.

To think that I would just grow old and die in the context of all my current life variables is not appealing to me. On one hand I'm comfortable, but on the other I'm not terribly happy or alive. When I was a kid, I longed for the comfort of constancy in my life...constancy I never got, except for being with the same parents and siblings. Now I'm beginning to see that what I longed for for so many years is no longer working. It had a really good run, but now it's starting turn.

Because I tend to move at a snail's pace in life lately anyway, I don't expect a shakeup soon. I've thought of this before and, at one point, was close to pulling the trigger on leaving my big city suburban life behind. Then I descended into years of illness and my energy was focused elsewhere. But today I'm thinking that 10 years from now, that pretty vine will still be growing on the side of the road. And, if I do right by myself, I won't be here to see it.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

6/12/17—Exploring Your Inner Fear

Here's an oldie but goodie post.

Consider for a moment that there are only two things human behavior is made up of—love and fear. And every choice you make is either one or other. If you're not choosing to love, you're choosing fear. And if you're not choosing fear, you're choosing to love. 

Why love and fear? Because love is love. And fear is the absence of love. Love is a divine trust that everything is beautiful and perfect as it is. Fear is an absence of trust that everything is beautiful and perfect as it is. 

Of course there's a spectrum...a little fear and a lot of fear. But whenever you're not
choosing love, you're choosing fear.

That person you hate? It's not really hate. It's fear that what you dislike in that person is also within you...fear of what you'll do with that realization...fear that you are not yet who you wish to be...fear that you are not who you represent yourself to be. 

We all contain the capacity for the full spectrum of dark and light within us. Whenever we see a behavior in a person that we don't like, we say "that is separate from me." But there is nothing in god's universe separate from you. There may be behaviors you don't exhibit or places you don't go, but the capacity is within you. And denying that what you hate in others is not within you fractures you, holds you captive, keeps you separate from god and keeps you from loving and embracing yourself. And the more you deny being that which you hate, the more loudly you become that which you hate. That is the power of fear. 

If you can't see those dark parts that are mirrored back at you from your "enemy" with true understanding and if you can't look upon people you judge with the genuine grace of "there but for the grace of God go I", then you're not just in denial, you're choosing fear. And when you're choosing fear, you're choosing to distrust that everything is perfect as it is, you're choosing to distrust god's plan, you're choosing not to love, and as a result, you're choosing to live in the darkness within you and not in the light. When you live in the darkness within you, you're just a shade or two or three from the unspeakable atrocities you witness on this earth. 

The Westboro Baptist Church? Just a darker shade of fear than the shade you choose when you hate and separate. The KKK? Just a darker shade of fear. Hitler? Just a darker shade of fear. All, by the way, have some love mixed in and you should be able to see that, too. But all began as all babies do, with pure love. I always make allowances for those with the kind of genetic anomalies that cause mental illness. We all have genetic anomalies, though. Ours just resulted in funky ear lobes or a tendency to heart disease instead of mental illness (there but for the grace of god...) But fear is something we learn, not something we're born with. And when we turn toward fear instead of love, we run the risk of traversing into ever deeper shades. 

Beneath most negative emotions is fear. Behind happiness, joy, trust, acceptance and peace is love. Every choice you make that does not embrace the beauty of what "is", is a choice of fear. The traffic jam that makes you feel impatient. The person whose lifestyle you envy. The homeless person you judge. The weather conditions that "ruin" your picnic. Or the obstacle that vexes you. All of that is fear. All of that breeds separation. All of that exhibits a distrust in the your god. 

So as you walk through your week, consider the choices you're making. And when negative emotions well up, trace them back to the fear within and consider what a loving choice would be instead. And if you're reading this on Facebook, consider clicking through to my blog where you'll find more thought-provoking quotes on the topic of love vs. fear. :)

Sunday, June 4, 2017

6/5/17—Facing The Changes Ahead

I've come upon a depressing realization recently. The me I am today is not conducive to creating the me I want to be tomorrow. If I want to grow and thrive, I have to change who I am.

It's actually a bit of a "duh" realization. I mean, you can't break out of a cycle without changing. If the current you just keeps doing and being the same things every day, you will remain the current you. I think I've known this for a while, but have been willfully blind to it. 

I'm not going to miraculously wake up a different person one second before I need my different-person skills. It is actually that different person that is going to make my dreams real. 

By "different", I'm not talking about changing who I am at the core. In many ways, what I'm talking about is reclaiming parts of myself, such as the drive, energy and discipline I had in my 30s. Those are all things I admired about myself, but lost to age, illness, laziness and a lack of vigilance. 

I KNOW I have what it takes inside me. In fact, I believe I have what it takes to surprise myself and everyone I know with all I'm capable of accomplishing. Twenty years have passed since my 30s. I'm way more mature and balanced and considered these days. So I know I have the tools to accomplish so much more than I did in my 30s. I'm just having a hard time accessing it right now.

This past week I had some sort of stomach bug. I was nauseous and poopy for the greater part of four days. During that time, I couldn't keep any nutrition in my body and nearly passed out on a dog walk. When I got home, I checked my blood sugar and it was about 100 points higher than normal...nearly double what is healthy. Blood sugar will spike on an empty stomach, but I had never seen mine so high.

In that moment I really realized how dismissive I'd become about my health. I mean, I know I'm overweight and have asthma, which is dismissive enough. But I had never had an adverse reaction to anything because of my diabetes. It really drove it home for me that this body...this person in this body acting the way this person currently does...cannot achieve the things I want to achieve. This person who tolerates clutter in her home and in her brain cannot achieve these things. This person who sees everything as a justification to nap cannot achieve these things. 

I feel the woman who can accomplish these things inside me, though. She's really just beneath the skin waiting to come out. I resist her for reasons ranging from fear and self sabotage to exasperation and doubt. Part of me is readying for one last push. Another part of me feels defeated by all the attempts I've made in the past five years that kept failing because I was too sick to follow through. But I'm not sick anymore. And while I use that as an excuse, I really can't credibly do so anymore. 

I often ask myself, if I learned I was dying tomorrow, would I have any regrets? And, frankly, I believe the answer would be no. I'm not one to have regrets. I did what I was capable of doing at the time. But would I be disappointed that I didn't write my book and spent the last few years hastening my demise? Probably. For a moment. Again, I did what I was capable of at the time. It would have been nice to be capable of more, but I wasn't. 

More than anything, however, I would be disillusioned. I truly believe we come here for a reason and while I have spent quite a bit of time putting the word of personal growth and spiritual alignment out in the past five years, I believe I am called do even more. So I would be disillusioned that I wasn't given adequate time to move past the personal obstacles that keep me stuck in that regard. Not that it's anyone's fault but my own. On the other hand, maybe I'm being too hard on myself. I mean, I HAVE published 1200 essays on the topic. 

So anyway, that's where I am this week. In some ways I'm at a turning point. In some ways I'm afraid I won't take up the opportunities I have available to me. To quote the movie Taken, "I have a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career." Using those skills comes very easily for me. It just really comes down to what part of my personality will win? The part that lives to create things that move others? Or the part that lets depression and self-defeat get the better of her?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

5/29/17—Showing Up Early

I'm that person who tends to show up early for everything. And for the past week or so, I've spent a few choice moments with my counterpart in the firefly kingdom. 

I have been anxiously awaiting the fireflies this year because I've set up some really cool solar lights in my yard that fade between different colors. Each year when the fireflies show up, there are a few nights when it's absolutely magical. There will be countless numbers of them dotting the grass and sky, blinking on and off, like tiny white Christmas lights in the summer twilight. Combine that with my cool solar lights and one's mind might blow right out of their head from all the awesomeness.

The fireflies haven't arrived en masse yet, but there has been one guy around for at least a week. OK, maybe it's not the same one. But maybe it is. Both I and my neighbor have seen him. They have nice, thick grass over there, so their yard, in particular, puts on quite a show. 

Anyway, when I saw the early arriver last night, it just felt so magical. It flew very fast and blinked kind of slow, so you never knew where you'd see him next. At one point, he seemed to be flying right at me to the point I was nervous that the next time he'd blink he'd be right in front of my eyes and startle me. 

I never realized how special fireflies were until I made a post on Facebook about them a couple years back and lots of people commented that they miss seeing them or had never seen them at all! They like heat and humidity, lots of trees, and they also like sources of water. My woodsy neighborhood is about a half mile from the river, as the firefly flies, and the DC area is famous for its sticky summers. 

Apparently, you don't see them anywhere west of Kansas in the US. The furthest west I've lived just happens to be Kansas City. And if they didn't have them in other states I've lived in, I just may not have noticed. I thought they had them everywhere. 

Fireflies are said to bring illumination and awareness of the light within. That's kind of fitting for the past few weeks. I've been seeing some old things in new ways. I'm more at peace. And this year, in particular, I've moved away from some toxic people and situations in my life. I'm seeing many things more clearly. I'm seeing the dramas I've been caught up in for 54 years for what they are. And I'm starting to see my way out.

I almost feel like I can safely exhale. Though even as I type those words, I'm afraid I'm going to jinx them. It feels like—and actually may be—years since I've been able to say that. 

I think of my friends and see many of them bracing against tides real or imagined. And I see the same in my fellow countrymen, wondering what is going to happen next and what it will mean. And as I glance around the world, I can imagine many are in a similar, but nonetheless different, breath-holding place.

With as introspective as I am, my mind is always on something that needs to be done or something within me that needs to change. And I forget about just enjoying life's simple pleasures...a morning spent with a cup of coffee in the back yard, a long hot shower, a silent snuggle with one of my fur babies or a night spent watching the lights twinkle. These are the things I've been doing lately. And before I do them, I try to take all my worries and cares and to-dos and lock them away for safe keeping in a vault somewhere in my head. And when they poke out, I poke them back in and save them for later. 

I can't believe we're here just to worry and rush about and preoccupy ourselves. It seems like doing that is a waste of a perfectly good opportunity to live. Maybe my firefly friend showed up early to enjoy the quiet time before all the business of mating occurs—to really live before he dies. Maybe he showed up to teach me how to do the same.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

5/15/17—Breaking the Addiction

I smoked for 20-some years. I smoked like a chimney. And each time I would fail my quit and pick up a cigarette, the first couple would make me sick and dizzy. Then I'd be right back to my old smoking self again.

The observation I would make each time was what a powerful drug it was. You don't feel the power like that after a few cigarettes. You only feel the power of it two times—when you want to quit, then when, after a few days into your quit, you start back up again. The rest of the time, it has way more of a hold on you than you're conscious of.

The general public doesn't seem to see nicotine as a drug in the same way alcohol and heroin are. But ask a recovered heroin addict or stand outside an AA meeting one day and you'll see the one drug they can't seem to quit. They embrace nicotine so they can have it to comfort them while they get over their drug addiction and figure they can always quit smoking. But then when they try to quit and try to quit and try to quit, they see how dependent they truly are on getting their multiple fixes each day. It's much easier and cheaper to get a nicotine fix, so that may mask the depth of the addiction, but many studies indicate that only heroin is more addictive and tougher to quit than nicotine.

But this isn't about smoking. I have been nicotine-free for fourteen years and it no longer holds sway over me. Still, I can't ever smoke a cigarette again, because I'm an addict.

This is actually about other "drugs" I cleansed myself and didn't see the power of until I quit and put my toes back into the water. Now, I use the term addiction more broadly than is scientifically correct. I use it to identify habits in our lives that compel us, regardless of how bad they make us feel. So it may not even involve a drug at all. In the past I have been "addicted" to man, a resentment, a line of thought, etc. The same is true as with addiction. We have no idea how much of a hold these choices have over us until we quit or start back up again.

So I left Facebook a few months ago, and on top of that, about a month ago, I stopped reading and watching the news. As for the news, all I did was skim the front page of the Washington Post each day...30 seconds max, once a day. The "pain" in quitting the news came mostly from the fear of not knowing if our president nuked someone, sold our country to the highest bidder or defected to Russia. I got over that quickly.

In the past, I've never had an issue with the news. I never really followed it and, in the past, it was easy to just look away and trust. But we have a volatile, out of control man in charge and it has our country at an elevated level of anxiety. And I wanted to separate myself from all that. And I did. And with both of those compulsions out of my life—the Facebook and the news—I was more at peace, more balanced, more objective and happier.

It turned out to be easy, because I somehow picked a few weeks where nothing too terribly untoward happened. But that was before our president fired the man in charge of the investigations looking into his possible collusion, then admitted that he fired him because he didn't like the investigation. Which is otherwise known as obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense. Then he kind of threatened the man he fired that he better not say anything untoward because he has "tapes". Personally, I think they need more than that to impeach, but my, what fodder Trump gave his enemies this week! And he just handed to us without us having to do anything. This man's inability to keep his mouth shut will his undoing...if it doesn't become the death of us all before that can happen.

But anyway, the first day of following the Comey thing was OK. After that, I started to see how powerful a drug it is. My mood and energy and desire to accomplish things quickly went into a downward spiral. I started staying up way too late again. I stopped spending time outside (aided by a rainy week.) I commented on news stories online and allowed others to get under my skin. I started becoming distracted again. I started feeling the power and the pain of the "drug". When I quit, I felt cleansed. Now I was beginning to feel toxic again.

It wasn't until I quit and became "cleansed" that I could understand the full breadth of its effect on me. Before I would have said "the news isn't helping my mood." Now I have to say, "the news is the major contributor to my negative mood." And now that realization is awakened in me, I either consciously choose to be more at peace or I don't. I can't claim ignorance anymore. I sat outside yesterday and turned my attention the universe and that's when I realized how quickly I had let go of a sense of balance that was prevalent just a week before.

Now, I'm not going to say I'm addicted to news or Facebook. But I am saying that both have a net negative effect on me similar to an addiction. At times they totally fuel a more positive feeling. Honestly, I have SO given up on Trump having anything positive to offer that I was quite happy as last week unfolded. I tried many times to be objective and give him a chance, but he has just proven to be a disappointment each and every time. I would be a fool to keep holding out hope. The writing is on the wall. And I'm not alone. No president in modern history has met with greater disapproval.

But none of that is a reason to hand my sense of balance and inner peace over to something with a net negative effect on me. The good times do not outweigh the bad times. It is my choice to decide what I want. And, knowing what I know, if I don't hand my sense of peace over consciously, then it's my fault for ignoring what I know. Not Trump's. Not the news organizations. It's all on me.

Maybe news doesn't do that to you. Maybe it's fixation on some slight that has been perpetrated upon you. Maybe it's a romantic partner that hurts more than they love. Maybe it's a job situation you continue to tolerate. Maybe it's a friend who always brings you down. Or maybe it's a habit of negative self talk that you perpetuate around some issue or fear. You'll never know just how deeply it affects you until you free yourself of it. And if you're considering going back to it, it will no doubt hold the same unhealthy sway as it did before.

Becoming more conscious and self aware requires us to get at the root of the things that drive us. Drawing the connection between the news and a continued fear of what's going to happen next is easier than, say, recognizing why we keep befriending emotionally broken individuals. But these things that leave us with a net negative effect must be explored. It's not enough to just remove the stimulus from our life. We have to figure out what is going on within us that perpetuates the issue.

With the news thing, I can see how it preys on my fears. What our president does is completely out of my control and because his presidency has been marked by instability, broken promises, lies and sketchiness, it preys not just on my control issues, but also on my sense of safety in this world. There is little I can do to protect myself from anything that may come. And while some of my fears are warranted, some are fed by the sensationalism around the subject. I also have to look at the state of my faith in a higher power and my belief that what goes around comes around. Those are things that bring me peace, and so I have to ask myself why I'm choosing fear over peace.

The fact is, I will know if something big happens. A friend tipped me off to the Comey thing and my daily scans of the paper also keep me informed. So it's my choice. And whatever brings fear or pain  into your life is your responsibility, too. That may be because you refuse to examine it in favor of being in denial or it may be because you are conscious, but choose to ignore it or not fix it. There is always fear and stakes involved with making changes in our lives. But when that change is a move toward peace and happiness, the pain is only temporary and we quickly realize we've given it far more power in our lives than is reasonable or healthy.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

5/8/17—Getting Back To My Old Self

I pressure washed my deck this weekend. It was almost the miracle before-and-after I hoped for. It was also a miracle (of sorts) in many other ways.

First, this wasn't something I could even remotely think of accomplishing for years when I was sick. And I would venture to say that I've accomplished more in that back yard this year than in the last 15 years, simply because I had been lazy for quite some time. I had adopted an attitude of "you can't do everything that needs to be done, so why even try?" That seems to be shifting. My asthma makes things harder, but I've come to a place where I'm not going to let it render me weak and unable. I'm past the fear and grief of it and now I'm challenging it. Lately it's been cooperating fairly well.

That said, the deck washing took everything out of me...haha. The hose has pressurized water in it. So you can't just casually hold it. It has a kick that you have to neutralize. And you also have to keep the trigger pulled. Even though neither of these things take much effort, over the course of 4 hours with the vibration of the machine reverberating through your arms, it wears you down.

Second, I've never cleaned that deck in the 17 years I've lived here. I've thought about it. But that's when the lazy part gets my ear. If you want a truly clean deck, don't wait 17 years. That's why it took so long to clean and still has stains. So many of the boards have cracks and whatnot and the stains and discoloration are seeped in. A really good job would have included me sanding the boards down to get those stains out and make everything smooth, but that's just way too much trouble for little old me. I'll let nature wear it smooth again. Just the fact I did what I did was a breakthrough. 

But it's more than that. I haven't really given a crap how dirty it looked, nor had I respected it in proportion to the service it has given me. I mean, I'm out there a LOT. My dogs take flying leaps off it multiple times a day. And it's still solid as a rock. I think the fact that I now care is a reflection of the better care I've been taking of myself. "Be kind to yourself" is the mantra I've used to replace the thought of "you're wheezing and puffing and a miserable weakling and it's all your fault for being fat and smoking two packs a day for 20-some years." Truth is, I'm grateful all I have is asthma. My brother died of lung cancer at my age. I'm glad I quit smoking when I did.

Third, how freaking awesome of a single female homeowner am I? I pressure washed and sealed my deck! All by myself! Owning a home brings many a DIY moment, but I think this is one of my highlights. And how awesome is it that I own my own pressure washer? I may have the only one on the block. I bought an electric one because they're not that expensive and I have visions of pressure washing other things. I have a stone patio that wouldn't mind some cleaning, too. You can even wash your car with one. 

Finally, there was a drive in me to finish the job on schedule. Like I became possessed with finishing. And that happens fairly often with me. But it doesn't happen when it's cold and raining intermittently and all my activity is nonetheless making me sweat because it's 90-100% humidity, making me overheated and shivering at the same time. The longest break I took was 10 minutes while the deck wash chemicals were doing their thing. I pushed farther than I should have. But I got a sense of my limit and it's farther than I thought it would be. 

The fact that I pushed myself so hard, though, reminds me again that I'm capable of more than I thought. I thought this would be a much easier job and it took twice as long as I anticipated. But it didn't occur to me to leave it for a day when it wasn't raining. (I did have to leave the sealing for Sunday, but that was more a function of the rain. The stuff sprays on easy peasy and you can put it on a damp deck, but rain would not be good.) I'm finding myself sticking to my schedules lately, all around. I'm even working ahead a lot at work. This is a drive that had been gone for quite some time and I'm glad it's back. I believe in being disciplined.

So even though my back aches and my energy was wrecked Saturday night, it was still a victory. Because I felt NORMAL. And I have been wanting to feel that way a long time. A very, very long time. It has been a year and a half since I was diagnosed with asthma. The years leading to that were so dark. I had bought into the thought that I'd always have that deep exhaustion and depressed, cloudy head. And it turned out that being diagnosed and treated was nearly the miracle I had hoped for, too. "Nearly" because it wasn't an overnight miracle. It took a long time for me to feel human start recovering the pieces of myself I abandoned to my illness. 

I stepped away from Facebook a couple of months ago. And a few weeks ago, I stopped looking at the news on a daily basis. Now I just glance a headlines and move on. And the overall effect has been a cleanse of sorts. I have some rough spots, stains and dings that will never be removed, just like my deck. Neither of us will be like new again. But both of us are getting as "back to our old selves" as is possible at our age.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

5/1/17—Being Counterintuitive

The weekend got away from me, so here's a classic post from last March to enjoy. 

For the past week or so, I've been doing something I normally wouldn't do.

One of my Facebook friends nominated me to post a photo a day for 10 days that represents an act of self love. I'm not much of a joiner and I have philosophical issues with many of these canned, viral posts, even when they're something positive and loving like this. You know what I'm talking about. The posts that say "I'll bet my friends won't even read this post" and "if you believe children shouldn't starve, put this story on your wall. If you don't, I'll understand." While those are  overt examples of guilt manipulation, this whole notion of "nomination" to do something that could only be considered good, is just one step down, imo. It's all done to encourage a yes...and induce guilt and/or shame if you say no. (And this is NOT a commentary on the person who nominated me. They didn't think this idea up. They were nominated themselves and thought I'd enjoy it. They came to see what I wrote each day. This isn't about them. It's about me and how I normally feel about these kinds of posts. I usually want to say "no" on principle.)

But anyway, I had done some interviews of young people for a client and this one really impressive young woman told me about how, when choosing a summer project, she chose the one she thought she'd like least. When I asked her why, she said you can't make a decision about something because you *think* you won't like it. You have to try it first. And since the consequences of her particular choice were minimal, she thought "why not?"

I'd had that discussion in my head for a couple of weeks and hoped an opportunity would come along where I would make a counterintuitive choice. Then this came along. And I'm glad it did. 

Of course, my first thought was "how will I ever come up with 10?" But, frankly, I feel that way all the time at work—"how am I ever going to approach THIS challenge?" :D But I always figure it out. So I decided to just take it one step at a time. And what I discovered surprised me. 

See, I have this idea in my head that I don't really take good care of myself. I got that idea because it's true in regard to my weight and fitness. And also because there was a time in my life that I took way better care of myself. Back then, I was fit, had much lower living expenses, rented an apartment and had no dogs. So what else did I have to do but nurture myself? But now there's a house to keep, a yard to tend and dogs to care of—there's more that draws me away from my self care. Add that to the low energy I had those years I was sick and I was at the bottom of the priority list when I probably should have been at the top. 

About a year ago, though, I started doing nice things for myself, mostly nail care and skincare type things. But I never changed my self perception as someone who doesn't take good care of herself. For years, I had been told by my doctor that that's why I felt so bad...because I wasn't doing the diet and exercise stuff I should. I thought maybe I caused my issue. So while I knew I've had a lot of baggage around the self love issue, I guess I didn't realize how much. Until I did this photo exercise. 

What I found out was that, without even trying, I did multiple things a day that would be considered "self-loving". In fact, some days I had a hard time choosing. Today was my last day doing the photo post thing and I used the self-love practice I had been keeping in my pocket in case I needed one in a pinch—the time I spend with Kizzie watching sunsets. I didn't even need to use it today, but I didn't feel like I could do this exercise without mentioning my favorite thing ever. (BTW, other things I highlighted over the 10 days were napping, appointments with energy healers, home decoration things, taking "me" time and indulging my hobbies...stuff like that.)

In fact, I could do this damned thing another 10 days—all month possibly—without duplicating anything. I didn't know that 10 days ago, but I know it now. This has made me more aware of my self-love habits. And now I have to start seeing my capacity for self love differently. 

The perception that I didn't take good care of myself, fed on itself and perpetuated. It was intertwined with how I felt about myself. It was intertwined with fears. And depression, the heaviness of how I felt for so long and baggage that goes back to childhood.

It's both a relief and liberating to realize that my worst critic and frequent enemy isn't really as bad as I thought. Instead of wanting to destroy me, it's actually looking for ways to lift me up. It sounds a bit silly to say, but discovering I wasn't undermining myself as badly as I thought changes everything! It kind of reverses some of the momentum of negative self talk I have inside. 

So my experiment in being counterintuitive and challenging my opinions has been successful. Will I start cutting and pasting manipulative posts about starving children on my wall? Not likely. Will I do a photo thing like this again? It depends on the theme. But this one was right up my alley, I learned a lot about myself doing it and other people enjoyed reading about it. So it was an all-around win. What could you do to challenge an untested opinion or belief this week?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

4/24/17—Being the Tragic Catalyst

Varner's on the left, Zeke's on the right and the girl in between is conservative.
So I was watching Survivor and something really deep happened.

If you don't watch, the show has been on 34 seasons (twice a year, so 17 years). The premise is that a group of maybe 20 people have to survive on their own in a deserted area and, one by one over the course of 39 days, someone is voted off the island. The fans seem to like it when old players return. So every few seasons they have an all-star show. This is one of those seasons. And I'll confess: I haven't watched all 34 seasons of the show, but I've watched a lot of them.

So there are these two, openly gay male Survivors, Jeff Varner and Zeke. (We call Jeff Varner "Varner", because the host of the show is Jeff Probst and he gets to be "Jeff".) So Varner and Zeke had recently struck a special bond in the game, and they confided in each other over some personal things. I think both of these guys are on their third game of Survivor, so they know it could be risky to confide in others and form secret pacts, but they did. And part of the bond was that Zeke would tell Varner if he was going to be voted out next.

So the in-crowd have a straw poll to see who to send home and it comes down to Varner and another guy, Ozzie. And this is where things start going wrong. Zeke defends Ozzie and says he'll vote out Varner. It's clear he genuinely likes both of them, so he must have a stronger pact with Ozzie. Then Zeke, keeping his word, tells Varner he's getting voted out. Varner figures out Zeke's loyalties aren't  with him, so he sets out to cast suspicion on Zeke and Ozzie, hoping they'll go against Zeke and vote Ozzie out instead. It's a pretty crappy game that way. Lots of backstabbing.

But that's not the bad part. It gets worse. 

When they go to Tribal Council that night to vote out either Varner or Ozzie (and we don't know which at this point) the host, Jeff Probst, asks some questions. And Varner starts talking about how everyone should vote out Ozzie and how Zeke can't be trusted. And then, to punctuate Zeke's deceit, he reveals something that NOBODY knew—at least not the viewers or other players. He outs Zeke as a transsexual. And, worse, he did it as if to say that being transsexual is a special kind of deceit that can't be forgiven.

All the players immediately attack Varner for outing Zeke. Varner himself then realizes how horrible he low he'd go to win that million dollar prize. It was the first time in 34 seasons that they didn't even have a formal vote. Jeff Probst just kind of ejected Varner from the show. Which is big because Jeff is a stickler for tradition. He's dedicated himself to this show for 34 seasons and gets pissy when it's disrespected. And Varner...this huge Survivor fan...this proud gay man...will forever be humiliated by his own complete asshattery. It was extremely uncomfortable to watch.

But that's only half of the story. Because after Zeke was outed, one of his fellow players said she came from a conservative background and wasn't exposed to LGBTQ people very often. But she had known Zeke 18 days and thought he was kickass. And she had come to love and care for him. And she was emotional because now she knew that being transsexual didn't change anything. She saw how trivial gender identity was in the scheme of things. It was a transformative moment for her.

When Zeke finally spoke, he explained that he didn't want to be "the transgender Survivor player", he wanted to be "Zeke, the Survivor player." When people learn he is transsexual, then the topic of conversation changes to his gender and away from everything else and he just wanted to be like everyone else. He handled the situation so well. He didn't even have to defend himself, because the whole cast rallied around him and defended him. And by the time the entire confrontation was over, he was over it and hopeful that he would help others out there just by talking openly about it. It was a beautiful thing.

And the reason I'm writing about this is that, as I was watching it, I kind of detached from the drama and I clearly saw Varner as the tragic catalyst in a much bigger, more beautiful thing. And it really is tragic because you could see that his intentions were bad, but even he didn't realize how bad until the words came out of his mouth and he realized what he'd done. He was thinking about a million dollars and how to get out of being eliminated. He wasn't thinking of Zeke or the LGBTQ community (of which he's a part) or humanity as a whole. He utterly shamed and humiliated himself.

But without him, this beautiful thing wouldn't have happened. I mean, the audience has known Zeke for years. I honestly never suspected. And, like all of the survivors, I also found it utterly irrelevant in the context of the game, and shameful to out him in that way. I mean, clearly his family and friends knew, but nobody else did. But it was also irrelevant to who Zeke is. Zeke is weaselly, yet sensitive. But weaselly is the game. So I imagine millions of people watching wanted to jump in and defend Zeke, too. He is endearing.

So, this probably made a dent in the understanding and acceptance of LGBTQs. But in order for it to happen, Varner had to be shamefully malevolent. He was the necessary catalyst for this beautiful thing. He was the flap of the wing that set the whole thing in motion. Without that darkness, light wouldn't have had its opportunity to shine. And I thought of all the times someone's darkness was a catalyst for something, albeit painful in the process, better and more beautiful in my life. And how many times I might have been the dark catalyst in the lives others. In a way, it makes those memories that make you cringe, all of a sudden more OK. I imagine we have all been Varner and we've all been Zeke at one time or another.

Seeing it unfold the way I did was fascinating because you could tell there was something larger guiding it. I mean, Varner is no innocent, but that's not him. This was cruel and heartless, and it took him a good couple of minutes to even understand the gravity of what he'd done. He was possessed. By money and winning, yes. But also by something unexplainable moving through him to cause this moment to happen. I know I've felt similarly possessed before myself.

Ten months have passed since that happened in real time, but in show time, Zeke is still in the game. In real time he's still showing grace, but is having a hard time forgiving. Varner has lost his real world job and is in therapy over this. He is utterly ashamed and remorseful.

It's easy to be on the outside and see where all of this was necessary in order for humanity to move toward greater understanding and acceptance. Any kind of progress on that scale is going to be messy and painful. We saw it (and still see it) with racial and women's rights. And it will continue until we finally get in our heads that we are all equal.

There hasn't been a lot to be positive about in terms of social progress these days. But I had always had the belief that racism and the like is not quelled by policies, but by the voluntary policing of society. And stuff like this is what gives me hope that society is up to the task.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

4/17/17—Feeding the Duck

The duck, filled with Kizzie hair.
My boy Kizzie is a Chow Chow/Australian Shepherd mix. Which means he's a big furball who is one part matted, one part shedding and one part devilishly handsome.

Most nights when we sit on the front porch watching the sunset, I'll reach into his mane and pull out the matt-like hair plugs that would render him unkempt if he didn't have a mommy with a hair plug pulling fetish. Sitting on the porch steps beside us, there is a cute watering can that looks like a duck. It's useless as a watering can, so at one point I started putting all Kizzie's hair plugs in there. One day I noticed all the accumulated locks were gone. So we've been feeding the duck ever since.

After years of doing this, my assumptions about what happens to the hair were finally confirmed. I looked out the window one day and saw a bird with a beakful of Kizzie fur. During nesting season, I can't keep the duck full. You wouldn't believe the wad of hair that accumulates over winter and it just disappears overnight when the birds are building their nests. After the winter fur is gone, we make daily deposits. And the birds make daily withdrawals.

Kizzie filled with Kizzie hair.
I'm pretty sure the birds spread the word around. No single nest in the world is big enough for all that fur, so it's clearly shared by many. There are probably some squirrels in on the action, too. And now that they know to look for it, they check the duck year after year, and day after day during nesting season. In fact, they know they can find it there year round if they need it and, periodically, the supply will be depleted.

I told Kizzie a story about how they like his fur because he's so masculine that it makes them feel safe and protected. And I told him that birds pass information down through generations, so 100 years from now, some baby bird will hear the legend of the dog that left fur deposits in the duck. As much as Kizzie hates me messing with his locks, he tolerates my picks and pokes. He does it for his legacy. And he does it for the birds.

Same duck, next day. Devoid of hair.
This week I learned that my Deck of 1000 Spreads is going out of print. It was a slow seller. (Get em before they're gone.) Thousands of people have one, though. One day it will be traded and sold among collectors. Some will covet their copy while others unload theirs to the first buyer. It did make me feel like I was leaving a legacy to the tarot world—a world I, at various times, considered a folly, an obsession, a religion, an albatross and a friend. Now that legacy, as slow selling as it was, will slowly fade.

I know that all sounds dramatic. I'll admit I shed a couple of tears, but I'm taking this as I always took it...with a certain amount of detachment. Upon writing it, my goal was to set it free without expectations, without ego. And I surprised even myself by accomplishing that. I would have thought it would have meant more to me in the ways that please the ego. I mean, I'm always talking about writing a more mainstream kind of thing and becoming a famous author and guru. You'd think I would have wrapped myself up in this more emotionally, but I didn't. And that has been an incredible gift to me, because while I think you should take pride in your work, you shouldn't be overly proud about your work. I suppose 30 years as a professional writer taught me something.

I think about my legacy from time to time. A professor I interviewed recently told me that they saw teaching as akin to passing tribal knowledge down to a new generation and that their lessons live on in that way. Kind of a cool thought. Which makes me ask myself, is it more important that people grow from my words, or that they know the words were mine? Is it more important the birds know the legend of some dog who donated his hair to their nests, or is it more important they know his name was Kizzie? Ideally, both would be nice. But the magic and greatness and gift is in the gesture—the sharing, the energy given and received.

I accept that nobody will go on Ancestry 100 years from now wondering if they got their moxie from me...haha. I have no lineage to pass a legacy down through in that way. Even if I do become a known author, my name and the details of my being will eventually get lost to time. It happens to the vast majority of us eventually. But the times I moved another person and got them to question themselves live on in the energy that vibrates and rises as a result of that learning. And I don't even have to write a book to claim that legacy, because so many of you have told me that my blogs have made you think and learn.

There are sparks that we ignite—and douse—over a lifetime. The more sparks we ignite, the more lessons we pass down and the more nests we feather, the more magic we create. I feel like, when you weigh my good vibes against my bad,  the net accounting of my contribution to humanity's greater good has been positive so far and it will continue to grow until I die.

Like Kizzie, I look for ways to get extra credit from time to time. Because a century from now, our names will be lost to history (or perhaps some internet archives), but what we do—what you do—that's positive (or at least better than yesterday) is an energy that brings up everyone around us. And the legacy of that reverberates forever.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

4/10/17—Holding On Long Enough

I'm not a spontaneous person. At all. But a couple of things happened this week that showed me how much I'd changed in that area of my life.

I've probably used the word spontaneous incorrectly. I am still today someone you can't call and hang out with on a whim. Like, there's no "Hey, I'm I'm the neighborhood and was wondering if you wanted to meet for coffee" in my life. I like plans. Preferably made a week or so in advance. Anything in less than 24 hours is nearly impossible for me to handle. Work is different. I'm constantly shifting plans to put out fires. I honestly don't know what it is, but something in my body just revolts at spontaneity in my private life.

So don't expect me to drop what I'm doing and meet for coffee. And horror of all horrors, do NOT show up at my house unannounced. You'd have to be bleeding for me to abide something like that. I have slated my healing from whatever it is that's beneath my hatred for that kind of spontaneity for a future lifetime, as I can only do so much in this one.

The new me I've discovered isn't in the area of doing things unplanned, as much as it is about having planned things change at the last minute. Two sides of the same coin, I guess. But last minute changes used to kind of ruin my day and now they don't. Especially when it's easy for me to accommodate them.

I have a friend I see a couple of times a month and she lives roughly an hour away in decent traffic. When we see each other, it's always her coming here. She can schedule work up here, then go out to lunch with me. But traffic is awful between her house and mine. Rain can double or triple the amount of time it takes to get here or go home. An accident can do the same. So she cancels at the last minute all the time. It's just part of the agreement. There may be passing disappointment, but no anger or anything. We see each other pretty often. So I guess this has tempered me some for other situations. 

A couple of times this week plans totally went to hell on me and the end result wasn't disappointing at all. In fact, it turned out better than planned. The first was a doctor's appointment I had. I scheduled a water heater repair person around the appointment so I would have an easy time getting back home in time. Then I was all set to leave for my appointment when I got an email from a client. It wasn't disastrous or foreboding email at all, but something told me in that moment that my whole day was going to go to hell and I better cancel that appointment. So I did. Which was a good thing because then the repair guy called me and asked if he could come two hours early. Which was good because, as it was, he left my house at 7pm. Had he come later, he'd have either stayed later or I'd be without water until whenever he could return. So everything somehow worked out ideally there.

The second time was yesterday. I had a long list of things to get done this weekend and knew, once again, the cleaning of the house would fall to the wayside in favor of more time-sensitive things. Like naps and such. So as I was getting ready for my nap, my sister-in-law messaged me she wanted to stop by and pick something up that I had for her later that evening. So that meant the house had to at least be presentable. So I cleaned and thought I might cook for her if she got there early enough. So I cooked. And she didn't make it for dinner, but my goal of having multiple cooked chicken breasts for eating this week was met. And my house was clean. And I caught a nice sunset with Kizzie. And, frankly, it was more than I thought I was going to accomplish. So, feeling quite satisfied, I built a fire. And when my sister-in-law arrived, we chatted by the fire under a clear starry sky, which was very nice. It was a much nicer Saturday than if I had napped all day.

Honestly, there was a time that feeling I have to cancel a doctor's appointment and having an up-in-the-air day with so many "maybes" would have left me bitter and resentful. I wouldn't have been open to the thought that a change of plans could leave me better off. Like maybe I'd have some unexpected nap time. Or maybe the rest of my day would be less stressful and time-sensitive. Or maybe everything could end up being in divine order. The change has come gradually over time, but just seemed suddenly obvious this week, for some reason. And I'm kind of digging it.

I feel like my life is moving in the right direction in a lot of ways lately. I mean, man, my life was shit all those years I was sick. And the past year or so since getting well has been difficult in so many ways. You don't just miraculously get well when you finally get treated for asthma after being debilitated by it for so many years. You have to learn to live with your new diagnosis. You have to learn how to work your medications and recognize your triggers. Knowing what I have helps enormously, as does treatment and the much better sleep I'm getting, but it hasn't put me back to normal. It didn't quite pull me out of the darkness either.

But I've turned a corner on all that in the past few weeks, too. I'm figuring it out. I'm learning how to get back to normal, or at least a new version of normal that doesn't make me feel like my life is forever ruined. Things are harder than before. And I have to move a lot slower than before. I need many breaks. Some of that may be age, but most of it is asthma. That said, a very active day working outside now can accomplish as much as a very active day working outside 10 years ago. It just goes slower.

This spring, and having to clear out my back garden that has random volunteer trees growing in it and mending my fence and other chores that have always been difficult things to accomplish, brought me an epiphany in figuring the right combination of elements that have to be in place for me to get the job done. Last spring it was hard and my brother was doing most of the work. So figuring out how to do it all myself is life changing. I've learned how to be active again. And if I can be active, I can get healthier. And I'm sure that will help the asthma even more.

So anyway, that's a long jumble of words to say I feel like I've broken through a long, bleak wall in my life. Which is a good thing, because I was worried about whether I'd ever be able to move forward. I think some of it has to do with leaving Facebook. But I also think some of it has to do with my own fight and determination. In addition to the illness, a number of other events over the past few years have really stripped me of my fight. I haven't shared them all with you, but some have been pretty painful and I've taken steps to remove those things from my life. So it took a long time to finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. I was worried about what might happen if that light never arrived, but it has. I just had to hold on long enough.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

4/3/17—Questioning My Beliefs

I'm pretty sure I'm in the midst of some post-mid-life crisis or phase lately. I seem to be questioning everything. Particularly my beliefs. 

I think it's healthy to question your beliefs. It may not be the most comfortable thing to do, but I think it's a good thing to reflect upon—or even have cause to question—your beliefs. After all, that's how you got them in the first place, right? By questioning. So it's not outside the realm of possibility that you might have missed things or made incorrect assumptions along the way. 

To be clear, I still believe in a higher intelligence in the universe and the interconnectedness of all things. I believe in that enough to be certain it's fact. There is a "magic" and a logic out there that humans don't understand and largely ignore. Our egos tell us we are the ones in control here on earth. And maybe we are. Or maybe the universe allows us to believe whatever we want to believe. Which leads to the question I've been exploring (or struggling with) lately. 

Are we here on a mission? Do we have a purpose to fulfill here? Or are we just a function of evolution in a universe that adheres to laws for creation, but doesn't actually create anything itself? And thus, this universe has no larger agenda because it has no agenda at all. It's all just math and physics. And we have no special purpose in being here. We're just a product of evolution and biology.

In such a universe, man might be among the least evolved, because we're among the least attuned to the universal intelligence, as a whole. Certainly a swarm of birds is attuned to something that can't be perceived by the five senses or explained by modern science and technology. Dogs can somehow know their owners are on the way home, even if the owner is miles away and returning at an unpredictable time. I mean, I believe every living thing both receives and transmits invisible, unexplainable communications to/from/through/whatever this higher intelligence. But does that intelligence have intention? Or is it just math and waves and physics?

Man's complex minds are a blessing and a curse. They hold the seed of extraordinary connection to —and even one day unlocking the secrets of—this higher intelligence. But they also hold an ego that constantly gets in the way of attuning to it at levels even close to our full potential. It's like our technology is state of the art, but there are glitches or a virus in the system. Which means we're also not as evolved as a sentient being can get. There's something better yet to come. Meanwhile, it's as if earth were littered with all the previous attempts at evolving the kind of critter that could really take advantage of the complex physics of the universe, but that critter hasn't come along yet. In a way, earth is like the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.

What if my own self importance is what makes me think there's some higher reason for being here? Are the destinies and life's purposes we run toward—or away from—merely manufactured in our own minds? Do those thoughts blend with the magic and logic of the universe to then make them true? Were we actually NOT sent here for a reason?

If I'm honest with myself, logic leads me to believe there is no "grand scheme" thought up by the universe. The universe—or a higher intelligence kind of "deity"—has no special plans for me. Humans tend to anthropomorphize this energy...the angry or forgiving omnipotent god. But assigning human characteristics to this energy is, at best, a comfort to us and, at worst, a function of our egotistic belief that humans are the highest intelligence and everything revolves around us. 

I have to admit, this line of thought shakes things up. It's never something I really questioned so much before. I just took for granted that I am here for a purpose and have a destiny. It sounds so romantic, doesn't it? And it gives us a reason to persist here. It doesn't preclude the other stuff I believe in, like reincarnation, life after death, manifestation and divination—things I truly believe I've "witnessed" too many times NOT to believe. That's all part of the energy, the magic...the math...of the universe. But I must admit, it's a really depressing thought. If there's no higher reason for me to be here—for us to be here—what's the point? Is there really NO point? 

As I'm looking at the 20 or 30 years I have left (if even that) I feel like I'm only now ready to stare into the possibility there is no higher purpose to us being here. I'm ready to face the scary, ugly truth. Because a higher power without intention makes more sense to me than one that gets pissed off and rains down fire and brimstone. Or even one that loves. I mean, math and physics don't have emotions or ulterior motives. And while I've known that all along, it has only now broken through in a way that I'm willing to embrace. If this is all true, then a good part of what, in the past, has given me hope and confidence for my future, is a lie I've been telling myself. Depressing indeed.

And yet, I have no desire to turn away from this. In any relationship you're going to learn a truth about the other that is hard to swallow. And that can turn you away. Or it can help you love more honestly. Even if there's no caring deity to receive that love, the universe does reflect that love back on me. It's part of the physics. And instead of doing something because I feel destined (which I still do, possibly because I created my destiny myself) I can do it for the way it makes me feel inside. Or for the way it helps others. And not because it's what I'm destined to do, as if somehow mystically anointed from above. It may be a depressing perspective in one way, but it does relieve a lot of pressure and fear around failing. I mean, I can handle failing myself, but it's harder to handle failing some god figure you're trying to win the approval of. 

So, anyway, this is what I've been noodling lately. For some reason, my recent birthday has me thinking a lot about the time I have left on this earth and what the meaning of it all is. Random birthdays from my past have triggered similar spiritual "crises". I generally don't think too much about getting older, but suddenly I am. The difference is that there's a peace and strength at the midst of this crisis I don't remember feeling before. It feels more like I might be entering into a new level of understanding, spiritually speaking. And even if there is no reason behind this madness we call life, gaining new understanding and seeing where that leads is reason enough to carry on.

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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