Zippidy-Do-Dah, Turn That Frown Upside Down, Yada Yada, Blah Blah… For Real Though

When I’m feeling anxious or upset, it helps to read inspirational quotes which I usually look up online. I’ve dedicated a Pinterest board to these quotes, and I will spend sometimes half an hour just reading through them. It’s part of neuroplasticity, what Tara Brach talks about in her dharma talks, of rewiring the brain to focus on the positive instead of the negative.

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I got the above quote from this website, where you can find many more like it.

Whatever you think about becomes your reality. When I get so focused on what I’m not getting instead of the beautiful life I already have, my world becomes small. It’s easy to fall into this space of negativity; it takes more work to try and realign my attitude—but it takes less work today than it did a year ago, and last year it took less work than a year before that.

I’m not saying everyone should skip into work singing zippidy-do-dah—although that can be fun and would not hurt in the least—I’m just saying it helps to see the richness of life, the meaning in life. It’s what Viktor Frankl talks about in Man’s Search for Meaning.

Last night I got to meet someone who’s just starting on her journey of self-discovery, of living a life of sobriety. What a blessing to watch someone else make a decision to get sober and be happy about it. Often alcoholics aren’t super happy about quitting drinking and their old way of life. It’s a big decision, a huge change, and when drinking alcohol is your only way of coping with life’s problems, it’s scary as hell. We have to find a different way of living life, after having lived this way for years, maybe decades. But when you find that place where other people have done the same, gotten sober and are happy about it, and have a good life without alcohol, it’s such an eye-opener. It was for me, anyway. It gave me hope that maybe I don’t have to stop by the liquor store every night after work, maybe I don’t have to apologize for what I did last night because I blacked out and made a fool of myself. Maybe I can wake up remembering what I did the night before. Maybe one day I would no longer obsess about drinking. And that happened for me.

What did not happen for me was that I do not always get what I want. And that I did not want to hear from people who’d been sober a long time. How can a person be happy if they don’t get what they want? There’s no way for me to convince you with words alone, if you’re like me, but I’m going to try anyway. The only way I learned was through experience. When I finally figured out that life has its ups and downs regardless of my strongest efforts to get what I want, and that I have the choice for how to cope with those undesirable events that happen in life, that’s when change happened for me.

This might be old news for some of you, but so far for me the meaning just goes deeper with every experience. No matter how hard I tried to keep my ex-boyfriend, that relationship did not work. No matter how hard I prayed for my mom not to die, she died. It doesn’t mean life sucks and then you die, nor does it mean that I forced myself to laugh and celebrate after such heartache. No. I cried. A lot.

Then I realized how short life is, how precious our time here is.

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This quote and image came from tinybuddha.com where you can find more inspiring quotes.

It’s helpful for me to think about someone else for a change. How can I be there for someone else as others were there for me? What did others say or do when I was down?

A couple of weeks ago a woman from my Sunday night AA meeting told me that she felt like there’s no sobriety at that particular meeting. I happen to be the person who finds speakers to lead the meeting, so I took it personally. It sounded like an attack to me, that she was saying I did not choose inspirational speakers, and my feelings were hurt. This particular woman is about the age my mom was, and she’s been like a big sister to me for a few years now, and she has 20 plus years sober, so to hear that from her really got to me.

Internally, without expressing it to her, my first reaction was to apologize for not being good enough, quickly followed by anger. How dare she attack me and my meeting that way? (By the way, it’s not my meeting—no meeting belongs to any one person but to the group as a whole.)

“So… you don’t feel like there’s any sobriety here,” I repeated back to her, a question but said like a statement, like a double-dog-dare-you-to-insult-me statement. Which is bold for me. Usually I immediately start apologizing for my very existence, but the new me who’s been emerging does not put up with that shit. I explained that I have no control over what other people say or do, and I thought about apologizing for something the speaker had said, but decided against it. It’s not my job to apologize for anyone else.

This particular situation I’ve been ruminating over since it happened. At first I’d decided in my mind that she could eff off, and who needs her as a friend anyway. I didn’t need her blessing. Maybe we just wouldn’t talk that much anymore. She probably didn’t approve of certain things I’d said or done, and if so, she could go along her merry way. If you don’t like this solution you’ve chosen, if we’re such bad people to you, then find another space.

Then I realized that this is exactly the kind of situation where I can exercise compassion. Why might someone say what she said, particularly when I (and others!) see it differently?

Because “we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” This quote was attributed to writer Anais Nin but apparently originates from Rabbi Shemuel ben Nachmani in the Talmud.

What might be going on in my friend’s life that would make her offer such a negative view?

Well, she’s been in physical pain for a long time now, and she’s done just about everything she can to resolve the problem, and so far nothing has worked. Her best friend died last year. Those two things I know. Who else knows what’s going on in her life?

And is it really my responsibility that she didn’t see the meeting as inspirational? Not any more than it would be if she had. How many times have I gone to a place expecting hope and getting none particularly when everyone else there seems to be in a different boat than me. Just wait until they get a divorce and see how they feel. Wait until their loved one dies and let’s see who can talk about jumping for joy then. But that’s all just part of the us-against-them mentality we create in our heads to separate ourselves from each other, that I use to isolate myself. She may have been doing it then, but I do not have to react with the same sentiment. I’m reminded of one of my favorite prayers:

Grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted.

To understand, than to be understood.

To love, than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.

This is my favorite part of the St. Francis prayer, and I repeat it to myself daily–when I’m doing well–because I need a reminder. Otherwise I’d just do my own thing and y’all can all move along—an attitude that left me lonely for many years.

So I sent my friend a positive affirmation the next morning to let her know I was thinking of her. How many times had she done that for me in the past? A lot. Now I have an opportunity to be there for her, even when she’s being a grouch.

Now. If I can just take this same attitude with me when it comes to my closest, oldest loved ones. That’s where the real work begins. That’s where true growth and love happens. It’s progress, not perfection.

Love and peace,

TCH

More on Planet of the Apes

At work I found this card from a company called Borealis. I’m the card buyer, meaning, I get to choose what cards we sell, and our cards happen to be in the top 5 of our best-selling products. I care about that because the store is one of two locations, a real mom and pop organization, and the owners are good people who care about this planet and the living beings in it. Many customers come to our store just for the cards, because they’re unique. Most of the cards I choose have pictures of animals on them, or inspirational quotes.

So I took a picture of this card and sent it to my sister:

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It seems like a sweet card, with a sweet message. Who doesn’t love a baby animal?

But it turns out that chimpanzees get taken from their mothers to be pets, or to work in the entertainment industry. No chimp mother would allow this picture to be taken, because she wouldn’t allow humans to take her baby away. So that means this baby was forced from her mother for this picture, so we could look at it and say, Oh, how adorable. When the chimp becomes five or six years old, they become too much for people to handle, so people will abuse them into submission, or else dump them at a roadside zoo, euthanize them, or, if they’re lucky, they end up in a sanctuary.

The only reason I know this is because my sister worked for years at a chimpanzee sanctuary that housed chimps who’d been in the entertainment industry, who were sent or rescued to live at the sanctuary because people had no use for them anymore. These particular chimps lived an unnatural life without their families, and were often abused, used for humans’ entertainment in movies. So when you see a chimp in a movie and think that’s cute, it’s actually really not that cute or sweet at all. This card is the same way. People profit from this, and consumers don’t even realize it. It seems benign enough.

I like what Planet of the Apes does, in that it reverses the roles of humans and chimps so that we can get a better idea of the chimp’s perspective. Here’s a clip from the original movie:

We cannot communicate in the same language with other species. We try to interpret what they do, but we can’t really know. We can guess but we can’t know what they’re saying to each other because we’re not them, we’re not in their heads. I’m pretty sure when a dog wags his tail, he’s happy. But what about the gray areas? One time, I was at a pool party where some people thought it was funny to watch their dog get thrown in the pool and swim frantically back to the steps. I thought that the dog was scared, because I for one would not like getting thrown into a pool. Maybe someone else thinks it’s fun, and they love getting thrown in the water. How can you know for sure?

This baby chimp may love this puppy, but what else is going on?

Animals have emotions, that much I know. When I was little, when I was sad I would cry outside in the side yard, by the carport, and my cat would always come up to me and rub his head on my knees. Maybe he just wanted to be petted, but it sure seemed like he knew I was sad, and he was offering his love. It certainly made me feel better.

This post was not meant to be a downer, to make anyone feel guilty for enjoying a sweet photo of a baby chimp and a puppy. But it’s just to open your eyes and see that those cute chimps you see in the movies aren’t necessarily happy chimps who live extraordinary lives of leisure, but are rather more like property used and abused for human entertainment and ultimately for profit.

Though I’d love to pretend I don’t know about this, and continue going on my way saying positive affirmations and what-not, the truth is that this happens. While I’m probably not going to march in the streets, there are a few easy things I can do, and you can do too:

  • Don’t buy a card like this, or watch/pay for a movie in which chimpanzees play a part. This is an easy one. Just don’t spend money on something that profits people who use and abuse animals.
  • If you can afford it, contribute to a chimpanzee sanctuary, or to an animal welfare organization of your choice. Last year I donated to the Audubon Society in honor of my mom, who loved owls. This year I’ll contribute to a cause dedicated to chimpanzees, after watching Planet of the Apes and learning more about these guys. I don’t make much money, but I can give a few dollars.
  • Let others know that this is happening. It doesn’t have to be a shaming game in which we all sit around feeling guilty for enjoying a sweet picture of a baby chimp. We’re just educating ourselves. I didn’t know this happened, and now I do. Now I can choose to do something about it, like write this blog post, and not buy the card, or even distribute information.
  • Write to those in the industry and ask that they not do contribute to this. Not everyone knows this is happening. Borealis probably just thought the baby chimp holding a puppy was a sweet card, as I did.

Like I said, I don’t want to be a downer, but at the same time, I believe it’s important to face the truth and do something about it, in whatever small way we can.

A guy I know said that he found it difficult to watch the movie, because he could not get past the fact that not only do the apes speak, but to him they just look ugly. That made me sad, because I feel that the whole point of Planet of the Apes is to humanize apes so we can see them as emotional, sentient beings. You can replace them with dogs, some fictional alien creatures, or even just as someone who’s a different race or nationality than we are. We are all living beings, worthy of love. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I thought the apes were sweet and beautiful, and I wanted to hug and kiss them, which is generally how I feel about most furry or feathered animals, even when I see a cow or a goat on the side of a country road. Not everyone wants to smooch every deer they pass on the side of the road—I get it. But for me, I just love animals. That doesn’t mean I don’t also love humans. I find humans and human nature fascinating, and I like to be part of a community and have friends. At the same time, animals represent unconditional love. Like puppies. Is there a puppy out there who does not reflect pure love?

I’ll close with a few facts I learned about chimpanzees:

  1. Chimps share 99% of our DNA. Chimps are closer genetically to humans than they are to gorillas.
  2. Chimpanzees are endangered in the wild.
  3. Baby chimps stay with their mothers until they’re five or six, and many maintain close relationships with their mothers throughout their lifetime.
  4. When baby chimps get taken from their mothers in infancy, they develop behavioral problems.
  5. More information on apes in entertainment here. And even more information on apes in entertainment here.

So please think about this the next time you see an ape in a television commercial, or a movie, or in a greeting card. What seems so cute and innocent is not that way. Again, I don’t mean to shame or blame anyone, or make us all sit around feeling angry, sad, and helpless. Just know that you don’t have to participate in it, and you can actually do something about it. Maybe you and I can’t change the world singlehandedly, but together we can help make it a better place.

Peace and love,

TCH

PS: The animals in Planet of the Apes are played by humans, so they’re not actual apes being abused for entertainment.

PSS: It’s a bad idea to try and hug a chimpanzee, or any other wild animal. Did you ever see that documentary “Grizzly Man?” Good movie, good man, good intentions. Terrible, terrible idea.

Love and War and Planet of the Apes

Last night I watched War for the Planet of the Apes with my new friends, who absolutely hated the movie. Guess they’re not into talking apes. I, on the other hand, loved it. My friends grew up watching it, had possibly seen the original in the movie theater, and maybe had a different idea of what it would be like. I had seen the TV show reruns when I was a kid, but didn’t remember the plot, just that I loved the fake-looking set with the different atmosphere look of the planet, as if they were standing on top of a papier mache sculpture of Mars like one might see in a kids’ museum.

One thing I love about Planet of the Apes is its commentary on human nature. It’s about how “animalistic” humans are, and how “human” animals are. It’s about fighting for justice for the “people,” or rather, for the apes. My sister worked in a chimpanzee sanctuary for years, so these movies have even more meaning for her. She’s seen the brutality apes have endured, having been caged in zoos, kept as pets, experimented on, used for humans’ entertainment, infants torn from their mothers…  But the thing is, people don’t just do that to apes. We do it to each other. We have been doing it for centuries, and the most obvious example is slavery.

Not to be a downer. And in my opinion we are evolving as a species, but that’s the harsh reality of what’s happened in history. It’s not just us Americans, though we certainly seem to be at the forefront. We have this idea that we’re at the top of the food chain and we’re entitled to destroy the planet and subject everyone else, animals, nature, other people, to succumb to our will.

Before you click away from this blog because you think this will be all about how bloodthirsty and ruthless humans are, I do believe we are all inherently good, and we want to do good. We have different ideas about what that means, and we don’t always act in the best ways. The Colonel wants to protect his family and his species just as Caesar does. Unfortunately, he cannot see the “humanity,” or rather–the spirituality–the spiritual nature of all beings. It’s enough to make me never want to kill another bug again. Not that I ever really wanted to do that.

On a more positive note, this movie is about love: the love a parent has for their child, and vice versa, the love friends have for each other, that a species has for its own, that a species can have for another species, so much in all cases that this individual is willing to die for it. That is ultimately what it’s about, for me. The willingness to die for a cause, for justice. I wish I had that kind of heroism and passion, but I must admit that too often I’m focused on Self.

That’s all I have to say about that for now. It’s just interesting to think about.

On a completely different note, one thing that stood out to me was my own reaction to the movie compared to that of my friends.

Recently was a comment a fellow (codependent, like me) blogger posted on one of my codependency/relationship posts, which was that she too once didn’t know her own likes and dislikes. It struck me, because I thought, Of course I know what my likes and dislikes are. I’m not that weak, or spineless, or stupid.

My therapist keeps reminding me that it doesn’t matter so much whether or not my new guy is madly in love with me—I mean, yes, that’s important at some point—but keep the focus on how I feel. Because it didn’t work out with Steven, I’m confused about what love really is. If that wasn’t love, I don’t know what is. Or rather, if it’s not healthy love, then what is?

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I’m probably just overanalyzing it. The simple truth is, I loved someone and it didn’t work out. What are you gonna do.

But it’s almost as though I’m looking for someone else to validate my feelings, my very opinions. Ugh. What a yucky realization. If he’s in love with me, then I can fall in love with him. But if not, I can not be in love with him. Tell me now if you’re into me so I can decide how I feel about you. Because when my friends hated the movie, I questioned my own viewpoint. Maybe it wasn’t that good of a movie after all. Talking apes is a bit weird, maybe a bit childish, and it’s all totally unrealistic, and the last one was better than this one anyway. Maybe my friends won’t like me that much anymore. They probably have a different opinion of me now, as someone who likes bad movies, someone who’s probably a terrible artist/writer, or really someone who’s not an artist at all. Because that would all be just absolutely blasphemous, and that person would not be worthy of love and respect.

Hahaha!

Right.

Whatever.

Different strokes for different folks.

I get to decide what my likes and dislikes are, regardless of someone else’s opinion. I don’t have to wait for you to tell me how you feel about something, or about me, before I make up my own mind.

Personally, I love Caesar. I wanted to hug little Cornelius. And I wanted to hug Maurice. I really wanted to hug Bad Ape. Cornelius made me wish I had a kitten or puppy to cuddle. Baby animals are just the cutest thing in the world. Sweet little babies. A reflection of pure unconditional love and awareness, of the way we’re born to be, before we allow pain to harden us. If we’re wise, hopefully we can learn how to allow pain to soften us. And that, my friends, is how you end war.

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Jumbled Thoughts on Life and Meaning

img_1242In this month’s (Buddhist magazine) “Lion’s Roar,” Jack Kornfield writes, “Even under the direst conditions, freedom of spirit is available… We are free and able to love in this life—no matter what. Deep down we know this is true. We know it whenever we feel a part of something greater—listening to music,…walking in the mountains…sitting at the mystery of a dying loved one as her spirit leaves her body silently as a falling star, or witnessing the birth of a child…This freedom is here for you as well. You can begin personally with freedom of spirit, freedom to start over, freedom beyond fear, and freedom to be yourself, and then discover freedom to love, freedom to stand up for what matters, and freedom to be happy.”

Kornfield talks about how this freedom is right here, now, in this moment. It’s in this moment as I sit here typing these words listening to the rain outside at 5:45 on a Thursday morning. It’s in this moment that you’re reading these words.

I’d just gotten to the end of Man’s Search for Meaning, in which Victor Frankl writes about how the real purpose, the deeper meaning for what motivates us humans, is what he calls the “will to meaning.” Frankl argues that this search for meaning and a purpose in life is what drives people, not instincts. People will live and die for a cause. We will suffer for it. For example, in the concentration camp one of the prisoners had done something punishable according to the SS, so they decided that they would punish the entire group by starving them for the day unless one of them wanted to give the guy up, turn him in. They all chose hunger.

Frankl writes about how looking towards the future is what kept them going, with the knowledge that the war would be over at some point, and they’d see their loved ones again, and they needed to get through this for their families. What they weren’t prepared for is that some of them had no families left after it was all over, and those people became depressed. I haven’t finished the book yet, but I believe Frankl’s wife died, and he may not have had family when he got out… so he must’ve found a will to live somehow. Well, he wrote this book, for one. He had a story to tell, a story that’s reached far beyond where one might imagine, to me, in 2017, an American woman who wasn’t born until well after that particular war was over.

So there are two seemingly opposing views: Kornfield’s in which he contends that joy can be found here in this moment no matter the circumstances, and Frankl’s in which he talks about “suffering proudly,” not miserably, and looking towards the future. The “suffering proudly” confused me a bit and I want to write about that more in a future post. To be continued.

Frankl writes about finding joy–or maybe gratitude is a more suitable word–in the present moments in camp, such as when a guard offered an extra piece of bread to a prisoner, or prisoners put on plays for each other, or some moment when someone showed compassion for someone else, no matter whether the person was a guard or a prisoner.

I told my therapist yesterday that I have trouble lately finding joy in the moment because all I can think about is getting my own place, a better-paying job as a nutritionist, in which I skip all the hard parts and am already an expert, and when my free time will be truly free. She reminded me that getting my own place and a better job are goals, and it’s okay to have goals. It’s good to have goals. So I think this is what Frankl’s talking about, in part. And I don’t think Kornfield is saying not to have goals, but just that I can enjoy this time now.

In one of the articles I can’t find now in “Lion’s Roar,” someone writes about letting go. Acceptance. And allowing joy to pour in. it’s not about being exuberantly happy all the time, but about finding gratitude for what’s here, even if that something is painful.

I’m having a hard time articulating my words because I have a limited time, and so much to say, but what I’m getting at is that I spend a lot of time worrying about shit that doesn’t matter, and maybe it’s time to let go of that stuff. It’s beyond time. I asked my therapist how to do this, and she said, just focus on what you need to do right now. Simple. I already knew that. Sometimes I need to be reminded. I love her because she reminds me that I’m okay. I’m doing the bare minimum I need to get by, I tell her, of school, and she says that’s okay, that’s what most of us do. I can’t remember a damn thing, I tell her, and she says, that’s okay, when it comes up again you can look it up, that’s how we learn.

There’s more but I don’t have time to write about it, so I’ll sum it up as best I can. Just that I may be in the process of learning to have a relationship with someone while doing my own thing for a change. Today I’m not worried about what he’s doing or not doing, thinking or not thinking, feeling or not feeling, what our future or non-future will look like. In the grand scheme of things, do I really care about all that?

Honestly, no. I want to be happy now.

What is it I really want? I want to practice self-love, to find strength in myself, to have the courage to be on my own. And if a man fits into that, great. If not, I’ll be okay. And it’s not about eff them all and I don’t care and I didn’t want you anyway. It’s about finding love and peace and compassion and understanding even when things don’t go my way. But it’s not about being a doormat either. We still have so many opportunities to grow and love and be happy. And I can be happy now. And I am.

Everything I want is within me. I just need to access it. And I am doing that. Right now.

And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

You can do this too. Because if I can do it, anybody can. Read some of my old posts from the beginning of this blog if you don’t believe me.

More later.

Peace and love,

TCH

PS: Here’s a fun song I just discovered:

The Meaning of Life, Part III

Last night there was a little frog hopping about in the parking lot of the church where I go to a 12-step meeting on Saturday nights. I almost stepped on him when he caught Jay’s eye at the same time he caught mine. Jay’s like a hawk when it comes to spotting wildlife. When we’re riding down the road, he’s already seen three groundhogs, bats, and a family of deer while I’m lost in my own world, making images out of the pink clouds before me. I love staring at the sky. It’s different every day.

So this little frog hopped right by, heading straight for impending death, towards the exit where everyone was driving their cars, and I’ve got my mini-flashlight to light the way, and someone’s like, “He’s gonna get splattered!” A couple of the other women and I decided this could not happen, so I just reached right down and picked him up. “He’ll pee on you!” someone warned. I picked up frogs all the time when I was a little girl and never once did one pee on me, but I decided to bite my tongue since this wasn’t a contest to see who was the most outdoorsy, though I’d already decided I’d won, in spite of the fact that I haven’t picked up a frog in years.

Something about picking up that frog really touched my heart. I kind of wanted to kiss his little head and tell him everything would be okay, not to be scared. His little heart was pounding in my enclosed cupped hand, where I hoped he felt safe. Imagine just walking along one day, on your way to work, minding your own business, when suddenly a giant hand scoops you up and next thing you know you’re basically teleported to another world. Turns out it was probably his home, being the woods, and I made sure to walk far enough into the woods (I hope), away from the parking lot so that he wouldn’t be tempted to go back out there and meet his death sooner than necessary. I set him down on the earth, and he just sat there, not moving. I wanted to wait and just watch him, but I decided to leave him alone. That was probably enough craziness for him for one night.

It just made me think of how small we are in the world, how vast the universe, or multiverse really, is. How can someone know for sure this is all there is just because this is all we have proof of, all that we see? This is why I don’t kill the lone ant or bug I see crawling around in my house on occasion—though I must admit that a few years ago I engaged in a battle with an army of ants who thought my kitchen was their home, and many had to die. I have to keep this blog honest. And I felt guilty since their ancestors probably had been living on that land for centuries before someone came along and built a house on it, but I was kind of like, Hey this is my house now, my turf, and there’s just not room for you, not if you’re going to eat my food and dirty the place up. Had they wanted to stay underground that would’ve been fine with me, but they don’t speak English and I don’t speak ant, unfortunately. Hopefully one day we can all speak the same language and learn to live in harmony. As it was, they were probably carpenter ants, which will destroy a person’s house, and well, sometimes it’s just a Darwinian world (and in the grand scheme of things, that probably means that ultimately the ants will win… or at least cockroaches, as we all know).

But every now and then I’ll see an ant or a spider just marching along, say, in my bathtub, and I wonder where he came from, and where he’s going. Ants can live anywhere from 15 years to 30 years, and not the 24 hours many of us attribute to the life cycle of an insect. What happens during that time? What does the world look like when you’ve spent most of your time traveling along the earth, doing your thing, helping the family, building your home, mating, finding food, contributing to the community with whatever job you signed up for. All you can see is the earth beneath your feet, and the sky’s so far away it just looks like a vast blue, pink, orange, or black, depending on the time of day. Is there an ant somewhere with a tiny laptop, so tiny humans can’t see it under a microscope, sitting in her bed banging away on the keyboard, pouring out her heart to a community of ants, pondering the meaning of life? Is there a giant creature out there observing me as I type on this laptop, someone so big that the edge of his hand looks like nothing but a star-studded sky? And maybe someone else bigger than that creature, observing him, and so on.

Did that frog go home to his family and tell tales of how he was catapulted from the parking lot to the woods, how he’d been saved by one of the benevolent humans, while other frogs ruminated over loved ones who’d been smashed by “natural” disasters, giant wheels that bulldozed right over them? Here one minute, gone the next. Maybe the frogs had such limited knowledge of humans that many of them did not believe it, only the few who’d had exchanges with humans, and maybe all the other frogs thought the believers were crazy. Yeah, right, you were somehow picked up by a giant hand. And the hand prodded at you with a giant log and a light beamed down on you brighter than any light you’d ever seen. Maybe some of the frogs make up stories because they want so badly to believe this spiritual experience, or maybe they dreamt it and thought it was real. Maybe they just have a feeling that there’s more to life than this but they just don’t know what exactly it is.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl writes about his life in a Nazi concentration camp (the italics are mine):

“But in robbing the present of its reality there lay a certain danger… Such people forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. Instead of taking the camp’s difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take their life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence… Naturally only a few people were capable of reaching great spiritual heights. But a few were given the chance to attain human greatness even through their apparent worldly failure and death, an accomplishment which in ordinary circumstances they would never have achieved… there was an opportunity and a challenge. One could make a victory of those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners.”

I would argue that anyone is capable of reaching great spiritual heights, should she want to, should she seek it, and that we are all given opportunities to turn something beautiful into life’s struggles. What I think part of what Frankl’s saying is that this opportunity becomes greater the deeper one’s suffering. Living in a concentration camp is something I can only imagine, not having lived that life, but my suffering has been just as painful for me as yours was for you.

It also made me reflect on how I approached my most recent pain, after Mom died, and the ex broke my heart. Like Frankl I began to look at it as a thing of the past, something to grow and learn from, something from which a butterfly would emerge. That helped tremendously.

Prior to that, prior to my sober life, I spent years ruminating over the meaninglessness of it all. Every morning I got up, dreaded the day before me, despised my commute into work, played a role at work all day of being normal and happy, or at least not too miserable, obsessing all day about how much I could not wait to get home and drink. That was my purpose, all I lived for.

Now when I wake up, I look forward to my day. I love my job, my co-workers, my friends. I enjoy learning about new things. It’s also nice to have a day off from work and enjoy nature. And I love writing this blog.

Today life is good, and today is all we have. Yesterday may have seen tragic times, and tomorrow may hold worse disaster—heck, right now, here today, could be hell on earth. But it’s in how we choose to approach it that matters. I have no idea if there’s a God out there watching after me, any more than that frog knows how exactly he made it into the woods again back to safety. And for all I know a snake came along and ate him minutes later. I’m not God, even for the frog. But I like to think that little frog felt safe, that he told his friends that he’d survived impending disaster, that he now had a new lease on life. I like to think he woke up today and showed more love and zest for life, and had deeper connections with his fellow frogs. That he somehow had a feeling that there’s a reason for all of this, a beautiful purpose, something he’d been missing all along even though it was in front of his face, so big he can’t even see it. And that reason is to love and grow and to make the most of today, wherever you are in life. Call me ignorant or unscientific, but I believe in a higher power, which I call God. I believe there’s someone or something watching over us all, a benevolent force that wants us to be happy. For me, if I didn’t believe that, I would see no point in any of this. That’s just me. Just my two cents. It’s not a belief for everyone, and that’s okay. Whatever floats your boat. My boss, for example, is an atheist and she’s one of the most spiritual people I know, in that she has a compassionate heart and is always kind and patient with people. I believe in good.

And that, my friends, is what gets me through the day. Belief that there’s something deeper in us all, and some of us access it while some don’t, but it doesn’t matter who doesn’t. All that matters is that I do, that I access this deeper part of myself, the soul, the collective conscious, or whatever you want to call it. And that I have gratitude for today, and an ability to turn life’s struggles into gems. It’s a crazy world we live in today with all that’s going on in the news, and I hope that America isn’t turning into a Nazi Germany, but I try to leave the politics out of it for the remaining few of you who still believe that the president is a sane and well person. Just follow my mom’s advice: do the best you can, because that’s all you can do.

I’ll leave you with this song that I sent to Jay yesterday, a tribute to how I felt last week after obsessing over… well, him really. “Flight of the Conchords” was one of my favorite shows, and I love all the characters. Huge crush on Jemaine. And I love Kristen Schaal. Can’t believe this was 10 years ago.

Peace and love,

TCH

A Short Post on Men and Food

It’s funny how fast I change my mind. For example, yesterday I came home and threw together a salad for dinner, and pondered over how nice it was not to worry about cooking for two. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, I thought to myself. I’m happy eating the same thing every day, or throwing together what Jay calls his bachelor chow, which is a bunch of veggies plus a meat all in one dish and voila you have a meal. Then I decide out of the blue to make ketogenic coconut mug bread and text him a picture with a note that says, “Ketogenic coconut mug bread. 8g carbs.”


Immediately he texted back: I WANT THAT!

My God I’ve figured out how to get his attention.

You better believe that in that moment I created a thousand meals for this man faster than you can say “I do.” My brain was like a rolodex (I’m totally dating myself with that one–does anyone even know what that is anymore?) flipping through recipes I’ve posted on Pinterest, scheming up all the different meals I’ll be cooking for him. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I can do that! Especially because I love food, and he’s very into healthy eating.

Of course. Food. My grandma taught me about that as soon as I came out of the womb. She had me in the kitchen from the time I could reach the counter top. Probably even before that because she had this little step stool you could stand on and help her make biscuits. She and my granddad lived on three acres of land, most of which was a vegetable garden. When I was a kid we’d sit on the porch in her rocking chairs and hull white acre peas, which are like black eyed peas but better.

This keto coconut mug bread is nothing like Grandma’s heart-attack-inducing biscuits, but it’s pretty darn good. Here’s the YouTube video with the recipe:

I made mine with coconut milk creamer instead of whipping cream, and I slathered ghee on it with a bit of extra Himalayan sea salt. Nothing’s wrong with dairy, and I’m sure cream and butter would be more delicious, but I just don’t eat dairy right now due to some personal health issues. I used coconut oil instead of olive oil (simply because I’m out), which gave it a sweet flavor (sweet if you haven’t had sugar in months, possibly bland otherwise). I want to try it with almond flour which I prefer over coconut flour but hey, I can’t complain. This tasted like a sweet biscuit. Heavenly. I had it last night with grilled chicken salad and it all filled me up! Amazing.

One little caveat: you do make it in a microwave which possibly causes cancer, but hey, you can’t win them all.

Anyway. The only thing better than finding food that’s not only tasty but easy to make is finding something tasty and easy to make for someone else. This is my goal. Then I can teach others how to do the same because few of us have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen.

I have to get to work now so that’s all I got. Nutrition is what I study, so who knows? Maybe I’ll start a nutrition blog with recipes and pictures, etc. I don’t know how not to make this blog a diary though so it might be a weird nutrition blog but hey, I bet there’s a niche for that. Probably someone’s already doing it.

Okay, for real this time, I have to go.

Peace and love,

TCH