Snowflakes, Unicorns and Angels

Lately I’ve been feeling like something is missing but I can’t pinpoint exactly what. It’s not exactly a lack of inspiration, but it’s a need for a stronger connection to my higher power, Spirit, or God, or whatever you want to call this energy source that’s stronger than my human power, or any human power. So every day I’ve been meditating, finally, for the first time, and I hope I can keep it up, especially after the semester starts. It will be my second to last semester in grad school for nutrition, and I’ll be starting clinic, meaning in a few weeks I’ll be working directly with clients on their nutrition needs, and I do not feel at all prepared.

It’s important for me to find meaning in life. Everything has meaning – we just don’t always know what that meaning is. For example, I don’t know what the meaning of me spending four months with a guy who I had zero interest in other than physically, and even then, the attraction was surface-level. Maybe it was just to say looks aren’t everything. And after that I had a brief stint as a “unicorn,” in which I was the third in two different couples’ threesomes, at their request. I just re-read that last sentence and it makes me lol. It is hilarious, so feel free to laugh. I’ve always been experimental, for whatever reason. It would’ve been fun to continue, though perhaps not necessarily emotionally healthy, especially with the one particular couple who I really connected with on more than a physical level. And there are still other experiences I want to try. But it’s not meant to be at this point in time, because soon after my unicorn stint I met my current boyfriend, who is a wonderful man.

This wonderful man I’ll call Mac, short for Matthew McConaughey because he’s a good-looking Southern guy, and he’s actually old enough to be my father. Matthew McConaughey is probably only about five or 10 years older than me, but you get the gist. Anyway, I have so much fun with Mac and we have tons in common, but that extra spark is just… not there. It’s not that there’s no chemistry, because there is. Almost everything lines up perfectly except for that one thing I can’t put my finger on. There are only two things I can think of that really bother me, and one is that he has terrible table manners, and the other is that I am dying to have my own space.

My soul yearns for my own home, and it feels like forever before that will happen. Even though I graduate in August, which still seems a long time from now, I won’t be a certified nutritionist in the state of Maryland until after I get 700 more clinic hours, and that could take another year. It’s so expensive to live in this area I have doubts that I’ll be able to get my own place during that time. After I get all of those hours and become certified, my certification will be useless in certain states, where you don’t even need a certification to practice as a nutritionist. Now that I’ve decided it’s unlikely I’ll stay in Maryland due to the high cost of living, all this money I just borrowed for grad school is starting to feel like a waste. And that’s exactly what happened to me after I graduated from my first grad school after which I got a useless master’s degree in creative writing. That being said, I want to move away from negative thinking, and exercise the law of attraction, and manifest more positivity in my life. Maybe I’ll come back to that one day. Maybe it’ll come in handy, and I’ll become the writer that I always wanted to be, that I already am.

My latest thing is opening myself up to the messages that the universe/multiverse or spirit guides have for me. Last night a woman came into the store to return all of her items so that she could buy them back on her membership discount, because she’d forgotten to give her membership card at checkout. The old me would’ve been really annoyed and judged her for not having her shit together, and for the cashier for not remembering to ask for her card, but last night was different. We all forget things, especially me. Is that so bad? What stood out to me was that she noticed that her total came out to $123.41, and she took a picture of it, saying that she saw numbers like that all the time. So we talked about numbers and signs while my co-worker, who probably thought we were nuts, returned her merchandise. The same kinds of things have been happening to me. When I was driving to work, I looked up and saw 1010 on a mailbox. I was born at 10:10am. The other night I awoke at 4:44am, and later that same day when I looked at the time, it was 4:44pm. One could argue that I look at the clock and street signs hundreds of other times and all those times I don’t see repeating or chronological numbers, and that’s true. But I choose to believe they’re signs from angels and I find this a comfort. This morning I was listening to Ashley Wood’s Manifest This podcast and in an interview with Jenna Zoe she mentioned how we are each snowflakes, that we’re each unique, but when you throw us all into a pile of snow we’re not so different, or you can’t tell that we’re so different. Jenna Zoe said that her best friend had just said the same thing to her earlier that day, and maybe a minute or two later, as I was cleaning out my closet I pulled out some jewelry that had belonged to my mom, or had been given to me by either her or my grandma, and right on top was a snowflake broach. Are all these events really just coincidence?

One of the loudest messages I’ve been hearing is just that everyone has their own journey. This is something I knew intellectually, but in my heart and soul I wasn’t accepting it. For example, my dad, who is a dry drunk, was recently abandoned by his bipolar, drug-addicted wife, which at first seemed like the best thing for him. As always, I had a hope that he’d change his life, maybe move to the beach and find God. But nope. The wife has regained her senses and is weaseling her way back into my dad’s life. And maybe that is what’s best for him, for them. It’s not for me to say. It makes me sad to see that’s their journey because they seem so spiritually sick and oblivious. But who am I to judge?

Getting back to the woman who came to me in the store, her name was the same as a famous female musician, which I won’t write here to protect her anonymity. She told me that she had gotten chills a couple of times throughout the conversation, and I ended up telling her my mom had passed two years ago. She almost started crying, and she took my hand and squeezed it, saying my mom is all around me, that she loves me so much. I have another friend like this, who would come into my work from time to time, an older woman who I know from AA. After Mom died she would come into my work and while we were talking she’d say, I have chills! That’s your mom. She’d tell me all the time that my mom was there with me, that angels are all around us. I believed that she believed it, and maybe that’s what gave her chills, and I didn’t not believe my mom wasn’t with me, but at the same time I’ve always been skeptical. Something’s happening, and I don’t know what it is, nor do I know if anyone else knows. But it’s there and we can choose to believe it or not.

I think I’ll go ahead and choose to believe it.

Peace, love, and namaste,

TCH

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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

The Meaning of Life and Other Light Topics, Like Death

Where do you go when you die?

A week or so ago I had a dream that someone held a gun to my head, and in that moment I knew death was inevitable, so I just closed my eyes and said, Go ahead and do it. I don’t remember feeling fear so much as feeling that whatever was about to happen next was simply inevitable. After that I remember a feeling of flying out of my body and being nothing but mind, or spirit, or whatever you want to call the stuff that is you which is not physical.

I believe that dreams are a doorway into the subconscious or the soul. Somewhere deep down we know things we can’t always easily access. This dream for me is about transformation. Growth and rebirth. On some level while the transformation is happening we know it but we don’t always feel it, not right away. It’s not until one day I realize that I no longer think about that obsession that used to haunt me. Or I find that I no longer react or feel a certain way in certain situations.

Change can be terrifying. At the time it can be scary leaving the comfort of the known reality we’ve been living in, even when that reality was no longer the direction in which we needed to grow.

Often I wonder where my mom’s soul is. Where her mind is, her thoughts. Her face is so clear to me in my mind’s eye. The memory of her is so fresh, how smooth her skin was the last time she kissed me good night. I can hear her words in my head. I remember the scent of the perfume she wore when I was a child, perfume that she hadn’t worn in years. Is she now in some kind of parallel universe, what some might call Heaven, is she aware of what’s going on in this world now? Was I in some other world prior to this, and now have no memory of it? Sometimes I have random dreams about faraway places, and sometimes I dream that I am some other person, or a mere observer inside someone else’s life, and I wonder, Is that my mind making that up, or is that a memory of a previous life? Is it symbolic of not being an active participant in my life, or a scrambling of the brain to show me a story like a movie, or something else?

I’m okay with not knowing the answer, and making a choice to believe what I want about it, with the knowledge that I don’t really know. My belief is that she’s an angel, she’s always with me, and we’ll be together again one day. It’s a comforting thought that brings me serenity. Of course, there’s no way of knowing for sure, not without dying, and I appreciate my life too much to do that to myself on purpose. That will happen anyway one day; I’ll get the answer soon enough.

The last time I kissed Mom, the last time when she was still conscious, it was late, for me, and we’d stayed up watching the Olympics. We’re not a kissy-kissy family—usually we just hug, but for some reason that last time, I’d walked over to her and kissed her cheek, and she kissed mine. She’d been sitting in her chair wrapped up in her blanket and she’d looked so tired, but determined to stay up and watch the Olympics. Earlier I’d asked, How does everyone remember Usain Bolt? When everyone cheered him on, because I barely remember yesterday, let alone the Olympics four years ago, though admittedly I never watch the Olympics. She told me how he’d been a gold medal winner for the past eight years. She’s always knew what was going on, in the news, in sports, in her community. She paid attention. She paid close attention to what was going on in the news, and she read books of all kinds: books about politics, current events, historical fiction, science fiction, nonfiction, just plain old fiction. Over the year or two prior to her death I’d catch up on the news before seeing her so that I’d have a clue what she was talking about because I spent most of my life under a rock of self-absorption. The Thanksgiving before she died we all spent together, her, my sisters, and me: “The Girls.” I’d caught up on the news which I’d tried to do anyway but to me at the time it was usually either way too stressful or else just plain boring, so I got the basics and went down to my sister’s in Virginia where she and her husband and kids lived at the time. My other sister and Mom came to visit from North Carolina, and just before the meal someone decided we should each talk about something we were grateful for. Mostly we were grateful to have that time spent all of us together, since it was rare now that we live in different states. And the talk about politics began, and I stayed silent for the most part. I agree with their viewpoints, so what’s the use in preaching to the choir? Everything would be fine in the election, no way would the world—my world, anyway—ever go crazy in my lifetime, so who cares?

The next morning Mom was getting ready for the day, fixing her hair in the bathroom, and I came in to talk to her, and somehow we landed on the topic of conversation itself.

“What do you like to talk about?” she’d asked me, since she knew I wasn’t big on talking politics, or much of anything else.

The meaning of life, I would say now, without hesitation, and it was the thought that popped into my head then, but for some reason didn’t seem appropriate. It felt like the wrong answer, something she’d laugh at and say, Oh, is that all. At the time I hesitated more before speaking than I do now. Now I’m becoming more like, This is what I think and if you don’t like it, oh well. I’m not 100% there but well on my way, finally, to not worrying as much about others’ reactions. For the record, Mom would be happy to discuss the meaning of life, so why I’d hesitate has nothing to do with her and everything to do with me.

Instead I answered this: “I don’t know, just random, obscure things, like what they talk about on Radiolab,” I’d replied. Radiolab is my favorite NPR radio show similar to This American Life but better, in my opinion.

“The esoteric,” she’d replied.

I’d told her about how my ex’s brother believed humans were created by aliens and that our lives were a video game just for their entertainment, and what a fascinating belief that was to me. At the time I couldn’t articulate much beyond that why it was so fascinating to me other than to say that the brother clearly is insane, but at the same time who am I to say someone else is insane just because they believe something different from me? If everyone in our culture held that belief, or even just a percentage of us, it might not seem so odd. Don’t all religions have their own creation myths? And how can I know for sure that we weren’t created by aliens for their entertainment? I have no idea who created us or why. These are all things I would say to her now, and can still say to her, am saying to her now with these words on this screen. I choose to believe she’s reading this, or hears what’s in my head, that she’s proud of the woman I’ve become. And by the way she’d be happy to see that I’m someone who today devours the news because this shit is crazy, and I can’t wait until the movie on all this comes out, but I’m still not someone to argue with others about what’s going on, who does what, or why. I do like to think about how all this is going to end, but no one ever thinks it will be in our lifetimes, because even though we know on some level life as we know it inevitably must come to an end, we can’t really comprehend it. Most people don’t like to talk about it.

Most people don’t like to talk about death, and when I bring up my mother, if they haven’t experienced death of a close, loved one, I sense that they want me to stop talking, but I don’t. Or maybe they just don’t know what to say, like how I was before Mom died. We are afraid of death, of everything about it. To talk about it seems morbid. People who haven’t experienced it themselves seem to think maybe it’s too painful for me to discuss, or it may seem that I’m obsessed with her or death in general. But it’s not that, and I don’t feel hopeless or depressed about it. Rather, it’s my way of acknowledging Mom’s life and the impact she made on me. When I tell my classmates to watch their blood pressure or post an article on Facebook about how importance of quitting smoking, it’s not to preach or wallow in regret about how or why Mom died, but to learn from her death and try to illuminate to others on how they might live a longer, healthier life. Responses range from fear about dying, and how they might prolong their own lives, or I may get a comment about how when your time comes, it comes, and if smoking doesn’t give me cancer, something else will because we can’t live in a bubble. I agree with both, and still find both responses amusing. No, you cannot avoid death, but yes, you can make choices to limit your chances of dying a slow, painful death of suffering. Most importantly, we can make choices to feel good in a healthy way today. Because today is all you got.

purpose

I want to find some newer songs to post, and not those that are 10+ years old, but these are the ones that pop into my head… My favorite verse is this: “I want life in every word / to the extent that it’s absurd.” As a side note, I like how the person who made this video (aka 3BeStillMyHeart3) calls it another of her (or his or their) “pooey” videos simply because I like the use of the word “pooey,” though I wish this person wouldn’t be so self-deprecating. I can relate to how this person feels. Maybe she needs to join CODA. Just saying.

Feeding the Good Wolf

Last night my boss, Cathy, had my co-workers and me over for dinner and a movie, which was literally that: dinner and a movie. Ie, communication wasn’t the predominant theme—but that was okay. We sat together like a happy family, in comfortable silence, occasionally throwing out commentary on what was happening in the show, but mostly just watching the show–and me petting the cat, Kikui, whose velvety nose I wish I could kiss right now because she was such a sweet little smoochy woochy.

But I digress. Our shindig was similar to the experience I had with Cathy last week, when we drove to New Jersey for a conference, in that I’d imagined hours-long heart-to-hearts in the car on the way and in the hotel, because I feel a connection with Cathy, but instead I had homework that I spent the night working on, and she had some games to play on her phone, which I thought was cute. Some of my friends are gamers, though I was never big into it myself. Yet there’s something about allowing yourself to use just be a kid that really appeals to me. My former roommates convinced me to play a virtual reality video game called “Rush of Blood,” that I think they got a kick out of seeing me with the goggles on, bouncing all over the room with a remote control gun in each hand, yelling, “Die, suckers!” to the killer zombies popping up in front of my face. Hey, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, my friends. You have to defend your turf. Just kidding. Really what I wonder is why can’t we all just get along? Maybe I should’ve tried to be friends with those killer zombies, but the video game didn’t have that option. Something about holding a toy gun in your hand, the fear of perishing, the adrenaline rush that comes from that primal instinct to survive that really just brought out the bloodthirstiness in me.

So I can understand why gamers like gaming, though I prefer being in nature.

Anyway, we watched “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a new TV series that stars one of my favorite actresses, Elizabeth Moss, who also plays a badass cop on “Top of the Lake.” This show brings to light what crazy times we live in, in case anyone needed a spotlight on that particular topic.

My co-worker Beth, who’s 60, remembers reading the book when she was in her 20s, and I can’t remember when I read it. It was published in 1985, so I knew I couldn’t have read it then, because I’d have been nine years old. Cathy noted that she wasn’t even born yet in 1985. Christy’s a few years younger than I am, but never read it. Regardless, the four of us come together. Age doesn’t matter, but it’s interesting to reflect on, especially when you remember things that other generations have no memory of. At times I feel like I’m becoming a living relic, an artifact, and/or a witness to those artifacts, which really we all are if you think about it. It’s so flattering when younger people are interested in hearing the experience I have to share. Eg, Cathy remembers being in elementary school when 9/11 happened, but not really knowing what was going on, while I remember details from the whole day, including the drive home from work, past the Centers for Disease Control (a potential target in our minds), terrified the world around me would blow up any moment.

As an American growing up in the 80s and 90s, I’d spent my life thinking the world was a relatively safe place—well, except for how we thought the Russians were going to bomb us and the apocalypse would happen via nuclear war any day now—but other than that little fear (which by the way was much more pervasive when my parents were kids what with the bomb shelters and all), when I was a kid we felt like the world—school, church, the grocery store, work, airports—were generally safe. There had been a shooting at my high school but that was in the parking lot on a Saturday, so it kind of didn’t count. The fear was always there but the reality didn’t hit (me, anyway) until 9/11.

Nowadays some of us accumulate bug-out bags or go ahead and take the leap and learn to live off the land. I sure wish I had a piece of land and a little house of my own, with some goats, chickens, and a garden. Oh well. Maybe some day.

What I’m trying to say is, this TV show makes you think. I don’t want to feed into anyone’s paranoia, but it’s scary how slowly and insidiously oppression can rise in a society. In looking at other countries, and history… well, it’s just scary. Maybe we are wired to fear for our lives, the fight-or-flight response built in to protect us from predatory animals, and maybe the apocalyptic story originates from growing up in a predominantly Christian society, or maybe the story of the apocalypse in Christianity comes from some innate, inevitable knowing, or maybe from the fight-or-flight response. Chicken or egg, who knows. Doesn’t matter really. Just interesting to think about.

My ex’s brother believes that our world was created and is controlled by aliens playing a video game for their entertainment, that we live inside this video game. He even published a paper on it in some scientific AI publication. This, to me, is a fascinating belief. If I believed that, I might just commit suicide. He’s okay with it, or so he writes in his paper, though admittedly I didn’t read the entire 20-something pages of it, it being a dense read and me feeling like my life operates on a constant time deficit as it is, without spending time reading something that quite frankly made me feel depressed.

One could argue the same for watching “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and I would not disagree. I’ve only gotten to episode 3, but the show so far hasn’t left me with a feel-good feeling about our future. Then again, I’ve always been one to appreciate all the possibilities of what could happen, and since I was a little girl I had a bizarre affinity for devouring terrifying, nightmare-provoking movies.

On the other hand, I try to feed the good wolf these days. So I thought about what Wayne Dyer writes about in some of his books. He was influenced by a book, Man’s Search for Meaning, written by Viktor Frankl, who lived in a Nazi concentration camp but yet found a way to have a positive attitude, which may have been ultimately what saved his life.

My sister Sherry recently told me that she felt sick of how our society acts like everyone should be bright and cheery all the time. She made a valid point of how living in the moment doesn’t necessarily mean always being bubbly and effusive. Sometimes we just don’t feel that way, and nothing anyone else can do or say can change that. For several months after our beloved mother died unexpectedly, no amount of positive affirmations, no number of hikes in the woods, no words or actions could change the feeling of devastation and utter loss we felt. Not enough birds could sing, no one could smile or joke enough, nothing. And that’s okay. It’s okay to feel sad sometimes, to allow that. We don’t have to be cheerful 24/7—it’s not natural. Personally, my threshold for pain has become much lower, and I surround myself with as much positivity as I possibly can. But it’s unhealthy to bury grief, anger, or negative or undesirable emotions. It’s all about what we do with those emotions that makes the difference.

I’m rambling a bit so I will cut to the chase to say this: shit happens, and shit can happen at any time, but we can persevere. We can not only survive but thrive. My plan is to read Viktor Frankl’s book, continue to say positive affirmations, feel and show love for others, allow myself grief when needed, and while I may watch these shows sometimes, I refuse to let anyone else’s bleak prediction rule my life. Not that I don’t have a few emergency supplies just in case—I’m a big fan of emergency preparedness—but I’m also an advocate of living life to the fullest. Rather than hoping for the best and expecting the worst, I try to expect the best from life, with the understanding that the world and everything else, apart from my own thoughts and actions, is beyond my control.

With that I’ll leave you with a quote I found on Wikipedia from Wayne Dyer: ”My beliefs are that the truth is a truth until you organize it, and then it becomes a lie. I don’t think that Jesus was teaching Christianity, Jesus was teaching kindness, love, concern, and peace. What I tell people is don’t be Christian, be Christ-like. Don’t be Buddhist, be Buddha-like.”

Here’s a beautiful song, my favorite lines being this:

“Never know the abilities that you possess
Til you find yourself and lay all assumptions to rest
I’ll never stop writing when there’s no ink left
It’ll never stop flowing even when there’s no breath
And I’ll never find the words that describe my mind
I’ll never stop looking
I’ll never stop trying”

I’m a Big Girl Now!

beginnings

This is “today’s card,” an image that was the first to pop up on my Pinterest feed, and it seemed appropriate to this blog post.

Since my mother passed, I have gained a newfound interest in older people, more so than before. By older people, I mean those who are older than me, in their 50s or older.

Because I like to go to various support groups for different self-help reasons, I get to meet a lot of older people. The thing about those who are 50 plus is that they have life experience. Chances are, by the age of 50 one is more likely to have experienced some tragic or unforeseen turn of events, such as divorce, layoffs, or the death of a loved one. At the same time, being older doesn’t grant someone automatic wisdom, and I’ve met a few wise young people in their 20s. Young or old, it’s life experience that can make us softer around the edges.

Although I’m 40 years old, I don’t look it. Looking younger has all the obvious advantages. People compliment me, and ask what kind of skin care products I use, and what kind of foods I eat, and they say they would lie about their age if they were me, or not tell anyone. It’s a shame really, that our culture is so youth-obsessed.

The downside is that older people sometimes assume I don’t have much life experience, and while they’re generally nice to me, and show a tremendous amount more patience with me than I feel with younger people, they can be a bit dismissive. Often I find myself wanting to preface anything I say with, “By the way, I’m 40 years old, twice divorced, a career changer, and recently orphaned.” Or even just “I’m 40.” But usually I avoid it because I feel as though I’m basically saying, “I’m a big girl now!” or that I too just got my period and am not a virgin.

Sometimes I do mention that I’m 40, as in the case recently when a 72-year-old (she told me her age) customer came into the store to buy an herb to help her sleep. She didn’t want melatonin because it’s not good for breast cancer survivors, a fact (or opinion) I did not know, and said so. She started to give me advice for when I start getting mammograms, so I stopped her to let her know I just had my first mammogram (I’m a big girl now!) this year, and that I am indeed 40 years old.

“My God, I thought you were 18!” she exclaimed (I do not, by the way, look that young). When younger people are shocked by my age, I used to get a kick out of it, because I thought, Well what do you think 40 looks like? It’s not really that old. But now that I get the same response from older people, I find myself just feeling… misunderstood, I guess (the perfect time to say the St. Francis prayer!).

Neither of my marriages lasted very long, and I never had kids, so I feel like someone in limbo who doesn’t really relate to people in any generation. I meet the occasional childless–or as some like to call it, child-free–woman, and make friends. I have a few new friends who are 10 or 20 years older than I am, and some of them have kids and some don’t.

What’s nice about my older friends is that, as I mentioned, they have a lot of patience and understanding, and they don’t have to talk about themselves all the time. Rather than drain them of their time and energy by talking about myself all the time, I’m beginning to follow their example and do the same. Really listen to what people have to say. I get this opportunity at work all the time. Customers tell me about their health problems, for example, and rather than reply with a blank stare, I have begun to respond with statements like, “That must be hard,” or, if applicable, “I have a friend who had that same issue.” It’s what Wayne Dyer recommends in his book Your Sacred Self, and it really makes a difference in how people respond. They just want someone to listen and understand. Isn’t that what we all want?

What I’m beginning to appreciate, which my older friends already know, is the realization that I don’t have to be in a hurry all the time. If something doesn’t get done or something was forgotten, then it’s not as catastrophic as it once might have been. And if I don’t get what I want, then maybe it wasn’t meant to be. If someone else gets what I wanted, it’s not such a tragedy, and could be in fact a good thing, because I can be happy for that person, rather than feel that they took from some limited supply of happiness that’s no longer accessible to me.

The most profound realization of which I’m on the cusp is that it doesn’t matter if I never become anything or anyone, if I never do anything. Who is it that I’d become? What is it that I’d do? The most beautiful thing that can happen is that each day I am the best, truest version of myself, and that the actions I take are of love and other-centeredness. Intellectually I’ve known this for some time, but only now am I beginning to know it in my heart. It still doesn’t answer what I’ll do for a career, but I’m beginning not to care. When I don’t care at all, that will be real freedom.

Here’s a beautiful song that I just heard for the first time while I was writing this:

 

Soul Sisters and The Journey

Sunday I go to visit my best friend’s family in Panama City, Florida. It’s been over 20 years since I’ve seen them, and they’re like family to me. When I was a freshman in college I had a room in their house. The difference is that back then we all drank together, and now I’m sober. At first I felt nervous because I haven’t really been around a lot of drinking since I quit, but after talking to my bestie, who I’ll call Kim on this blog, I think it will be fine. They don’t drink as much as they used to when she’s around (she’s sober too), and I don’t mind if they have a drink or two, or even if they get drunk, as long as there’s not a falling-down, throwing-things yelling match. That happens sometimes when alcoholics get drunk.

It’s not like alcohol makes me freak out. When there’s alcohol nearby I don’t start jonesing for some. Drinking is not something I think about very often. While alcoholism is an incurable disease, I don’t obsess over drinking anymore. At the same time, I don’t take it lightly, because I’ve seen people start drinking again after 20 years of sobriety, and I never want that to be my story.

Drunk people are annoying more than anything. I won’t say it’s ever funny, because I don’t find drunk people funny at all, but it’s interesting to watch people act like how I must’ve acted, repeating themselves, stumbling, speaking loudly. It’s like watching a live performance of my previous life. Maybe I can look at it without judgment, of them, of me, and just observe. Even better, maybe I can look at it with compassion, and remember that drinking was once my way of coping with life.

The thing that really bothers me most about alcohol—other than the obvious fact that it destroys lives—is the smell. It just makes me feel nauseous now. It’s worse the day after. The smell of stale alcohol breath—there’s nothing like it. The best way I can think to describe it is that it smells a bit like garlic, and when someone breathes that smell in my face I have to hold my nose because it makes me want to vomit. It also makes me grateful that I don’t have to live that way today, hung over, vomiting, wishing I was at home in bed, or dead.

What’s beautiful to me about my life journey so far is that my oldest sister and my best friend drank like I did, and now they’re sober, and we all got sober around the same time. First my sister quit, which was the catalyst for me to quit, then I quit, and nine months later Kim quit. Even more interesting is that my sister and Kim have become friends in recent years because now they live near each other. I always thought of Kim as my soul sister, and I think of both my sisters as my soul sisters too—all three of them are sisters who I’ve journeyed through many lifetimes together, though we may have had different roles. I believe Steven and my mother are also part of our soul family.

What I really don’t get is why God takes those who are most beautiful. Some might say 66 years is a long time, and while it is a full life, it’s not long enough for the rest of us. How do my father, his father, his uncle, and so many other people live to be in their late 60s, 70s, and even 80s, with this disease that blocks God from them, that keeps them from fully loving others, when my mother, who dedicated her life to be of service to others, had to go? Mom rarely drank, and after my sister and I quit, Mom decided never to drink again. She was so supportive of us, so proud, no doubt more so because her mother couldn’t quit despite Mom’s efforts to help her so many times. Our grandmother finally quit a year before she passed, after she was diagnosed with cancer.

I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t take, he receives. For whatever reason, it was Mom’s time to go. But the rest of us, those of us who linger on, we have more lessons to learn before our time comes. We have miles to go before we sleep.