Working Together

"We shape our self
to fit this world

and by the world
are shaped again..."

Excerpt from "Working Together" © David Whyte
in The House of Belonging

Many Rivers Press

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Fall Equinox 2015 - Attachment - Life and Death, The Musical

 I spent the last few hours reading and ruminating over my previous posts on my word of the year, attachment. I don't like to read my posts after the fact. It is hard to go back and look without wanting to edit the poorly constructed posts but....well, it is not like life comes with an editor. These blog posts aren't meant to be anything but conversational, anyway. Don't ask me who I am talking to. If you are reading this...I am talking to YOU. What I state in posts of the past is not of contention if how I say it is and it is time to move forward; It is time to look at the world from today after the attachments have been loosened, burned and/or sent packing.

No matter what word I would have chosen for this year, the year would have still been life changing, I know. When I close my eyes and reflect on this last nine months, I see the peeling away of layer after layer of complicated mechanisms that were at work in keeping me slowly gamboling through my life with the center of my balance in survival...but no sustainable grace of living fully; no wholeheartedness, no dancing. I felt so high when all of these things began to leave off that, at one point I thought it was the 70's again. Being that enhanced at my age never portends a positive turn of events (lovely as it is). Usually it denotes a manic episode and perhaps a stroke in the wings. This is what the experience of an aging empath brings...owning that not everything that glitters is mine.

In letting go of attachments this year I fell, I slipped up and staggered my way through these changes. The fall I took - the WAY I fell - horrified me though I wasn't hurt at all. I wounded myself at one point producing a very large hemotoma that covered half my left arm that was the result of doing nothing more than sitting at my computer quoting the Bible in my blog just prior to Easter. The doctor could find no medical reason for my stigmata. Side eyes were shared all around. The slip in January was emotional and humiliating and the stumble I took in July lamed me up good for eight weeks. A soft tissue injury, it knocked me off my diet and exercise regimen and left me disheartened as I watched 18 months of established good habits and weight loss vaporize as I had to leave off the use of my leg. It seems I am being taught how to walk upright on earth under new conditions after my long exile in the exosphere. My reentry to earth from that loopy orbit was every bit as emotionally trying as Ryan's reentry in the film "Gravity" that I presaged to link to in June. The aftermath has been physically challenging. I had forgotten how hard the ground can be on a girl. Gone is the swagger in my gait. I now walk like a Long John Silver...but man, oh man, I can take in some really fascinating things from this hobbled vantage point!

It is as if all the things that had kept me in a certain alignment in my life were banished or went slack and I'm still dealing with the whiplash. I couldn't be happier, in truth. I know these things had to go. It is a housecleaning of sorts. It is to my chagrin only that I failed to understand initially the physical consequence such a lack of tethering would produce. That said, there is another sensation that I have experienced: one of a certain clarity regarding my place in the scheme of things. I'm starting to "get" life on a new level.

I am seeing things in a new light in my crawling out from the cocoon, standing up and rising above; a newly appreciated perception I did not have access to in the old way I was functioning. I feel differently towards injustice and my boundaries, for one. I push back now when violated which is very new for me. I received an unjustified vehicular moving violation from the authorities and I responded the best way I knew how in my defense and something actually happened in my favor as a result. It wasn't like it was a full on battle but it was a scrap and I dished out what I felt was appropriate. Before, I wouldn't have even had bothered. There has been a tightening of my ability to respond to these types of encounters and things make a certain "sense" to me now where before I could not hardly follow what was going on when there was conflict. Much of these changes are, perhaps, from a returning confidence replacing my need for these things that were just not good to continue to hold on to: I let blaming my Father go - I let the concept of success go - I let worrying about money go - I let saving face go - I let needing to appear strong go - I let expecting others to understand go - I let magical thinking go - I let other people's opinions of me go - I let the fear of receiving attention go - I let needing to have the answers go - I let fear of failure go - I let needing to be right go... Most difficult and heartbreaking was letting go of how I was loving people both real and imagined; attaching in lieu of connecting. Gone.

I'm still pretentious, self-absorbed, undisciplined and sloppy...among other things. I'm a happy mess and I keep a home that could easily be declared uninhabitable by many.  As Courtnee Fallon Rex explains in her fabulous blog post called "How I Separated from My Stuff", there is this hard truth:  "...A big part of letting go of attachment to a lot of my material things has stemmed from learning that there is an inherent value in memories fading over time..." Not an easy prospect to gain purchase on for a hardwired archivist like myself! I need to let go of plenty material attachments - and I need to remain confident I will find the strength to do so as these things infringe upon my new well being. Right now, though, I'm feeling the need to begin to fill in this new sense of being earth bound with interesting ideas, compassionate work and mystery. I'm taking it slow - some because I have to and some because I want to savor this space and feel this personal empowerment and growth. It feels not totally unlike a live birth/creation ripe within me. Perhaps I will finally learn the lessons required to become fully human and someone who can contribute in some way. I really don't know. All I know is that it is about "yay" big and it is part of me.

While all of this letting go of attachment has been going on there have been, too, connections made and new information regarding my interest in understanding where the conversations in our culture are going regarding death and dying. There are plenty of ideas and some are striking me as ingenious. The ideas that Stephen Jenkinson are throwing down are real deal breakers in our cultural investment in anthropomorphizing death by vilifying it which turns all religious construct and human perspective on the matter on its ear and spinning. The revelations of this work in "Die Wise" are rooted so deep into the depths of human consciousness that my resistance to the information repeatedly steels me from it. The impact is such that I have to read these perspectives over and over again to make sure I am understanding these concepts correctly. I think I am but the ideas are so massively encompassing that each layer of understanding must be meditated upon to actually "get" it. Well I'm in, of course, because now I have all the psychic, spiritual, intellectual and emotional boom room!

All of this activity over the last nine months doesn't mean to suggest that that I haven't felt acutely the loss of these old ways of being in the world. Some of the releasing was profoundly painful. Sometimes the attachment was so deep that I felt like I had betrayed these ways of being. Many times I felt ashamed that I don't have more control over my behavior. There was bargaining and 11th hour hopes for rescue and redemption employed. I turned to the works of Amanda Fucking Palmer and her cadre of fans,Neil Gaiman, Brene Brown, C. Anthony Martignetti, Greg Sage/Wipers, Krista Detor, Andy White, and many others for inspiration and strength to stay the course and I'm deeply thankful that I have held together thus far. It is largely due to the work of those listed.
The entirety of  Salty Dog by Procol Harum has been on constant rotation during this period because, well, I only truly understand my life as a musical and this record kept me apace. Without music I've no movement or navigation. I often wonder if artists can ever know what it is to stand in the presence of their gifts. How I deeply appreciate an artists hard work in channeling this immense amount of vibrational and timeless confluence! What that must entail! I can't even imagine. I'm knee deep in a vulnerable and naive state of the detail and mastery required to produce such works in order to receive what is given. I am fed by art and when and if the day every arrives when it is time to give back, in this life or another, I hope I will be ready. In the mean time, I'm taking that love I receive and applying the strength and compassion to my work with those who struggle with the loss of their lives through their dying process. To support and witness to seeing to it that (to quote Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End), "Dying is the day worth living for".

This too has been a constant through this year: The knowledge that there has to be loss...there has to be a type of suffering in life. Most importantly there is always suffering a loss to make waygoing for more life in the natural order of things. I think I'm beginning to understand better my own nature and the nature of the world. This is how it works.

I'm posting this Equinox writing a little early. I'm going to the coast soon and today is my 62nd birthday. As well, it is Talk Like a Pirate Day. In a humorous way, I enjoy sharing my birthday with this paean to the sanitized, romantic notion of free spirit and outlaw. Such is the way of dreams and imagery; joy and art. I would never in a million years think that I would feel this excited and entranced over the grand mystery of life as I feel at this age. I wake in amazement and I wonder what extraordinary thing will happen today and something always DOES! It slays me.

So, in closing, a few things nautical: A rallying cry from First Mate, Joshamee Gibbs*, " The wind's on our side, boys! That's all we need! " and this...

 Wreck of the Hesperus
We'll hoist a hand, becalmed upon a troubled sea
'Make haste to your funeral, ' cries the Valkyrie
We'll hoist a hand or drown amidst this stormy sea
'Here lies a coffin, ' cries the cemet'ry, it calls to me
And all for nothing quite in vain was hope forever tossed
No thoughts explained, no moments gained, no hope forever lost
One moment's space, one moment's final fall from grace
Burnt by fire, blind in sight, lost in ire

We'll hoist a hand, becalmed upon a troubled sea
I fear a mighty wave is threatening me
We'll hoist a hand, or drown amidst this stormy sea
'Come follow after, ' cry the humble, 'You will surely see...'
But still for nothing quite in vain was hope forever tossed
No moments gained, no thoughts explained, no hope forever lost
One moment's space, one moment's final fall from grace
Burnt by fire, blind in sight, lost in ire
Songwriters: M. FISHER, K. REID
The Wreck Of The Hesperus lyrics © T.R.O. INC.

*Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End 
Photo credit: Stephen Dalton/Mindon Pictures; video: #ProcolHarum

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer Solstice; Misplaced Loyalties...The Burn and the Return

Just a few words about confession, transparency and this blog.

I use this blog as a confessional. I personally do not believe in my heart and soul that there is anything wrong with the truth. I am quite aware that telling the truth is a bore when it is not wrapped in gilt and poesy; when it is not in a song or turned out into a piece of fine art for people to admire or relate to on their own terms. I'm aware that my writings are self indulgent. I do it because I want to and I can. It is the only way I know how to express myself. I think aspiring to be an artist requires a great deal of faith, discipline and bravery and I admire that. However, I don't care about what people do to get by in life, really, unless they are nasty mean and destructive. Some of the people that I most admire in the world - no matter what they do - are people who dare to be themselves against all odds; I'm inspired by people who try new things and explore different ways of solving problems; people who are sincere and those who  find a way to say the unsay-able. I notice and appreciate people who dare to be seen; people who choose love.

I wish I understood how books are made; how to write fiction or a song or a poem;  I wish I could convey what I'm feeling and seeing through music, painting and photography. I have no talent or ambition for those things. What I do is a type of meta-collage. I use social media and I post images, videos, words, quotes and comments that reflect my experience of where I am at in time and space. I utilize three realities simultaneously - what is on the internet (virtual); what images are given me in my dreams (dream time); and what I experience everyday while awake (physical). Each entry on the internet is a language of found objects for me about what I am experiencing. Some of the entries cycle back through years referencing something from the scope of my life. Social media is my canvass - my blank page - my slate. None of the content is my own and everything found - stolen, if you will - to tell my story. I cast my net across cyber space and weave my web for what is the exact right thing that goes with the other thing that adds to the next thing as it is revealed. We all do a little of it on Facebook daily.

I've been doing this since 2003 and in this way I am like the swallow and the crow. These are animals that have adapted to the environment they have been born to. They learned to live with the human ego while bringing their nature along into the mix. They build nests in our eaves and steal our sandwiches off our picnic tables then poop on things and, in general, get in the way of big human plans. Likewise, I can be regarded as a pest in much the same manner in social circles. I can be found often accidentally doing something to offend the culture police. I promise you though, should the internet fold tomorrow, I will persevere in much the same way these birds do. I'd adapt and make use of whatever changes that kind of cataclysmic event would produce. Oh, yes...yes I would.

My voice evolved through social media. Occasionally I will stop and wonder how it has happened that I have ended up writing self serving drivel for years in a public forum. I feel an absolute fool every time I sit down to blog...yet I keep doing it. I just keep showing up and once I get past the point of feeling like a tool, I keep writing and something within me feels better and I am stronger for it. That is all I know. If I have a goal at all, it is to wake one morning and be done. There will be nothing more to tell...nothing more to spill. I will not sit down with my coffee and my journal in the morning as I have for 40 plus years. I will, instead, pick up a pair of binoculars wander outside in my underwear, slippers and an untethered bathrobe to begin a compulsive study of bird identification until I get hungry for breakfast or the neighbors call the cops. Until then, it appears, I'm writing a blog post...because I can...because I must.


"If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,  
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear. 
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream..."

~William Shakespeare
Midsummer Night's Dream

As the summer days have grown longer my life has brightened accordingly. I have been amassing experiences in the last six months related to my word of the year attachment and many of these have been released causing the volume of my confidence to be turned way way up. Thanks to good fortune and support from friends and allies, I am beginning to feel myself again. Liberated and optimistic...details I have worked with over the last decade have been examined and released. Some are small yet deeply rooted in meaning for me.

cilesfineline blog background  2006-15
I inaugurate my new blog background this Solstice to reflect the efforts of the last six months. I will be posting this video on Facebook for dramatic effect...because it makes me smile and because I found the film so amazing and the circumstances in seeing it so profound in January. There has been a freaking amount of personal heartache I've endured in trying to figure out what to do with who I am in the last year. I've had my own version of a "hell of a ride". I will also be changing my cover photo for the first time since I began Facebook. There are crows. It is the first day of the rest of my life.

One of my most sacred and difficult attachments to be wrested from the shadows into the light this year was my delusional misplaced loyalty to men - more to the point my conceit, projection and objectification regarding them. My misandry, if you will. Whatever I have been dealt in life, through it all, it should be recognized that I have dished out plenty. The fact that I was not aware of an ability to do harm at the time is hardly an excuse. I've known for sometime that my relationships with men have been difficult on the best days but what I did not know was how complicit I was in enabling my own dysfunction and - to my deepest regret - sharing the worst of myself with others.

                                                     The Herstory

Since having received help in the late seventies in learning to cope with the trespass upon my youth, the next important step was to make friends with  men. I had made two sons after all and the situation was roiling towards an inevitable conflict if I didn't get a grasp on my personal history in this regard. Having a long term relationship with a woman helped me understand how immobilized I was in my communications with men. By experiencing the difference, I was able to identify what parts of my relationships with men were missing. I was comfortable in my same sex relationship and I can't say enough regarding its value in my life. There are things I would have never have known without that experience. It was not so much the sexual relationship that was enlightening as the day to day sanity available to people who care for each other as partners when they can communicate and fight and make up and do all that stuff that makes the love boat float. I had never had any stable relationship like that with a man though I had witnessed others enjoy it. That discovery was huge for me. I appreciated it deeply but being partnered did not feel right for me. I was restless. Unfortunately, while I could be attracted, I don't fall in love with women.

With my promiscuous history behind me, I recall sitting in the tub one day in the eighties and counted over one hundred sexual encounters. I decided then and there to burn that bridge. No more cavalier relationships, being sucked up into some need for attention and casual sex. My sisters seem to have no problem with it but I was a splattered bug on a windscreen with each encounter. To this day I cannot remember a tenth of the names of people I had intimacies with. How can that be okay? Sadly when I made that promise to myself, I was still too young to steer clear of temptation. I was still hungry for attention and attachment was still good enough.

Liberated by a new perspective and vocabulary I had a way to relate to all people and I spent years trying harder to learn how to be a good friend to men. I feel that in many ways I succeeded as I have male and female friends of all ages now that I adore to the moon and back. I learned to ask questions and listen and trust the answers. These relationships are some of the most valued in my life. I haven't slept with any of these friends - that was never part of the dynamic in these relationships; maintaining that boundary and enjoying the rich exchange within it is a big factor in how I am able to continue to enjoy these friendships. I am good with that. Sex was never something I was very good at even after the long journey in recapturing my power and sensuality back from the grip of assault. I enjoyed sex, certainly, but it never was my first language nor do I think it was meant to be any more an ambition for me than conventional partnerships were. The reason it was so important for so long was that it was such and arduous journey to heal the damage. When it came down to letting it go when I approached 50 and I was losing my sex appeal, there were few tears shed over the matter. Sex is a very important way to connect with another person yet it is just ONE way in the full spectrum of a life. All the valuable connections I had made in my life were made from the heart and soul not my sex. It saddened me when I reflected on all the friends I lost because I had sex with them and they were reduced to attachments. That is the way I played it out. So I maintained my extra 60 pounds for a decade or so and tried to bury the hatchet...only, as it happened, I found out that what I considered a ritual burial turned out to be the shallow grave of a crime scene.

                                                   The Clinic

My insurance was about to run out and my regular doctor at the clinic was on holiday. I need to have some tests done to stay in compliance for when I could get insurance once more so I saw another doctor in the clinic for a pelvic. I was annoyed. What do I need a pelvic for? I'm 60 years old and I haven't seen any action in 14 years? I humored myself through deciding at least someone would get a glimpse of my dusty pantry. The doctor noted a slight rash. I was surprised.  I asked her for a mirror and she laughed, stating, "We haven't had hand mirrors in the exam rooms since 1979! You will have to do that investigating at home but it looks to me like a herpes rash." A WHAT? What's THAT?" I was stunned! I had never had any idea that I was infected with anything like herpes! Had I been sleepwalking? I needed a paper bag to breathe into but they put those away with the mirrors, apparently. Noting my distress she prodded me into describing my sexual history and when it got down to the numbers she spun around in her chair to the computer and began typing. I told her that my other doctor declined my request for hepatitis testing. I had read that it was advised since I work with fringe populations but she didn't seem to think I was a candidate. She stared at me and frowned in disagreement. She thought I should be tested right away. I overheard her talking to herself and the monitor... 'The full Monte - the full STD panel...maybe not syphilis"...Syphilis? What? Fucking A!

Vials of blood were drawn at the lab and I went home and drank heavily for days until bleary vestiges of old lovers would appear and I would apologize. Assailants came to call, as well.  So I am a skank. That will validate a lot of perceptions. I was born in the gutter and it appeared I would die there too. The time was ripe to kick start that long overdue road trip to alcoholic oblivion that I had been putting off all my life. I picked my poison and toasted every one that got away for being a lucky bastard in the end. I cried a lot and then I cried some more.

In trepidation I returned to the clinic for follow up a week later. My doctor came into the room and stared at my test results stating too enthusiastically that I didn't have HIV and I didn't have Hep A but I had a strong showing for most of the rest of the panel. She perused the data in a pleased way that only a clinician can appreciate -  like she had just bet and won on a trifecta at the Belmont. Swept up as she was on examining her data she inquired without looking up if maybe I would like to change my mind and be tested for syphilis in light of these results. I let my glowering silence draw her from her clipboard. "No...Just. NO." I replied. "What does it matter, at this point, if I die compromised by syphilis or dementia?" I asked. About this time the doctor realized I was having a bit of trouble assimilating this diagnosis.  She began to back peddle in an attempt to find the threshold of communication with me and waded in with, "You know this is not an uncommon diagnosis for people your age. You had a lot of unprotected sex after the pill was available and before the AIDS epidemic hit in the eighties, as did many of your generation. We have a lot more accuracy in testing now and this is what we are finding. There's no way of telling how long you have been sharing this, however." I DID know that it was a problem with the aging but I had framed that in the context of sexual encounters in elders who dated and those who were in assisted living facilities. It simply never occurred to me that I would be a candidate. Thank GOD I stopped mixing and mating when I DID!! The fact that I did stop makes a strong case for the existence of divine intervention, certainly! Still the knowledge that I had been a serial STD assassin for an unknown extended period of time was more than I could wrap my mind around. There just seems to be no end to the depth of my complicity when it comes to this issue. "Regrets....I've had a few" is a serious understatement at this juncture.

                                                   My Misandry

In the past I have objectified the men I was attracted to and disenfranchised them much the same way men do to women without even realizing what I was doing. Anymore my sexism is often embedded in a cloak of humorous cynicism and sarcasm.  I'm guilty of being all too quick to share in a laugh at the patriarchy's expense. This is a way to avoid connecting and it creates a distance. I work on that as I can yet the issue still stands.

When I suggest, "we are playing by boy's rules, after all" in referring to the way of the world; though I know it is condescending, what I mean is, it seems many of us are held fast in a cultural design of male construct. There is a whole other world women have access to that men (and women) cannot fathom while they are fixed in that paradigm. We are ALL caught in the design somewhat because it is what IS, no matter what gender; we all buy in. Women's liberation is gender liberation in aiming for a balance in this. I really love being a woman and the life I love - the other world view that I maintain -  is predominantly female from the center of my being. From the center of the male world view, I think it must be perceived as hysteria or insanity. Perspective; it depends on where you are standing. My frustration has been with the imbalance of power when I began to feel my own and there was no place it seemed to fit within any social dynamic that exists. My redemption is within the healthy breaks appearing in the status quo and perceptions thanks to younger and more progressive and compassionate free thinkers who are in the world today. Living alive like a girl will have its day...probably long after I'm gone.

                                                 The Reflection

Would this have happened anyway if my life had a sound beginning with no abandonment, assault and derailment? Possibly. I'm a precocious person. I would have not wanted to miss anything pleasurable. I would have been all over sex, drugs and rock and roll, my feral childhood not-withstanding. I don't think, however, I would have been so clueless regarding men and how they are wired had I had appropriate contact with them as a child and understood that they were actual human beings like me. I would not have been compelled to attach myself to magical relationships that others did not participate in to compensate. Had I not been raised by she-wolves and been so hopelessly oriented into power struggles with men, I would have probably "got" the concept of testing and safe sex much earlier as protecting my own interests and those who I cared about would have been a higher priority. Also I would not have had to act out for years subjugating myself to numerable partners. Perhaps the journey would not have lasted 50 years...or perhaps these things take as just long as they take, as they say. I just know that part of this scenario would have happened and did happen to many of my peers with variations. I am a product of my time this way.

Having confessed all of that, if you know of someone who has been carnal with me over the years or you are Googling old lovers for shits and grins; well, this is the former. This is the shits and I'm sorry but if you haven't already made the discovery, you should get thee to a clinic.

                                               The Epilogue 

I would hope that besides launching this confession into cyberspace to lighten my load that younger readers who stumble upon it may understand this as a cautionary tale. There is little that you will be doing in your twenties and thirties that you will not be wearing in one form or another in your sixties. For my generation it was the sexual revolution. Examine your generation's issues. Choose wisely early because if you are fortunate enough to be alive in your sixties, you will be compelled to live large and be bountiful in gratitude. The accumulation of life just feels that way. All the things that you were just slamming in your mind when young that your body was reveling in, return to you in old age without all the static; they return in the pure sensation in which they were experienced in your physical being. Splashing and bracing your body in the surf as the ocean wave tries to push you down; the drip of the glaze off of a warm cinnamon bun across your finger and your absent minded raising it to your lip to capture it, the feel of your lovers face cupped in your may have been too busy in your head at the time but your body remembers it all and reminds you in memories when you get older. Nothing is lost on body consciousness. Even the scars and traumas have their place in the aging experience with the love that's applied to their healing. The lust and passions of youth can evolve into this benevolence jelly in ones being and it is quite luscious to experience this accumulation of your own soul so resplendently. Live large, live transparently and compassionately with empathy... and don't give out before your time is done here. You will miss the best part. You will miss the love cycling home.

My troubled attachments to delusional loyalties and my life as a lonely satellite with its enchanting view is released. I continue to try and apply compassion to all my friendships and cultivate empathy for my fellow human beings, as I can. I will probably continue to walk across people's lawns and trespass generally in ways unblessed. Mostly I watch the life dance in its full orchestrated splendor, enjoy my memories and keep reveling in my life as crone. Accordingly, my kundalini is otherwise occupied in matters of natural law, holding space for the dying and steeped in the mystic where it is best suited at my age. My connection is to the earth now and I'm damn thankful to have made the ride through the exosphere. If you want to connect with me, you can contact me here.

Thanks to skydreamer barnes for the beautiful Pretenders video; to Shakespeare for writing Midsummer Night's Dream, Sir Henry Edwin Landseer for the painting above; Chsotiri for the video excerpt from "Gravity" and Sandra Bullock for her mad acting skills. Special thanks to C. Anthony Martignetti author of  Lunatic Heroes and Beloved Demons who, with great daring and candor, helped me understand the male mind a bit better but mostly for teaching me how the power of an honest confession can hold heroic demons to a higher law.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Nailed It - Amanda Palmer Asks a F**king Question

I was thinking this morning what a miserable lapse it was that I hadn't penned a review on Amanda Palmer's book, "The Art of Asking" at Amazon.  I added it to my list of things to do ASAP.  Later today I got to that item on my list and I pulled up my Amazon account only to realize that I had already written a review. It was like a series of bullet points. I frowned. That somehow doesn't quite cover how I feel about The Art of Asking. I used the word fabulous three times.  I meant each one but it is still not enough to say about this work and the author.

I first came upon Amanda Palmer in the fall of 2013 when, while music surfing the internet, I was looking for a video that fit my blog post that autumn. I found the perfect video for my post in the song "In My Mind" and found her as an artist, afterward. That's how it is surfing the internet and what I love about it; the abundance...the cyber mind-meld. I became genuinely curious about Amanda when I found her TED talk from March 2013. There was something about this talk that blew me away. At the time I was thinking that it was her concept of giving and sharing but over the years, it has become much more than that for me. After the TED talk, I then went and listened to more of her music. I listened to it a lot and, frankly, wasn't keen on it (though it can speak to me at times). Much of what she is singing about is lost on me I think because of my age. It simply is not my shit. I had my own shit back in the days of shit storms. (See Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith). What intrigued me about Amanda Palmer was her presence and her ease of being in her own skin and in the world. A world that has been anything but kind to her in terms of her internet exposure. She has transcended something through her interaction on the internet that has puzzled me for the entirety of my cyber life. She knows how to get beyond being looked at; Amanda Palmer knows how to  be seen and connect.

By the time I read "The Art of Asking" my life had already been taking form around the questions I needed to be asking. Through Amanda's story of working in the street as an artist completely dependent upon the whims of the public, I came to understand something that had worked me over for years; the feeling I get when I drive up to the traffic light and I see the all-too-familiar person begging from the corner. The conflict I feel is real to me and not fleeting. It has been going on in me for decades and I've tried a holy host of different approaches in dealing with giving or not giving as it unfolded each particular day. It wasn't until I read Amanda's book did I understand that what I was being asked to do was not throw money at the poor but to connect. Most people are not going to look into someone's eyes and take advantage of a connection to be made on a street corner. Most people are not going to understand that it is an opportunity to make someone's day better with a smile or some encouragement, even if you don't have money to give or even want to give money. So WHAT? Does it have to be a political statement or involve a moral judgement? The book explained to me how the point is to be vitally present; to be vulnerable and violently sincere. I had missed the strength aspect of allowing time and space to align and be present in any given encounter. While it is still uncomfortable for me, all of this is so much easier now both to understand about myself and about the world I live in. This is in part because I'm older and there is more access to my compassion as I near the end of my life but there is a vital message for young people in The Art of Asking. She is speaking in a language and at a velocity that her fans can hear and not only relate to but employ in their lives to bring quality to it. She's a cultural treasure in this regard.

There is much more in the book that shines beyond the fast pitch narrative of her artistic life. There is a trove of prospect that Amanda Palmer invites us to examine in turning the record industry model-upside-down and tickling it's underbelly.  Like: What would happen if you gave your music away for free and just had your fans give what they could to support you? Who ASKS that question?  Amanda Palmer does. She not only asks the question to herself but picks up the megaphone and asks her fan base of twenty plus years what they think. Well, [spoiler] she has currently over 4,000 individual fans giving anything from $1 to 1,000 a month/thing for her to keep doing what she does at Patreon. She's THAT good at doing!  And the fans rally, "NO! Don't stop! Don't EVER stop! Take my money!" Such is a great idea having its day.

I approach popular culture like a moth to a a sad display of fateful, clumsy flight. I don't want to die; I want the shiny thing that blinds me and burns me new. In the case of Amanda Palmer, the blinding shiny thing also dances and moves lightening quick! I fear if she ever stops in her tracks, three days later, I shall bump into her and burn up in a radiant fizzle! It would take three days for me to catch up to her stopping. I can't keep up with her or her writer husband, Neil Gaiman, who lights giant (yet more conservative) bonfires of his own creatively. I keep a rheumy eye on them both tenderly nurturing my Twitter feed with its 68 Tweets because there may come I day I have an opportunity to ask a question of my own and I don't want to miss that opportunity.

I highly recommend that you download or purchase outright The Art of Asking; How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help and treat yourself to a little aggravating inspiration. This is not your Momma's self-help but wildly interesting reading if you care at all about how this internet thing is constructed and how it applies to the evolution of the human heart thing. Bonus: there is swearing and there are nails.

For the uninitiated: enjoy a walk through Amandalanda

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Price of Admission: Connection

It is approaching spring equinox. I have had an eventful couple of months.  It unfolded in the weeks since my last post that I had a little unfinished business with the word of the year for LAST year: courage.  I missed a few things.  At least that is what was revealed.  My first eye opener was Amanda Palmer's TED talk.  Amanda talked about her experience with 'seeing' people as she worked portraying a human statue on the sidewalks of Boston.  She presented herself as an 8 foot bride statue who offers a flower to passersby to allow people a moment of connection. I was taken by how it took such courage to do such a thing. It made so much more sense to me how much of my life played out the way it did when I considered what she said regarding what she learned about herself and people doing that gig. My very survival is dependent upon not being 'seen'.

While I was now investigating (as word of the year 2015) attachment, it became apparent that attachment has somehow supplanted connection for me and I might want to make that adjustment.  Amanda's TED talk inspired me to read her book, "The Art of Asking". Now as far as having the nerve to ask for anything all my life this has been a problem. Between my low self esteem and all the guilt I schlepped around for years, I couldn't ask for a ball of twine. If I did have to ask for something like a job or government assistance for help with raising my children or even something as simple as, "Can I take your picture?"; I had to pretend to be someone else to do it.  Of course, these negotiations from a 'not really me' were somewhat  insincere - certainly desperate - and rarely ended did not asking and just doing it anyway; a form of stealing. The sad irony being I could have had what I truly wanted (connection) straightaway by allowing my vulnerability to stand and just asking, had I understood the concept. What I got was an image of acceptance. By the time that I finished the book, I realized that I need to find the strength to let go of my attachments so I could have the connections that I need. Some of this has already been happening over the last few years and my life is certainly set up now for me to actually be able to better understand these attachments and assess them and, as necessary, let them go.
Tanit: Phoenician Goddess of Death and Rebirth by Monica Sjoo

It didn't take long for the BIG questions that I needed to ask revealed themselves. When it came to being direct, of course, my courage ran for cover.  This led to reading Brene Brown's book (recommended by Palmer) "Daring Greatly".  This book is an in depth study of vulnerability which, she explains, requires great courage to incorporate into ones life. This is the part I didn't quite get last year. Vulnerability is not in my strategy EVER. It makes perfect sense that I would have missed it regarding courage. Even  though I have made the greatest strides in my life by my errors and needing help or by making a fortuitous yet accidental turn, feeling my vulnerabilities in these events was something I never considered a positive.  This is more about that feeling my way along in the dark through my life without allowing myself access to my own mental navigational abilities and tools mentioned in Stephen Gaskin's quote here. All of my life I've had to trick myself into each level of my evolution. Brene provided a great shift in the paradigm for me in allowing me to reconsider the value of vulnerability and its necessity in living wholeheartedly.

I do live wholeheartedly these a point. I got to that "point" this winter and resigned to my inability to do it all alone as I had anticipated doing. Sadly, I started messing up and overstepping my bounds when my new lease on life suggested that I needed something other than a burger at Boomer's. This is a whole new game at 61 years old with different rules and perspective to employ. With  altering my physical presence with weight loss, I unwittingly altered my vibration and the way I'm using my energy, as well. I discovered there was a possibility that I was impacting someones life - possibly in an unfortunate manner. Someone who had been kind to me one time long ago and they deserved better. It hurt and I reached out to find that if I want and need connection; the release of attachment is the price of admission for that. Essentially, I am so attached to the story I make up so I can feel better, I deny reality its home; it stays in exile; it is abandoned and untold. Everyone in this kind of scenario needs to cultivate a new reality that includes connection, seeing and being seen. A favorite of Christians that applies to crossing lifetimes:

"Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved." Matthew 9:2
So it is with stretching issues, pouring and pressing one's soul into lives rooted and designed for a different time. We are all enough for now and there is excitement, beauty and wisdom in NOW if you know what to look for. Safety is unavailable in enactment of the future or the past and when compassion and kindness is the intention, timeplay is just a bauble in the beak of a raven; an attachment. Obviously, in this  I was in over my head because I was misfiring and frying. I asked for help and I got it. I was very blessed to find a gifted person who knew exactly how to help me accomplish detaching from the story and retrieve that which I had sought for in another. As I said before, I'm an undisciplined empath and one of the ways I have managed to keep myself contained and out of harms way is to keep my life as simple and my vibration as low key as possible.

Eleven years ago I moved to the coldest, darkest, wettest corner of the nation to hide and temper my abilities and it is perfect here for that. The bar is very high for creative types. It is a pretty easy call to be ignored or left alone. I can create enough and still get around unnoticed. I whined about being invisible for awhile but it makes much more sense to me now how invested I was in it. I suppose I had always known the design of my life was suspect but I had a lot of defenses to keep me blind and enabled enough to survive, if not live well.  Somewhere in the course of time that changed. I changed. The metamorphosis began.

Access to the  internet is a big factor. I feel free to speak my mind in interspace and because it is so vast and virtual, it is easy to believe my opinions and thoughts don't have much of an impact. By expressing myself in chat rooms, social media and blogging and allowing myself an expanded amount of interest in the world, I'd unintentionally popped back up on the radar, apparently. In fact, I'm doing it right now in my glorious vulnerability; dancing on the end of a pin in my underthings like no one's looking. In fact I know very few people read my blog as it is self indulgent and freaking full of wiggy shit and that is fine with me; in fact it is LIBERATING! I love my sandbox and I don't want to have to worry about others opinions...not until the thought of it no longer bothers me. The other factor is my Grandchildren.  Their arrival in my life has had a huge effect on my wanting to be a better person; to be sincere and live wholeheartedly so that they may have that, too. If I can't do it for myself, I can do it for them. I will do it for them or die trying. I don't want to be some distant non entity from their childhood that died without hardly a notice. That suddenly seemed an unpardonable offense for me as my life path crossed theirs. Also, there is no room for pretense or insincerity when you are holding a hand and a space open for someone while they die and this work at the threshold of life and death has become an important source of strength for me. So I've been outted in all these ways.

It has been a busy few weeks. It is a great gift to feel such love as I have been allowed to feel and I'm deeply thankful for having this in my life; likewise I am sincerely sorry if I have in anyway been unkind as I twist through this complicated dance towards being present and accountable in this life. I'm jumpy and clumsy and a little frail, yet I'm hopeful regarding the unfolding of wings drying under the generous sun. It is all about the migration now. An enchanting spring equinox to all who read and get this far in this rambling manifesto. May we all shine like stars...before we fade away.

video by SantanaVEVO
Painting by Monica Sjoo

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Please see Attachment: Word of the Year 2015

I had decided in November when I was looking for something that I knew I had but was unable to locate in my home that whatever my word of the year for 2015 would be, it had better have something to do with helping me to deal with all the stuff  I've accumulated since I bought this house. It would be eight weeks later when I was at a cruising altitude of 37,000 feet and an hour and a half into the flight home from a holiday in Phoenix, Arizona when I found what my word of the year was. I was reading a special tribute article to Stephen Gaskin from the November 2014 issue of The Sun magazine that I slipped into my bag for in flight reading. Regarding attachment:

"Attachment is really based on the idea that we think that anything that we have around us belongs to us.  None of this stuff belongs to any of us. We just happen to get the use of it for awhile.  We're masters of it, because we have binocular vision and opposable thumbs that makes us good at handling three dimensions. But none of that jazz belongs to us, because it can't belong to us; we die, it stays.  It's merely a mocked up creation that our minds have put together and then agreed to forget that it was a joke, and its the material plane. None of us can claim it..."

He went on to say something else regarding attachment that struck me. I have been thinking about my own misplaced loyalties.
"...The thing about attachment that is most real for us, I think, is the idea of being attached to our own feelings and opinions. That is what I find most people are really attached to more than anything else....and it becomes an excuse for doing anything.

You can't steer on that kind of information. For one thing, you have to be non attached to your feelings, because the feelings can be a trap. People say they do things for feelings, but they really do things for energy.  Think about that.  When you see a relationship going on, dig which way then energy is flowing, 'cause that's what it is really about, not the emotional noise that is going on. So just cut loose and don't consider that emotions are reliable enough information to steer your head on.  Your head is a more delicate machine than that; it needs better information than that."

 Stephen Gaskin. (1970) "Monday Night Class" Summertown TN: The Book Publishing Company

That was it. Word found.

a means of securing; a fastening
(often foll by to) affection or regard (for); devotion (to): attachment to a person or to a cause
an object to be attached, esp a supplementary part: an attachment for an electric drill

The Original Misplaced Loyalty

My father's absence in my life was a great gift once I got to the other side of the mountain called my childhood. I learned a lot of different ways of being in the world that parented children did not enjoy. Without vital information I learned to find my way through intuition, feeling and cunning. I lied often. I was good at it. I cultivated within myself what people now refer to as an empath's life. Like children do, I compensated for the absence of my father. I made things up and answered for that over the course of growing up because, apparently nature abhors little children not being given every opportunity to live full lives. Little children who design strange realities for themselves often have to get lost in the real world to find themselves. I was alone and repeatedly in harms way being  fatherless.  I was helped with these adversities later in life but still I never actually gave up entirely my penchant for making things up; especially when under duress.  There were some really rough lessons with that, even with all the counseling I went through. Probably my hardest lessons have come from my penchant to try and navigate my life through my feelings, which makes Gaskin's statement above so heart rendering and relevant to my life.

Through my feelings I found the people I needed to find. I always quietly sought my father through my life and finally found him in the eighties.  I didn't look for him by research like normal people. I found him by being in the spot to receive the information I needed (or wanted) to have. I worked in a microbiology lab at the time and his specimen came across my work station. When I met my father as adult, I was overwhelmed by affectionate feelings for him. In hindsight it would have made more sense to hate him for the abandonment. My love for him was too precious; it was still too vital. He felt bad seeing me, obviously, and would have rather skipped the whole reunited thing but I guess he felt obligated somehow to play along. (He brought me a radio as a gift, of all things! I was overjoyed.) Had I been stronger or better counseled, I would have reclaimed the power I gave him over me at that juncture. As it was, I came undone after our paths crossed. I lost my job then my children and  there was a huge inability for me to process what had happened. And here is where the tale takes on a nasty kink; my father introduced me to his son. Years later my son returned to me by choice when I lived in Arizona in an important reconciliation after the train wreck with my father. 

My brother and I experienced an overwhelming feeling of connection upon being introduced. We were overjoyed with each other. We had been separated for 30 years by family politics. What is alarming to me is to realize that I came within a hare's breath of shagging my own brother because, had I experienced that kind of attraction, say, in a bar 'back in the day', I would have shot first and asked questions later (if at all). Back then I had no way of discerning the different kinds of resonances of attraction between people acting out as I was. Seriously, I would have had him before we left the parking lot without taking names. That may not be a big deal for some people but had that happened to me, I would have been pushed around the bend. I have a strong sense of humor but that would have been bad for me having to suffer that kind of knowledge through family Thanksgiving dinners, what with all the rest of it. Would you like white or dark? Gah! No! Fortunately I was well beyond those years at our meeting and I could name the connection, although my brother found it difficult telling the difference. What was an issue and intensely sobering for me is the knowledge that my Dad was a notorious skirt chaser as was my brother. Pop was a fisherman who plied his trade and his party up and down the Pacific Northwest the waters.  How many sibz are out there, I always wonder? I don't know but I do know this: sometimes the Universe takes no prisoners.

 Who Invited the Universe?

Because I am on this type of reclamation journey of my life, I later received a tremendous opportunity  to learn a lesson regarding my 'assuming mind' while affiliated with an online radio station in Alaska that began  in 2002. Before Facebook or anything really glamorous regarding social media got a foothold, there were chat rooms.  I pressed against my better judgement and connected with these people online and was rewarded with life affirming joy as I cultivated these relationships (besides healing some very serious wounds with radio and music from my past). Repeatedly my mind would wander into assuming that I knew what someone was putting down in chat only to find out later I had it more wrong that I'd ever expect. I was shocked! Over and over this would happen and I finally developed an insight on how my mind projects expectation. I learned to develop some critical thinking. My reward was being able to listen again. I had my hearing then but I could not listen to music before I mastered critical thinking. The psyche is an amazing thing. I even went to visit my welcoming virtual Alaskan friends. Frankly, I've rarely been welcomed anywhere so there was a tremendous healing that transpired within me from their generosity. I worked with this in learning to connect properly with people; attach through the heart and the mind. Sadly things folded rather dramatically and painfully for my friends in Alaska. I tried to stay out of the fray. To this day I don't know entirely what went down; only that there was suffering. It was a deep loss for me to loose the camaraderie and the constant stream of new music. It was a place where I could go that was safe. I loved my place there even though it was mostly virtual.

Lots of loss was swept into the folding of my beloved online sanctuary. My mother's death, my sister's death, six days later my new brother's death, my dearest pet and familiar succumbed to cancer (possibly taking a bullet for me); the loss of my ability to hear and my job, as well as the income and the acquaintances I made at work. Surprisingly, a disenfranchisement from my sibs surfaced with the loss of my Mother who, I came to realize after her death, was my soul attachment to that tribe. There were aftershocks of grief with my sister's death as well that tore into my relationship with my niece who I had been close to. No one bothered to tell me my brother died.  I found out by surfing his name...but I felt it.  I'm an empath.

I have been up against some pretty intense alone time with my grief. I thought I was on top of it but in spite of me there entered my penchant for making things up...that old survival habit. Something becomes fixed in my mind, usually based on a very overwhelming feeling towards someone that is based on nothing that I can make tangible and I hold on for dear life. "Dear life" is the operative word here. I will hold on for decades to something I feel I want to be true to; someone to be loyal to. I tell no one - absolutely no one. That is what keeps it sacred. That's my rule. The intended must be the first to know my feelings but, curiously, I can never find a way to share them. Just the thought of telling anyone else makes me feel as though I will not only die but be ripped open by carrion before I'm let die. Seriously. Really sad and terrifying. This is my essential attachment based solely on a feeling. I've done it all my life and it served me well replacing what I needed as a child. Magical connections made me feel protected. It only recently occurred to me that I might have failed someone other than myself with my rules of magical thinking. That dichotomy requires that there not be anybody real involved because it is designed for a vulnerable fatherless child not a capable adult woman. I have emerged from my cocoon with caterpillar consciousness.  I had the weight to protect me from this and now the weight is leaving.  If I don't get over this, there will always be something generated from within me to keep me separated from healthy attachments. I do it by habit now and it serves me up plenty of alone time with the Universe batting me around for fun. This kind of attachment must go.  It's long overdue. I will have to to spill and let it go.

How to let go of things that are vital.

Years ago, after I had learned a new and acceptable language to converse about my rather rough entry into adulthood it was a sort of a natural gravitation into consciousness raising groups.  It was the late 70's and I was in California, after all.  That is what happens to the walking wounded there; (it is that or you might  happen to take the route of sucking various substances up your nose from mirrored surfaces, in which case you often end up in some kind of recovery or finding your way home somehow, if you don't die). In the course of these enlightenment sessions we would do exercises that were designed to track psychically where our energy goes; to actually visualize and identify cords that connect people; to ourselves and others. I was always removing tentacles and retracting ones I shot out in those early days. I had a busy aura. I was pretty smashed up.

We were counseled to always be careful with our great and awesome powers and to regularly examine our motivations. I never doubted the importance of this even in my most vulnerable moments and especially in my most wicked ones. There is some really bad tangles that one can get into with exchanging energy on that level. For me especially. I do not dabble with people's energy. It's obviously a bad thing and it requires a great deal of skill and responsibility. We were also taught the chakras and what they represented and we learned to drop ourselves into them at will like were were lowering a slant six into a Chevy chassis. I rather enjoyed those classes but was no better a student at that than I was in academics. Weak attention span. I would frequently pop up out of my meditation to find my teacher biting her lip with a worried look on her face as she examined my aural acrobatics.  Sometimes I caught her laughing. I really wasn't much of a medium. In fact, my private joke was to refer to myself as 'a small medium at large'. I never did do adequate service to these skills and for the most part, once I used them to corral my own wild horses, I just continued to use them to track my own business. The discipline has been very useful in that way. I am pretty good at keeping myself contained and present now even if I am weak at keeping others out. Being able to delineate different types of vibrations from people and being able to see where they are sending their energy from in their bodies has been a self preservation tool. I do admit that I inadvertently wander through the doors of perception from time to time however and slip through the veils when they are thin.  So yeah the Universe has a bit of fun with me once and awhile and I bring it on myself. Perhaps because I'm paying attention and I'm fascinated and willing to be childlike, I get away with so much. There is so much going on all the time a person could melt down with the reality of least that has been my experience.

Happily I do not live in a vacuum. Amid the losses, I have cultivated a few healthy relationships over the years. My sons have shared their loves with me in finding worthy and sporting partners. One has upped the ante by blessing me with two Grandchildren who are way better suited for the world than I am right now. I learn a lot from them about what is real and worth the effort. It is my love for them that tells me that I am really letting love down by cultivating misplaced loyalties. I get much of what I did not get as a child by watching them receive what is needed in their lives and attention and gratitude. My sons have made much of what is wrong with their Mom fly like it was not at all strange to be Mothered by a woman like me and I love and appreciate the latitude they give me in that regard. I have a few friends and they would, I think, do just about anything to help me, should I ask.

So old as I am, I'm still attached to devises I established to survive being fatherless as a child. I'm not proud of that. I can let go. I must let go of that attachment to recieve all that it separates me from.

 Video by Warner Bros Records
Photo: Bodhisattva

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Word of the Year 2014: Courage - My Cup Runneth Over

This is the last post on my word of the year for 2014: courage. As is my way, I employed a personal challenge of weight loss to ground myself in a better understanding of how I progress. The loss of 32 pounds, while not but half what needs to go for optimal health, has played an important part. I am leaner, stronger and  more anchored in my self care. I feel transformed and lighter; on the precipice of a new way of being in the world. I am feeling more able to drop my habit of self-deprecation. Also with cultivating courage came more attention to my habits as a consumer and how to stand by my purchasing power. I'm clearer in my convictions regarding my economic responsibilities. The profound lesson of this word, however, was found in an abundance of examples of bravery that caught my attention in the world around me over the year as I shared in earlier blog posts.

There has been a plethora of examples of courage as injustices and struggles have mounted all over the world. People - both singularly and en masse - have stood up clearly outside of their comfort zones to make their stand, declare their opinions or lend support to causes that they felt strongly about. There has been plenty to choose from because so much policy currently is dysfunctional and it is as if the entirety of civilization - both east and west - has slid down the rabbit hole of decline lately. There is no denying the world looks much different from the one I entered 61 years ago.  From a civil point of view, it barely resembles the same planet.  I'm sure that someone born in 1853 reflecting on WWI would have said the very same thing in 1914 and it would be just as true.

In observing these movements and ideologies at work, I see that courage often means following one's heart - acting on it - leading with it. With all the atrocities at large these days, it seems that these outside influences are calling our courage out. Whether it is the ravages of nature and disease or the bi-products of cultivated avarice and war, we are swept up and  invited to choose and be counted. Certainly that has been the case for me.

The End Of Time

I currently work with people who are religious and as part of their support team, I read to them from their religious texts (though I refrain from discussion). I would do this no matter what the religious affiliation; Muslim, Hindu or Baptist, etc...It comes with the work, to accept all diverse faiths and to support whatever my client needs in the way of spiritual support. I was raised Christian - Anglican, specifically - and, as a child, I quite loved the whole ceremonial bits. I enjoyed the feeling "a part" of a community that was bathed in a kaleidoscope of stained glass and pipe organ music. I sang in the choir, became one of the youngest children to memorize the catechism to take communion and as a charity case they shipped me off to exotic places to go to summer camp annually. I know a bit about religion from a very tempered Christian sensibility. So it happened, because I am reading  (in this particular case) evangelical material daily, I have had on my mind Armageddon and how current events seem to play so handily into these prophesies. I know, however, that it has been 'the end of days' since Western Civilization first named the world. Later, with narrative came a stream of observations of man's inhumanities to man and documentations there of. You don't have to be Shakespeare to see how this plays out because the basics of human nature repeat the same over and over and over again.  Only the weapons employed and the disproportionate numbers of humans and their needs  have changed. Religion can be a handy tool box for shoring up what one needs or wants to hear to feel safe and maintain a moral compass. But while we are busy mooring ourselves to safety, what about being brave?

Those of us who have experienced spirit in the world in such a way as being touched personally by "that which passeth all understanding" have been set onto a journey that is not easily comprehended by those who have never been forced into an exile beyond the paridigm of conventional human experience. Certainly, there are struggles enough within the ever changing norms in every life not withstanding such an experience.  One does not leave everything of what one knows of survival and love willingly.  There is often a trauma; a shock or an hunger so violent that one is propelled into a life that is completely beyond reason yet, almost cruelly the same. Not so much the same as to allow a return to innocence, however; not so much to be able to return to the the kind of shelter religion provides.  One is too large, too vibrant and too aware to return to such a life, safe though it felt. I would think it would be pretty clear to anyone who has had such an emergence...and equally obtuse a concept to anyone who hasn't. It is from this place that I feel the need to muster the courage required to say what I see regarding this current "end of times" and how it relates to bravery.

I am of the opinion what we are working with, as humans, is more of a numbers game than a fisticuffs between good and evil played out on a green screen stretched across time. I have seen the population grow from 3 billion people to the over 7 billion people in my lifetime and I can tell you that from my perspective the woe of this world has a lot more to do with the impossible numbers of disenfranchised people and the depletion of resources than any other factor present. The difference in experience from walking down a street in 1960 to walking the exact same street 2014 is so overwhelmingly a contrast as to be a fictional act. Explaining this to a younger person feels like trying to explain water to a fish so I leave it to the popular cultural abstracts of time machines and science fiction fantasy to defining that. Meanwhile the precipitous wall of humanity is climbing ever higher. History, where the truth sleeps, is too daring or banal to reflect upon apparently and yet an examination of what has worked in the past and what there is of passion in the hearts of mankind could be our saving grace.

To follow one's heart; an invitation to do the right thing by our true self and not be so easily cowered sounds so very cliche. However, a true life altering choice does not dance on the head of a pin. Leaving ones evaluation to a judgmental deity may allow a person some room for personal forgiveness but at what cost?  A sincere choice takes a person  to where they will go forth from in all ways; a value choice will forever change a life.

A Life Beyond Judgement

The choice from the heart by its very nature will be a value judgement. One is pressed into choosing what to do constantly and often that choice involves a physical presence and risk. Whether it is coming out of the closet with one's sexuality or stepping into the parade with the KKK because one can no longer keep silent about their need to support white supremacy; should it be calling someone out for abuses to oneself or the exploitation of someone else or, perhaps, it is rolling up one's sleeves to lean heavier into the status quo to try and stop what one deems as civil decline. These are all choices that are made everyday by people and if it be courage or cowardice, it is essentially a private matter with a political consequence. The sad irony that I realized this year is this; each choice is considered by the chooser to be courageous...and who among us can say it is not without slipping into a judgment of our own?

Judgement is a powerless place that disguises itself as influential and vital.  To live without discernment requires a phenomenal inner strength and perception but I see it as the nonviolent way forward. I doubt it will ever become popular in my lifetime but it is my course anyway and if I look into the hearts of those that displayed what they considered their bravery over the year, I see a strength of purpose and focus on what they truly feel was in line with their destiny. Whether it is cutting down a village of possible insurgents in a foreign land, following through on a training to protect citizens by killing what is believed to be a threat to society or shooting a bullet in the head of a young woman for standing up for the educational rights for females. These are all deemed necessary and courageous acts by those involved who have judged them so.

I do not know how to live beyond judgment - I'm only aware of my constant bias and how it effects my choices and then, consequently, everything around me. It is with this knowledge that I have decided that I have as much courage and as much cowardice as anyone.  I get up everyday and make a choice about how I will live (because I have that privilege). I make a choice to see the glass, decide if it be half full or half empty until something - whether it be avalanche, flood or volcano - Parkinson's, pneumonia or cancer - sweeps through my life; or some ONE takes to killing my neighbor or violates me or my loved ones tipping the glass over and, if not shattering it, displacing its contents to such a degree that another - perhaps a bolder - choice is required. That is how we pushing through or being pushed... but it is how we define these experiences, that is what makes us brave and who we are everyday. It is knowing how we judge others that will liberate us from the ceaseless combat between good and evil; knowing that it is a glass...besides understanding our impression of the amount therein that will allow life to exist beyond time.

High Water Risin'

We are all courageous and cowards in our imperfection and at some level what is encouraged within us merges into a reality everyone experiences and judges. We are empowered to recognize the pure heart of what matters but only if we do so without judgment allowing love in its timeless way take the day.

Video by Amador Ortiz Ochoa
Photo by Jean Berard Studio

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Good Day to Die

It is the cusp of the Day of the Dead and I am seized with the story of Brittany Maynard. End of life and beyond is my bailiwick these days and since my word of the year is courage, I can think of no better way to examine the word than to reflect on this young woman's bravery and the kind of courage it takes for a person so full of life to choose death over extended suffering.

Brittany is 29 years old and is facing only a few months left to live her life.  She has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer that will undeniably render her into a reality of unfathomable pain and suffering. She has uprooted her life and moved her family to Oregon to take advantage of the death with  dignity law there. For Brittany it is important that she do everything possible to avoid the inevitable throws of suffering her diagnosis promises.

Her journey is notable and a great gift to us all in that she has allowed us to witness her process as she and her family come to grips with her final exit.  Her first video explaining her intentions can be viewed here. In utilizing the choice to alleviate the suffering of a terminal and painful diagnosis, she is teaching us what to expect with these laws in place. There are a faction of people, most notably those who believe that human suffering is their God's will and should not be overridden in any way, that refer to this act of compassion as "suicide". I can see how those who have never sat with a loved one and watched them writhe in pain would not understand how death with dignity could be sanctioned. I suspect they want respect their religious icons who have suffered for them and uphold their dogma, which is their right. Physician Assisted dying is not suicide, however.  Some deaths are suicide; some deaths are dignified and within the realms of compassionate caring. There is a huge difference that some people just will not allow themselves to consider. What  is good about this law is that it can be safely and conscientiously applied to those who want and need it and ignored by those who choose to put their fate into the hands of their religion. 

Heroically Brittany is taking her steps one at at time and using her right to change her mind. She continues to keep us all up on her thoughts on this as can be viewed here. She anticipated leaving this world on November 2nd and even though she is declining, she is still finding value in each day and has opted to wait until she feels she has actually crossed that quality of life threshold. There is great heart in this young woman. A strength most of us could only dream of aspiring to.

I can't help thinking about Robin Williams while I reflect on Brittany's story. I was really shaken by Robin's death in August.  Recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and battling with depression, he took his life in a most unfortunate manner. He deserved much better for all the gifts he shared with us over the course of his career. It is not hard to imagine our having Robin around longer had he had a death with dignity option at his disposal in the state he lived in .  How many others, I wonder, go flailing helplessly into the transition from life to death alone and in pain with no allowance for relief?

I also reflect on Gillian Bennett's decision to end her suffering also in August. She faced an unavoidable debilitating fate with dementia.  She choose a time before her disease progressed to a point where she could not remember her plan and left a letter to us all regarding her decision here. She left an amazing legacy in her courage to follow through with what she felt was right for herself and those she loved.

I'm not a religious woman but I recognize spirit and I believe with all my heart and soul that it is our work in this world to alleviate the suffering of our fellow beings. There is nothing more important than living fully in the moment as many terminally ill persons have attested to. It is a tough bit of business to look death in the eye while your heart still thrashes in your chest and gravity still pulls you along stubbornly from the center of the earth. People should not be denied love in these hours simply because we are not brave enough as a culture to stand next to them as they look into the abyss. With all my heart I seek the courage to not look away and to be there to support those who know their time has come. My day will come too - as will yours - and I want it to be a good day at the end of a good life.