May You Live In Interesting Times

We certainly picked a doozy of a time to be alive, didn’t we? From the Cold War through assassinations through foreign wars through riots right through escalating violence on up to today, these certainly are interesting times. Of course, there have been some great things, too, but after getting through the past nine months with all the political unrest, the environmental disasters, and last Sunday’s horrific event in Las Vegas, I’m finding it extremely difficult to dredge those up. I don’t usually address these things here because it seems to make some people uncomfortable enough to chide me and even boot me from their life. Instead, I take my angst to Twitter where it belongs. But I’m just so damned angry. And that’s what I really want to talk about.

Look, I’m not an angry person. Never have been. Maybe it’s because I’m a Libra, but I tend to see the pony beneath every crap pile. I can’t seem to do that right now, and what’s tearing me up is that I’m not clear on anger. There’s just so many angry people making a lot of noise and I don’t really want to add to that, but damn! I’m angry!

There comes a time when I think we have to be angry, despite the conflicting messages we’re told: “Stop being angry” and “It’s okay to be angry.” Add that to the line my mother planted in my brain, “Anger is a sin,” and I’m pretty confused and seeking clarity. As I said, I don’t want to add to the noise, but maybe I do, and maybe I should. Maybe more noise is what it’s going to take to change things. Is there a way to process this anger and grief without being unkind, without name-calling and turning ugly? I don’t know. I wish I had a priest, or a guru, or something. I’d love to ask someone what I’m supposed to be feeling.

Monday was a hell day extraordinaire. I hadn’t slept all night because I was up following the news about Las Vegas. I couldn’t sleep, actually, because of the heavy hammer of shock and grief I know we all felt. Before that, it was Trump’s debacle in Puerto Rico. Then the shooting happened. Lynette had a chemo treatment that day—the first of 12 with her new drug—and we didn’t know what her reaction would be. It wasn’t good and, as usual, I felt helpless to make her feel better, that I couldn’t take it for her. And then came the news of Tom Petty’s heart attack and approaching death. So there I was at the hospital, sleepless, worried about Nettl, in shock over Vegas, grieving the passing of one of my favorite musical artists, and feeling absolutely powerless in every facet of life. Later that night the anger rose to the top and I spent all night voicing it in Twitter, adding to the noise. And once again I was forced to face down my conflicting feelings about it. I did a lot of Googling, trying to learn how other people handle anger, and the words of the amazing Maya Angelou helped me.

 

I think there comes a time when we can’t afford to be uninformed and uninvolved. There comes a time when we have to ask ourselves how we can remain inside peaking out through the half-drawn blinds of our comfort zone. Not all of us are first responders, caregivers, soldiers. Not all of us are heroes, but all of us are human beings who can care, who must care.

I hope you find clarity and peace, if you’re struggling. My kindest affections and most loving thoughts to you all, and to everyone affected by these events.

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Fake It Till You Make It

Nook & Cranny Mercantile, one of the shops I visited yesterday (click to visit webpage)

Since about 2005, Nettl and I have had one car between us and since she’s the one who works outside the home, I’m without wheels every day. Unless I have a doctor appointment or need to run some errands, I’m pretty housebound. That’s not a bad thing, though. I mean, where am I going to go? I used to walk a bit, but with knee surgery looming in the near future, that’s out.  I’m a bit of a homebody, anyway, so it really doesn’t bother me. Yesterday was different. Because Nettl’s supervisor picked her up to go to OKC on business, the car was left here, which didn’t really hit me until I went to the kitchen to get my coffee and I saw the car in the drive. The day was beautiful, warm, and sunny so why not go out?

I didn’t do much, really, but there are a couple of items I’m wanting for our new look in the living/music room (a combined space connected by a lovely Craftsman columned divider), and I decided to hit some antique and used furniture shops. We’re really tired of the cottage look and are now shifting to what I call a “well-traveled Woodstock hippy Zen” look. You know what I mean. Persian area rugs, steamer trunk coffee table, low-profile sofa, comfortable club chairs, tasteful art on the walls, tweed, leather, etc, and little things having to do with eastern philosophy. That. Soon, the lace curtains, the doilies, the hanging “grandma” plates, and the figurines will be stowed away in the garage; we’ve already picked out the new sofa and chair and will be ordering them in the next week or two. Yesterday, I located the rugs, drapes, and the trunk, and they’ll follow soon after.

Anyway, as I drove around town yesterday, the sun roof open and my favorite station playing hits from the Seventies, I felt free, alive, and grateful for the life I have. Yeah, I live with chronic illness and its unpredictable ups and downs every day, but so what? The more I focus on the world around me and feel grateful for all I have (and I’m not talking about possessions here, I’m talking about my family, my friends, and my creative projects), the less in focus illness becomes. I exercise a little Bradley Method over the pain and it all slips into the background. Soon, I’m not focusing on myself at all. I’m noticing other people. I open doors, I allow pedestrians to cross in front of me even when I have the right-of-way and, when asked by shopkeepers and clerks, “How’re you doing?” my answer is, “Actually, I’m having a great day!” Instead of the question being one about how I feel, it turns into one about my mindfulness of the day itself. The paradox is, the less I think about how I feel, the better I feel!

I admit, all this friendliness and love of life is something I’ve had to learn to enact. “Fake it till you make it” and “Be mindful of the moment” have become my mantras over the past decade, and it hasn’t been easy. The secret, though, is that the more I “faked it” and the more I turned my awareness to life around me, the easier it became. Now I’m not faking it anymore. What it took was getting damned bored with myself and my private pity party. I had to stop being negative and start realizing that it’s my body that’s in rough shape, not me. It’s like having a tire that always goes flat and not having a spare or the means to buy a new tire. I can either sit on my ass and bemoan my situation, or I can keep a full can of StopLeak in the trunk. Yes, of course the tire is going to go flat again, but I can keep refilling it. I’m not the tire, damn it, and I’m not even the car. I’m the driver. That’s how I look at my body vehicle and, when this car wears out I’ll get a new one. Meantime, I keep a supply of StopLeak on hand.

Look, I know from my own experience that sometimes it’s nearly impossible to be so positive. I have my off days, too, but at last I’m learning that I am my own self-fulfilling prophecy: how I choose to perceive myself is exactly what I manifest for myself.

“You should feast regularly on the society of joyful minds.
Every day you should associate, if only for a little while,
with joy-instilled persons—those who meditate and feel
the joy of God as a reality. Seek them out and feast with
them on this most vitalising food of joy. Feast on laughter
in the company of these really joyful people. Steadfastly
continue your laughter diet once you have begun it,
and at the end of a month or two you will see the
change—your mind will be filled with sunshine…
Cheerfulness is very important to health.
It is the best antiseptic that you can have—plus
the thought that you are all right.”
Paramahansa Yogananda

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Your Daily Accord

So how’s your head? Are you reeling? Clutching your gut? Mopping your brow? Barfing over the rail? I admit that over the past week it’s taken a small jug of Chianti, a box of Cheez-Its, a couple of Klonopins, and a whole lot of my Woodstock & Big Sur Mood station on Pandora to make it through. I’m a strong woman, but sometimes I get pushed to my outermost limits, and the past week was about as bad as I’ve ever survived—with the exception, of course, of suddenly becoming an 18 year-old widow with a two week-old infant. That was as bad as it’s ever gotten, but there have been so many chaotic episodes in my life, it’s hard to judge.

I’m not going to go into why this week has been so rough. You know why, and I’ve chosen not to spend my Sunday focusing on it. I’m not even going to name it. I need one day each week to hold a private moratorium on the chaos, and this is it. Today I’m cleaning the house so that I can spend next week recording. I’m getting a massage. And I’m listening to my aforesaid station. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.

Living with an advocate for women of sexual assault and domestic abuse, I’ve learned a lot about self-care and how important it is. No one can stay on the front lines indefinitely. We need to be spelled once in a while in order to regroup before heading back out into the fray. Liken it, if you will, to an emergency landing on a jet. We’re instructed to put our masks on first before tending to others. The reason for this should be obvious. In the same way, when fighting any major chaos in life, it’s important to tend to one’s own immediate well being before trying to help others. And that means self-care. Go out for a walk, enjoy the normalness going on around you, the cars still drive by, shop windows are still full of things to look at, and the sun still feels warm when it’s on your face. Stop in somewhere for a coffee, a tea, a beer, a chocolate. Smile at others and enjoy their smiles in return. Then go back to the internet and the marches. You’ll find you’re stronger and calmer, and better able to lend your hand where it’s needed. One or two hours away from the chaos isn’t going to send the world plummeting into the abyss, and the self-care you’ve enjoyed will only make you stronger.

Have a beautiful Sunday and a centered week ahead.

“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel burnout setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.” – The Dalai Lama

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