Rose-Colored Glasses

 Pink morning

A pink haze hangs over my day today. I awoke in darkness, too early really to get up and begin my day but too achy to stay in bed. I puttered around the house in the dark, making coffee, reminding the dogs not to bark as they scooted out the back door for a quick run along the fence to smell for visitors who’d come in the night. While I was in Scotland in July, an opossum found its way under the fence and was corned by a frightened and shaky Bella, a mid-sized black lab who was unprepared for a snarling, equally frightened wild animal. Both escaped unscathed, but Bella sniffs tentatively each morning, excited I think but still a little afraid of what she might find in her own backyard.

It’s been a week since my return from California. The red-eye flew me into Atlanta, arriving just at the break of dawn. After three and half hours on a small, cramped plane, I was tired and bleary-eyed, ready to get home, ready to sleep, already missing my family in California. There was a pink cast over Hartsfield Airport as I recall, a morning much like this one, early light in pinks and oranges hovering and then dissipating in a clear blue sky.

I feel bewitched by the pink haze that caught my attention earlier, as I shooed the dogs back into the house; I am besotted with the brilliant colors that, lasting only mere moments, seemed to permeate my house and my soul. I feel as though I’m wearing rose-colored glasses as I contemplate a new project, a new story and speculate on the potential and possibility of change.

There is joy in viewing the world through a prism of color, through rose-colored glasses that both soften and illuminate the moment. That moment is gone now.

The sun is shining, the sky is a deep blue and the world is as it should be on a warm October day in Florida. Contemplation continues.

Pink morning 02

Sometimes it IS a Matter of Life and Death

I’d forgotten what it feels like to contemplate death, to hold a life in my hands and be forced to make a decision between life and death. It’s a terrible feeling.

I lay awake Sunday night contemplating what I would do if faced with that decision on Monday, if the vet said Sophie’s little problem was life threatening or life ending, if I had to give the thumbs up or thumbs down.

I feel so stuck sometimes with the responsibility of three dogs hanging over my head, preventing me from traveling at will, holding me back from being carefree and spontaneous. It makes me crazy when I’m in the throes of a story that moves through my mind faster than I can get the words on paper only to have to stop fifteen times to let the dogs out and in and out and in and in and out, to check on the mad barking and the door rattling and the incessant cat/squirrel/butterfly chase in the backyard. It makes me crazy! (I know, I said that already. But it makes me crazy!)

I think to myself, Never again! No more dogs! And I fantasize what my life will be like when my days are free to roam at my leisure without having to rush home; when I can get up in the morning when I want to rather than at the insistence of a dog who’s spotted a gecko on the screen door; when I can walk barefoot through my kitchen late at night without stepping in puddles of slobber or whirling eddies of dog hair that pile up between twice-daily sweeps. But to get to that day, I will have to go through three deaths and the weight of that is more than I can bear.

When faced with the prospect of actually losing one of my tormentors, I find that I am a puddle of goo just waiting to happen.

dog and butterfly

Dog and Butterfly (click link for 3LeggedDogInk)

There are so many aspects to consider when making life’s tough decisions. Sometimes it feels like we can’t go on living with whatever little inconvenience is stuck in our craw, when a splinter turns into a stake through the heart, all melodrama and hyperbole. But sometimes it is a matter of life and death and every thought you’ve ever thunk falls away. Every life is precious and beautiful and worth living to its fullest. Even if it is only to chase one more monarch through the honeysuckle or pounce on a lizard in the moonlight.

I discovered yesterday that when push comes to shove, there is only life. One day, the alternative will present itself and the time will be right. For now, for Sophie–and for me–life is the only way to go.

Letting Go of the Outcome

Into the Vortex by Issi Noho

Into the Vortex by Issi Noho

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned as a human being, regardless of how I identify myself at any given moment–mother, wife, employee, or writer–is learning to let go of outcomes. Any outcome. For me, my passion is always invested in whatever task I tackle, sometimes greatly and in large, blinding quantities and sometimes in a perfunctory way that may seem to carry just a smidge of caring light, a limn around the edges. I put my heart and soul in my work, my blood, sweat, and tears and pray that it is good enough, right enough, or just enough.

And then there’s that little voice in my head that says, “Finish what you start!” which means to me that I must follow through to the bitter end whatever task I begin and the finish has always been tied intimately with the outcome. How did the project turn out? Am I happy with the outcome? Does it fit the model of expectation? More importantly, does the outcome reflect well on me and my efforts and does everybody else like it?

Aha! There it is! My feelings about the outcome are tied directly to everybody else, to their ideas and thoughts and needs and expectations. We learn early on that every action makes an impact, every action must have a consequence, and so we do our thing, whatever our thing is, and wait for the response, for the vibrational impact, for the consequences, good or bad, relating to our action. We wait for the outcome in order to gauge where and how and when to take the next step. We are flummoxed if the response, in any form, never comes.

Writing is one of those endeavors that begs to be tied to an outcome. I am a writer, therefore, I write. The natural outcome should be that people read what I write and then make an informed decision based on a million tiny personal factors as to whether or not they like what I’ve written. This is how our society works. Create, display, sell, and repeat. The outcome comes at the end of the process when we are judged and deemed worthy or lacking by ourselves and others (mostly others) and despite our passion and joy, decide whether or not sales dictate a repeat of the process. Success is judged by the outcome of the effort, not by the joy, experience, education, and passion derived from the process itself.

I used to believe the fairy tale. I used to think that unless I got a book deal the first time around, I was a failure; unless I mimicked the efforts and the process of others that I was doing it wrong. And then one day I woke up and realized that it is the process of writing, of allowing those voices and images in my head to take control and tell their story that is my way of living–without tying myself forever and ever to some superficial gauge of success, to an outcome. I can do what I love to do and let go of the fantasy and expectation of what is supposed to happen next. Like a child, a story is born, shaped by life experience to the best of my ability, and then released into the world to make its own way.

My son at sixteen understood letting go of the outcome. When I expressed disappointment at the choices he was making for his life, he reminded me that it would be impossible for him to live up to the dream of him that I carried in my head. He could never live up to my expectations but he could live up to his own and his own were pretty daunting.

For me, letting go of the outcome means living in the moment–every moment. My life in this moment is full and rich and exciting and calm, peaceful and good and blessed. To continue along this path, I have only to embrace the next moment and the next in its turn, and forget about the outcome because there’s never an end. Moment by moment our lives unfold and we are simply riding the current to our next passionate surprise.

I also believe in Karma. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Beneath the Mask

My soon-to-be-daughter-in-law Amy is a very smart woman. She and my son have embarked on a new journey, a new life out in California and I am constantly thrilled and surprised by the changes and revelations they are experiencing. Whether it’s the climate, the people, the culture, or the vortex that vibrates along the fault lines beneath the earth, the potential for enlightenment seems to shimmer like a mist of potential on the west coast. I’ve felt it; I’ve dreamed about it. And I envy them the transformative essence in which they have immersed themselves.

Transformation is a sneaky little bugger, accumulating layer by layer until a new idea saturates and dissolves an old idea. It also springs forth in one epiphanic moment, changing the way you think and feel about life. Amy had one such moment yesterday:

“People think they know someone. . . everyone isn’t privy to a person’s heart and does not know exactly who someone is and does not honestly know that the person they think is so honest and moral and true would cut their throat or stab them in the back and it does not matter how long you actually do [know them], they may not be who you think, that smile could be fake and they could be dark on the inside.”

A thought provoking idea to say the least. Then, the following quote was shared on my timeline by another friend this morning:

 “The heart of a human being is no different from the soul of heaven and earth. In your practice always keep in your thoughts the interaction of heaven and earth, water and fire, yin and yang.” Morihei Ueshiba

So, the idea of dark and light and duality seems to be theme of the day which is appropriate and timely for me.  I’ve been reading The Four Agreements Companion Book. I don’t know which rock I was under when The Four Agreements originally came out, but I missed its debut.  (I just checked the publication date–July 1997–so that particular rock was located in Santa Fe and is better known as the Eastern Classics master’s program at St. John’s College.) It’s only been in the past couple of weeks that the book revealed itself to me. (And I do mean revealed. I believe that messages come to you when you’re ready and obviously, I must be ready.) I saw the author, Don Miguel Ruiz being interviewed on TV over the weekend and became intrigued. And then I found his next book, The Four Agreements Companion Book published in 2000, quietly waiting for me as I browsed the shelves at Goodwill a couple of days ago.

Part 1, Chapter 1:

Human suffering begins with domestication.

During the process of domestication, we form an image of perfection in order to try to be good enough. We create an image of how we should be in order to be accepted by everybody, but we don’t fit that image.

(He had me at hello.)

We create an image of ourselves in our own minds and then we fashion from the raw clay that is our being a mask that represents that image. We look and act and feel to meet the needs of our own expectations of perfection. We hide who we are. We get comfortable with the mask and learn to manipulate it according to circumstance, situation, and comfort level. But our masks are not who we are or what we are or even what we would truly like to be. Our masks are our perfect or imperfect representations of what and who we think we should be.

Amy’s timely revelation becomes a profoundly intuitive truism as we go along our merry way trying to understand ourselves and others. Even with the underlying idea that we are one, we are not able to discern the heart of the individual, hiding behind a mask of civility and perfection that has been fashioned to cultural and societal standards. I would like to see the world work together not to get to the heart of the individual but to create a safe space where masks aren’t necessary, where everyone is free to be who and what we are in all of our glorious spiritual humanity.

Amy responded to a comment I made regarding the light and dark in each of us. She referred to the unknowable in all of us: “. . . they put on a false face to everyone and sometimes even to themselves.”

See? I told you Amy is a very smart woman!

My Wish for You Today!

Let Peace Begin with Me

“We Have to Project a Positive Future”

Yesterday, I felt inundated by questions and dark thoughts about why the world is the way it is. My stock answer, the one I tell myself over and over is, “It is what it is,” whatever it is. This is a dichotomy of thought on my part as I also tell myself that it is possible to change my own situation, circumstances, feelings and thoughts just by thinking positively, by not letting the shadows of what might be overtake the light of what is. I can make the shift from negative to positive. I can bring positive love and light into my life by being love and light, by sharing the good and putting less focus on the not-so-good.

I also believe that when we have questions, even those internal little niggling thoughts, answers present themselves. It’s up to us to look and listen, to be still. If we ask (even silently), we shall receive.

So, with the thoughts of yesterday still whirling around in my mind, questions about how we can possibly make the world a better, safer, lighter, more loving place bouncing and pinging, I found this video on my Facebook news feed. It’s from a site called The Master Shift.

John Lennon was not my favorite Beetle. In fact, he lost me when he slipped into what I called his “Give Peace a Chance” phase. I was young and silly and had no idea what that was all about. I’ve changed since then. I’ve grown a little in my thinking and I realize that Lennon, like so many others who were able to hone in on something real and tangible while the rest of us were in denial, while presenting an image of a hippy-dippy lifestyle that was suspect in my eyes, was looking and listening and finding answers that make sense for all of us.

This video is long by today’s standards of seven second bytes but it’s worth a look and a listen. You may have heard it all before; it may not bring instantaneous meaning to you or answer your questions, but it was there for me this morning to shine a little light on my own questions and I want to share it with you.

Lennon 02Click here to view the video on YouTube.

Just for Fun!

You make a difference

 

 

 

Speechless

LaManchaColorweb

This morning, while floundering for something to write about, swallowing my desire to rant about the negativity that seems to be spreading like an unchecked virus around me, a song came to mind: The Impossible Dream. I have fond memories of Man of LaMancha. My brother went to see the musical in high school and came home inspired. He gathered our friends, handed out roles, taught us the words, and we re-enacted various scenes from the play. That memory of my brother standing in our backyard belting out this song is still my go-to when it feels like negativity is winning.

As to the negativity? When this is the best advice a woman can offer young girls in finding their place in the world, I am profoundly saddened: “The world we live in is a twisted and broken place.” I have no words to describe how wrong this feels to me.

So, I offer you this little bit of nostalgia and hope. You can find it on YouTube but it won’t compare to the wonderful memory I have in my head.

The Impossible Dream

Music by Mitch Leigh and Lyrics by Joe Darion

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest, to follow that star
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far
To fight for the right, without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause

And I know if I’ll only be true, to this glorious quest
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
when I’m laid to my rest.
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable star.

One last thought for today:

Stars

The Thing Under the Shed

The Girls 02

My dogs have been going crazy the past couple of days. They woke me up at five o’clock yesterday morning, whining and whimpering, anxious and scared. As I opened the back door, I heard thunder far off in the distance, rolling in waves. I laughed as the rain started to come down giving everything, including my dogs, a much-needed and long-awaited soak. 

My girls are trained for hurricane/tornado weather. When the skies turn dark and the wind begins to howl, my dogs head to the guest bathroom–the only room in the house without windows–with or without me. It’s not unusual for me to look up from my computer (usually when the power has flickered or gone out completely) to find I am alone in my office, the dogs having made their way to the bathroom to settle in until the storm passes. By the time I join them, Elektra has usually pulled the mat off the rim of the tub and made a nice little bed for herself and her sister. Bella sits like Snoopy on his doghouse, head hanging, looking sheepish and afraid. I usually light a candle and sit down on the toilet lid to wait out the thunder. It’s not often that I’m afraid, but there is comfort even for me in the sharing of solace and companionship.

Today, the alarm whimpers began again around five o’clock. I haven’t slept well since breaking my foot on Sunday so I listened to the quiet around me and hushed the dogs. By six, there was no sense in trying to sleep. Bella had rattled the blinds on the back door sufficiently to incite a riot in the little ones. I hobbled to the kitchen and began my day, letting the dogs out while I scanned the backyard with a flashlight, looking for nocturnal visitors: armadillos, opossums, or the neighbors’ cats. The girls sniffed every inch of the patio and then made a beeline for the shed.

There is no barking in the morning regardless of what the dogs find lurking in our yard. My girls know the rule: barking = no treat. They quietly nosed around and under the edge of the shed, dancing excitedly. My mind always runs shrieking to the worst possible scenario: python, rattlesnake, or alligator. (It could happen!) My flashlight revealed nothing. I headed back to the house and the girls followed, the little ones jumping through the dewy grass like black-and-tan dolphins. I dried their bellies and feet, gave Bella a quick pat-down with the towel, and filled their food bowls. All three dogs stood nose-to-glass at the back door, watching the shed, ignoring breakfast, ignoring me.

The little ones are napping now, stretched out on their pillows at my feet. Only Bella stands guard at the back door, waiting for the thing under the shed to show its face. I know that at some point today, I’ll have to cram my sore foot into a hiking boot, arm myself with a long stick, and poke around under the shed. There are better and worse things to do on a gray day. Coffee first, though, and maybe a pill for the pain. Then I’ll gird my loins for battle and hope for the best. I wonder how fast a black racer can slither? Wait, don’t tell me! I don’t wanna know!

I hope you have a happy, sunny day today wherever you are!

Merrily Down the Garden Path

Withered Rose 02

Is it just me or is the bloom off the rose of social media? Maybe I’m preaching to the choir here, but it seems to me that as the focus of Facebook and Twitter has changed from, “Look at me and all of the interesting things I’m doing!” to “Buy this!” the social aspect of connecting with friends and family has slowly been leached out of the media.

I’ve never been a big fan of Facebook. I just don’t have enough friends online or off to require a repository to keep up with them. And besides my writing, I don’t have enough interesting happenings going on in my life to require instant status updates. I have to admit, it is much easier to share photos and quick messages with family and my few far-flung friends, but if the news is big enough, we still call each other or text or send an email.

As for Twitter, for me the platform has devolved into 140 character commercials. When I first joined a little over a year ago, the art of the mini conversation–enticing people to connect with you through short bursts of witty banter–was becoming a valid art form. I liked the give and take, matching wits and quotes with like-minded people. The fun of Twitter, however, quickly faded as my posts and follows were greeted with stock replies of, “Thanks for following. Now, please check out my website/blog/author page and buy my book!” I can honestly say that throughout my Twitter adventure, not one long and involved conversation ended without a plea for a book purchase. In some cases, I bought the books; in other cases, I felt manipulated.

Now I know it’s all about the numbers. We’ve been convinced that the more likes and followers we have, the more successful we will be as authors or salespeople or entrepreneurs. (Maybe that’s really one job description: it seems impossible nowadays to be a writer without also being head of sales as well as the leader of our own one-(wo)man band/corporation/organization.) Long gone are the days of hole-ing up to write “The Great American Novel.” Now you have to be “out there” building a presence, developing a fandom with followers. And then you have to write four or five or six more books just like that while you hawk your work on Facebook and Twitter and every new platform that comes along. Forget about writing good books or building relationships or maintaining the ones you have. It’s all about the advertising. Sell, sell, sell! is the new mantra of the upwardly social.

As for me, I’m stepping off the garden path and letting the crowd pass me by. Social interaction makes me uncomfortable hence my comfort in being a cave dweller. As for the internet and life in the social matrix? There has to be a better way.

So, today I’ll leave you with this:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying: And this same flower that smiles today, To-morrow will be dying. Robert Herrick (1591 – 1674)

(I wonder how many will remember this from lit class and how many will think of HBO’s Newsroom?)

 

When Did the Right to Bully Become a Way of Life?

 

I think for many of us, when we think of bullying, the image that pops into our heads is that of a scrawny, bespectacled child handing over his lunch money to a bigger, brawnier kid with a henchman or two at his back. Deep down, we know that this scenario is sad and wrong, but we’ve seen it so many times either in movies or real life that we’ve slowly become inured to the idea. In the animal kingdom, this same scenario is common place where “survival of the fittest” is the rule to live-or-die by and the weak, with nothing to offer in lieu of, simply become lunch.

There are, however, other, more damaging ways to bully and I, for one, am tired of it.

Bullying

I have a friend, a smart, animal-loving, kind and gentle friend who also happens to be disabled. Her life has taken her down more than her fair share of rocky roads and now, in her later years, she finds herself in less than optimal circumstances, living in a very neat and well maintained mobile home in a park run by bullies; she is sandwiched in on both sides, tormented and harassed by bullies; she has been subjected to the worst kind of treatment by her neighbors which is both supported and encouraged by the park’s management, and she is represented by the worst kind of bully: an attorney who doesn’t like conflict, who doesn’t see the harm in letting the wolves circle and threaten and snap at her door and at her heels, and who has little compassion for his clients and even less understanding of the circumstances in which they find themselves.

We’ve set up a system in our society where those who are the least able to stand up for themselves are fair game to be preyed upon and victimized by the bullies as well as the system. We tell ourselves that there are agencies, both governmental and charitable, working to protect these people but the truth is, the burden of proof is on the victim and the process one must go through to get help is as threatening and uncomfortable as the bullying.

Do you need legal aid? Prove that you are destitute and worthy of assistance and maybe, just maybe–if you jump through our hoops to our satisfaction–and fill out this stack of forms, and account for every penny you have, and prove to us that you are not at fault, that you didn’t step one toe over the line, we’ll consider your case and get back to you in oh, say, a month or six weeks. Good luck in the meantime. As for legal advice? Keep your doors locked and your head down and don’t stir up trouble. Stay inside, avoid your neighbors, walk your dog after dark, don’t make eye contact or respond to threats and taunts, and have a nice day.

As a friend, rather than a family member, I have no legal ability to help my friend. I can’t schedule appointments, talk to attorneys or to the park’s management or the neighbors on her behalf. I have no legal standing, no caché, no authority to protect her. I do the best I can to encourage her, to try to pull her back from the funk and the abyss of loneliness and dejection. Her stores of energy and white hot indignation have long been depleted. She has her memories of what it was like to be whole and happy and a welcomed part of her community. But the truth is, the cracks through which so many people are falling these days as we devolve into a ruthless, selfish, terrorizing society are ever widening. And there is no one working to close that gap.

As the financial gap widens between the haves and the have-nots, so does the gap between the civil and the uncivil. When bullying becomes the norm–and we are this close to becoming a bullying society–we will be done as a nation of freedom and personal liberties. When victimization becomes standard treatment and we can no longer distinguish between bullying and standard operating procedure, when people feel that they have the right to bully rather than the right to protect, life as we know it will be over.

Look around you. That time is near.

If you have any suggestions for how to deal with bullying, please feel free to comment. As much as I love being a cave dweller, there are still some battles that are worth leaving my cave to fight.

A Thought to Ponder 

See this world as a free world, and see everyone in it as trying through their individual experiences to find their way back to that calling, back to that Source Energy. And even though there are billions of them going about it in a way that is different than you would choose, there’s no right or wrong way. In other words, bless them all, and get on with the only thing you have any power about, which is opening or closing your vortex to your natural state of Well-Being. —Abraham

We should be supporting and assisting each other, not judging and victimizing. The world will be a healthier, happier place when everyone feels supported and loved and accepted and allowed to follow their own path.

the path 02

 Photo by Chris Wood

One Thing Leads to Another

"Make Things"

“Make Things”

My recent trip to Scotland seems to have flipped some strange Ms. Fix-It switch in me that I’m having trouble turning off. In the past two weeks, I’ve renovated my office, built shelves and a desk to create a mini-office space in my old closet, and relocated every book I own; repurposed cabinets and shelving (the cabinets in my old office closet now reside in the master bathroom); rearranged and/or replaced all the photo groupings and pictures in my house (I scanned old photos to create a huge black and white montage); repaired the dishwasher that has sat dormant in my kitchen for the past eight years. I’ve moved furniture, sewn cushions and made three new dog beds from an old, holey comforter that I could not bring myself to throw out; I’ve made several cork boards using old picture frames; spray painted just about everything not nailed down; made tissue paper flowers to keep my hands busy while I’ve planned new projects and compiled lists of things to scavenger hunt at the Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store down the street. I’ve cleaned every closet in the house, rearranged every nook and cranny of storage space, and I’m now in the deep-cleaning phase of my whole-house makeover.

YIKES!

My renovation binge began simply enough. I was anxious to write about my trip, to organize photos, to relive my adventure on paper. My office, however, was left in a disheveled mess as I’d neglected it in the weeks prior to leaving, stacking papers and books and scribblings here and there for future reference. Sitting down at my desk that first day back, I realized that I needed to make some breathing space, to move a few things to de-clutter my work area. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was emptying out the closet, taking down shelves and cabinets, and spackling nail holes. My office is now clear of clutter but I have yet to accomplish what I originally set out to do. (I now believe that tidying, the most harmless of chores, is the gateway to full-scale revamping. Now I know better!)

Who IS This Person?

This person who is bustling about sewing and organizing and remodeling seems unfamiliar to me. Granted, I like to sew. I like to organize. I don’t mind a little remodeling. But this is out of the ordinary for cave-dweller-me.  I’ve been shopping! I’ve been to Home Depot three times in five days! One project leads to another–and another–and another. And although my comfy cave is becoming a little more comfy, I’m finding that the deeper I go in my quest for completion, the more problems crop up.

So, my new goal for the coming weeks is to find balance in my mania to renew and refresh and revitalize both my cave and myself. I will finish the projects I have in process and get back to writing. I’ll give the house one more quick cleaning and then close the door on all of the DIY projects on Pinterest that are calling my name. And while it’s been mostly fun moving book cases and solid oak desks and repairing the dishwasher all by myself, I think I’ll call for backup to fix the new leak under the kitchen sink. Even a cave dweller requires a little professional help once in a while.  Fingers crossed that this is not one thing that leads to another. 🙂

Just for Fun!

Elephant and water

When DIY jobs go bad, there’s only one thing to do: laugh! (And then call a plumber!)