Monday, March 21, 2016

Things I Have Been Asked Recently

By an old guy at church, regarding my MINI Cooper: "Couldn't you afford to buy a REAL car?"

By my favourite 7 year old: "Was Jesus a zombie because he came back from the dead?"

By my mother: "Are you having a mid-life crisis?"

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

warriors in training

Rollins Pond Campground
Saranac Lake, NY - July, 2013
Photo by me
From Pema Chödrön:

Each time we retaliate with aggressive words and actions we are strengthening the habit of anger.

We are warriors in training being taught how to sit with edginess and discomfort. We are being challenged to remain and relax where we are.

Once we click into solid views of justification or blaming, our minds become very small. Closing down in any form causes suffering to escalate.

I like to re-read my self-help books a lot. One of my favourites is Codependent No More by Melanie Beattie. People with loved ones who are alcoholics often feel alone. Responsible. Guilty. Hopeless. Unloved. Out of control. Drowning. Hurt. Shut out. It is so hard to take care of one's self when all you want is to be loved and cared for by the alcoholic. It begins to drive you. You tirelessly seek out what you crave so badly. Sometimes you get a little smidge of attention. I call this the 'dangling carrot.' It's just enough to keep you hanging on for a little longer.

Alcoholics are selfish people who can only think about alcohol and themselves. They say the disease of alcoholism prevents one from feeling any compassion for others. And for so long I thought I was the one causing all the problems. Sure I have some issues but I have worked on them. But we still are not getting anywhere. No improvements, because the alcoholic is all-consumed. My need to control, parent, nag, obsess, etc., is codependency. It’s what I do. I previously believed I was just intensely insecure. I didn’t even realize what was happening at first. The alcoholics in my life made good and sure I knew everything was "my fault." I accepted so much blame for things that were not my fault. I took care of everything, fixed everything, smoothed everything over. That responsibility does not belong to me.
I learned how to stop. It was loving detachment in the name of self-preservation.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön

Friday, February 19, 2016

fundamental nature

Bald Rock, Tenterfield, NSW, Australia:
The largest granite monolith in Australia.
Photo by me, July 22, 1992.
I had a rather heated, animated discussion last night about fundamental nature. My arguments were probably more fueled by wine rather than logic, yet I pressed my companion into answering my questions, maybe even baiting him at times. What is fundamental nature?  Is one's fundamental nature made up of character traits? Can it change over time? Can our thoughts and experiences inform our fundamental nature so deeply that it evolves into something new, with new characteristics?

From the book Visions of Compassion: Western Scientists and Tibetan Buddhists Examine Human Nature (edited by Richard J. Davidson and Anne Harrington), this is what His Holiness the Dalai Lama has to say about fundamental nature:

"The very nature of a person is predetermined in part by what location and culture he was born into. Every culture and society already has a preset of values, rules, and characteristics that shape an individual during his growth and development. This chapter introduces an ethical system such as democracy, responsibility, and individuality, attuned to what one perceives as what is good in human nature. What then, is the basic form of a human nature, one that is free from influences and external factors, one that is present when one has just been born? In addition to this, the way one looks at oneself, in terms of status, gender, and race affects how one acts in the society. It is an intricate web of both inherent and environmental factors that shape a person's individuality."

I put a shout-out on Facebook to see what everyone else thinks. I'm not sure if we really reached any sort of conclusion on this, but it did get me thinking. So much so that I had an awful time sleeping last night. (Or that could have been the wine.) I tend to agree mostly with what the Dalai Lama says, that it's a combination of nurture and nature. 

I can think of a handful of times I was forever changed by an experience. Some incidents that occurred when I was kid, that I'm not ready to talk about publicly yet. My first "epiphany" in therapy. The day I realised I don't ever need to rely on anyone and can completely take care of myself. My first true spiritual experience in nature, captured above.  

on the road to resurrection

Since my last substantial post in 2010, a lot has happened.  My life fell apart again, but I fixed it. Again. In some sense, I have become my truest self to date, the most authentic I have ever been.  

I left my old 9-5 job and started a new one that is much better for me. (Still work there.) I became a permanent vegetarian. I learned yoga. I learned what it's like to be a homeowner in the suburbs. I adopted a third cat. I spent a lot of time in therapy. I learned how to meditate. I started to make peace with old demons. I left my long time church job, which I loved, because of burn-out. I began learning about Buddhism and studied Pema Chodron every day.  I swam a lot. I took up journaling again, but stopped once I thought I got my stuff mostly sorted out. I became on expert on codependency. I tried to work on my marriage - gave it everything I had. I ended up getting divorced anyway for a second time. I created a personal affirmation that I repeat to myself all the time, every day. It came true.  I moved out of the house in the suburbs and back to the city where I lived by myself for the first time since 1999. 

I repaired relationships I had previously neglected. I knitted A LOT of stuff, even sweaters. I learned how to welcome and care for emotional pain rather than ignore it and push it away. I learned how to take care of myself and not rely on anyone to meet my emotional needs. And then I fell in love again, unexpectedly. I learned the Universe is full of irony. I did a pretty fair amount of traveling, including getting on an airplane for the first time since 1992 (all by myself). I drove cross-country from North to South. Twice. (Not by myself.) I added many birds to my Life List. I became an aunt for the first time ever. I hoped the birth of my niece would heal some of the divide in my family but it did not. I got my nose pierced. I went back to my old church job. I moved in with my love. I bought a new car. I lost my best, most favourite feline companion. I got a tattoo.

I might have started blogging again.    

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Here is a poem I wrote on 5.28.14

echo from a past life - this is how i imagine it

breathless and flying


controlled chaos
you and i am you are me

i am born out of life
with wings lifted up
i am opening

let go

ancient connection of fire and breath
minds and lungs and souls
and skin and hearts
and bodies
and we

you are born out of life
with eyes lifted up
you are opening


innocent pulse
familiar still
immeasurable time
we are old and young and old

we became before we ever were
we know but do not know each other
parallel lives broke
and now bend and twist
and restart and tangle
to intersect in unexpected surprised collision

i am you are me

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Book List

  1. From Animal House to Our House by Ron Tanner (1/7/15)
  2. All Wound Up - The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (1/15/15)
  3. Living Beautifully: With Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chödrön (4/23/15)
  4. Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child by Thich Nhat Hahn (4/28/15)
  5. Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears by Pema Chödrön (5/18/15)
  6. Euphoria by Lily King (5/28/15)
  7. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (6/7/15)
  8. Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain For Life by David Perlmutter, MD (11/9/15)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Book List

  1. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova (1/17/14)
  2. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (1/31/14)
  3. The Reader by Bernard Schlink (3/8/14)
  4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (3/18/14)
  5. The Kingdom of This World by Alejo Carpentier, translated by Harriet DeOnis (3/29/14)
  6. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (8/15/14)
  7. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (9/15/14)
  8. Away by Amy Bloom (11/4/14)
  9. Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje (12/29/14)
  10. Why Can't I Be You? by Allie Larkin (12/31/14)