“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” ― Gabriel García Márquez
i was born in 1958. the world was quite different then. my world was different and the larger world i traveled in as well. and yet so many things seem quite similar. as i approach the middle point of my 5 decade walking through this life, i am swirling in an understanding that i enjoy my life on a completely different plateau than i did in the prior decades.
my 50’s have afforded me an ease and a laissez-faire which i had not touched prior. i would imagine that without this shift of perspective i would still be lost in the land of high. but my years caused me to become weary, weary of judgement, weary of worry, weary of pretending. of course i still engage with all these things, but maturity has allowed me an exit strategy from caring about the unimportant. in other words- priorities in life have changed drastically.
i tip my hat to the relief i feel because of age. all the while i cringe just a little when i see the extra jowls, the enlarged pores, or the gray hairs. or when i am pushing twice as hard to drop an extra 20 lbs i have managed to acquire during a 9 month dark period from which i am gratefully emerging, there is a tranquility that replaces the panic and fear that used to pervade the background of my mind. instead, i drift towards letting go of worry about the inane and move in the direction of “i’ll do what suits me” in direct opposition to the prior decades motto of “do i look good doing this?”
no doubt the crossing of the 55 line will be without pomp and circumstance. my celebrations have become quieter and rather introspective. the journey has at once slowed and sped up. the years go by more rapidly as i experience the nuances in life’s revolving chapters-not merely the basics. the older i become, the more i understand how limited my knowledge really is. all this is quite fine as the real gift and the bonus for me is the peace of mind and the ability to rest that has appeared with ripening.
the workplace continues to undergo metamorphosis. my previous supervisor was laid off- i believe his team lead position has been dissolved and there will simply be one team. he hadn’t seemed happy since new management moved in at the beginning of this year. i spoke with him briefly after he learned of this decision and tried to assure him that better days would be coming for him. sometimes my life has moved ahead of me and removed me from situations to make room for learning, growth, and fulfillment. i venture to guess that my entire workplace is in one of those patterns now.
i worked 2-16 hour days thursday and friday (between full-time and part time gigs) and have been pooped this weekend, really pooped. but i have caught up on sleep, had my house cleaned, finished laundry, shopped at sprouts, finished the criminal minds marathon, taken naps, and feel rested. it rained most of last night and there is a soft grey blanket of quiet tossed on top of our town. i love days like this- it reminds me of chicago.
also reminding me of chicago is a band of musicians known as durutti column- they weren’t from chicago, but i loved them when i lived there. here’s a brief paragraph or two from wikipedia..
Jetsyn greeting an old woman
Grandmother, you are an angry woman,
Question your own thoughts and examine your mind.
Practice [the best of] the Buddha’s teaching.When you were first sent here,
Did you dream you would become an old nanny-goat?
In the morning you get up from bed,
In the evening you go to sleep,
In between, you do the endless housework;
You are engrossed in these three things.
Grandmother, you are the unpaid maid.Question your own thought and examine your mind. Then things may be different for you.The head of the family is the most important one,
Income and earnings are the next most longed-for things,
Then sons and nephews are wanted most.
By these three you are bound.
Grandmother, for yourself you have no share.Question your own thought and examine your mind [if you can, so far as you can].
Grandmother, you are burned up with fury.Gossip about other women and their manners is what interests you;
To talk of widows and relatives is your delight.Grandmother, are you so gentle when you gossip?To lift you from a chair is like pulling out a peg;
With feeble legs you waddle like a thieving goose;
Earth and stone seem to shatter when you drop into a seat;
Senile and clumsy is your body, Grandmother, you have no choice but to obey.Question your own thought and examine your mind. From that you may find out how you have changed.Your skin is creased with wrinkles;
Your bones stand out sharply from your shrunken flesh;
You are deaf, dumb, imbecile, eccentric, and tottering;
You are thrice defonned.
Grandmother, your ugly face is wrapped in wrinkles.Your food and drink are cold and foul,
Grandmother, you are now a wretch,
half woman and half bitch!Now, with fear and grief at heart,
You watch the time of death draw nigh.
Grandmother, can you face death with confidence?
it’s a bright sunday morning in april and as i make my way back from st. mark’s, i am aware that some of the funk that had settled around me has begun to shake loose. the sun is showing her face earlier and she lingers lovingly and languishes longer at the end of the day. the plantings we did last summer have had me worried as they all looked brown and lifeless, but this last week little buds have been appearing on the korean lilacs, the carol mackie dahnes, and both types of hydrangeas, but the rose of sharons still have me a bit concerned. there are 6 of them in and if they don’t come back, i really will need to replace them. we planted 4 new trees yesterday in the right of way, but those will take 3 or 4 years before we really see any impact.
my mood has started to bud just as my landscape has. i am feeling less closed off, experienced a little photosynthesis yesterday and was able to laugh and feel light again. sometimes working with others definitely requires some refueling. this is just what winter offers. a chance to rest and ready for replenishing.
i have been receiving some forwarded posts from a family member for awhile which always seem very post-right wing and lean toward obama-lambasting. i rarely read them as i don’t hold those political leanings. and i don’t respond because i don’t care to engage in dialogue that has no real purpose other than disagreement. i certainly haven’t felt it necessary to change her way of thinking and i know she is not likely to nudge mine.
but my cousin’s partner sent her a response to the last missive that was sent about why not to trust the man who is president. somehow, her response struck a chord with me. it was not a threatening rebuttal- far from it actually she talked about looking at more sides of any issue and then included an article about walter breuning, the oldest man in america, who recently passed. here is a link to the article:
Here’s the world’s oldest man’s secret to a long life:
- Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. (“Every change is good.”)
• Eat two meals a day (“That’s all you need.”)
• Work as long as you can (“That money’s going to come in handy.”)
• Help others (“The more you do for others, the better shape you’re in.”)
- Then there’s the hardest part. It’s a lesson Breuning said he learned from his grandfather: Accept death.“We’re going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you’re born to die,” he said.
i really like mr. breuning’s common sense approach. it leaves me something tangible and attainable to reach toward in my life’s journey. and the response that carried this message gave me a reminder about making room for good things to happen in my life. ‘cuz i never know when another bud is about to appear. all this with a cuppa joe and a chocolate croissant this beautiful sunday morning.
and yesterday at hivster from seattle, there was a post about durutti column with a link to “missing boy”. i hadn’t heard that cut for about 15 years or so and it reminded me how amazing vini reilly was (and remains).
I’m free to be whatever I
Whatever I choose
And I’ll sing the blues if I want
I’m free to say whatever I
Whatever I like
If it’s wrong or right it’s alright…..Oasis
somehow i have begun to get sentimental about the 90’s. i am not sure when it started, but it’s here. i don’t remember them really, maybe because i was pushing so so hard in that decade, what i do recall is drinking so much to blot out the fear of dying from AIDS, and running so fast, afraid to feel what i might feel when i stopped. i kept seeing friends and acquaintance around me pass on, even if i changed cities and social circles.
i was in a mixed chorus for 5 years, singing choral music weekly and pushing sound through my body as a spiritual practice.i met several people who became fast and fantastic friends. i got 2 DUI’s in those years, and worked at the same job. i travelled many times across the globe, although never completely around it, and had hangovers on too many continents. i made friends, influenced no one, and spent more than every dime that came in. i was driven, but mainly uninspired, and i was stayed numb while i lost track of time.
so i have found myself drifting to the music of the 90’s. maybe i can piece back some memories through the tracks of those years. i know i loved the garage influence. nirvana, oasis, blur, and i know that hip hop took hold like i had never imagined. so now and again i will be posting 90’s dittys. music is poetry with instruments and words, and it has been there with me, even if i don’t recall. so i give a nod to the music that seems underrated in my book. “i know i heard you while i was passing in the hall, but i can’t recall your name”
tough transitions is a book written by dr.elizabeth neeld and it speaks to the tough times in life that are driven by circumstances, mostly unavoidable. these times come and go in life. this is undeniable. undoubtedly i have not met the challenges at my potential at every given turn. to reflect on a transition that worked me instead of working for me, i look back to 1996. i had been pushing myself to get through my community service hours to satisfy my probation requirements for my dui. at the time i worked about 50 hours a week and then put in 8 hours on saturdays shelving books at the public library and finished hours out shelving at the school of mines. with all the pressing on, i became weary and overtired. i went to the doctor and my doctor ran blood tests- it was confirmed that i was hiv positive. the wanted to start me on meds to address the onset of viral replication.
since i had been confirmed positive once before in 1995 and kept that truth in the dark corners of my mind, there was once again a process of acceptance that was required. and i agreed to start meds, even though for the 11 years prior i had renounced the medical field because of their naivete around hiv and their willingness to prescribe and over prescribe. yet, here i was in 1996 imbibing meds that were not self-prescribed and had a nervous breakdown. i didn’t sleep for a week, lost touch with good sense, and became paranoid and goofy. i finally slept after being diagnosed bi-polar and given more meds that helped bring me back into general focus(along with regular sleep).
funny thing was , after about a month on these new meds, i felt better physically and energetically than i had for as long as i could remember. and strangely, along with this renewed feeling, a very fearful sense that these past 11 years had been in vain as i had not really planned for any kind of future. yet there i sat with a bleak and black future in front of me. what followed was my usual practice in life- act on instinct. i quit my job of 11 years and started a new gig. i started partying heavily again, worked out a transfer with my new company to san francisco, and kept the party going. soon cocaine and meth were on the guest list, and i couldn’t keep up with my own version of a grimm fairy tale that was reflected in my life. buildings in new york toppled after swallowing planes, economies tumbled like stacks of jengo logs, and realities shape-shifted just as quickly as my waistline did with 2 full years of daily meth use.
this transition in my life, the onset of hiv meds and the conquering of my denial, was an opportunity that was missed, or at least very painfully delayed. instead of being open to moving forward with my life, i became intoxicated with not feeling the strangeness that acknowledgement and treatment delivered. i kicked away my stability and concentrated on trying to rebuild a foundation, in lieu of remodeling an already sturdy casement.
according to dr. neeld, transitions such as these happen in our lives. and they will continue to happen. we age, we lose jobs, we divorce, we lose friends, we become ill, etc, etc.. and her insight is finding the poise to recognize when we are in a transition and find a way to look to the outcome in lieu of becoming lost in the process drama. there are 3 questions she offers to guide us through highly troubled times. i believe that some of the power of change is in the asking of the questions, and some comes in our own answers.
How can there be any hope when we have already lost what we hold most dear? Where does hope live when we hear the words announced to us, “There is no hope”? We cannot bring the person back. We cannot return to life as it was.
For a long time people have been thinking about this dilemma. One of these individuals was Immanuel Kant who lived and wrote in the 1700s. Kant thought a lot about the kind of subjects we might label as “the eternal verities”: hope, ethics, God, morality, the meaning of life. Kant came up with three questions that he thought expressed the central human concerns. Here are his famous questions:
What can I know?
What can I do?
What can I hope?
this is an ongoing topic for me right now…. more to follow…
~ Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile. ~
this october has seemed to be one of the more golden ones in my memory. there have been many many beautifully warm days. the colors came early in september in the mountains, but in denver as well as here in chicago, there are massive natural displays of autumn color. the trees, the skies, the warmth, the vibe has been spectacular and memorable.
just like this, life is evolving and i am evolving as best i can to keep up. i am reminded here that i am remembered, and that it is with laughter and joy. i don’t necessarily see myself like this. but this is how i am seen and this is as much truth as my own perception. go figure.
dinner and some fun with friends last night, a friend tonight, tomorrow, and the next. each day, no doubt, will peel back another layer of hidden treasure and light a corner of my soul. i loved. i didn’t really remember that i loved. i still love. i didn’t think myself capable. i didn’t think.
If you are lucky, you live in one of those parts of the world where Nature has one last fling before settling down into winter’s sleep. In those lucky places, as days shorten and temperatures become crisp, the quiet green palette of summer foliage is transformed into the vivid autumn palette of reds, oranges, golds, and browns before the leaves fall off the trees. On special years, the colors are truly breathtaking.
How does autumn color happen?
For years, scientists have worked to understand the changes that happen to trees and shrubs in the autumn. Although we don’t know all the details, we do know enough to explain the basics and help you to enjoy more fully Nature’s multicolored autumn farewell. Three factors influence autumn leaf color-leaf pigments, length of night, and weather, but not quite in the way we think. The timing of color change and leaf fall are primarily regulated by the calendar, that is, the increasing length of night. None of the other environmental influences-temperature, rainfall, food supply, and so on-are as unvarying as the steadily increasing length of night during autumn. As days grow shorter, and nights grow longer and cooler, biochemical processes in the leaf begin to paint the landscape with Nature’s autumn palette.
you can read the rest of “why leaves change color” here
“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters to what lies within us.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
the “ah-has” are speeding past me this year like the last days of a perfect summer. i find myself both awed and humbled beyond my ability to express. the most liberating of all these rays of light is the deeper understanding of mindfulness that is encompassing me and this may just change my world forever. all my life i have been living with the idea that truth is fixed and that the way i see the world was hard-earned and would doubtfully change.
but i now find myself shifting to realize that how i see the world is just that and only that- the way i see it. it has no bearing on how the world is, nor even how i differently i can work to see it if i choose. the remarkable aspect of all this is the sheer simplicity of it. i have a choice. understanding this makes it less of a choice, but it’s still a choice.
my way has been to hold a grudge for eons. i have become so comfortable living with anger submerged it seems as if my heart might have been buried alive. somehow, still beating, it has not been able to connect to much of anything because it has been tethered to the dark, the pain, and all the fear. but just as the light breaks the darkness on the horizon at dawn, this truth has allowed me to see beyond my tomb. my history remains written, but my options from now have dramatically shifted.
this shift affects everything i do. i am able to feel less stuck. i am able to let go more easily. i notice the days and the nights more intimately. i can’t imagine what life would be without this new turn. but i don’t have to. my life includes a new level of mindfulness. and it offers me a slice of serenity.