life on life’s terms

auto pilot

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image credit…. marina ambromovic

i have come to understand yet another layer of how i operate in my part of the world. maybe i knew this before, but with the latest turn in the road, my nature drifts yet again from the mists. i feel gratitude for this renewed awareness, but i would trade this gift for one of unknowing- sadly even if for only a short while. but the decades have rescinded my right to deny.

the previous paragraph seems so vague, but it is crystal clear to me. one of my best friends (and my sponsor of 7 years)  was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer this week. he underwent esophageal surgery a couple of years ago with the intention of eradicating an aggressive cancer which had him out of commission for several months. it seems the cellular anomalies have survived, relocated, and set up shop in another part of his body. the oncologist advised to get papers in order with a half year. 
his behavior has seemed somewhat erratic lately. i have come to understand that he has been getting sicker for awhile. he has been moody. he has withdrawn a bit. he has not seemed happy-probably due mostly to not feeling very well. as he has shared this news with me he has wavered between pushing me away and struggling to find words between breath drawing tears.  
he holds his right to his feelings close to his chest. he has partitioned himself from his family right now because their questions and their concerns are too loud for him now. he needs to distill his own position before he can be okay letting others in. i find myself considering my words and my intention with intensity, which is more reserved than i usually am.
i find i have a natural caregiver response to crisis. i think i developed this growing up with a single young parent who binge drank heavily. there were many crises that arose over the years and i found that parenting that parent and taking care of her drama was the quickest way not to disappear in it. this posture became second nature and continued with some of my besties in the 80’s when aids swept through our lives and still remains intact with me today in my work and in my search for validation.
i find myself reviewing this part of my nature right now. i want to be “there” for someone i love, but i don’t want to be on auto pilot- even though that’s where i always go first and that is the place i find myself now.  its hard to believe,  but i don’t really want this to be about me. i am working to make it about someone i care very much about. and how to remain available while our lives unfurl. 
You and I have been through many things.
I’ll hold on to your heart.
I wouldn’t cry for anything,
But don’t go tearing your life apart.

I have seen fear. I have seen faith.
Seen the look of anger on your face.
And if you want to talk about what will be,
Come and sit with me, and cry on my shoulder,
I’m a friend.
And if you want to talk about it anymore,
Lie here on the floor and cry on my shoulder,
Once again.
Cry on my shoulder, I’m a friend.

unexpected

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image credit.. funfunpics
It helps to remember that our practice is not about accomplishing anything… but about ceasing to struggle and relaxing as it is…. pema chodron

someone shared at a meeting today about feeling lost. they are hoping they can find something inside them to offer to a newcomer who comes into the rooms. right now he feels he has nothing to offer.

this caused me to remember something my sponsor always tells me. “when you can find god in the middle of a storm, then you truly have found god” it is not much of a challenge to feel connected when things are going my way. it is a completely different situation to feel connected when everything is hard. or seems impossible. 
i know that when this person shared today, my heart was affected. they assured me they had nothing to offer, but my experience was very different. they reminded me that struggle is only a situation removed, and that the only difference between that person and myself is the accessibility and the awareness of my connection to life. it was an unexpectedly incredible day.

Step One
I’d like you to start with where you already feel compassion. Currently I feel that’s the most effective place to start, where you already feel it. I always mention that when Trungpa Rinpoche was teaching about compassion, he would awaken the feeling of compassion, ignite it or awaken it by thinking it of an experience he had when he was a very young boy in Tibet. He looked down from the top of the monastery and saw people stoning a puppy to death, and he couldn’t do anything because he was too far away. He said what made the image all the more painful is that they were laughing and having fun doing this. All he had to do was think of that, and then the feeling of the bodhichitta began to flow.

That’s where we would start this practice, with what is a second step on the sheet. But we’ll start with that as the beginning. You would think of someone in this category. Then you would wish that they could be free of suffering and the root of suffering. Now this is very interesting. Suppose, for instance, I find that when I do this for the animals in the laboratories, it’s very straightforward. I just want them to not be in those experiments. I just want them to be out of there. It’s completely practical. That might be the situation with what you’ve been thinking of as well. 

Sometimes, though, more frequently as I go through my life, it’s psychologically a little more complicated. People often say to me, for instance, when they wish for themselves or a loved one to be free of suffering and the root of suffering, and then they say, I don’t know if I really mean that. Then they say, I understand the logic of this. You say, “I learn so much from suffering, I’m not sure I really want myself to be free of this particular anxiety I’m feeling now because I’m out of work, or whatever it might be, because I learn so much from it.” 

I think it’s very helpful, when you’re doing this practice for yourself and for others as you move through the list. It might be very straightforward, like the laboratory animals. You just want them out of that situation, and so you know what you wish for them. But at some level we’re always talking about the root of the suffering. It’s often at the level of psychological distress. For instance, if someone is dying or someone is very ill and I think of them and I wish them to be free of suffering and the root of suffering. Part of that is not wanting them to be in physical pain…. pema chodron

life on life’s terms

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image credit….. david archer
Life is about living, loving, learning and of course laughter. Living life on life’s terms has much to do about our attitude toward our life. Do we choose a positive attitude or invite misery? Do we choose change or stay in our old comfort zones even if they are unhealthy for us? What thoughts do we hold and keep our attention on? Yes, we have the choice at any moment to make changes in our life if it’s not working for us.

Our life is all about change and choice. Within each of us is the ability to create and live the life intended for us. We only need make the changes and choices that are truthful, honest and right for our own life. It is my hope to offer new ways to accept changes in your life; from the not so difficult to the huge and very challenging ones. As we learn to accept changes that come about and learn new skills to walk through change, we have the opportunity to create and live a life of love, peace, serenity and happiness.

i stopped by a small clinic to help a friend who is a counselor there. he has been ill lately and i will make myself available to help in any way i can. he runs groups for parolees, most of whom have done 8 years or more inside. he sweetly refers to his guys as the ones nobody else wants. it is obvious he has a real and defined connection here.

there are about 14 guys who slowly arrive, make their nest for the hour, and settle in. there is also a sense of something else, although i’m not sure what. the respect and the love that is felt for him in here is concrete.  it is a rag tag bunch of fellows. all are working, and working on staying out of the joint. 2 guys are graduating tonight, so the protocol is that they will run the meeting, starting by sharing their process and their progress with the group.

but before this takes place, my friend starts the group off by introducing himself (there are 2 new people who don’t know him). he apologizes for not being around the last month or so, but has had some stuff going on.
he continues with “here’s the deal guys. i have been diagnosed with 2 types of cancer in my abdomen. they don’t even know what kind it is. i was told i have about 6 months to live. i have started chemo to arrest these tumors in my stomach and they don’t even know if it is going to work. if it is effective, i may have 2 more years, but if it doesn’t, it falls back to the 6 month diagnosis.

naturally you could hear a pin drop. there is not a sound, nor a movement for a short while as these rugged and  tender witnesses absorb what they could of the information just laid down. not a stir. it was almost like one of those science fiction films with individual cylinders keeping bodies alive, all in the same room, but each one so separate and needing its own life support.

my friend continued with the group and introductions.

this was a very spiritual happening  for me. i can’t remember when i have felt quite so humble. i don’t ever think i will forget either the silence or the power in the presence of  it. nothing more to be said really.

my friend is living life on life’s terms.

removing the blindfold

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wherever you go, there you are.
now.. to be brave enough to see yourself

whew! what a month this march has been. as i start to look back it definitely feels as if march aggressively blew in like a lion in my life. and it ripped the blindfold i had been wearing about who i am. it’s sobering to be reminded of some weaknesses, especially when it involves my judgement and ego.  sobering indeed to find i  am still impulsive to a fault at times and let my decisions be dictated by my pride. 

but at the end of the day, this simply underlines my humanity. my head understands all this but there is this part that expects so much more from me. if you follow me here, you know this is a broken record. comfort is here though because i am human. flawed, average, vulnerable. no biggie.

i met a guy who spent 23 years in prison. he was released about 5 years ago for a couple of years only to find out he was hiv positive. for some odd reason he went back to the joint after 2 years and is now back out and trying to put together a life. he is homeless, has been smoking crack no doubt because it numbs everything out, and i’m sure he’s weighing the options of being on the outside versus going back in.

my impression is that he may not know he is doing this. he’s been locked up so long that he may not have the skills or the cojones to carve out a new life. this was a heart-opening meeting for me and i am pulling for him. i guess i am pulling for him in the sense that whatever decision he makes, it won’t be too tragic or painful for him. i’ll bet he has suffered enough in his life.

the dark side of benzos keeps creeping onto my pages. there are folks who take meds for pain. now many people who do this don’t run into negative issues, but there are some who can’t seem to moderate themselves. more, more more becomes the battle cry and lying, drama, and greed often follow. and trying to assist in picking up the pieces at this stage can be a roller coaster. air bags not included.

i cried at the conclusion of american idol this week. casey’s reaction to being saved was reality tv at its very best. everybody needs a moment or two like that in their lives. and actually, this season seems to be a little more gentle and easy as far as the judges go. maybe simon brought an unnecessary critical edge. i guess we’ll see.

meth is still cutting a swatch through the field of young gay men’s dreams in my town. guy after guy keep turning up with broken lives, dessimated hearts, and hollowed out eyes in need of some tlc. don’t know if we have all they need, but we have redefined our focus on how to help. knowing this and living this offers me reprieve. i just hope others get some, too.

i came across a guy named mike posner ‘cuz he did a cover of adele’s “rolling in the deep” (embedded in sidebar) which immediately became a favorite. his album debuted in august ’10 and i think he is probably one to watch – or listen for…

invisible light

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I’ll call you anything you want if I can say it’s mine.
This story’s never ending.
My footprint’s been erased.
Here you are, kiss of Evil,
I see your mouth, Or is it really…

had dinner at parallel 17 last night with friends and then went to Vintage Theatre to see their production of “Equus”. quite a full Saturday evening for me. dinner was very very good as has come to be expected from p17’s upscale vietnamese offerings. the company was sweet. there were three people who share in a community garden so there was lots of talk about seeds, vegetables, and cooking. all things that i love dearly.

the play was memorable. maybe partially because the space is so small and we sat front row. but i think more memorable because the lead performances were steeped in truth and the play itself is compelling and reigns you in as it methodically unveils the workings of a psychotherapist and his dance with a young man who has developed a toxic theology to protect himself from the real world he inhabits.
both provided a lovely distraction from my routine and gave me distraction from my current disappointment. i must say i am highly confused about where i am right now. this feeling of let-down has rolled onto my life very much like the most recent tsunami, tainting almost everything in its path. i find myself trying to figure how where to start shovelling up and digging out. frankly, not only does it feel as if the wind is knocked out of me, but i am afraid of what i am going to find when the clean-up begins.

last week i remember watching the footage from japan and trying to find faith in all that disaster. and i find that i am juggling the same concepts today. i haven’t necessarily lost faith. i just have to rekindle my connection to it. no doubt, on reason i find myself feeling as i do now is a result of disconnect.

having a sense of direction seems a great relief when contrasted with
 disillusionment and disappointment.

remix

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 i received word today that my department transfer would go through. i will be at a new desk in a new office on monday- at least for half the day. the other half will remain the same. now as change draws near, the butterflies begin. not because i don’t want to move on.. i have to for sanity’s sake. no causes me a little shakiness is the uncertainty ahead. i have interviewed with my supervisors, but i really don’t know what to truly expect day to day. i know i will be all right, but i want more than all right. i want happy. i want joy. i want symbiosis. time will tell. and don’t be fooled. i don’t think i’m living in a fantasy. i found out another patient has terminal liver cancer and probably won’t live thru the year.

i have posted pics of the landscaping changes we made to our building. i had been going slowly crazy looking at some old junipers that were overgrown and swimming in dead underneath. they would cackle at me every time i would go in and out of my little place. i forget how persuasive i can be, but after a few months of campaigning with the other owners, we spent a weekend (18 hours) pulling out all the dead and putting in new plantings. this included moving rock from the right of way, removing old fabric that had been sadly compromised by a flood 2 years ago, replacing the fabric, and putting the rock back. it was all impressive and exhausting. But $1100 and 90 man hours later, we have a whole new vibe there.
the music today is definitely a “sound” from my 80’s. you could hear it in most of the big boy clubs in 81. that clapping sound was everywhere. even al jourgensen from ministry did a cover of this song for his 1st song in chicago.