Agent of Chaos

Sure, I could easily be talking about our Chief Executive Officer of the USA—certainly nobody does chaos like he does, but actually I was referring to our kitten/cat/Tasmanian 20170609_131620 (1).jpgDevil that magically appeared on our front step about 2.5 months ago.

I don’t mean to be discriminatory about orange, tiger-stripe cats here but since I’ve had a large number of cats and kittens in my life, including two previous ginger-striped ones, I knew that seeing this tiny, starving, max shoe.jpgmonth-old baby at the door was likely going to be quite a ride if we kept him because the other two little tigers had been in leagues of their own for terrorizing everyone around them, including the other cats and dogs.

But how can you turn away a gift from Spirit like that? We just couldn’t.

I named him Max—short for Maxim the Great. He’s very entertaining, very challenging, and he’s very, very naughty.

max eyes (1).jpgWhen a kitten holds eye contact with you to the extent that Max did at the start, I knew he was pretty intelligent, and would soon learn how to push all our buttons.

He’s going to be a big guy from the looks of his over-sized paws to his ever-lengthening legs and tail.

He’s also a real toughie who doesn’t back down from a good rough-housing until you’ve called the truce, not him. After the first week, he walked around here like he owned the place and we were merely his servants. I know most cats do that, but he’s worse—he’s a max eyes (2).jpgbiter—he enforces his own rules. I can trim his nails weekly but I can’t trim his teeth.  The only thing that presently saves us from blood scabs all over our arms and legs is using a water squirt-bottle on him when he bites or locking him in time-out for awhile.

Clearly we’d forgotten how good-mannered our last inside adult cats had been until Max reminded us of the difference between him and them. No plants are safe now, nor is any small object that can be pilfered from fewer and fewer locations that remain outside his leaping abilities.

The house is a mass of toys to distract him, boxes and beds to house him, and towels and blankets on all furniture to prevent him from shredding them—with his teeth, no less.

He has brought chaos into our previously quiet and stagnant lives.

max me.jpgI mean I’m trying to type this one-handed at times because he insists on being the middle of whatever I am doing; and it’s so rare when he’s loving and huggable, that you make allowances to accommodate him because Tasmanian Max is a terror of “epic proportions, unlike the world has ever seen before,” to quote the earlier mentioned agent of chaos that our nation/the world must presently endure.

I wonder if water squirt-bottles and time-outs would work with him? Someone should try it.

Anyway, I keep reminding myself that kittens go though behavior stages and soon enough he will be fat and lazy like most adult cats become. We simply have to survive the 1st-year growth phase. In the meantime, I also recognize Spirit’s metaphor on agents of chaos shaking things up in stagnant environments.

Let’s hope the nation and the world survives the large “orange one’s” insanity because I’m pretty sure he won’t outgrow it.

But as the vet said to give us hope for the future, “Neutering might help.”max on afgan.jpg

Me, Against the World

me world.jpgI had someone say this to me once—something to the effect that I acted like it was ‘me, against the world.’

“So?” I asked him back, “You mean it isn’t?”

While I might be able to laugh about it now, he likely had a point that I couldn’t see at the time. However, he also didn’t live in my skin back then to know how the world and everyone in it actually appeared to me.

I think all of us have lived through difficulties either of our own making or we’ve been the recipients of the attempted manipulations or the ill will of others. Yes, there are some genuinely nice, caring people in the world—I do know some, but at the time, they either weren’t in my circle of intimacy or they had stepped back and decided it was up to me to sink or swim by myself.

Back then I felt that I had been betrayed by the people I had called my friends—that I’d even been abandoned by those I cared most about; that they left me to survive alone with little resources abandoned.jpgor options other than by my own indomitable will.

At the worst of the worst, all I knew was that some way, somehow, I had to make it through each day and night, and to do that I needed to muster my own inner fortitude to simply endure the horror of everything that I was experiencing and to keep pushing through the darkness until something in my life changed for the better—until I could actually see the light again and pull myself out of that underworld hell I’d unfortunately been touring.

I could give specifics, but they don’t really matter because it’s all about the lessons we learn along the way. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a challenge that pits them lifes challengesagainst the demons, real or imagined, in their lives. Everyone has the choice to fight for their own existence or to lie down and die, hoping death will free them from the torment (It won’t—don’t try it—your next-life challenge might be even worse.).

So sure, I might do the ‘me, against the world,’ thing at times. That’s fine. I’ve earned the right to do it if that’s what I want to do, because I did survive my personal ordeal to be here right now laughing about some aspects of it with the rest of you.

No one gets out of this life untested in some way, primarily because it’s why you came. You came to be tested. You came to be thrown into the blast furnace of your choosing and then be hammered into strong steel for whatever purpose your present life represents.

That’s why you are here: To learn, to experience the joys and sorrows of life on this dimension of existence.  Sometimes the joys are indescribable and sometimes the sorrows are nearly unbearable, but only YOU can choose to share them with others or face them alone.

myss quoteI know now that I’m not really alone here. I never was.

But those dark nights of the soul that we ALL must face sooner or later only strengthens our resolve to better appreciate the beauty of the light again, once we can pull ourselves out of that damn hole that we’ve stumbled (or jumped) into earlier.

That’s the real choice we make each day: the choice to whine and wallow away in the darkness, or to climb out of that stinking hole and come back into the light.

It’s a choice we ALL have to make.light.jpg

I made mine. I prefer the light.

Being Honest with Oneself

A couple weeks ago I read a man’s revealing blog entry about how his world was suddenly upended by his loving wife dying from a fast-acting form of cancer. He wrote how he simply came apart after her death and spent the majority of his time tipping a bottle. What saved him, he said, was bottoming out, letting everything go, and being brutally honest with himself about every aspect of his past, present, and future without her.

While these words below (inspired by his article) are mine and not his, it was a powerful and hopeful message that needed to be shared—how he slowly rebuilt his life from the ground up by changing how he viewed his role in the process.  I’d like to list his url page of the article here for all to read it directly but unfortunately I can’t locate it again. Sorry. This is the best I can do.

***

Jack, my counselor, told me he had one rule, and that was to be honest in our talks. “Be honest?” I sneered back at him. The only truth I knew for certain was that I was still sinking in a tar pit of pain over my wife’s sudden illness and death that past year—I raged for half an hour at the unfairness of it all to both of us.  “You want REAL?” I told him, “THAT is very real to me—so there Jack, THAT is my being honest with you!”

My counselor then said to use that very real pain as the starting point to feeling what truth is for me—to use it as the gauge of honesty for every other aspect of my life to help determine what I expected from life in general, and even more importantly, what life might actually expect from me—which made no sense at all to me back then. “What LIFE expects from me?” I yelled, “Screw life! What did it ever do but give me more pain?”

He said that if I could just be honest with myself over what I truly felt for my wife before and after her illness, and allowed myself to feel the real depth of my loss over her death, then I could be honest about other parts of myself as well. That honesty, he said, would help me determine how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

The booze, he said, was keeping me from ‘feeling’ in general because if I never really let myself feel the pain, then I could never get past the pain to move on from there.

The court-required AA meetings helped because other addicts/alcoholics won’t let you lie about what you do or why you do it. They know. They’ve been there. They’ve said and done the same things, and they call you out on your stuff. You can’t hide it from them. You get that real fast. And I needed that.  I needed their truthfulness to help me uncover my own.

But I wouldn’t call those meetings support as much as I’d call it a mirror held up to your face that you can’t avoid.  There you are—twenty or so different versions of you—all gathered in one room sharing stories, shame, and self-loathing.  And there I was with a bunch of other people supposedly just like me—like being called by some other name to tell something similar to my story, like Jim or John or Lori, …or Frank or Jerry—but they were all different versions of me. “Same brand of ice cream, just a different flavor,” Jack said.

Well I didn’t like how that made me feel, so I told them about it. Said I didn’t belong there.

“Accept it,” they said. “We are alcoholics. You’re an alcoholic—lying is what you do, especially to yourself.  That’s who you are because that’s the most comfortable way to be—at least it always has been. Problem now is that even lying doesn’t work for you anymore.”

They were rough with me at times because I was so stuck in denial—claiming I was the victim here—why couldn’t they see that? One guy even pointed to me and said, “You want to keep seeing this same lying sack of shit staring back at you every time you look in the bathroom mirror? NO? Then change what you’re doing—change what you’re thinking. Because if you can’t accept the living proof of who and what you are sitting here all around you—if you can’t stand to think that you’ve been lying to yourself and to everyone you say you loved day after day for most of your life, then don’t expect your future to be any different. It’s your choice. YOUR choice, man!”

The “Your choice!” repeated over and over in their own stories. It’s always your choice. It’s your decision. “No one makes it but you,” they kept saying. “It isn’t really about life’s unfairness, or how much you miss your wife,” one of them told me. It was about being honest with myself about what I was feeling—what I still AM feeling about it all, and deciding if that’s what I want to feel in the future.

“If you can do that,” my counselor who led the group said, “if you can be honest with yourself, then you can pull yourself together and get on with your new life without the booze. But it’s really up to you.”

And as a parting shot, another guy who looked a lot like my sleezy Uncle Charlie, who was the last person in the world I ever wanted a lecture like this from, told me, “If you aren’t willing to help yourself buddy, don’t expect us to help you.”

Well, a couple years later I can tell you that it wasn’t easy by any means. Some days are still a struggle, but eventually I learned to view that past history of my previous self and life in a different way—what Jack called “in a more constructive manner”—one where I could refocus on how I had survived those painful life lessons, and use that survivor mentality to help me feel good about myself again, …which was far better than feeling so rotten all the time, where I simply wanted to numb myself into la-la land with the booze.

But maintaining the what Jack had named “lesson-filled, boot-camp view” of my previous life which he said I had successfully survived, was a difficult choice that I had to keep making day after day—sometimes every minute of the day for awhile, until I grew more comfortable in my new skin.

And getting to know this new me who thought and acted completely different from the old me, was the hardest part of it, because I finally realized that for 42 years I’d basically been doing nothing more than lying to myself, so I hardly knew what truth looked like, or even what being truthful felt like.

In fact the more I considered it, I’m not sure that I had ever been honest with anyone, let alone being honest with myself back then.

Was everything I’d said and done in my entire life a lie? If so, then wasn’t any part of it real? And what part of me was the real ME who was actually worth knowing? To figure that out, Jack tried to flip my mind again to see WHO it was that I wanted to become, to know how to get there. He said it was like creating an image of the new and better me that I would simply have to GROW into. But how could I do that?

Jack framed it to me this way: If I were the adult parent of a newborn ME ready to be introduced into this world full of challenges and wonders, what kind of parent would I truly need to be to successfully raise baby ME into a solid, well-balanced adult? Would I need a critical, demanding, drill sergeant constantly condemning ME and beating me down for my failings, or a nurturing, caring, coach continually encouraging my daily progress and raising me up to feel good about myself?

Not a tough choice, really. I didn’t need to feel any worse about myself than what I’d already been feeling.  What I needed was to feel more loved and supported than I had actually felt throughout most my childhood. Jack agreed. He said what I needed to help me succeed in my new life direction was my own loving guidance and support, not more self-condemnation.

Per Jack’s instructions, every morning now when I look in the bathroom mirror, I ask myself this question: “How are you going to encourage the best from that young kid in you today—how are you going to parent yourself to become a strong and loving person?”

Then I look right into my own eyes and say the words of a speech I’d memorized for doing this daily self pep-talk, “How can I express myself in more compassionate ways—in ways that other loving and caring people want to share in—ways that help them to recognize the goodness of my heart so they want to become more a part of my life?”

“How can I be a good person?”  I ask the ME staring back in all my imperfections. And that’s the goal I set for the day—every day—just trying to be a good person in some way—trying to help somebody or to do something nice for somebody else, because it makes me feel good when I can do that. And the more good I do for others, the better I feel about myself. Funny I know, but that’s how it is.

Well, as you can see, I’m still working on that goal of being a better person. But I wanted others to know that being honest with myself was a key to clearing out the garbage from my life. Think about it: You got to keep taking out the trash to keep from stinking up the house.

And if that ain’t being honest, …then I don’t know what is.

No Sense of Identity

snack.jpg

Looking at my Facebook homepage this morning and seeing yet another of those “Who Are You?” quizzes (a potato chip or a Dorito?) being shared and taken by people who I actually know, I could make a broad non-judgmental comment like: “Human nature—go figure.”

But I think there is something deeper there to consider.

marketingAside from the on-line fun-quizzes being a marketing gimmick to further determine your buying habits or preferences for future products, they also show how gullible people can be and how willing many are to label themselves in some way for public acceptance.

 

I guess that aspect mystifies me the most.

The entirety of my life I have fought against the ready use of labels and judgments in labels.jpgdefining people—against me personally being grouped as a thoughtless commodity so easily shelved into a hierarchal genus or a colloquial catch-all phrase that disputes my individuality and unique qualities as a living, breathing, human being.

I refuse to be de-humanized.

While here, on my Facebook homepage—amidst people I actually know—they giggle and comment on which Saint they are, or which animal temperament they resemble, or which world leader they most emulate or which….snack food they seem to be.

identityI mean, ….seriously people? Do you have no sense of personal identity that you need to have a marketer try to group you onto some grocery shelf in the snack isle?

What’s wrong with you?????

 

So the best I can offer the people I actually DO know is to say: “Human nature—go figure.”

And leave it at that.crisis ident.jpg

The Last Hundred Pieces

pokey jig.jpgSomewhere in a blog, either this one or a previous, I’ve mentioned that I am a jig-saw puzzle fanatic.

Give me a thousand or fifteen-hundred tiny knobbed-bits that insert into other tiny knobbed-bits, and I am good for a few days of studying, comparing, assessing, and inserting them into some semblance of intended unity.

(Bare with me please, there is a philosophical point I will eventually make here.)

Once the straight-edged pieces which represent the framework of the intended picture, are separated from the mass and put into one pile, the re-joining process begins.  framework.jpg

With a framework soon established, the rest of the prospective pieces rely on color, tint, and hue for possible frame connection.

So with that basic info in mind, today I am now down to the last unattached, hundred pieces of a particularly difficult puzzle that has taken me well over a week of serious concentration.  And whenever I reach this point in a puzzle completion, it is usually a piece of cake to wrap it in an hour or two.

Jaguar puzzle.jpgBut as I was automatically sorting the last pieces into separate piles per their knob locations and particular shapes for easy selection and insertion attempt, I realized that I had changed my initial puzzle focus and strategy. I was simply filling open holes now in the puzzle and was making remaining-piece determination more so by the negative spaces left to fill rather than color similarities of the pictured image.

When I recognized my focus shift into the-last-hundred-pieces-strategy that I tend to resort to for completing any puzzle image, it dawned on me that there was something deeper to consider here than pitting positive images against negative spaces.

As we move throughout our lives from childhood onwards, we focus on building an early life framework for ourselves to help us determine who we are as individual beings, and to ferret out what we truly want from our lives. We often paint pictures in our minds to use as blueprints for creating those future realities from our fantasies; and then we go about amassing and inserting the assorted puzzle pieces necessary to get us to that completed ideal-life image we hold so dear.

For those of us who have been around quite a few decades, we may have tried to fit many random pieces into our life-puzzle depending on the positive image we always maintained of how we wanted our life to look at completion.face.jpg

Sometimes those knobby pieces fit into proper place just like we wanted them to do. And sometimes they didn’t. But that didn’t deter us, because we just kept working on our incomplete “life puzzle” trying to make something cohesive and beautiful from our unification attempts at life’s seemingly random events.

But similar to the nearly completed puzzle on my card-table at present, when we get down to the last hundred pieces left to complete the pretty picture of our lives—it is similar to the latter decades of our lives, where we are basically shifting strategy to fill in the negative spaces left for us rather than building an expansive future image centered between the framework of four established sides.

And to fill in that remaining negative space in our lives, we look for shapes that fit the boy.jpgholes that are left to fill. In effect, we likely change our life focus. We now focus on the details of filling in holes still left to complete our life picture that we had originally envisioned.

I also notice that with my puzzle completion so near, I tend to slow down and savor the remaining piece possibilities, because once that puzzle is done, it is DONE!  Nothing more will need my attention there.  At that point there is simply acceptance of the puzzle’s ending, my appreciation of the actual effort in that process, and allowing a day or two for simply admiring the completed image that had been so carefully reconstructed from all those random “life” pieces.

Then after the admiration stage, I just crumple the completed puzzle into random pieces once again, put it in the bag/box with the pretty picture on the front, and stash it away until next year.  (I actually have about 25 puzzle boxes I work through every winter. I know—obsessive.)

But wait a minute, one might think that if you have already put a puzzle together once that the second or third attempt to do so again is so much easier—right?  Well,….not so much.multiframes

Just like with having lived so many previous lives in so many different contexts and conditions, every present-life puzzle is just as difficult to complete as the one before it had been to construct. Our only advantage to recognizing that we have had many attempts at defining our life’s framework and completing our desired future image is that at some point in our spiritual progress, we stop and assess where those negative spaces are left in our soul’s evolution. We do this so we can determine what is necessary to complete the total picture of reconstructing our Wholeness—perfecting our reunification with the ONE.

And guess what?

THAT is the very puzzle we ALL are working on right now.

Reflections on the Sound of Rain

When the world around you is shaking or on fire, …when shrill screams and cries of rage disrupt your peace, …..when your inner acrimony out-paces any positive thoughts, there is a solution to the dilemma: sit in quiet meditation listening to gentle rain tapping softly on your conscious mind.

If you don’t have the real thing, there are recordings of gentle patter against window drops on leaves.jpgpanes and roof tops; cascading droplets slapping out-stretched leaves and dark, bare soil with crystal-clear, liquid nourishment.

It is quite soothing.

We need soothing.

Karma and Dharma

Bobbsey.jpeg

No, Karma and Dharma aren’t the Bobbsey Twins (Oh Lord,…how old am I?).

olsensHow about the Olsen twins—is that more relatable?

For those of us who wish we better understood the relationship between the two hard-to-comprehend Sanskrit terms, I ran across a good comparative description in a blog entry called “Understanding Karma and Dharma” by John Burgos at  https://www.beyondtheordinaryshow.com/spiritual-dictionary/karma-dharma/ .

In that posting, this subject matter is explained by him in a “makes sense” manner that had me nodding in agreement.

When I write about living your true life purpose—being authentic—living a purposeful life, etc., I am actually describing DHARMA—a Hindu concept attempting to put a label on living in the natural, harmonious flow of life. Proper labeling is not easily done in any language. But for all practical purposes to better understanding it, that is what DHARMA means.dharma k.jpg

In that posting, according to Burgos: “So when we speak about you living your dharma, we are referring to you living your truth, living your highest potential, and living in a way that is supported by the Divine in a manner that is in accordance to your soul’s desire.”

And when I write about facing/resolving our personal and collective karma, I’m in essence writing about the boomeranging reciprocity of any action’s intentions for lovingness or harmfulness to others. Or as Burgos explained it: “Karma, put simply, is the Buddhist and Hindu manifestation of cosmic justice. It is the conglomeration of all your actions or deeds, both good and bad, in this life or past lives, that determine your future.”

As Burgos explained, when the two major life processes actually come into alignment with each other, life is good.chart.png

We feel deeply at peace and are riding the Divine Flow of Universal Lovingness.

But when we are out of alignment with either or both life processes, our negative Karma can prevent fulfilling our true Dharma; and/or not recognizing and living our true Dharma can add to the blow-back-in-your-face effects of our bad Karma.

So how do you clean up this possible calamity before it reaches critical mass in your life?

He has a suggestion of a 5-Step Karmic Cleanse technique to keep us from falling5 step.jpg into the bottomless pit of our own ignorance, paraphrased by me as:

  • Think before you act,
  • When emotions/memories surface and you start to react to them, pause and breathe through it to simply release them from your being,
  • Forgiveness is key to mending disputes with others and within yourself,
  • Be kind—don’t be cruel—we know Elvis wouldn’t want that,
  • Share the goodness of your heart and soul with others—uplift others, don’t degrade or belittle them.

Overall, I think his posting is worth a read-through, and his suggestions are well-worth considering.

Namaste.