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.

Taking the FUN Out of Dysfunction

Just saw U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent on Morning Joe talking about the latest Trump insane rants and the accumulative effects of his instability-laden speeches and actions, and dysfunction.jpgCharlie shook his head and said “President Trump has taken the FUN out of dysfunction.”

Yep, definitely NO FUN there now.  But then I can’t remember when it actually WAS fun.

Yesterday Trump expressed his usual campaign pigswill at the National Boy Scouts Jamboree (“a gathering of tens of thousands of hitler boys.jpgyoungsters from around the world eager to absorb the ideas of service, citizenship and global diplomacy.”–Wikipedia) which was so chilling because it was reminiscent of Hitler addressing his Youth Squads who were specifically groomed to idolize der Fuhrer. (Oh my, even the uniforms are similar.)

With a captive audience of 30,000 mainly impressionable kids of all ages, Trump delivered a propagandistic diatribe on everything dredged from the depths of his own darkness—all his insecurities, all his inadequacies, all his fears, all his malevolence, all his vindictiveness, all his mental incoherencies, all of his negative character deficiencies for which he is best known—ALL of it, he delivered primarily to pre-teen and teenage males looking for good, solid role models that Scouting is meant to represent for them.

But instead of providing those Scouts with a reputable model for “service, citizenship, secs of BS.jpgand global diplomacy,” not to mention a shining example of the best possible adult character and behavior, they got him—the worst living example of what wielding a position of power can mean.

Unbelievable.

Hello Congress people out there who represent the last possible salvation for our future: Why are you allowing this ludicrous, dangerous, top-administrative insanity to continue?

Do your jobs!!!

Can’t you see that his malignant dysfunction is now being promoted onto our youth?

You want to start offering a Scout Badge now for mastering the skills of bigotry and scout badge.jpgracism?

And the other thing I want to know is when was his aberrant dysfunction ever FUN?

 

Choppy Seas for the Ship-of-State

newsWatching today’s 24-hour TV news cycle is like booking a misguided ocean cruise to OVERLOAD ISLAND. Through some momentary weakness in escapist judgment, you find yourself captive to a 40-inch screen where a multi-level ship the size of a small metropolitan city sails choppy seas mid bouts of septic dysentery, toward some overrun tourist destination ripe with graft, seedy characters, and over-priced trinkets.  Life in the USA right now is truly a Dramamine-lovers adventure—all witnessed from the semi-comfort of your favorite recliner!cartoon ship.jpg

Daily reviewing our present ship-of-state’s nightmarish voyage in high-def pixels is not a pleasant experience, nor is it one from which we can easily escape. As with any “What was I thinking?” cruise, we’re stuck here for the duration of the journey—short of icebergs, Poseidon-tipping waves, or total engine failure (which could actually happen if Mueller is successful).

So I was thinking this morning after hearing the latest Trump and family escapades blaring from our flagship’s communications deck, that something about this particular time period in history feels too familiar and equally too uncomfortable. Yes, I did live through the Nixon impeachment but I was a very young adult and not as plugged into political concerns then, so that aspect is only vaguely similar to me.

nixon.jpgAnd back then, Mr. “I’m-not-a-crook!” actually was determined to be one, and eventually he was forced to resign. (One can only hope THAT part is similar.)

But reliving that long ago, disastrous, presidential situation is not the discomfort I’m feeling about this present-day news barrage. What seems the most unsettling to me is the inner anxiety level associated with the current presidency—a disturbing discomfort that I’ve also felt during some of the most horrendous times of my life—like the hopelessnessanxiety.jpg felt during a loved one’s terminal illness where you are constantly living with a deep sense of dread and foreboding at the eventual, heart-rending disaster you know will come.

And I’m not alone in feeling this way, because to me this feels more like a collective anxiety than personal one. I think we ALL are feeling overloaded with dread over the future we anticipate ahead.

breaking newsEvery day’s biggest news headlines strike warning gongs within us, but psychologically what may be even worse is the constancy of such negative press coverage. We are being desensitized daily to this rampant administrative insanity and incompetence. When chaos is ever-present wherever you look, then comparative, rational judgment is in short supply.

We are being numbed and lulled daily into the alternative realities expressed during White House press conferences and spokespeople explanations that bear little resemblance to known truthful accounts. But many administration-sympathetic people watching are simply accepting those blatant falsities like it is normal fare, because to do spicerotherwise is to admit their own initially poor judgment—that they had been duped by a conman. And admitting that key point is not going to happen because it counters basic human nature. It’s far easier to blame it on others rather than seeing the horror of the situation for what it really is.

Every morning I turn on the TV and hear the commentator’s same incredulous gasp on delivering the latest news on Russian ties to White House staff and family, or the childish, unscrupulous behaviors of a seventy-year-old, authoritarian, narcissistic, ego-maniac who controls the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.

instabilityThe main problem is that we at home, aren’t even surprised by anything he says or does any longer—we view the latest insults, attacks, and mindless rants as simply the perpetual ramblings of an unstable mind—who just happens to be our nation’s leader. The present standard of acceptance for his oratory skills is so low that if he can simply complete an unscripted, eight-word sentence without veering into non-coherency (or last fall’s election results), he gets a pass. The base measure for acting “Presidential” has been lowered to frat-house escapades of rich kids contemptuous of anyone who is not themselves.slapping his face

In effect he’s grabbing us all by our private parts, simply because he can, and no one is slapping his face at the assault (or better yet, breaking his wrist to prevent him from doing it again).  No one. Not yet anyway.

His perverted, chaotic, dictatorial rule has simply become “ho-hum” acceptable behavior for those in congress willing to deal for promised future rewards from him.acceptable.jpg

But this is NOT acceptable behavior!

So why are so many others accepting it?

That’s really the question I want answered. Why are his congress buildingcongressional party-members condoning his dangerous, erratic behavior with our allies and adversaries? Why are they allowing his malicious and vulgar crudities to continue without countering him; without punishing him vocally, if not in actual resolution?

It would appear that our ship’s navigational system has completely shorted out. Day after day, we keep circling the same stretch of ocean, hearing the same storm warnings, being tossed about on those ever more violent seas.

Congress needs to take control now and bring this captive-laden, nightmarish ship-of-state safely back to dock again, because being fellow crew members in collusion with the Captain’s treasonous intentions, is sanctioning a course to disaster for everyone.

Do they not see this?

ahab.jpgIf Captain Ahab wants to play harpoon-chucker with his Big White Whale (Kill the TRUTH!), then put him where he belongs: in a rubber dingy alone from which to do it.

Don’t bring the entire ship aground just so he can build sandcastles on the beach with Vlad.

duties of congressDo your jobs! Protect the nation—protect the constitution—protect the people you represent!

Protect our democracy for ALL of our sake!

Because if you don’t, then WHO WILL?

God’s TRUTH

“The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. kalidescope stained glass
It fell, and broke into pieces.
Everybody took a piece of it,
and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”
~ Rumi

 

Love this poem by Rumi, but then I usually love most of his poems. However this one really struck me after my recent experience with trying to help some friends save a dying church congregation.

Clearly I love my friends and valued our united effort to create a better spiritual environment for all involved, but I did NOT love the scripted “churchiness” requirements of the experience—the dogma, the empty ritual, the traditions of doing something a certain way because it had always been done like that, and the dictatorial manner of the pastor deciding the church’s focus.

That kind of ‘pseudo-spiritual’ experience is definitely not for me—in fact it is the very church ladyreason I shunned churches in general for most of my life—because of the phoniness and hypocrisy of the experience.

Even from the start I knew that my participation in the group endeavor would not be easy because of my personal views on organized religions (Religion and spirituality are two very different aspects of believing in something greater than oneself, and while I am deeply spiritual, I am not a fan of the restrictive, entrenched, self-perpetuating structure of religious teachings.).

But again, I love my friends and wanted to help them pull off this effort successfully—to rebuild the dwindling congregation for the small-community betterment.church.jpg

After sitting with clenched teeth through eight months of services/sermons over what was being said and done at the pulpit and altar, I decided I couldn’t continue what felt to me to be a ridiculous charade and poorly disguised ego-trip for the preacher.

As Rumi said above, my piece of the mirror didn’t reflect what was being said and done there, so to me, it could never be MY truth. And I don’t feel bad about quitting the group endeavor or for leaving my friends there who are still a part of it.

What I would feel guilty about is if I hadn’t quit, because then I would be betraying my own self—my own spiritual connectedness that always feels pure and direct.

A week ago someone said something derogatory to me, and I let it go without responding or feeling ill will toward the person for saying it; and my best friend said to me that I was being a good ‘Christian’ about the situation.

rumi religion.jpgI had to bite my tongue to keep from saying back to her, No, ….that was being a good Muslim, or a good Jew, or a good Buddhist, or a good Jainist, or a good Taoist, or a good Hindi.

 

What I actually was demonstrating had nothing to do with any religion in particular, but with ALL in general: I was being a good PERSON!

We throw these religious labels around far too easily to separate us from others—to make distinctions between US and THEM—and what THEY believe as opposed to what WE believe.

But the entire point of living this life is to recognize our similarities and our sameness, not accentuate our differences. character quote

So to me, if you want to build a better world and create more loving and peaceful environments for everyone, including yourselves, then be better people, not proselytizers of elite-ness and separation from those who don’t share the same piece of God’s TRUTH mirror that you have in your hand.

Let’s put all those mirror pieces back together and then look within the reconstructed TRUTH mirror because it is only God’s TRUTH when it is in Its wholeness.

gods truth

Treatise on Integrity

integrit paper.jpg“Integrity: That which shall be humanly borne and displayed as an essential aspect of truth.”

Well that’s my definition of integrity if no one else’s.

“To live with integrity is to be intimately aligned to one’s truth and core values.”

Again, that’s my take on it.

But I do know from personal experience that if you live your life with integrity and truthfulness, you will never be disappointed in yourself.

There will be others who might not be very happy with you at times, especially when your integrity blocks their intentions, but you will stay true to your own ideals if you maintain your sense of personal integrity and right-action focus.

So what does this mean in today’s integrity-starved world?

For one thing, you will definitely stand out from the crowd—you might even be the focal point of the crowd’s anger, which isn’t the most enjoyable place to be.integrit 2

For another, you will find yourself reaching very deep within for the strength and courage to keep your integrity untarnished amidst the constant deluge of complaints and insults slung in your direction.

Another possibility? You might lose a friend or two during the process of staying true to your own beliefs on the rightness of a situation or an action.

But the really strange thing about personal integrity is that nearly everyone believes that THEIR core beliefs and the courage of THEIR convictions are the only TRUE ones possible, which makes the rest of our efforts to maintain personal integrity questionable to them.

integrit 3As much as I value integrity and truth, and I definitely do value them, I also know that what I believe to be the ultimate TRUTH may not be the same as what others believe it to be. We don’t all think and feel the same.

Furthermore, in my rational mind I know that truth is often the perspective of whoever is holding that viewpoint.

But also in my being I know that what I stand for as a loving and compassionate human being is as strong and unwavering as any army’s professed allegiance to any person, place or belief.

Stubbornness is my finest trait or so I’ve been told, because to me integrity is a core value that is worthy of staking one’s integrit 1personal reputation on and/or career future. Holding one’s personal integrity firm and unbending can define us as compassionate human beings when others around us flutter in the winds of political change and collective opinion.

In the largest sense, our Nation was built on certain fundamental assumptions on rightness and fairness, on equity and justice; and when the integrity of any democratically elected official is in question or fluctuating toward non-democratic ideals, then further exposition and assessment of possible wrong-doing must be allowed to happen. The democracy that supports us depends on the integrity of those who lead it.

If we can’t at least rely on a leader’s integrity to do what is lawful and right as guaranteed to us by our U.S. constitution, then we have little firm ground on which to take a stand.

integ world

As I mentioned previously, maintaining one’s integrity is often a tough and lonely stance to take in the face of tumultuous, self-serving opposition, but sometimes it is the only stand we truly have before we are driven to our knees.