The Passengers of Life.

At the end of 2010, I vowed that 2011 would be about others, and it certainly has.  This year was full of sting and complex evolution, but mostly it was full of re-connective charge that can only be found in those people left at the crossroads of life.  It makes sense to revisit those push pins in the where-I’ve-been map of life once one finds themselves yet again pinned at a crossroad; how did I get here and where am I going?

While visiting the roadside attractions of my past, I was not without forward movement and formed karmic connections pushing me toward my own dharma path.  Circumstances created by the aforementioned people–who stretched me in directions in which I could have never predicted my own  flexibility–that shaped my human condition.

The reflection of the past year’s floundering , life signs, people, and identity, formed an overarching theme for the upcoming year: 2012 will be devoted to breaking Samsara–the wheel of suffering.

To do this, I look to attain the below:

  • Be fully present.
  • Bond in joy with people versus bonding in misery, pain, and helplessness.
  • Cease activities of disowning myself.
  • Redirect negative thinking.
  • Possess a sense of humor and lightheartedness.
  • Do not attach identity to success or failure.
  • Have the ability to give/receive support from family and friends.
  • Approach life with more fluidity, grace, and peace of mind.

This stems from what someone told me during one of my journeys in life, “It’s your life, I’m just passing through.”


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The Stoic Approach To Broken

“And then I felt sad because I realized that once people are broken in certain ways, they can’t ever be fixed, and this is something nobody ever tells you when you are young and it never fails to surprise you as you grow older as you see the people in your life break one by one. You wonder when your turn is going to be, or if it’s already happened. “–Douglas Coupland

Everyone has a pivotal moment, a retrospective stand-still, in which growing becomes hard; innocence lost.  It’s like being punched for the first time, doubled-over in perplexing pain, trying to catch your breath.  After that–the first time–it becomes easier to take a beating.  Maybe you self-protect or maybe you’re scared or maybe you’re stronger, but you’re never where you were before.  Moments of truth awaken reflexes within you that were either conditioned or innate, but either way the reaction defines you.

Everyone also has an ostensibly innocuous moment, a seemingly irrelevant event, in which a choice or decision is entered into the dynamic mindstream of another; karma.   Sending and banishing another into Samsara–cyclic suffering–until noble virtue, noble concentration, noble discernment, and noble release is understood.  Sounds like a disproportionate amount of spirit work for one versus the other, right?  Not really, it’s all in the give and take.

One midday Saturday in the early 80’s, I watched out the screen door as a trio of teenagers walked down our mostly desolate road in Divide Community.  No rock was left unturned by my family in our Podunk community and it was the first and perhaps only time strangers afoot passed through.  The details between my curiosity as a screen lurker and why those orphans or hippies or serial killers were devouring the Hamburger Helper at our dinner table may have been misplaced.  Nevertheless, the youngest of the ambiguous sibling tribe became a squatter in our hamlet.  Squatters get all the benefits of home without the responsibility, and by their very nature live in survival mode so everything is a threat.  He was the first broken person I knew, and a catalyst for the demise of  my family unit.

Several months after my parent’s divorce, we were in the grocery store when a familiar but faceless lady mentioned seeing my father buying beer.  This information would have been a fairly normal adult activity, however my father spent my whole life up to that point judging and preaching about the sins of the sinner.

“You must have meant my Uncle Donnie,” I interjected.  “People think they’re twins, but they aren’t. MY dad doesn’t drink.  Drinking beer is a sin.”

Ironically, I will never forget her expression.  She quickly withdrew her tongue from idle talk and looked down.

“Oh.”  She glanced at my mom and then back to me.  “Maybe you’re right.”

I placed my hands on my hips and curtly replied, “I am.”

I was afraid of what it meant; my father drinking.   Was this how stoic people did things?

I didn’t have a penchant for bad things during my teenage years like my friends did during their era of rebellion.  I coughed and  complained too much for my friends to truly get me addicted to cigarettes (like most of them eventually did).  Not a smoker.  It wasn’t an easy feat, either, to get me drinking alcohol.  I hated the taste of liquor, wine, and beer.  One particularly weighty morning, I snatched a beer from my stepfather’s refrigerated stash and took it with me to school.  I got in my car and pushed in the single cassette tape of TLC’s “Waterfalls” and drove toward school–beer between legs and sobbing.

(WAIVER:  I DO NOT CONDONE DRINKING & DRIVING, NOR DO I CONDONE DRINKING LOW-POINT BEER.) 

7:30am, football field parking lot, sobbing and gagging as I forced down my first beer, alone.  After all, this is how stoic people do it.

Dear Jeffrey, 11 days until you’re 28…

Eleven is my lucky number, do you know this?  I think it may be mom’s as well.  Seven is another.  7-11…perhaps I should be the CEO of that, huh?

Supposedly, the number seven is one of the most significant numbers in the Holy Bible (besides the number one, the number seven is used more than all the others in it).  In music, there are seven notes in the musical scale.  Rolling dice for luck (or gambling), the seven has the highest probability of occurring as an addition.  There are seven colors in the rainbow,seven continents, seven stars in the constellation, seven days in a week, seven rows in the periodic table, and of course the Seven Wonders of The World.  Seven also represents the year of my birth (’77).

As for eleven, well it’s the master number. Eleven is duality when broken down (1+1=2).  You have September 11th (9+1+1 = 11), 11:11 on December 21st, 2012 the Mayan calendar ends (and some people think the world will end), football and soccer are played with 11 players on the field, and in Buddhism there are eleven groups of kindness (a man entered the Way, the two Truths, the three Gates of Delivery, the four Truths of the correct Law, the five faculties, the six Authorities, the seven Members of the Illumination, the eight Members of the Path, the nine Residences of the Being, the ten Forces of the Realized and the eleven Deliverances of the Heart full of love).

More importantly, though, in eleven days we celebrate your remarkably short life.  If love could have kept you alive, Jeffrey, you would have lived forever.

Yours,
Sissy

Overheard at My Own Funeral

I’m not sure why my mind puts my mom there unless it somehow thinks life will cut my life shorter than hers, or I’m afraid of her and death in the same sentence at all. Regardless, for the sake of this morbid question and for plain good storytelling let’s assume she is there. Assuming my body arrived safely in Oklahoma (pun intended) and if they do carry out my final wishes for cremation, I would probably laugh (can a fly laugh?) at the sight of these people – family, friends from all walks of life, business associates, and people that hate me there just to make sure I actually did die – sitting there in emotional trance staring at this silly little urn. I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but my mother is so I will stress that my little beady fly eyes better not see a single pew. The officiant (who better not be a pastor of any sort) reads off a Buddhist passage from Thich Nhat Hanh on death and once he finishes the music starts. I spend a lot of time floating around in my mind and visiting people that have passed through, experiences that affixed itself to my mental postcards, and seeing what I may have missed the first time around, so since my journey is over I hope that someone else begins to float.

Sitting there as my soundtrack begins with Oasis’ “Stop Crying Your Heart Out”, Carolyn comments on the selection and then mentions how she’ll miss Rhoda (me) so I land on her shoulder and buzz “I’m the Mary.”

A few of the Antlers guys including my ex-step father David, true to discriminatory form, mention what a loss it was (of course they aren’t referring to my actual death but my sexuality).

After the first song, the Buddhist-slanting officiant opens the floor for sharing. Stormi steps up first and tells stories that make people laugh because that is who I used to be. She talks about us being so broke when we lived together that we ate bologna sandwiches every day. How we drove the 3-hour stretch from Stillwater to home penniless and with the gas light flashing for 80% of it (you would be surprised at how many times it will come on before your car sputters at all), and when we were forced to get gas we filled it up and sped out of the gas station without paying. See, in New Jersey that is impossible because it’s never self-serve. She’ll then mention how it unleashed a crookedness in us we never knew we had and lead us into Pizza Hut and we fed and ran, fast, hopped in our car with the stolen gas and went home.

My friend Lance would read a poem because he told me there was too much poetry in my soul to get my MBA. I love poetry, and I hope there are several more that read some prose at my permanent going away party.

More music, Khalil Gibran reading, and at the end a reference to my favorite author – Milan Kundera – when the officiant says “Please join me on Jeffrey’s mountain where Alisa will be thrown to the winds – the last symbol of eternal lightness.”

It’s there that all this comes out: Alisa was…fearless, creative, quirky, hard to comfort, funny, thought she was witty but she wasn’t, forgiving and perhaps too forgiving, strong, a wordsmith, a good communicator of the abstract, batshit crazy, not shy, loyal, clumsy, the most outgoing introvert, what you see is what you get, moody, good at keeping secrets but never having any, silly, fascinating to rapidly boring, and then someone will say what a great playlist.

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