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.”


Advertisements

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.

So long 32, hello palindromic 33.

Palindrome: a word, line, verse, number, sentence, etc., reading the same backward as forward.

Eleven years ago was my last palindrome age so this post will be a reflection piece of where I was at 22, and the palindromic eleven-years in between.

It was 1999 (pre-iTunes, so Prince’s 1999 album had a good year) and by the end of it I was 22.  Wow, I’m smiling now as I think back to myself back then.  Not because it was an exceptional age, but rather it truly was the very last year of my life in which a full-bellied laugh was simple; depth was seen in every single particle; chasing ideas of love that had not yet materialized were immortalized through music and writing; passion held the key between you and me.  Life was different for me then, but I was hell-bent on living this notion that happiness didn’t write books and being lonely was better than being miserable with disposable relationships.  In fact, most everything was disposable then.

2000 and 23 came, I spent an exorbitant amount of time by myself.  It’s pretty intense where the mind can take you if you let it, but fascinatingly enough (and once you get through usual symptoms like Agoraphobia) there’s a level of serene brilliance achieved.  I wrote directly from the Holy Ghost that year.  Learning was my drug, and theories like Astral Projection were my heroin.  There was no better time than to discover my mind, but the soul would come later.  At this time in that year I was unaware it would be my very last birthday where I had the freedom to allow my mind to go into those crevices completely unaware of heart and soul.  I could push to the edge of the mind, expand it until it exploded, and float freely above cerebral debris.  Then it happened, Law and Order was on one minute in my dark TV-illuminated apartment and the next minute my brother was a missing person.  There’s just no way to experience the mind that freely when you’ve discovered  heart through mortality.  It’s too powerful and once you get to the edge in this state the infinite lure of immortality could push you over entirely.

I won’t make this a tear-jerker post about my brother, but I can’t help but think of him when I think back to this incredible 32nd year.  So let me skip from 23-32 (you like that little palindromic trick I just did there?).  I had made a resolution to shed skin, so I put away that novel I had been writing for the past ten or so years because it wasn’t going to, likely, ever be finished.  I started an entirely new novel, unlike anything I had ever written (take that for what you want) and I finished it in seven months.  In March of this past year, I had finished a novel – my first one.  The Great American Novel, except it’s actually about a Canadian and probably not ‘great’ in terms of literature but it’s certainly a viable commercial fiction novel.

In a long-shot effort to get into a prestigious MBA program I applied to a university I had dreamed of attending but the barrier of entry was the GMAT  and it’s just not in my DNA to score well on standardized tests.  By the time I get comfortable with the space, set up, lighting, etc., the test time usually dwindled significantly and I spent the remainder of time frantically clock watching.  I don’t do those types of tests, but I found a loophole and applied to get it waved.  Somehow I convinced NYU that they needed me in their program sans GMAT scores.  It worked, I applied and got accepted.  The prosperity of my 32nd year didn’t end there.  After years of being under-appreciated at work, I went out and got a better job. A better job that afforded me some material possessions (and finally a savings account to which I no longer live paycheck-to-paycheck) that I never had before, and while it doesn’t mean as much it means much more when you don’t have it.

For the first time in my life there wasn’t a struggle.  I always knew there would be a season like this, hoped, but without all the struggle I know I wouldn’t be as grateful as I am for it.  I wouldn’t be able to say I’m proud of myself.  I wouldn’t be able to look around and see these wonderful people who regardless of where they’ve seen me in life feel I’m deserving of their love and I am.  I’m not sure I knew that before.  More importantly, I see them. There is an extreme joy in listening to someone speak their truth (even if your truths are different), understanding without judgment who someone is, and not giving up on people.  32 was a successful year for me, but in a few short hours I’ll be 33 and it’s going to be full of meaning. Less ‘me’ and more ‘you’ because I want more than anything to reach a level of connection that brings an incredible lightness of being that I can only get from others.

After all it was age that Jesus was crucified and Krishna died to repurchase the Karma of Humanity. In his Divine Comedy, Dante attributed 33 songs to the Purgatory and 33 songs to the Sky. It’s the number of days of the “intellectual” cycle in the biorhythm. 1933 was the year prohibition ended. Virginia Woolf didn’t publish her first novel “The Voyage Out” until she was 33.   In Numerology, 33 is the highest of the “Master Numbers” as it symbolizes the ultimate attainment of consciousness.

So goodbye 32, you were good to me.  Let’s do this, 33.

Dear Jeffrey, 3 days until you’re 28…

I’ve learned that choices define you and (in more ways than even I can understand) others are contingent upon who I am to define parts of them.  Like you, Jeffrey, the choices you made while you were walking this earth presented choices that may not have been presented to me otherwise.  Some choices are poor and you can never take back, but at least they’re yours.  Though, a choice that takes away the choice of another is – in a lot of ways – a mortal sin that destroys the grace of not just the one left without choice but all those contingent upon. This becomes a domino effect of freewill genocide.

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, and sometimes I knew good-and-well I was making them (I file these under the ‘mistakes I knew I was making’). However, today my soul rings of the voices and experiences in my life that moved me…changed me in one way or another…leading me closer to my truth.  I’m no longer in a goose hunt for truth searching frantically for instant gratification at the expense of others.  Truth journeyed into my heart.  It’s within me already and so many others contribute to it.  In so long as I am honest with myself, I’m honest with the world and putting forth energy that builds meaning.  I admire you, Jeffrey.  The energy you put forth into the world had such unequivocal grace, and that choice defines me and has become my only weapon.

Eternally grateful,

Sissy

Be here now.

I promised my mother that I would write this post.  We had a lengthy phone conversation the other night that veered into somewhat of a spiritual commentary on growing up.  I had mentioned how, at thirty-two, I finally felt free of my past and how I had changed to living in the present.  Whether I had sought out those from my past that I had somehow hurt along the way or been hurt by and had dissolved the lingering karma of the relationships, or if I couldn’t – they weren’t to be found or whatever the reason – then I had come to terms with it and found closure.  There wasn’t a single person that had passed through that I hadn’t fully experienced – for better or worse – and grown from and released whatever existed from that.   Resolved to the now, and here I stood on equal footing ground to my karma.

I trust that life will take care of me even in the downward cycles in so long as I am evolving into the person I can become.  If you’re doing that you’ll be able to roll with the punches.  There was a specific period in my life – circa 2006 – when nothing seemed to be in my favor.  I was reaping some hardcore karma that year with the discovery of my brother’s remains, the end of a three-year relationship, and living in NYC without a single relative or close friend.  That year was tough, and to top it off I was wildly spending in the nightlife to overcompensate for my loneliness.  I had a few holes in my pocket so-to-speak and all my money had fallen out of it.  There were lots to worry about, certainly, but even at my lowest the universe would show me small signs of hope like the ten-dollar bill I would find amidst the overpopulated streets of NYC.

Signs, they are everywhere if you pay attention and let them guide you. I have a playing card thing…I find them, randomly, but yet nearly perfectly orchestrated to find them when I need to.  My mom says God has a weird sense of humor, and this is evident when I find a playing card in the middle of the train tracks.  Sure, it’s pull is strong and it means something to me.  I consider jumping down into the track and swiping it up just to see what it needs to tell me but then I would probably get hit by a train.  Instead, I trust that the world is sending me a sign…I don’t need to know what it is but I just need to have faith that everything will be okay.  No longer am I foolish enough to jump into a train track for tangible proof – I’ve been ran over like that one too many times.  Here and now, I just laugh inside and realize how far I’ve come and I trust that life is good even when it’s bad.

Karma Racking

 

Indelicate little mind,

You’ve settled in between,

Choices of courage,

Dangled from the mistakes we knew we were making,

In taking this on autopilot,

The road less traveled I always took,

Dead ends every time,

Suffered and restructured little soul,

Too big for your britches,

Painting stories against the grain,

But few people enjoy splinters,

They’re not like you and me,

Using a needle to set it free,

Then stitching each other up,

You can only go so far,

All sewn up,

Threads unravel,

Then they shred,

Until all you have left,

Is the safety in-between,

Active re-collector,

How time has left you behind,

Tramping through the land of the blind,

At all you’ve seen,

With the entourage of your mind,

Doesn’t mean a thing,

When too much is at stake,

With time,

This time,

Karma racking.

We are the architects of happiness…

It’s true, karma.  I go round ‘n round with it (no pun intended) because I’m impatient with a short fuse (and very human), but part of my core beliefs are rooted in this basic law of moral causation.  Without getting all metaphysically Kant and breaking down the foundational principle of morals, I’ll be the first to tell you that ‘What I ought to do’ isn’t always what I do and I certainly have reaped what I have sown.  I’ve also, in life, felt a great moral ‘duty’ and made choices that countered my desires or interest for the sake of Karma caching.  Karma can be defined by the cause and effects of any thought, word, or deed of moral and immoral volition.

“If we are to assume that anybody has designedly set this wonderful universe going, it is perfectly clear to me that he is no more entirely benevolent and just in any intelligible sense of the words, than that he is malevolent and unjust.” – Aldous Huxley

Alas, The Law of Karma is merely one of the many conditions of my own personal philosophies and one of the twenty-four in Buddhist philosophy.  Applying this to religion: Being created by an Almighty God who controls our destinies and predetermines our future, or being produced by an irresistible Karma that completely determines our fate and controls our life’s course, independent of any free action on our part, is essentially the same. The only difference lies in the two words God and Karma. One could easily be substituted for the other, because the ultimate operation of both forces would be identical.” (‘The Theory of Karma’ by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw).

I’m not writing this post as a teaching of any particular spirituality no matter how Buddhist-slanting it may come off. I’m merely writing this because this morning I woke up and made a dreadful call to the customer service department of my bank.  When the customer satisfaction representative (as they are now called, but as we all know they should – typically – be called customer dissatisfaction representatives) got on the phone I was fully prepared to launch into my unsatisfied customer diatribe, take down a badge number, and ask to speak to a supervisor, but today didn’t require packing the heat.  In a rare and tingly-happy-believe-in-the-world-again turn of events, he (why is it that we only remember the identifying details of those that wrong us and not those that generate goodwill?) not only satisfied the customer but he went above-and-beyond to set in motion the events of a brilliant day.  He not only took away a nuisance, he took away the entire burden and then wished me a blessed day. This first interaction in my day created a chain reaction of good and the well-wish to be contented and happy truly did generate not only that but also hope and a moral courage to validate these feelings for someone else.

The kind customer VERY-satisfactory representative inspired not only this posting – my writing – but shaped my circuitous thinking about something I read a couple of weeks ago that prompted an immediate reaction from me and in turn proved to be the gospel – Justine Musk’s ‘who is influencing you, and how? – three degrees of influence, your writing, and you.’

Even if you’re not a writer, you can certainly be inspired and THAT is categorically imperative for me to pass around.  (To get all Kant about it).

“All living beings have actions (Karma) as their own, their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is Karma that differentiates beings into low and high states.” – Buddha


Do you Degree?

Degree, one of those multiple meaning words of the English language.  Look it up, it had 16 different meanings and two idioms according to Dictionary.com.  I’m going to focus on definition #3 (a stage in a scale of intensity or amount) so that I can get on with this blog posting, which has a high degree of postings today since I’m procrastinating on the manuscript.

The word and its concept as it relates to life, had me thinking about people, places, and the pursuit of survival.  Grief, which only has one solid definition and two idioms, had me thinking about degrees.  The loss of a friend, for instance, has varying degrees of grief.  I’ve lost people that at one time or another meant a great deal to me, but their departure barely broke my spirit.  I’ve also lost people that I didn’t think meant so much to me until our hour of separation; griefstricken to my knees.  There is also a type of grief that is crippling, causing eventual paralysis and life distruption that suspends you into a stalled reality; the unexpected loss of someone very dear to you. 

The different degrees of breakups come to mind also.  I’ve had breakups that I felt nothing about until much later in life when the realization of my treatment or behavior toward that person really took on its own grievance process.  How could I have treated someone that cared for me and I ultimately cared for in the grand scheme of things so poorly?  Regret, ah yes the hindsight punishment of knowing that the karma is going to kick you where it hurts (if it hadn’t already). 

Karma, it has four definitions in the English language but the most important definition is not English; it’s from Buddhism and Hinduism but I’ll use the Buddhist definition – action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in a reincarnation.  It occurred to me, the other day, that my grisly breakup in 2006 (right after my brother’s death) was a direct result of bad karma that I weaved in 2001.  Hurting someone so severly, slicing and dicing the heart for stew, and without compassion.  You see, I hadn’t yet added that word into my internal dictionary.  The karma incubated for five years until it was reaped, and let me tell you it was a grim reaper.

I digress, morbidly so.

With every yin is the yang, and happiness is also experienced in varying degrees.  I’ve experienced elation and idle contentment (note: should you experience extreme degrees of up and downs frequently then perhaps you should skip this posting and head right to this bipolar article–just saying).  I’ve fallen in love and skipped across streets that gleamed from the rays of sunshine from the bright yellow sun while people sang, loudly, and danced in my shiny happy mood.  I’ve felt the butterflies from the bottom of my guts after getting great news.  Giggles have made their way out of my giddy mouth from spending time with a friend, and laughs have mustered up enough energy to change the world.  I’ve also just, simply, woke up in a good mood–not tired and not overjoyed. Varying degrees, you see.

My procrastination, while great initially, has subsided to a simmer and now my focus on getting to my manuscript has begun to boil.  I see degrees, people. 

Who Am I?

I’ve started this question half a dozen times since I could comprehend the depth of it.  Here I sit, nearly 32, not old enough to be running a media company but not young enough to be in its demographic.  Hell, I only remember when the son-of-a-bitch first started, but what do I know.  The question is “Who am I?”

When I was younger and all my grievances in life had my parent’s to blame, I was Divide Community.  You see Divide Community is one of those double meaning words.  You know the words that would be hard to learn the meaning of in another language.  As a writer, we hope to be able to bridge the language barrier gap to create a universal language.  As a civilian, it’s just a book; my first book.

My journey begins in 1998 when I wanted to really answer this question; “Who Am I?”  I was working at a storage unit place, for minimum wage in the late ’90s, and had a lot of time to reflect.  Though time was plenty, my knowledge was less so.  Escape, relaxation, don’t think about yesterday or tomorrow, repressing, yeah, that was me.  I was angry and I didn’t know why, so I thought I’d just start writing.  Forrest Gump of the word processor, I typed until my ailment burst open key-by-key.  Eventually, I had a semblance of an idea for a memoir.  You see memoir’s really weren’t as big of a market back then s0 I just thought it was a book of true life.  Nearly 300 pages of unformed and stoned thoughts about who I was.  The book sat in a box for three years.

In college, the one I went to after I dropped out and fled to New York with a band of hippes and then went back, I met two kids that I immediately felt a kinship for and managed their immature band, The All-American Rejects.  I was a small fish in a small pond and I had Madonna as a role model, so I whipped their prepubescent asses in shape and got them a record deal.  They went on to sell millions, and I was screwed out of millions.  Not to mention that disorder I got called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that pretty much goes from Psychiatric code to Psychiatric code without being insane and having a clear traumatic trigger.  I got this after my brother, the only person I had as a witness to my childhood, became a missing person.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Missing Person, Platinum-Selling The All-American Rejects, Retarded Love, NYC, and a lot of crazy stories from an alcoholic.  Who really had time to ask, “Who am I?”

Once my Oklahoma savior personality kicked in, I crawled out of that abyss and decided to think about who I was.  There was a lot I’d experienced at a young age, there were experiences that are unimaginable for the majority, and there were parts of me I just started to realize, so I wrote.  I finished Divide Community, and it was who I thought I was.

Something peculiar happened, I became happy.  You see by this time I was going into my Thirties and several therapists later, I realized that maybe I could never sustain happiness (as a therapist once told me) but at least I could realize when I was happy.  This was a breakthrough, so I set out to edit who I was in a final book format.

My childhood seemed less emotional and more like a great story.  The themes of suffering that were sprinkled within the text just showed me how strong I was, and it occurred to me that there is not a concrete answer to the lifelong question of, “Who Am I?”

I’m my likes and dislikes, my pain and my happiness, and the love I took and the love I made.  I’m several labels like a sister, daughter, wife, analyst, Buddhist, Lesbian writer, teacher, student, female, entrepreneur and overall pain-in-the-ass.  I’m adjectives like moody, beautiful, snarky, sweet, insane, neurotic, spiritual, impatient and judgmental.  I’m my experiences both negative and positive.  I’m the karma I reap, and after all this time I have realized I am not the alpha and the omega (though in high school I may have argued differently).  I’m everything around me and never did I appreciate it more.

Within my writing you can discover chapters of my life that struck a story in the world, but it’s what is between the lines that reveals the most.

14542658

My Childhood friend named Struggle.

Yesterday an agent rejected my manuscript citing, “I couldn’t get passed the first 50 pages because there is no point.”  As disappointing as this was it wasn’t too surprising because the overarching theme in my life is struggle without any connective purpose.  Might I mention, my manuscript is a memoir.

If I were Alanis Morissette and writing IRONIC, I would write the lyric, “It’s like buying a new house and getting a property tax increase before the first mortgage payment.”  It’s a good thing I didn’t learn the definition of Irony from her, rather I learned it from the movie Reality Bites; a little too ironic, don’t you think?

The cycle of life is fascinating, isn’t it?  Sometimes I hear that George Bernard Shaw quote, “Youth is wasted on the young,” and then I hear some artists wax about the possibility of more stories of youth because as an adult we take fewer chances.  How about spending nine years working on a career to finally arrive just to have the economy boot you back to hourly wages like nine years back. 

The energy you put into life you get back, Karma as it is called.  I believe it, really I do.  I throw more energy balls than many people I know, but lately every time I manifest I just hear my boss’ laugh when I asked her for a promotion.  

Maybe I should have taken my wife up on the offer to move into the rainforest of Maui and just live off our fruit stand?!  As the 25th President (William McKinley) of our broken country said, “We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California.  It’s Manifest Destiny.” 

“Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce Selfishness,
Have few desires.”
                  Lao-Tzu

 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: