Sometimes I wonder if anyone understands me. At the same time, I often wonder if I understand anyone else. On a day like Valentine's when people who live singular lives, its hard not to wonder if anyone really understands what its like. Yes, I do know many people who are also alone. And, yes, I do get that ultimately we are all alone.
But alone...what does that really mean?
Don't get me wrong, I have many friends, some family, and I treasure them all. I think in the final analysis, they do understand me, but, I wonder, do they understand? How can they compeletly understand me, when I don't completely understand myself?
I surely don't understand why I sitting here on a Friday night, a Valentine's Day evening, with just my three (wonderful) dogs and (intriguing) cat. Part of me thinks I should be out, as Petula Clark sings in that old song from my youth, Downtown . It was very black and white as you will see in the video below. And Pet jerks her head and swings her arms just as if all the woes of being single can be solved by going downtown.
And I believed her words then. I know this particular song by heart. And I believe the words now. So why am I not "downtown" you say? See, even you don't understand. LOL.
Any way, I do know there are solutions to this problem...if indeed it is a problem. Sometimes looking for distractions is not the answer. Sitting with the question and opening to an answer is. The answer, I also believe, is here, right now. I just need to come to an understanding and accept whatever it is.
Lest you think I am depressed or just whining, well, I don't think I am. I know I can do something about it. For some reason I choose not to. I know I've examined this before. Grant me one more time. (And there may be others). I do enjoy my own company. I really do. Its just these dang expectations that sometimes rear their ugly heads that haunt me. Its okay. It really is.
So here's to the real meaning of Valentine's Day. True love is to directed outward at its highest and inward as its foundation. Loving yourself is where it begins. Lovings others is where it continues. And I am there. Just not taking it downtown tonight.
It seems to me love just is. We find it if we look. On the old Mary Tyler Moore show, they used to sing "Love is All Around Us". It is. All around us. (See YouTube Link Below) This takes remaining concious and open to the possibility of love. I tend to believe there is nothing else but love in the universe. We just tend to not see it.
Okay, for me, life has been about the search for love. I personaly like to be loved. I like being liked, but I love being loved. Of course there are different types of love for which the Greeks had names: agape (spiritual), eros, (physical), philla, (mental), and storge, (affection).* I think I have experienced all of these, maybe one or two not as much I would have liked, but, hey, life is about the living, or is it loving? In any case, love is generally a positive thing. sometimes it gets perverted or a bit twisted, but then that really isn't love, is it?
So with Valentine's Day fast approaching, everyone has love on their minds. I am no exception. Why all this obsession with love? I would say it is because love is all there is. And love, to me, is just another word for God. And when I remember to look for the good, look for love, look for God in everything, I am much more likely to feel the love, the good and the presence of God.
End of sermon. Go finish your Valentine's Day shopping. I hear chocolate is good for that.
* (See article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_words_for_love).
This morning I was coming home from LAX and somehow found myself on the 605 freeway heading north. I usually come home directly on the 91, but for some reason I spaced out and was on the transition to the 605 without realizing it. I was about 5:45am so I was tired. Anyway, I think I must have been re-directed to take this unusual route because I decided it might be best to take the 5 south to get back to the 91. You Southern Californias will realize what a little detour this was. But when this sign caught my eye for the Santa Fe Springs Drive In where they do swap meets on the weekend, I think that maybe Someone was sending me a message/inspiration. Instead of the lettering you see here promoting the Swat Meet, this was posted:
NAME YOUR OWN POISON
I think there was more to the sign, but that was all that I could read as I sped by in the early morning Sunday traffic. "Name your own poison". Interesting, I thought to myself as I continued driving toward home. Usually when one hears that phrase, it is a bartender's entreaty to order a drink. Hmmmm. I thought about that. Alcohol referred to as a "poison". Then it occurred to me: I remember reading that alcohol actually is a mild poison (if there is such a thing) that causes intoxication. Yes, it seems every time we drink a form of alcohol, we are taking in a poison to our system. Strange to think many of us actually enjoy the feeling we get by being "poisoned." Whether it is true or not that alcohol is really a poison, the fact is the effects of alcohol often are poisonous. The disease of alcoholism takes lives every day. And drink enough alcohol and you will indeed die of alcohol poisoning.
Death wish? I wonder.
So I began to think about all the other ways we name our own poison. Overeating. Drugs. Sex. Toxic relationships. Risky behavior such as riding motorcycles on the freeway, jumping out of airplanes, skiing, Going it alone in the dessert or the bad part of town. On and on. This, too, I believe is a way of choosing our own poison.
The recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman has given me pause. An immensly talented actor choosing to take up heroin and booze after many years of sobriety. This morning I heard several commentators refer to these addictions as "dragons" and "monsters" that grow in strength even as you resist, waiting for that one slip to take control and even kill you. Even kill you. This makes addictions sound as though they are human in nature. They are not, of course. Ultimately it is the "victim" who chooses his own poison.
I have to admit that in my life, I have been challenged by many demons. None of them as serious as Hoffman'd I think, but demons all the same. I overeat. I don't exercise enough. I play it safe...avoiding what I would describe as beneficial risks like putting myself out there to meet that special someone or sending a written piece in to an editor or submitting a photo image I think is good (but never good enough) to a photo contest or exhibit. These are my subtle "poisons" I suppose. But they are mine. And I know if I am honest, I could probably name more, the personal ones that keeps me from living life fully.
So why do we choose poisons rather than life? Fear. Fear is the one thing that keeps most people from doing what would make them happy. The biggest fear, however, is that should we do that thing that we think will make us happy, what if it doesn't? Then what? Why do I choose these poisons knowing they are not good for me?
"Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all."
---Alftred Lord Tennyson
Yep, as Tennyson suggests, it is better to take a calculated risk on love or life. Better to choose that which sustains you, brings you joy, comfort, happiness than to choose that which numbs you and keeps you from experiencing life. Perhaps that sign on the 5 freeway was asking the passersby to name their poison so that it could be recognized and dealt with so that they then could choose life. Interesting to think about on a Sunday morning or any time for that matter. Options. We always have options. Choose death whether it be immediate or in drips and drabs or choose life. Or choose life. A sobering thought. I think I know which I want to choose. And if I do, what a (natural) high that will be!
There are clouds in southern California today. It actually sprinkled over night and could rain some more later today. This picture shows glimpses of blue sky, but outside it is completely overcast and grey. It is a nice day. I love this kind of weather. It is when I want to hibernate. I want to read and listen to music and reflect on life, love and liberty.
As in Judy Collins' big hit* Both Sides Now from the 70's, I can get lost in the images that clouds make as they drift by. But as time goes by, they can indeed "block the sun, rain and snow on everyone." But that too can be fun. I sometime blame the clouds for the things I would have done, but clouds had nothing to do with it really. It all comes back to me. I remind myself to look at clouds from both sides, just like everything else. The sun is always there even when I can't see it. I find that reassuring.
So I am gonna enjoy this day of clouds and showers. Heaven knows we need the rain and the clouds chill the air and give me cause to wear my warm sweaters and snuggle with my kids. And that is what makes days like this among my favorite.
Both Sides Now
Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air,
And feathered canyons everywhere,
I've looked at clouds that way.
But now they only block the sun they rain and snow on everyone .
So many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way.
I've looked at clouds from both sides now.
From up and down and still somehow.
It's cloud's illusions I recall.
I really don't know clouds at all.
*Judy Collins, Both Sides Now Lyrics
What do you say when you have nothing to say? Say nothing I suppose. But that isn't true. Some people say a lot but say nothing. Nothing of substance anyway. Nothing that lifts up and inspires. Nothing that makes the world a better place. Saying nothing is sometimes the best thing you can say. Just sitting with someone who is going through a trial or tribulation can be the best thing one can do. That is when saying nothing is most appropriate.
So whey do you suppose I am rambling on about saying nothing? Because, quite honestly, I have nothing to say. Well, I probably do, I just can't think of it right now. Any I promised to blog everyday for the immediate future. But come on, sometimes there is nothing to say...or you just don't have something worthwhile to say. Or you just ramble.
That's enough. Enough nothing is still nothing. Nothing said, nothing gained I always say. Well, maybe I will start always saying it. Seems appropriate, don't you think.
File this under silly but true.
Sometimes I think just waking up in the morning is a sign of success. Isn't just being alive a sign of successful living?Yes, I know there are other definitions of success. According to Webster's, the definition of success is : the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame; the correct or desired result of an attempt; someone or something that is successful : a person or thing that succeeds. By those definitions, I would say I am right. Just getting out of bed in the morning would mean I am successful. But come now.
Success to me would have been a published book and being interviewed by Oprah, probably ending up as her Book Club Choice. That was the dream. Now Oprah has "retired" her talk show. I used to fantasize appearing on her show with my story, a semi-autobiographical story, that was full of human interest, intrigue, drama, love and maybe a little lust. It would climb to the top of the best seller lists and I would be a celebrity...if only in my own mind. But even with Oprah off the main netwoorks, there are plenty of talk shows in her wake. It could still happen.
But, no, I haven't retired my dream. I still want to write that book. I still want to appear on a talk shows, etc. But I am finding that is no longer my definition of success. For me now, success is doing what you want with your life. Rising in the morning looking forward to the day because you know you are going to be doing something that you enjoy doing. Whether it be writing, photography, cleaning house or walking the dogs. Success is in doing the tasks that bring you a sense of satisfaction.
Success also comes from being true to yourself and being who you were meant to be. And even with that, having successful relationships is truly the surest sign of success. Being successful is more than accumulating money, fame or accomplishments. Success is getting through the day with self respect and feeling like a good person. I believe I do that. And even with that, knowing when to say "no" and not feeling like a heel or being rejected by others, well, I'd say that is a success in itself.
Being successful is looking in the mirror and liking the person you see smiling back. Any failures can be endured. Without failure there can be no success. It means you didn't try. So even in failure, you can find success. Its all in how you look at it.
Sometimes the Word comes when we least expect it. Yesterday it came to me in the form on the message from Pastor Jane Quandt of the church I attend. Based on the spiritual and theological questions raised by the movie Gravity, it is worth a listen because it asks us to looks at the things we attach ourselves to. http://fccriverside.org/archive/2014-02-02/Sermon.mp3 Life, it seems, does not just happen. We choose our attachments. And once tethered to those attachments, we choose to remain attached until we choose otherwise.
The above message woke me to the fact that I do indeed need to examine my current attachments. And there are many. Attachments to people, to things, to ideas, values and beliefs. What I have not done in some time is examine those that are life affirming and those that are life denying. Jane used the scripture from Mathew 6:21 which reads: "Where you treasure is, there will your heart be." She pointed out that it is where we choose to attach ourselves is where our hearts follow. And we make that choice. Every moment. Every day.
So I am looking at those now and I have to say I am concerned and a bit afraid. There are beliefs and values I have once again attached myself to that I must now look at untethering myself to. It is scary. Without a tether to these anchors, I might spin off into space...much like the Sandra Bullock character does in Gravity. And then there are the people. Some are my source of joy and nourishment. They uplift and support me. Then there are those others. Letting go and moving on is never easy. For those on either end of the tether.
I guess I am suffering from a bit of "existential verigo" as Jane described it. But where do I want to go? That is the question I am asking myself these days. What are the beliefs and values I want to attach myself to? Who is the one I should give my "treasure" to? Where must I make my investments? I'm beginning to think it is true life is a constant state a flux, of change and of evolution.
Time to clean up my act....again. Time to choose again. Deep breath. And remembering to be grateful...grateful for the life I have been given along with the ability to be able to choose. I am truly blessed.
Some of us spend a lot of time looking for signs. At least I know I do, especially on days like today. Today is Ground Hog's Day. Ponxatoney Phil from the arms of the mayor of that small town in Pennsylvania either sees his shadow or he doesn't. We take that as a sign. If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he does not, there will be an early spring. Some folk put a lot of stock in that. Even in the light of the statistics showing he is right only 39% of the time. Some of us want to believe. I know I do.
One thing I wonder about the Phil legend is that it seems counter-intuitive that if he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he sees his shadow, doesn't that mean the sun is shining? And if the sun is shining, wouldn't that portend an early spring much more than an overcast sky? And by the way, most people don't stop to think that spring according to the calendar and flow of the seasons, is officially about six weeks away anyway!
I know I hate not knowing what lies ahead sometimes. I was signs that things are going to work out just fine. Funny thing, sign or not, things to generally work out. Yes, they don't always work out the way we would hope. But like my grandfather used to say, "Any day I wake up in the morning, well that's a good day." Really, I don't think I really want to know what's coming down the pike. Knowing myself, I would spend an awful amount of time thinking about what's ahead and not living in the present. I would end up missing life as it passes by. There will always be signs. But signs are open to interpretation. We can always put our own spin on signs. And so the signs are better seen in hindsight. There were always indications of the way things were headed.
So today Ponxatoney Phil did see his shadow. A nice day ahead in Pennsylvania. Good for the local economy as they have a fair and celebration, etc. Even better it is Super Bowl Sunday. Is there a sign in that? I don't know. Just a coincidence I suppose. And when it gets down to it, that is what much of life is: a series of coincidences and signs of things to come.
I for one will take it for what its worth and move on. There's too much going on in the here and now to worry too much about signs of things to come. Yet, it is good to pay heed. Now is the only time we have to affect tommorrow. Hands folded.
So here it is February 1st. I made a commitment to begin blogging again regularly on Februray 1st. First I did it in my mind. Then I said it out loud...where no one would hear me. I thought about it. Ruminated even. Mulled it over. Thought about it long it and hard. I told myself I could do it. It was time. I had waited long enough. The time had come. A few days ago I actually put it in writing. I began to do my morning pages again. I started taking artist dates with myself. It was gonna happen.
February 1. Today. It is here.
I said I would, and so I have. Well, don't roll your eyes. This counts. I didn't say it would be great shakes. It is what it is. The most important thing is that it is.
And there you have it. It begins today. I am back on the path, the journey, the adventure continues.
Tomorrow is February 2nd. It is Ground Hog's Day. We will all hold our breath in anticipation of him seeing his shadow. Well, at least we will wonder. But for me it will be another day of accountability. That is a good thing.
Yep, being accountable is a good thing. I have to do it for myself, but you can join in if you like.