Alchemy

Meditation is the alchemist
Transforming putrid shame into joyful rapture
Dust swept under the rug becoming sparkles of gold as I sit

I was inspired by a recent meditation experience to write the poem above. If you have read any of my other posts, you will no doubt know that I am a big proponent of meditation. Not for the relaxation that occurs when sitting on the meditation cushion, although that is nice, but for the transforming effect if you let what is learned on the cushion to occur in the rest of life. Maybe it is a result of critical thinking skills, being able to take what is learned in one arena and apply it to not-previously-seen arenas. In school those are the hardest tests, when the teacher makes you really think about what was learned and apply it creatively versus just spitting back a particular powerpoint slide. In life, it is also about taking what we learn and applying it creatively to a situation. In doing so it builds a trust in one’s self that allows you to believe you can handle the next thing that comes. And the next thing, and the one after that, even if you don’t know what is coming, you know you can handle it. Boy, there is so much less worry when living this way!!!
What you may or may not know about me is that I love rules. I am a big believer in knowing the rules and then, with creative thinking, deciding which rules can be broken. It isn’t until one has mastered the rules and can maneuver within them that one begins to know which can be broken to achieve a certain result. Now this does encourage an understanding of the difference between a law and a rule. Laws cannot be broken. Gravity is kind of a law, as is pretty much all of physics and chemistry and organic chemistry and math. A carbon with only 3 bonds is going to be one unhappy guy, that is something you can count on. Rules aren’t so rigid but are a pretty decent framework for living if you don’t want to think about stuff all the time. You should not eat dessert before dinner is a decent rule, because you are hungry and might overeat the sugar and then undereat the salad. There are times that you should break this rule and eat the cookies, dammit, like if you are getting ready to menstruate and you deserve a congratulatory cookie for getting up and not spitting venom at any object in your path. That totally deserves a cookie or two. And a glass of wine. And quit looking at the clock because, really, that is how addictions are made. But you don’t go and break that dessert rule ALL the time or else it loses its effectiveness when you need it. Like crying wolf. You don’t want the new normal to be one devoid of rules because then when you do have a wolf attacking your sheep no one will show up and you will probably get eaten, and if the wolf is getting ready to menstruate and thinks of you as a cookie, then it will probably eat you first and go for the fuzzy sheep afterwards. And then where will you be? If you were lucky enough to be like Jonah and eaten by a whale, then you would stand a chance of surviving to tell the tale and probably be an internet sensation since you’d no doubt have some great video footage of the whale tummy and being puked up on the beach of Nineveh. But you wouldn’t survive in a wolf’s stomach.
“Squirrel!”
Actually I have no idea how crying wolf relates to meditation but maybe that just proves the alchemy part in the poem I wrote at the beginning of this post. Yes, that is EXACTLY what alchemy does so somewhere my brain is making connections and I just have to trust the path and not be so doggone worried about knowing in advance where it leads. Never place limits on what can be by demanding to know the future because how could one even IMAGINE such a connection?
I have some possible big changes coming up in my life. Not that I haven’t been living with big changes the last couple months anyway, and changes that I could not have imagined have occurred just because I trusted in the ability to try and even to fail and get back up and start going again. Failing and then getting going again is dust turning into gold.

Oh yeah, I wanted to show you some sights from the farm.

Here is what I do every morning. I am one of the best fire builders. The wood is fresh cut and wet and green, not good for making fires but I have developed a system or series of systems that lets me succeed as long as I am patient and attentive. The wood stove has water jackets on each side of it that circulate heated water through the floors and help heat the basement bedrooms. I guess because of the water jackets taking up space, the firebox is not big enough to be able to stoke enough firewood to keep the fire going all night so every morning I build a new fire. It is kind of a relaxing way to wake up.

Next I go for a walk. It might not be immediately in the morning but sometime before mid-afternoon I head out. The snow lately has called me out to walk and enjoy a real winter. Monty loves all the freedom of walking without a leash and sometimes I bring a guest’s dog along.


In between fire-building and walking is some work or other, maybe bookkeeping or maybe farm chores or fixing something that is broken. There are lots of things broken and some I can fix on my own. And finally I decide what to cook for dinner. I am fortunate that I like to cook and the grocer in town is acceptable and Amazon delivers. It is a little hard because I do not have a full kitchen with all the spices and accoutrement my old kitchen had but that just makes me more creative. And flexible. Did you know that for some recipes baking powder can stand in for baking soda with no appreciable difference. But coarse-ground cornmeal, which is great for polenta, cannot be used as is for a breading on stuffed jalapenos. I will try grinding it in the coffee bean grinder next time and I suspect the hint of coffee taste will be a pretty yummy addition. and if it is not, then a little extra sriracha-mayo dip will take care of it. I enjoy taking my time fixing dinner. It is a nice chance to have me-time as the cooking kitchen is separate from the main living area and kitchen-prep area.


Sometimes guests or neighbors will join us for a dinner party and that can very interesting. Unless all the guests are avid fishermen which means the discussion devolves to types of hooks and such. Those are the nights I go to bed early. Sometimes we have very personable and interesting guests and I get to learn all about other parts of the country, what their work and lives are like, how they see the world. Those are my favorite times. It helps fill the void left by not being in the salon and talking with all my interesting and fascinating clients. Shoot, now I am thinking about some of them and there is a catch in the back of my throat for those I love dearly and miss so much. Sometimes I wonder if I am selfish and foolish for chasing this dream. But sometimes I talk with a dear friend and I can feel the love is still there even if I do not get to lay eyes or hands on them right now. Breathe in loneliness, wistfulness, missing you…breathe out warmth, compassion, understanding, ever-abiding love. Meditation is the alchemist.

miracles everywhere

warning- this post is in raw form. it has not been edited for clarity or polished. the reader is warned. 🙂

you can live your life as if everything is a miracle or as if nothing is. albert einstein is credited with that enlightening phrase( and it doesn’t really matter whether he said it or not)

today, christmas eve, is the 56th birthday of my friend who took his life four days ago. i have been doing all the feelings we know and expect, grief, anger, and those heart-breaking I-shoulda/coulda. i should have tried one more time to (fill in the blank), I could have continued to be friends and maybe he wouldn’t have…
and i can argue that with myself in the same way a friend would. “You did all that before, you took all the guns away, you stayed on suicide watch, you called the ambulance and went with him to the hospital, but the truth is you cannot prevent someone from their intent on destruction.” Yes, I know that and yet sometimes those thoughts creep in. Maybe if I had been there more, he would have been able to get deeper into recovery and then he wouldn’t have…
Oh, the ego can get itself worked into a tizzy refusing to accept what is. I don’t know if I have my doctorate in denial but my credit hours are up there. and the sadness of thinking I could have done something, the guilt and shame of the could haves or should haves is choking and burdensome yet I was picking it up all on my own accord.
and today I am putting off getting up out of bed by checking a social media and i see a post by j. iron word “The truth is some people will never wake up no matter how many years they live.” which caught my attention as you may understand. and the post immediately following this post was also by j. iron word, “I love you baby.”
……….sniff…………….
sheesh, even in the retelling of seeing these two posts, the feeling of being seen and understood washes over me, seen and accepted in my frail humanness, seen and loved even when i mess up.
everything is a miracle or nothing is- i choose everything. and this message came to me from him. I need to remember that nothing i could have done would have prevented his death. and that he still loves me and is no longer bound by the fear and monsters and the walls he’d built in his mortal existence. He is with God and he is part of God, like Sandi, like Jesus.

and then i get up and am walking the dog on this cool and clear morning. It’s a beautiful and typical Gulf Coast Christmas with just a few clouds in the sharp blue sky. and i am breathing and open and mindful and feeling the love that he has for me that he couldn’t express before. and i’m so glad it is early on Christmas Eve morning so the neighbors don’t see me crying as i walk the dog down the street. I look up into the sky and see a few wisps of clouds, and it is his face. His face when he concentrated, how he would chew on his cheek and draw his mouth into a sharp line, a forward slash across his very square jaw. and so i see the two puffy cloud eyes and then the strong slash of cloud mouth and I know, Michael has accepted his birthright of peace and wholeness.
and so, on this day of the anniversary of his birth, i am conscious of staying open to the miracles and grateful for knowing God. I am keeping my heart open to the pain of loss, to the miracle of our true identity of one with God and each other, and to the most important of all,
Love, real love, does not die.

Goodbye, Michael

You son of a bitch

That is the first coherent thought I can remember after learning of the suicide of my… what is the word for someone whom you have loved for almost 2 years and to whom you just 10 days before said “Your addiction is killing you and us. I can’t bear this destruction. I love you and I cannot be around you anymore,” what is the term for that person? After 2 years I called it off because the self-destruction of my beloved was too much for me. The broken promises, the chaos and drama, this wasn’t what I signed up for and not how I live my life. He had said he wanted a quieter existence. He wanted gentleness, honesty and transparency. Yet, whether conscious or not, each choice he made was away from connection and honesty and toward separation, isolation, pain. And yet I continued to love him. I could feel the soul behind the pain and I wanted so much for him to know joy and peace. And, to be honest, even after I spoke those words of goodbye, I hoped that he would get back into his recovery program and we could build a life together, a life we had talked of many times in our cabin in the woods.

And I’m set to go to that cabin in the woods in 2 weeks. I had invited him to come with me, to live this dream we spoke of so frequently. And he said right after he just finished this project, after one more thing to do for someone else. But that is what he’d always said to me. I’ll see you for (Saturday, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, your birthday, the play, the movie) right after I finish this project. And it got to where I quit making plans with him because I was tired of being forgotten, ignored, and replaced by the excitement of the addiction at hand.

You fucking jerk

Now there is no hope of a  tomorrow for us. There is no us and there is no tomorrow. Ten days after I said goodbye, he said goodbye. He had been drinking very heavily and took a bottle and a gun to bed with him.

You selfish jerk, this is exactly what I was talking about.

He was in desperate pain. I know that. In a bizarre and unwished for joke of the gods, he and I had a psychic connection. It took me a while to understand that what I was feeling and experiencing was not me but him, his inner chaos, and I never learned how to block out the craziness when it really began to overtake him. Our connection was such that I frequently knew his dreams, we would wake at the same moment from slumber, him saying, “I had the weirdest dream,” and I would begin to describe it. I used to fantasize about that kind of connection with a lover, but this wasn’t what I’d thought it would be. I mean, sure, sharing weird dreams about a red sled on a mountain is benign enough but that wasn’t the typical situation, frequently he was haunted, traumatized, psychically screaming in terror and pain, trying desperately to hide from the monsters. That is what I felt so frequently. And I tried so very hard to save him. I tried to show him ways to cope, therapists to visit, meditations and eating to support a gentler and more loving inner life. Yet after a week or two he would return to his agitated state and work would require his full attention all day, all night, all weekend. And I was left alone with an angry and shut-down being. It was like camping on Mount St. Helens in early May 1980. You knew it was going to blow, but you had no idea how it would go or how devastating it would be. And so I left the volcano that was my lover. And then I got the news, “some terrible news. Michael committed suicide this morning.”

And so he isn’t hurting any longer, for that I am grateful. He had come to me in a dream about 36 hours before he died, and it was a terrible dream, chaotic, screaming, confusing, thrashing about. It was horrible and it was how his internal landscape felt and why he tried, unsuccessfully, to drown it out with his many addictions. He hoped something would work. He hated himself more and more with each succession of failure at drowning out the horror.

How could you give up like this, on you, on life, on us?

Oh sure, he is not hurting any longer but I am. Those he left behind who felt his pain, who loved him, we are left in terrible, terrible pain. And I can’t feel that he isn’t hurting, I feel him still and he feels confused still. I pray for him, I pray he will be taken into God and then remember who he truly is, a child of God, a part of God, knowing and joyful and one with all of us. And I pray that I’ll feel him when he has that peacefulness. I pray I will hear that gravelly voice and see in my heart those green eyes and feel his presence envelope me. And that I will find forgiveness, for myself for not being able to withstand the pain and save him, forgiveness for him for not being able to face his demons.

I still love you

Will I be cautious in the future, will I build my own wall around my heart? Will I hear about someone’s 12 step program and decide there’s no way I’m going down that path again? Every relationship we enter leaves its mark on us; I guess whether the mark becomes scarring that hinders or understanding that opens my compassion further is up to me. Every moment is a choice in the creation of this experience. If I get hurt and choose to build a wall to protect my vulnerability, if I choose to battle the attackers, then soon I will find myself walled in and battling only myself. I see this is true. We create the monster that lurks in our mind and heart and we must be the ones to decide to shine the light of forgiveness and compassion on the monster. Love is the greatest vanquisher of all, because it opens up fully to all. And I must trust my own courage and strength, I must remember to show up and do the things that nurture my being, do the meditations, journaling, exercise and connecting with people every single day. I can honor the soul inside my beloved and tortured friend and remember this lesson of choosing love, forgiveness, and compassion every moment.

Contagion

“Fear is contagious and so is courage”      -Elizabeth Gilbert

I read this in an email from Tami Simon of Sounds True. Like all well-crafted guideposts that point to the one truth, it made me think. We as a society are very thoughtful about the people we surround ourselves with in regards to their disease state. We have PSAs about how to sneeze or cough in a crowd, we use hand sanitizer like modern-day armor and tell others to stay home if we hear they are sick. We do not want to catch the disease and we certainly don’t want someone spreading disease in our community. We recognize how disease and illness inhibit our productivity, impair physical and financial well-being, and just get in the way of our constitutional right to pursue happiness.

Yet are we as thoughtful about the internal state of those around us and the fact that this is also contagious? Have we as a society created a version of leper colonies wherein everyone in this group has the same fears? Those who are afraid of not being enough and so must “look” successful via a big house, expensive car, the mate who meets all the check-list wants? Are our leper colonies filled with others who support our illness to the point we pass the fear-sickness back and forth and strengthen it?

Or do we surround ourselves with those who have the courage to walk their own path thus encouraging others to do the same? Are the people around us supporting each other in finding unique ways to joy and contentment, are they able to truly connect on a heart and soul level, can we be different and still be connected? Do we spread the germ of fearless vulnerability and acceptance in our connections with the people in our community?

As we enter the season of (hopefully) connecting with our family and friends, perhaps we should take a good look at what our group has in common, what is the contagion, and make sure it is something we want to catch.