Pennies From Heaven

The soon to be obsolete penny from a questionable Heaven, ha! Of course, Heaven certainly will survive as a concept, though it’s exact location and purpose are for each of us to determine using our own perspectives. Pennies, once worth less than the copper with which they were minted, are likely on their way to relic status. All the same, every time it rains, if it indeed rains pennies from Heaven, that’s pretty cool, so long as we carry a stainless steel umbrella and a bank bag in which to scoop them.

It rained here for most of the last two weeks. In my world, it rained pennies from Heaven. I can’t remember two weeks so rich with opportunity and experience. Gratitude is an understatement for the gift of getting to do my work, love my family, and not have a stroke (at least not one that I have been able to detect). After a long drought, rain in any form was most welcome. The fact that it brought new challenges, opportunities, and victory snatched from the jaws of its evil twin leaves me breathlessly grateful.

Not all days are sunshine and roses. When those two do appear, if wise to their rarity, we bask and inhale deeply in appreciation. When it rains, may we be on the lookout for those pennies, but mind they don’t hit you in the head. Bag them up and make a deposit. Looking on the bright side of dark times may well make for profit in the metaphorical form of pennies from heaven.

Gratitude

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There is almost always a way to be grateful. And finding our way to gratitude almost always makes our present circumstances seem better. When life “seems” better, we may find even more to be grateful for. Of course, this could be viewed as mental sleight of hand. Therefore it isn’t necessarily “real,” but what is real? Our pain? Our triumph? Our fate, perhaps? To come into this world then to leave it, that is as real as it gets. The rest appears to be interpretation. 

Bad luck, good luck, chaos and moments of calm, none of these circumstances last forever. The opportunity to know them each in their pure form is a gift beyond measure, dazzling in scope. Sleight of hand it may be, but then some believe there is magic in the world. Self-administered, therapeutic healing opportunities await in the realm of gratitude.

In Memoriam

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On this Memorial Day, I give humble thanks to all that have given their lives in the service of our country. I give specific thanks to my great great great uncle John Hussey, who enlisted with the Union as a Corporal on September 18th, 1861, Company F, 10th Infantry Regiment Indiana. He died in Tennessee far from his home, the very state where I now live, far from mine. Uncle John gave his life during the Civil War at the Battle of Chickamauga, on Sept. 19, 1863, at the age of 20. He is buried among the unknown in National Cemetery, Chattanooga.

Curiously we share not only the same name but also the same birthday, February 15. I am the 15th John Hussey in our line; my uncle was John the 12th. He was the oldest of eight children born to Joseph and Sarah Hussey in the Indiana township now known as Zionsville. He volunteered in service to a cause for which he felt great passion, and to which he made the ultimate sacrifice.

Rest in peace, Uncle John and all who have served.

Transience

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Transient: defined as that which lasts only a short time. Transience is the yin to the yang of permanence, or is it? Opposites in appearance yes, but is it not the case that ‘permanence’ is no more than a charlatan, a false idol, a lie? Permanence is the deception that gets us up in the morning allowing us to wrench meaning from the jaws of existential crisis. In that respect its a benevolent lie I suppose. Deception from inception all the same.

This moment is all we have.  It is all that is guaranteed, yet somehow it is difficult to appreciate the present without superimposing it over the illusion of the future… 

Pause for dialogue:

Me in mock exasperation, “Dude, stop licking my computer!” Our silver tabby cat Rubicon glares at me for a moment, goes back to licking the left corner of my screen then rubs her face on it.  She probably doesn’t give much truck to blogging or existential crises.

Unpause:

In the song “My Generation” the iconic British rock band The Who sang, “Hope I die before I get old.” What’s the rush. We were all born with punched tickets aboard the transient train. There are no doors, the windows are riveted shut, one-way tickets indeed! Whether the journey takes one across the Himalayas or the D.C. Beltway, our stop comes not when we are ready, but when it is. Each moment is precious, even when our moods beg to differ.   

Rubicon, the cat, stares at me from the brick porch in the dwindling twilight. I reach down and give a long, loving scratch to her sage kitty head.  Clouds pass lazily against the backdrop of the fading blue spring sky. Much as we pass over the ever fading light of individual experience. It’s early for fireflies, but I see one lonely boy broadcasting his premature beacon of hope over the hedgerow. On the continuum of time, he’s a fellow transient, making sense of things to the best of his ability along with the rest of us.

I watch the cat, the firefly, and the clouds follow their paths and am moved by their natural gift for unfettered being. All radiate the aura of simply existing here and now without shouldering the specter of discontent.  Its neither blockbuster entertainment, nor acclaimed indy cinema, but I leave the theatre of my evening with a full heart, and plenty to ponder.

 

Grateful

Thankful for you

I am but a tiny grain of sand on an infinite beach, or desert maybe.  The “infinite” makes it difficult to know for sure because the old metaphor never specifically defines the roll of “an ocean” in the mix.  If we are just talking about “sand” it could be an endless Sahara Desert; makes me thirsty just thinking about it.  A beach as seen by some is the most amazing strip of Real estate in the universe.  We’ve all heard, “I could never live without the ocean nearby!”  For others it’s sand in the crack, sunburn and “It’s cool, but I’ll take the mountains!”  As for the desert, I’ve never met someone who saw this geographically threatening environment as the be all and end all of permanent residences, so for the purpose of out metaphor above I’m going with desert, ha!

Anyway, (The use of the non-word “anyways” is one of my only grammatical pet peeves. Not sure why that one stuck in my craw but when I hear it said out loud my fists involuntarily clench and I taste metal in my mouth)…So anyway, maybe we are grains of sand, whatever.  I love the fact that in that light neither we nor the things we do hold much importance.  Puts things in a humility based perspective framework right?  The funniest part about that is that if your ego is anything like mine the first words out of its loudmouth are “Bull Shit!”  Well “Whatever” to that crap too!  Despite it’s best intentions the ego is often the “desert,” wishing it were a “beach.”  

We are complex vessels of potentially self-torture inducing duality hurtling through a desert or a beach or a glass factory for all we know, and soon enough we suddenly find ourselves lacking the consciousness to wrestle with the beach/desert conundrum.  We are gone, in the blink of an eye, the same length of a blink we rode in on, and 99.9% percent of the sand grains in the universe will never even knew we had crystallized.  

Opening the cosmic door, reaching into the void and pulling back a handful of “meaning” is the greatest adventure, balancing act, magic trick, win around.  We construct lives made out of our individual interpretations of “meaning,” pure and simple.  We make them up.  Are they real?  Does any of this matter?  Prove that it doesn’t, and I’ll give you some silica.

This holiday weekend I’ve had a lot of time to think about the problems in my life.  I’ve also spent time wrapping my consciousness around my many blessings.  Life is spectacular even as I struggle with some massively disconcerting and potentially life-changing issues that are beyond my control.  Welcome back to the cosmic door, which it turns out is not unlike Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.  We never know what we are going to get, but I do know this.  I am here now, today, stretching to stand tall in my little sand suit.  I am so grateful for my family and friends, teachers,  past loves, the grocery clerk who always smiles when I come in, the homeless man singing on his usual corner at the 2nd Ave overpass, and you my reader friends for being kind enough to accompany me on this greatest of adventures.  xo

Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving fast approaches.  Bringing with it all the joy, or discomfort that our memories allow.  Gratitude for what we have, or eating all we can hold depending on one’s persuasion, define the day.  Such disparate perspectives all find their way to some moment between noon and 6:00pm-ish on this most American holiday, (unless you are Canadian, they have one too you know, different day though) when we sit down with people we love, or tolerate, or loathe to “give thanks.”

Growing up I remember seeing paintings of the pilgrims (bless their sexually repressed hearts) sharing a meal with the native Americans whose kindness and wisdom made that very moment, the very survival of the colonists possible.  I have no idea if the scenes depicted actually happened, but I do know that from the native perspective things definitely went downhill from there.  Not until the advent of reservation land casinos did that cultural nose dive take a turn.  Finally, something for which the true North Americans can be thankful.  Too little, too late?  Probably.

I usually spend Thanksgiving morning in the woods, either hiking or mountain biking, most often I make this “pilgrimage” alone.  During this holiday opportunity for reflection, I will pause to take in the majesty of this world that we are so fortunate to call home.  I am truly grateful for my one chance here on earth.  Grateful for my wonderful family, my dear friends, a roof over my head and the unlikely outcome that is me, or you and every being issuing a breath even for a moment on this planet.

On this day some will share laughter with loved ones, others will issue volatile political challenges, purposefully foisting discord on innocents who only wish to celebrate the moment.  Thanksgiving political discussions are the shit, right?  Ha!  On the other side of the relational tracks many will be alone; of those, some will be so by choice, others by unfortunate circumstance.  For the solitary, it can be a challenging day to endure without a place to find welcome.  Holidays are societally bipolar, no?

Wherever you find yourself this Thanksgiving I wish you peace, joy and most importantly a window in your world through which you can see with crystal clear clarity, something worth being thankful for.  

Namaste my friends.

Parents

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Parents!  If you’re lucky enough to still have them around, excellent!   If they can on occasion be challenging, that’s not uncommon; look who’s talking.  If you think they did a less than perfect job of playing god to you and your siblings if you have the pleasure of sisters or brothers, you’re possibly right…they’re only human for fuck’s sake.  

For the longest time, I held my parents responsible for crimes against humanity.  Humanity, consisting primarily of me.  Not everyone is so fortunate to experience the “victim/narcissist” posture that I somehow adopted at an early age, but some of you may be able to identify what I’m talking about.  Ugh, so embarrassing!  Anyway, my folks were young when they got into the kid-having business, and they set out to do their best, whatever that means.  

We all do our best right?  No, we don’t all do our best, a topic for another time.  However, if we do our best, well done us!  That, in my opinion, is how we give ourselves the best odds at getting through this monkey parade in one piece.  To my youthful affronted mind though “my parents best” was less than acceptable.  Precious snowflake boy? Or perhaps, ungrateful asshole?  You decide.

These days I am a parent.  Actually, I’m on the downhill side of the child-rearing experience with two healthy, happy-ish teenage sons.  I love my role and have learned a great deal about what my parents must have faced during their “adventure in child rearing.”  Unfortunately, like my parents, I found that my wedding vows could not withstand the weight of the union itself.  Thus, I’m deunionised, or as we say in the vernacular “divorced.”  I’m a single parent 182.5 days a year; the best 182.5 days of any given year I might add.  Raising kids is like most experiences I’ve encountered.  Attitude is everything!

Being married is work, work that unfortunately does not always bring to bear the fruit of one’s labor.  Circumstances as they turned out to be I’ve come to realize that I have not always been the best reader of the more subtle aspects of certain human personalities.  I do believe that I hear and see people clearly when ‘they speak their truth’ and glean the essence of who they are, perhaps more so than they themselves at times.  Ego talk? Probably.   Though if my relationships with my sons, friends, colleagues, etc. are any indication, and if I’m not wholly deluding myself, it’s possibly true.  Still, I have a lot to learn yet about how to be my best.  As for my misread on the choice of life partners?  Romance seems to be my kryptonite, also a topic for another post.

I bring up marriage only because the majority of parenting is done, or at least initially undertaken in that construct.  All of the great, and not so great parts of a marriage inform the parenting of the children in a family.  What relational skills do we unwittingly gift our progeny as they bear witness to our matrimonial dance?  Could we have done better?  Certainly.  The adage about living in a glass house while hoisting stones comes to mind again and again.  No blaming or finger pointing here.

Back to my parents.  They worked hard, or at least my pops did.  On top of that burden, they had to figure out how to raise kids; manual not included.  Dad provided us (sisters not pictured above because they were still a twinkle in the old man’s eye when the shutter snapped) with way more than anyone had a right to expect.  To put it mildly, we never wanted for the basics.  Dad delivered grand family vacations, money for college, and bailed us out when our youthful dances included gross missteps.  My father was extremely driven and excelled in a high-stress profession his entire life.  The intensity must have been nearly unbearable.  Reflecting on his situation as an adult, I can’t imagine how he handled the pressure.  No wonder things weren’t always Lavender bouquets and yoga mats around the house.  

My father and I are different people, to put it mildly, with decidedly different relational needs.  We didn’t see eye to eye on much during my childhood.  It’s no one’s fault, just how that particular cookie crumbled.  In school, work or social life situations, one can choose to step away from relationships of that nature, but in the confines of the family structure, we just have to make the best of the hand as it is dealt.  We didn’t get to choose each other or browse the “Family Relationship” version of Match.com before we committed to a life together.  So it goes.

In my twenties, I moved away from my hometown.  I left with the hope of escaping my stuckness, neighborhoods with six homes to an acre, traffic, and my roadblocked relationship with my family.  With all my possessions in a subcompact car, I journeyed across the country in search of the life I’d always felt I was meant to live.  “Wherever you go, there you are” notwithstanding it ultimately worked.  My life and my sons’ lives are good, whole, full of love, mutual respect, and acceptance.  Phew!  

By moving away, and thereby breaking the cycle, I was able to discover that a new relationship with myself and my parents was attainable through the grace afforded by distance.  Distance allows perspective.  Perspective provides the chance for healing.  Healing allows courage to blossom.  Courage creates the possibility of change.  Change creates the opportunity for forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a universal gift.  

Becoming a parent affords one an opportunity to experience the disruptive effect of ripples on the pond into which the Narcissus in all of us gaze.  It offers a moment for those of us who have not yet discovered selflessness to awaken, and so be humbled.  Parenthood provides the chance to accept, atone, forgive, and appreciate those whom we may formerly have held in some form of blame.  

I love you, mom and dad!  I now see clearly that you did the very best you could.  Your hearts, not mine were in the right place, and for that, I am eternally grateful. 

The Crushing

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Sometimes things feel so spot on, so figured out.  Other times things feel so fucked!  Honesty is both beautiful and ugly, so here we go.  Glass half full, glass half empty, glass whatever until shit hits the fan.  You’ve had a bad day right?  You’ve had some good ones too?  I’ve had both and can unequivocally offer my opinion of the difference between them; I don’t dig the darkness.  It’s easy for me to be up when I’m fortunate enough to awaken on the right side of the bed, if something truly wonderful has happened in my life, or if I have an audience to entertain.  It’s also easy for me to find the shadows when the hall is empty, or the vicissitudes of fate choose a game of random misery.

Spirit, soul, perspective, blow with the wind when no one is looking.  We’ve all likely found darkness shrouding our path at some point.  We’ve also probably been fortunate enough to know lightness.  I experience both in a relatively favorable measure, but today it is the darkness that accompanies me as I make my way.  Odd that a life I feel to be so fortunate should seem so dismal at this moment.  History tells me it will pass.  And thank god!  A funny expression emanating my lips “Thank god,” as I do not currently ascribe to conventional western religious doctrine.  Still, I feel it, the meaning of “Thank god,” balls to bones because I have faith.  Faith not in books, nor figureheads, but in “It!”  The “It” that binds us all together in this life.

How are your dark days?  Mine are daunting.  Sometimes I feel fearful in my solitude.  Afraid that I will fail those I love.  Worried that I will fail me!  Ha, shouldn’t I have included myself in the numbers of the former?  How will I fail?  By not showing up, not delivering the promise of optimism and perseverance to which I have committed?

Depression is the antichrist to hopeful endeavor, and some days when I feel it’s weight bearing down on me I find no solace, no sense of possibility for escape.  For context, I do not suffer from the type of debilitating depression that some struggle with.  Fortune smiles on my brain chemistry in that regard.  I am talking about run of the mill, “get over yourself” feelings of depression.  The emotional state one simply has to face, and vanquish.

It is to a great extent the way in our culture to have ears only for, “Fine” or “Great thanks,” in response to the question, “How are you?”  Who has time for the real answer right?  To avoid pariah status, when I find my soul cloaked in crushing darkness I lie, “Doing well, thanks.  You?”  Perhaps being born in the United States where the concept of “Rugged Individualism” is a historical cornerstone, this automatic response is coded into my DNA.  Though from what I’ve read, Rugged Individualism is a walk in the park relative to the DNA encoding that the English have saddled themselves with!  Interestingly, my genealogy leads in no small way to that tight-lipped isle of rain-soaked woe.  Not super surprising that an occasional down day should find me.

Today I listened to a Tim Ferris Show podcast featuring the renowned psychologist Jack Kornfield.  Jack’s career began in the jungles of Thailand where in his twenties while serving with the peace corp he decided to become a Buddhist monk.  As he explained, it was a painful but enlightening (pun intended) journey that lead him to new perspectives on self, self-hatred, and self-love, compassion, and empathy.  I bring this up because his words struck me hard.  Hard as in repeated blows of a mighty love hammer.  Multiple times while listening I spontaneously began to weep.  Something in his message hit trigger points over and over again.  This experience crescendoed during his closing comments which left me clutching my heart, crying full voice on the futon in the family room.  Futon?  What am I, a college student?  Whatever!

Jack’s wisdom and his message of loving-kindness (insert “snowflake quip here) touched me deeply.  It afforded me a window through which I saw metaphorical rays of sunlight.  The darkness that had enveloped me for the last few days seemed to cower and then diminish.  Tim’s conversation with Jack somehow pierced the black veil of my personal manifestation of Rugged Individualism.  It reminded me that we are not, or do not have to choose to remain alone in our struggles.  Jack’s words reasserted the possibility of choosing to breach the norm of, “I’m fine.”  The chance to reach for connection, and more importantly offer connection, with compassion to those we find wrapped in the solitary binds of darkness.

If you struggle alone with your demons, you can share that burden.  You have options.  Check out Jack’s thoughts on the subject via the link provided below.  Write a comment.  Please share your story.  Together we are strong enough to shed light on the darkness.  Together we can create brilliance!

Tim Ferriss Show: Jack Kornfield episode: