What Might Contentment Look Like?

Cheekwoold easter sculpture web

If one happened upon a place from which to view it,  what might ‘contentment’ look like?  Perhaps it would present as something like this…

Gratitude for all one has

Presence, being in the moment as often as possible

Meaningful friendships

Meditating

Living beneath one’s means

Giving

Crafting and pursuing achievable goals

Kindness

Continuing education, lifetime learning

Exercising

Stretching, literally and figuratively

Knowing how to survive being wrong

and as required, surrendering to what is.

The More Things Same, the More They Stay the Change

The more things same web

Time is an illusion, or so say theoretical physicists, some Buddhists, and a few uncredentialed randos. Change, on the other hand, is palpable. On the cosmic continuum, our human lives are laughably short, unless of course one throws caring for a newborn baby into the mix at which point each moment takes on the guise of eternity.  

What to do with such a minuscule timeframe?  Establish an identity?  Wear it as a mantle, or suit of armor?  Perhaps.  On a more interesting tack, might we open our minds to the so-called illusion of time and embrace the challenge of change? 

That sound we hear at night when we cannot fall asleep, that jarring metaphorical thunder strike that suddenly and unexpectedly transgresses our imagined force field of normalcy, that ominous silence which becomes deafening during unwanted moments of solitude; that is the sound of inevitability.  It is the specter or the hope of change. It knocks at the door when we do not expect a visitor, or claws at the window on a stormy night as we toss and turn, tangled in our sweat-soaked sheets.  It is the ‘inescapable,’ taunting the prisoner.

Some folks make peace with change, even crave it. Others purposefully oppose it in archetypal ‘arch-rival’ fashion. One path leads to some manner of peace with what is going to be, the other leads to voluntary disappointment. Each is a fine perspective, though one opens new doors while the other bars them. Either way, the drama is short lived.

A dam with no floodgate cannot contain a relentless downpour forever.  So it is with the ‘illusory’ incubus we call ‘time.’  The waters will crest, the dam will fail, the future will wrench historical normalcy from the hands of every true believer and cleanse the land with the as yet unknown.  

Holding tight to the past, or even the present will give the illusion of effectiveness for a decade or two. ‘The more things same, the more they stay the change,’ but only for so long.  Nostalgia is bittersweet as is the inevitability of change, but only one of them is optional. Onward!

Namaste

Happy-ish, Healthy-ish & Mostly at Peace

shutterstock_591017447 WEB

Perspective, a personal view that we use to define the world; our individual interpretation of “life as we know it.” Outlook is for better or worse the determining factor in our assessment of reality. A proactive, positive outlook will undoubtedly set studier groundwork for one’s future than a negative one. I’m not suggesting that the changing of mind will completely change one’s circumstance, at least not immediately. However, I do believe that taking charge of perspective is powerful. If you’re happy and you know it…Awesome for you!  If you are not, shaking up your perspective inventory may be an excellent first step toward finding a better way to start, embrace and live the day.

I’ve taken a lot of modern life at face value. I’m trusting that way, which is not necessarily a ‘best practices’ approach. Conspiracy theories abound about government, food sourcing, education, family planning, etc.. It’s easy to laugh them off if you’re not prone to such leanings. I imagine though that some of the less absurd assertions in this realm hold at least modicum of truth. We are consumers of information, entertainment, calories, fashion, drama, propaganda, medicine, and escape, to name a few. These ‘goods,’ for better or worse, find their way into our personal ecosystems. Taking a closer look, a more analytical, research-based appraisal of what we take in, consume or adopt, often on blind faith, may be the key to avoiding pitfalls on the road to a ‘best life.’ But who has the time for that?

As far as I know, I’ve only been here once so I’ll have to rely on historical data and perception to tease out an approximation of the facts. It seems to me that a few too many cars on the road sport some form or another of “Fight such and such form of Cancer” stickers. No, we don’t see ‘Fight the Black Plague’ stickers, yet, but something seems off with the current state of treat vs. prevent. Big business benefits from both pesticide use and miracle cures.  Coincidence?  Possibly.

Historically speaking life is more comfortable and less violence now than it has ever been, current prison system enrollment notwithstanding. That doesn’t mean it’s time to clock out and accept the lot we’ve been given right? The advent of the information age means that taking responsibility for our own health and happiness has never been easier. Of course, there is the specter of the disinformation revolution to consider. The first American president was treated for his final illness by being bled with leeches, cutting edge medical tech at the time. We have access to far more information than his medical team could have imagined. Is this current library of bio-wisdom more accurate?  Hopefully.

Questioning the status quo seems a brilliant starting point in the goal of achieving unimpeachable personal health and contentment. The questioning our motives, perspectives, and assumptions ranks a close second in this quest, should we choose to take on the responsibility of thinking outside the drive-through box. We can sleep when we die, and the one certainty is that though we may dodge taxes, ultimately we will all sleep.  While we still breathe it is vigilance, interest, and inquisitiveness that will bend the arc of our lives closest to an outcome that is defined as Happy-ish, Healthy-ish and mostly at Peace. May the quest for these treasures be defined in my life and your’s by fortitude, patience and a super-sized pinch of good luck.

Namaste

Personal Documentaries

Personal Documentaries_John B Hussey

I’ve heard it said that “life imitates art.” Times being what they are, with cinematic tools in the pockets of nearly every breathing soul, it appears that art or at least the cultural obsession with captured visual representations of some form of it now shape life. The advent of the personal documentary, whether we acquire imagery while looking through the lens or turn it on ourselves does not allow for life to unfold as it would in the absence of the distraction, or opportunity, or perhaps most importantly self-consciousness.

Personal marketing is ubiquitous. Social media and crowdsourced opinion are the new forms of connection, interpretation, and validation. This validity is assumed based on ‘homegrown’ legitimacy in contrast to traditional marketing and advertising which is widely presumed to be manipulative in nature. Are they really so different? We now package ourselves, consciously or unconsciously as products. To the best of our ability, we remove blemishes and imperfections before posting. Flaws and imperfection that exist, endure, and with time increase in scope.

I don’t post the nine unflattering shots of my family, the ones where someone made a face or blinked. I especially don’t post the pix that highlight that one crooked front tooth that’s always trying to get in the shot. I post the tenth pic where I don’t look like I need emergency adult orthodontia and my sons don’t look like they are recovering from blunt force trauma to the head. Am I posting a lie, or am I simply a savvy marketing wiz?

Our flaws can be perceived as components of character, unwelcome sidekicks or both. All the botox and plastic surgery in the world won’t fix the ones that truly define us. Our enduring flaws are the ones that we reveal, or that force their way into the limelight once the honeymoon has ended. Can those we’ve lured in with our polished documentary stylings live with them? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Documentary films are sometimes interesting, sometimes not. Some are important, some life-changing, some difficult to watch for the brutal truths they reveal about human nature. Some are fluff, some sweet, and many fall short of their intended effect. These outcomes are of course in no small way co-created by the viewer. So it is with our individual forays into self-serving cinema. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, so it goes.

Personal Documentaries are here to stay. A scroll session through Facebook, Instagram, etc. can light up the brain neurons like eating a quart of Death By Chocolate ice cream, minus the calories. These shared stories are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes provocative. Personally, I enjoy the voyeuristic distraction of it all and participate regularly. However, as I upload virtual interpretations of my life and/or witness the lives of others across the ether, I often wonder if the real art of looking another human being in the eye and making a connection in the moment may be the horse-drawn carriage faced with the imminent rise of the motorcar.

The Work of Living

The Work of Living_by John Hussey

The rains came at the end of December and have since called this place home.  It is not the countryside, rather a despondency that blooms in the midst of this cold winter downpour. Those in the parts of the world where such weather is commonplace probably bare it away silently, knowing year after year that such is their fate. Here in southern North America, this bleak, relentless drenching has transformed myriad normal men and women into so many agitated, forlorn creatures.

The wearing down of the spirit by natural means such as continuous dark, damp days is in no way sinister.  In that light, this indifferent water torture shows a modicum of kindness. The spirit breaking inventions used by one human on another cut more profoundly, with much greater precision. Cruelty is intentional, and therefore personal. Such malevolent behavior, like the weather, is sometimes predictable, sometimes not.

Confronting darkness in any form, be it natural or man-made presents each of us with the opportunity to choose a response. With rare exception, we can decide whether to reflect or reject the shadows cast upon us. Reacting on impulse is natural, but void of the benefit of circumspection. Stepping back, taking stock, digging deep and choosing a way forward that lies outside readily ostensible options, a path that leads us back to the light, that is the work of living.

The Void Within A Heart

heart trails

It is a luxury to clack these keys; to form these sentences. I rarely think about illiteracy then remember that many cannot read these random thoughts or the instructions on a bottle of aspirin. How easily, absentmindedly and accidentally I take good fortune for granted. With a roof, rations, and relationships in my treasure trove, how is it that at times darkness comes as a thief in the night, stealing my perspective?

Misery makes quick partnership with any who invite it, including those who do so unwittingly. It stays as long as it is welcome. Many of us attempt to keep up with, or surpass the “Joneses.” Reaching the goal of a cup running over seems at first a sure defense, but more often than not discord infiltrates, souring the wellspring of contentment.

The void within a heart can be ignored, obscured, disavowed, but not transformed. Dancing with it, sitting in silence, pouring buckets of unrequited gratitude into the vastness of unknowability are the exercises I perform during the very few moments I remember to truly live.

I have nothing to say…

wordcloud inverted

Vintage random thought

I have nothing to say… Oh wait, that can’t be right.  The voice in my head never stops yammering, so perhaps I should just share a bit of that monkey din.  Let’s see, I was super uptight with my kids this morning in response to their less than “militarily precise” approach to preparing for the first day of school.  My fluster-faced antics were unnecessary and as it turns out, super unproductive.  They watched me rant with bemused looks of teenage indifference.  Suddenly it dawned on me that I was “choosing” to be an ass.  “Thank god,” I thought, and just like that, I chose to change my choice.  I decided that I no longer wished to be a “that dad,” so I stopped my foolishness, and apologized to my sons.  Breakfast and the ride to school were lighthearted and fun.  So that’s all I have to say…

Wait, I do want to mention that while I was acting like a child, they were keeping their distance, staying emotionally clear of the bad mojo vortex.  They had decided it seems, to give me the space to work through whatever ass clown hair shirt I was knitting without engaging.  Well done boys.  

I have nothing to say, that needs to be said, at the moment.  That said or said thrice perhaps, I like saying stuff.  When I was a young boy I had, as some parents might say “a lot of energy.”  My father was a man of few words.  Of those few words, the ones I often heard were “stop babbling.”  What?  Not enrich the world with my eight-year-old prattle?  You can’t be serious?  Poor guy’s ears must have been near bleeding!

I have a couple talkers in my house.  The suspects are male, ages 13 and 16.  While they both can go on serious verbal tears, the 13-year-old is exceptionally gifted.  He can speak incessantly for such extended periods that we’ve actually coined terms to describe his gift.  When he’s been thinking out loud at the speed of sound for some interminable period, we call it ‘streaming’…he calls it “broadcast mode.”  I used to talk, or “babble” like that when I was a boy, ha!  It doesn’t hurt anyone, so I just let him blow that horn.  

Some folks don’t talk much. Some folks do.  Some are great listeners while others don’t seem to have the ability to give two stray shits about what anyone says, even as they pretend to listen.   What?  Ha, just kidding.

So it seems I have nothing important to say, but I’m damn happy to be here, to have another day on this planet with opportunities in front of me and most of the “learning the hard way” behind me.  Babblers, quite folk, grumpsters, and joy monkeys, may you find wildflowers and spring water along your path as you walk to the beat of your own personal expression drums.

Freestyle

1970s High School Dance (4)

“Freestyle,” now there’s a vocab jack in the box bursting with “what the hell!”  The term Freestyle can be ascribed to a variant version of almost anything we humans do. Let’s say for the purposes of this rant that “freestyle” means “acting in the absence of rules or generally accepted protocol.” Now that’s a relief unless one happens to be a rule hugger, in which case it would, of course, be disconcerting.

In a valiant effort to save my marriage, I agreed to sign up for ballroom dance lessons. For context, up to that point in my life dancing had not been numbered among my strong suits. Relying on a glaring weakness to change the course of a dissolving marriage may not have been putting my best foot forward, ha, but I donned those creepy felt soled dance slipper shoe things and gave it my best.

Ballroom dance presented me with a calculus problem that, as it turns out I was ill-suited to solve, graphing calculator, youtube videos and hours of practice notwithstanding. I guess I’m a freestyle guy. I put in the effort though. I really did. However, the combination of regimented movement and rules left me shaking my head. Apparently, the head is not the right part of the body to be shaking in the genre. All that effort and money bore a shallow harvest, and that’s putting it politely.

Freestyle dancing is a natural gift that all humans, and many pets (see youtube) have at their disposal for the purpose of celebration. Freestyle skiing emerged when lovers of the sport found that the sanctioned practices of those “judging” the events did not fit their natural outpouring of self-expression while rocketing downhill on two snow supported slabs of glass/metal composite. Freestyle poetry, and then rap found the stage when traditional structure could not contain the expression of writers who needed undefined space to share their ideas. So it is that many of the constructs we as a culture use to define excellence have been bent or broken by a new wave of creators who have stretched a newly expanding canvas for the work of self-expression.

Let’s break it down.

Free: definition
Not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes.

style: definition
A manner of doing something.

According to the combined definition: Freestyling is basically the outcome of deciding to do one’s own thing, regardless of the established norm. Freestyle expression in the aforementioned genres has survived and thrived long enough that they are now considered “established.” Once accepted, they too are subject to judgment. People enter “freestyle competitions!” Oxymoron?

I can distinctly remember “freestyle dancing” in the basement of St. Paul’s Catholic Church at an 8th-grade dance. I was dressed like an ass thanks to my complete lack of fashion sense. I was all in, having a blast. It wasn’t until the girl I was dancing with; I had used all my human courage credits to ask her, commented that I had a very “unique” style that I realized I was a pioneer. This 14-year-old Betty was making fun of me. She danced away to the next song with a football player, and that was that. Oh, judgment! For years I thought about it every time I danced sober, but unlike the dances that came soon after that incident, now I smile.

These days I freestyle in my living room, first thing in the morning. The scent of brewing coffee wafting through the house, glass of salt water and lemon in hand, tribal drums blasting over the Spotify airwaves, I dance, white boy freestyle. Sure, Beyonce won’t be tapping me for her next tour, but fuck it, why not let my awkward dance flag fly? I’m free!