Transience

shutterstock_1171333627 web

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.

 

The Composition Book

A road map of departures. Stories of ‘leaving’ silently scrawled while the rest of the house slept. Notes left as insurance against consternation in case someone woke to wonder where I was. Last thoughts left behind in case, god forbid, some unforeseen circumstance extinguished the hope of a safe return.

The practice of scribbling these notes has spanned many years. Though this ritual began when the boys were young and more situationally fragile, it has become a tradition in our home. Its use is a conscious act to make clear that which would otherwise have to be left to imagination.

The composition book had been rescued from landfill retirement at the end of some forgotten school year and repurposed in the role of a portable bulletin board. At its most useful it lays on the battered hardwood floors of our partially updated 1950 cape cod, in the hallway between the two old wooden bedroom doors of my beloved sons leaving answers, just in case there are questions.

IMG_3201

 

Raising a Healthy World

My Boys

It all begins with raising a healthy child I suppose. A child with a well-balanced sense of right and wrong, the ability to care, commit, engage and admit when they are wrong, and an understanding of reasonable boundaries for starters. These seem fitting attributes for one charged with the making of a new world. Where will this metaphorical child look for cues?

Caregivers/parents set the tone for every coming act on the global stage. Every parental behavior, no matter how small creates a butterfly effect that sends ripples through yet unwritten history. Therefore our responsibility as adults is not merely to our children but to an entire generation and the generations which they, in turn, will bring to pass. Our responsibility that is, if we have a legitimate interest in our legacy; our gift, or blight on the years to come.

“Respect your elders.” The popular expression makes my stomach turn. While I do believe respect is an important lesson I do not believe it can be instilled in a ‘one-way street’ fashion. In my experience, children learn far more from our actions than our ‘teachings.’ If we treat a child with respect, they come to understand it’s true nature, and more importantly its value. Seeing is believing.

“Do as I say, not as I do,” another gem. While listeners are sometimes hard to come by, mimics abound in the realm of childhood. The essence of a healthy future is founded on the understanding that “do as I do” is the curriculum far more likely to take hold.

Leading by example then is the forge on which tomorrow is wrought. What imperative does that place on this generation of caregivers? Will we pass on that which we learned as children? Were those lessons ideal? Are they all we have, the best we can do? Will we even know we are repeating the sins of the father or mother upon the son or daughter? Handing the wheel to the platitude “When I was a kid…” isn’t necessarily good enough is it? If it were, the psychotherapeutic business would not be enjoying its meteoric and seemingly endless growth trajectory.

Self-respect starts at home, as does healthy self-appreciation. These positive self-image elements spread like ‘good weeds’ from those who possess them. If as a child you were deprived of the installation of these qualities the accession from childhood to the role of parenting provides an opportunity to break the cycle, glitch the matrix, to rewrite the future. It takes effort, focus and commitment to step outside the negative experiences that shaped our collective past, but on the wings of counting to ten and choosing to be active rather than reactive it is the path to a legacy we can be proud of.

Remembering what it was like to be a child, the newness of the world in the absence of experience and accumulated wisdom is the bridge that allows for patience and the acceptance of childish behavior. How the hell else are they supposed to act for god’s sake? I submit that the showing of respect, the looking for the positive and offering affirmation, setting clear, reasonable boundaries, the giving of hugs and speaking the words “I love you” as often as humanly possible are the keys to achieving the sacred mandate of raising of a healthy world.

Namaste

The​ Pulling of One’s Own Weight

Oarweb

See a need and fill it. Intuitive enough in a vacuum. Wants and needs form a never-ending parade in our minds, a Mardi gras atmosphere of self-serving, self-indulgent possibilities. When we leave the vacuum of self, entering the stream of shared needs the question becomes, will we rise up and put our all toward the task at hand?

Being social creatures, we find ourselves surrounded by communally shared challenges and opportunities. We function in teams, as families, communities, and colleagues. Looking back, most of us remember standing in a line on the playground as two designated captains selected teammates for schoolyard kickball. Getting picked first meant one thing, getting picked last meant something entirely different.  Friendships and cliques aside the factor determining one’s rank in the choosing ultimately came down to ‘value.’ That value was understood to be ‘what can a player contribute to the goal of winning!’

As we age, we leave the playground behind to find ourselves facing new games with higher stakes. Whether we were kickball all-stars, or deemed liabilities and relegated to the status of reluctantly chosen last round draft picks (your’s truly) becomes irrelevant as the games we play now are rarely decided by athletic ability alone. In adulthood, teams rise and fall on far more nuanced criteria.  

Some people seem to be born with an abundance of talent in one or more areas. Others of us seem to have been absent on the day that stuff was handed out. What to do if we find ourselves in the latter category? Watch “Rudy” for starters. Being of ‘value’ to those with whom we toil is no longer a simple matter of how the cards were dealt. Instead, it is a combination of what we have and what we choose to do with it.  

Picture four people in a metaphorical rowboat. It could instead be a tech startup, an operating room, a family or a fast food restaurant; but for visual simplicity let’s stay with the rowboat. Each team member has an oar in hand, two rowers on the left, two on the right. The scene could be a white water river challenge, a collegiate competition rowing final or a desperate escape from a sinking ship. In any of these cases, the best outcome would be achieved via equal focus and effort. Such mutual intention allows for the fastest movement in the direction of the goal at hand, defined by the craft traveling in a swift, straight line toward its objective. Our teammates rely on us to give our all, as we, in turn, rely on them for the same. If the boat veers from this course, turning or spinning to one side or the other, dashing the hope for team success; most often the missing ingredient is fortitude, ‘the pulling of one’s own weight.’

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.

Mindfulness​ Practice

Yin Yang Cell Phone

Contentment is a bore. Our precious human drama finds no safe harbor in the realm of enlightenment.  Not surprisingly its mindfulness that somehow slips our minds.

Imagine the tedium of mindfully avoiding the endless stream of dross that greets us daily, masquerading as meaningful. Delicious, sensational, insidiously addictive Drama! Social media supported, and family approved. Oh, how I love to pretend I don’t crave its corrosive company. I disavow it with my words then hold it close when I think no one is looking.

“Mindfulness practice,” two words that won’t mean much until I stop checking my damn phone every ninety seconds.  Ugh!

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.