Redemption

Some closing remarks to balance out my previous post, I tried, but it’s raining …. not funny, per se, but hopefully a more celebratory approach to my favorite season.
The rain didn’t last much longer, as is usually the case here. But it did drag on long enough to make the days that have followed seem even more magical.
Yes, ‘death and loss’ are all around in theory. Trees are losing their leaves, flowers are no longer blooming, and my futile effort to rescue the bees struggling to take flight continues.
But these things still don’t represent Fall to me. Fall, for me, is perfect days when the air is crisp, but the sun still provides enough warmth to keep me craving to be outside. It’s watching the leaves slowly transform into a stunning display of colors, making their previous shades of green seem dull and ordinary. It’s mums and pumpkin spice, warm sweaters and crisp apples, hot soup and fuzzy slippers.
And it’s not summer.
Truly, the only thing I think is tragic about Fall is that it’s departure always comes too soon. I suppose that is what makes it all the more beautiful. I know these things I love are fleeting. I hear the crunch of the leaves that have already made their descent under my feet. I add more and more layers as the sun provides less and less warmth. And although there is an undercurrent of melancholy that threatens to undermine the beauty of the present moment, it’s kept at bay because each day the colors of my favorite tree are more brilliant than the day before.
So is this death, loss? Or is it perhaps redemption?
The season that came before is something I so desperately want to leave behind. No matter how beautiful the summer was, for me it was hell. Each day bled into the next, all the same, all filled with a sense of dread for the next to arrive. Because I knew I would feel as terrible as the day before.
Until that first morning when I walked outside and felt a subtle chill in the air, and with it, a tinge of something that had seemed to evaporate with the heat of summer. Hope. I felt some semblance of Hope. Change was inevitable. And summer was over.
This year, the arrival of Fall was swift. Temperatures dropped and the leaves took their cue, transforming into colors like I’ve never seen. I had no choice but to finally look up, the convergence of seasons revealing the gifts that I simply couldn’t see in the absence of perspective- the warmth of the sun on my skin, the changing colors of the leaves that will soon be gone, the fragrance of summer flowers still lingering as I walk by. Finally, a brief and welcomed reminder that this pain is fleeting and will eventually be replaced with something beautiful… if I choose to see it as such.
Redemption? I can’t say for sure just yet. But I do know this: you will never see colors as brilliant as the first ones you see when you emerge from the dark.
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I hate you because I love you (published in Elephant Journal)

I hate to inundate you with hate here, but I had no idea this was published in Elephant Journal back in August. I hate you because I love you

Promise, no more hating after this!!! (And god, the picture is a bit dramatic… no say in that department!)

love

Dedication to an unassuming prophet

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Desert Curmudgeon, an unassuming prophet, as I affectionately call him. He is a writer, a philosopher, an intellectual, a humanitarian, a seeker of truth, and what I consider to be genius in motion.

I am posting this because I think his words need to be heard, and because sometimes we need a little boost, and he gave me one of the most meaningful, heart-warming compliments I think anyone could in regards to my writing. He shared with me that my words inspired his in Warrior Mind.

The compliment:

“For another take on a similar theme, please check out this profound post by Brooke at A Gypsy’s Tale: Masters Of Our Fate. The post you just read would not have materialized without her”

Wait, what? I told our Incurable Dreamer , another one of my blog heroes, it is the equivalent of Einstein telling me I I’m smart…beyond. When I saw that he had credited me with inspiring him to write THAT, it felt pretty much the same as when I saw my name as an author in the Washington Post. Call it ego or a somewhat dysfunctional need for recognition, (both are true), but it made me deliriously happy.

So, please read his words. To say they will make you think is a gross understatement. To say they will inspire you, even more so.

My reaction is below. A lot to take in on a Sunday morning, but in light of all the madness that has happened the past few weeks, perhaps a bit of reflection and perspective will help.

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My Response:

Jesus. I don’t even know where to begin here (Jesus, might not be the best place to start). I have never read anything so unbelievably profound and enlightened, yet accessible and pragmatic…and impossible and maddening. Because I agree with him on so many levels, although could never articulate it so eloquently.

More times than not, it is our fears- of rejection, of pain, of being alone- that drive our behavior, our actions, our “ignorance”. And empathy, god, it just seems like this word is almost antiquated. The ideologies that get thrust upon us on such a colossal scale, shoved down our throats, reiterated at such a rate that they not only become our modus operandi, they drive are words and actions in a way that doesn’t even seem to be on a conscious level. We react, we judge, we declare truths based on ideas that we never took the time to question.

Therein lies the tragic flaw, right? Digging deep into our psyches, questioning what is supposed to be the foundation of our existence, the constants, ‘the truths’, is terrifying and painful and an inconvenient distraction from comfort, as mundane and unfulfilling as that comfort might be. I think this makes empathy next to impossible, unless the recipient of it is a person or people who sync up with our established truths.

But I will say this. I don’t believe the search for our tribe, for finding those people we connect with, love and who love us, is necessarily a hindrance to becoming the warriors we inherently are. I actually think it can be what fuels this process. Loving someone completely, accepting and celebrating their flaws, I believe teaches us what empathy truly is. I think it can also ground us in a way that gives us the strength to ‘go to battle’ and the courage to do this, not with traditional weapons, but armed with the capacity to look beyond the tactics of those who seek to inflict pain on others and see the origins of what motivates them to do so. I think if we have experienced love in the truest, purest sense, we can empathize with the fact that everyone, at the end of the day, truly just wants to experience love. Isn’t this the universal thread that unites us? So many are denied this or don’t see that they are worthy of it. Perhaps committing these horrific acts comes from a belief that they will attain love and acceptance with their actions in the name of whomever, whether it is in this realm, or in a world they believe lies beyond.

Please be very, very clear, I am not in anyway justifying these acts. I believe the perpetrators have swallowed someone else’s truth. Regardless of what you believe, causing any other being pain is anything but ignorant, it is the antithesis of humanity, it is the antithesis of love. And yes, I hate them for it. I am human, after all, and I am an empath by nature. But, meeting them with aggression, killing innocent people, dropping bombs on countries and annihilating the very ones who could counter and overcome those who have forgotten their essence, its asinine and clearly ineffective, to say the very least.

So what do we do? We go within, as our author so beautifully concluded. We start with discovering our truth, what makes our hearts full and gives our lives purpose. We treat our tribe with the love, compassion and kindness that we so desperately want to receive in return. And if we don’t get these things in return, we try to understand that they are fighting their own battles.

Most importantly, we continue to fight our own and try like hell to love ourselves in the process. We start there and hope that one day our intentions, our benevolent actions, will reach our fellow budding warriors who have forgotten who they are and why they are here, why we are all here….to embrace or inner warrior, to fight for our truth, and above all, to love.

The Arena

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”                                         – Nelson Mandela

I was listening to the Tim Ferriss Show (which I cannot recommend highly enough) while he was interviewing Brene Brown, an extraordinary woman who was addressing what she believes courage to be.

It got me thinking about what courage really is, exactly, what its components are, why it seems to be inherent in some and so difficult for others, and why it seems to be inseparable from a life fully lived.

Think of your heroes or those whom you admire, for example. Did they get where they are because their lives were comfortable? Were there no obstacles that they had to overcome? Didn’t these obstacles build the strength, character, and courage needed to rise above them? My heroes definitely had to overcome obstacles. My heroes were fighters and warriors, audacious and unyielding. I admire them precisely because they had the courage to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges in their lives. They took risks. They followed their passion. They fought for it. They fell hard. And they got back up and they kicked ass. Our heroes are our heroes because they were courageous.

Brown realized that she was holding herself back. She was scared- of what people would think, of failing, of exposing herself, of admitting her weaknesses, of making herself vulnerable. For most of her life, she sat safely on the sidelines, looking down into the arena, waiting- waiting for her chance to fight the battle, to conquer what was staring at her from below. She did this until she couldn’t do it anymore. Her comfort was killing her soul. She wanted to immerse herself in her fear so she had no other choice but to conquer it. So she leaped. And she conquered.  And she is often uncomfortable.

Most of you have heard this; it is not that the courageous don’t feel fear. They just decide that it is worth risking whatever it takes to overcome that fear. They can no longer endure watching from above, paralyzed by it, or worse, complacent and comfortable in it.

It is that first leap that is the hardest. What if you are defeated? What if you fail? What if people shun you, judge you, reject or hate you.

Chances are, they might. But if they do, does this mean you failed?

To the contrary, you did what only the brave decide to do. Most likely, they will respect you more. You took the risk. You refused to live vicariously through others or to live a life that is not authentic. Yes, they might shun you, judge you, or reject you at first. But those reactions are out of jealousy or their own fears. They don’t yet have the courage to do what you did.

But those who truly love you will celebrate your courage, even if it makes them uncomfortable. Most likely, you will inspire them to get out of their comfort zones, to live their lives instead of watching others live theirs.

So, which is worse? Trying and failing, or trying and actually living?

I think there is another important component to courage. Faith. Not blind faith or believing in something that was fed to you. Your truth. I think to have courage, you have to have absolute faith in yourself – your beliefs, your dreams, and your convictions- even when everything around you seems to contradict all of those. It takes courage to have faith, and it takes faith to have courage. Without faith and without courage, fear and doubt will decide your fate for you.

Andrew Sullivan summed it up in his article, The Madness of King Donald.

“Faith is a result, in the end, of living, of seeing your previous certainties crumble and be able to rebuild, shakily, on new grounds. It’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery, and often inseparable from crippling, perpetual doubt.  A life of faith is therefore not real unless it is riddled with despair.”

Basically, we have to let ourselves feel to the point that the pain is so great, the perpetual doubt so pervasive, that we have no other choice but to dig deep into the well, find our truth, and act- boldly, decisively, and courageously, even if we doubt our capacity, even if we are terrified of what will come next.

To bring this down a notch and apply it to our day-to-day, we have to do things that are uncomfortable to get where we want to be. From approaching our boss for a raise to running a marathon to leaving a relationship that no longer serves us. How can we achieve great things, experience great love, live the life that we want if we won’t take a risk and act?  We won’t. It’s that simple. It’s scary as hell, but it’s that simple.

Sullivan quotes Polish dissident, Adam Michnik.

“In the life of every honorable man comes a difficult moment … when the simple statement that this is black and that is white requires paying a high price.” 

The ones who take this difficult moment by the proverbial horns, rise above it. Because there, in the difficulty and discomfort, is opportunity. There, in that moment, is the chance to transcend this place that no longer serves us.

My suggestion?  Jump into the fucking arena. Face you demon, get your ass kicked, fall to your knees. Then get back up, and you will rise above.

Or don’t. It is clearly your choice.

You can certainly stay sitting safely on the sidelines. It is much more comfortable there. That is what I hear, anyway.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”                                – Theodore Roosevelt

 

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Picture: Accessories. Artist: Ionut Caras.  http://carasdesign.com/

The Madness of King Trump by Andrew Sullivan: Read more at: nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/andrew-sullivan-the-madness-of-king-donald.html

Link for podcasts: The Tim Ferriss Show: http://tim.blog/podcast/

Interview with Brene Brown: #207

 

 

On a lighter note: a bright, bright light

Lucky for all of you, I woke up today, lighter. Can’t exactly say why (although I have a good idea spending six hours talking to one my nearest, dearest, Susie Chandler, had something to do with it). But it feels like a fog has been lifted, a bit of hope restored. I think acceptance has finally taken hold and I’m truly ready to move on. I know there will most likely be some bouts of regression, but I’ll take it for now. (Although, the coffee shop decided to play Stevie Nick’s greatest hits. Not helpful, but I’ve made it through 3 songs with no meltdowns. I think we are in the clear).

So, I decided to write about Biscuit today…truly the love of my life. He has been by my side for the past 8ish years. Even when I would go on my extended wanderings abroad, we would be right back in our groove day two. I usually had to get through one day of the cold shoulder, but then we were good. He’s a bit of a pouter like his mom.

Again, clearly biased, but he truly is special. Since the first time we took him out and about, he has always attracted attention from all sorts. We would take him everywhere we went and almost without fail, we would look outside to see a whole family posing next to him for a photo, or see someone sitting next to him, loving him up for longer than what would usually be the norm. One time we looked out the window to see a man living on the streets curled right up next to him sleeping.

Probably my favorite story was when I was writing at a coffee shop in Denver. Biscuit was outside attracting his usual crowd on the patio. I walked out to find a man sitting next to him, clearly drunk, clearly without a home, talking to him and stroking his head. I asked him if he was hungry and he promptly requested a bagel with eggs and sausage. I came back out with his requested entrée to find Biscuit completely drenched…and it reeked. “Um, sir…did you maybe pour something on my dog”? “Oh, yeah”, he beams, enthusiastically pulling out an empty bottle of Wild Turkey. This dear man had poured an entire bottle of Wild Turkey on the Biscuit. “It’s really good for his skin and his coat”,  he assured me. I couldn’t decide whether to yell at him or laugh. I mean, think about it, for this man that bottle of Wild Turkey was a precious thing. And he sacrificed it to moisturize my dog’s skin. I feigned annoyance, handed him his breakfast, thanked him for his kind gesture, and took my very wet, very content puppy to get a bath.

Only the Biscuit.

He is a bright, bright light that has the patience of a saint. The part I hate is that time is his enemy, as well. As I slowly get my strength back, he is slowly losing his. But to see his resilience, his spirit, his smile that is ever present, even when his body is failing him. There is no question his presence has changed the world, at least it has mine.

Good morning dear Brooke. I hope you slept ok and got back safe and sound. It was so good to see you and hear your struggles in person, vs phone/internet. You are such a bright, bright light. Truly, you are. So smart, such passion, and simply strong. I am honored to have you as a friend. I hope you realize that your presence can change this world. Time is your enemy of sorts. You need it to happen now, but that is not the plan. We need you to have the fucking patience of a saint. Whatever that means. But keep fighting, maybe eat a little more and know that you make a difference. I love you.   –  Susiebiscuit-027