Walking on the Dark Side

Enter at your own risk
Enter at your own risk

I admit, I used to be part of the ‘think happy thoughts’ crowd.   I did it all – meditation, tapping, affirmations – -I was so intrigued by the neurology, physics and spirituality of ‘your thoughts become your reality’ that I jumped on the bandwagon with no thought of asking where it was headed.

Don’t get me wrong – I believe optimism, hope and faith are strong allies when our world is turned upside down.   I can swear under oath that when I “Let Go and Let God”, miracles occur in my life that I cannot explain in any other way.

But there were also many times when it didn’t work –  putting on a happy face and thinking nice thoughts not only didn’t bring about the requisite happy spirit, but actually seemed to bring about more hardship and suffering  – –

(Remember, class, “Pain is inevitable – Suffering is optional” – – who thought that one up?!?)

And I really didn’t like that all of life’s woes started to be laid at the door of, “Well, they just weren’t thinking right – they brought misfortune upon themselves by negative vibrations.”

I started to question….

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I’m a big fan of “Whatever Works” – which means I switch bandwagons frequently and without remorse.   If it’s not working, I’ll keep looking until I find something that does.  And if walking on the dark side keeps me going without destroying my fellow man, than I’m in.

For the past few years, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend – – walking on the dark side is not a socially popular choice – acknowledging and Wallowing (I mean Wallowing!) in those emotions labeled as negative is not socially acceptable – nor is it of any worth until such time as you have Overcome and rejoin society in order to share how you defeated the beasts. At $39.95 a pop….

Which intrigues me – – I consider my tutelage under the less than pleasant aspects of my human condition some of the hardest walked, yet best rewarded parts of my journey.

And yet, I still don’t see an embracing of the ‘dark side’ by society in general.

I want to know why…

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Is it fear that the dark might draw us in and we never find our way back?    Is it a cultural pendulum swing or is it a survival instinct to avoid leaning over and looking into the abyss, for fear we fall in and never make it out?

Perhaps it’s just a ruse to sell more tranquilizers and happy pills…

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I cannot understand the resistance to explore our less than stellar sides and share about it.

Yes, I’ve been hurt by sharing too much about what I really think – but I’ve also helped another along in their dark moments and found many who consider me a safe, non-judgmental harbor – –

And those who were aided far outweigh those who tried to use my self-confessed imperfections against me…

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I personally believe there to be a wealth of information available from those who are part way through the journey – – the ones we aren’t sure are going to make it or not.

I could be wrong, but if you are that depressed and you still chose to get up and meet me for lunch, maybe I could benefit from something you have to share.

But maybe, today, I can’t bear the pain of you on top of my own pain – –

I’d just really like to see a social construct that made it okay to say, “I hear you are struggling – I’m sorry, but I’ve got enough of my own stuff that I can’t deal with you today.”

Instead of,

“You need to quit being so negative – it’s no wonder your life is crap – you need to change your attitude….”

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When I’m in pain, Lord knows I do not have nearly the patience and fortitude I should – pain wears you out, ya know…

But I still believe our walks on the dark side have gifts to bear…

That our greatest strength comes from these walks and that denying these journeys take place until we’re able to show up with our happy face again does not serve our fellow man as well as we might.

But, as always, I could be wrong – – check back in a year or two to see if  I’ve changed my mind.

Purple Dinosaurs

Never let convention...
Never let convention…
...dictate your dreams.
…dictate your dreams.

Years ago, when I worked as a waitress, I spent time with one of my co-workers who was an artist first, server second.

Oil, watercolors, sculpting clay – no matter the medium, she could bring something of beauty to life.

She was also a rather liberated soul – – I admit I’m rather naive and probably somewhat of a prude.   Sometimes her comments on life made me blush and after her initial discovery, she took delight in making me turn red as often as she could.

The first time I visited her home, what should I see on her living room coffee table but a life sized, sculpted model of a male’s, um, well, you know… important appendage….complete with wrinkled skin, veins and well, EVERYTHING.

Yes, she had to give me three beers before I could stammer out, “You Made That?!?  On purpose??”

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Tonight though, I was thinking of her because of Purple Dinosaurs.

She told me about the little soul in kindergarten that was told to draw their favorite animal.   And they did – – a big, purple dinosaur.    Front half on the front of the paper – back half on the back side – – if  you photocopied them and laid them side by side, they matched up perfectly.

A beautiful, to scale piece of art, by one who was 5 years of age.

That child nearly didn’t become an artist.

Why?

Well, you see the teacher told her it wasn’t right – she was supposed to draw the entire picture on just the front side of the paper – and draw it properly so it fit.    It didn’t matter that the paper was too small to hold her grand vision.  She was supposed to downsize her creation to fit the canvas provided by someone else.

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She always maintained we each have our own, big, beautiful, Purple Dinosaur – – and that at some point, someone, somewhere will tell us why our Purple Dinosaur is wrong, too big or not proper.

She inspired others to create their own Purple Dinosaurs – –

I’ve never forgotten that story – – and even now, nearly 30 years later, when I re-tell this story,  I also tell people how wonderfully done and realistic that sculpture on her coffee table was…even if it wasn’t purple… or extinct….

Verb of the Day – Love

loveFor as long as I can remember I’ve considered Love to be a verb.

An action, a choosing – –

Not some magical thing that shows up and takes me or someone else by storm nor some separate entity that somehow appears to make everything all right.

So my favorite quote about Love should not surprise anyone who knows me:

“Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” ~ Mother Teresa

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Verbs take energy – – they ask for some kind of input from us, rather than a passive ‘sitting here waiting for Good Fortune to show up” attitude.

And so, every day, I must choose to Love or Not.

I’ve found that in low-energy cycles, it’s not so much about not being able to Love at all, as being very particular about what Loving I do – –

Child-Units and Animals come first – – I thought it was a good idea to collect them, so now, it’s my responsibility to Love them, whether I’m tired or not.

Everyone else, well, that’s up for grabs.

I wonder if they can live with the fact that I’m too tired to Love them, right now.  Is all the the Loving I did previously count for anything?  Sort of like a savings account for the rainy days?

On the flip side, if someone appears too tired to Love me, I tend to pull out one of my favorite memories of when they Loved me well – – – the patient listening, flat tire change, heavy lifting or hospital sitting they did when I wasn’t too tired to Love, but too Distracted by my own issues to notice I was being Loved.

The day they showed up with supper in a bag – shoveled the walk without being asked – held my hand while I lay in a hospital bed.

Oh, I have been so well Loved so often – – I can’t wait to have the energy to well-Love others…

But for now, Loving means choosing those small things I can do and doing them as often as I can.

I’m trying to learn how to love without getting tired – –

It’s been a learning curve, for sure…

The Wounded Healer

"My many facets appear only when Light shines through me"
“My many facets appear only when Light shines through me”

Spring is coming and that means soon, the annual Metaphysical Fair in Colorado Springs will once again grace my calendar of events to think about attending.

I go nearly every year.   Make the rounds, buy some lucky crystal or stone and have a few readings done.

Not because I believe any of this is going to change my life – rather, I go because it’s an awesome opportunity to engage in one of my favorite hobbies: People Watching.

It’s also a great way to spend an entertaining afternoon and sometimes, those who perform readings for me touch on areas that I knew existed, but hadn’t really thought about from the perspective they presented  –

Like, the year I was dubbed, “Wounded Healer”

It was not the first time an intuitive had mentioned the Healer path to me – – I figure, we are all healers in one way or another – – we each have the power to lift up or stomp down the fellow beings that come within our sphere of influence – so being told I should be true to my Healer spirit doesn’t incite me to go sign up for Acupuncture school.

Rather, I regard it as a reminder that I should do more lifting and less stomping…

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You should know, I’m rather cynical and perhaps, mean-spirited in my approach to having a ‘reading’ done – – I don’t set out to be a jerk, but I do approach these readings with some hard-nosed beliefs.

First, if you want me to believe you can visit my being on the astral plain and tell me about my past lives, fine – I believe.   Therefore, I should not have to do anything but sit quietly while you journey to grab the all important info and bring it back to me for the agreed on price.

This means, when you ask me, “What would you like to know about today?” I reply, “Why don’t we talk about whatever comes up for you?  I’m open.”

Some in my circle say I’m meaner than that guy who writes for “Skeptic” magazine…I don’t intend to be, I freely give my name, date of birth or whatever to the astrologers and numerologists – they need that info for their tools of the trade to work….I also let strangers hold my hand, if the lines mean something to them, hey, I’m all ears…

But if someone can read minds, etc, why do I have to say anything?

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Couple of years ago, I’m walking around the perimeter of the hall (readers/intuitives on the perimeters, products for sale in the middle is the standard layout for the fair).

I’ve walked the entire perimeter twice – – trying to decide just which intuitive I’d like to visit – (limited budget, I can’t do them all).

I’ve noticed a young man each time I go by – – a simple card table and two chairs – and parallel to that, six folding chairs for those who want a reading to sit on while waiting their turn.

The guest chair at the table and the following six are all empty.   He is sitting with his chin on his hand – gazing past the busyness of the fair into further realms and doesn’t look too happy or enthused.

(I used to purchase booth space at craft fairs until it became too pricey to do so – – I know just a tad about booth space prices, and for this annual event, I imagine they are in the clouds – – )

So I decide to ask him for a reading – more out of a breaking heart at seeing his empty waiting line than any internal nudgings saying, “Yes – this is where I’ll get some answers”

Besides, I’ll feel good knowing I offset the booth space fee, even if it’s only by just a smidge.  Never pass up an opportunity to feel good, says I.

I approach and he is instantly alert.   Welcomes me, I drop my cash and sit down.

What do I wish to know, he asks.

I tell him whatever comes up for him, that he thinks pertains to me, will do just fine.

He looks shocked for a minute, but then nods assent and proceeds to think deeply and ponder the Universe….

“You must understand you do not have to be healed before you choose to help others.   The Wounded Healer’s path is not an easy one, but it is the path all healers walk.   They have suffered and through their suffering, they learn how to help others.    You think you are being ‘good’ by waiting to share your gifts until such time as you are somehow perfected – when your life is a success and you have overcome your own failings, as you see them.    But that is not true – you are injuring yourself by continuing to hide that which you are born to be.”

“Your current job is okay and it does allow you opportunities to aide others, but you know that the bulk of it is not what you enjoy and it’s time to make a change, before you become ill.”

“Quit waiting for perfection before you deign to help others.   You can help, now.”

Hmmm…..

One of the more interesting readings I’ve ever received.   Gave me a lot to think about and I did change from being office manager at an acupuncture clinic to pursue writing.

I really, really loved talking to everyone, being the listening ear for those in pain and being on the fringes of  their healing journey – –

I really, really hated filing, insurance companies and Excel spreadsheets….

Then life got in the way, gave me a few more wounds to heal from…and I still haven’t really put myself out there in any healing way – –

I wonder if he will be at the fair this year?   I didn’t go last year and didn’t see him the year before that – –  wonder if he knows that of all the readings I’ve ever had, his stuck with me the most?

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I have no grandiose dreams of being a ‘healer’ per se, through alternative health concepts or psychology, or becoming an MD, and yet, the words he said come to me, time and again.

I love learning about new self-care techniques – reading, researching and writing about tools, techniques, what worked and what flopped.   Perhaps there is something to this…

And when I heal enough, maybe I’ll investigate…

Old habits die hard…

A Fence or An Ambulance

My latest Cliff-Jumping musing and resulting comments reminded me of another of my favorites from Best Loved Poems of the American People, compiled by Hazel Felleman.

This being one Dad had me memorize and recite explains perfectly my ensuing social and political choices – – – Nutrition over Medication, Thriving Economy over Welfare and Crime, Passionate Debate over Mud-slinging Divisiveness…

Yup, I learned it all while reciting poetry for my Dad.

A Fence or An Ambulance

by Joseph Malins
‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence around the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became brimful of pity
For those who slipped over that dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.

“For the cliff is all right, if you’re careful,” they said,
“And, if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much,
As the shock down below when they’re stopping.”
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would these rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old sage remarked: “It’s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at it’s source all this mischief,” cried he,
“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally:
If the cliff we will fence we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.”

“Oh, he’s a fanatic,” the others rejoined,
“Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! We’ll support them forever.
Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?”

But a sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,
And while others philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling,
“To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best
To prevent other people from falling.”
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.

Devil’s Advocate

If you follow my blog, my recent post, Cliff Jumping may have seemed to contradict what I said in Heads I Lose, Tails You Win, in regards to my stated desires of pruning judgmental personages from my life and then turning around and admitting that I often try to explain myself to the satisfaction of others.

I’m an A1 Devil’s Advocate – take any side of an issue and I’ll take the other, just to see where this mental game leads us.   I do so with myself and if you approach me with an idea, followed by anything other than an absolute statement of, “I’m doing this, ain’t no one stopping me and I don’t care what the neighbors think”, I’ll be happy to play the part for you, too.

Play to your strengths, is my motto and taking the opposite side to help you make a decision is one I think I’m good at.

I never ask anyone’s opinion if I already know I’m going forth and doing no matter what they say anyways – why waste their time?  And isn’t it insulting to ask someone their opinion when you know if it doesn’t correspond exactly with yours, you’re going to ignore it anyways?

So I foolishly think if someone asks what I think of planned action, they are searching for more perspectives or information before making their final decision – and I’m happy to delve into every perspective I can think of, especially the ones I don’t like – – those are where our comfort zones and ignorance butt up against an opportunity to expand our horizons – so I spend time in territories I don’t always like, just to make sure I haven’t missed a gem of opportunity.

Hence, I have the reputation of picking fights….

Yes – it surprised me, too.

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I’ve learned from my own experience there is always another story that would serve me better than the one I’m currently telling.  Sometimes I’m ready for an upgrade and sometimes, I just need the time and space to wallow in my current one – – I don’t want to miss any jewels by racing through a less-than-pleasant chapter.

Here lately, I’ve been playing Devil’s Advocate regarding the work I’ve been doing with the Anger portion of my grieving journey.   For now, my story is still, “Anger is sometimes what keeps me from laying down and giving up – – from giving way to Apathy.   So for now, Anger is the healthiest choice for me.”

I’m playing Devil’s Advocate for myself because there is not much support in our current culture for Anger.  I believe it to be one of our greatest survival instincts, but the reality I live in supports everything it can to suppress, ignore or medicate the emotion away.

There’s an insidious myth that slinks around the “Self-Help” world that if only you can become enlightened enough, you won’t ever experience anger – because you will see the perfection in everything and hence, no reason to be angry.

I call it a myth, because I believe that to be dangerous thinking – it leads to apathy and non-compassionate behavior regarding broken systems we’ve built, are maintaining to the great detriment of many and need to change, but instead choose to blame the Universe for.

You’re free to check back in a year or two to see if I’ve changed my tune.

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As for Anger – I’m not talking about the irritations that occur over daily things – like running late, traffic jams, spilled coffee and crying children in the movie theatre – that moment in time where you say, “WTF?!?” and then move on, with little or no residuals.

What I am talking about is the Anger that comes from deep within – the messenger that says, “This isn’t good for you – – this must change or you must leave.  You are about to be destroyed – let me help save you.”

That kind of anger sometimes comes from single moment in time – one event that kicks all your survival responses into immediate overdrive.

More often, it comes after years of placing ourselves in unhealthy lifestyles, jobs and relationships.    It creeps up, trying to protect us, trying to pull us away from the lion’s den – steadily compiling a little more strength each time we suppress it, vowing that next time, it will be heard and acknowledged.

Until the day we realize we are angry all the time -that spilled coffee and losing a loved one get the same explosive blast of Anger.

At that point,  we must choose between being Anger incarnate or heed its’ advice.

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I’m not done with Anger, quite yet.    I’m still learning.   Now that I’m listening – Anger, like Grief, is nicer about the times and places he chooses to show up – – we spend less time blowing our top in public places and more in conversation while I sit in the comfort of my own home with no one around to be hurt by the resulting shedding process.

I’ve also found those who have had their own walk with Anger and now they sometimes hold my hand and offer their perspective when Anger shared some pearl of wisdom with me I don’t quite get.

They play Devil’s Advocate for me, because they know that’s what I’m asking for.

Soon, I’m hoping Grief and Anger are satisfied I’ve gotten the main points I needed to.   I live for the day they will take a vacation, because they trust me not to burn down the house while they’re gone.

They’ll leave emergency funds on the counter and say it’s okay to have a few friends over –  – they’re proud of me and they can trust me.

I’m going to call Joy, Faith and Hope first – – they’re always a fun crew to hang with…

Cliff Jumping

cliffjumping

I’m really into researching, learning from the past, trying not to repeat the same mistakes mankind has made since we first became aware of our own mortality, etc.

In short, I like to KNOW.

I’m also highly cynical of the social construct I was born into. I have enough information crammed into my gray matter to point out what, historically, happens when any one or thing has too much power, influence or blind respect thrown his/her/it’s way. I’m also enough of a history buff to understand today’s Facts are often tomorrow’s Follies.

So on the flip-side, I’m not totally mesmerized by Experts, statistical data or scientific studies.

Therefore, I continually walk the narrow path wedged in between “Looking before I leap” and “Jumping off the cliff to see if I can indeed fly.”

It’s not always an easy journey.

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Because of my previous obsession with researching in order to not repeat mistakes, my natural desire to ‘fix things’ coupled with my passionate nature to boldly go where no one even wanted to visit, I find myself with a lot of internal conflict at times.

I also find myself spending enormous amounts of time explaining to others my behavior, actions and ideas which, from their viewpoint, indicates, dysfunction, selfishness, procrastination (hey, why don’t you join in the game – pick a character trait with a negative attributes and fill in the blank….)

(Granted, I could choose to not explain, but while I’m okay skipping along to the beat of my own drummer, things tend to get a little more complicated for me when others in my circle of loved ones actually prefer flute music…In other words, there are those folks we try just a little bit harder for in the areas of communication, understanding and selfless acts.)

That time trying to explain my idea to their satisfaction, in my mind, would have been better spent figuring out how we can design a car or home energy system to run off mosquitoes and bind weed.

It could happen, if we put our minds to it! I have that much faith in human ingenuity.

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I will say if you decide you really like the feeling of jumping off the cliff and falling/flying – there’s often a bevvy of people around you that for whatever their own reasons, will do their best to dissuade you.

There are those who wish to install a fence at the edge, so you are safe, despite your foolishness.

Others will smugly wait at the bottom with the ambulance, confident they will be able to say “I told you so” before you actually die from your fall, all the while posturing themselves as your rescuer.

Others are more than willing to give you the safety-straps, glider, bungee cords, lawn-chair with helium balloons attached to it, or any other of the various tools they used while jumping off the cliff. They didn’t die, but they also didn’t really find out if they could fly, either, did they?

A percentage of folks will vote for shutting the whole trail down, because it’s just too dangerous – that beautiful valley below is luring folks to their death!  They will insist you are too stupid and must be saved from yourself.

And once in awhile, you may run into someone who would really like to push you off the cliff, because they believe their world will be easier if you just fly away or disappear, at least for awhile.

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Jumping off the cliff without knowing if you’re going to fly or not can be a scary proposition – yet, in small ways, we all do it everyday – the minute something becomes important enough to us, we cast fear and danger aside and take the leap.

Saving our loved one from an oncoming car, starting a new business or being audacious enough to plant a zone 6 perennial while living in zone 5 are all examples of cliff-jumping.

There are those who will say the above examples have nothing in common because the risks are different – I say, keeping your eyes alert to any opportunity to jump off the cliff is the only way to live. I will also point out, for each example there are experts who will tell you what you should do and what the statistical chances are for success – if you read long enough, you will find contradictory information, all coming from experts.

That’s time you could have spent designing an engine to run off used tissues!

Life is risky. Each moment can contain chaos or beauty, danger or reward – and more often than not, each moment contains all of the above.

We can legislate, regulate, pontificate and beautificate (yes, I just made that word up) and no matter how we attempt defy death and look good while doing it, we’ll still have the urge to jump off the cliff, figuratively or literally, at some point in our lives.

Whether driven by despair, wanderlust or sheer boredom, we each take risks, big and small, during our journey. And while we should not be arrogant enough to take risks with the life of others, not risking ourselves, ever, means we’ve become what’s known as “The Walking Dead”.

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Somewhere along the journey, we figure out that having a friend who says, “Hmm. Interesting idea. If it works – good for you. If it doesn’t – I have a first aid kit,” is worth more than a thousand expert opinions.

For myself, I’m getting to like the idea of flying more and more. I chafe at the fences, danger signs and well-meaning, “but such and such could happen” dialogues – -as I think anyone who is smart enough to recapture their youth before it’s totally gone does.

I don’t need to look young, but man, I want to feel young until the day I die.

I’m tired of turning my ankle on the narrow, rocky pathway that keeps me safe. And I’m not convinced the path is as safe as I’ve been led to believe.

I’m longing after that grassy meadow in valley – see the one? right over there, near the stream – why not fly over to take a look-see?

I’m also getting better at surrounding myself with cheerleaders who own first aid kits.

I’m hedging my bets as best I can.

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Now when someone tells me in one way or another to go jump off a cliff, I smile and say, “I just might do that”.