codependence · friendship · surrender

The Heart Cell does not judge the Liver Cell.

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In true ‘Universe’ fashion, my commitment to give up worrying about others has been put to immediate and raging test.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve formed a friendship with a now 91-year old gentleman because of my work on overcoming my debting thinking and behavior.  Together with another person (ostensibly) committed to the same, the three of us meet on a monthly basis to review Dennis’s financial situation and suggest actions for him to take.  Dennis is one of the sweetest people, a trumpet player in a veteran’s band, a coronet player in another band, and perpetually tan from his daily sun-lamp “health” regimen.

Dennis is also totally drowning in debting behavior.  He lives in a cramped, cluttered illegal studio/porch behind his two-story house, where he’s rented 2 units to other people — one of whom recently called the fire inspector and has created a chaos of tasks Dennis “must” complete in order to keep his house.

Over and again during these 2 years, there’s always been something that Dennis must pay for or a crisis he must overcome.  And, diligent compatriot that I am, I attempt to mitigate the advice he’s receiving from the other member of the triad (“pack up everything and move to Bali;” “escape the tax man by moving to Mexico”) and from his own brain (“I have to take down all the paintings in the foyer because my tenant wants me to;” “She wants a gold door, so I have to pay for it”).

When we began, Dennis had $24,000 in savings; now he has less than $5k.

And when he called me yesterday to give me the update on his situation in advance of our monthly meeting, and told me about this freaking gold door situation, I kind of lost my cool.

… well, not kind of.

I became enraged that people are taking advantage of him; that this tenant now feels she can play him for a piggybank because she can “call the fire chief” on him.  And I feel enraged that he’s allowing this, that he’s allowing spiders to spin webs in his head and breed lies.

I feel angry, … and I feel powerless.  And sometimes when I feel those things, particularly when I feel that an injured person is being harmed, I try to control it ALL.  What the tenant does, what Dennis does, what the other member of the triad does… I try to make it all better for Dennis because it’s obviously and clearly not going “well.”

… however, more to the point, it’s merely not going the way I want it.  For all I truly know, this is exactly how it should unfold.  Maybe Dennis is supposed to move into an assisted living program and forfeit his home to these mongers.  …

But whatever it is that he is or is not supposed to be doing, my ire does not help anything.  It makes him defensive, me offensive, and doesn’t help move the needle forward.

I am powerless over his situation, and judging him only serves to make me ill.

I am not his Higher Power.  I can’t read the runes.  I can’t make him change his thinking from these behaviors — and this is a hard fact for me to swallow: I cannot change others’ minds to act in ways I think they should.

And so, also in true Universe form, this morning’s Oprah/Deepak meditation emphasized the following sentence:  I find success without judging others or myself.

I am in a middle place, where I haven’t yet relinquished this habit of judging, caretaking, controlling and saving others, and where I haven’t yet found a replacement way of being.

This is “okay for now,” as my bf says, because I do at least know that wherever is next will have more dignity and humility — for me, and for those I love.

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determination · fortitude · health · life · recovery · spirituality · surrender

Snookered.

See, the thing about being saved is that it’s not an
absolution.  You aren’t swept back from
the cliff’s edge and wrapped in a cosmic swaddling, rocked into unseeing bliss.  What you are is placed back firmly onto a
path.  A long one.  Back from the edge, back from the place of
giving up on the work of this lifetime, you are nudged—not so gently, but not
without compassion—onto a path that will require of you work for the rest of
your lifetime.
The cliff’s edge, the leap from it, the ultimate sacrifice
as it might be called is the choice to give up all the work that will ever be
asked of you.  It is to say, Forget it,
too hard, too much, there’s no help, no hope. 
To be placed back onto the path you had made some kind of decision—by
omission or commission—to leave means that you are now responsible to take up
the work you’d abandoned.  It is to look
up from your crumpled knees and see winding before you the path of your
lifetime, the work that will surely be needed to accomplish it, and the
knowledge that to be alive is to do that work.
To be alive is to agree. 
To be alive is to sign an agreement daily that you will, however
falteringly, place one foot before the other. 
To be alive is to agree that you yourself and your life are more
worthwhile than eliminating all the possibilities it holds, all the better and
all the worse. 

And so, pulled back from the edge, “saved” as it were, you
walk with a grim humor, knowing that somewhere you have chosen this.

action · despair · dreams · fear · friendship · god · miracle · perseverance · persistence · spirituality · surrender · theology · trying · vision

Men at Work.

  2/17/09: G-d Jar Projects:
  – My band
  – my mural
  – the play or musical I will be in
  – the songs I write
  – the essays and poems
  – the bass I play
  – the vacation I take to Hawaii
  – the sketches I make
  – the painting I do
  – the creative job I am making
At the time I wrote this list, none of these were true or in my life. Today, of this task list I wanted “God” to complete, all except two have come to fruition.
It would be a year from putting this list in my “g-d box”
when I would apply to graduate school for creative writing in poetry. It would
be two years from then when I would take my first oil painting class at that
college and start writing my daily blog.
It would be 4 years from putting this list in the jar when
my friend would become a flight attendant, and ask me if I wanted to escape winter and my chemo treatments and go to Hawaii for cheap.
A few months from there, a year ago, I would finally accept
the invitation to be a part of the band my friend had been asking me to join
for years, and actually use the bass I’d bought for $5 when I was 19. And not
long from then, I would begin auditioning and taking acting classes, and eventually be cast in a play.
The only items on this list that haven’t come to fruition
yet are the mural and the creative job.
The mural seems less important than it did 5 years ago, though
it would still be very cool to do.
The creative job “I am making” (whatever that means!) is still in
flux, in process.
Astonishing, isn’t it, that things I had no idea how they
would come to pass have all come to
pass? I could never have imagined when I wrote that list that I would actually
be in a band, or be able to go to Hawaii. Those were
the gifts and “rewards” of successful, other people. But, some part of me has
always believed that I can be one, or they wouldn’t have been in the box.
I love looking at this list. It is so concrete. I can check each off with a stroke of joy and elation: I
painted! I wrote! I acted! I vacationed! WHOOP! Look at me, enjoying a life (in spite of my self).
We all know what I’m going to say: If everything else on the
list has come to pass except the last one, then there must be hope that even
that can come to pass as well.
I am not sure I’m exactly an optimist, but I am a believer
in the efficacy of asking for help, not doing it alone, but doing it. Eventually.
Because, I should mention that going to school has saddled me
with nearly $90,000 in student loan debt and sent me into a recovery program
around my relationship to money and scarcity. I should mention that my airline
friend offered me the trip to Hawaii because I needed a break from cancer. And that I only finally reached back out to my
friend with the band as I was sitting alone and bald in my apartment, listening to a CD,
and busted out crying because I wanted to be a part of something like that –
because I didn’t want to be taken from the chance to have that in my life.
It’s not as if this list got checked off according to the
“easy way,” is my point. It took a lot of work, help, reaching out, despair,
action, pleading, and god damned willing it to be.
I would not have
chosen this route to getting these items checked off, and yet, here I sit
elated that so many of them have been. They say that it’s the journey not the
destination, but these journeys sucked. The routes to getting here, to crossing
off these accomplishments that have brought me joy, were really horrible, scary, and
painful.
It’s a strange dichotomy to sit with: The immense gratitude for being where I am, and the questioning
of the benevolence and efficacy of the path that brought me here.
So I guess what I sit with now is whether I want the road
to crossing off the last item on this list – “my creative job” – to be as
arduous as the roads before it. It is true that sometimes we don’t have a
choice, and choices are made for us, but I feel today that I do have a choice
on whether I want to struggle toward this final goal, whatever the
circumstances, or if I want to acquiesce toward it. Maybe not even “acquiesce,”
but move with joy. I mean I have a whole list of accomplishments to buoy this
part of my journey, right? 

Maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t have to be so hard. 

action · anger · faith · fear · god · hope · perseverance · rage · self-will · spirituality · surrender

But, damnit, I *do* care.

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I’ve had “I’ve got you, babe” stuck in my head for the last
few days. I’m catching up on the 2nd half of the final season of House, and one of the characters was singing and playing
it the other day. I’ve been thinking about it, vaguely, in relation to the
whole “turning it over” concept that’s asked of me in my current work. Turn it,
everything, present, past, future, over to something else, something “caring,” it tells us because, as we’ve learned by now, trying to do it, to finagle it on my
own, doesn’t work out too well.
However, this “care” business… Well, we heard me gripe about
“god” the other day. And luckily I still have a few prompt questions to write
through and maybe get somewhere with around … “god.” I just don’t know what
will come of it. Although I’ll do it anyway.
I know I’m “not alone,” I know that there’s healing and
progress and momentum in doing this work without knowing the outcome. But, I’ve
had to up my own woo-woo-ness to help get me there a little. Because, as I’ve
said, sometimes “god’s plan” includes some really fucked up shit. And fuck
trusting that “thing” whatsoever. Asshole.
Jews are supposed to “wrestle and grapple” with god. It’s
part of what we’re asked and allowed to do.
On Saturday night, I saw a play that was focused around a
Catholic family in the 50s and their relationship to each other, Catholicism,
and a nun with a heart condition. The main character is a 12 year old boy,
heading to confirmation, and he keeps on questioning the doctrines. Why did god
put us here, is one of the questions the nun asks. He replies, To have fun. –
That’s not the proscribed answer, by the way.
If you don’t learn this, you go to hell. Well, I’m not sure
I believe in hell, he replies.
He isn’t quashed at the end; in fact, his questioning helps
to open everyone else up.
And so, I have to believe that my questioning, my hesitance,
my ire will do the same.
I am past a point of blind faith. But, sometimes there’s
nothing else than that either. So, what then?
There’s a billboard I drive past on the way to work. For
about a month, it was an ad for a casino, portraying simply the eyes of a
ravenous, coy, coaxing woman. The copy read: Luck will find you.
Each time I drove past it, I said aloud, No it won’t.
Luck doesn’t find us. We find Luck. To quote the 80s: “There is no fate but what we make.”
And yet, … I’m past the point of blind willfulness, too.
I know that a belief in hope and change, in love, lead me to
show up for things that are uncomfortable. I know that my knowledge that I
really can’t do it alone leads me to call people, write this homework shit, and hope
that the next right action will open up to me.
I know I’m not hopeless, or a hopeless case. I know I’m not
throwing off the mantle of faith in favor of self will-ing myself through my
life. I’ve spent plenty of torn-up hours trying to “make it work.” Trying to
change others, my past, present, and future.
So, I know I’m at surrender. I know I’m at the place of
letting go, and trusting “what is.” Or trying to trust it, rather.
But, I’m scared. I’m scared for me, I’m cautious with my
hope for others; I’m a great scoop more apathetic about the god thing, at the
same time I’m more charged about “moving forward” in many places in my life.
I’m tired. I’m grieving the loss of innocence. I cannot yet
believe in the (fucking) “care” of a higher power. I think Fate is an asshole.
The schmuck who pulls your chair out from beneath you when you’re about to sit
and, like Nelson on The Simpsons,
cackles, “Heh Heh!”
I thought I’d given up that one, that punitive idea, that
pull me closer/push me away god.
I could decide to call this all evidence of that god, and therefore defy and reject the whole concept. Every
day I go to work with a woman who lost her baby at 8 months pregnant. Every
day, she and I, simply by our presence, remind one another that nothing is certain in this life. Joy is not guaranteed.
So, like I said, I’m ramping up my woo-woo tools again. I’m
reading affirmations, listening to them, signed up for the Oprah/Deepak
meditation month. I’ve got to. I’ve got to give myself some pudding in which
the medicine is slipped.
I’ve got to tell myself, in a fake it till you make it way,
that I am alright. That 5-year mortality statistics don’t mean anything to a bad-ass like me.
That I am cooler than I think I am, and worth every effort and so much ‘then
some’ that I take toward my health and my goals.
I’ve got to say, I believe in the care of these simple
things. In the care of a little self-love. In the care of a coffee date with a
friend, the soft breathing of a baby.
Anything else can go fuck itself. 

change · faith · letting go · life · surrender

And now for something completely different!

in the eventuality of time, there is a sacrifice that must
be made.
we are never sure what we must give up in order to move
forward,
but we come to a bridge with a toll and are demanded a pound
of
flesh in exchange for passage to the new place.
it is never clear if this new place is where we intend or
want to go but our anima will impel us forward along
the continuity of movement.
how many bridges we already traversed
does not factor into how many we must pass again. 
we may have already sacrificed pride
love
pain
fear
desire
isolation. and this bridge requires from us another token.
perhaps you feel like the knight in a monty python sketch,
quartered from limb and limb and limb, a torso now, you are
asked to divest even more from what you carry. perhaps though,
you are a lancelot, fueled and lifted, freed by all you’ve
been asked to dispense with, grateful for the chance to
expel another pebble from your shoe.
in the eventuality of time, we will all offer this sacrifice.
we must, because we are alive
and so, we do. 

cancer · humility · self-love · surrender

The Clatter of Swords.

clatter of swords photo
There is a vacuum that happens when one admits surrender. When you have finally laid down your sword, all your fight, all your shaken fists at the sky. You let it all drop, all of it, knowing you can no longer fight, that you are defeated.

In that moment, when your armor clatters to the ground, and you look up toward your opponent with your empty, calloused and bloody hands, you experience relief.

There is nothing more to do. It is over. You may not have won, but no longer are you fighting either.

If, in that moment of surrender, you are able to hold that place of vulnerability and uncertainty, it has been my experience that newer, better ideas and actions, and strange serendipities, come to fill the void left by my own tenacity and fierce determinism.

If, in that moment, I admit defeat and then subsequently draw up my arms again, thinking, wait, no, there’s something else I haven’t tried, I can still will this thing, then I am lost, again.

I am in that moment. That moment of choice, when I will either say, no, this can’t be right, I still have a few ideas up my sleeve; or I will say, you know what, I give up, I have no idea what I’m doing, I need help, and I am willing to sit here in the discomfort and uncertainty of change.

This place is what some people refer to as hitting bottom. Many of us hit bottom around many different things: relationships, sex, food, debt, shopping, television, even reading can become an addiction at the expense of engaging in real life. Anything that we think we can out-master by the sheer will of our mind and will-power, anything that keeps proving to us that we can’t.

I am at a bottom, of a whole cornucopia of things. I think it’s what all the breakdowns have been lately, the bedframe one, the one in the hospital last week, the impossibility of me being able to do on my own what I have been doing on my own. The impossibility of continuing to struggle forth in single-handed combat. I don’t know any better. My best ideas have led me to being single, broke, and existentially agitated for years. And I can’t will, wish, pray, or beg my way out of it. I have come to the bottom.

The end of my resources, the end of my ideas. I think it’s part of the calm of yesterday’s blog, the realization that I’ve come to the end of the fight, that relief of the end of a battle. Recognizing I’m not the force that will rescue me, I’m just the conduit. I’m just, in some way, the pawn.

And, please don’t misunderstand that; I have free-will, I just mean that in the end (to tragically mix metaphors), there is a stream, and I can follow its course, or I can fight against it, because I still think my answers are upstream. If I allow myself to float, to let go, to be taken by the river, to stop resisting that which is true, then I have the chance to gain some of my power back. Supported, strengthened, and aimed in the right direction this time.

I think my soul-weariness has been this end of the battle. I know I have “better ideas” lurking in my mind, ways where I can “figure out” how to get out of the jams that I’m in. But, perhaps just maybe, I have learned that I’d like some other ideas, please. Perhaps, just maybe, I’m willing for today to sit in the serrated uncertainty of surrender, let myself rest in the fullness of that ease, and allow myself to be open to floating downstream.