JUNE 2017 Blog Posts

MORE THAN . . .        6/3/17          5/28/17        M

MORE THAN . . .

fullsizeoutput_235cHe stood there, suddenly alert with curiosity.

It began slowly at the base of Victor’s spine.  The chill was hardly noticeable but within moments became an intense cold that slowly yet deliberately climbed up from one vertebrae to the next until his entire back was one solid block of ice.

Simultaneously, Victor became aware of the toes on his left foot, first the little toe and moving along the other toes to his big toe and jumping to the big toe of the other foot and descending to the rest of the toes.  Warmth that gathered strength to moderate heat to scalding hot traveled up both legs, beyond his groin and up into his chest.  The entire front of his body was screaming for cool, to no avail.

Victor couldn’t move.  He was so intent on the contrast of cold and heat, also noting that from the neck up he felt “normal”. 

Victor stared straight ahead, his eyes bulging in disbelief at the polarizing feelings of front and back, wondering what was happening, and too frightened to think his way out of the dilemma.

The ticking began softly, gradually building intensity, until his hearing mechanisms had to shut down to absorb the blow of the hammering clock.

His eyes fastened on the clock on the wall. He saw without seeing; he heard without sound.

What is happening to me?  Where am I?  How do I gather some control over this cacophony of experience?   

The clock resounded twelve bellowing chimes. 

Victor realized, without knowing it, that he had entered the space between the Spaces, the time between Moments, the light before the Light, and the dark after the Dark.

He no longer had to wonder what it would be like.

He was not before nor after.  Victor was Here, and Here was more than he could ever, nor would ever,  ask for.

5/18/17

© Susan Alley

All rights reserved

2017 MAY Blog Posts

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY (or not)             May 2, 2017         M

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY (or not)

 

DSCN0655

(NOTE:  This Mandala was posted previously, years ago.  I had other projects this month and did not have time to complete a new one.  Enjoy.)

Prologue

There was an article in a newspaper some time ago, titled, Five Things You Need to Know Today.  I don’t know what the article was even about, but it got me thinking, in general, what do I think the five things you – or anyone, for that matter – might need to know today.

Of all the things “to know”, what might be the most useful, helpful, facilitative to a good life, etc.  For today, here’s what I’ve come up with.

(One more time: this is lengthy, so feel free to just dismiss this writing and go do something more fun.)

I

You are a person of value.

Let’s dispense with the idea of perfection immediately, okay?  Best I know, being “perfect” could be defined as “doing what everyone else on the planet wants, when they want it, how they want it.  And, when you are done, you are perfect.”

The obvious caveat is, you will never be done, it’s impossible anyway, and it’s not worth doing.  So, away with any goals of being perfect.

And, further, that’s not connected to whether you have value.

Your value is your birthright.  It’s not something you earn.  If you struggle with this idea, and are arguing with me in your head as we’re talking right now, that signals that someone has taught you otherwise.  And it’s quite probable that you were taught this idea (that you have little or no value) pretty early in your life.  The other possibility is, you just plain made up this lie, and have never taken the time to reassess it for truth.

Consider how your life would be different, how your choices would be different, who your friends would be, what your activities would be, if you claimed that as a given truth.

There’s probably lots more to say about this, but for now, I’ll simply say, you ARE a person of value, and that’s the first thing I think you should know today.

II

You will never get everything done, and that’s okay, and may even be beneficial.

I think I’ve mentioned this idea in some previous piece of writing, but it’s worth noting again.  We live in an addictive society.  I didn’t brilliantly think this up; it’s scattered around quite liberally in addictive literature.

Now, there are what I call, “shaming addictions”, which, no surprise are those overdoings some of us engage in for which we are shamed.  Drinking, drugging, overeating, undereating, gambling, sexual addictions – those are the major shaming addictions.

Do any of that and, either publicly or behind your back, people will be saying what a bad person you are:  shame on you.

Of course, it’s not true that you are a bad person (see #1 above).  You may be doing something that is hurting yourself and possibly others, but you are not “bad”.

It also isn’t helpful to shame someone.  It usually feeds into the addictive cycle more fully, because I have to seal off awareness of my shame (it hurts too much), and what better way than to engage in the addiction.  This is a strong example of “the solution becomes part of the problem”.

So much for an overview of shaming addictions.

There are also what we call, “Gold Star addictions”.

These are tricky little thingies, because we are rewarded with “gold stars”, usually verbal, for engaging in these addictions.

The three major gold star addictions begin with,

“Very, Very, Very, Very, Very” and are followed by

  1. responsible
  2. busy
  3. perfect (oh, there’s that word again)

Now, we take these addictions very seriously.  At least in our society, we want people to be very, very, very, very, very responsible, busy and perfect.

So, I believe that we are not on the planet to sit on our hands. And I believe it’s a good thing for me to keep my word: if I say I’ll do something, I pretty well follow through.  I won’t go into the perfect thing again.  See #1 for that.

It’s the “very, very, very, very, very” stuff that causes problems.  As a society, many of us are overcommitted, overstressed, and still feeling like we haven’t done enough.

One of the hardest ideas for those of us set up with this presumption, is the concept of “good enough”, as in, no, I didn’t get everything done today, but I did “good enough”.

A note about the idea that not getting everything done may be beneficial.  Here’s an outrageous thought:  what if I deliberately didn’t get everything done so I would have time to give time and care to myself.

I know:  I can see you cringing in disbelief.  “She wouldn’t dare!”  “How can she say something so outrageous!”  Well, I’m not here to argue.  It’s just food for thought.

III

Focusing well on the present moment gives life meaning.

You’ve surely had the experience of getting in your car, and taking off for a familiar place, only to be ten minutes down the road and realize that you were thinking about something you need to do when you get home.  Or something like that.

Most of us actually live our entire lives that way.  We’re either retracking what’s already happened, as in this morning or maybe twenty-two years, five months, and four days ago.  Or, we’re busy planning or worrying about what might be tomorrow or next week or next month.

Very few of us actually live our lives in the present.  The irony about this fact is severalfold:

  1. The only place we really can have impact is in the present.
  2. Life is so much more “Technicolor” in the present – more vivid and available to us. It’s more interesting and fun when we pay attention.
  3. If I’m not paying attention in the present, I’m more vulnerable to repeating previous mistakes and painful experiences or just dumb stuff.

I’ll make a brief statement about the value of looking back and looking ahead.  The obvious values of looking back are to heal old wounds and to learn new lessons.  The obvious value of looking ahead is to avoid old woundings and mistakes (and dumb stuff) and planning for wanted outcomes.

So, look back and look ahead with purpose.

But, if you want to enjoy your life, then the present moment is the place to be.  Or, it’s worth thinking about anyway.

IV

Treating others with love and compassion is worth doing.

This is a hard one to get some people to consider.  I believe it’s because they have not been treated with love and compassion.  It’s hard to pass on to others what you yourself have never experienced.

A further difficulty of buying into this fourth concept is we are often operating out of a zero-sum mindset.  The zero-sum mindset is part of our societal culture, so it gets an extra boot of expectation.

Zero sum is the presumption that there must be one winner and therefore one loser.  There’s also the corollary that, if you have something, you have taken away from me, and there’s less for me.

As you will remember from your high school algebra, or your debate team guidelines, if you begin with a set of presumptions, you can build a logic.  If you want to deconstruct a piece of logic, you have to question the presumptions.

Zero-sum thinking builds competition and selfishness.  Exit love and compassion.

One almost has to believe in the power of synergy to entertain love and compassion.  Googling “synergy” results in something like, “two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable.”

What that means is, it’s to my benefit to be loving and compassionate toward you, and for you to be that toward me, because more goodness will result than if we don’t.

V

Treating yourself with love and compassion is worth doing.

We’re now in a loop:  we began with the presumption that you are a person of value, and if you buy into that, this last item is a no-brainer.

If you haven’t bought that premise, there may be no reason for you to consider treating yourself with love and compassion.

There is the possibility you will realize love and compassion feels better than shaming and blaming, but sometimes that’s irrelevant.

There is the possibility that you could be a role model for others so they might enjoy their lives more, but that may not seem like enough motivation.

So, my friend, I’m hoping, if you’re having trouble with this presumption that you will revisit presumption number one, and consider what needs to happen for you to buy into the truth.

Epilogue

Whew!  We’re finally done.  If only the title of that newspaper article had been, The Most Important Thing You Need to Know, we would have been done writing and reading long before now.  But no-o-o-o!

I have a final word of caution:

This entire article could be considered counter-cultural.  You might want to really very personally assess these ideas carefully before acting on them. All actions have consequences.  Let me know what you decide.

Original date of writing:  unknown

Revised 4/29/17

© Susan Alley

All rights reserved

2017 APRIL Blog Posts

SLOW IS THE NEW FAST         8/3/16, modified 4/2/17      M

SLOW IS THE NEW FAST

 

I do not fully understand why it has been that I have been invited into these races so many times.  The curious thing is, those who offer the invitation know I have always won.

But here comes another one of those Fasties, looking to shore up his ego, and offering me the prize with a fore-knowing look of disdain.  As in, “Let’s make this poor jerk look bad.  I could use a laugh.”  And, of course, I always accept the invitation.

So here we are.  Pretty decent day – not too warm; not to cool.  A bit of cloud covering a full sun.  The flag is pulled down, and off goes Fastie.

Off I go, too, even if it is at a more modest pace.

Oh, look, Fastie has stopped up ahead.  It looks like he’s got a thorn or a piece of glass or something in his toe.  There’s blood on the ground and he seems to be working hard to nibble the intrusive item from his toe.

I feel a little bit of smug as I amble past him.  He looks at me with irritation and continues to work the thing out of his foot.

Well, he must have gotten it.  There he goes again.

And of course, he looks over at me with that same disdainful grin, and shouting,  “Thought you had me, didn’t you.  Well, think again.  See ya!”

He was a blur, and I was using my usual one-foot-in-front-of-the-other strategy.

Oh, there he is again.  This time he seems to be heaving.  Yep.  As I wander past him, he’s half bent over, throwing up his lunch.  Something to be said for not eating so heavily before a big race.

I don’t look at him this time.  I actually feel a tad sorry for him because he looks so pitiful with garbage all over the front of his body.

I love being out here.  I know I don’t move quickly, but there’s time to enjoy the trees and the birds and the clouds.  It’s just a lovely day.

Zap!!!  I guess he recovered.  There he goes again.

Again, with the superior smirk on his face, erect and looking like there will be no more stops.

In the distance I can see the Finish Line.  We both have aways to go, but it’s clear it’s his to win.

Or not.  He’s stopped again.  He’s only about fifteen feet from the Finish Line, but he’s doubled over.  I think he’s having some muscle spasms, and beginning to lower his body to the ground to stretch.

And here I am again.  Just a few more feet and, yep, I’m over the line.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Cheers are not necessary.

You know, this has happened so many times, I don’t know when I will gather enough confidence to know I can do it.

Thank you Great Grandfather.  I’ve remembered what you taught me so long ago, and even though I haven’t totally believed it, it always proves so true:

“Slow and Steady Wins the Race.”

Take that, Rabbit!

 

8/3/16, addendum, 4/2/17

© Susan Alley

All rights reserved

2017 MARCH Blog Posts

JACK AND JILL – The Real Story       3/17/16           3/1/17       M

JACK AND JILL – The Real Story

fullsizeoutput_2347

 

“Get up, Jack!”

“I can’t.  I’m tired, and I can’t take one more step.  It’s no use anyway.  Leave me alone, Jill!”

“No.  You started this.  I didn’t think it was a good idea in the first place, but no-o-o, you insisted.  You heard your father and mother talking about the Nazi’s taking over Austria, and how afraid they were, and you decided you were leaving, would find help, and would come back to them.

I just came to continue your reading lessons, but you said I had to go with you because I was older, could read better, and you needed help.

“You dragged me up this hill, and now that you’ve fallen down, you want to quit.  I know you’re discouraged.  It’s a long way up this hill.  But we can see the top at this point, and we’re not stopping.  Now, c’mon.  And look, Jack, I think I see some other people at the top of the hill.”

Looking back, one could see that this was probably in the works for sometime.  Jack’s family took care of their basic needs by working a small tenant farm.  There was barely enough to feed this family of five.  Jack had worked the farm with his father for twelve of his eighteen years, and with such basic needs at stake, there was no time for education, no time even to learn to read.

Jack may have been uneducated, but he was smart.  He knew he wanted more.  He knew he wanted to do something to help his family.  He just didn’t know how to fill in the blanks.

Jill’s family situation was exactly the opposite.  Jill’s father owned a large plantation.  She and her two sisters were well-cared for her entire 14 years.  They had fine clothes and went to the best of schools.  The parents were careful to instill gratefulness into their daughters and long before the phrase was popular to insist on paying it forward.

On a warm, sunny Spring day several years ago, Jill had decided to walk the back way home, to enjoy the wafting breezes and the smell of blossoms popping up in the Spring meadow.

She saw him far off.  “I wonder who that is,” she thought as she headed in his direction.  He was tall and obviously older than she, and at only 12, Jill could still feel the early stirrings of sexual interest.

“Wait up!”, she called.

The closer she got, the more curious Jill became.  He was definitely attractive, although his clothing and hygiene left a bit to be desired.

“I’m Jill from over the hill.  What’s your name?”

He shuffled a bit, with his head down, seeming nervous.  At 16, Jack didn’t know what to think of such a pretty girl talking to him.

“I’m Jack.  I live over there,” he said, pointing to a ramshackle building about a mile away.

As they talked further, Jill learned more about Jack than perhaps he originally intended to reveal.  It was clear he was a hard worker.  It was clear he was smart and could think well.  It was clear she liked him.

What she began to realize is, because he had so many responsibilities, he had never learned to read.

He seemed ashamed of this.

“Don’t worry, Jack.  I can teach you to read.  We won’t have to let anyone know.  We’ll just meet a bit each day and I can help you.”

And that’s how it started.  That was 2 ½ years ago.  Jack was a fast and eager learner.  Jill loaned him book after book which he gobbled up and was becoming quite competent.

Something else had happened in these 2 ½ years.  Hitler was invading Europe further and further and had a clear sight on Austria.  Children were being recruited for the Hitler Youth.  Jack would have been a prime target once he was discovered.  He decided to leave, and only way out was over the mountains.

And then he fell.  The rain the night before had drenched both of them.  The grass was wet and slippery.   He was exhausted, and hope was escaping like a steam through the crown of his head.

His voice was quiet, and discouraged.  “It was a stupid idea, Jill.  We’ll never make it.  We can’t do this.  Leave me alone.”

“No!  Now get up.  My father and mother taught me, once you make a commitment, you stick with it.  Look!

Look up the hill.  Do you see those people up there?  They’re waving at us.  They’re encouraging us to come up.  Look.  Do you see them?

Jack turned his head toward the top of the hill.  He did indeed see what Jill was pointing to.  They were calling and hailing them.

“C’mon, Jack.  We’ll do this a step at a time.  We can get to the top.”

Jack thought for a while, trying to stave off his exhaustion and hopelessness.  Then, he began to feel the energy returning to his body.  He got to his knees, pushed himself up with his hands, straightened his back, took Jill’s hand again, and the two of them stepped forward, one laborious step at a time.

It was another 45 minutes to the top, but the closer they got, the better they could hear these people.  They were shouting encouragement.  The children were singing, yes, they were singing.  He couldn’t understand, but they were definitely singing.

At last, the top.  The father, or so he seemed, gave each of them a final hand up to the top.  The mother came forward.

“Hello, you two.  How brave of you to make this trip by yourselves.  I’m Maria,  This is Georg, these are our children.  You can walk with us.  It’s better in numbers.  And you can sing with us: “Climb every mountain . . . “

3/17/16

© Susan Alley

All rights reserved

2017 FEBRUARY Blog Posts

BELONGING        10/13/16; revised 2/1/17         M

BELONGING

 

fullsizeoutput_2345

As a middle class woman, living a middle class life, with not-perfect, but wonderful family, and being in good health, it’s relatively easy for me to say, “Yes, this is exactly where I belong”, or minimally, “This is pretty darn good”.

And I have a faith of sorts that says, although the road has meandered in a variety of directions and circumstances, I do like to think this time of life, as all the others, is meant to encourage me on the spiral of growth goodness – if I will pay attention.

However, at times, that sounds a little too pat to me. For example, I think of holocaust survivors.  Was that exactly where they belonged?

I think of Syrian refugees.  Is that exactly where they belong?

I think of inner city children who hardly have enough food, often very little emotional security, bare physical safety.  Is that where they belong?

I think of beautiful African people who were stolen from their culture and forced to serve the more powerful here, without dignity or grace or personal resource.

Or the Native Americans who were forced into small spaces of their land, had the rest stolen from them and then many murdered.  Is that where they belonged?

I think of immigrants (of course, we are all immigrants except for Native Americans) who had to take their turn with our prejudices and unkindnesses.  African Americans, Irish, Italian, Asian, and while not immigrants, women, LGBT, those of Muslim faith, proclaimed Atheists, and even the poor. There are more, but for now the point is made.  Is this where they belonged and belong?

I think of a segment of our country today, who are imprisoned by hatred and fear, following a narcissistic demagogue to God knows where.  Is this where they belong?

So the issue expands beyond we the fortunate.

My mind fumbles to grasp the need to hurt and vilify and degrade.  Are we so fragile with our self-concept that the only repair is to downgrade the other?

It is good to glean the goodness of the moment, to trust that all will be well, and hope that this too shall pass.

However, for those who are imprisoned by mental, cultural, economic situations, maybe they need another mantra.

Maybe their mantra is, “Will someone please help me?” or at least, “Will someone show me a new way?”

And for those of us fortunate enough to have escaped at least to some degree these jails of trappedness, is there a further mandate?

And if so, what is it?

 

10/13/16; revised 2/1/17

© Susan Alley

All rights reserved

 

 

« Older entries