Friday, October 30, 2015

A Commute with Depression

So Depression slipped into the car with me this afternoon as I was getting ready to drive home.

He is one of my least favorites.  He always has that know-it-all opinion about him that always infuriates me and  that smirk that tells me he knows precisely what I have been thinking.

"So I guess things did not go so well today"  he said with a grin as I started the car.  I merely muttered back in return as I turned my head around to back out and then get the car in alignment to head out of the parking lot.

"In fact, it has been a pretty lousy week, right?" he questioned again with his grin plastered on his face as I looked both ways to get into traffic.  "And the best part?  The best part?  It is only Thursday.  You still have Friday to look forward to."

I grimaced.  "We are not having this conversation today"  I replied.  "I am simply not in the mood to have it."

"Oh, but we have to" he replied with an almost serpent-like hiss to his voice.  "We have to.  We have to discuss how your life seems to be going nowhere fast and what we are going to do about it.  Because we have to do something about it.  We cannot merely just endure this sort of thing.  After all, we have endured so much already."

I shook my head as I took the overpass turnoff to get on the main highway home.  "No, we do not.  We do not have to discuss this now.  I am tired.  I am angry.  I am frustrated.  And that is not the time to discuss things like this.  It leads to nowhere that is good."

He sat quietly for some moments as I rolled through the two stoplights and onto the route uphill.  He pursed his lips a bit and then said seriously "I know the real problem of course.  You are without hope.  That is a terrible thing."

Stopped in traffic, I looked straight at him.  "I am not without hope"  I replied angrily.  "I am merely in a bit of a tight spot right now."

He nodded slowly.  "Tight spot, yes.  Tight as in you are stuck. Stuck in your job.  Stuck in life.  Stuck without the hope of going somewhere else."

"I am not stuck!"  I yelled him out loud now, pounding the steering wheel in my frustration, the edges of tears peeking out of the corner of my eyes. "I chose this!  I continue to choose this!  I have responsibilities to meet. And responsibilities trump hope at times."

We rolled to a stop at the next light as I tried to slow down my breathing and calm down.  "It is really okay"  I finally croaked out to him. "I just need to wait a little longer.  Things will get better."

He nodded back slowly.  "Sure, sure" he replied.  "Just a little more patience, right?  A little more hanging on? "  He ignored my focus on the road as we continued on to the next stop light.  "Tell you what" he said as he reached down and disengaged the safety belt.  'I will just slip out here.  This has been a good little discussion. Let us save the rest for next time - say, perhaps, tomorrow." And with that he was gone, slipped out and gone into a sea of cars before I could say another word.

I sat through the light, looking at the seat where he had been sitting, hearing his voice echoing in my head.  Tomorrow.  And Tomorrow.  And Tomorrow.

But at least if I thought I would be here to have the debate tomorrow, that itself became a form of hope.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sunrise, Sunset

One of the great things about this time of year is the sunrises and sunsets:


I am fortunate that I am driving Nighean Dhonn to school every morning and hit the overpass precisely at the best moment to capture the sunrise.  The colors have been exquisite - helped on, no doubt, by our recent run of storms.


For an extra treat tonight, I got a fantastic sunset to boot as I was headed home in the evening:


It makes me sad to think that with Daylight Savings Time I will miss these masterpieces.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Actual Life/Preferred Life

My life has really broken itself into two phases.
On the one hand is the part that takes of most of the time, the mundane.  Let us call it My Actual Life.  It is the life of work and home, family and responsibilities, things that need doing and things that I am responsible for.

On the other hand is the part of my life that seems to possess the least of my time, the exciting.  Let us call it My Preferred Life.  Herein the list is much smaller:  Iai, Highland Athletics, Reading, Language, Writing.  These are the things that I love to do, that empower me rather than making me feel disempowered.

Here is the terrible thing:  the split is pretty significant, as in 90% Actual Life and 10% Preferred Life.

The problem - I suspect the problem that most people face - is that they come to live for their Preferred Life.  They muscle through the Actual Life to try and get to the few brief moments of a week or a month that are supposed to make the whole thing worthwhile.  And for those brief moments, they do.

But then the 90% comes crashing back in.

I try and sustain the sensation for a while, convince myself (somehow) that this the way things are supposed to be, that I am being responsible and that this is the way that most everyone lives their life.  But I am finding those excuses becoming thinner and thinner over the years.  The 90% becomes less and less worth the 10%.\

I wish I had a clearer path, something that would start to transform that 90% into more Preferred Life, like an alchemist turning lead into gold.  There is a secret out there, some magic stone that I am missing that will do this.

Or at least I hope there is one.  Because ultimately the 90/10 split is not sustainable.  At least, not for my sanity.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Monday, October 26, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What Are You Thinking About?

People ask me that sometimes - "What are you thinking about?"  will come the question.  "Nothing" comes the response.  And I mean that - a lot of the time I simply have no thoughts in my head  It is not that I do not have anything to think about but rather that I have apparently trained myself, especially due to years of long commutes, to simply tune out thought and simply be.

That can be difficult to explain to people.

The question - and it is a legitimate one - is if I also use that as an excuse to avoid thinking about and dealing about situations I do not want to discuss.

It is convenient, of course:  "Nothing"  becomes the excuse for not talking about something not because you have nothing to say but because you do not want to say it either from concern about what will happen or simply because it sounds rough and perhaps even hurtful.  And perhaps I begin to play a mind game on myself with this: by giving myself the excuse to say I do not think anything at all about it I do not actively consider it when perhaps I should.

Sometimes I feel - especially lately - like there is a large stopper between my heart and my mouth, a sort of physical block that prevents me from saying things, perhaps things that need to be said or should be said.

It needs to be resolved, of course - because the large block that continues to hold back pressure will eventually rupture, with results far worse than any sort of controlled release would ever be.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Director and Star II

So you may be wondering "How did go, not being the Director nor the Star of your life?"

Frankly, it was abysmal.

How can this possibly be, I hear you asking.  Surely with yourself out the way, you could simply stand back and watch great things happen.  But it was like that all.

The biggest thing I noticed was this sensation, this feeling, of a giant hole inside of my soul.  It was the strangest sensation but it was noticeable and there.  Mentally removing myself from the starring role, I found that there was nothing there instead.

This was not what I expected.  I guess I sort of thought that God would immediately fill that space in with Himself, that somehow the Star would make himself readily apparent now that the stage was cleared.

But perhaps He does not work that way.

I went through the day - had to, of course.  Did my tasks, ran my meetings, worked on things that needed doing.  And felt totally empty.  Just as I do when I write this.

I shall try tomorrow, of course.  Open the curtains, bring up the lights, highlight the scenery, and wait.  But maybe this time I shall try with simply no idea that I shall experience anything at all.

Because Stars and Directors follow their own scripts, not the scripts of the walk-ons.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Director and Star

So another one of those sermon thoughts that sticks with you long after the sermon is over.

In the course of discussing the Day of The Lord and what it would be like, he used an interesting analogy:  it is sort of (in a very weak way) like one's birthday, where everything about is about one for one day.  It will be like that, was the point: God will be the Star, and everything will be about Him on that day.  There will not be any question about why things are not about us, any more than we question why people are giving us gifts on our birthday.

The problem comes in our current lives, he pointed out.  We like to treat God as the Director of our lives:  He is the one setting up the circumstances and managing the people and scenes in our lives, but really we are the star of our own life.  It really is supposed to be all about us.  Or so we like to think.  Unfortunately (for me, at least) I have the entire thing not only reversed but upside down:  it is not an either/or for our lives.  God should be both the Director and the Star of our lives.

This is where it breaks down for me, of course:  if not the Director nor the Star of my own life, what am I?  The selfish ego me reaches out and cries  that I am no more than a spear carrier in a cast of thousands, a red shirt security guard in Star Trek who is going to be killed within the first thirty seconds of the episode - my job to demonstrate how this week's alien kills.

That is not the way it works in God's economy, of course.  In Matthew 6: 31-33 Jesus says:

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (NKJV)

In other words, God through Christ says "Yes, I am meant to be the star of your life.  Yes, I know it means that if you truly follow Me, you will feel like you are no longer paying attention to anything in your life that matters in your daily life.  In fact, you will probably feel like you are not doing anything for you at all.  But I will take care of you.  By making me the star, you glorify Me.  And I, in turn, will take care of you."

It sound wonderful in theory, but hard in practice.  There is nothing worse than constantly wondering why your plans do not work out, why your goals do not ever seem to get accomplished, why your ship never seems to come in.  

The reality is if your life is always about you, then everything that never works out and never comes to pass will seem like another impediment to the screenplay of your life.  If, on the other hand, you move aside and let the true Star of the show come forward, such things will fade into the background both of time and eternity - because with the Star in place as He was meant to be, the screenplay will suddenly go forward as it always should have.

And the Star has promised never to forget a single supporting actor or actress.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Thursday, October 15, 2015

On Reading Jane Austen

I should not read Jane Austen.

Traveling back from an out of state business visit, I had the opportunity to read Persuasion.  I had only read Sense and Sensibility and seen screen adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma.

I should not read Jane Austen.

Jane Austen fires one with a sense of the romantic and the glorious.  To read her is to be pulled breathlessly into a world of morals and manners, of loves unspoken and then at the end realized, of sacrifice and ultimate triumph.

I include a passage from Persuasion in which the main male protagonist, Captain Wentworth, has written a letter to Miss Anne Elliott:

"I can listen no longer in silence.  I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach.  You pierce my soul.  I am half agony, half hope.  Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever.  I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own, than when you broke it eight and a half years ago.  Dare not say man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death.  I have loved but you.  Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath.  For you alone, I think and plan - Have you not seen this?  Can you fail to understand my wishes?  I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings as I think you have penetrated mine.  I can hardly write.  I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me.   You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice, when they would be lost to others - Too good, too excellent creature!.  You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men.  Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating in

F W.

I must go, uncertain of my fate, but I shall return hither, or follow your party as soon as possible.  A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's home this evening, or never."

Does the romance and love not drip off the page?  And in the context of the book (which I highly recommend) does this not come at the climax, a love delayed but not denied?

And then I ask the question "Why is life not actually like this?"

I should not read Jane Austen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Despair and Writing

I write best when I am despairing.

I wish I understood this combination.  I would like to write best when I am happy or bored or something else which is more ordinary and less painful.  But it apparently does not work that way, at least for me.

In despair perhaps there is pain - and the only way that I can relieve that pain is to write.  It is not that I write specifically of despair; indeed, the writings under this influence range from happy to sad to downright profound (to the point that I can hardly recognize that the words came from me).  But despair is the trigger; without despair, I am merely plodding through, trying to chase a Muse that simply will not be caught.

Can I force myself to despair more?  Seems a bit counterintuitive, does it not?  Yet that is the very thing that makes me write more prolifically and more skillfully than ever.  So it is almost a challenge to my sense of well being:  Want to write?  Despair more.  Put yourself in emotionally challenging and painful situations.  Make your heart bleed and your soul cry for that which it can never have and then which has passed beyond and all that is beyond the reach of repairing.

Suffer.  Cry.  And find that your Muse offers the the comfort not of a hug or kiss, but simply words.  Words from the heart and soul, words that seek to move the pain out of the secret places of myself and onto the page.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Friday, October 09, 2015

Pathetic Little Gifts

Sometimes we give the most pathetic little gifts.

Oh, we do not believe them to be so.  We see them as great things, meaningful extensions of ourselves.  We infuse them with depth and emotion, in our mind's eye making them ambassadors of great and lofty goals and expectations - dare we say daydreams? - waiting to blossom upon receipt.

Until the light of day comes.

In that minute these gifts are revealed to be what they actually are: small mud pies offered (almost by a child, it seems) at the same time gold and precious stones have arrived.  The luster such things have acquired in our own imagination are stripped away, leaving the occasional mud pieces and sticks to fall on the marble floors.

The receivers will always be gracious of course; any gift offered as a gift is heartfelt and to be accepted as such.  The thanks will come but somehow it never makes its way into our own consciousness - we are still fixated on revelation of the reality of what we have given, seemingly shocked the fact that the reality is not as we had imagined.

It is not that we should never give gifts - no indeed, there are probably not enough gifts given in the world.  No, the problem is really within ourselves.  Sometimes we become so engrossed by the (imagined) deep and meaningful nature of our gifts that we forget the original point of giving the gifts:  they are ultimately never really for ourselves, they are for those to whom we give them.  And it is not the the receivers are ungrateful - indeed, they are almost universally very grateful.  What has occurred is that we have created in our own minds a vast and complicated story of how they will be received and what will be understood from them.

So perhaps in reality it is not that we give pathetic little gifts.  Perhaps what has happened is that we have given perfectly good gifts - infused not the joy of giving, but rather with the weight of things they were never meant to bear.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Rabbitude

Tonight as I was watering in the backyard at dusk I noticed a bit of movement down by the fence by where the old fruit tree - mostly dead now - backs into the corner.  The movement resolved itself into a rabbit, sitting in the grass, watching.

I was a bit surprised as it did not start with the water being only five feet away or so - it just sat there, watching me, then hopped more into plain view.  It was plainly there for a reason and plainly not scared of me at all.

I turned to water something else and then looked back - and was surprised to see the rabbit had hopped up to the patch of expiring black-eyed peas that I have growing (they are dying out due to the end the season, not for a lack of watering).  Without further ado he pulled one of the leaves off and sat there devouring it, clearly not at all concerned with what he was doing or if I was likely to chase after him to catch him.

I admit that I was surprised by this boldness.  We have rabbits that visit (I assume that they are the same ones, as in dusk it is difficult to tell them apart) and have become surprisingly nonchalant about our presence there - in fact, sometimes they will simply crouch down in the grass when Syrah the Mighty is there, and then raise back up when she has left.  But I cannot recall a time where I have seen such a blatant move.

It is a bit concerning of course - after all, rabbits eating garden things are things that I am not going to eat.  But I have a soft spot in my heart for these rabbits and can hardly begrudge them for eating something that is dying off anyway.

The whole experience, of course, has given me a new word:  rabbitude.  The act of being bold with panache while knowing that everyone knows that this is atypical behavior for you.

It is the unsurprising that sometimes carries the day - or in this case, the dinner.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Monday, October 05, 2015

Abandoning The Cause

There are moments when one feels like abandoning the cause.
It can come in a variety of forms, personal or professional or volunteer or even religious.  It can come after a short period of time, but I think that it comes after a longer time.

Enthusiasm wans.  Little things that were issues getting magnified into larger issues.  The energy to do simply is not there.  Or maybe it is the will.  I am never quite sure of such things.  Bottom line, one simply feels like giving up.  Packing it in and going home.  Locking the door and never going out again.

I have threatened - at least, I have threatened in my mind - to just start driving one day and not come back.  Just keep going until I hit the Pacific and then maybe make a right and head up the coast.  It is fantasy of course, mere stupidity.  After all, I have a fairly extensive list of responsibilities that I have to meet.

Not joys, responsibilities.  It feels like all that my life is dominated by such things at this point.  And that leaves me feeling like simply abandoning the cause.  All of them.

I will not, of course.  I will get up tomorrow because that is what adults do and go do my job and my responsibilities.  Children will be provided for.  Animals will be fed and plants watered.  My job will have the benefit of my attention and I will accomplish my tasks.  Bills will paid.  All the things a responsible person does.

But yes, probably, I will be driving to the Pacific in my mind.

Fall Garden 2015

So today began Fall Garden 2015.

I am somewhat scaling back and recalibrating how I garden.  After I opened up the space nearer to the house in April  I noticed a few things:  It had more exposure to sun, it was easier to weed, and it closer to the house and therefore easier to water.  This has changed how intend to try garden this year.

The space is not huge - perhaps an additional 20 square feet, 2 feet long and 10 feet wide.  It is still a bit planted with some volunteer peppers and tomatoes and the second growth of Sorghum.  Rather than replant the whole thing in winter crops (which will crowd out the spring and summer, which always gets me)  I have decided to narrow my choice to garlic (which always grows), spinach (sometimes yes, sometimes not so much yes), and leeks (never tried here.  Why not?  Leek soup and Leek pie are great!).

The space to north, which is a bit under the neighbors oak, which is usually where I garden, will be partially turned over to barley and winter wheat.  The rest will lie fallow under what is rapidly becoming a fair amount of detrius of dissolved wood pellet bedding (with rabbit urine) mixed with hay and rabbit manure, ready for spring.

My hope? The first is that the change in location will help more things grow.  The second is that with a smaller space to manage, I can cultivate it more productively and intensely.  The third is that by managing my space, I can get more by timing my plantings.

Worst case, at least I will have garlice.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Moths and Flames

I realized today that people are either moths or flames.

Most people are moths: they are irresistibly attracted to the lives of others.  They cluster around the lives of those that are flames, basking in the warm glow of their lives and their existences, which at some fundamental level they substitute for their own.  In fact, they are so entranced by the lives of others that they build their lives around them to the point that their interests, their live, their thoughts are merely the imitation of the flames that they dance about.

But a few people are flames:  they burn brightly with the light of inner achievement and activity.  They are not overly entranced with the lives of others; instead they are comfortable with the fact that they can define their own interests and desires, not have to adopt them whole cloth from the lives of others. They may be bold or subtle, bright or subdued, but they definitely - in their own way - light up the night.

I suppose at some point in life we are either one or the other, either drawn to the lives of others in imitation or burning brightly for ourselves.  Arguably we should always seek to achieve more the status of flame and less the status of a moth.

 Why?  Because when we are so entranced by the flames of our lives that we do not pay attention to how close we are getting to them - and so we are consumed by them.