Sharing our Humanity

 

flowerseller

Nivia Gonzalez, “El Mercado de Flores”

Two days ago I went for a follow-up mammogram and ultra-sound. Nobody likes to get these things. I always tell the technician a glass of wine would go nicely, sometimes it gets a laugh but I NEVER get a glass of wine.

 

It was good.  I mean, I had a nice time if you can believe it.  As it was a follow-up exam I made a point of telling everyone that actually had to touch me that I have had cancer twice and am now being monitored for a pre-cancer.

“I can understand how you might be nervous because of that.”

It seemed to make a difference, but I can’t be sure if it was a result of the release of tension I probably carry without knowing it or because of the technicians actually showing more than the usual amount of compassion.

I like to say that compassion is not something anyone can own or take as a virtue but an environment that we can share when we let go of the “self and other” mentality.  I have no proof for this and only a vague recollection of experiencing this as my usual internal narrator was absent. The moment, transitory and aberrant has only a tether to my Zen practice which is almost impossible for me to talk about.

Nevertheless my own pressure release of expressing what could likely make me feel separate from other people, (or at least one of the things that so often limits me) did serve to connect me to what was going on and that usually has good effects.

Something else I realized, if you make people aware of your shared humanity, they increasing look ridiculous as they try harder and harder to deny it.  You only have to look at ranting racists on social media who are confronted in a calm but consistent rebuttal by the people they are invested in hating and how they look more and more pathetic, eroding in their rhetoric into petulant potty mouths.  I think it is interesting because they look like two year olds… just a thought…

Nobody should be written off as hopeless.  We all behave like children often enough and yet, like children, given a shared opportunity to learn we can be quite remarkable in how kind, helpful and even courageous we are.  Oh and good news, results in, it’s fine, nothing to worry about. 🙂

the poster was in the waiting room of the breast screening clinic

Buying Time

This is a link to some famous guys talking about their time.  You can Google Warren Buffet and Bill Gates and find out who they are if you don’t know.  Which is cool right?

http://www.swiss-miss.com/2017/03/you-control-your-time.html

Anyway, a basic lack of awareness is the biggest time waster of all and no amount of structure, lists or schedules can provide it.  I remember when a mom I knew who had been a palliative care nurse in a hospital told me she had had nervous breakdown.  She said the cut backs in support staff were so severe that her job had become moving patients around like cords of wood just to get the basics done like changing sheets and cleaning bed pans and she realized that she had started to see them as impediments to the function of the floor rather than the reason why she was there. “I wasn’t interacting with them as human beings. I had lost it”.  What had she lost? She lost the awareness of what she was actually doing there, perhaps because it was no longer possible.  I don’t know, I don’t doubt it was devastating for her.  She loved her job, she said she felt had been good at it.

This is a drastic example but not unusual.

Still, we have more time than we know, we have right now.  We have the breath in our bodies. We have the light entering our eyes from whatever screen we are looking at this from, the air moving around us, perhaps playing with dancing tiny flecks of dust, the sounds around us, intentional or insidious, humming aspects of twenty-first century life.  Or maybe nature: Robins bursting with exuberant declarations of spring love, or trees swaying in the wind or rain falling on hard ground…

Ah but there is that other blog we wanted to check and the coffee we want warmed and damn aren’t we late for something!!!  But if we bump into another human being as we rush to where we are going we can take a moment to notice them (if we are Canadian we can apologize) before we rush off.  We can be AWARE and it can make a difference.

Have a Nice Day!

This moment is brought to you entirely free. 🙂

 

 

Personal Transportation Vehicles

Sitting staring at a blank wall the image of a zafu, a small round cushion, flying through the air and hitting me on the back of the head came to mind.  Wait, let me back up a bit: I have grown very attached to my zafu having clocked  so, so, many, many hours sitting on it.  At times I realize I have an almost obsessive affection for it. It has been repaired and recovered and in it’s heart it contains my former teacher’s zafu.  *Sigh*

None of these things has anything to do with my practice or the value of it or my sincerity or effort. At the end of the day it is just a cushion… And you may ask, quite rightly, what does this have to do with cars?

Well we all have to get to places. We can pay attention to where we are without getting confused about how to get to where we need to be. *groan*

We all, at least begrudgingly, acknowledge we  affect each other with our behaviour, certainly we acknowledge when other people’s behaviour upsets us in some way. But put us in our very own vehicle, encase us in “top of the line performance” and drench us in the joy of our favourite mix of tunes OR WHATEVER, driving along in our cars, flying like Isadora Duncan’s scarf down a ribbon of hi-way, well, that is freedom.

The images of driving and freedom are endless thanks to really clever and expensive advertising.  Too bad they are untrue.  It isn’t free.  It is very costly.  It costs in waved penalties for environmental damages for the HUGE companies that produce all manner of stuff for cars. It costs in road maintenance, insurance claims, hospital and emergency response costs, and in broken bodies and destroyed lives.

It costs in deluded and dangerous expectations about “what we deserve to have” and gives us an added layer of separation from the harm we might be doing to others.

Whatever you believe about yourself and what you are doing, if it is a means of separating yourself from your fellow beings and their suffering you will get someplace, maybe get there really fast, but you won’t be happy and you can never be free.

You might get a buzz, a high, a sense of being unfettered by worries and concerns and responsibilities but, AND IT IS A REALLY BIG BUTT, AS IN DUMB-ASS, now wait for it, here it comes, the flying zafu!!!!

Not Knowing, I go on and on…

I am so happy to have undefined time!  Holiday!  One of the time wasters is following the white rabbit down that inevitable hole that is the internet. This morning, a Facebook spirit posted this:

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/george-michael-dead-death-somebody-to-love-queen-freddie-mercury-cover-rehearsal-video-david-bowie-a7496046.html

It is a rehearsal with George Michaels singing Queens “Somebody to Love” (which is possibly the purest genius of Western music, just my opinion).  And there is Mr. Jones smiling in the background.

So that got me thinking about Bowie and the time I spent trying to look like him.  I spent some time during my teens doing a lot of psychedelic substances while wandering around back alleys with friends, who like me, had no place to go, their family homes having turned into fortresses clearly defined by their lack of comfort or welcome for the likes of us.  If we had become unrecognizable to our families they had also become unrecognizable to us. But we were seeking guidance from heroes who were children themselves, reading voraciously in a way our parents never had, Ken Kesey, Vonnegut, Carlos Castaneda, Solzhenitsyn, Tolkien, following Art and Culture, yet undefined, with a kind of devotion  found in cults. (No wonder our parents were afraid of us.)  But I was still just a girl, in love with a boy… so I looked up what I wrote about  David Bowie, here on LJ and found the following. (I edited a bit).

An artist questions… she is naked, so we dress her in what we understand, but we only show our own misunderstanding.

If we can bear the embarrassment, and this is the point when we can change, when we laugh and start open up; we realize we all are these frail and imperfect beings, naked in what we thought was our brilliance, vulnerable.

Our true brilliance is, …we are all like stranded aliens, homesick and searching. Looking for a name for ourselves and hiding in our lies. When a voice reaches out of the rubble left by our insistent need conquer anyone who questions us, it is a voice of pure desperate need.  George singing in joy, in desperation, “Find me somebody to love”:  These are the moments when even the Gods are gobsmacked.

And then I came to my friend (? I flatter myself), Sub Rosa, here on W.P. Her writing about art has challenged me in new ways and the work and writings she has exposed me to in her blog have lit a bit of a fire in me.  This poem is advice on how we keep the brilliance from shredding us to pieces. Have I reached the time when I can?

<a href=”https://omstreifer.com/2016/08/05/live-the-questions/”>https://omstreifer.com/2016/08/05/live-the-questions/ </a>

I will end here because I am hungry because I now know what my desperate need is, not someone to love, but something… I have to tighten it till it reaches the pitch required to achieve escape velocity, just for my own satisfaction, as if it’s all I ever wanted.

Because no matter how horrible we humans are we do our best when we are lost and on the brink of disaster.

And now, in addition, I come to the loss of Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher who so artfully made struggle for mental wellness lyric, and comic and true and made room for all of us to admit our vulnerability. When she was Princess Leia the boys pretended to love her tits, but it was her courage we all loved. As temporary as youth and beauty are, courage can grow and she showed us how.

(Side note, apparently sleep is the new way to stay young. Oh Gwenith Paltrow why must you?  I must admit I giggled a lot when I read that.)

Sometimes I Just Bake Cookies…

MUSING BUT NOT AMUSING?

I have been imagining all the things that I could do now that I am no longer responsible for anyone else.

I still have my crossing guard job and within the three hours a day I am occasionally responsible for getting people (I wish more children walked to school) safely across the street.

Some adults think it is hilarious that I am crossing them. “I feel like a kid again!”  Some think it’s annoying.  I scold them when they are too impatient for the light to change and head out ahead of me on the red. I don’t tell them I have years of looking after people who were either looking forward to being independent, or looking back on the loss of it and so no stink eye of the type one might expect from a teenage is going to thwart me…

I didn’t look after kids or my mother for the approval I would gain.  That was good too because being a caregiver is really hard and often criticized by those who have never been one but know a lot about it from watching television. Although it was nice when  appreciation was expressed, it came, less often than it would in a television sitcom but more often than I probably remember.  (And I am sorry for this, truly.)

I just like knowing what needs to be done and then doing it.  It feels good. There, I said it.  I am not a self sacrificing saint or anything like it. I am just a person lacking in imagination.  Maybe. Maybe that is it.

So while I would like to sell everything and go and stand on the front lines of some injustice, other than getting hurt I don’t think I can contribute much; Or finish the two books I started to write when I was younger and smarter and able to drink more than one cup of coffee a day without a gastro-disaster; or finally finish that enormous painting I started (what was I thinking?) that is facing the wall as if the painting was ashamed and not me, it kills my back to stand and paint; Or try to learn to speak French, something that I found easier when I was still drinking wine, *sigh*.   None of these things will likely happen.

The anniversary of my mother’s death is rapidly approaching and I promised myself I would give myself a year before making any major decisions.

I am no longer responsible for anyone else. I come home exhausted and eat one of the frozen meals I made on the weekend and then do some hand sewing while some really violent Netflix show plays. It is the only way I can watch some of these programs.  If I actually look at the screen too often,  OMG, PTSD.

So I bake cookies when I am unsure, maybe I’ll manage a trip to see my Old Teacher over the holidays, bounce my grandson on my knee. And follow my favourite blogs, those that make the world still seem a place full hope and beauty and adventure, and good will for all.

 

Remembering a Dream

I had a diagnosis of stage four Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2002. I got in a panic about several areas of my life that needed addressing.  So as soon as I well enough after the chemo rounds were done I started painting.  I joined the Scarborough Artist’s Group. I also took probationary monks vows in the Soto Zen lineage.

openingtoopenness this was one.  “Opening to Openness, the four great vows”.

I don’t know where it is now.  I am still practicing just about everything there is to practice about being a human being.

 

Walking Woman’s post about Doris McCarthy brought back this reminiscence at: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/1450339/posts/1210833758

We can make a habit of compassion

Things are so weird right now but maybe it’s good that it’s all out in the open so we can see how ugly racism, sexism and entitled criminality are, but that said, violence in television is over the top and I don’t see people cringing, rather they are getting desensitized to it. Will we become desensitized to the sort of ignorant thuggism that is taking over all our public forums? I hope not. I am 60 this year and tired. I feel like “wake me up when they come for me, or not“, which is bad, really bad. I keep reminding myself, Hitler ran for office more than once before he got in power. Persistant thuggism can overwhelm considered intellect and endeavoured compassion, as history has shown us over and over. We must confront it. We must shake off our reasonable desire for comfort and confront it and we must confront it over and over with the same persistance as ignorance.
How we confront it is part of waking up to our own lives. If we find we are hating the person who perhaps took the parking space we wanted or the seat on the subway or the last donut or whatever, we need to see hate for what it is, it is thuggism, maybe in its infancy but it contains the potential that we see rampant in the world. Instead, if we recognize our annoyance for what it is, arising entirely within our expectations and probably, the person we might choose to direct this annoyance at (please try not to call it hate) is completely unaware of any of this, or at best thinking themselves lucky, if we see how this reaction arises in ourselves we can make choices about our response.  Is this the circumstance that requires us to speak up?  Probably not.
But when we have a reaction to someone doing harm, speaking of harm being done, promoting hate, we can see our fear, fear that it might be directed at us, but we can make a choice. Thuggism is a lack of choice.  Being awake is constant choice.  Are we ready to respond not with anger with knowledge and understanding? 
We are essentially fragile, all of us, and dependant on each other and anger is familiar to us though how some are expressing it and what they believe are their reasons for their anger are not acceptable to us.
This is what it is.  It is uncomfortable.  Whereas hate can feel good.  It is a paradox huh, that something that can feel good can be the cause of so much bad in the world?
The alarm clock has rung and we are awake. Now what?  Me? I think I will have breakfast.
“This meal arises from the labour of all beings,
may I be grateful.”