Meaning


It has been a week of contemplation and ultimately deciding to let go–surrender.

For months now I’ve been preparing (with the online course) and then trying to get a job here. For any of you out there  who have tried in recent years, you may know it’s no fun task. Online job searching and applying has become, it seems, like all our communication now: a distant and computerized grind. It takes anything remotely human out of the chore. There is no more going into a place (like a store for instance) and asking for an application, where maybe you might have a real person see you. Everything is handled by some invisible robot now.

So I have been reduced to my statistics, and sadly they aren’t good. And don’t believe the lies they tell you. This America we live in now (or maybe even before), isn’t the equitable place everyone may believe. No, it’s really about the bottom line. It’s not about knowledge or experience: age does not bring wisdom folks, it brings the fact that you may just cost too darn much. Or in their minds you might anyway.

It doesn’t seem to matter that younger folks may not have the savvy for a particular job, or the personal presence shall we say (at least in some instances). I’ve noticed that many of the ‘kids’ seem too busy checking their phones to really know how to talk to a real person. But bosses and companies don’t seem to mind this flaw as long as they can keep hiring these kids cheaply.

And I’m not even asking for a lot of money! I just wanted a job. So does my neighbor. But try as we might, we just keep getting rejections, no matter how stellar our resumes may look. So it was time for me to just take a breath, because honestly, my breathing was getting too rapid about the whole situation. I was getting Indeed.com anxiety. It was nuts!

Enough already.

During a meditation it came to me that it was time to give in. My arms were heavy from swimming against this current. Fair enough. So time to take another tactic.

I applied to volunteer at the local soup kitchen. Within 10 minutes they called me. I start tomorrow at 7 am. No, I’m not a good person. This totally isn’t about being generous. It’s about me. I won’t lie: this is doing something for me. I need to feel like I have meaning.

And it didn’t hurt to apply somewhere and have someone say yes.

Lost In The Forest


There are times when it feels like it takes all my effort to keep the beast at bay. We each have our own beasts: financial burdens, relationship woes, weight issues, an illness, family problems, an addiction–the list is endless. My beast has been hiding in the bushes probably my whole life, blending in and camouflaged by the surrounding landscape. That landscape has been partly the creation of my own mind and parts of my life that simply lay hidden beneath the surface, like a creature that lives below the surface of the earth.

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For many years I have lived my life with this beast only in my peripheral vision; it was often a silent marauder coming to me, slipping in and out of dreams and reality. But I was young, strong and mostly unaware. Life was a whirlwind of distractions: that carousel spinning, making me dizzy so I mostly didn’t notice this strange visitor who crossed my path.

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When it did happen though, my heart became larger in my chest and I could feel it thudding in the front of my chest. My head felt heavy and my temples hurt…the room might tilt, if only for a moment, and reality would feel different. I knew something was closing in. It felt the air getting less and it was hard to breathe.

But the moment would pass. The world would return to normal (as normal is it can be) and I would forget, tuck it back into the recesses– the folds of my memory.

Now I am older and the habitat in which the beast dwells is thinning. Maybe climate change has effected that forest too, or maybe I am chopping the trees down myself? It seems I can sense this thing is coming closer; there is more clarity in which I feel its breath. I am familiar with the scent and know when it might be approaching at times. But there are still those unexpected moments when it creeps up on me and takes me by surprise, and I feel that weight again sitting on my chest. If I listen hard enough, then, I might hear the low growl of its voice telling me to beware…

It might be near, very near now, but what it wants, I still do not know. Why it hunts me is a mystery. And try as I may, ridding myself of it remains a secret lost within the darkness of the forest.

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Even Better


Sometimes we get tiny moments in time where we get to reinvent ourselves: a new job, meeting a new friend or maybe moving to a fresh neighborhood. We start over so people may not know our old habits, quirks or things about us that maybe we’d like to change. Of course, we probably are essentially the same, but we can hope that our old baggage can be left at the door.

As we get older, for me anyway, the picture of who we are seems to become less complicated. Maybe getting there can still be puzzling, as the world may not always work in the way we want, but if we take enough time to be quiet we can usually figure out what makes us tick and will make us relatively content. We realize too, that utter happiness may be an illusion chased by youth, and that each day presents challenges we must face.

But there are basic things we can each decide if we need or want them: do we need to be rich or have just enough to live and be comfortable; is a relationship important or is our solitude more gratifying; how close to family do we need to be; how much weight do we put on our jobs/careers, or is it simply important that we enjoy them? There are so many questions we can ask ourselves in search of contentment and being the person we want to be.

And when we stand at the threshold of some beginning, hopefully it is one that will bring us fulfillment and we can come to it as the person we want to be. So then at the end of it all, when we have lived as best we can, embracing what we loved about ourselves (even if others didn’t) and adapted to each new situation because it was a chance to become someone even better.

Being Human


“Being Human is more important than being full in the know.” Pico Iyer

I heard this on a TED talk the other day and thought it very poignant. One can interpret it many different ways I suppose. This gentleman was talking about what we will never know…that the older we get, the less we know.

Most people feel that with age comes wisdom, but maybe Mr. Iyer is correct. Maybe, instead we learn that as humans we really know very little. That with all our technology, science, predictions and machines–there is so much about the world around us, important stuff, that we simply just will never understand.

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We might predict if someone has cardiac disease, but not the exact minute they might have a heart attack, or if they will at all. So in the end, even though I moved here to help my Mother, I was not with her the moment hers came, therefore the incident became bigger.

Humans have never been able to predict love: when love will strike, who will be blessed with its arrow or when it will be wrenched away. For the ages poets, writers, painters and almost all creative people have tackled love within their medium. But none can truly define it. It remains a sacred mystery, one that is cherished, sought after and defined abstractly depending who is creating the script. It just is and anyone who has felt it understands it. It’s part of being human. We ‘get’ it, but a Webster definition…? Good luck.

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Is ignorance bliss? Maybe in many cases this saying is yes. With the onslaught of the internet and the overabundance of information, being in the know can be a dangerous thing. We have stopped being simply human and relying on those skills we once did that provided us the ability to survive. Our ‘gut’ told us what and who was safe or which way to go; we could sense when our body needed something or when something wasn’t right. Those subtle signals that made the hair stand up, or when we just knew someone was nearby even though we couldn’t see them. Now we ignore signals either about these invisible others (or we are overly sensitive about people different from us) and we are completely out of touch with our own bodies.

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How do we begin to detach, then, our ever whirring minds, so filled with all the data, and get back to ‘just being human’? Can we relearn to trust our inner selves again to become at least partially instinctual in our decision-making? It would be hard for many who have become so co-dependent on digital information. They must be ‘in the know’ for everything. Trusting in themselves would be a hard thing. Especially the generation raised on computers–they have been breast-fed on them, so how do they know otherwise?

For me, tuning in more and more–over many years–to my inner voice, the nuances of my physical self and trying to quiet my chattering mind has been a challenge. But it has been one I take on gladly. Because I am human, this is the animal I was born to be, and getting back to the bare bones of this beast is where I belong.

When we truly quiet the mind, turn off the data stream and just be the beast, we become in tune with the Universe and all things sacred.

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Invisible


While I don’t like to admit it, I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older (and have embraced my gray hair) I’ve become invisible. In my younger life, I was never, ever an invisible person. Even when I felt then (unbeknownst to my then introverted self) that the crowds were getting a bit too much for me. Somehow I still stood out shall we say. My personality was somehow bigger than my small frame… even when I didn’t want it to be.

It was my big mouth I suppose: always standing up when I felt injustice was happening, or whispering an irreverence at inopportune moments. Or when I felt someone (preferably someone of authority) said something I felt stupid and needed to be put straight. Yep, I never held back, and usually got in trouble, bringing attention to myself and therefore was definitely not invisible.
Plus I was never, ever a follower. And in fact, usually a leader. Starting a trend maybe, like the first one to wear hot pants in my high school. To me, they were just cool. Or to bring cloth bags to the grocery store 40 years ago when everyone thought I was nuts. Or becoming a vegetarian about the same time because it simply made sense. And being the ‘class clown’ and ‘most inclined to argue’ also put me in the class of calling attention to myself–just like George Carlin so aptly said…Hey, look at me!

Did I need attention? I don’t know? I just know that I was an only child and loved school and my friends and loved to get into it with anyone who would participate in good debate or humor. Or I did some things simply because they made good sense to me and I believed they were right. It never occurred to me that not everyone felt the same way. In fact, it might be better if they didn’t.
So now that I’m 60, and suddenly a senior citizen–it seems so odd to say that because I still feel like a kid–and part of the class of people who most ignore. It feels crazy. Me, the person that most folks used to gather around and laugh with, or got yelled at, or who got sent to the principal’s office because I was so disruptive. Now I can’t even mange to worm my way into a conversation because it’s assumed I have nothing of value to say. It’s utterly amazing to me.

At least this is what I find among the folks where I work. It’s a mixed crowd of both young and middle aged…not too many my age. I’m in the hub where people come and go and I could just be a chair really. When they bring new people around, most times I don’t even get introduced. I find it rude really. The new gal that does my job in the evening is 27, pretty and has far more attention from folks (men and women mind you) fluttering around her in a couple of months than I do in nearly a year there.

Is it because our society doesn’t value age and wisdom? Certainly I have become less in need of the attention I once did. I’m more subdued and quiet and more observant. Maybe I don’t draw the attention any longer.

It’s quite interesting to watch the squabbles, the dances and cruelties. I’m proud to have joined the ranks of the wise ones actually. There’s humor sitting back while seeing those that make fools of themselves as I once did or listen to tales of woe and know how unimportant these things really are in the grand scheme of life.

I only hope I’ve taught my own daughters to treat their elders better than I am treated at work. And I hope I never acted in this way. We can certainly choose moments to be invisible, but no-one should make  someone feel that way. We all have the same rights to be equally colorful, vibrant and brilliantly seen.

Different From Another


Remember the good old show “Sesame Street”–and the one skit where they did “this thing is different from another” and you had to figure out what it was? It had a little jingle too to engage the kids, just like all the wonderful things on that show!

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Well, I feel I have been that ‘different thing’ my whole life. For as long as I can recall, I’ve always been the odd kid out, the one that did everything against the grain. As a youth, this of course often frustrated (or angered) the adults in charge around me. As an adult it leaves me, at times, like the bright berry surrounded by the melding colors of those around me.

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I’m not sure where this part of me comes from: maybe the lonely heart of an adoptee looking to be seen by those passing by. Or maybe this is just who I would have been anyway: the stray, wandering off from the pack to march to my own drum.

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Having been a vegetarian, long before it was fashionable, I got looks from waitresses when I would question what was in the soup stock. And I brought bags to pack my groceries before Whole Foods gave you money for it–back then the baggers just got annoyed and huffed and puffed as though you were putting them out. Now I’m a hero!

For years I’ve embarrassed my kids with my ‘behaviors’, being too out there (I don’t see it as such)–maybe talking to strangers or how passionate I am. I just have never seemed to be able to melt into a crowd.

Belonging certainly has been something I have wanted: that symbiotic need where I would get out the desired sense of feeling a part, but I’ve never been willing to give up my identity.

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Today, in this massively diverse world, belonging seems to create a strange new need. While I may have felt hurt or sadness, I never felt drawn to violence over people leaving me out. In fact, it either made me try harder to be kind–or made me tuck into myself more.

It never made me lose my sense of self, my ideals or values. Over the years, they have gotten stronger while my mouth has gotten softer in expressing them.

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We should all be acknowledged for the special and beautiful person we are, whether or not we are different from the next person.  This can be very hard in these tumultuous and changing times. But there is room for growth and two different types of people can understand one another given patience and remaining open.

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So I still stand out in a crowd and am proud, not sad, that I’m unique. It would never suit me to follow the masses. Rather I want to be hanging on where I’m not supposed to, saying what I really feel and always being true to my heart.

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