Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Category: Essays Page 1 of 3

Stress: Considering Ways to Stay Sane

My Dad got me thinking yesterday about ways to stay sane in this climate of stress and anxiety. This starts negative but stay with me a moment.

stress
My Dad, My Brother, and Me (1975ish)

There are days (more and more of them lately) that I want to cry for humanity. It’s usually the day that (for some reason unfathomable to myself) I decide to open a news channel and read a few articles. Between the inflammatory headlines, that I swear are written by a catchy headline generator, and the piss-poor journalism…ugg…I just can’t.

And then there are the social media posts and comments that lead me to believe that there are few people online that are trying to make sense of the world and create a better life for themselves. It seems we are all more interested in creating and fighting a war between factions than understand each other. We’re all flying colors instead of asking questions.

What’s wrong with us? Have we all lost our minds? Is this how civilization gets thrown back into the dark ages again? Maybe.

Then I read more history and see the bigger picture. It’s always the end of the world according to the news media. The government is always reaching for more power. And the people, in general, don’t have a firm grip on reality. The only difference between now and the past is that the information moves much quicker and the whole world can be reported on at once. And that may very well spell disaster, but no more than it ever has before.

The reality is that everything changes, everything ends. Wars start and end. Atrocities are committed. Tyranny looms up. A rebellion begins. All sides believe they are doing what needs to be done to make the world better. Have you seen Star Wars?

And among all of that, here we are, the individual, trying to live our lives as best we can.

I’ve turned off the news completely. No, I don’t know who killed who, what country might invade another, what disease is spreading now, or how much of California is burning. There is absolutely nothing I can do about those things on any given day. And it seems that knowing all that information is putting everyone around me at such a heightened sense of risk awareness that they live constantly in fight or flight mode.

I don’t have time to finish this thought today, but I’m posting this anyway to hold the thought. Today is my “calling day.” It’s my stress reliever, that day that I visit friends and catch up. Yes, in person. While I’m out, I’ll be thinking about how I’d like to move forward. How do I respond to this world? How do I live without causing more stress to those around me? How do I protect myself now and leave a better world for my children’s children at the same time?

Looking For Buyers: Telling You What You Need

Advertisers are looking for buyers, telling people that they need the product or service they’ve created. That’s not always a bad thing. But what if we kept our heads a little, and put some space between that “call to need” and the purchase?

I got these giant googly eyes at Target yesterday and now I’m considering where to put them. My son says they should go on the chimney, so it looks like the house is looking at you when you dive up. Brilliant. I was thinking I’d put them on a tree down by the driveway, or maybe staple them to the house number at the road.

Looking for buyers
Here’s lookin’ at you!

These are the things that entertain me. I’ve wanted these for a long time and when I saw them in the store, right at the front, I grabbed them and threw them in the basket. “Need!” I told my son and he agreed.

Then, as he was looking for a good jump rope for his workout (didn’t find), I started thinking maybe I need a new yoga mat. He asked, “Did you come here for new yoga mat? Or did you see those ones and start to think yours wasn’t good enough?” I don’t need a new yoga mat.

This is why I avoid stores unless I need something specific that I think they might have on hand. Walking around a retail store is the same as watching commercials. It convinces you that you need something you didn’t know existed. I was perfectly happy without it, but now that I see it, it would mean the world to me.

Googly eyes aside. THOSE were important.

Side note: Oh my…there’s an instructable to make your own! Do it!

I recently tried this out at a restaurant. A friend wanted to go out for breakfast. I’m trying to watch my calories (and failing miserably in general). I know what I want to eat, what’s good for me and what will make me feel good. But then I get there and flip through the menu. “Oohh! Cinnamon bun! Mocha! Pancakes!” I didn’t want them before I came in, but then saw the pictures and started drooling.

This time I didn’t look at the menu. I ordered the veggie omelet that I know I love, without the potatoes and biscuits that I only eat because they are there. And coffee. HAVE to have coffee. Breakfast was great. The conversation was wonderful. And we had a marvelous time together.

There is a lot in this world screaming at you for your attention, looking for buyers into products and ideas, but there is so little that is actually important. If the economy fails because I don’t eat out, go to events, and buy the latest thing, maybe we built an economy on the wrong things.

I don’t usually write about economics but when I do…
Check out my post “Buddhism, Economics, Racism, And More”

Morning Meditation – A Break

I wasn’t going to write this morning, but the day started so unexpectedly beautiful that I had to use it all as a morning meditation and share it with you. No pictures. That would have ruined the mood.

This is the one day a week that I have to be up and out the door by a certain time. It’s my “day out,” visiting with friends and shopping for household goods I can’t find in my own small town. Let me rephrase that; I CAN find them, I just don’t want to. It adds value to my life to spend time “down the hill” in the city visiting friends, and why not shop at a few nicer stores while I’m there!

I don’t usually write this day. I have little time, and something has to give. But today something was different.

I woke up to a strange feeling. Cool.

It’s the middle of August, that time of year when I have just about had my fill of excessive heat warnings, blazing hot afternoons, and swamp cooler fans running on high all night long. And then the wind started to blow yesterday afternoon and it was 77 degrees at 8pm. I opened the windows and turned off the fans smiling. Would that break actually come like the weather report suggested?

When I awoke, there was a chill. I looked at the thermometer, 57 degrees. I took a deep breath and put on my favorite sweatshirt to sit and read, sip my coffee and watch the sunrise.

I thought to myself, “Screw the morning routine. I need to relish this.” But after an hour of reading “East of the Mountains” (which I haven’t blogged about yet, sorry), my habit mind insisted that it was workout time and I heeded its call. Thirty minutes of cardio. Twenty minutes of silent meditation. A bit of breakfast: oatmeal, raisins, and walnuts. And…

Water the yard before the sun gets too hot.

Nope! Not today! No need. I sat down to spend twenty minutes in my new book “No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners.” I found a new mantra there. “Every day is a good day.”

My son walked in from the trailer looking for coffee. He’s back at home for a few months, but that’s another story. I put my book away and went out to water the trees while he made his breakfast.

But my morning meditation continued.

In the yard that joyous feeling swelled up inside me. The sun had been up for an hour, a cool breeze was still blowing softly, the sky was that brilliant clear desert blue, and the sun was warm and friendly on my back.

The California Thrashers were signaling their territory…loudly. The quail were scratching about and chattering in the bushes. The hummingbirds, as usual, were there to get a taste of the water I was putting on my lilac bushes. It made me want to get out in the yard, get my trail cam back out and start recording my bird visitors again.

I came back in the house to my son watching some tv show in German while he ate. That’s why his German is so good. He watches German language shows with the subtitles on in German. Long term homeschool win, again.

And my morning meditation continued.

As I’m writing this, I hear more cars on the paved road half a mile away, hammers from the beautiful new house they’re building at the end of the street. My dog is at my feet wondering why we’re typing in my office and not on the couch today. My cat keeps walking over my desk to inspect the house plants that I moved onto it yesterday so they had more space to grow. These are some happy plants.

And now I just thought of a picture I do want to share with you!

morning meditation

This was a beautiful break. I didn’t get to read as much as usual, but I got to write to you. It turns out you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

Mid-Life Crisis or Existential Crisis?

Is this what a mid-life crisis feels like? It’s not quite an existential crisis, but I feel that something does need to be done.

I’ve been sitting at the corner of “The Past” and “The Future,” wondering what I’m supposed to be doing for quite some time now. I’m sure you’ve been there. You may be there right now. Life is just full of these intersections. Some of them have nice rest areas we should take advantage of before we move on.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been heading down one street and coming back, then heading down another, circling and ending up in the same place. I sit down and think, try to group my thoughts, and head off in another direction, only to feel like I’m still headed the wrong way and stop again.

This morning I was chatting with a friend and grumbling, not in a sad or frustrated way, just in a curious way, about what was going on in my head. He listened, threw out some suggestions, and virtually gave me hug and a “it’ll pass” pat on the back. That’s all I needed really, just to be heard.

At the end of the conversation, I decided not to write anything at all and got up to get in the shower to do some thinking. That’s where the best thinking happens. Right? Side note: I really need to start bringing my notebook in the bathroom with me to write down my idea before it gets whisked away by distracting chores. I held it in my mind this time though. It must be a good one.

When I was child, I didn’t give a flying leap about the future, and I had no past to ponder. All I cared about was if my mom would make cookies, if my dad would take us to the movies this weekend, and if there was going to be someone to play with at the park. Right now, right in front of me, was all that mattered.

Then adolescence came. Stupid teenage angst: wondering what I would do after high school, if that person liked me, who I would become. Soon I’d have to make it on my own, get a job or go to college, find an apartment, make my own dinner. And I wanted to, desperately. If I were on my own, I’d be in control of my destiny. No one could tell me no.

My young adult life proved that to be a false dream. Life tells you no all the damn time. But I was still happy. I had my own apartment, a great job that I thought I’d have forever. I was dating a lot, had a few good friends. The license plate frame on my truck said it best, “Part of the Magic.” I was a part of something bigger than myself.

Life snowballs. Did you know that? Sure, you did. Everyone knows that. Dating turned into serious relationships that in nasty, mean break ups. Jobs turned into careers. Debts were incurred and paid. Marriage. Kids. House. Car. Playgroups. Arrest. Yes, you read that right. I’ve written that book, but I’m afraid to try and publish it. Homeschool. Moving out of the city. Motocross. Eventually, the kids grew up and started their own lives. I know you’ve heard me tell that bit before.

And here I am now with that “Now what?!” feeling, that endless song loop playing in my mind.

I started reading more, writing this blog. I volunteered a bit. I’ve made some new friends and gone on a few adventures. But nothing seems to feel like it used to. I’m not part of something. I’m not going anywhere. I’m just wasting time and energy in the wrong direction.

This morning, it dawned on me. Could it be because I AM heading in the wrong direction?

The one thing I know for sure is that nothing is certain in the future we have coming to us. Just about everything is up in the air, anything can happen. My job right now is to get my own shit in order. Do the repairs that we haven’t had time for in the past. Save the money, pay off the debts. Clean up the stuff that has accumulated over the years and regroup. Reading, writing out my thoughts and posting them to this blog, meditation, and podcasts are part of my own preparation for what’s coming.

Life, right now, is preparation for what’s to come. I didn’t know what it was when I started college. I didn’t know what it was when I was building a career or my marriage and family. I don’t know what the future holds now either. All I know is that I’ve learned in the past to trust my gut and listen to myself. My place right now is making space, getting ready, building up skills to deal with whatever comes my way next. And I’ve never been very good at staying still and waiting.

What does that mean for this blog? It means that I’ll keep writing about the things I find when I find them. I’ll be making time to write and re-write, put my thoughts in order and post as often as I can. My hope is daily…unless I can’t, at which point I will not be freaking out and throwing things at myself because I’m such an awful blogger.

The point of what I write here is only to show someone else what I’ve learned. Teaching/showing is the best way to learn. I’m not telling anyone how to live their lives, what they should do, or how things should be done. I’m just here marveling at the world around me, the same way I would if you and I were on an adventure together. Yeah, I probably talk too much. I have a lot going on in my head. I get very excited about strange things, like this dwarf mongoose I saw at the zoo.

Mid-life crisis is not a thing for a mongoose.
He jumped up there so I could take a picture!

But I hope you’ll stick around. Adventuring alone isn’t any fun. Who would I look to and scream and point at things if you weren’t here?

Blogging: A Message in a Bottle

I just don’t know, you guys. Maybe blogging isn’t my thing after all. I’ve sat and thought about it, wondering what it is that I offer. What is it that my writing can give you that no one else’s can? Nothing. But I still can’t help but write things down, tap them out on a screen. I have things to say, things I want to share, ideas, thoughts, recipes, important things that fill up my mind and spill over. Where else can I share them but here?

You would not believe how many pages of notes I took while driving the eight hours up to my mom’s house and then back a few days later. Nine pages seem like a lot, but it’s a smaller notebook and the writing is crazy big and all over the place since I’m writing while driving. I only glance down to put my pen in a blank space, my right hand scrawling blind.

I’m glad I took up this practice. It really helps remind me what it was I was listening to. I also jot down funny ideas and things I see along the way, like the girl in her soccer uniform lying on the side of the highway in the dirt under a tree looking at her phone in one of the small desert towns I passed through. You’d have thought she had been transported from some suburban park, it seemed so out of place. If I hadn’t noted down “dirt girl under tree lol,” the scene would have been lost forever.

The first thing I heard as I started my journey on Monday morning was from Secular Buddhism. He said that he isn’t teaching on the podcast, he isn’t telling you what you should do or believe. He’s only sharing his own path, his discoveries, and interpretations, as he goes along through this world. It made me smile and I made a note.

That’s what I want to do here. It’s what I crave to do. And why I keep blogging, even when it seems random. No, this blog doesn’t have a theme and I’m not writing to teach you anything. I’m simply sharing my experience of the world around me.

If we lived in a world without the internet, I guess I’d have to find another way to pour this stuff off, but we don’t. I can share my thoughts with the world. I’ve mentioned a message in a bottle before, and that’s still exactly how I feel about writing here. I spend some time each morning writing out what I’m feeling, experiencing, reading, learning, roll it up, stuff it in a bottle and cork it. Then I throw it out as far as I can and hope the current catches it and brings it to you. If you like it, if you find value in it, share it with others. That’s why I keep blogging.

Death before Dishonor: A Logical Choice

Socrates is faced with the choice of death before dishonor in his Apology. What would you choose? Why?

In Plato’s “The Apology of Socrates” he says, “For neither in war nor yet at law ought any man to use every way of escaping death. The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs faster than death.”

I read this in another post I wrote back in May of 2015, and it struck me once again how vitally important these words are to remember. There is no human on this planet that can escape death. It comes for us all. But, with effort, we do have a hope of escaping unrighteousness.

To force others into slavery so that you feel safer, to create laws and ordinances that trample the rights of others so that you may live another day, to encourage others to suffer with you as you struggle to survive, that is unrighteousness.

At the end of Apology, Socrates stands before those who will kill for teaching what he believes is right and he feels sorry for them. Death is an unavoidable event, but unrighteousness? He chooses to stay his course.

His choices were death or to live in exile the rest of his life knowing that he compromised his beliefs. There are two things that could happen to him after death: non-existence, a perfect sleep, forever without worry, or an afterlife with those that had died before him, chatting it up with the heroes and philosophers of old.

He chose death.

Death before dishonor is a logical choice and I hope that will choose the same.

Reporter of Ideas: Reposted Thought

My posts this week won’t be that profound. I’m on vacation, people, but there are little things that I want to share, so bear with me. I’ll be doing a bit of research in the hopes of becoming a better reporter of ideas.

I’m going back through some old posts of mine, pulling out old ideas to ruminate while I’m here, seeing where I’ve been, hoping to see some kind of growth.

Back in May of 2015, I was reading an article on AntiWar.com about the possibility of making “anti-war” fashionable. I still wish that would happen.

I also found this quote which made my heart smile. “A Reporter of the Ideas of Others.”

Reporter of ideas.

It appears that I’m in good company.

Mental Minimalism: Taking a Break

I went into my morning routine with a crummy attitude, set myself up for failure, and the surprisingly…I failed. Took a long shower, ate something tasty, had another cup of coffee, laughed with my husband, read an article. Had a thought…mental minimalism.

My original goal earlier this month was to sit here quietly every day for one hour, uninterrupted by the phone, and write anything that came to mind. If nothing came, I would just sit there with my laptop open to a blank page and stare out the window until the timer was up. Within a couple days though, that simple goal morphed into writing brilliance and posting on my blog every day as well. It didn’t feel good.

This morning, once I was interrupted by my company at the house and a text (because I forgot to turn my phone off), I lost my strong stride and got frustrated. Over the past couple of days, I had already begun to question what I was doing. This morning only confirmed my suspicions. This wasn’t going to be sustainable.

I need to rethink, refocus, and gain some perspective. Meditate on it a while and see if I can get a better picture of what the point of this blog is. What am I trying to do here? What am I offering to you? If I’m only writing for myself, why publish it at all? What if I really don’t have anything significant to add to the conversation in the world?

So many posts each week seem to just clutter up the place. In fact, this blog looks a lot like my mind if you could open it up and see all the rooms inside. My brain is like an open floorplan office space. Everyone loudly working on their own stuff, no boundaries, no privacy, no quiet time. Meetings in the middle, writers on one side, painters over there, and a construction crew adding on a balcony, all while someone else tries to make phone call in a corner. It’s a mess. Nothing gets done.

It’s time to do some decluttering and put what’s left in order, a little mental minimalism.

Today is my last day with a house full of people. I’m going to put away the writing and enjoy that moment. Tomorrow I’ll be driving to LA, then the weekend to rest a bit and think, and then a week with my mom. I won’t be posting here, but I’ll be back, and with some new floor plans for this metal office space.

“Always on the move.”

Social MEDIA Distancing, Let’s Try It

Screw social distancing. How about some social media distancing?

Ha! I came up with that gem right off the top of my head. How do you like it? It pretty much sums up what I’ve been thinking about this morning and what I’d like to explore some in an upcoming post.

The way we were asked to slow down the covid virus was to put some space between each other. Maybe it helped, maybe it didn’t. But I feel like social media has another virus that is spreading like wildfire and seems to be far more destructive than covid. What can I do? Take a step back, do some social media distancing, and slow the spread.

I’ve taken breaks. I’ve deleted accounts. And I’ve come back many times. It feels like an addiction of sorts, one that sneaks up on you and plies you to try again. “This time things will be different.” An abusive relationship.

Why? That’s what I’m working on. The excuses seem lame when I write them out. When I try to explain, I feel like people are quietly scoffing.

Can I blog without FB and IG connection? I believe so, yes. It may be slower but steadier and more secure in the long run. Seth Godin does it.

One thing I was thinking this morning is, “How can I share the cool articles, podcasts, books, videos, and websites that I find?” I do it here to some degree and I love that, but what about those little things like, “This article was interesting!” things? I don’t think those need a whole post. Any ideas?

I have been thinking about restarting the weekly newsletter idea that I posted about in Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed. Learning to build a better newsletter subscriber list would be a good thing to do.

There’s just so much to think about.

I’ve done this dance before, many times. The last time I really posted about it back in March 2020, over a year ago in Should I Stay or Go? The Verdict. The trouble is that I’m still not sure what the right thing to do.

Letting Go of Expectations and Results

Letting go of expectations means there doesn’t need to be a destination picked out to have a great life filled the happiness and peace. We can simply pick a direction and see what happens.

Listening to Secular Buddhism on the way to have breakfast with a friend yesterday, I learned about The Three Doors of Liberation. He used these three quotes to describe the three doors:

“This is because that is.”
No self. Or emptiness.

“The symbol of the thing is not the same as the thing itself.”
Signlessness.

“Having no destination, I am never lost.”
Aimlessness.

My favorite was the last. “Having no destination, I am never lost.” I smiled as drove down the highway. It’s a sense of a lack of attachment to the result of anything I do, and it feels like freedom. I’m not letting go of the wheel and letting life take me anywhere, I’m heading in a direction and experiencing whatever happens along the way.

Letting go of expectations is something you can apply to any aspect of your life.

From a project to a career, even a relationship, we can release the expectations and simply experience what is happening in the moment. That doesn’t mean that we don’t direct our lives. Letting go means we make choices, take risks, see where things go and then make adjustments. Where we end up exactly doesn’t matter as much as the journey.

I have lived most of my life the same way my husband and I have traveled. We decide to do something and then see what happens. There are no hard and fast plans, there are no reservations, no tickets bought. There is only a full tank of gas and a direction. We usually have the first destination picked out. We want to drive so many miles that day and get to this area before dark, but other than that, things just play out the way they do. And we’ve had some amazing adventures.

How can letting go of expectations relate to relationships?

By not setting expectations for people. And by “relationship” I mean any kind: friendships, familial, romantic. I should not expect anyone to act, behave, or respond in a specific way. I simply relate to them and see what happens. That doesn’t mean that I let go of being respected or treated fairly. It means I put my effort in and see what they do. If I am enjoying that response, I continue. If I am not, I communicate with that person and/or try something else.

Letting go of the destination, means wherever I am, I’m not lost. I am simply where I am. That lets me experience the place more fully. I’m sitting in my car looking the map, feeling like a failure. I’m looking out the window, stopping the car, and going for a walk in the place I find myself. If it turns out that it’s not to my liking, I move on. No judgement. No failure. No destination. Just peace and experience.

The best part about all of it is that anyone can start right where they are. Put the map down, look around you, and immerse yourself in the experience.

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