Morning Haiku #2

4 12 2011

Your hand wraps my feet

distant birds


the cellos of this moment.


The colors of autumn

3 12 2011

I love Autumn. I will say it again, I LOVE AUTUMN. The smells of firewood, the colors of the leaves, the feeling I get from reading on the couch with a steaming cocoa in the hands and a purring cat on the feet is my true emotional home. Fall brings a deep peace to my core that I am not always able to reach in my daily life.  I am one of those people who likes bittersweet. One of those people who need a tiny dash of melancholy with our happy to truly feel good.  I have always found a beauty in the socially avoided emotional states and as I inch closer to integration within myself, they become more beautiful. I love emotions, I enjoy a good laugh, a good angry stomp around, a long sigh, a quiet contentment, a distant unfulfilled yearning, and a big gusher of a cry. They are all beautiful in their unique colors and sounds and, I believe, all equally necessary. So for me when the harvest starts and the pumpkins get their short lived faces, I relish the opportunity to listen to the cellos and oboes of the emotional orchestra.

This is not new, as a kid, one of my most cherished things was the 64 pack of crayons that came with the built in sharpener. I loved looking at all of the colors that I could use. I particularly loved the blues, Robin’s Egg, Prussian Blue, Aquamarine, Ultra Blue, Cerulean, Green Blue, and it’s mirror mirror twin Blue Green, Sky, Turquoise, Cornflower (which used to confuse me), Violet Blue,Teal, Cadet Blue and especially Blue Grey. I always had a 64 pack that contained 38 crayons and 16 nubs (including White and Black).

I had very little use for the warmer colors like Saffron, Maize, Tangerine, Brick Red, Orange Yellow and it’s mirror mirror twin Yellow Orange, Canary, Dandelion, Golden Rod (a good male stripper name), Lemon Yellow, Peach, Red Orange, Scarlet, Sunset Orange, and Mulberry. I used them but only when necessary and always sparingly.

It doesn’t take Freud (thank God, because crayons are all penis shaped) to see that I was responding to my environment. Self regulating in the way that kids brilliantly do. I grew up in a loud, put on your best happy face, not much privacy, household. In my little, deep south, Irish Catholic corner of the world, I seldom felt safe to express sadness or loneliness. Therefore, I used to retreat regularly to a “junk room” in the upstairs of our house. It was painted blue (cerulean) and filled with the accumulated stuff that everyone seems to manifest. There amongst the continuously replicating waffle makers, bedazzlers,  fry daddies and electric hotdog cookers, it was safe to feel the feelings that seemed unwelcome in the family room.

The beautiful thing about growing up and being an adult, is that I don’t need to escape to the junk room to enjoy my blues. I can cry while listening to Tom Waits as I cook a pot of chicken sausage gumbo, or sit on the couch and sigh with glorious ennui while brushing the cats. ( cats totally understand ennui). I can take a hike to the far end of the beach where I might see one person all day. There I can be the only person on a deserted island. Then I get to hike back to my car and rescue myself. (No volleyball needed)  Instead of finding a safe place for my emotions, I make my world a safe place for them.

It is December now and fall is giving way to winter, which for Northern CA, means wet and cold. It is time to put the kettle on, que up Sigur Ros or The Smiths, and read Pablo Neruda on the couch. Life is Grand.

Morning Haiku

25 10 2011

Anger with breakfast,

Loneliness at lunch

Winds blowing through the temple.


If you feel inspired leave a Haiku.

Nachos and emotions

24 10 2011

I often feel afraid. I get scared for the world, my son, our finances, aging, illness, random accidents, violence, my parent’s health, my ability to perform, ad insania. I am aware that fear is a healthy part of the human experience and while it is uncomfortable, I can usually let it have it’s say then be done for a while. However, there is a particular variety of fear that I have difficulty with. It is the fear that I might not be doing the “RIGHT” thing. The fear that I might be choosing the wrong path and this will be the beginning of a long and difficult downward spiral that will ultimately lead to me and my wife being homeless and living under a bridge. I usually operate under the principal that the best policy for any emotion is to treat it like a less than welcome relative at a family reunion. This fear however is the relative that ruins holidays, eats all of the turkey skin, and just won’t leave.

Only bad emotions eat all the turkey skin.

In my experience, at any family gathering, there are relatives that you are excited to see like Aunt Margie, who, on an intuitive whim, bought you your first book of poetry and set you off on a lifetime of passionate reading and poetic discovery. You give her a warm hug and invite her to sit next to you at the table so you can discuss the passion of Neruda or the subversive puckishness of Cummings. Then of course there is Uncle Hank, ( a close talker) who upon hearing that you liked poetry asked you if you wore a bonnet while you read, setting you off on a lifetime of defensively blurting out “YEAH I LIKE POETRY!”” WHAT?!” Him, you give a half- hearted handshake to ( of course, he squeezes too hard) and pray that his ulcer acts up so he has to leave.

You're damn right I wandered lonely as a cloud!

At my own family reunion of the soul, I really enjoy sitting next to Aunt Confidence and Cousin Playfulness both of whom are delightful guests that always bring warm appreciation, encouragement, fun conversation and REALLY good blue cheese and bacon potato salad. Alternately, I try to avoid Uncle Anxiety and Aunt Indecision, who come barging into my conversations to ask,”do you really think that you can succeed doing this “coaching” thing and wouldn’t it be more prudent to go to school for a few more years, after all isn’t it selfish and unrealistic to expect that doing what you love will be enough to feed your family?” “By the way, did you try our carrot, mayo and raisin salad?” (Come on Ulcer!)

The culinary equivalent of anxiety.

I try to be patient and remember that abiding their company only makes me stronger. I try to be like Byron Katie and just let the emotion speak so that I can learn from it. But in order for that to work I can’t be thinking “Speak your truth, oh wise fear, so that you can get the f^%$ out sooner.” Apparently it doesn’t work that way.  Unavoidably, I usually end up sitting with just them at 11:30pm, chewing on dry turkey breast that just won’t go down even after I have had a swig directly from the gravy boat. At the end of the day, after they have had their way with the pie and my self esteem, they leave and life goes back to normal.

Rumi imagines the human experience as being a guest house. His advice is to make room for all who come as according to him they all bring gifts. That is an elegant and poetic way to say sit with it and stop complaining. As far as I can tell, he is right and it seems that all teachers say the same. Sitting with difficult emotions sucks worse than sitting through “Disney on Ice.” At “Disney on Ice” at least you can get nachos. But there doesn’t seem to be any other way. The feelings are going to be there and they are going to get their two cents in no matter what you do. Like pain in the body, they bear a message. The pain is trying to tell you something. Uncle and Auntie are making me aware of my need to really appreciate the path that I am on and give it my full attention and focus. In short the message I got was to be grateful, keep working hard and be clear about what I want.

My problem with emotional pain is that while it is loud and certainly uncomfortable, it is less of a clear communicator than the pain you get from being too eager to eat ice rink nachos. The message there is clear “Slow down fat kid, this cheese is like napalm!” The other troublesome thing about Emotional pain is that we can share it. When (not if) I blister the roof of my mouth on a 6 dollar tray of nachos,


I can’t point at the guy doing a double axel in his Quasimodo outfit and make his mouth hurt as well. Not without a spoon and amazing accuracy, that is.  (You have to wait until he cries out for Esmeralda to get the shot.) But, if I feel anxious and miserable, I can easily walk out into the street and inadvertently cause the mail man to feel anxious and miserable as well. If he is up for it, that is.

Easier than feelings, in some ways.

So, because I can’t live with myself when I inadvertently project my negative emotions onto others, (or my hot cheese and jalepenos) I choose to sit with my feelings. I choose, however begrudgingly, to make a nice place for them at the table. I don’t always sit them next to me, but maybe down there by Grandpa Compassion. If he wakes up, he will know what to do with them.

The Shadow Knows

13 10 2011

Remember that lame (but still kinda cool) superhero movie that Alec Baldwin was in way back in the 90’s? Come on sure you do, he put on fake nose, red scarf, and a hat in which he stalked evil doers? For the 95% of you that didn’t see it, the movie was “The Shadow” and while it was really cornball, I, of course, loved it because I am a total geek.

Now do you remember?

Anyway, The Shadow was about a rich playboy named Lamont Cranston (really?) who, at one time, was a naughty man. He is forced to look at his naughty bits, repents, and gains the ability to blend into shadows and, more importantly, to know the hidden evil thoughts of others.

I am bringing this particularly painful piece of the 90’s back into your thoughts, (“He throws a jab at Baldwin”) because I love the concept of a guy who by acknowledging his own inner negativity gains the ability to see it in others. This is a really cool idea; and I think Carl Jung would have thought so as well. To Carl’s thinking, the shadow, unlike Alec Baldwin, isn’t evil, (he bloodies the nose!)  Rather, it is the repository of all of the things we don’t accept about ourselves. The things we don’t choose to be part of our public personality.

"Lemon, get me a barber."

For instance, as a kid, when I was told by an older kid that it was rude to ask for a snack at a friend’s house. That part of me that thought it was reasonable to ask Mrs. Madison for a cheese stick when I got peckish from a long afternoon of shooting down Cylon Raiders on my bike, was hucked into the box labeled “not ok for use in public” right next to eating Cap’n Crunch in my Aquaman underoos.

Under normal circumstances, it is a great survival mechanism. It saves us all from the loneliness of social outcast-edness (?) But problems arise when we either by our own shame or someone else’s put a part of ourselves away that doesn’t need to be. Like asking for a snack when you need one, which is not only entirely acceptable, but a healthy and mature show of assertiveness. (Take that, Gary Emblinson!)

Some of us find it necessary; to look at those boxed shadowy items and reassess whether they need to be in there or not. However, as anyone that has done it can attest, the process of removing said items can be painful, because it took a lot of shame to get those buggers in the box, and taking them out means you get to feel all of that shame and learn to let it go.

What I meant to ask for.

Sometimes you don’t get the choice because the little shadows are insistent, when they are ready to come out, they come out whenever and wherever they want.  “Hello Mrs. Madison, I’m hungry, can I have a breast?  I mean Banana!”

The point to all of this is that, like The Shadow, when we go in there and look at what’s in the box, we get to know ourselves better. And the familiarity with those shadows helps us to recognize them in others. We get to feel compassion for those shadows in our fellow humans.  And that allows us to connect on a deeper level. We also get little hidden gifts from them. For example, I heard a story of a grown woman who rediscovered a passion and talent for art after like thirty years. She had pushed it into the shadow after a teacher reamed her for coloring the sky orange in class. She didn’t remember the story, until she looked in the box. She just knew that she didn’t like to draw.

Me, when the shadows started “whack a molling” out of the box and screwing with my life, I got help.

Unfortunately, they don't fit anymore.

A fantastic therapist can make the process a lot smoother and somewhat less publicly embarrassing. That is not to say that it has been easy or devoid of public embarrassment.

I thankfully am still working on it and occasionally, I get some real gold out of that box. I continue however, you will be glad to here, to leave the ill-fitting Aquaman underoos out of public view.

The gold of grief.

10 10 2011

I recently got to watch a good friend, a supportive, wise and wonderful friend, move on. There was no argument, fight, betrayal or blame to be laid, just a pure parting of ways.  I was given (and I am still receiving) the privilege of experiencing the grief that comes from knowing that without a doubt, I will never again have this very relationship.

It doesn’t usually happen this way, when friends part there is most often a big bang type of event that propels the pair out of the gravitational pull of friendship and because of which they either abruptly or gradually float away to form other connections. However, in the rare occurrence when a close relationship ends while the bond is still strong, while the mutual love and respect still exists, when events just force an ending, there is an opportunity at, as James Hilman calls it “Soul Making”.  The “Soul Making” happens because it takes a monumental effort to hold the beauty of that connection until the moment when it no longer is. As humans, we have a strong urge to turn away from the utter surrender that grief pushes us towards, because it really hurts and there is nothing to stop it. My friend once told me that in any relationship there are three persons participating, you, your friend and a third. This third, “other” is created by the connection between you. Equal parts you and them. You and your friend grieve over the apparent “death” of the third.

For me, in this particular case, I knew that the ending was coming and had even done some preparatory work to steel myself for the pain and loss that I was sure to come. I took pains to coach myself that I must honor this ending, as deeply as I honor the relationship itself. I told myself to be aware of letting anger creep in to cover over the pain. But, like living in earthquake country, there really is nothing you can do to truly be prepared when it comes.

So on this particular morning, as I walked trying to get my groove on, I started noticing a particular edge on my thoughts. A little shard, that was removing the softness out of my voice, and making my gratitude feel hollow. I struggled trying to find the cause of this disturbance for the whole of my morning. Later, as I sat to look over my schedule, I realized that this week I would see my friend for the last time. I hadn’t actually forgotten the meeting, I just kept myself from really seeing it until then. So in true human fashion, I immediately tried to think of how to prolong the meeting or skip it altogether. But there was no prolonging or avoiding the certainty of this ending, and as the cold reality of seeing my friend only this one more time crept over me, I grieved, like I haven’t in a long time. Nothing hollows one out like an unavoidable loss.

My friend, once told me about a quote by John Keats, “Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason-“ Being at the end of a close relationship is an exercise in Negative Capability. It’s like a game of hot potato with your heart. If you can hold this grief, if you can live in the fire long enough for it to give it’s gold, you become incalculably rich. The pain is the price for getting to always hold dear, a relationship that is priceless. The pain is an indicator of just how much value both of us placed on our connection.

Because I choose to honor the grief, I get to truly miss my friend. The grief will evaporate soon and I will forget my friend’s face, wisdom and laughter. But I will always have the part of me, my half of the third, that has forever been transformed by the connection, and the knowledge that a part of my friend will touch everyone I connect with in the future.

I loved my friend

He went away from me.

There is nothing more to say,

the poem ends as soft as it began

I loved my friend.

Langston Hughes

Morning Gratitude

8 10 2011

10 things that I am grateful for today and why.

1.   The sun , it is directly proportionate to tomato sweetness.
2.  My health, the better I treat myself the easier it is to do so.
3.  A good head of hair- Cause, 40 with a full head of not yet graying hair is awesome.
4.  Abundant food and clean water- Not so universal, good for perspective.
5.  A great and inexpensive place to live- 1.5 acres in Northern CA, with lots of chickens!
6.  Maintaining good habits- an absolutely new experience for me that keeps on giving.
7.  Opportunities- The more I look the more I find.
8.  My family- The purpose for all good change.
9.  Intuition- being always, in the right place at the right time ROCKS!

10. Freshly laid eggs- Cause, DAMN!

What are you grateful for today?

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