2013 gave me a big hug

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with gratitude to
“One evening Milarepa returned to his cave after gathering firewood, only to find it filled with demons. They were cooking his food, reading his books, sleeping in his bed. They had taken over the joint. He knew about nonduality of self and other, but he still didn’t quite know how to get these guys out of his cave. Even though he had the sense that they were just a projection of his own mind—all the unwanted parts of himself—he didn’t know how to get rid of them. So first he taught them the dharma. He sat on this seat that was higher than they were and said things to them about how we are all one. He talked about compassion and shunyata and how poison is medicine. Nothing happened. The demons were still there. Then he lost his patience and got angry and ran at them. They just laughed at him. Finally, he gave up and just sat down on the floor, saying, “I’m not going away and it looks like you’re not either, so let’s just live here together.” At that point, all of them left except one. Milarepa said, “Oh, this one is particularly vicious.” (We all know that one. Sometimes we have lots of them like that. Sometimes we feel that’s all we’ve got.) He didn’t know what to do, so he surrendered himself even further. He walked over and put himself right into the mouth of the demon and said, “Just eat me up if you want to.” Then that demon left too.” 
the last weekend of 2013 felt like a fog lifted from around my brain. i encountered so many of the people close to me in my life and i was afforded the chance to feel love. as i think back to the beginning of the year, one seed i had planted was to make room for love in my life- and bang zoom (ralph cramdon) there it was- more love in my life. 
as my life continues to unfold, i am gobsmacked by the power of simplicity. this year- for the holiday-i gave of myself in some quietly amazing ways. i helped throw a fete for a women and family services program and coordinated a santa, a photograph of kids on santa’s lap, kid’s decorating home-made ornaments for their family, several volunteers, and gifts from toys for tots as well as a generous donation from a local engineering firm. all of this required detail and attention, but left me with a holiday feeling that will last for some time. the cliche about the holidays being about the kids was forged in truth for me again and again on that day.
beyond this, i came home to find that my cousin and her family dropped by my house and constructed a kitchen cart i had here-to-fore been unable to put together. when i came through the door, i felt just as surprised and elated as the shoemaker must have felt after the elves had slid down that moonbeam to create those oodles of shoes. this was humbly followed by several friends treating me to dinner the weekend between the holidays. i have honestly felt in possession of a bounty.
“Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be. It may mean the loss of many nights’ sleep, great interference with your pleasures, interruptions to your business. It may mean sharing your money and your home, counseling frantic wives and relatives, innumerable trips to police courts, sanitariums, hospitals, jails and asylums. Your telephone may jangle at any time of the day or night.”AA, 2001, p. 97

gardening as metaphor

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The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.

there is a young acquaintance who has been recently battling with overwhelming anxiety. i have never had that specific issue, but of course i have had my share of others. she is quite young and i think it is my opportunity here to be of some help.

she has agreed to assist me with a project this saturday at my home. we will pick up a ginko tree from the park people and plant it along the right of way. we planted an english oak in that very spot 2 years ago, however it failed to thrive and needs to be replaced. the park people has a program intended to make the city greener. Our little enclave was xeriscaped years ago and resembled the surface of the moon. slowly and season by season i have been replacing the low evergreen shrubs with flowering plants. we have 5 really lovely korean lilacs, 5 hydrangeas bushes – mostly pink, and 5 white oakleaf hydrangeas. i have added shocking pink spirea to already evenly spaced white spirea, and there are a couple of carol mackie daphnes peppered with some tall grasses that wave in the winds of late summer. this last year, along the right of way, we added russian sage, and some golden colored perennials that resemble alium. i have to admit here, just how very regal the variegated purple and gold blowers look along the sidewalk that frames our property.

back to the ginko- my new acquaintance will participate in this planting and hopefully it will be as a ritual. the intention here is for this process to act as a prayer or affirmation for her and for myself. there can be something very powerful in the act of planting a new intention in this world. she is 17 and has moved here from texas to attend school. she is on the brink of a huge change in her life and might benefit immensely from a deliberate and positively purposeful intention.  and i might do well to include this act “letting more love in my life” as a truth. this idea was born from some spiritually channeled information that came why way.

love is as layered as cloud atlas to me. letting love in seems as tender sandpaper. i certainly love others, but regulate the in and out of it like someone a diet might count calories. for me, love is measured and rationed so that is lasts. this ain’t no proud post, but meant to be more of a frank and impartial glimpse inward intended to see just what might be some of my barriers to love. and if i can share this self-assessment process with this young person and help give her a new prism through which to view her life, then i am giving love- much more comfortable with the giving that receiving as giving is so much easier to control.

post script… another acquaintance is now in the hospital and being checked for bone infection where the abscess had eaten into it. he has demonstrated a lack of facility and the inability to care for himself. i am relieved he is in care.

kiss today goodbye….

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The sweetness and the sorrow.
Wish me luck, the same to you.
But I can’t regret
What I did for love, what I did for love.
Look my eyes are dry.
The gift was ours to borrow.
It’s as if we always knew,
And I won’t forget what I did for love,
What I did for love.

today was an everyday friday… and yet i wave it goodbye with a not-so-ordinary calm. i processed quite a bit today. i finally have come to understand the reality of some character defects, have begun to accept them, and am consciously asking for them to be removed. there is a quiet grace in this process which is definitely like a clear blue sky on a deep-freeze day.

much of this defect business is about a shopping fetish…. or maybe it’s a spending fetish… or maybe it’s about not saving… whatever it is really about, it is also really invasive and has gotten away from me “like a train on a track” as florence would say. i don’t know if i can make it for months at a time without overspending, but i do know i have to try.

beyond this though, i have also entered what seems to be a new realm for me. i have been asked to assess my own efforts as objectively as i can. the real challenge lies not with overestimating my output, but undervaluing it, i think. as i move through the phases of my cause and effect, i feel intimidated to claim responsibility for this change or that by-product. naturally, part of me wants the credit, but a small but very pertinent child-within tells me i did not do any of this- i am just mistaken. so as i began to work on this, i realized that i have to give this whole thing some real thought. i can’t just say yes or no. and maybe i even have to take a chance and not do the first thing that comes up. it’s perplexing, it’s  daunting, and it’s definitely an opportunity to grow.

i am definitely embarrassed to report that i am recording the last season of oprah. indeed i am a vbq (very big queen) till the end. today, oprah was telling bo derek that bo seemed as if she led her life with an open heart. it seemed a quiet phrase, this open heart phrase, but a voluminous one. perhaps it represents a shift in perception for me. walking through life with an open heart seems not a small thing. not a small thing at all. if i were to look towards what is yet to be, i know that unknown and open heart are not soulmates in my mind.

this is a delicious challenge for me. open heart. letting go. assuming good. forgiving first.  especially considering how much i haven’t done for fear of love. this would most likely be the instrumental of my life. what i haven’t done for love. so today maybe we can also mark a change in direction here as well. open heart. what i do FOR love. hmmmmm

now i’m exhausted just thinking of this.  and it’s time for some sleep. what happened to that calm i was writing about?

thanksgiving….. and brighter days

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photo credit..

the week of thanksgiving has become a very strange time for me.  years of numbness have begun to unravel. am working hard to change what had become the tradition. it involves patience and awareness. but it really takes faith. i came back to the place that all that happened. i didn’t realize it when i was making plans, but i wonder if i also was hoping to begin to see this holiday with new eyes.

but what i hadn’t expected was to also see that pain and sadness are not unique to me. i don’t have sole ownership of those emotions. i have traced a footpath here in my former hometown and discovered that all those i love carry their own share of such burdens. lance armstrong said “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” i am beginning to understand his meaning. it has taken me so long to understand this. i am thankful i am beginning to get it now.
i am re-publishing a post from Nov 21, 2007. i can’t write about it now. i can however, attest to the shift in my perception of it. it no longer causes me to close myself off. i don’t automatically withdraw. instead, i am venturing out and trying to make new traditions and doing things differently.

one of the stories i will not hear this year is my last thanksgiving in chicago. i am going to write about it here and hopefully the tale will unravel itself a bit differently than it has in the past. i have spun this yarn on a few occasions, but i have always kept the focus the part where i am the victim. and honestly, thanksgiving still is a challenging emotional trek because of the drama on this day. it really is the day i stopped dancing. the last day that is until i started channeling velvet- but that’s a tale for another day.

it was 1985, and i had gotten an apartment with my best friend paul the previous year. we had shopped and hunted for 3 months for that beautiful soon-to-be condo on logan blvd. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, full kitchen, dr, front and back balcony. it truly was stunning. but on the day we were moving in, paul was completely tuckered. i remember him sitting on the back of the rental truck, saying he just couldn’t move any boxes. He was exhausted. and before we finished, he insisted he go to the hospital. we complied, and he was admitted and was in the hospital for about a month.

i went to visit him in that place every day. the first couple of days, i donned a hospital gown, mask, and gloves, but soon decided to put them aside after that. i wasn’t going to be looking at him dressed like an alien, or like i was afraid to be near him. i wasn’t. i loved him. still do. and i wasn’t going to cause him any extra anxiety. i would bring him meals from some of our favorite restaurants. the hospital food sucked, of course, and i knew he needed to eat. we had a very pleasant time being food snobs in there and would laugh together and became closer, without ever really discussing the elephant in the room. i couldn’t go there emotionally.i now know it’s called denial, but then i thought of it as survival. i remember one day going to visit him, and finding him in his room alone, with a fever so high that his body was convulsing, jumping up and down on the bed with no assistance. it scared the shit out of me, watching him jerking up and down like darryl hannah losing life in blade runner. i left in horror and came back a couple of hours later, never speaking a word to him about what i had seen.

my drug use started to escalate after this. the cocaine use was incessant and i drank vodka to counteract the effects of the cocaine. numbing became my priority. this actually caused paul to move back in with his parents, and my friend robbie (foxy)moved in. poor fox- he had no clue as to the mess he was entering. but that’s another story.

fast forward to thanksgiving 1986. paul had been living with his family for a few months now. he had been in and out of the hospital. i had invited about 8 friend over for a holiday feast. i spent all day preparing the food. turkey rubbed with butter and tamari, baked with apples, onions, and cranberries, stuffing, brussel sprouts, home-made cobbler, etc. as the day progressed, the weather took a turn for the worse. a thunderstorm took hold. one-by-one calls with cancellations started to come in. it had become dark outside, and the last call came from my friend blue. i think he really had waited until he absolutely knew he couldn’t get there. no cabs were running etc. i remember sitting at the head of the table, looking at the fitz and floyd and the crystal candle holders and feeling stunned. the phone then rang again, and it was paul’s brother on the phone. he wanted to let me know that paul had passed a few hours earlier that day. he had gone peacefully and was no longer suffering. i returned back to my seat and looking over the empty but well laid table, clutched my wine glass and took a big swig. a huge lightning bolt back lit the entire sky, was followed by an earsplitting crack of thunder, and the power in my apartment was knocked out. there i sat in the dark, and found myself feeling more alone and more confused than i could remember. and i was a victim. and i had imprinted that pained mask onto myself and held it there for a good 20 years.

i managed to let go of that branding i did a few years ago. i honestly loved paul (and the rest of the veedubs), and was completely a mess having lost him. i laughed so freely with him, and he understood so many things about me that i always felt shame around, and never did anything but expect me to succeed. we dined out a lot. we danced. we went to the theatre, we saw films.  and we read a lot of books- mostly the classics, and the “gay” authors. we participated in salons of a sort with a few other friends, and would drink wine and read aloud from books like “To The Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf, “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, and my favorite “Orlando” by Woolf as well. We talked about Vita Sackville West and Virginia, about Paul Bowles and his entourage, Kerouac and his band of mary-men lol, Stein, Toklas, and the ex-pats….

this was my posse in the late 70’s. a band of marys (and lulu) just making our way. you can find myself and paul in the upper left corner- me pretending to have a mustache and paul with glasses.

thanksgiving has begun to represent a new direction for me. i remember each year (and post this) but have realized how lucky i have been. not so much lucky for living or surviving when my best friend didn’t. no, more because i have been fortunate enough in my life to have cared so fully for such a person. i was able to see the selfless side of myself early on in my life thanks to caring for paul. i found strength in myself i never knew existed. i learned how much better it feels to give than receive, although it was too short a lesson. i may never love anyone like that again.

today i see that life most certainly is a banquet, and i spent way too much time starving myself. melancholy somehow gets in step, but i have come through some deep merde.

i now sing a new song… brighter days have come… thankfully..