Thursday, January 12, 2017

Political Ramblings

    Rarely do I talk politics. It is rarer still for me to write anything remotely political. But this morning I lay in bed for nearly an hour pondering the upcoming inauguration that is now looming like a shadow over my country. I could go on and on about all the things in his past that make him unfit to hold any political office, lack of experience being the least of them. But if the American people were willing to overlook allegations of child rape, sexual abuse and harassment, misogyny, prejudice, and Russian hacking, then why would they care that he is in the hip pocket of powerful people and groups that are eying the United States like a ripe peach waiting to be plucked and squashed into jam for their own table?
    Pondering this, while I lay in my cave-like room, wrapped in a cocoon of blankets, my mind went down a path to the Big Picture.  A man has been elected to our most powerful office, without the popular vote, who will very likely implode in a most spectacular manner, sooner than later, I think. There is no way he will manage to stay in office for a full term without something from his past (or many things), or some series of bizarre actions on his part (actions that are already lifting their heads), that will have him deemed "Unfit for Office."  By then his cabinet will be firmly in place, and he will be swept under the rug as an embarrassing moment in history.
    Does this make me feel any better. Not by a long shot. He is a puppet. Plain and simple. How else could he have made it as far as he has without the machinations of some very powerful people and groups pulling strings, covering scandals, and manipulating the truth? He is not intelligent enough to have led such a behind the scenes campaign. He may be wealthy, but not compared to the real power brokers of the world, and despite his own feelings of self-worth I don't believe he has that kind of clout.
    Wandering further along the path of the Big Picture takes me to his choices for his Cabinet. It reads like a list of the top of the financial food chain. He is selecting, with suggestions from the behind the scenes puppeteers, no doubt, a conglomeration of people known for their lack of ethics when it comes to filling their own pockets. Our country will be at the mercy of Big Pharma, Wall Street, and Big Oil. These are people with long histories of trying to game the system, get past regulations, and with no concern for us peons. They will rape, plunder, gut, and salt the earth. We are on the cusp of falling under the reign of people so wealthy that all they care about is more wealth, no matter the cost to us, our children and our grandchildren, and I am truly frightened. And so many people are falling right in line, with the all consuming thought that it may (or may not) create more jobs. They will be content with the crumbs falling to the floor, with no thought of what those crumbs are actually costing us.
     Already the president-elect is showing his propensity for spoiled, child-like behavior. Temper tantrums and rants put out publicly for the entire world to see. He has discovered his power over the stock market, with a few offhand remarks he can cause a company's stocks to plummet. He has threatened to take us deeper into a cold war, wanting More Nukes, and yet seems to be a crony of the  biggest threat to our safety.
     As I see the tableau unfolding, with his childish, boorish behavior, I can only think that his masters are hoping he will manage to keep his mouth shut just long enough to get sworn in, and have his Cabinet choices firmly locked in, before he erupts into full meltdown.
    My prediction is that well before his term is ended he will be taken down in a spectacular manner, deemed Unfit, and removed from office. Then his VP will take over, knowing full well how to work the system, milk the country for all it is worth, destroy our rights from the inside, and leave our country destitute emotionally and physically. All the pieces are being put into play, and I feel helpless.
     The Optimist in me thinks that maybe we are just in another cycle of the pendulum swing. All through history we see this happen. Most recently, with us, it was the McCarthy Era. We had to swing so far to one extreme in order to come back and find balance. Maybe that is all this is, the extreme before we can return to balance. I had thought the Great Recession had done that, but instead we managed to become even more divided, the Us Versus Them that has brought our country to the brink. The pendulum swings. The Pit and the Pendulum? Gods, I hope not.
    Now that I have spilled my guts out, airing my own personal Conspiracy Theory, I need to purge myself of the shadows. I need the warmth of my family. Feel the love of those I hold most dear.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Reflection on 2016 Part One

    The old year has come to a close, the new year begun. Always a time for speculation, introspection, review. It is also the 5 Year Anniversary of moving into my own little house. My home is the ultimate symbol of self-reliance and freedom. It marks a turning point in my life that was monumental, painful, explosive, inevitable, insane, and empowering. I stepped out of the shadows, into darkness, and climbed out of the abyss into a glorious independence and emancipation.  Funny thing, as the years pass, I know that I cherish my solitude and autonomy more with the passing of time.
    But this was the year I began to feel the weight of mortality.  Early in the year, my friend James, killed on his motorcycle. Father of 2 young sons, with a third on the way. My friend and mentor, Angus, killed by the cancer that had dogged him for years. I found out that a good friend from my youth, a goofy, loveable guy, committed suicide a few years ago after a long struggle with mental illness.  
    Last month my Station Captain let us all know he was diagnosed with cancer. He won't be specific, just says it is in his abdomen, that is a tough one, and he is pursuing treatment that will likely leave him fatigued, and immune suppressed. This guy is 10 years younger than I am. Four kids ranging from 12 to 17. He is a farmer by trade, and a volunteer firefighter for 25 years. It is likely that exposure to the carcinogens on the fireground are a contributing factor to his current dilemma. This is a guy full of energy, strong, active. He has taught me much of what I know about being a firefighter. Between him and Cap'n Eddie, they have taught me almost everything I know. All I can do is wish him well, and try to silently send him energy to make it through his illness.
    I don't even want to get into the list of the idols of my youth, and celebrities that were lost this year: Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, George Michaels, Patty Duke, Muhammed Ali, John Glenn, Leonard Cohen, Anton Yelchin, Janet Reno... the list seems endless.
    The most vicious reminder was the sudden death of my young friend Bryony.  A beautiful light cut down far too early. I was blindsided by it. An in-your-face reminder of how fragile life is, what a tenuous grip we have, and how we will never know what moment could be our last.
    It solidified the path I have chosen these last few years, to stop wasting time where it doesn't matter. Stop burning energy in relationships and work that suck me dry. Spend time where it matters; with family, with friends, with myself. I have wasted too many years in toxic situations, although my past is what has made me who I am, so I will turn my back on regrets, and turn my face to the future. I am trying to live in The Now, live within the loving circle of family and friends.
    This has been a rough post to write. I have started and stopped multiple times. Writing, closing, coming back to write some more. It has been painful to think back over the losses of the year. It does reinforce my need to look forward, keep my eyes to the future, and surround myself with what I love.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Winter Hauntings

    Feeling haunted lately. People, places, things from my past. Demons come back for a friendly visit. Maybe it is the holidays and all they represent of family and friends, love, giving and receiving. Festivities to dress for. A home to decorate and fill with the smells of sweet and spice.
    All this makes my mind wander to the past. A tree to decorate with handmade ornaments. Stockings to stuff on Christmas Eve, sneaking them into darkened bedrooms after the children are asleep. The thrill of Christmas morning, eager to see the reactions to gifts bought with more love than money. How can I not let my mind wander back to those joyful times?
    Now, Christmas morning is sleeping in, hot coffee, feeding the menagerie. No stockings, no presents, not even a tree. But is this the reason for the haunted feelings? The Ghosts of Christmas Past? No, it is more than that. I don't quite know what. But it is more than that.
    Heading into the dark, cold days of winter is never easy for me. Never. No matter how I prepare myself, there is the feeling of dread. Would it be any different if I weren't a loner? Maybe. Might be worse though. When my natural instinct is to withdraw and hibernate, the last thing I would need or want is someone underfoot trying to force me out of my winter shell. I don't know. I don't even know where I am going with this train of thought.
    I do know my demons have been visiting at odd hours. Sometimes it is in the middle of the day, when I am at work. Sometimes randomly in the evenings. More often than not though it is in the darkest part of the night, stirring me from slumber, to play sledgehammer serenades on my brain. Little imps.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Riding Ahead of The Curve

    Now that the election is past, I am hoping that the chaos between friends will settle back to something resembling normal. Okay, I am sure it will be a new normal. Things have been said between some that cannot be unsaid, though I am hoping time will heal wounds.
    Looking ahead, I have no idea what the eventual ramifications will be. But that can be said of any action, on any given day. No one, not one of us, can know what tomorrow will bring. Sure, we all have our lives planned out to some degree. We know, mostly, when to get up, when to head off to work, when the clock tells us it is time to go home. This is but a bare structure. Ephemeral. Subject to change without notice. Because of this, I try to keep my spiritual books balanced. Also, because of this, I try to think ahead, possible scenarios, what to do, what to keep on hand. I don't want to be caught off-guard and in a lurch. On a motorcycle we call this "riding ahead of the curve."
    Riding Ahead of The Curve. What does this mean? It means being prepared for what you can't see. Keeping eyes up, head on a swivel, and looking as far up the road as you can see. It is easy to get caught up in the immediate here and now, only seeing what is immediately beneath your wheels. It is just as easy to get carried away by all the possibilities of what we can't see, what is beyond the curve. We do not know what the next four years will bring, or the ramifications it will have on the years to follow. But that can be said of every election, just as it can be said of every decision in our lives.
    Am I disappointed with the outcome? Yes. Am I stressed and anxious? Yes. Am I freaking just a bit? Absolutely. But there is not jack shit I can do about it. I fact checked. I waded through the murk. I didn't allow myself to be swayed by memes and rumors swirling about with the intent of firing people's base emotions. I voted. There is nothing I can do now to change the events of yesterday. What I can do is manage how I will react to them. I know I can't change the past. Nor can I do much to change the events that will come about on a national and international level. What I can do is remain calm, not panic, keep doing what I am doing to keep my life moving forward. That is all any of us can do, on any given day, under any circumstance.
    I think much of this election was based on fears and frustrations that have been going on so long that we have internalized them to the point that we don't even realize they are there, It is that internal sense of impending doom that we can't seem to shake. The feeling of living on the edge of a deep, dark abyss. I don't know that our world is any better or worse off than it was 10 or 20 years ago, or 40 years. But now with the immediacy of the internet, and the herd mentality of social media, we are all the more aware of every little event that transpires around the world. We see, in gory detail, small events from the other side of the globe, that we would not even have known about a few years ago. But now they are in our faces, in all their macabre glory, over and over, with increasingly emotional posts as people react and over-react. We have become a world full of drama. fear, and maybe too much information and not enough knowledge. We are all living with a level of PTSD from the barrage of images we see every single day. And we are unable to do anything about it. The frustration level builds to boiling point. That is where we have landed. Now, we have a number of years to see just where it is we have landed, and what these decisions will mean to all of us over time.
    So, for now, I will keep on doing what I am doing. Keep calm. No Panic. Move forward as best I can, and wait to see what will happen. It is all I can do.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Time? Money?

    I don't think anyone on their deathbed thinks, "I wish I had more money." But I guarantee that most people think, "I wish I had more time."  No one really knows when their time will come. It may be today, tomorrow, or 50 years from now (I am hoping for 50 years...). Of course I have had plenty of time that I wished for more money. Who hasn't? Living paycheck to paycheck, one small setback away from financial disaster can be stressful. But the last few years I have realized just how much more I value my time. Almost two years ago I lost a job that I loved, and payed well. They closed the department, so I was out the door. It was a great job, but a lot of hours.
    Once I was unemployed, after many years of 40+ hours a week, having time to spend on myself and with my family was a revelation. My income was cut considerably, but I was happier. When I found a new job the pay was lower, and I made the decision to not work 5 days a week. Despite continual pressure from the employer I have staunchly insisted that I stay part time. Why? Because time. Time has become so much more vital to my well being than money. Yes, I am poor financially. But I am rich in time. Time for myself and my family. I think a lot of people think I have slipped my gears by choosing to live on the edge instead of pursuing the almighty dollar.
    I spent far too many years working hard to make money for someone else. I slaved, sweated, stressed, and burned myself out for the benefit of someone else's bank roll. I have never made great money at any job, and the few times I tried to force the issue I was shot down. Never payed what I was worth, so always feeling like I was less valuable, Now I know better. I am priceless. I am more valuable than any dollar amount. I won't be tempted by dollar signs. I would rather live at what is considered poverty level and have some freedom. No, not totally free, I do still have to spend several days slaving, sweating, stressing, and burning myself out for the benefit of someone else's bank roll, but it is more on my terms than their's.
     A few days ago a plan came to fruition. A financial boon that I set in motion several months ago, What amounts to a federal grant that will allow me to take every penny and throw it at my debt for the next year. I estimate that I will be completely out of debt, except for my mortgage, in 9 months or so. Can you imagine? Debt free? I am about losing my mind with glee. Debt free will give me a level of freedom that I have never had. All my adult life there has been some level of debt hanging over my head. Yes, my debt is minimal compared to most, but then so is my income. Now I look ahead, planning where my meager income will go. Excited to be able to pay off student loans, my two credit cards, catch up on all bills, pay off the IRS. Yes, I am freaking a little bit. It seems too good to be true.
     Where does this leave me? With Time. Time to spend as I choose. Time, which is far more valuable than any material possession. Time to play with grandchildren, time to spend with family, time to work on my house, time to train my body and my mind. And in the end, isn't that what we all really want? Time?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Actions. Reactions. Changing The Cycle.

   It is no secret that I do not handle confrontation well, I don't hide the fact. Hell, I can't hide the fact. I have one of two reactions: Either I get angry, soft spoken, clinical, and almost cruel; or I shake, want to vomit, get tongue tied, and can only think of how to extract myself from the situation. Yes, classic Fight of Flight reaction. In an extreme. Adrenaline fueled, exhausting, neurotic extreme.
    This last week I have had several instances that triggered the second response, Flight, in an extreme. The custody battle of the Tiny House. No, there really wasn't a battle, legally I had no rights, but it was an unexpected and harsh confrontation that has had me stressing my brains out. I haven't slept well, waking in the night with anxiety and scenes replaying in my head on endless loop. My digestion has been wrecked. Mostly I have wanted to hide in my bed with the lights off. I felt violated, wronged, intimidated, and harassed. I knew today would be, hopefully, the final chapter, and I was dreading the confrontation. That changed Friday. I had an epiphany.
    Swimming clears my head as nothing else does. It is the Zen-like quality of lap after lap. The scenery doesn't change, the only sound is my own breath bubbling past my ears, I count strokes and laps. It has a brain numbing quality, but it is meditative, calming, and mind clearing. I realized that through the whole saga of the Tiny, there was one constant: The tragic and unexpected loss of my friend Bryony. That was the triggering event, the Big Bang, the catalyst. Boil it all down, and there you have it. I let my own financial stress and sense of loss blind me to the facts. This is not about ownership of any material goods. It is the sense of loss at the heart of it that manifested in what, at the time, seemed a righteous indignation that these people would come on my property, and lay claim to what had in my mind become something of a potential shrine to my lost friend. As I swam, all the facts started lining up, filling in the blanks, and becoming a clear pattern of bad behavior on my part. Yes, I take responsibility for my actions.
    I told myself that fault and guilt were not on me, but on the actions of the people invading my home and letting accusations fly. I realized, as I swam, that if I can't control someone else's actions, I can control my reactions, which in turn can shift all behaviors involved. I came to the realization that I needed to look at the core issue here, and act accordingly. The core issue? The loss of my friend. That is where all the emotion was coming from, that deep ache, the broken feeling inside my chest, the desire to lash out and retaliate. And who was I dealing with, who was this person confronting me? The mother. Yes, the estranged mother, but the mother none-the-less. I realized, that as dysfunctional as their relationship may have been, now there was no chance that there could ever be any kind of resolution. This woman would have to live the rest of her life knowing that she would never be able to reconcile in any way, never really know the fabulous person that she had shut out of her life, never have a chance to say, "I am so sorry."  And that is a tragedy heaped onto a tragedy. I love my children with all my heart, and cannot imagine what it would be like to have them estranged from me. It would shatter me.
    So, this was my epiphany:  I lost a friend, but she lost a child. I can think of no greater loss than the loss of a child. It would ruin me. So, despite all I know, all I have been told, all the trauma behind the life and times, I would treat this woman as I would wish to be treated. I apologized for my unkind words, and told her with heartfelt sincerity, "I am so sorry for your loss." I truly meant it, every word. I can't change the past, I can't fix past traumas and abuses, but I can change how I chose to react. Instead of perpetuating anger, hostility, and drama I chose to be calm, spread understanding, peace and love. And then we talked, like rational adults, and parted on decent terms. No, we will never be friends. Hopefully we will never meet again. But my fear of accidental run-ins, or retaliations is now non-existent. I feel at peace.  I don't know if it is what my friend would want, but I can hope that they would be pleased that I stepped outside of the cycle of stress and anger, changed patterns, and altered bad behavior. I feel good about what I did, proud of myself for not letting the actions of others feed into my own negativity. I choose Peace and Love, It has to be so.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Blanket Fort, Book, Tea, Nap?

    Suddenly, Autumn. It seems like just yesterday it was too hot and sunny too work on the west side of the house. The last few days, grey and stormy. Today started with a nice break. The sun was shining, things were drying off, I went out and picked some grapes for breakfast. An hour later it is dark, the wind is whipping the trees and ripping leaves off, and rain is slanting sideways past my windows. Yes, just last week I found myself saying, "I almost wish we could have a few rainy days so I could have a little down time." I really said it, and knew I would live to regret the words. Today I am barely functional. Not in a bad way. Just in a lethargic way. It is an "Eat carbs, read, and sleep" kind of day. I am still in my fuzzy, leopard print bathrobe, or "Housecoat" as I prefer to call it (sounds a little less coma inducing). Today feels like Blanket Forts, Earl Grey tea, and easy reading science fiction.
    I know that in a few hours I will suddenly get hit with a rush of hyperactivity linked to my chronic need to feel like I accomplish things on my days off. Last Sunday was such a bust, because of the psycho-drama that mentally and emotionally threw me down a ravine. I got nothing done all day Sunday. Now, here I am, a few days later, still not managing to get anything done. Hell, I even skipped my morning workout (freaky, I know). Now, it is barely past noon, all I have managed to do is make breakfast and feed the animals, and I am ready to crawl back in bed for a nap. Admittedly, I have not been sleeping well the last week or so, again, thanks to the recent psycho-drama that was foisted on me.
    I shouldn't feel so bad about wanting to catch up on sleep. "Sleep is the Golden Chain that ties our health and our bodies together."  I have rarely slept well, in my entire adult life. If I make it through the night only waking 3 or 4 times, that seems like a good night's sleep. I can't imagine sleeping soundly through the night. "I have always envied people who sleep easily.Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed." So maybe a plan to nap, rest, recover, recuperate, is not such a terrible, or slovenly idea. Yeah, it does grate against my nature. I can't quite allow for a day of total lassitude. But for now, maybe it is okay to allow myself the chance "To sleep, perchance to Dream."