Have I Lost My Mind~ Late Night Rambling (ranting?)

Based on the news I looked at over the last several days, one would have the impression that the only things that truly mattered in the world were: 1) Anna Nicole Smith and/or 2) Britney Spears. I was absolutely stunned to realized that while some major events and a scary event were occurring…people were concerned about why Britney cut her hair (Lice? (ewwww) Her soon to be ex-husband’s threat to use it for drug analysis? Because she wanted to make a statement?) and whether and why she’s been in and out of rehabs – usually lasting only 24 hours.

In the meantime – seeming unnoticed by most news organizations:

Remember when Republicans ran Congress and everybody was so corrupt and then the midterms happened and the Democrats swept in with a bold plan to have ethics and all that? Well, they were just kidding.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has a great vacation planned for May: He’s going to a fancy golf & beach resort in Puerto Rico where people get “sensually awakened.” And he’s taking a planeload of lobbyists … enough to fill 137 luxury hotel suites. Doesn’t that sound nice?

But unlike Tom DeLay’s unethical golf trip to Scotland with Jack Abramoff, Steny’s seaside lobbyist orgy is completely okay because the lobbyists aren’t paying Hoyer himself — they’re paying Hoyer’s PAC

My local stations started their newcasts with extensive coverage of the battle over Anna Nicole Smith’s body and baby. There seems to be great concern over the fact that her body seems to be deteriorating sooner than expected. Personally, I always thought that’s what bodies did – but based on the news reports, I could be wrong.

However, in the meantime – no one except PBS seems to have noticed:

Innocent Americans’ data is being swept up and stored thanks to the use of the “full pipe” data gathering technique. Second, that the government’s Total Information Awareness Program – which was “killed” but never defunded – was being used to build domestic spying facilities around the country.

I caught PBS’s NOW program last Friday by chance, and I’m glad I did. They have resources not available to this lowly blogger. What PBS discovered will chill your bones. Yes, data on innocent Americans is being intercepted and stored. Additionally, more whistleblowers have come forward to establish the existence of another secret spy room on AT&T’s network, built post 9-11.

The key findings in PBS’s report:

–The government is intercepting most emails sent domestically.

–AT&T is collecting most emails and sharing them with the government, specifically the NSA (this is backed up by Klein’s documents).

–The NSA spy room at AT&T’s San Francisco facility is only accessible to the NSA and AT&T employees cleared by the NSA.

–The NSA’s interest seems to be in MAE WEST, *the* major hub of American and international internet traffic on the West Coast.

–The device installed in San Francisco is capable of intercepting 10 GIGBYTES of data per second.
In layman’s terms, that means it could go through all the information in all the books in the Library of Congress in 15 minutes.

At least, after digging through a lot of news blogs/sites, I know I haven’t lost my mind – I just, perhaps, have a different outlook as to what is important. Or what I feel I should be concerned about.

The (insert group here) "Problem" ~ Early Morning Thoughts

Forgive the shift in tone from yesterdays warm romanticism (which I will return to) and previous posts about integrity, childlike enthusiasm and such. I had been out and about all day, and came home and opened my emails to see what people had sent, and to enjoy the communication I’ve had/I have with some of them.

There was one email from a name I didn’t recognize. Normally if it’s someone I don’t know – or the header is wrong, I hit the delete quite quickly. This header referenced Amore and Poison to Medicine. Ah, a reader…no problem then. But, there was a problem. I guess I have somewhat “made it” in the blog world,
as I received my first “hate” mail letter today. Right at the start I was hit with that old chestnut “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” (My reaction to that statement EACH time I hear it: Of course, He did. If He hadn’t, neither I nor those that espouse that kind of nonsensical rhetoric would be here, would we?)

And it went on from there … most of it I had read/heard other places (including a variation of Fred Phelps battle cry “God Hates F*”), so I figured this was probably a person without an original thought in his head. A perfect follower of whoever had the loudest voice, and the most compelling sound bites …until:

The end of the letter gave me pause. A great pause…

“Eventually, there will be no more problems with your kind. The change is coming and it will be for good.”

Take a good look at that again, doesn’t the phrase “no more problems with your kind” stand out? It almost hit me across the head when I read it. That phrase has fueled great controversy in the past — the Nazi’s and the “Jewish problem,” the bigots of the American South and the “N* problem.” and most recently for me – the church I WAS attending and the “(denomination) church problem.”

The Chicago Sun-Times had an op-ed in January titled “beware the american fascists…” by Chris Hedges in their Sunday Controversy section, however, you can’t find it there. You have to go to truthdig.com to read the original: “Christianists on the March.

Disclaimer: I do not necessarily like some of the tone and language used in the original article, but the points raised far outweigh the sometimes “rant” style of writing.

Dr. James Luther Adams, my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, told his students that when we were his age—he was then close to 80—we would all be fighting the “Christian fascists.”

The warning, given 25 years ago, came [when public religious leaders] began speaking about a new political religion that would direct its efforts toward taking control of all institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government.

Its stated goal was to use the United States to create a global Christian empire.

This call for fundamentalists and evangelicals to take political power was a radical and ominous mutation of traditional Christianity. It was hard, at the time, to take such fantastic rhetoric seriously, especially given the buffoonish quality of those who expounded it. But Adams warned us against the blindness caused by intellectual snobbery. The Nazis, he said, were not going to return with swastikas and brown shirts. Their ideological inheritors had found a mask for fascism in the pages of the Bible.

Dr. Adams was in Germany 1935-36 when the Nazi’s were coming to full power. The corollaries between that time in Germany and today in the US are remarkable.

Adams saw in the Christian right, long before we did, disturbing similarities with the German Christian Church and the Nazi Party, similarities that he said would, in the event of prolonged social instability or a national crisis, see American fascists rise under the guise of religion to dismantle the open society.

He despaired of U.S. liberals, who, he said, as in Nazi Germany, mouthed silly platitudes about dialogue and inclusiveness that made them ineffectual and impotent. Liberals, he said, did not understand the power and allure of evil or the cold reality of how the world worked. The current hand-wringing by Democrats, with many asking how they can reach out to a movement whose leaders brand them “demonic” and “satanic,” would not have surprised Adams.

Like Bonhoeffer, he did not believe that those who would fight effectively in coming times of turmoil, a fight that for him was an integral part of the biblical message, would come from the church or the liberal, secular elite.

The…right has lured tens of millions of Americans, who rightly feel abandoned and betrayed by the political system, from the reality-based world to one of magic… This mythological worldview…creates a world where facts become interchangeable with opinions, where lies become true—the very essence of the totalitarian state.

It includes a dark license to kill, to obliterate all those who do not conform to this vision, from Muslims in the Middle East to those at home who refuse to submit to the movement. And it conveniently empowers a rapacious oligarchy whose god is maximum profit at the expense of citizens. We now live in a nation where the top 1 percent control more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined, where we have legalized torture and can lock up citizens without trial.

Arthur Schlesinger, in “The Cycles of American History,” wrote that “the great religious ages were notable for their indifference to human rights in the contemporary sense—not only for their acquiescence in poverty, inequality and oppression, but for their enthusiastic justification of slavery, persecution, torture and genocide.

George Santayana from Life of Reason, Reason in Common Sense (1905!!):
‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

All that said, I have a strong belief system – some of which aligns with what is being called the “religious right”. Some aligns with what is being called the “godless left.” So I have grounds and knowledge to be able to speak to most issues. As to the letter I received that caused tonights post, I did send an email back. I gently took issue with some of the statements he made, suggested that he really needed to search his heart and the Word to form his own opinions and seek/see the truth for himself. I even offered some places in scripture to look.

As far as the end of the letter to me, my tone changed – and I offered him my thoughts and some of the article I have quoted here – and the link to the entire article. However, based on the tone and some of the rhetoric of the original – he might be more turned off than helped. Which is going to another post…

Chris Hedges a graduate of Harvard Divinity School,
worked for The New York Times,
is the author of
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America

Be A Grape – Not A Raisin ~ Early Morning Thoughts

Yesterday as I was around various groups of people (at/on the bus -stores-waiting for a friend to get out of work) I was struck by the various attitudes and behaviors. I realized how much people seemed beat down, giving up and incredibly unhappy with themselves and the world around them.

It’s not hard to understand. A simple look at the news that besieges us almost on a minute by minute basis is far from anything that allows time to digest, process and deal with in a way which creates a safe haven to allow life and joy to work through all that is out there.

And much of it seems to create even more divisions than are already there. An NBA star announces he’s gay, another NBA star says he hates gays; someone announces their candidacy for public office, others immediately announce why that person is unfit for public office. Hundreds get trapped on airplanes frozen to runways for hours. And it seems so much that should be harmless suddenly becomes deadly – peanut butter, who would have thought? And fear can grip like a viper and spread its deadly poison.

When I had given up all hope and had lost the meaning of even living…I too felt that nothing matter, there was nothing to go on for and certainly nothing that I could/would be able to do.

In making the journey back from the edge of nothingness, I have my return to childlike enthusiasm, hope, joy and personal responsibility.

I have more on this topic, but let me state as I have in previous posts – I have no intention of advocating a “Pollyanna” outlook on life (I have always wanted to slap her when either reading the book, or choking my way through the movie). Nor do I advocate the “Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better” school of thought advocated by Emil Coue. Mine is not a perfect journey, but a personal journey.

For now, I have gathered some quotes that reflect directly on what has made differences in my life – and those around.

So many people are using up their precious moments of life striving for a bigger house, newer car, college for the kids, and many additional outer expressions of the so-called necessities of life. How many moms and dads are overwhelmed just trying to keep up with their notions of what is called for to be a successful family? Being too busy trying to manage a career and a family and not having fun and joy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some people born as ripe, plump grapes have become dried up old prunes. Why be a raisin when you can be filled with juice?
–Stan Smith

Nothing is lost upon a man who is bent upon growth; nothing wasted on one who is always preparing for … life by keeping eyes, mind and heart open to nature, men, books, experience … and what he gathers serves him at unexpected moments in unforeseen ways.

The work of an individual still remains the spark that moves mankind forward…
–Igor Sikorsky

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked; it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
–Franz Kafka

He who has conquered doubt and fear has conquered failure. His every thought is allied with power and all difficulties are bravely met and wisely overcome. Thought allied fearlessly to purpose becomes creative force. Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your heart. Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
–Carl Jung

That which we are, we are, and if we are ever to be any better, now is the time to begin.
–Lord Alfred Tennyson

When you have to make a choice, and don’t make it, that in itself is a choice.
–William James

Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You cannot cross a chasm in two small jumps.
–Lloyd George

Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
–Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

First keep the peace within yourself, then you can bring peace to others.
–Thomas a Kempis

And remember, we all stumble, every one of us .This is why it is good to go hand in hand.
–E. K. Brough

Everything that irritates us about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves.
–Carl Jung

Often, people try to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things or more money in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier.

The way it actually works is the reverse. You must find out who you really are, then do what you need to do in order to have what you want.”
–Margaret Young

Habit is habit, and not to be flung out the window, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.
–Mark Twain

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
–Elbert Hubbard

Great souls have wills; feeble ones have only wishes.
–Chinese Proverb

The whole purpose of the universe is unerringly aimed at one thing – you.
–Walt Whitman

Knowing others is wisdom; knowing the self is enlightenment.
–Tao Te Ching

Everyone stumbles over the truth from time to time, but most people pick themselves up and hurry off as though nothing ever happened.
–Sir Winston Churchill

He who postpones the hour of living rightly is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses.

Computers are useless. they can only give you answers.
–Pablo Picasso

Be not afraid of changing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.
–Chinese Proverb

A life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
–George Bernard Shaw

Only those who risk going too far can know how far they can go.

The freedom to fail is vital if you are going to succeed.
–Micheal Korda

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
–Abraham Lincoln

He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life away in fruitless efforts.
–Samuel Johnson

If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day — go fishing.
If you want happiness for a month — get married.
If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else.
–Chinese proverb

Standing In Friendship – Early Morning Thoughts

So I sought for a man among them
who would make a wall,
and stand in the gap…

As I thought about Two Lucky People (Yen and Jesse) today, I thought about a lot of people I am blessed to know. I began to send thoughts/prayers/energy their way – very specific ones I might add. There are times when people we know are hurting, ill or in serious trouble and we can be quite specific. Other times, we can only be general as the exact nature of what’s going on isn’t known, or isn’t being said.

Each one of us has a unique way of accomplishing this, but it is the love behind what is done rather than the form that makes the difference! Sometimes the situation looks so hopeless that I feel helpless. But that forces me to remember that distance is no barrier – especially when joined with others from all over. That places the love everywhere present and helps to unite even when separated by great distance. And that’s encouraging.

It’s also the giving of myself that’s the key. And by doing that, I can reach out and attempt to touch in some way those around me, those far from me that I only know by letters on a page.

You may not have ever seen me
But you know that I am here.
You can feel me in your heart
As you enter each new day.

I will always be there for you
I am your friend.

Someone to share the good times
As well as the bad.
I make no judgments by what you say
I just listen with my heart and
Hope to be of help in anyway I can.

I will be there for you now and forever
And always please remember
I am your friend!
–author unknown

And that touch – from thoughts/prayers/energy can mean so much to someone in need. Even to know that I am trying to understand, share and care…says to someone you are not alone.

And at my .. ahem … stage in life, to know that I am not alone (even at my most lonely) is a powerful force of change AND hope.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
–Emily Dickinson

And the phrase “standing in the gap” kept coming to me today and I realized that really didn’t have a very good idea of what that really meant. It was in that category of phrases I thought I knew, and have used – but didn’t really have a grasp of the enormity of what it meant.

The following statement was a collection of definitions/usage of the phrase:

To expose one’s self for the protection of something;
to make defense against any assailing danger;
to take the place of a fallen defender or supporter

When I sent out thoughts/prayers/energy – however or whatever is sent- I’m actually accomplishing quite a bit. Much more than I (who has been around this awhile) realized.

The phone company’s ad line “Reach Out and Touch Someone” carried far more meaning than they realized.

Three Thoughts and a Funeral ~ Early Morning Thoughts

I will admit it. I didn’t want to post tonight. I didn’t want to do much of anything tonight. And I especially didn’t want to talk about much of anything. I thought that I would just put up a pretty picture, write about being back tomorrow and that would be that. For a short while that seemed to work as an idea, but then I realized that because I had set some goals – I was going against what I had decided when I first opened PB & J. One of the goals was I would post at least once per day, unless I was sick or such. Another one was I would be sharing and honest. And I’ve just finished a funeral. (read on McDuff to find out what I’m talking about!).

The whole malaise certainly didn’t start when I got up this morning. While an overcast day, I was feeling fine – and actually accomplished a number of things I wanted to get done. And I had some relaxing time and even got some reading done.

I also dealt with some emails that needed attention, two of which really irritated me. And really for no good reason. Yes, one was vaguely manipulating from a dear friend, but he’s not really being that way, that’s just the way he comes across – but I was beginning to get rubbed the wrong way.

I later realized that I needed to get some shopping done, and got ready to go – and just sat down. I couldn’t put my finger on what was going on with me. I finally got up and forced myself out the door. I have found that I can cocoon quite easily if I’m not careful and aware.

When I got to the bus stop I realized what part of the problem was…my knees. I think I may have mentioned this before, but both my knees are in very bad shape. I’ve misused them, abused them – and now they are having their revenge.

(N.B. slight rant here-skip over if desired:)
Unfortunately, I am one of the millions without health care insurance, and people in government can make all the pronouncements they want about affordable health care – but it matters not if the insurance companies won’t take you.

I have a certain amount of money for this purpose, and actually had an insurance company that said they would take me – I was willing to pay an entire year of premiums upfront (I thought the money was talking!). But then, 15 minutes after the phone interview – I got the email turning me down for coverage. Their reason? An operation I’d had 15 years ago. I don’t know how much awareness there is about the pricing of medical without insurance, but even paying cash for an operation such as my knees at all the hospitals I’ve checked with would cost between $32,000 and $54,000 per knee. There is a teaching hospital here that does it for much less (as in 90% less) – but I can’t seem to find out how to get it done there – and find a surgeon who is credentialed there to perform it.

I’m there at the bus stop, glad I can sit down and when I get up to get on the bus – I’m hurting. But I sat down on the bus, with a smile on my face (no song in my heart, I’m sorry to report!) At the grocery store stop, the walk to the store was not bad at all. I almost felt as if the pain was going back to where it had been. I did my shopping – slowly – and then checked out. I was struck with how many crabby people there were in the store. One lady was angry because the sacker didn’t pack the way she liked it, and so – holding up the line – she repacked everything complete with play by play commentary. I have made a conscious decision that I will try to be understanding of people’s bad moods. As someone said, I don’t know what battles they may be fighting.

I left the store taking the cart to the edge of the lot, picked up the bags to head down about a block to the bus stop and realized – it wasn’t going to happen. I wouldn’t make it. And even if I did, it was doubtful I would make it the two blocks from the bus stop to my home. OK – quick decision time. I made my way back across the parking lot, and into the store to call a cab.

The cab turned out to be one of the van cabs – which was interesting getting in and out of. But I managed, and got home all in one piece. Got things somewhat put away – made some dinner and sat down to work on the computer. I was watching the TV in the background and trying to get a program to work in Vista on my computer.

In the meantime, I got another email that I felt was even more manipulative than before – so now I was really getting irritated.

Suddenly, this sense of great sadness washed over me. I don’t mean just as a small ripple, but a crashing wave. I was totally taken aback…and awash. I turned the TV off, turned off the computer – turned down the lights and just sat. I listened to within, and searched within to find out what was going on and why.

It started last night I believe with the fight between D&D, and all deep seated fear that brought up, but it seems there was still more. And there was, some of it not surprising – and some was. It seemed that a lot of had to do with a WD that doesn’t/didn’t seem to exist anywhere except in my own mind. No, I’m not schizophrenic or anything like that! But, this WD was really beginning to get in the way of a lot of things.
Alack and alas, there was nothing to do but to get rid of him. He doesn’t take hints all that well, and if simply sent away, he finds his way back. This time I needed to do something quite final…thus the funeral.

I had read about this in a delightful book “Tales of a Reluctant Traveler,” by Jeannette Clift George and had often wondered if it was as effective as the author maintained. I thought that tonight was a good a time as any. I literally put a chair by the couch, and held a funeral service for the late WD. I recounted his strengths – never upset, always had the right word to share for any occasion, never wore the wrong outfit, was surrounded by multitudes because of his charming wit, incredible taste, and never ending knowledge of the world around. This WD was a perfect house keeper, gourmet chief using only the ingredients on hand, and could manufacture soap from bread crumbs if necessary. This WD was never at a loss for words, never had to struggle to get ideas out and explained, was sought after as a speaker, house mate, lover and – if offered – president of the universe. This WD was unafraid of what might happen with his knees, or that the teeth needed some attention, or that the store bought glasses were not really working. This WD would never share about struggles, pain or fear – as the people around realized that he had none, or if he did they were of such little consequence, a mere flick of the finger would remove the annoyance. And (as someone at the funeral pointed out) this WD was becoming a royal pain in the …butt.

As I closed the service, I realized there were parts of him I would miss, but those parts were within me. And as I continue in the struggle to make my maps match my territories, he would have been a major force in keeping me from reaching where I want to go and what I want to be. Perhaps there will be other funerals I will have to have. I’m sure I’ll have to have more than one for good ol’ WD as he’s quite a survivor, but I think those will be a lot easier.

I realize this is a little different from my normal posts, but bear with me – it will all make sense.

more on this later

FIghts, Fears and Hopes ~ Early Morning Thoughts

It’s much later/earlier than usual, but I’m having trouble getting to sleep. This post is going to be a bit more immediate and personal than most ~

Earlier D&D joined me at a favorite “watering hole” (does anyone use that term anymore?) for some conversation. As I look back on the evening, I should have seen some red flags up and waving. As the one D is connected with the floral industry, this time of the year is really stressful, trying and will wear you out. I have been told Valentines is the worst season of the year in that industry.

I was getting ready to leave and they had me stay for a bit longer, and offered to take me home. As riding in a car beats riding in the bus any day – there was no argument on my part.

On the way home, a really nasty fight broke out between D&D. I understand that there will occasionally be problems in any relationship, but this one was particularly over-the-top and embarrassingly public . It involved yelling, threats and finally the car being pulled over and one of the two getting out and threatening to walk off and leave us stranded (which, as he had the only set of car keys – was a real threat).

It was my reaction I was trying to figure out. I should have been annoyed, angry at the scene I was watching (along with a few startled people in the gas station parking lot where the threat to strand us was being played out), but I was deeply, frighteningly and emotionally upset. I was shaking, I had trouble breathing and at one point was very close to tears. I covered it over for the sake of getting D back in the car and back on the road.

After I got home, and thought about it – I mean REALLY thought about it, I had a realization of why it upset me, and why I needed to take a good look at it.

Eons ago (in a galaxy far, far away) as a junior in high school, I was accepted for a fledgling program at a college in Minneapolis. The school wanted to try introducing high school juniors to the college experience (?!) during summer school. I’m sure for some that might have worked very well. I was definitely NOT prepared for life in the city nor discovering what being gay meant without someone to guide me through the process. Let’s just say, throwing a rather confused lamb to the wolves is a pretty good description.

I finally met someone who took me under-his-wing with all the ulterior motives that entailed. However, I was oblivious to the obvious and was just glad to have someone to be around. He lived with his parents, and they seemed to be understanding of his being gay and my trying to figure out being gay. So, I packed an overnight bag, and off I went for a weekend sleepover.

He wanted me to meet some other friends that night, and we went to a party of some kind. I think it was a celebration for one of the guests, but I never really could find out – and being as young as I was, I had other things on my mind.

We left the party with a car full heading to yet another persons house. At some point, an enormous fight broke out in the front seat. I’m talking screaming, punches, threats of great bodily harm being flung about and ended with one of the two trying to put out his cigarette on the other. I was terrified to my core, to say the least. When the car pulled over and the two combatants got out to continue their rambo-esque behavior I was close to tears. I had never seen/heard or been around anything like that, and all I knew I wanted to do was get away. And that’s exactly what I did. It’s after midnight, I’m in a strange city – without too much idea where I am and I’m heading as quickly as I can away from what’s terrifying me.

I am now a long way from the school, no idea where – a long way from his house, no idea where, heading down the way to get to the major highway. I thought if I get there, I can find my way back to somewhere. I walked, dodged dogs and even had the police pull over to see what the heck I was doing. Of course, there was no offer of help from them – other than to tell me to avoid the “bad” areas up ahead.

When I pulled this incident out of my memory this morning and realized that was where my reaction to the fight came from. I could almost taste the fear and panic I had gone through, and my heart was pounding just as it had then.

And I realized that one incident had created a condition within me. I realized that when those situations have happened either with me or around me, I’m playing the tape of that night – all the terror, hopelessness and determination that I would never be around or involved in something such as that again. Now that I’ve had that “ah ha” moment, I can begin to deal with it and change it into something that become much more positive – and hopefully more productive. It’s a case of my map not matching my territory, and I’m surprised I haven’t gotten lost more than I have.

And now to sleep – perchance to dream ~

more on this later

Early Morning Thoughts ~ "But They Made Me…" (part 2)

On Tuesday I started a post on choices and the ones we know we should make — even though we might not want to. What seems to be gaining prevalence is an inability to accept responsibility for those choices. What started the posting was the news report about a major AIDS/HIV organization suing the manufacturer of Viagra for causing people to participate in unsafe sex. My reaction was quite simple – gay or straight, we are personally responsible for the choices we make. We know about unsafe sex, we know that putting our hands through glass will cause cuts, we know that pouring a hot drink into our laps (or our children’s laps) will be painful and may cause burns. To stand and say that someone/something made us make the wrong choice is a weak argument at best.

But what about the subtle choices…the one’s that don’t seem that obvious? This calls for going within, and listening to what is within us – regardless of our belief system. It’s the listening to the inner self that allows more guidance on the subtle choices. I’m not sure that the four outcomes statement we learned in Science class applies to subtle choices:
I know that the subtle choices can cause a great sense of insecurity and unease. And that’s because the outcome isn’t readily known. I have to admit that what I am familiar with can not provide an answer that is guaranteed. And I have to focus on, what is for many of us, unfamiliar territory in making those decisions. Of course, I want to avoid the unexpected and undesired outcome, but there is almost no guarantee that can be avoided … unless,
I make it a guidepost to weigh options carefully – and to listen within as I make the choice.

Listening within sometimes is quite difficult. With all that is around, and all the demands on time, energy and personality…I have difficulty hearing/listening to what is within. To what sometimes is the infuriating small voice that gently prods, softly leads and sometimes merely points. And, alas, it’s also the realization and acknowledgement that the choice I make is totally my own and I have to look honestly and openly at the results.

When I force a choice on someone, or have a choice forced on me – the outcomes are seldom desirable or worthwhile, And quite frankly, if I’m having a choice forced on me, or forcing someone to make the choice I want them to make – it usually comes down to manipulation. The manipulation may be subtle (and usually is) or overt and annoying. However, I always have the choice to no longer “play the game” and usually can make the choice I feel is the correct one. Remember, I’m talking about the subtle choices – not the ones such as a work situation where it’s the “my-way-or-the-highway” kind of “offer.” (Although, there sometimes can be interesting ways to turn those situations.)

A speaker once said that the subtle choices ultimately should fall into three categories:

Good … Better … Best …

Tomorrow, a look at those categories and an introduction to poor Mr. Quimby who has been degraded and made fun of, but actually had the right idea about making choices.

More tomorrow…

fourth illustration – Listening Within by Morte137 http://www.deviantaart.com/view/35250977

Early Morning Thoughts ~ Poison to Medicine (part 3)

“take full responsibility for whatever is happening,
even if none of it seems to be your fault,
and decide to turn poison into medicine.
– Geoff from the book, “The Buddha, Geoff and Me

When I began to write about ZZ and the “dark night of the soul” decision I made, the words did and have not come easily. There has always been concern about being misunderstood, or simply dismissed as being a “drama queen.” As this is a personal account, it can be taken as such. Perhaps you have faced something similar. If you haven’t, as I said last night, be very thankful.

When I made my final decision to end it all, for so long I felt as if I had been locked in a box. That there was no key to the lid, and I was literally quite finished … as a older gay individual, an older human being and as something of worth. None of those were correct assumptions, but to me at the time, they were not only valid, but universal truths. I had chipped away at what I was for so long – there were serious cracks in the marble of my foundation. I knew in my heart of hearts that what I wanted from ZZ was never going to be – couldn’t be. I knew that I had given away too much, that I had run dry of what to give for basically nothing in return. I only knew that my vision was faulty, but I hadn’t come to the realization (yet) that I was not seeing him as he was – only as I wanted him to be.

So – the time had come. I was manager of a small apartment complex, and it was easy to decide upon the place. A downstairs, empty apartment. I actually did write a letter, being vague and careful. I chose the candles, the necessary piece of equipment, the pills to dull the pain, and the applesauce to sooth the stomach. I
made my way down the stairs of my apartment (I lived on-site) and into the empty one. I taped the letter to the inside of the door, and went into the bathroom. Lighting the candles, and laying out what I had brought. I arranged everything very attractively – again the gay in me.

I climbed into the tub, and stretched out and prepared. Well, as much as one can prepare for that. This is something I can’t prove, but you can’t disprove – I believe that most of us in those moments have a moment when the mind can “snap-to” and we can see something for what it is. It certainly happened to me. There was no earth shaking, no wind,no thunder or lightning. No booming voice spoke from the ceiling (which did need to be repainted), nor was there a knock at the door to interrupt. What came to me was the entire situation that I was planning and setting up. I realized that it was as empty and futile as I had been feeling. This was not going to solve anything or make anything better.

There was a realization that I was about to embark on the most selfish, thoughtless act I could have done. You may think that I had lost my mind (well, OK – maybe I did) at what happened next, but I began to chuckle. As I looked around at the seedy stage set I had put together, I saw it for what it was. Nothing that could help, nothing that would solve anything. I was actually heading to do nothing more than validate what I had been erroneously thinking. And then I began to cry. Three people came to my mind that I had not thought about during all the preparation and downward spiral. I realized that to these people I had some worth, and they had worth to me.

I climbed out of the tub (not the most comfortable place) and blew out the candle. I took the note off the door(which needed to be thoroughly cleaned), and went upstairs. ZZ (who was a bartender from 8pm – 3am) was surprisingly awake. I sat down and told him what I had almost done. His reaction neither surprised me nor helped.

The spiritual journey does not consist in arriving at a new destination

where a person gains what he did not have
or becomes what he is not.
It consists in the dissipation of one’s own ignorance concerning one’s self and life
and the gradual growth of that understanding which begins the spiritual awakening.
The finding of God is a coming to one’s self.
– Aldous Huxley

Tomorrow morning: how the poison has turned into medicine

the locker picture from http://www.amnesty.de
design:Agency Publicis Frankfurt

Early Morning Thoughts ~ Poison to Medicine (part 2)

Remember you’ve got a choice.
When you feel you can’t handle something,
you can either choose to feel miserable and helpless,
or maybe put your life in someone else’s hands to sort out – if they can be bothered.
Or you can decide to take charge ,
take full responsibility for whatever is happening,
even if none of it seems to be your fault,
and decide to turn poison into medicine.
– Geoff from the book, “The Buddha, Geoff and Me

When I started telling my story about ZZ I wasn’t sure where it would lead. I mean, I knew the story and the outcome; I was just not sure whether the story in public would end in a moral quagmire or some kind of reasonable moral outcome. This is not going to be one of those “stand up and cheer” at the outcome kind of stories, but hopefully I can reach out and let someone/anyone know that it IS possible to overcome. That no matter what is going on – and believe me I had a LOT going on – it is possible to turn poison into medicine.

As I continued to give up all that I was in a vain fantasy about what ZZ could/would be, I placed my very self in danger. I had begun to chip away at my core values. I firmly believe that these values are so deep and so much a part of our very make-up that they are what can pull us out of situations that otherwise might wipe us away.

As I kept trying to be everything ZZ wanted – what he wanted seemed to change. I was acting unaware of those changes, but continued to see him not as he was – but as I wanted him to be, as I wanted to see him.

And why not? He had what he wanted. I was there and doing as much as possible to make everything work. To make it as comfortable and peaceful as possible. Inside, my war was raging without any sign of an armistice, but he could go forth confident that all was well. That all was operating under his control.

And there was another key – control. By giving up of myself, my inner being, dreams and hopes (of the real kind) I was also giving up control. And, as usually happens, it all came crashing down…not once, but twice. The first was more of a farce. The second was the most real, frightening and horrifying moment I have had to face. Period. Because I had entered what I call the “dark night of the soul” I felt that I had to take measures that I did not have the privilege to take. I was convinced that I had reached a stage where there was nothing left but to leave it all. I made my plan very carefully … oh yes, and very theatrically. Let me just say it involved not only the how – but the where and what it would look like. I guess being gay there had to be candles involved, and they were…set decoration, you know.

I had nothing left (or so I thought) and it seemed no where to turn. I had begun to become somewhat isolated and cut off from people. I didn’t go out much, and didn’t mingle that much when I did go out. I had lost my love of music, reading, people and theater in all forms. And why? For the reason that I had allowed:

1) Who/what I was to him was based on a lie of his choosing and my own accommodation of that lie,
2) I was trying to be what I was not and
3) I was giving up myself piece by piece – belief by belief. I also
4) was hiding my own lies about feelings, beliefs, dreams and hopes.
— from Saturday’s Early Morning Thoughts ~

If you have never been there – I mean seriously been there – be thankful. If you have been there in that dark night of the soul, then you know what I am sharing.

I want to be very careful that I do not leave the impression that I am laying everything at ZZ’s feet. That is not the point of this series of postings. I can and will discuss at some point the what’s and the how’s…but the important thing that seems to press upon me is to make sure that it is very clear — I was the one responsible for my choices. From the beginning of the relationship (non-physical as it was) I set the pattern in motion, and refused to allow it to stop.

And when it had to stop, I was at literally the psychological bottom. The moment was set, and the candles were lit. I was where I wanted to be, and where I was sure I would not be interrupted, or for that matter found for … well, long enough.

I’ve lost animals, friends and relatives through death – but this was losing me … even though I didn’t think there was anything left, I was to discover that there was.

more tomorrow

Early Morning Thoughts ~ Truth or ? (part 5)

When I started this journey with truth, I really hadn’t thought about other connections it might have. But when I decided that I wanted to have my childlike enthusiasm back it led directly to how I choose to deal with truth. After all, children live authentically, seldom afraid or embarrassed to seek out what they want or to speak their minds, unless they have been taught to fear or feel embarrassed to speak their truth.

Of course, as we grow older, we are taught to put that authenticity/enthusiasm away and adapt to what is considered to be “normal” to society. This isn’t a discussion about social graces or manners or integrity or ethics. What I’m talking about is the truth of who I am truly am – the characteristics, behaviors, passions and visions that are uniquely me . . . the true inner me. Without the masks of necessity, the hiding and lurking that living in society requires to function

This is motivating me to begin to be who I truly am and to discover my full potential. And to learn to work within the world around me without abandoning my authentic self. I may not speak my opinions or passions, but that doesn’t change the fact that I possess them.

It is very important that youthful authenticity and truth make up the qualities that help make me who I truly am. This is the true self – living authentically – . . . making time for things I love, enjoy and project who I am. It does require at times leaving the expectations of others behind and moving toward what I feel is the most worthwhile.

I need to become self-focused in a healthy way, doing what you know is best for you, regardless of the opinions of others – even the opinions of close friends and family. Living authentically means that I begin to make choices without fear, trusting in my soul’s wisdom. Denying my unique truth can lead to feelings of failure and dissatisfaction because I am no longer acknowledging your true self. In living in truth, there are no pretenses. Everything I do will reflect the choices I make. That in itself is a MAJOR challenge.

When I am unsure who the authentic me truly is, I need again to look inward and ask myself the same question I ask my friend with the serious illness: “Where am I?” This mean I need to look again at what my purpose, values, and needs are. I need to honor my strengths and try not to fall into the trap of being guided by what others expect of you. It’s a journey that is going to allow me to rediscover my passions of new things, and sticking with those things that stir my soul. I found a quote that I absolutely love:

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.

The Gospel of St. Thomas Logian

However – don’t think I’m going to let you off the hook!(again, watch out friends)

Unless you are willing to look into yourself, you will miss the opportunity to know the real you—a life spent, not in living, but in keeping your feelings, desires and dreams at bay. If you look into yourself, you will confront your own, ‘enemy in the jungle.’ Unless you actively seek personal change through the hard work of introspection, you will, to some degree, have lived a non-authentic life and have been, to some degree, only a shadow of your true self. This, then, is your greatest personal tragedy.

And last, for this post, Let me leave you with a quote that I have been dealing with for several days. It really is an amazing challenge/caution.

The essential aims of life are present naturally in every person. In everyone there is some longing for humanity’s rightful dignity, for moral integrity, for free expression of being and a sense of transcendence over the world of existence. Yet, at the same time, each person is capable, to a greater or lesser degree, of coming to terms with living within the lie. Each person somehow succumbs to a profane trivialization of his or her inherent humanity, and to utilitarianism. In everyone there is some willingness to merge with the anonymous crowd and to flow comfortably along with it down the river of pseudo-life. This is much more than a simple conflict between two identities. It is something far worse: it is a challenge to the very notion of identity itself.

Vaclav Havel, “The Power of the Powerless