Both Sides Now

Working for Indian people is not like working for anyone else, I think.

Take for example last week, when I had an 11 day stretch of day work and night gigs and rehearsals, so my back half way through Tuesday afternoon last week just simply stopped functioning properly.  and shooting pains brought me to my knees, which made me think:

“Well hey – maybe I should take a break”. I have been accused of ignoring my own needs in the past.

Unable to even get to clients coming into the store, I was reduced to admitting that “I think I need help”.

I texted Aman, the store owner who responded within seconds that she would be there in fifteen minutes.

I sat down on the chair and hoped no one would come into the store as I didn’t know if I would be able to actually walk to the racks to show them anything. It was pretty bad. A few came in and there i was waving like the Queen of Sheba not moving from behind the cash upon my perch, my back inordinately straight.

Thirteen minutes after my text, and after a few more people had begun to come in and mill about, Aman and Romy came stampeding into the store, with their eldest daughter in tow. It was like an efficient  military swat team operation.

Aman looked at me, with her grouchy concerned face, marched immediately  to the back of the store, grabbed a Nepalese blanket, tossed it down on the floor between the middle of the store and a changing room, and quite literally threw me down to the ground on my stomach.

“You stay”. she said all business, and began issuing confident sounding  orders in Hindi to Arpita, who also snapped into action as her mother’s habitual other right hand.

” Hindi hindi Coconut oil…hindi hindi hindi …terrible dry skin!! ….hindi hindi” is what i heard allot of.

I often wear the things in the store that we are wanting to show people the most, so that day i was uncharacteristically wearing a short “business like” dress, maybe mid thigh length. Beige.

But as I lay there my dwindling consciousness told me there we people in the store. Lots of people.

Romy and Arpita held them at bay showing them things to stay interested in at the front of the store,

Suddenly my dress was half way up my body and my underwear were half way down.

On the floor

In the store.

yeah.

I felt a little uncomfortable but the pain won and I tried muttering supplications.

Can I give you some advice?

Never ever supplicate an Indian.

I tried speaking to her – thank her. I don’t know.

What the hell do you say to someone when they have laid you down on the floor and are covering your body in coconut oil to ease the aches of decades of physical self abuse?

If you’re me – you minimize.

“Oh Aman I’ll be fine…don’t worry! ill just go home and have a ba…”

I’m sure Aman heard sometime like

“Blah blah … blah blah blah…”

She snapped…

“You don’t speak now! ok? Understand? Shh”.

I could hear the concern in her voice and let myself sink back into painless bliss.

Suddenly her hands were on my lower back and the pain was absolutely gone. Poof. Eliminated. She hadn’t actually done anything yet, just the fact that she knew EXACTLY where the pain and went straight to it, I think it began to dissolve.  Over the next half hour, with my new dress now covered in coconut oil, as was the entire rest of my body,  Aman managed to perform some miracle on me, relieving pain and bringing my dry and sad skin back to life. I left he store relaxed and disheveled,  my hair now a massive mane of shiny greasy mess piled on top of my head and went home.

I cancelled a gig to rest, because I’ll tell you it got worse before it got better. I spent four days basically immobilized in some weird fog, sleeping or awake sketching was all I could muster.

I did an afternoon gig where the music started to revive me, and then I was back at work, feeling better than I have in years.

I am sharing this story because not only does it illustrate to me all of the things I am learning about the Indian people, how they take care of each other, and there is a genuine concern for every person’s well being.

I have grown up in a culture where we talk about how nice that idea is on Sundays and act like assholes the rest of the week.

These people are completely different.

To have an opportunity to see a loving example of how people truly incorporate compassion and community into their lives is probably the greatest thing I have ever experienced.

It is frustrating to me when I see people come into the store treating Aman like something less, thrusting things at her to hold, not saying please or thank you, never making eye contact or talking to her as though she is an idiot. It is hard for me to bear.

But I am fortunate to see both sides, and it is obvious that there are a many preconception that interfere with our ability to get to know each other as people.

One is who we think we are and the second is who we think each other is.

Very often I see the Montreal dwelling unlingual french canadians that treat Aman  with the greatest disdain. I hear them hammering her to speak better french and being angry and obnoxious when they confuse her (fifth) language.

I had one person ask me in french if “the English here were friendly”?

Hunh?

I had another ask me if “bosses pray four times a day”

Seriously. No.

I love that they support me in everything. Even what others have called “my bad temper” has come to good use.  Like with the lady in a failed attempt to negotiate (which I disdain)  who said she wouldn’t even pay two dollars for this “Indian crap” – to the hand beaded dress in her sweaty little palms.  It was my pleasure to show her to the door.  Aman is too polite for this but we have a rule: No amount of sales equals our dignity.

I’ll tell you honestly, when I was a kid, I was frequently horrified by my fathers treatment of people who worked in boutiques and restaurants. It was his way of “commanding respect”. Old school and often ugly.

More than once I remember wanting to crawl under a dinner table in a fancy restaurant as my father carried on in his indignant manner, obviously horrifying the poor waiter or waitress who had the misfortune of crossing his path on a “need to feed the ego” day.

The irony that now, at least five times a day I get to be on the receiving end of people just like him, who make me change their shoes while they talk on their cell phones (that never goes well) and who speak to me as though I am their personal attendant and no need for common courtesies are required. We don’t put up with that either.,

Maybe our store is special in another way – that we will provide free instruction on kindness if you seem to require it.   The place is steeped in it.

You just have to come in and breathe.

All You Need Is Love – really.

I was adopted, like allot of people, but my story isn’t like anyone’s.  I was an inter-family adoption taken home at 4 days old to be raised as the youngest of 7 children. My parents were kind and older, and I loved them both.  When I was 13 I was told that one of my sister’s was my birth mother. Luckily, I really adored her in the first place, and the transition to this idea was difficult but not impossible. My adopted mother/grandmother died when I was 15. My bio mom had serious issues with alcohol and prescription drugs, which she successfully battled and our relationship truly began to blossom when I was 25 having my first baby and she was to become Grandma – or Nana as the kids called her.

581933_10151470627203633_1947530459_nShe was my dear friend and soulmate. There aren’t enough words to tell you how grateful I am for her.  She was a great spiritual teacher always assuring me that “this too shall pass”, and hold on “one more day”…when things got rough, she was my 2 o’clock in the morning person. The only person alive that would truly relish my rebellious nature, love when I stepped outside of the box, and cheer when I forged new paths.  She loved my weirdness and all my edges.  She loved everything about me and her love taught me how to love myself. I felt most at ease with her than any other person in my life.  Loosing her physical presence has been very difficult.

I remember the day she called to tell me she had lung cancer,  I ran to her apartment and fell into her hug and only then, only then, realizing that we fit perfectly together . Why had I not noticed this before?  I remember the smell of her, and the warm safe feeling when she was anywhere near. If anyone crossed us or said anything that would cause either of us pain – she tore into them like a pit bull. She was a woman to be reckoned with.  Until she died I didn’t realize how much she had protected me.

Here we are two years later, and the grief still tears at me  – it doesn’t go away – it just changes shape. Each day remembering her and thinking about all the things I should have done or said or been or whatever – all useless thoughts or regret that have no purpose except to torture me.  I hear her words reverberating through my head each day – the ones she said to me through sad chemo sick eyes –981297_499916463412877_1698475491_o

“No guilt OK?”.

OK Mama no guilt.

But I didn’t call her “Mom” – there’s my first issue.  I couldn’t. It just seemed too bizarre – she had been her name to me all my life – and so if I called her mom this would mean I had no brothers or sisters, or that my parents were my grandparents – just unreal.  When I lived in Africa with her and would want her to say yes to one of my unreasonable teenage requests – I would call her “Mom” – “Please mom…” I could feel the word dripping off my tongue like something that didn’t belong there.

images0G56APY3I never thought about my biological father very much – he was like a super hero in my mind. Bad-ass bike riding tough guy from the rough side of town was the story i heard.  He was handsome and leather clad in my minds eye, sitting on his bike waiting to whisk my mother away from our overly conservative family. I was indeed a love-child. And his genetic presence in my body made me understand that although I was a rich kid from boarding sch0ols when I was younger, I was in my heart a bike riding, freedom loving rock and roll rebel chick. The small amount of history I had on him showed me that my proclivities didn’t come from no where – although I couldn’t really see how having a penchant for bikers and bad boys was genetic – all indications seemed to point to the fact that it was.

After my mother died two years ago, I began to become curious – maybe hopeful – that i still had a parent out there.  My adopted family had stopped “pretending” I was really one of them, and I was left pretty much empty of family, except for one sister who helped to raise me and could see me as none other than her sister – “give me back my sweater – hey did you borrow my make-up??!”…is just not something you yell at your niece.  I think they were all just tired of pretending.

The issue of adoption and being adopted came up during the course of my grieving, and it became suddenly important for me to find out if I had genetic links to anyone else out there. So I registered on a few free web sites what small information I had on my father, never expecting to get a response – especially not the response I got.

I was contacted by a lady named Annie who is a search angel. I don’t know her story, but I assume that many of these ‘search angels’ are people who have been searching for their own parents or children and have become pretty good at spotting links between people and volunteer their time.

Her email to me began tentatively, because she was concerned with her accuracy and didn’t want to cause me undue pain. She says “I’m sorry the news isn’t better. if this is indeed your father, he died when he was 23”.

Stop world. You’re spinning.

below her note a series of lists, with my grandfathers names and notably my grandmother Fanny. No obituary for my dad, only my grandfathers.

I felt it first in my gut – like a punch from deep inside.

The second thing I thought was – oh my god – he was so young…

I thought about my own son, now nearing 23, beautiful handsome and sweet and full of life, joy and potential. My heart ached for the young man who made me in a flurry of passion only to leave me as his only legacy. I am the most enduring thing he did in this life.

Holy shit.

As the news sinks in all I can think of is…

“I’d better not waste a flipping minute! ”

I don’t know about you, but as I get older, now almost 50, I see that there is a plan in the works, and although i am not privy or capable of understanding its intricacies, i am definitely part of the story.

In my research for this book, on adopted people, I have discovered that we all (adopted and non-adopted!) have amazing stories, like great adventures, each life is like a fascinating book. I can see my life and yours like that – and I believe its the only way we can really learn to increase our capacities and purpose here in this life – find out, dig deep and don’t stop asking questions. Be brave.

I have just returned from Australia where I spent some time in the desert with first peoples learning about the long long history of the worlds oldest genetic lineage.  I learned about the connection between living people and their ancestors and how important it was for them to honour the lives of their ancestors. Al of this is driving home to me the need to honour my own in the same way. I wish we had the stories like they do – so I could know them better, and in turn know myself better.  I think the purpose of life is to know yourself as well as possible so you can use everything you have to be of service.

It is a courageous journey to take into the center of yourself, to ask the real questions that are begging for answers…

I will continue work on the book – in the hopes that other people can find their purpose, their center or their story and not feel so unrelatable or different or alone.  We are all connected in some freaky quantum way, and I feel him now, beside me smiling. he is happy with me, and maybe even lives abit of my life with me, connected and guiding me from he inside, through my thoughts and dreams. Parents don’t stop being parents when they die – but its up to us to stay tuned in and be brave enough to hear their messages.

 

As I write this – the only song I hear in my head is

“All you need is love…”

Thanks Dad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GREAT VICTORIOUS SPEAR OF MOTHERHOOD!

images0G56APY3  This thanksgiving was something of a victory for me both as a mother and as a daughter.

As I arrived from work finding my kids having made dinner for us, the house was FULL to overflowing with people – dear friends, seven kids, three grandchildren, cars, basketballs, food, good smells and happy people – coming home felt wonderful.

We sat around the table, and each spoke our traditional words of gratitude – my m,other’s tradition that we love and adhere to.

“I am grateful that my family is always there for me”,

“I’m grateful for this food…can I eat now?”

I am grateful for my hot boyfriend…”

I am grateful for my job and food and you guys – this is the best family eh?”

And finally my youngest daughter at the very end with tears running down her cheeks

“I am so grateful we could find a way to be happy again after nanny…”

After Nanny passing away.

After nanny not here at the table to lead prayers and talk about corn fritters

After Nanny…

there is NO after nanny!

She helped us build this solid tribe – this certain community – this massive group of love.

There is a continuation of Nanny –

in my children’s words, in our food, our traditions and in our deep love for each other.

I am blessed beyond description.

and overflowing with gratitude.

I walked into the kitchen just so I could listen to them laugh – their beautiful voices.  Oh so happy.

I felt loved and surrounded by a solid tribe – my own tribe.

images6TQOHGBJFor 25 years I have been parenting these humans.  I want to make good people. I don’t care what they do for a living. I don’t care if they are “successful” (whatever that means) I don’t care if they are renown and I don’t care if they are respected in their field.

I care that they know how to love themselves, each other and the world around them. Period.

My only hope in all of that effort (and yes HUGE effort) was that at the end of the day three things would happen:

1- my kids would all like each other enough to hold each other up through this life

2- we would enjoy each other as a family because we really like each other – not just because we have to

3- that they can tell my husband and I anything and not be afraid of rejection or pain

OK…we did it.

I feel like Mother Zeus standing victoriously on a gigantic mountain brandishing the great flaming spear of motherhood and I am declaring -YES! IT CAN BE DONE! Behold – the awesome children!! They are AMAZING !

ANd my voice would echo throughout the lands so moms everywhere would know – there is alight at the end of the tunnel and that light is BEAUTIFUL.

imagesTA3DYQAZ

Most Redundant Blog Ever Written…just my opinion.

It’s redundant for me to have an opinion on opinionated people, don’t you think? But I really do and it’s making me a little crazy.

For the last few years I have been struck by how counterproductive strong personal opinions are for me.    Negative or positive – it’s all the same thing as far as I am concerned.  It’s a right and wrong, black and white up and down that really only exists in our faerie tale minds.download (1)

Last night I met a woman I had never met before who had been making quite merry all night. At one point she grabbed at my husband’s cigarettes (he has been struggling to quit for a while now) and starting sneering at him

“what are you gonna do?” she jeered

 

“You gonna be an idiot and smoke this?” She waved the pack at him sitting back arrogantly with her glass of whatever in her other hand.

 

“Um…” I could see he was visibly shaken,  not knowing how to handle this strange aggressive approach.

 

9896d25c60bca36da9eba9145c33233aShe wanted to humiliate him in some way, and frankly I felt bad for him.  Addicted is addicted and for sure I m not going to be the one to throw stones from my glass house.  In all my attempt to be “compassionate” towards all people, I found it a little tough with this one. Soon, I found words spilling out of my unhindered unfiltered mouth. Generally this is not a good thing.

 

“So, does your shoulder hurt?” I asked her pointedly

 

“Hunh?” she looked at me quizzically

 

“Does your SHOULDER hurt?” I said pointing to the portion of my body above my arm below my neck, in case you need instructions like she did

 

“Well, it is a little stiff..”

“Yeah, that’s what happens when you walk around in your life carrying a heavy gavel and judging people. Why don’t you just lay it down.” I stared at her predatorially watching her eyes drop conflicted to her feet.

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“Well mine’s just fine then…” She murmured staring at her feet.

 

“Give it time”…I said smiling sardonically.

 

Oh great. Good old “zen-me” had just reacting to someone being humiliated by humiliating the,  So much for non-violence…

 

Sigh…

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She wanted to go at him about cancer being caused by cigarettes.  Meanwhile my brain wanted to tell her all sorts of things, about being overweight, having a lousy attitude, her bleached blond hair, carcinogenic make up tested on poor little bunnies, her diamonds mined in South Africa, her need to control other people…omg.  My brain wouldn’t shut up – thankfully I had found my filter, and we packed up not wanting to ruin what had been a lovely evening.

 

I remember when I was young I had an opinion about everything. In my family it was a way to be valued. The more opinions you had = the smarter you were.  Generally I wasn’t much into telling others how to run their lives.  But on world issues and grander things, you couldn’t have shut me up.

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But here’s what I know now: if someone does something that annoys me (like to the pint this woman’s attitude annoyed me..) then it is ONLY because that same aspect exists inside of me.  The bright light of imperfection shone directly on my face like a crazy celestial spotlight.  It was me..not her.  I cant change a person or how they behave. I can only choose to accept exactly as they are,  them or not.    I knew this was true because I came away from the judging woman with a sense of annoyance, which I think is a good thing. That feeling is an indication I have to look at something within myself.   Seeing it like that makes the altercation not useless – but useful for my own personal understanding and growth.   Having a perception of conflicting relationships like this can really change the way you feel about interacting with the world.

What it came down to was I think we all have that “inner critic”. And, there is a distinct difference between a critic and being discerning.  We were all given the power to discern what works for us and what doesn’t. I can observe a person’s behaviour or choices, and in view of how I am moving forward in my life, I can discern whether or not it is a good relationship for me or a counter-productive one, for now.

 

So, I realize how redundant it is for me to blog about my opinion about people’s opinions, but I am seeing a trend which is kind of black and white, and probably attributable to social networking.  Daily posts from people that are like personal opinion vomit – all day long. They just go on and on and how one person is bad, or a country is bad, or an institution is bad…oy.  This isn’t productive and it gets tedious reading and seeing such of negative comments.

 

I say – shut up and go DO something a bout it. If you complain about a problem more than once without taking action – you are officially whining.

 

 

I’m grateful for my annoyance as it has made me aware enough to back off of my own strong opinions – but it doesn’t mean I will lose my sense of discernment.  If I am stuck to what I think about a person place or situation, then I am not accepting that person place and situation and I guarantee you that the only one who will be miserable from that kind of unconscious bull-in-a-china-shop thinking – is ME.

 

So, in my efforts to be more gentle and compassionate with my own self (yes…a huge challenge), I am going to take a dose of my own medicine and remind myself that even the judging woman needs to be accepted. We are ALL perfectly imperfect, as my mom used to like to remind me when I would beat myself up.

 

Accepting people and not always having a false belief that I can change the unchangeable is a very powerful tool in keeping emotional balance and avoiding depression.  It’s all just one more thing to add to your toolbox, if that works for you.

Have a great weekend.

Peace.

Jo

 

 

 

World Peace Through Inner Peace

1480631_10154570029310230_2357686507537653468_nI arrive at the festival about 6 hours early. We have a sound check, sound check is cancelled. The band is in fine form – everyone happy in the park. I feel so lucky because my family is with me. My cousin and nephew. How unbelievably amazing that I am so lucky to have a family that likes each other so much that we want to hang out voluntarily outside of Christmas dinner and funerals.

We notice that the place is filled with extraordinary musicians from all over. No one knows us – we are the new kids on the block. I have a chance to talk to many people as the day unravels and one sound check is put off after another until we realize that there will be no sound check and we are just meant to enjoy the day.

As it went on, I had a chance to meet two people who gave me a great lesson I’d like to share.  The first was a man who, right away upon meeting me candidly admitted:

“I have been trying to be an artist my whole life and I don’t know what I am good at. I can’t paint, I can’t sing, I can’t play an instrument, I can’t write…I am lost”.

 

I don’t know – maybe its my hippie look but people like to get down to brass tacks right away with me and I really like that. They can tell I’m not much of a “talk-about-the-weather” kinda of gal.

So, I said to the man’

“Cool!  You’re a seeker”, I said smiling. He looked in my eyes and I could see he saw familiar recognition of someone else who had been in enough pain to do the hard work.   He told me more of his story – falling in love with a women, moving to Egypt, caught in the political uprising, converts to Islam, freaks out, comes back home.  Now shaken and still trying to find his answers in another person.

It’s all part of the trip we’ve all done it.  But at some point you realize that what you are seeking can’t be found outside yourself.

The man’s eyes fly open…”Yes!” he says. “Of course you understand – you’re an artist”.

Yes I am, and so are you.

Everyone is an artist and is seeking.  In fact it is our most important job in life to help others get their feet under them and do what it is they are meant to do. The best way to do that is to walk your talk and follow your heart.

Because the issue of depression has been top headlines lately, we have been talking allot about how to be responsible for our emotional state, which has led me to really see that people who “follow their hearts” may have troubles, may have “hard times”, may have challenges abounding – but they are happy. You have to wring every last drop of life out of this life – and we who are relegated to the classifications of “crazy artist, depressive, bi-polar” whatever – are the souls brave enough to step outside of the box and choose the unworn path.

I marvel when I meet someone who says to me that they are “not creative”.

What does this mean?  Did you stop breathing?

Everyone creates…all day all the time. When you got up this morning you made a choice…you got out of bed. This is where your “creativity” began. Every thought and choice you make after – is a separate creation. What you choose to do with it is entirely up to you.

We can create art, music, writing, food, wood working, architecture – those are obvious acts of creation.

We can create relationships, environments, situations, and futures. Having depression means being responsible for the emotions we bring into our lives. I don’t mean controlling the uncontrollable, but being aware when life is pulling your attention here and there is the key to a serene and amazing existence. In order be really responsible for our selves and our emotional health – it is important to know that every thought we have creates SOMETHING.

The ying and yang of it…

… resentment will CREATE heartache

…anger will CREATE turmoil

…violence will CREATE retribution

…Obsession with material gain will CREATE anxiety

…self absorption will CREATE loneliness

 

Everything you do say think and believe is an act of creation.

 

An act of Compassion will CREATE peace

…of Love will CREATE fellowship

…of faith will CREATE miracles

…of generosity will CREATE abundance

…selflessness will CREATE personal fulfillment

 

After I met the man who told me he could not find his “inner artist” I met a young boy only nine years old who had been blind since birth and was discovered by his camp councillors playing guitar on his lap. They videotaped him and put his song on Youtube and within a few days the video had gotten over 50,000 hits. So they invited him to play at the end of the set of the big headline act of the day.

Ego is all that holds back creativity.  The bad ego – the one that tells you everything is about YOU you you you you.

Imagine meeting an egoless being?  It is very rare.

But that’s what the little boy was in essence.  He child was the opposite of the creatively constipated man I had met earlier. He existed simply as unhinged creativity – music on legs…

No ego. No self – only music.

The magic began when he first arrived and he emerged from his limo that the festival had gotten for him to ride in, all beautiful and smiling. And immediately looking for something to play, body swaying rhythmically. I noticed he was holding a machine to his ear – music emerge from it as he rocked happily back and forth. He approached the table in front of the artists entrance, just a regular white plastic patio table. He couldn’t see the emerging crowd of curious spectators and artists were watching, now quiet, no one quite sure what to say or do. All these “big blues stars” – rendered momentarily mute and caught in rapt attention. The boy begins to bang on a plastic table finding a rhythm – rap tap tap bang rap tap tap bang …. The surrounding musicians couldn’t hold themselves back and soon one guy is singing beside him, another (my own drummer) is tapping out a complimenting double beat smiling widely beside the boy – looking like he might have at the same age. My owns hands found a big blue recycling bin and soon the best show was taking place outside the tent where the big bands were playing. Rollin and Tumblin, garbage cans, tapping feet, singing voices – and a boy smiling as wide as a crescent moon. He found his happy place – and brought us all along with him! This was transferred enlightened music – a real miracle.

 

I dubbed him little Blues Buddha.

 

I also realize that the man who had not yet found his creation – was also Buddha – a teacher. We need to be in both places to find where we want to stand.

 

I feel so lucky to have a chance in this life to completely be myself in all my creative weirdness. People think I am a great singer when they see us perform, but really what it is is I have been blessed with being surrounded by people who let me know clearly that I can do absolutely ANYTHING, and they will support me.   I think saying Im grateful is abit of an understatement.

 

Instead I will use gratitude as a verb and keep trying and doing and creating and moving forward. And if I am lucky, I will always keep in my mind the face of the Little Buddha who was all soul – as I trudge my own creative path.

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When we all find our creative space like this boy did – when people individually find peace inside themselves and a place to express through some form of creation (“making something new that has not been made before”) only THEN will the world experience global peace. One person and one life at a time – this is our responsibility and joyful obligation towards ourselves first – and each other.

Peace

 

 

 

 

 

Love You Forever ~ Like You For Always

283225_10150717555315230_2261605_nToday my youngest (birth) child is 18. By our cultural standards she is now considered an adult. This is a strange thing for me and I feel reflective.  What kind of world is she entering? Did I do enough? Is she going to be ok?  The world is remarkably different place from when I was 18 in University and starting my life. I mean its different for every generation – but we are at a turning point ecologically, environmentally and culturally.  I thought the cold war was scary – but really that was a cake walk compared to the world she will inherit.

Time moves along quickly, and with step children older than my bio kids – I find myself a happy grandmother.  I started when I was 25, and here I am on the edge of 48…and its over? Not that parenting ends when your kids are “all grown up”, but today feels like a milestone and I am sitting still in wonder…

When my eldest daughter, soon to be 22 was born my first thought was (and please don’t laugh too loud fellow parents…)  1604417_10201998266532853_1125646257_n

“I am NEVER going to say the world “No’ to her because it is “negative”. I will find alternatives”. Seriously…I said this.

Then at 6 months old I recall looking at her and thinking…

“This is easy. I haven’t screwed anything up yet!” wow.

That was very last time I ever had such a thought.

231007_10150568344230526_4533870_nMy sister Danie and I used to joke that in the instant you gave birth, a large grey cloud called “guilt” emerged over your head and just sort of followed you around like your own personal little rain cloud for the rest of your life. Sad but true – parenting seems to be a constant process of questioning yourself and questioning your own parents. If you aren’t careful you can develop chronic “not-enough-itis”

Not-enough patience

Not-enough time

Not-enough me to go around….

37114_1633022579275_4524107_nWe try and improve on what we think our parents did wrong. We all intend to do better and inevitably we all end up repeating some of the same mistakes and improving on others. It’s a slow adaptation one generation to the next. But one generation at a time we improve because we become conscious of what we do and do not want for the world and our children.   And frankly, what the world is demanding of my kids is very different than what it needed from me at that age.

Personally,  my only real goal with my kids was to guide them to be confident loving individuals who would make healthy loving choices for themselves and become a beneficial part of this planet. I have never believed that how they accomplish this is any of my business.

“Your children are not your children…” says Khalil Gibran. They belong to life itself.

They are perfect to me.  All seven of them. 284885_10150717521390230_6646268_n

I am not a parent who pushed my kids to achieve in school. I also didn’t berate them for what the system would consider “failure” – I don’t believe in failure if you take everything that doesn’t work out for you the way you think it should have and learn something from it.   Everything “bad” can be made into something “good’ and useful if you look hard enough.  But then, admittedly, you get better at parenting one child after another.

My eldest daughter, a patient and creative soul, was my “tester” child. She was my textbook. My second child, my son, was my tester boy. They taught me everything – and we grew up together.  After these “birth” experiences – the universe decided that my prophecies as a five year old declaring to my mother that “when i grow up I will have seven children and live on a farm”, came true…and here we are. My four beautiful step-children, and three biological kids. Time FLIES when your running like a mad-woman.

In two weeks my youngest step son will be 18 and that’s it. I have accomplished what my grandmother said was my job – “get them to 18 alive”.  Phewf and what a ride it was.  And I loved every part of it. Even the hard parts – if you can call them that.

Now the wheel turns, and I am a grandmother.  I learned about being a grandmother from my mother. She raised the bar for grandmothers all over. She was the best. 981297_499916463412877_1698475491_o

For the past two days have been spent with my eldest granddaughter who is seven years old and curious about every leaf, every tree,..and most especially the faeries which seem to leave her gifts all over the farm.  And get this… She calls me grandma!  It took a full day of her being here for me to respond without delay to this new name. And as happy curious seven year olds go – she calls me grandma allot.

“Grandma come push my swing! grandma can I go sit on big mac? Grandma can we make cupcakes? Grandma can I have one more sleep here? – grandma can I have three candies instead of two?  Grandma do you love me…?”

Oh my yes. Yes I do.JOSEE AND MADISON SUMMER 2010

My own mother used to say her heart was big enough to love everyone as much as she loved me.  I didn’t really think that was possible… I get it now.

And grandmotherhood holds special priveleges that are “stress free options” for having fun with kids. OK don’t tell anyone but for breakfast yesterday I gave her a banana and a cupcake.

Why? My hard work is done.  Let her mom teach her nutrition…I’m GRANDMA!

My own mom – my biological mom – was the most awesome grandparent ever and an epic spoiler. I called her my “parenting partner” because there is simply NO WAY I would have gotten through raising seven kids-  soccer games, graduation ceremonies, broken arms, hospital visits, exhaustion…

The difference is I never thought to be “unlike” my mom in my own parenting.  I was so well loved by her that I strive hard to repeat the kind of adoration and extreme acceptance  she showered over me. I want my kids to feel the same “I love you no matter what” feeling I had and will always carry me. That awesome unconditional love that is simply present when needed but also the confidence that says

“I believe in you and I don’t feel the need to tell you what you can figure out yourself.” DSCF6559

This starts young – showing them that you are there, you believe in them, but you don’t need to figure it all out for them because you have faith in them. Sometimes its really hard not to control and to let go…really really hard. We say dumb things to our kids sometimes…

One of my favourites being “don’t cut yourself with that knife…”

Duh. Kids know that already.

Or “put your coat on its cold”

Relax. When a kid is cold, they will find their jacket.

1923346_10306495229_7743_nMy youngest daughter has taught me so much about how to love without controlling. When she was 12 or 13 and entering the tumultuous teen years, she and I being so very similar butting heads repeatedly. One day she declared to me that she was going to “trade school” to become a hair dresser. I did everything I could to change her mind. Lets face it, in my generation “trade school” is what people who couldn’t read properly or were coming out of jail did. MY KIDS would go to university – and have a “real” education.

Ah how things have changed.

Now we are learning that UNIVERSITY degrees are a dime a dozen. A kid with a Master’s degree is now more likely to go home and play videogames after their brains have become “overeducated” and they cant think for themselves.

I love my kids brains’. They are amazing thinkers. And I REALLY love that when I completely opposed her going to “trade school” she ignored me entirely instead having a strong enough disposition to follow her heart.

sara awesome

I watch her now, doing what she loves, making people happy and ambitiously following her own heart and I really like that about her – and all my children.

They know themselves, and are true to their desires and commitments.

 

Remember when I said I don’t take credit for my kids wins or losses?

Maybe that was a little bit of a white lie because I have to secretly admit to you now that at the “end of my parenting”, here where I sit on the precipice of a whole new experience (grandma!) – I feel very proud. 1016214_499878303416693_198530389_n

My kids will be ok. They certainly wont be pushed around by this sometimes harsh world and its your funeral if you try to relegate them to a box manner of thinking. There is NO box in their world – and those are the kinds of people we need more of on the planet. They think for themselves, they do their best and they follow their hearts. And they are kind.

 

That’s it…my job here is done.

I Love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be (and even after…)

Mom.

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On Children

 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,

but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children

as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,

and He bends you with His might

that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,

so He loves also the bow that is stable.

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Why Robin Williams’s Death Can Be A Good Thing…

writing

My first reaction to Robin William’s suicide death announcement on facebook was astonished  anger.  I felt like he had somehow  copped out, jumped ship.  I was starkly reminded of my dear friend Anne who also committed suicide a month and a half ago…it has been a tough summer.  Lots of people are giving up.

Then sadness took me, in a big way. Maybe it because I am grieving so many significant personal losses and for some very real reasons Robin’s death felt very personal to me. Not only as a fellow sufferer of depression, but because I grew up with him.  All my favourite movies and some of my best moments with my kids include him. He could make me laugh and smile and feel like anything was possible when no one else could. He felt like a friend.

My family has some epic stories, but one of my favourites was when my sister, now an artist but then a high ranking administrative person for Bell Canada was travelling through Los Angele’s and she had the opportunity to meet and speak with him. The one thing that always reminded in the traditional retelling of the story was the effect that his eye had – gentle and full of love she would say. Smiling eyes. robin

And now he was gone.

Depression. Suicide.  My life has been plagued with these two words.  So understandably my next reaction was fear.  If depression could take Robin, then it could take ANYONE…even me.

My story..

I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 15 years old, in university. I was young and far from home and would experience great jags of unhappiness.  A University hospital doctor told me I had depression – a clinical explanation for a chemical imbalance in my brain.  In those days my depressions were only days long – usually right before my period and would disappear in a flash as soon as I would begin.  I never mentioned it, although it felt so terrible because people made so many jokes about PMS – but for someone like me, on occasion, PMS were the two r tree days when I couldn’t make a decision, I couldn’t read two pages in row cause I had no concentration, and I hated myself.

After graduating with my first degree at 18, I came home, worked in a bar (yes it was the Pioneer in case you were wondering) because who in their right mind would hire a kid with a degree in political philosophy.  I had my first child at 25 and within weeks of having her, the depression came back. This time they called it “post partum disorder” –  again my sadness had nothing to do with me – it was BIOCHEMICAL. They gave me magical pills.  SSRI’s had hit the market but barely.  I am not sure which kind it was this time – probably Prozac was about all they really were using in those days.  Thus began my 17 year journey on pharmaceuticals and a coming to terms with depression.

Lots of people have tried to explain to me what depression is.  My easiest depressions only last a day, and the worst one lasted 7 weeks, I was in bed and I came about as close to dying as any living person wants to get.

silhouette-woman-grievingHere’s how it felt to me…

Depression…

    1. Hurts my body. Aches and pains like I am an old lady.
    2. Depression destroys my concentration. I cant read or even watch an entire tv show
    3. I don’t sleep – forget that.
    4. Make me feel like I am no good for anything or anyone.
    5. Makes me believe the world would be better without me
    6. Makes me feel hopeless – no matter what I do nothing will ever feel good again
    7. Causes me to make bad decisions
    8. I suffer from “not-enough-it is” in a deep depression. Nothing I am or I do is ENOUGH.  It;s exhausting.
    9. Depression causes me to harm myself and make bad choices on my own behalf
    10. Makes my family feel hopeless and out of control
    11. Makes my family and friends feel as though they have done something wrong
    12. Causes me to isolate
    13. Makes me feel as though I cant rely on my emotions so I cant make plans = I never know what I will be like in a day or two or three…
    14. Makes it so I am not able to get a full time normal world day job – again the unreliability factor.
    15. Makes me feel ugly, stupid and unlovable unworthy
    16. Sometimes – depression makes me want to stop living (I will differentiate however between “not wanting to live” and “suicidal” -= there is a big difference)

and so on…

Over the years they tried to give my personality lots of names… bi-polar, severe hyper manic rapid cycling depression (this means I m like Eeyore all the time…), border line personality etc.

I was just sad. That’s all. It was a terrible way to live. I would wake crying, sleep crying, no joy, faking everything in my life.  Trying to be the best mom possible, but incapable of really engaging with anyone – because I was incapable of engaging with myself at the time.

So a (male) doctor says he has a pill I can take that will fix the “broken chemistry” in my brain and I will then be NORMAL. I emphasize male because I don’t think any woman who had had a child would have diagnosed me the same way.

But I was so attracted to the possibility of the all encompassing NORMAL. My doctor wanted me to understand…

He drew me a diagram and explained it to me like I was an idiot…

“See these two lines here Josee…” he asked indicating a drawing of two parallel lines about 3 inches apart on a piece of paper. “most people have emotions within those lines” he says drawing an up and down squiggle.   “Your emotions are like this” he said letting his pen go wildly outside of the lines…

Wow. I am nuts.

Then he says something like,  “The medication will bring you inside the lines.  You can have “normal emotions like everyone else”.

Oh lord…I was so happy. They had invented A NORMAL PILL!

Finally someone explained why I wasn’t “NORMAL” (this word was later explained to  me by my Alanon sponsor as which only existed as a setting on a washing machine :)) why I didn’t feel like other people, and why I was SO much more emotional than I “should be”.

It started with anti -depressants, and by the end I had been prescribed every conceivable antidepressant and then some…seroquil, desyryl, welbutrin, celexa, paxil, elavil name it – I took it.

The results?

I didn’t play guitar or sing for 13 years.

I didn’t write

I didn’t draw

I didn’t paint

I forgot what made me joyful

Nothing in life was ever exciting.

Sex was meh…

Was this “normal”?

Not creating for someone like me is like being the walking dead and I became so empty it was ridiculous.

Depression is genetic in my family . I was raised by my maternal grandparents.  My mother told me the story of her first suicide attempt at only 9 years old. Poor thing – luckily the bottle of pills she took were laxatives, which we can almost giggle at, except to consider what kind of despair a child of nine must feel to down a whole bottle of anything, causes the laughter to turn into a choke in my throat.

My grandmother who raised me was a chronic suicide attempter.  In fact, by the time I was 10 I had saved the life of or witnessed the attempt to die of most of the women in my family.   The men (my “brothers” and maternal grandfather” called them weak and “crazy”.  I have one that still does to this day sadly. )  But their uneducated redneck discompassionate attitudes regarding mental health and emotional wellbeing is very representative of a big chunk of western culture. It is these attitude that prohibit a frank open honest discussion.

I would like that to end today.

*suck it up…” they would say.

That’s not helpful.

**I want to say right away that medications are important, and if you are prescribed and antidepressant to get your chemicals back on track and this is comfortable for you, take them, and get your balance back.

But medication is not where it ends,

it can be however where healing begins.

what is healing?

It is ACCEPTANCE OF YOURSELF.

ALL YOUR 2000 PARTS, PERSONALITIES AND EMOTIONS.

Unfortunately psychologist want to focus on your past and tyour problems and psychiatry is looking at “the problem”  only the medicinal aspects to cover symptoms.

It is not enough.

You have to go after THE ABSOLUTE UNADULTERATED  AWESOME BEAUTIFUL TRUTH ABOUT YOURSELF.

ROBIN WILLIAMS’S death can help us remove the stigma overshadowing a potentially open and healing dialogue on this silent deadly killer…robin love eys

No one is going to say he was

    1. Weak
    2. Should have had a better sense of humour
    3. Unintelligent
    4. Had a sad life anyone would want to escape

etc.

We all know,,,Robin Williams was an AWESOME human being – I am so grateful that he was here.

But another part of me understands and can sometimes relate to his hopelessness.

The Buddhist in me finds that his death will cathartically open this dialogue.

Robin Williams is such a key example of someone whose depression led to addiction (avoidance is pretty normal when you feel like crap all the time).

12 step programs are amazing…except for one teenier thing debilitating thing aspect of the 12 step culture…self righteous sobriety. The I’m better than you attitude is not helpful to someone who struggles and although it is are and you will find that 99% of the people you will meet will be supremely authentic and supportive, there are assholes everywhere in life. Right> Like they say in the program – learning to ACCEPT  (even the assholes) is the key.

Good luck though…If you are a person with long term sobriety and you slip – sometimes program people in these programs can be painfully judging and unforgiving – fearing for their own sobriety I suppose.

 

It must have been very hard for him to go back into the program in 2006 after 20 years of sobriety.

The thing is lots of people said they were “so surprised” when he started drinking again.

I always will remember what my mother, 27 years sober when she died said to me

“Never be surprised when an alcoholic drinks. Be surprised if he stays sober”

 

The world requires a dialogue – depression is epidemic and we need to openly share our stories, remove the stigma and walk TOGETHER.

Opening this dialogue and being very honest with myself has been a cathartic experience.

 

I’d like to begin this dialogue.  The only way to heal and see the amazing BENEFITS of having depression are to share our stories, openly.

 

Let it begin right here.

 

This is what i do for my depression today…

 

    1. REMEMBER YOU CANT FIGHT THE OCEAN WITH A TEASPOON…
    2. I try and let myself feel whatever I am feeling.  Trying to NOT be sad, not be depressed NOT BE…anything…is what got you into this mind mess in the first place.  So if you feel like crap…LET YOURSELF FEEL LIKE CRAP.
    3. Identify where the feeligns exist in your physical body – where are your emotions when you feel sad? I find my solar plexus hold this energy.
    4. Don’t use weed for depression. Weed is great – but not when your depressive. It doesn’t work It will make you feel way worse.
    5. Find five things to be grateful for every day – write them down. Or even better share them on social network and help others relate to gratitude.
    6. Eat healthy – treat yourself like your best friend.
    7. Do something nice for yourself; take yourself on a date to a movie, do your hair, a bath? something.
    8. DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING. In massive depression – get up, brush your teeth, make your bed. Do the basics.
    9. Keep a journal. Write every morning,. Don’t edit. Everyone needs a place to spill their guts.
    10. Dont focus on the word “depression”.  YOU are NOT your illness. You are WAY MORE AWESOME than you can tell at this moment.
    11. Find the cool parts – I don’t know ONE fellow musician, artist or writer that doesn’t have some sort of what they would call “mental illness”…although now I am remiss to call it an illness given all the talented beautiful people I have come to know.
    12. Meditate. trust me there is nothing better to remind you that YOU are not YOUR THOUGHTS.

IF YOU SUFFER FROM DEPRESISON PLEASE REMEMBER WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SAY…

** Depression comes from unexpressed emotions.  *not because you have cured depression but because you have found the awesomeness in it.

You know – what we are looking for in life is NOT happiness…It is the ability to handle all circumstances with a peace inside that cannot be shaken.

Everyone can do this.

YOU CAN DO THIS.

Depression is a gift that makes you do the work. People without depression do not need to go  as deep into their self understanding as you can. And the purpose of life IS to understand ourselves better.  Depression is a gift of understanding.

I am suggesting a global open the door on depression initiative.

We need to talk. Openly and unabashedly.

Let us begin this dialogue today.

Tell us about your depression, your story, where has it taken you. What has it taught you?  Where does it come from? Can you identify some needs after talking about it?

Share together. Don’t be afraid.  We will catch you. I promise.  Its a process…and it has to begin somewhere.

I send you real love – although we may never have met I really do understand we are all connected  – we are each other. The more we heal each other, the more the whole world will benefit from your awesomeness.

COME OUT AND SHINE TOGETHER.

In love and service,

Peace

 

 

 

 

Just Thinkin…Life Has No Set List

park-chair-yarra-river-gapSometimes life as a musician brings me to places and situation which seem beyond fantastic and unimaginable I realized yesterday.  These are the adventures that keep me coming back to loving performing music with people wherever we go. It is my rush.  I have always loved meeting new and interesting (that’s everyone!) people- and I am particularly curious about cultural norms and behaviours. I love the way we as different cultures approach the same situation in different ways. Sometimes tDigital Universehis works to my advantage as I really enjoy adapting my own cultural “norm” to a new one I may be encountering. A “when in Rome do like the Romans” thing.

So yesterday at our private SoulFusion gig I was faced with a particular challenge as we were setting up in a parking lot in 125 degree weather under a deceptively comfortable looking “play area” designed and created by the plant manager of the company for his employees. It was a very different situation to play music in and try and decipher how a “set list” would go – if there were to be such a thing.  The man who hired us was a great lover of music and was someone who had developed a real love for the men and women he works for.  So much so that when he found that the culture of the company he had come into a few years ago was “all work and no play” he took it upon himself to create a more understand and relaxed atmosphere.  This year was the first year upper management had agreed to make a particular investment in the employees excellent positive response to this initiative and the hired Us.  Believe me when I tell you I was aware of the particular challenges coming into this gig – I just had no clue how much bloody fun it would be.

It’s not all glamour in case you thought that…

First we got lost so we arrived agitated, and late for set up. That’s never anyone’s favourite start. Then I had some real challenges…sort of. Except I don’t think the old days would have had all of the variety of faces and people I got to meet on this hot summer day in 2014. As we were setting up, I tried to look around and get handle on our audience so I can create a set list.  As I looked out at the sea of different coloured faces I realized that here was a bunch of people whose lives emerged from places that spanned the globe three times over.

There would be no set list. Big surprise.

Then I was struck by the amazing unlikelihood that we should all find ourselves in this place, drinking beer on a sunny Friday afternoon. Muslims, Jews, Christians, black, white, beige – most cultural versions of humanity were here and accounted for I think.   I wondered right away what it was in their lives they had to have gone through to come to this place, on this day in a hot sunny parking lot in a company just off the behemoth Labatt brewery factory.1175557_607235729326752_1461121346_n

This day was going to be a day of celebration – this is amazing. I thought to myself.

Incredible shit happens in the most unlikely places –

Indian men with beautiful colored turbans on their heads, smiling tables full of people from the Philippines, a new friend to play djembe from Haiti, office women dressed in pretty summer dresses, volunteers manning the BBQ’s while racks of delicious smelling food was served with a smile by upper manage to their employees.  It was warm and inviting and beautiful and all faces smiling.  I feel compelled to play music so…it begins acoustic.

Soon I see the crowd is FULL of people who MUST have danced or drummed or done some type of musical ceremony where they came from – but no one is dancing – they are being quiet and polite.  This is bothering me by the second set so I decide to get together with our drummer who is an amazing percussionsit, and we simply begin a beat. Him first – native sounding earthy tones on the Djembe beat against the ground and I crawl half shy onto the big drum kit. Dave our drummer nods to me to go ahead.  I don’t usually do that but I just felt compelled. My foot begins banging HARD on the bass drum – it feels great – amazing actually. Freeing and a little and letting loose in a way that’s different from when I am “front and center” – I can just close my eyes and feel the music like a meditation my heart settles down into a steady tribal beat on the bass and toms with Dave – eyes are closed…we are having a blast. Some of the men start to dance twirling with their arms as open as the smiles on their faces. Strong legs bend and flex in joyful cadence – Ah this is the best! Everyone was so together in this music – what an amazing feeling.joy

Then I made what I THOUGHT was a colossal cultural mistake. An Indian man came and threw money at my feet when I was dancing – and I was embarrassed so I plucked it up and ran to give it back to him red faced.

In my country when men throw money at you – its a sign of an unhealthy appreciation – I explained rather quickly.

He just smiled at me kindly and said nothing.

But I had stopped his joyful dancing. I had done something wrong.

I must have looked confused because his friend came and explained to my kindly –

“In India where we come from, when we throw money it is an appreciation and to way to protect you from poverty. We do this at weddings for beautiful brides too…” He smiled at me then kindly not like someone who is defiantly defending a cultural norm – as we who are Americanized are inclined to do (Rah!Rah!…blah…). Instead he was patiently explaining to me, because his ego was in check and he didn’t take my misunderstanding personally. What a revelation.

Some people use money not for the exchange of one thing for another – but for appreciation and expression. LIke a ritual. Amazing and beautiful all at once.  I am so grateful for the lesson and the kind way it was taught me.

I was so touched by the whole day.  It was a beautiful celebration of music and I really felt so privileged to be able to intersect with all these beautiful people, on that day in that time in that unli8kely place.

I remember saying to this amazing audience…

“Imagine what it is we all had to get through to get to THIS place today…it is incredible.  We were meant to be friends.”.  It really was how that all felt.,

We made music together, we ate together and we planned next year to do it all over again.

 

Once again the universe shows me clearly that if you follow your heart the pay back is simply unfathomable.stars-purple-light-wallpaper.jpg

 

Peace

 

 

On Death and Loving…

12061_10151721634725901_477138869_n
Morning time at WillowCreek

This morning I fed the horses – its a beautiful day. In Canada we get maybe 25 days like this – clear sunny cool. Birds are singing in this constant perfect cadence – it plays like a mediation song as I go about doing my work. I fill buckets and say good morning to each of my herd. They all have very different personalities and different ways of greeting me.

Did you know horses liked music? I didn’t either, until UI had my own farm. When a horse is sick you will try anything in your power to make them feel better, and so over time I discovered that each of my horses has a certain song or types of sounds they like. Some like silenbce. They don’t want us chattering in their faces all the time. Others, especially younger ones like summer, like singing – in her case I always sang her “Summer Lovin” from the grease album – so now when she hears this song she comes running from anywhere to find me.  I love that.

In the past three years my most special time I have to admit has been with Otis my overly tall gangly love machine of a quarter horse,.

otis10Otis came to me through a friend who had kindly adopted him from Texas even after the vets there declared that he had navicular disorder. She has a huge heart and he was truly a “big gentle giant” as his sale advertising said.  What the seller didn’t tell anyone was that Otis had been so gentle and SO perfect, they had overused him and probably destroyed his feet in the meantime.

In Otis’s case, he is the victim of what humans like to see as esthetically pleasing in a horse.  Over time, we have bred quarter horses to have small tiny delicate looking feet- not big and clunky like they should be. Otis is huge 16″3′ meaning he needs MORE of a base to stand on. But he doesn’t have that – so the bones inside his front hooves are twisted and breaking causing him daily and now in th4e past two days ridiculous amounts of pain.

I have made the decision to have him put down tomorrow at 4:00 and today feel like hell.

otis fall 2012 wearing a scarf
OTIS sporting his handsome scarf

Let me tell you about Otis…

Otis is my friend.

I am a rare a very fortunate soul to have had him in my life.  Most people I imagine never have that kind of intimacy and absolute trust and love with another living being never mind something as awesome and created with “ALL SOUL” as a horse.

 

jo and otisOtis is not just any horse you know…He is my soul-mate horse. Better r than any “man relationship” honestly…

The horse of my life..the one you dream of when you’re a little girl.

I never dreamed of a “specific” horse physically.. like big and black or white and shiny…I loved them, all and didn’t care what they looked like really.  I dreamed of the ULTIMATE relationship I would have with my horse – he would follow me and want to be with me all the time.  I didn’t dream of riding and ribbons like the other girls and boys in my riding classes.  I dreamed of a horse that would BE with me – and magical fairy tale like relationship a soulful understanding and connection.  Like Bucephalus and Alexander something extraordinary.

I am so lucky.  Otis was even better than all that.

paulette and otis

He was with me through my mothers illness, problems in my marriage, being alone – Otis was there. He single handedly got me through this winter and the incredible depression –  – I had Otis. His condition is what made me go outside every day, work with him, keep him moving for nearly four years now. Otherwise I may still be languishing in bed.

He loves and adores all humans but especially my mom. He would walk with us when she was in a wheelchair. He was the most gentle safe loving perfect listener. He never interrupted or told me what he thought he knew I just had to talk things out. And when I cried just TOO much – he would rap himself around me like a perfect blanket of love. God Ill miss him and our many hours spent in his stall, brushing him and just humming happily…

He is a grand champion line bred, in Texas he is Pine Zippo Bar something or other…blah blah blah – they tell me. Both grandfathers were most winning quarter horses in the history of quarter horses in USA. Why does this matter ? well because – humans bred him for humans – they were not thinking about the horse. .

otis faceI have tried meds, no meds, shoes, no shoes…walking, stall rest…all of it. I have gone as far as praying over his foot. I have held his leg on my lap and begged the sky. I must have looked like a lunatic in my field on my knees begging.

But my friend Otis is in terrible pain and so it is in my power to relieve him of it.

RANGER
Ranger was 32 when he died

I wonder that we can’t do this for humans…

I saw my vet today and cried all over him. Poor guy. He has had to put up with me for so many years. But again – he is the most HUMAN of all the vets I know. He comes to my fundraisers, quietly always supporting those who would work hard for their horses.  He doesn’t like killing them  I saw today the years had not in fact hardened him – this made me feel good. I need only LOVE to be present when we do this to my horse,

I have not put many horses down in my life. My first horse to die was Ranger – Masters old parted. I was inconsolable for at least 6months.

BY time has passed and I am a real farmer now – not just a suburban throwback hoping to have a pony and a larger garden.

I am a real farmer now.

My hands are hard like leather. I like them like that. It hurts less when I cut them on baling twine.

My back is sore – because I did a good days work.

My feet are permanenelty black with dirt – cause that’s the way we roll in my garden.

I’d rather smell like midnight in the pastures than midnight in paris…:)

I am a real farmer now.

But my heart doesn’t seem very “tough” or farmerish today – I wish it would take a lesson from my hands…

 

When you work on a farm, you are CONSTANTLY in the middle of life and death.

If you watch a death you will see it is just a birth – backwards…cropped-374558_10200344549270175_1888065410_n.jpg

Death and birth are the same.   I feel sorry for people who are not aware of this. Death is not so scary. But living disconnected from nature and the reality of the earth like most people do – is very scary to me.

Death is an opening – a space for something living to come in.

I am not afraid that Otis is going to DISAPPEAR. Nothing disappears.  If you work in nature – you know that very well. IO don’t know allot of farmers who fear death – their own or others.

We leave that to the city people who believe we are all separate living things.

But death is hardest on the living.  I will be lieft5 here…while Otis traipses off to go see my mom and everyone else I love who is on the other side.

I KNOW he will be there for me when its my time to “ride off”…

jo n otis
I love you My Buddy.

But holy shit this is hard.

Thanks for reading.  Please hug your animals and all the living creations you love tonight.

Namaste.

 

I love you buddy…

Online Living: Are We More Concerned With Selfies or Self?

mona-lisa-selfie-2

Do you blog?

For some people blogging is a central theme to their day. Blogging as a sub-culture has emerged from the depths of online living.  I read a few blogs here and there but not many. In fact,  I wouldn’t actually consider myself a “blogger” like some I have seen; you know the ones who take selfies with their French toast actually have the ability to write 750 words on why it relates the second coming of the messiah or something deeply philosophical. That’s a talent I just don’t have.  Not that I couldn’t see myself becoming an obsessive overly-committed blogger if I don’t stay conscious; I have my addictive tendencies just like everyone else.

OK…I will admit to you that when something fun happens I no longer just think simply to myself;

“Oh…that was fun”.

No no… now fun involves a follow-up –

Take a picture…write a blog – a poem, a song…?? hunh?

“Oh..I have to post this!” God. I wonder what my grandmother would have thought about all this?

Sometimes we get so busy writing about our lives that we arent actually living them.  When I grew up, life was lived in real-time.  Oh brother…now I sound like my parents.

Back in my day….imagesCAMLIZPK

…when you had “issues”, big or small, they stayed at home! You didn’t post them or share them or even discusss them with someone who lived two blocks away, never mind the djembe player you met online three months ago who lives in Mali.   Back in “the day” neighbours on either side of you were only privy to what they could hear from the yelling through slightly cracked open windows. But now, with the online culture we exist in, people clear across three continents know when you had a fight with your husband even before it has ended! Not so long ago, there was a sense of “minding our own business” and there were rules!  The rules were expressly told to us and if we folowed them – everythign would be ok. I suppose this kind of living was comforting in one way but more likely it was incredibly isolating, lonely and inherently dishonest.

Online living is causing us to get all mixed up like a gigantic cultural soup.  We are living and learning and exchanging some pretty intimate details about our lives and how we deal events of living like death, divorce, children, parents ,relationships, emotions, understanding. These issues cross al cultural boundaries and even history and bind us all together in commonality.

 

But are we so focused on giving the world that perfect image of us – that idyllic selfie – that we forget to tell the truth about who we are or how we are feeling?

funny-selfie-dogs-smilingAnyways…who tells the truth anymore? Are we busy trying to give the world our best face? And why should we even bother to blog? Isn’t constantly writing about yourself some weird form of narcissistic self-obsession?

Sherwin Nuland would disagree. He was a brilliant professor from Harvard that said “The more personally you write, the more universal your writing becomes”. That coupled with what I read by the Dalai lama yesterday that said something like there should be no difference between your personal life and your private life. That would be dishonest. Not that I believe that we should all be sharing our deepest inner craziness all day – but there is something very helpful in the honest relating of how we deal with life.  Sometimes its just nice to hear that you’re not the only one going through the crazy shit we all go through.

Personally, I find it exceptionally difficult to come to the page when I am in the deepest depths of human misery.   I have been pretty silent since my mother died especially once I realized that the people reading my blog weren’t just anonymous readers from lands far away, but  more likely to be my family and friends. Grief is just not pretty. And all of that is so much easier to see in hindsight.

 

two-faced

My conclusion – its better to keep talking out loud and sharing our stories- even if its only to yourself…a one woman blog? Whatever – share what you are experiencing.  Life is hard enough – making what is hard useful which  kind of takes the edge off it all.

Namaste