Living in the ashes
and you are gone.
The wind moves the same way,
As sun shines on this day,
and I Am here.
How can this be?
It must be a dream.
I submit this idea,
To the promotion
Of my own release.
Living in the ashes
and you are gone.
The wind moves the same way,
As sun shines on this day,
and I Am here.
How can this be?
It must be a dream.
I submit this idea,
To the promotion
Of my own release.
I was thinking about death. I do that allot lately. So many people I know in my family and circle of friends have been afflicted by cancer or in other cases by simple misery – causing them to commit suicide. My husband suggested that it was because we were getting older – so of course more people were going to be dying. But i know in my case that’s not really true. I have known allot more death than others, and with the recent loss of my brother and my friend it got me to thinking about how we see and handle death in our culture and what a mess we are.
Here in the west, we don’t spend allot of time with the idea of death. We ignore it, we institutionalize it, we avoid it and we misrepresent it in a million zillion ways.
Let’s talk a little logical Buddhism now.
Living is all about impermanence. There is absolutely nothing, not one thing, on this earth that is going to remain for all time. I’m sorry if that is a shock to your system, or perhaps your mind is trying to figure out why I am wrong, but it is true. You’re going to die. Your dog is going to die. Your friends will die. Your parents will die. Your children will die one day too, everyone in their own time.
Impermanence is the first law of the universe. Everything must continue to change, pass through, and evolve. nothing is static. Everything is always evolving.
Of course. Except that your mind and every cell of your body has been trained to believe otherwise.
Our culture is hyper-geared towards denying the continuity of change and the sureness of death. We spend our entire lives waking up to fulfill desires that we believe that help us feel better so we can continue to deny the fact that we are going to die.
The average Western life is a travesty of delusion:
First of all we invest our time on earth in jobs to buy things we can’t afford, like houses with mortgages that we spend our lives repaying. We spend our days buying things to impress our neighbours. We put countless hours and thought and energy into taking care of those things – manicuring the lawns, painting the walls and filling houses with useless things that require dusting. Finally, if we are “lucky”, we get old and sit amongst the dust and memories of our “things” pining over the past which was fleeting and temporary – never guaranteed of permanence.
Not exactly a live-in-the-moment culture. Meanwhile our media pushes the importance of eternal youth as the solution to lasting happiness, and we imbue ourselves with technology, so we don’t have to have real relationships.
For God’s sake.
You can’t seriously wonder why the Donald trumps of the world are so popular. He epitomizes all I have just said.
Of course, Eastern philosophy is very different than here in the west namely through a significantly lower focus on material, and higher on spiritual goals in daily life; death is not a frightening mystery to most easterners.
I was watching a television show about Varanasi India, a 3000 year old city in India and a place where many people go to die or be buried. It is believed that if you are cremated in a certain place in Varanasi, you can avoid certain aspects of reincarnation and become an enlightened being more easily.
I watched body after body, draped in colourful cloth and dotted with flowers and other symbolic items be carted to fires to be cremated.
What caught my attention were the children, trailing behind the procession of bodies, laughing and skipping merrily behind. They were not dressed in black made to weep with bowed heads.
“And they’re not traumatized”, i thought to myself. they look happy, and light and unconcerned with the whole thing.
We don’t show children in our culture death in this way, do we? We don’t represent death as the normal transition – the beautiful life lived – the awesome way nature recreates itself through us, by letting us live the cycle of life.
Instead what do we show them about death?
Video games and movies.
We show them death in horrible horrendous ways that have nothing to do with reality.
We bring them to Ultimate Fighting Competitions where we let them watch humans beat each other like starving animals.
We hide the dying away in palliative care centers.
My children were surprised at the peacefulness of the experience of my mother dying. Although it is always painful to watch the end of a loved one’s life – it is in no way the dramatic and terrifying experience often portrayed in the media.
But we are so programmed. My mother asked me to die at the farm where I live – I am sorry today that i did not allow this to happen. The idea of it was so foreign and frightening to me at the time, that I simply could not entertain it. The irony is in how much I have learned from her death.
Dying is not a shameful act that needs to be institutionalized. We are a culture terrified of the inevitable. We create religions that support our fears and cause us to do all manner of harm to one another in this life, for fear of what we don’t know about the next life. And we educate our children about everything under the sun – except who they are, as a creation, being and their own consciousness.
I remember most vividly H.H.the Dalai Lama in Perth saying that if we did nothing else differently after his talk, to go home and meditate or “contemplate” our own death, for ten minutes, every day.
At the time I thought it was the most bizarre suggestion i had ever heard, especially in my state of grief over the death of my mother. But I did it, because he seemed to be the most genuinely happy man I had ever seen, despite some very difficult circumstances, so i figured it was worth a shot.
I pictured myself on my death bed – at the point where the voices of the people I loved were fading around me, and I wondered what i would be thinking of right before “lights out”. I wondered what i would see, if I would see my loved ones, if my kids would be OK…I wondered…
The questions that came up on my “before lights out” tour of imagination, would translate into a focus for the day. These contemplations had the effect of making me appreciate the moments of my life more. They were not morbid at all and over time this “meditation” has become a habit which has brought me comfort during times of grief.
When I consider every single thing that ails our culture and communities, I am able to bring it back to a fear and denial of our inevitable death. I believe the Dalai Lama was right when he said that the solution for our planet lies in the individual efforts of everyone to focus on finding out who and what you are.
Something which you already know – but have covered up with what you have been taught.
It’s hard to find out what we have been taught about the world and what is important and not important is completely wrong. Of course we want to deny that and keep going the way we are, because that is easier. And we like easy.
We are all about easy, because we have desires and wants and we get up every morning and do everything we can to fulfill those desires and wants. That’s it.
The irony of our desires and wants is that mostly we don’t know where they come from or what need they are really fulfilling. We are unconscious of them.
But the world in general is becoming more conscious.
There is no coincidence that there is a surge of interest in meditation and discussion around different forms of Buddhism emerging in western culture. All happening alongside a new interest in Hinduism, and “the Nouveau hippy” culture – (I think they call themselves “hipsters” – a materialistic form of non-materilaist (to be covered another time…it’s too good to pass up 😉) – but whatever form it takes, it is clear that the west is waking up (finally) and expressing a desire to know itself in a fundamentally new way.
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.
She 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 –
“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.
I 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.
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…”
One of the things I like so much about life with my husband is that we travel really well together; we are both friendly and have a real love for people and have an immediate desire, in whatever place we land at, to know the local culture and people right away – and steer clear of all tourist attractions.
This trip is very different because for two major reasons: first we really are not tourists this time. We are what you call “expats” – or temporary residents. And second, it is winter in Australia and all the tourists have run away, so we get to see a side of this life that most people don’t.
When we arrived in St Andrews beach, a small resort town about an hour outside of Melbourne. After two weeks of traveling in Asia, and all the emotions of leaving everything we know half a world away, we felt pretty disoriented not only with our surroundings but with each other. Our relationship has always been in the context of the kids or the people that we are involved with in our lives. Suddenly there was me wandering aimlessly in my floppy slippers, john trying to work in his office, the silence of the house deafening. I mean silence. No phone calls, no door knocking, no kids talking upstairs, no music from bedrooms, no having to line up for the shower. Weird. In fact, the first night I heard the chaotic running of possums on the tin roof I actually had a sense of relief and not fear: chaos I can do. I can handle unforeseen noises, chaotic occurrences by nature and children, winds, cyclones – yes I am good at those. But silence? Peace? Nothingness? That was going to drive me wacko.
We both knew we needed to find something outside of the house to keep us going, so of course we turn to music, the passport to the universe. We began to ask around for local jams and very quickly found the first local place that would give us something to do other than watch 80 episodes of House on Netflix for the next three months.
What we didn’t realize is that Jamming and music in Australia is something like a sacred religion. We would soon discover that not only is Australia the Jam capital of the planet, but that there is an amazing group of underground jammers: normal humans who by day may be disguised as moms or dads, accountants and business folk- but once a week, they get their hippie on, dust off the old axe and drive to the strangest places that come alive with jammers and jam supporters.
Here we are called musos – an expression referring to a talented jammer. To be called a muso is to be accepted into the popular underground culture of the jam world. We found our home base with other musos quickly, at a little taco joint called Baha’s, in Rye a small bay town ten minutes away. The very first Wednesday we jammed there the owner asked us to put together a band and do a full three set show on the Saturday night, as he had lost his band and needed a fill. Soon we were in the full throws of rehearsal with Dan our newly found multi-instrumental bass, saxophone, guitar, drum, keyboard guy with an amazing studio in a house that overlooks the whole world. Our new friend Jaci (Jaycee), a sweet original folk player who knows everyone, goes everywhere and immediately adopted us and began bringing us around with her, expanding our network of muso friends exponentially – our experience in australia began to widen as though we had lived here for years.
I enjoy that our relationships with people are never basic – we always go deep. We don’t talk about the weather, politics or other things that don’t really concern peoples hearts. And because Australians seem to be willing to engage easily in this level of “real talk” we have really found some amazing stories.
Last night was one of my favourites so far. It began as a very sad story: a man with a Ford tee-shirt sitting across from me, having imbibed ten or so too many pints pulls up his sleeve and says to me in a thick slightly drunk Aussie drawl.
“This ‘ere was my son – Cammy – he was the best boy evah. Gone now two years he is”, and he stopped and smiled at me weakly. I heard john take a deep breath and try and absorb it – I could his his mind thinking about our boys, all around the same 20 years old Cam was when he died in a biking accident.
My heart squeezed as he told the story about how his boy had just gotten a loan and had paid for his and his father’s tickets to fly across the country to attend his sister’s wedding in Cairns. The man known to others as “Spoons” because of his talent playing musical spoons, told me how he had spoken with his son the night before his death. Cam told his father he was going to the highlands to go mountain biking. The accident happened when a low lying wire unseen by the boy clotheslined him causing his neck to break.
My husband and I took the story in; we aren’t afraid of talking about death the way some people who want to be very polite about it can be. Spoons leans over and we look at his tattoo –
“Cameron ….. it says – “Never Forgotten”- He was 20 only years old.”
I watch the man like he is an enigma wondering how anyone survives the loss of a child – I just can’t imagine it. I feel such love for him, I just want to make it go away. I want to say something encouraging to him, but my own experience with grief tells me that nothing brings solace to a heart that is so broken. So I decide to really listen to him – be very present – and let him tell me all sort of beautiful stories about his son, which I see brings a sparkle to his eyes and an aliveness to it all.
Suddenly, as he is ending his story and I am trying to find a different way to repeat what I have been saying over and over “God, Im so sorry…I’m so sorry…”, a young man with messy brown hair and his friend a smiling blond boy, both in their early 20s come up to Spoons and sit right down beside him on the couch.
“You were Cam’s dad eh?” said the boy to Spoons smiling widely “I knew him yeah…I was living with him in town”.
My mouth falls open, and Spoons just looks at me with wide open eyes like he has seen a ghost
“That’s him!” I say probably louder than I meant to, feeling like somehow we had just won the lottery.
I feel tears come into my eyes –
“Spoons! That’s the way they keep talking to you! Your son is here to tell you he’s ok!”
We jump up – everyone is hugging and smiling, dancing a little jog with our arms around each other. We don’t care that an hour ago we were all strangers and now are crying quite openly together. Everyone around realizes what has happened and there is a giant resounding toast with lifted glasses, everyone’s eyes slightly upturned addressing Cam directly
“To Cam!!” everyone cheers.
Spoons hugs the boy beside him so long his tears don’t have a chance against his failing willpower and he comes out of the embrace wet faced – both men smiling understanding and accepting that Cam continues somehow.
I feel very honoured to be a witness of these experiences. It is my only wish not to waste the time or the learning. They remind me that life is really very magical. I also feel incredibly lucky to be a musician, because I experience life through this world of colour and sound and emotional openness that brings about these instances of incredible joy and pure honest humanity.
After Cam’s appearance, Spoons now calls me “his sister from another mister” and we are friends. The musicians call john and I Musos – and we are one of them now.
What a miracle to create and find this community all the way across the world. I still marvel at how far I had to travel only to discover how very small the world really is.
Go gently into this day
take each moment with careful step
eyes open in your nature
For somewhere inside of you
is Truth its very self.
You are loved –
and you are love.
Some grand and awesome future awaits you,
Take a first step,
Look around again.
After the first one
the only step
that we know how to take,
The second has not yet been invented.
And it is never guaranteed.
Honour the heart that beats in your chest
Amazingly without need of your assistance,
or any big plans your complicated mind can conjure.
Imagine having to think…
“I will live for one more beat!”
If you don’t believe in miracles,
You’re not looking in the right place.
Cherish the random acts of love that will cross your path today.
Step through time,
into the next minute.
Breathe into the next space,
Where you stand – or sit
alone – or accompanied.
You are still your own beautiful self
in all these precarious contexts.
Walk with the higher things
that beckon you to remember
that your nature is not fear
or even aloneness.
You always have God
Or the beautiful dead that protect you
shielding you from
The dark and scary things.
Your true self lies
in the next discovery
the next choice.
What does your heart say?
It seems that the heart always says…
You are loved
and you are love.
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
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.
For 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No one is going to say he was
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…
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,
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,.
Otis 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.
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.
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.
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. .
I 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.
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.
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”…
But holy shit this is hard.
Thanks for reading. Please hug your animals and all the living creations you love tonight.
I love you buddy…
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.
…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?
Anyways…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.
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.
“We’re going to the vet”, I breathed without missing a stride heading to the house.
His light little body hung limply in my arms, his nose covered in blood.
He smells like death. I thought to myself. I know the smell of death and I am not so happy to be reacquainted with it so soon after my mother’s death. She was a twin, he is a twin – this is too much.
I walk to the back window in the kitchen and stand in a ray of strong sunlight letting it warm us both. It’s quiet now…the panic of my mind slowed to a dull hum of just watching. I look down at him and hear his purr begin – his strong reliable purr. I could feel his breath and slowing and his heart tentative, but the purr was reliable as ever.
A rushing of keys boots, stomping, jackets rustle. The truck with half missing tail pipe begins and my husband shows up behind me;
“Ok let’s go”, He says.
I don’t want to.
I think somewhere my mind is still working it out.
He was fine yesterday. Should I be seeking treatment?
I lift the towel I have him wrapped in and look at the motionless old body. Apparently at nearly 20 Ranger has outlived us at with over 95 people years under his belt.
I climb into the truck and focus on his purr – the same one I have been listening to since I was in my 20’s. I see a flash memory of my son, small and chubby legged. He learned how to walk very young – maybe at 9 months old. It was Ranger the cat that kept him busy and chasing. As he grew, Ranger was his cat, claimed by him, loved and cherished.
He came with us when I divorced my first husband. He was there when I bought my first house, met my second husband, raised my seven kids and then finally, he was my most reliable barn cat – ensuring that no mouse ever got a taste of grain.
We are rushing to the vet, but I tell him to slow down. I hold the cat and feel his life leaving.
“He’s going to die before we even get there”, I said softly.
John looks at me quizzically. Maybe I see death differently, but gauging by my experience with my mother, which has still not allowed me a full night’s reprieve from nightmares and sadness, this somehow feels gentle and calm and good.
We arrive; he goes in to check with the desk, yes there is room.
We come in and begin doing the registration process. I am ushered into an examination room. The Vet tech with the sunny smile and the bright hopeful eyes indicates to me to put him on the scale.
“No”, I say simply and shortly. “He is 20. There will be no poking prodding weighing opening of the mouth or stretching of his limbs. His body is finished.” I smile at her hoping she doesn’t think I am cruel.
“Let’s go into another room then”, she says with an understanding smile.
We go down a white hallway to the last door to the left to the room meant for euthanasia.
“It’s just like the palliative care place for people”, I gasp as we walk in. I wasn’t ready for that. Luckily I don’t think she understands that I am nearly angry about how adorably furnished this “euthanasia room” is. I feel my heart tighten. I have been here or at least in a place like this much too recently to be in a place like this again this soon. It is small and cozy with two beautiful chairs, a couple of nice credenza’s and a sweet looking little table on which to do the job that room is meant for. Why do all rooms for comforting people who are about to experience death look like this? Why the nice chairs? I almost feel a sense of anger at the chairs…stupid chairs.
She leaves me alone to consider whether or not I want a vet to poke at him or not. I hold him in my arms, he feels like one of my children when they were just newborn. I begin to panic – second thoughts. What am I doing? Shouldn’t we try and hydrate him, put him on special food. Maybe we can save him.
The tech returns covering the table in a comfy green cloth.
He lays in my arms, purring, not moving. Not arguing, not meowing- just happy. My questions melt away and I am filled with sureness about what the most loving action is.
I tell them to get the vet and go ahead. Some more time passes to just be with him. I think about all the things I didn’t do, all the time I should have spent with him. All the normal pre-death regrets I am becoming too familiar with. I feel the shade of calm numb fall over me and we rise to complete the task that lay before us.
We are doing “the next right thing”.
She fails to find a vein in his back leg. He makes a small protesting noise, but not much. He is happy, purring drooling like old cats do.
She finds the vein and says something about going to a place with butterflies. I could tell she used this line often and with good intention to console the humans letting their animals friends go. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that he would be enjoying any poor butterflies that entered his purview as this was his favourite snack food.
There is a stillness that is distinctly a feeling of death. It is like a leaving of life energy. You don’t have to be psychic or believe in anything to feel the difference of when something is alive and when its aliveness has left the body. As his body became still I took a moment to feel the difference between the aliveness and the emptiness that accompanies death and then I took a breath.
A deep alive breath filled with gratitude and deep sadness. I missed all of my dead loved ones at once. My dogs, cats, horses, parents, grandparents. Mostly I missed my mother because she would be on the receiving end to help him, but selfishly I could have really used her here with me today, and yesterday…and the day before.
I say a prayer in the hopes that everyone I love is somehow together somewhere just waiting for me laughing and happy around a giant picnic table a red and white checkered print table cloth and delicious food in a field with apple trees and delicious green grass. All our animals since forever in the field grazing, running, playing – happy and free…with one funny little grey cat busy eating up all of heaven’s butterflies.