Friday, October 24, 2008

First Hello of Winter

Well the first hello of winter came, welcome back cold north wind, snow and rain. Stepping out outside I am aware that my insect friends are gone for the season, the ladybugs who have been extremely present the last couple of days are no long hanging around on the post outside the backdoor, grasshoppers, crickets and beetles that I would see while smoking have moved on also. No more spiders and their glossy webs to admire, gone for a few months waiting for rebirth come spring. My bird friends are still around for a bit though, doves, sparrows, killdeer’s, swallow’s and the occasional meadowlark, soon some of these will be moving on also. Shortly the sound of Canadian geese will fill the air along with the huge flocks of sandhill cranes making their way south. When the cranes and geese return it will be time to get in the car with a thermos of coffee, drive along the river roads and admire them feeding in the freshly harvested bean, corn and alfalfa fields.

Not a fan of winter but it is a fact of life in the Midwest, the land doesn’t have enough trees to block the wind completely. Don’t mind the snow but the ice is annoying, mainly because it is the pits to drive on and you have to be extra careful of other drivers. I have a bit of a different mindset this year so I wonder will I be more aware of the season and will my eyes see more than before, or as the months move along will I become more blinded and just get anxious for spring? Time will tell, time to put more focus on seeing beauty all around me. It is easy to see beauty in nature during spring, summer and fall, but the sleep of winter with the cold is another thing. Like everything else it is mine to hold or throw away, to be open or closed. Live in the moment, the now, the seen and unseen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gratitude Check

Reviewing my past post there is a thread of discontentment going through them which isn't a true reflection of me, these are just things that I needed to write out for my own peace of mind, releasing by writing. I am positive and optomistic 98% of the time, I am not optomistic about the state of the nation or the economy but I take a pragmatic approach to that, we have way over spent, part of this was caused by a un-needed war, out sourcing of American jobs, being heavily indept to China, unaffordablity of health care(the small company I work for dropped employer supported health care last year due to the cost), general cost of living, fuel cost, just to name a few. In my personal life though I stay positive and upbeat but like everyone else there are certain things which bring me down on occasion but I deal with them as soon as I recognize what is happening.
Graditude: that I survive years of heavy drinking and driving under the influence and that I never hurt anyone while under the influence,
That I have a job that provides me with a comfortable income
That I am fairly healthy
That I have a good relationship with my daughter
That I have a beautiful granddaughter who thinks the world of her grandpa
That I have the privilege to legally drive
That I have the privilege to vote
That I have the privilege to worship the religion of my choice
That the 1st Amendment is still intact for the most part
That I am capable of taking care of my parents in their time of need and paying them back for all the years they took care of me
That I own my own dwelling, no morgage, that I can afford to pay my essential bills
That I can afford to eat decent meals
That I have running water, heat for when it gets cold and a/c for when it gets extremely hot
That I have found a path that I enjoy walking which helps me live in the moment, be aware of self/ego and gives me tools regain my inter peace when I replace it with fear.
These are just a few of the things I am grateful for, I could go on a lot longer, listing my dog, bed, music library, reading material library etc. Sometimes it is important to just reflect on what I really have and am truly grateful for and blessed to have. If all of this goes away tomorrow I hope I will have the strength to carry on being positive knowing none of these things are essential for true happiness.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Damn I hate doing the right thing sometimes

So Friday I get a call from my oldest sister telling me my youngest sister visited my dad in the nursing home Thursday which is a good thing but she also left dad a book, “30 Minutes in Heaven”. First off because of the dementia dad hasn’t been able to read a book in quite awhile, second my dad has never been a religious man, he believes in God in his own simple way but nothing more than that. My oldest sister told me my younger sister told dad “you want to go to heaven don’t you”. My words to my oldest sister were something along these lines “oh for fuck sake, he doesn’t need this kind of crap to confuse him or stress him out anymore than he already is”.
My youngest sister has always been self righteous, opinionate and self serving, thinking she knows what is best for everyone else in the family, one of those who points at the splinter in someone else eye while ignoring the log in her own eye. In January of 2007 she admitted herself to a treatment facility for alcoholism; it was there that she found God. Up to this point she was pretty open to the idea of a universal God, one that was all inclusive and didn’t need blood atonement from his son. As she has progressed in recovery through AA she has become very much a Bible thumper, thinking the God of the Bible is the only God. Since we live in a small AA community we sometimes attend the same meetings. Over time we have grown further and further apart, she talks about God in the biblical since in meetings and I talk about spirituality in general. I don’t talk about Buddhism openly, but I do talk about the Dharma without people knowing that is what I am talking about, usually in the context of suffering, ego, selfishness, mediation, right speech, right mindfulness, right view and awareness. It has taken some time but I have finally stopped think that people are judging me by what she says, talk about ego, but because I knew her before she still gets under my skin because I knew the person who was a lot more open minded, someone who was a lot more unselfish when it came to her family. She has become a person who has less and less to do with her family and spends her time with church, AA, AA friends and work. She rarely visits my parents and only calls a couple times a month. She has pretty much stopped talking to me, we see each other at meetings but she doesn’t approach me and I have taken the low road and stopped approaching her but I always say hi in case she wants to approach me. My selfishness is that I feel she needs to spend more time with my parents and find out what is really going on with them instead of making assumptions based on only a few hours a month.
I really wanted to take a copy of “The Art of Happiness” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama or “The Tao of Pooh” to put on dad’s dresser just to spite my sister. I know this is wrong thinking and I had a hard time not obsessing over it. I had small battles going on in my head most of Friday, battles between right and wrong. At the meeting I went to Friday night we discussed the Serenity prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, he courage to change the thinks I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” This prayer always comes back to me; I have to use the tools I have to change my suffering, anger in this case. My anger in part is due to the fact that I perceive that my sister is harming my dad who I have been rather protective of the last couple of years because of his health, I am selfish because I don’t trust others best intensions based on their perceptions of what is right for him, there is a part of me that is being a martyr, damn I hate admitting this, because I have been doing the biggest share of the footwork pertaining to my parents well being and because of this I want things to go my way. I can accept the other Bible thumping members of AA but I can’t accept my own sister being one. I can’t accept that she doesn’t have balance in her life, I see her suffer needlessly, my selfish suffering wanting to fix her suffering. Not sure where all this is going to lead, we are like 2 sword fighters standing at ready waiting for the first one to make a move and commence the battle. It doesn’t have to be this way but I am at loss on how to handle it, so for now I won’t, I will just take care of what is in front of me to do and when my discomfort with the her comes up do my best to release it and fertilize what could become a resentment if I let it.
None of this messes with my staying sober but it does mess with my inter peace. I guess it is time to grab the cushion and see where mediating on it goes. I know that by writing this out I have uncovered some things I hadn’t thought about before.

Comments appreciated

Friday, October 3, 2008

Dylan's It's Alright Ma

As I fumble arounded this afternoon, thoughts and lyrics flashing back and forth, the song process went from Rage Against the Machine which lead to Woody Guthrie which took me to Dylan. With the debate and political opinions on the blogs I read plus what has been going down with me the Dylan song that sticks in my mind is 'That's Alright Ma ( I'm Only Bleeding)" Dylan has written some great songs/poems (depending on how you view him) my favorites depend on my mood but this song is my un-disputed favorite. I love the mixture of images, the razor shape criticism of society and the fact that 33 years later it is still relevant. It is too long to post so here is a link.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hello Sadness, I see you

Yesterday my oldest sister, my mom and I took my dad to Grand Island, about 50 miles from where we live to admit him into the Veteran’s nursing home. My dad has been gradually getting worse with dementia, confusion, forgetfulness and lately hallucinations. He has chronic black lung disease and requires oxygen and breathing treatments, it takes very little physical stress for him to run out of air. His dementia has caused him to fight about which breathing machine is which, simple little chores around the house, he wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t back to sleep which in turns causes my mom not to be able to sleep. My mom is 79 years old and it has become difficult for her to take care of him so it was decided the best thing to do for both of them was have dad put into a nursing home were he could get the care he needs and hopefully he won’t angrily question the nurses, even if he does they can handle him better than mom can. The morning was filled with the basic paper worker and lunch, I could gradually see the stress building up in dad, finally we took him to his room, there are 2 men to a room, and unfortunately it appears that the other occupant of the room is very hard of hearing, has dementia himself and sleeps a lot in his chair. Dad now lives in a small space with a bed, small recliner, dresser and TV. I stayed with him in his room while my mom and sister went out to get stuff for his room. He sat on the edge of the bed somewhat in shock and realizing what was going. He told me “ I thought I could handle this but I can, I want to go home, I can’t sleep here!” the once proud and strong man sat on the edge of the bed like a small child wanting to go home, he was scared and afraid of being alone. I am grateful I had the strength to stay strong and explain to him the best I could why he had to be there.
A just over a year ago my daughter Michelle got her second MIP, minor in possession of alcohol, this was on top of a couple of other violations she had in the past, she went through a lengthy evaluation for chemical dependency and mental health issues, the evaluation showed she was an alcoholic/addict with detachment and abandonment issues, the court ordered her to be placed in a group home for girls. Without any warning I was called at work that they were taking her away to the home and if I wanted to see her I needed to get right home which I did. This incident was the first time I ever faced tremendous sadness, I have felt sadness when my grandmother died and when my ex committed suicide but those 2 times where nothing compared to watching my baby being taken await, scare and alone. My spiritual awareness wasn’t as strong a year ago but I was able to get through it with the help of a long time friend and other friends. Yesterday I relived the sadness I felt when Mich was taken away, the sadness of being helpless in caring for and relieving the pain of someone I love.
Driving away from the home I opened myself to the sadness and cried. I thought about first 2 noble truths; All life is suffering and suffering comes from desires. My suffering was caused by the desire to wishing things could be different for my dad, that he could just die and move on to the next level, my suffering comes from my selfish desire to change the way life is unfolding at this moment because it doesn’t match my needs or desires. I mediated on my part of the suffering and repeated the first 2 nobles over and over and the sadness was gradually calmed and I accepted what was happening. I turned on NPR for the drive home and one of the stories they had was about widow women in some part of Iraq that are forced to live in trailers with their children, the trailers have no electricity or running water, they are located in the brutal Iraqi heat, the women have no means of income and some have resorted to bagging or prostitution to earn a little money to survive on. My heart went out to these women; I have lived in basic trailers before and know that they can be pressure cookers and or freezers, as a spoiled American the trailers I lived in did have electricity and water. I thought about even though things were rough for my family and me how lucky we were. My un-wed daughter lives in a halfway decent apartment and receives food allowance from the government so neither her nor my granddaughter go hungry, my granddaughter is healthy and happy. I have a vehicle to drive, a job, a comfortable mobile home to live in, plenty of food, electricity and water, the streets of my town are safe and even if my government sucks I still live in a free country where I can choice to practice the religion of my choice without fear of imprisonment. I am glad for little moments of clarity that keep me from getting overly complacent.
I am sure I will shed more tears, today was rough, in part because I can still see him sitting on the bed sadder than I have even seen him before, another thing was that since I am his Power of Attorney the doctor called me this morning and asked me about life saving measures and I had to tell him, no resuscitation do only enough to make sure he doesn’t die painfully. The doctor also told that because of how thin my dad was, 111lbs at 5’8” and with the black lungs he didn’t foresee him living another year. I have step out a few times today for a smoke, I walked into the grassy area, stopped and opened myself up to nature, I am awake to nature, sights, sounds, smells and feel, the breeze wrapped around me like a lover and it felt good, caught the shadow of a big bird flying over head, saw a yellow winged butterfly gliding in front of me, heard the songs of the Killdeer’s in the freshly plowed field, that and much more. I am not alone today and that is good, I can openly feel today, today I know how to say “Hello sadness, I see you”, hopefully I will be able to greet the feelings that come tomorrow. Thanks to all my wonderful teachers, those I have and haven’t met.