Sunday, October 21, 2018

Living Without Feeling

As I read an email newsletter centered on powerful writings by authors daring to deal with life's most complex issues, I could not help but think how important feelings are to being fully alive. [1]

Among several topics in the current article was one focused upon Elizabeth Gilbert writing about “Love, Loss, and How to Move Through Grief As Grief Moves Through You."  Who has not experienced grief at some point in their life?  Sometimes, many of us find ourselves re-experiencing moments of grief over a loss that occurred a long time ago.  This happened for me as I read along.  I first thought about my daughter, Jennifer, and her loss of her mother almost two years ago.  The pain still runs deep for her due to the closeness of their relationship.  My thoughts turned to the passing of my mother, an experience that is as clear to me in this moment as it was in 2002.

My mind found itself considering what life must be like for those who appear to have no feelings, people who seem to coast along living in the moment without regard to a history of connections or a future of discovery.  Several people I know, as far as I can tell, would fit this description.  They are not bad people because they do not seem to feel things as I do.  Yet I feel they have a different type of loss, a life not quite as colorful as it might be.  Understand, I am not saying that sadness is required for us to have color in our lives.  It is, however, important to realize the strengths and character that are built by our ability to face loss in such a way as to allow moving through it with grace and depth of meaning.  In short, if we are feeling loss it is because whatever, whoever has been “lost” was and is important to us.

In this article Joan Didion was quoted as saying, “Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be." Gilbert reflects on the death of her partner, Rayya Elias . . . the love of her life.

“Grief… happens upon you, it’s bigger than you. There is a humility that you have to step into, where you surrender to being moved through the landscape of grief by grief itself. And it has its own timeframe, it has its own itinerary with you, it has its own power over you, and it will come when it comes. And when it comes, it’s a bow-down. It’s a carve-out. And it comes when it wants to, and it carves you out — it comes in the middle of the night, comes in the middle of the day, comes in the middle of a meeting, comes in the middle of a meal. It arrives — it’s this tremendously forceful arrival and it cannot be resisted without you suffering more… The posture that you take is you hit your knees in absolute humility and you let it rock you until it is done with you. And it will be done with you, eventually. And when it is done, it will leave. But to stiffen, to resist, and to fight it is to hurt yourself.”

When my father passed in 1981 the news arrived by telephone while my son and daughter and I were having dinner with a friend in Denver.  Loss comes in its own time.  There really is no being ready for it.  Perhaps that reason above all is why it is so important that we allow ourselves to be feeling individuals.  Feeling allows us to be resilient and able to bend in the winds of stress and change.

Gilbert continues, 

“There’s this tremendous psychological and spiritual challenge to relax in the awesome power of it until it has gone through you. Grief is a full-body experience. It takes over your entire body — it’s not a disease of the mind. It’s something that impacts you at the physical level… I feel that it has a tremendous relationship to love: First of all, as they say, it’s the price you pay for love. But, secondly, in the moments of my life when I have fallen in love, I have just as little power over it as I do in grief. There are certain things that happen to you as a human being that you cannot control or command, that will come to you at really inconvenient times, and where you have to bow in the human humility to the fact that there’s something running through you that’s bigger than you.”

Finally, a thought about people who may consider it a weakness to express feelings.  Dads used to teach their sons, “Men don’t cry.”  Hopefully, that is not being taught any longer.  Our emotions are not always accompanied by tears, but when they are, it may be that extra step we allow ourselves that frees us to relax into a more satisfying understanding of the love that embraces what appears to be lost.  Living without feeling is not really living at all.

I am always glad to receive my Sunday digest of “Brain Pickings,” edited by Maria Popova.  Each week there is something to take me more deeply into my understanding of self.  Check it out after reading the footnoted post. [2]

Sunday, September 2, 2018

CBS Sunday Morning, Again

This morning as I enjoyed my Sunday ritual I could not help but wonder how many times I have written something for this blog as a result of watching CBS Sunday Morning.  So, I opened the blog and used the search operation to find out.

I won’t say I was surprised by the result—six identifiable articles--but it was interesting to see the results.  The subjects triggered by the program are varied as you might expect, but as with the blog itself, they usually covered something in the human-interest field.  Occasionally, some tragedy drew my need to respond.  Listed below are the articles I have written for the blog along with a current comment and URL for the original article.

Failure To Ask

October 3, 2010

Desperation and despair leading to suicide, especially among teens and young adults, led to writing this article.  Unfortunately, the same emotional elements active in 2010 are still largely unresolved.  The story of Rutgers University freshman, Tyler Clementi, triggered a swift and widespread reaction in many media outlets.  It is tragic that today we are facing a similar breakdown in civility leading to divisiveness and outright hateful bigotry.  This, for me, is laid largely at the feet of the person currently occupying the oval office.

Just A Regular Sunday

June 2, 2013

I wrote this shortly after moving from my apartment in Beaverton to a manufactured home community in Dallas, Oregon an historic small town farming community.  Since living here I have realized how it is changing.  It will always be a rural community, but housing projects in development are abundant.  Being just fifteen miles from Salem it is a “bedroom” community within easy reach of employment opportunities, many government related, since Salem is the State Capitol.  A somewhat sad note has to do with the fact that the hometown high school mascot is “The Dragons,” an unfortunate reference to the early days of the Ku Klux Klan in the area.  Yes, Oregon has a history of racism that at one time prevented black folks from moving into the state.

Today Is A Good Day To Be Alive

June 28, 2015

A morning walk following my CBS viewing brought me to a new “friend” and a recaptured sense of being alive.  Maybe you will catch the spirit of life as well.

It Won’t Be the Same Anymore

September 25, 2016

This article was a reflection upon 22 years of Charles Osgood hosting the morning program.  I could remember most of the celebrated stories since I had watched this program since its inception many years ago.  Jane Pauley became the new host and the quality of programming has continued to be a delight.

It Wouldn’t Be Sunday Morning Without CBS

July 9, 2017

Here I recount one of my daily walks, usually along the Rickreal Creek path.  This path wanders through the city of Dallas following the creek.  There are brief areas where the path development is not yet constructed.  My walk is along a more recently finished stretch.  At the end of the article are a number of photos.  Enjoy!

Living For the Day

July 29, 2018

A worthwhile word of advice for us all.  Live today!  Live it with joy and a positive, hopeful vision of what can be.  Since writing this I have noticed the gentleman I referred to every day continuing his walk through the community—sometimes twice during the day.  He is wracking up multiple miles.  I wonder if his credit card is giving him advantage miles!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Living For the Day

I live in a manufactured home community for those aged 55+.  I have been impressed, especially in the last year, how many residents take regular walks.  Apparently, those who have been advocating for daily exercise of some type—anything that gets you moving off the couch—have had an effect.  It is sinking in and folks are taking better care of themselves.

As I was observing my ritual of watching CBS Sunday Morning on TV I caught out of the corner of my eye a diminutive senior going by with his wheeled walker.  I thought to myself, “good for you!” and went back to watching my program.  A few minutes later he came by again.  A few more minutes later there he was on his third round.  I felt like going out and congratulating him.  Finally, I watched as he passed for the fourth and apparently the final time of the day.

I finished my program and got ready for my own morning walk, this time an hour long and about three miles.  Some days are easier than others now.  Lower leg muscles and hip joints sometimes protest the effort.  Still, arriving back home I always feel better and during gardening days, I usually head right out to work there for a while.

Increasingly, I am aware that I really am living for the day!   Even with a pretty regular routine without a lot of variation, every day is special.  I have found that as I believe that and look for simple things that make each day a little different, a little more precious, a wonderful feeling of satisfaction sweeps over me.  I have mentioned in articles before that I give thanks every day for how fortunate I am.  Some of you, who read my occasional rants on Facebook, might question how I can say I am grateful for my life.  I can only answer that by suggesting you give it a try. Enjoy a sunrise or sunset.  Imagine cloud shapes as you did as a child.  Enjoy your immediate surroundings with appreciation for what made them possible. 

Live for the day.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Silver Falls State Park

I first went to Silver Falls State Park shortly after I moved to Dallas, Oregon in 2013.  It is one of the amazing places to visit in my home state.  On this most recent trip, I left around 8 AM and arrived there just over an hour later.  The huge main parking lot was already beginning to fill, but I found the #3 spot right at the trailhead that began the journey with a choice of directions.  I chose the upper south falls trail.

It was a partly cloudy sky and the trail was damp from the many surface water runoffs.  Those of you who have been to the park know that the trail to the south falls winds rather quickly down until you reach the first good viewing point of the falls pouring down from 173 feet to the pool below.  The trail continues until you are able to pass behind the falls at just above the midpoint of the cascading water.

I decided to head down the 185 steps on to the lower south falls, about a mile further.  The lower falls is a 93-foot drop.  On the way down the steps I came across a young man sitting with his daughter, who I would judge to be about 3 or 4. I asked her if she was having fun, and she gave me a big grin and a happy “yes.”  Farther along the steps there was a young couple carrying a baby stroller, the father walking backward at the downward side while mom handled the top.  I had to say, “You’re on a courageous hike!”  I am sure I could never have managed to do that when my kids were that young.

Once you reach what seemed like the bottom of the world, I realized I now had to go back up and the trail was daunting to me.  I would guess it varied between a 30 to 45 degree incline.  While there were a few benches on the way, there were nowhere enough for me!  At one point I saw a bench ahead with three folks around it.  I saw no hint they might make room for me and I didn’t ask, so on I went.  At another bench I asked if there was room for one more, and space was cheerfully made for me. I had many standing rests.  I found a cut log and plopped myself down on it.  A couple of ladies, probably in their 40s+ came by and we exchanged greetings.  Then one looked over and asked, “Are you okay?”  I must have looked as worn out as I felt!  I said, “I’m fine.  Thanks.”

That return trail was just over a mile and when I finally did reach the plateau I felt I must be in heaven due to the height and the reward of a relatively flat surface from there back to the main facilities and parking lot.

I probably will not make this hike again, but it was totally rewarding to know that I could do it.  The hardest part, physically, was the hip joints and muscles.  Please, come walk with me by way of this slideshow.

Silver Falls Photos

Silver Falls

Sunday, May 20, 2018

From the Public Page of My Private Journal

The thought simply slipped from within the shadows of my mind . . .

I think it is time to leave.

Death.  We try as hard as we can to not think about it as though not thinking about it keeps it from knocking at our door.

Of course, the specter from those shadows comes to the door of each of us at some point like it or not.

Perhaps it is natural that at my age of 83 I should find myself considering the shape of things to come.  Change comes at the blinking of an eye—whether it is ten minutes from now or ten years.  I am ready.

There are things left undone.  How few of us truly wrap up loose ends in our lives before we change, before we move on to whatever awaits us at the turning of the page.  I have pledged to do as my mother had done, return as many things as she could to the people had blessed her with them as gifts.  At her passing she was truly free of the burdens of things.  My pledge is so far unfulfilled, but I pledge to keep at it.

I long ago developed my philosophy of afterlife reality.  I am satisfied that the beliefs I have come to are completely workable for me.  Those beliefs are shaped mainly by eastern religious philosophy.  For many years I have felt that so-called Christians had so diluted and polluted the teachings of Jesus as to make what is left bare threads of what his life truly represented.  Enough said about that.

If I have regrets, and I do, they come from decisions made that were not so well thought out as I had believed.  Some of those decisions have caused harm to others.  Some, naturally, have benefited others as well as my own life.  I will stand judged not by some far off god, but by my own conscience, which I am certain may be harsher than a loving god would pronounce upon me.

Not a day goes by that I do not give thanks for the life I have been blessed to live.  I consider myself most fortunate to have survived in spite of everything I have done to distract me from a course that might have been.  I may leave little trace of my presence this time around.  I will know, and I do, what I have accomplished.  I feel satisfied that I have made a contribution to the world in which I live, though few may ever know what that has been.

Finally, I thank all of you who have walked, at least for a time, with me on the path.  You have given me more than you know, probably because I have failed to tell you so.  I tell you now with love and a grateful heart: Thank you!

Comes also from the shadows of my mind the thought . . .

Love never fails.