True or False Self

You may be a wonderful doodlekit…,” a possibility I had not considered, ever. I was, however, considering what Mark Nepo calls the “never-ending task of deciding to whom we entrust our life: our True or False Self.”

But before I deliberated on “doodlekit”—whatever or whoever that might be—Cooper provided a possibility for my current struggle with my two selves, True or False.

Mark Nepo and Mira threeintentions.com

Like any sensible being—canine or otherwise—Cooper is omnipresent to life in the now. In my last post, Trailblazing, I wrote about Cooper being ill and my glimpse of the road to the Rainbow Bridge or my False Self interjecting what may be but not what is.

In this moment in northern Florida, the humidity has dropped to 38% from over 90% and temperatures are high 40s with wind. It’s a cold, dry day, the kind that favors Cooper’s health, and he’s for it.

Dog ramp in tow, out the door we go for our ride. I open the hatch of my Toyota Scion. Cooper waits for me to stretch out the ramp and put it into place before he completely clears the ramp, as if he were a pup again, soaring  into the back of the Scion. With wide open grin, he turns and walks down the ramp. He is still Cooper; his dream still is “going bye-bye in the car” as we always have.

We take our usual front seats–I drive–before I can put the key into the ignition, Cooper licks my face for more than a few minutes. Once we settle into driving, Cooper places his paw on my hand, a dog having his day. Being human, I can only think of how hard my False Self works to prevent what may be.

We arrive at Guyte McCord Park for our daily stroll.

Again, I remember my morning’s meditation with Nepo and Carl Jung. In a dream, Jung works ceaselessly to clear a path to nowhere and to no purpose, it seems, until he reaches a cabin in a clearing, whereupon he drops his tools, and enters through its open door. He sees a being kneeling in front of a simple altar. Soon, he realizes he is seeing himself and “…that his life of cutting a path was this being’s dream.”  He has cleared the path to his True Self, his soul.

Cooper and I stop to sit awhile in a favorite area. He checks out scent. I stay with my two selves, True or False; I think we’re onto something.

Other than these daily park outings, I am no longer able to travel. This has been true for the last three years, not bad after more than thirty years of living with lupus.  Honestly, I’m still discovering what an extraordinary gift my life is but I seem to explore it only within my soul.

Dave R Farmer Image
WANA Commons

My False Self—the one that works so hard at fixing/preventing what may be—recently agreed to extensive family travel plans, relying once again on a way of life that no longer is but may be????

For two months, I thrashed through one form of fear or another over this trip: worry, stress, irritability, stress, sadness, stress—seeking any way it might be, any way except facing my True Self.

Not content with a Cooper leap of faith or a Jungian dream, my False Self screamed, stomped and swore until my online Scrabble partner (everyone should have a Scrabble partner of such equanimity) suggested I consider a drink or two, wondering whether it “would hurt that much?” Oh, out of the Chat wisdom of Scrabble partners….

KM Huber Image

I met myself not with drink but with an open heart for what is and no longer for what was. It hurt, all, but the air is clear, now.

A cold, canine muzzle nudges the limp leash handle loosely hanging from my fingers. Cooper is ready to go “bye-bye in the car,” as always.

A wonderful doodlekit? Who knows?

Rhythm of ROW80 Sunday Scheduling:

The 30-minute writing stretches have improved the overall quality of the “words I keep.” The exercise provides a way to think through material for blog posts as well as novel scenes.

As Gene Lempp mentioned in his blog today, none of this writing happens without patience. In that spirit, this week I am establishing a writing routine specific to my blog posts. I’m finding that it’s too much of a Sunday-Wednesday “time crunch” to produce quality posts. So, beginning this week, I will have two blog posts in final draft form by each Sunday.

I continue to work on my novel, using Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering and Kristen Lamb’s concept critique.  Last Saturday, I submitted an overview of the novel to my concept critique group and received excellent comments. I will work some with scenes and plots points as possible this week. This is the first substantial writing progress I’ve made in the last four years.

Imperfect Reader

In her debut novel, Perfect Reader, Maggie Pouncey does a fine job with a protagonist who irritates within a plot that invites.  Twenty-something Flora Dempsey is so thoroughly dislikeable I had to keep reading to find out what she’d do next, all the while hopeful she might at least let go of her snobbery but Pouncey knows how to take readers to their limits and does not disappoint.

Flora as snob fits in well with the granola, privileged college community of Darwin to which she returns after the death of her father, Lewis Dempsey. A former president of Darwin College, Lewis Dempsey was a literary critic of some repute and devotee of Hardy, but  Lewis’ pure and constant love of language as illustrated in Reader as Understander–where the perfect reader puts aside life experience to experience only the words on the page–is the work that defines his professional life.

In retirement, Lewis turns to poetry, providing his perfect reader, Flora, a handwritten manuscript of  his poems, which she decides  not to read. When Lewis dies, Flora inherits a bit of wealth, including the house in Darwin, and she is named Literary Executor, forcing her to confront the poems along with her father’s late in life lover. And so, the story begins.

Author Pouncey is never cliché or sentimental but relies on wit and the subtlety it requires. My  favorite minor character is Joan Dempsey, ex-wife of Lewis and mother of Flora. All that Lewis is, Joan Dempsey is not as Pouncey draws us into a Thanksgiving dinner conversation between mother and daughter:

Joan “…was incensed about `Bible thumpers’ sprouting up all over the country in the guise of politicians, `like a plague of idiots’….

“`Every day there’s some new denialist denying the existence of some atrocity—there never was a Holocaust…there’s no such thing as global warming….If it doesn’t work for your agenda, say it never happened…how do you take that next step of actually believing the whopper—denying history, denying science?’”

In response, Joan Dempsey takes to writing a blog, The Responsible Anarchist, that “…attracts a healthy group of readers, some of them, admittedly, insane—who else was Googling the word anarchist?” (pp. 107-08). I read for these moments and to mark Flora’s progress, of course,  but always hopeful for Joan’s return.

My only complaint with the novel are infrequent, hazy references to characters I don’t remember ever meeting. Perhaps it’s just a characteristic of my older mind but I still require firm footing for any character that has a name and therefore a raison d’être.

A perfect reader I am not for what speaks to me in this novel– more than I care to admit–is Pouncey’s portrayal of the “Pompous Circumstance” of the academic world I adored. As this novel so beautifully illustrates, the world of Darwin is and always has been attainable by and for the very few. Making the grade involves social status as much as being awarded the diploma, something I’d forgotten, until I looked for the luster, long dulled, and now, a way I will never be.

Perfect Reader reminded me of much I once believed important, and it was refreshing to remember, imperfect reader that I am. As for author Maggie Pouncey, she tells a truth as perfectly as she knows how, which is all any reader ever asks.
Quoted material from Perfect Reader, a novel, by Maggie Pouncey, New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. 

Rhythm of ROW80 Sunday Scheduling:

The 30-minute writing stretches have improved the overall quality of the “words I keep.” The exercise provides a way to think through material for blog posts as well as novel scenes.

Last week I started writing out the concept of my already drafted novel, using Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering and Kristen Lamb’s concept critique.  On Saturday, I submitted an overview of the novel to my concept critique group and am still making scene notes. Plan to finish scenes and plots points this week. This is the first substantial progress I’ve made with my novel in the last four years.

Doing the Tao with Dyer: being, not doing

Nepo morning meditation continues

 

 

An Unexpected Milestone

This time of year is one of anniversaries for me: it’s been just over a year since Gumby died and Cooper and EmmaRose arrived; it’s been two years since life turned upside down physically, fiscally, and spiritually. I am 59 ½ years old, which I recognized only after this morning’s weigh-in showed me less 59 ½ pounds, an unexpected milestone.

I had planned to write about weight today, in particular because I read August McLaughlin’s absorbing story about bulimia and anorexia. Weight issues—fat or thin—produce the kind of sadness that asks, “`does dirt have calories?’” Those were August McLaughlin’s first words as she found herself face down on the ground, dirt in her mouth, her body nearly spent. Of all the thin or fat stories I have read or heard, of all the books, tapes, and videos on nutrition I bought to discover why eating/living this way will work or won’t, this young woman’s courageous story gave me all I ever needed to know.

Although I am not aware of ever thinking about dirt in the context of calories, I do know the agony of abusing food. For 58 years, I ate as I pleased, favoring bread or cheese of any kind–same with fruit and meat. Surprisingly, I don’t remember not liking brussel sprouts, broccoli or spinach (my first spinach was from a Del Monte can a la Popeye). I don’t think I ever met a drop of alcohol I didn’t enjoy but gin and vodka martinis have always topped my list followed by all beer and any wine.

Gumby and me 2008

I am of German-Russian descent—farmers mostly—even at my best, I have a solid look about me. For the better part of the last twenty years, I walked at least three miles a day, which pretty much stopped in 2008 as my profile picture with Gumby demonstrates. By August 2010, I added another 33 pounds.

I was still taking prescription medication for my lupus, for my depression, for my degenerative disc disease, for my thyroid—I sought treatment for diseases–I dismissed being in second stage kidney failure, and I ignored extensive blood test results that showed “remarkable” food sensitivities to wheat, dairy, and yeast. Later, when I actually read the results, I saw signs of sensitivity to soy, to gluten, to sugar, all of which came to pass.

Food had begun to reject me, a life of food abuse was making me allergic to myself. That was my dirt.

I could continue consuming gluten, yeast, starches, sugar, dairy and remain dangerously ill physically, accompanied by spiraling slides into the slough of despond for weeks, even months or start “eating to live,” somewhat like Dr. Joel Fuhrman suggests but without starchy vegetables, mushrooms, or beans—too many carbs, maybe for always, same for all grains.

Within a year, I dropped 50 pounds as well as all medications, staying within a 50-53 pound loss for almost six months. I discovered my body does know how much weight it needs and that exercise plays a role but not in weight loss, not really. Exercise does benefit my body but what I eat is what I weigh, and that’s been most hard to learn.

Two weeks ago, I noticed my hip bone, at first in alarm because it’s been so long since I’d seen it—it’s still amply cushioned but it’s really there–my small fingers are not slender but they seem to have length; although a jiggling wattle is a fact, there is a definite shape to my face, even emerging cheekbones.

By the end of last week, I had lost 5 ½ pounds (my scale is most precise, not allowing me a whole pound when it’s only half), then a pound, then three until 59 ½ pounds gone, a total pounds number I hadn’t seen in over fifteen years.

I won’t say the scale is my friend—even in my Pollyanna world that’s a bit much–yet I do not mind weighing myself every morning, and today, it meant a milestone.

ROW80 Wednesday Word Marking:

From January 2 until February 4, my goal was to write 250 words per day—as blog posts, fiction, or nonfiction–for an approximate total of 8250 words.

Beginning February 4, I started the “30-minute” stretch in which I write for 30 minutes. So far, that has generated just over 6,444 words, averaging about 900 words a day and now the writing is for longer than 30 minutes. It still takes care of the mind minutia so my other writing is more focused. I am still “keeping” between 250 and 300 words beyond those 900, which means with ROW80, I am now over 17,300 words. On days like today, numbers really please.

Paradox Practice

Wayne Dyer (Wikipedia photo)

I didn’t grow up practicing to be a paradox so when Wayne Dyer writes, “practice being a living, breathing paradox every moment of your life”* it seems a tad…paradoxical. Yet, my life of duality brought me only contrasts, opposites, comparisons and yes, judgment—all balancing acts of duality and not of the “paradoxical unity” that is the oneness of the Tao.

This I discover after almost 60 years of living but I do discover it.

More than thirty years of my life have been with lupus, an autoimmune disease that now actively lives with me permanently, unlike its earlier years of extended stays but then it had other names.   Truly, I understand “the name that can be named is not the eternal name.”

Regardless, lupus was made to order for practicing paradoxical unity.

For years, juggling balance, stressing no stress, and unlimiting limitations were my duality, uneven at best. The effort of trying to order my life out of chaos was like touching the wind. Yet, chaos, like every storm, has one, still eye that allows …”apparent duality while seeing the unity that is reality…[an] effortless action without attachment to outcome.”  By no longer focusing on outcome in my life with lupus, I replaced the trying and the effort with what is moment by moment.

Being requires a lot of presence–“duality is a mind game” that is always ready for a match–so I get a lot of paradox practice.

*Attribution: All quotations are excerpted from Wayne Dyer’s book, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, Hay House, Inc., Carlsbad, CA, 2007.

ROW80 Wednesday Word Marking:

From January 2 until February 4, my goal was to write 250 words per day—as blog posts, fiction, or nonfiction–for an approximate total of 8250 words.

On February 4, I started the “30-minute” stretch in which I write for 30 minutes daily. So far, that has generated just over 3700 words, averaging about 900 words a day. It takes care of  a lot of my mind minutia so my other writing is more focused, and I fuss less.

Where Risk Resides

Wikipedia photo

When risk is choosing this one or that, I always think of  Linda Pastan’s poem, “Ethics.”

In ethics class so many years ago
our teacher asked this question every fall:
if there were a fire in a museum
which would you save, a Rembrandt painting
or an old woman who hadn’t many
years left anyhow? Restless on hard chairs
caring little for pictures or old age
we’d opt one year for life, the next for art
and always half-heartedly. Sometimes
the woman borrowed my grandmother’s face
leaving her usual kitchen to wander
some drafty, half imagined museum.
One year, feeling clever, I replied
why not let the woman decide herself?
Linda, the teacher would report, eschews
the burdens of responsibility.
This fall in a real museum I stand
before a real Rembrandt, old woman,
or nearly so, myself. The colors
within this frame are darker than autumn,
darker even than winter–the browns of earth,
though earth’s most radiant elements burn
through the canvas. I know now that woman
and painting and season are almost one
and all beyond saving by children.
Linda Pastan, from the collection Waiting for My Life (1981)

The poem sets up an array of caveats—whether the woman is loved or a stranger, whether or not one is mature in experience or just beginning to experience life, whether or not to choose—each requires risking this or that, one or the other, or not at all.

Mark Nepo writes:

“There is no substitute for genuine risk…the very core issues we avoid return, sometimes with different faces, but still, we are brought full circle to them, again and again” (The Book of Awakening).

Avoiding risk, somewhat akin to eschewing responsibility, seems to be a circular choice every time. Yet, in oneness—here and there, this and that–risk is whole, not one or the other, not old or young but the one truth that resides in us:

“It is we who, in our readiness and experience, keep coming back, because the soul knows only one way to fulfill itself, and that is to take in what is true” (Nepo, The Book of Awakening). 

Maybe that’s why the poem puts the annual question to children, who are no strangers to truth.

Rhythm of ROW80 Sunday Scheduling:

On February 3, added a 30-minute writing stretch—free writing that is timed—it helps clear the minutia of the moment so my daily writing is more focused.

Alternating short fiction, novel, and blog posts as daily writing

Doing the Tao with Dyer, still stuck in duality

Nepo morning meditation continues

Day of Freedom

On this day of the noble SOPA and PIPA protests to protect Internet freedom, here is the freedom story of  beagle Snoop (now Cooper) and feline Emma (now EmmaRose), who got a little help from another beagle named Gumby.

Ten year old Snoop and his cat, Emma, had been together for all of Emma’s six years. Then, their elderly owner was admitted to an assisted living facility. The “mature pair” was taken to an animal shelter where they were separated immediately.

Snoop’s geriatric status meant he was not adoptable so he was facing euthanasia. Emma was being held, although she most likely would have contracted a respiratory infection as she waited, which would have meant euthanasia for her as well.

Second Chance Farms, Inc. (SCF) decided Snoop and Emma deserved better. “We became aware of their situation and couldn’t help feel sorry for this lifelong pair who were first separated from their beloved owner and then from each other. We decided to take them both into our program so that they could be reunited and have a chance at being adopted by a forever family.”

Five months later, my beagle, Gumby, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. She was an elderly, SCF graduate, whom I’d adopted. For three years, I took her beagling, and she taught me Zen. Thus, on January 19, 2011, I found myself turning down the familiar SCF road– tears turning  into sobs of  loss—then, the moment passed. Gumby was with me.

SCF seemed to sense Gumby’s presence as well. “As if Gumby had orchestrated the whole thing, Snoop and Emma were welcomed into the open arms (literally) of Gumby’s mom. Snoop clearly knew that his job was to help Gumby’s mom heal after the loss of her special friend, and he eagerly greeted his new mom with many kisses and excitedly jumped into the car (along with his cat, Emma) when it was time to leave the farm to head to their new home.”

Today is Snoop’s (Cooper’s) eleventh birthday and tomorrow, January 19th, he, Emma (EmmaRose), and I celebrate our first year together.

As Dr. Mac said to Snoop just before we left, “You did everything right.”

Indeed, you did, birthday boy, indeed you did.

Rhythm of ROW 80 Wednesday Words:

  • Since January 2, I have written at least 250 words per day or more than 4250 words.

Become a Lake

In The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo relates the story of a Hindu master and his young apprentice. Weary of the novice’s complaints, the master sends him to purchase salt.

Upon the apprentice’s return, he is told to put a handful of salt into a glass of water and drink. “`Bitter’” is how the apprentice describes the water. The master smiles.

They walk to a lake. The apprentice is told to throw a handful of salt into the lake and then drink from it. “`Fresh’” is the apprentice’s appraisal of the water’s taste.

“`The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain… remains…exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in.’” 

The salt of my last few days—staggering car repair costs, injured feline, lupus lurking, increasingly arthritic canine, a mere 320 words whittled from Chapter 1, no regular blog post, no Leashed post for secondchancefarms.org—disheartens, discourages, what ifs abound, fear surrounds.

Five-and-a-half pound feline EmmaRose snuggles the Internet modem box, her laceration and antibiotic injection not even a memory. Beagle mix Cooper James yips as he runs through his dreams; when he awakens, he’s just as happy.

“`So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is…enlarge your sense of things….Stop being a glass. Become a lake.’”

ROW 80 ebb and flow for January 8-15th:

  • Drafted a new plot point for my novel; wrote through its context and purpose.
  • Anchored structure of novel; opening scene revision close.
  • Incorporated ROW 80 goals into my meditation work with Nepo and Dyer.
  • Became a lake.

Attribution: Hindu story and excerpts from Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, Conari Press, York Beach, ME 2000.