I loved this.
Things are going fairly well at this end of the earth. We have re-settled after we evacuated from the Camp Fire and the Amaryllis has bloomed for the holidays.
The past few weeks I’ve been painting and wrapped more presents than I care to remember.
The new “Happy Holiday” 2 seater hot tub came. Getting that tub up the back stairs was a bit daunting but now our backs are loving the warm water and our muscles thank us everyday. Of course, falling down said stairs did make the hot tub a mandatory requirement at least until the bruises disappear.
Funny thing about that 2 seater…it reminds me of the first indication that B was beginning to have a mid-life crisis…a two seater sports car that mysteriously appeared in our garage. From there it progressed to the affair. I think I will make the lock downs on the hot tub so tight that only I can open them…a chastity belt for the hot tub.
Today I went to the doctor and found out I am a walking heart attack waiting to happen. My cholesterol is a whopping 303 and the bad is steady 224. I think it is time to have DNR tattooed to my chest. The doc is putting me on meds and suggests I go vegan. Oh and there was also that…” let’s get a thumb wrap for that appendage, let’s up the thyroid meds and maybe you should start running…you are going to need a new knee soon anyway so why don’t you just blow out the one that you have got!”
Years ago I was a vegetarian. I baked my own bread twice a week and grew my own food. My hippie years were healthy and carefree…getting old is a bitch. I wish I could say I walked 30+ years ago in a pot induced haze but I can’t… I opted for the love-ins instead. I think I may have gotten it wrong.. that too much sex and too little drugs thing… because at this point in my life it has reversed and frankly doctor induced “old age” drugs are a lot more concerning than a joint. I think the more sex and less drugs of my younger years was a much better option than what is available to me today. Now I am left to only dream of those good times…when I can remember them at all.
One of my adult children is urging me to try cannabis gummies to mellow me out in my old age. I have to admit that I have considered it but I am afraid that I might never get off the sofa if I did. Also, I have never been one for marijuana…it always made me paranoid and after B’s affair and feeling like I was crazy for those three years I am not sure that being anything less than fully present would be a good thing for me. There is nothing enduring about paranoid.
Yesterday as I was returning home I listened to a podcast which encouraged each person listening to celebrate and create for themselves a designated Day Of Compassion. This means waking up with intension of showing compassion and helping others whenever the opportunity presents itself or creating those opportunities throughout the day yourself. Doing things like thanking the woman who cleans the restrooms and telling her how much it means to you to know that when you use the bathroom you can always count on it being clean and fresh thanks to her hard work. Buying a McDonald’s food card for the person on the street so you know that they have something warm in their stomach. Noticing and commenting to your husband and kids when they help you or others. Just being there for someone in need no matter how big and small. So I have decided to schedule my Compassion Day for January 3. I will let you know what discoveries I make and what opportunities presented themselves.
Sometimes the poverty that exists in this country just blows me away but what blows me away even more is the politicians that have no regard for those less fortunate than they. I have come to believe that before any politician can actually take office they should be forced to live in the middle of any city with their families, they should have to survive on food stamps, and should life without health insurance. They would have to live in buildings that long ago should have been condemned, have to take their clothes to a public laundry mat, and have to rely on public transportation wherever they go. I suspect that most would be so far out of their element that they would die of fear. Hearing guns going off constantly and living in economic chaos will do that to you.
Meet Sadie. She was a product of the foster care system until she became an emancipated minor at 16 years of age. At that time she was pregnant with her first child.She had nothing when she was pushed out into the world and she still has nothing except a broken-down rental, no furniture except a worn-down worn-out mattress, and no stove. She was never cared for properly and because of this she doesn’t believe she is entitled to anything more than she has ever known. She doesn’t think she should be doing better because she has never known what “better” is. What she sees on her neighbors tv (she can’t afford one) is just a fairy tale and not attainable to “someone like her.”
Sadie had another child by the time she was 18 years gold and things were going well until her husband died unexpectedly. Depression hit her hard and she couldn’t get the mental health support she needed. Currently there are 14.1 state mental health hospital beds per 100,000 people which is essentially at the same level as in 1850. Because of this breakdown her children went to live with their grandmother and her guilt is immense. She wants them back but knows that they are better off where they are so she puts them first before her own desires. I think our elected officials could use a little of Sadie’s “doing the right thing” towards others mentality.
Sadie met another man and once more she found herself pregnant. She couldn’t afford birth control and there was no Planned Parenthood available. Her baby died at birth in the hospital. She doesn’t know how or why and regrets that in her sorrow she did not demand answers but she wouldn’t have known what to ask anyway she tells me. When you are poor you have no power and you expect nothing.
She’s pregnant again and her boyfriend is in jail. Hopefully, he will be out to be at their child’s birth but Sadie isn’t sure. She didn’t have the money to post bail and so she waits hoping that the judge will see what she sees in her boyfriend…a caring human being with flaws.
Maybe if a politician or two were to live with Sadie for a month they might come to understand that when you aren’t born with a silver spoon, when you haven’t been to the best schools, when you haven’t had parents there to meet your needs, when you were forced into a foster system that often exploits rather than nurtures, when you aren’t tall and beautiful, and when you don’t have an IQ of 120 that life is just tougher. Period. Unfortunately, our rich representatives do not understand that they did nothing to deserve their good looks, their good parenting, the plentiful food they had on their table, and the comforts that their parents were able to provide for them. It was just dumb luck that they ended up living a life of privilege instead of a life of poverty. Most didn’t earn what they got… they were just lucky to be born into various combinations of advantages through nothing they did no their own. The lives they were given taught them to think in ways that many in poverty have never been exposed to nor could they conceive for themselves.
So before you let the politicians convince you that the poor are to blame for their circumstances I hope you will really contemplate where you would be in your life if you were Sadie. Then I hope you will go up to her, give her a hug, and help in anyway that you can…including holding our elected officials responsible for taking care of those less fortunate then them.
There are places we travel to in our mind wishing with all our might that we might one day arrive at this “in-our-dream” destination. There are spots we travel to and remember every sight, sound, smell and voice that we heard. There are places we visit that forever remain stuck in our soul try as we might to pry them out. Tibet is that place for me.
It was a hard journey. Two airplane flights totaling 18 hours and altitude sickness that brought the youngest members of our small group of seven to their knees. Luckily, being a tough old broad, I adjusted quickly except for the times I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling like there was an elephant sitting on my chest. Shivering in our freezing cold hotel room, I would quell my panic by counting sheep and meditating to slow my breathing as I tried to gulp the thin air like a person who suddenly comprehends that they are drowning at sea.
I could see my breath in my hotel room between the hours of 8 p.m.-9 a.m. which is when it finally warmed enough to remove all traces of “morning breath” haze exiting my mouth. All my past medical training threatened to overwhelm me with anxiety as I checked everyone’s nail beds for signs of cyanosis. The constant dull headaches, sinus “pops” and lack of energy taking its toll on some in the group. That is what 11,975 ft/3650 meters does to you. It makes you temporarily miserable and somewhat nuts while time slows down to a crawl as you wait for your body to acclimate. But then I visited Jokhang Temple and suddenly everything slipped into its proper perspective.
Imagine rounding a corner and being swept away into the mass of religious pilgrims forever circling clockwise around the large outdoor square surrounding the temple. Colorful prayer wheels whirling, canes of the ancients clacking on the stone, babies crying and old men chanting as you are pulled into something deeper than yourself and what you momentarily comprehend as a “life force” which sweeps you all together for a greater purpose. Imagine the pungent smell of incense catering to believers and non-believers seeping like coal dust into your pores and pouring into your soul. And imagine in all your disbelief and mesmerization almost tripping over a pilgrim who is two years into his journey and only 1,000 ft away from his goal of achieving a better future for himself and his family; this accomplished by devoting himself and his life for those years to the Buddha. You watch as his scraped and dirty hands first clasp together at his head (to think of the teachings of the Buddha) then at his mouth (to listen to the teachings of the Buddha) then his hands moving to his heart (to feel the love and compassion of the Buddha). And then, I watch with morbid fascination as the man soars like a bound eagle just a few meager feet forward until he crashes prostrate on the ground. The only thing moving now are his charcoal black bare feet which twitch in anticipation of rising once more so that he may move ahead only as far as his body length to start the entire process over…day after day, week after week and year after year. Truly, if he can show this sort of dedication I can surely see that my slight “suffering” is nothing compared to his. Suddenly this cold ache I have been feeling since I arrived never felt quite so alive and warm.
Dinner is yak. Yak milk tea (yuck!), yak cheese soup (double yuck!) and hot right-out-of-the-oven pastry stuffed with yak (mighty tasty). I think of the faithful outside of the temple wondering if they will have anything warm to fill their bellies tonight as they circle the temple three times to complete their journey. And I finally comprehend the importance of alms in this era of “ME, MONEY and MORE” as I think back upon the times I could have showed greater compassion. Because in the end (according to the Buddha) in order to alleviate suffering (both our own and the immense suffering within the world) compassion must be practiced. And for compassion to develop we must be willing to open our eyes.
So here I am Tibet…my eyes are open…show me what I need to see, teach me what I need to know, and let me experience those things that will shake me to the core. Thuk-je zig.