awareness

The Trivial I.

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The Trivial I.

I chatted tonight with a friend from forever ago.

I can talk about our conversation here because he doesn’t read my blog.  He won’t know I spoke about him publicly… for however public this blog is.

But he wouldn’t mind me talking about him anyway. He’s engaged in self-discovery and committed to the value of transparency.  And our conversations count as that for him – since everything counts as that for him.

This friend is a former love interest, a former partner-in-crime.  But it was so many lives ago that it doesn’t even seem like it was us.  I remember those years like it was something that happened to two other people.

I wonder if that’s how others my age view their past lives.

It’s just that life has happened over and over again since that time and now we are completely different people.  We are the same, of course, in essence, in character, in personality, in spirit.

But we are different.

Different people with a shared past that is so remote.

So he told me about his journey in meditation.

I was happy for him. I’ve been meditating much longer and I know how it can change a life for the much better.

He told me about his work on self-discovery.

I was cautiously happy for him. I realize his self-discovery is occurring within his very narrowly established view of the world.  His discovery, like mine, will be limited to what we already believe to be true.

Then he told me about his morning meditation.  An inspired, hopeful, committed and dedicated affirmation about his life.

And I tripped.

It was an incantation where every sentence began with “I” or “my” – I will be this, I will be that….my life is this, my life is that.

And I realized that I’ve lost my connection to the world of self-discovery.

I used to be all about finding my true self, being a better self, and changing my self from what it was to what it can be.

I even used to motivate others to do the same.

But I’ve changed.

I no longer believe as strongly in the focus on self.

And, to be honest, I’m a little worried.

About myself.

Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Or missing out. Or skipping a step.

If this is too vague, I’m sorry. I’m trying not to rant.

But I did some research into the morning meditations and they overwhelmingly seemed very “I” focused….at least to me.

I want a morning meditation that starts with “The world around me” or ‘we’ or ‘us’ or something like that. I don’t want to focus on what I am or what I will be today.  I want to focus on what the world needs today.

I’m not able to give the world too much of what it needs today.

And I certainly won’t be selfless today.

I will be selfish today, dogmatic, stuck in my schedule and married to my routine.

But I’d like to think, at least, that I’m thinking about the world.

Find me a meditation that reminds me I am small and that my thoughts are small.

Find me a meditation that says my gratitude is not the goal…just a tool in my efforts to meet my goals head on.

Find me a meditation that says today is all I have… to do things different and perhaps make a difference, however trivial.

What is your meditation?

And if it’s focused on I, it’s okay.  I won’t yell at you or judge you.

I’ll learn from you.

Because seriously.  It’s me, not you.

Happy-ish Monday-ish.

xoxo, d

Not-so-Manic Monday

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I’m looking for an essay I wrote years (and years) ago. An essay about how, when men don’t call after amazing first dates, it’s only fair to assume they have died.

I’m looking for the essay for my buddy Jon Birger who wrote a book on why men appear to be disappearing.  And why I will be alone forever.

Oops. Sorry for giving away the ending, Jon.

Along the way to finding the essay, I found another billion essays.

One in particular caught my eye because of its commitment to a recurring (i.e., SO OLD) theme: what works and what just feels like it’s working.  It’s kind of like that age old question of whether you should strive for an A or strive to write a paper that actually takes a risk and explores some facet of your talent and intellect that may not guarantee the A.

For years, I didn’t fix certain things because the high of starting to fix them seemed like enough. I was an A student who just needed to get the A to keep moving forward.

Now, of course, as with most things, the high of an A isn’t high – it’s just a way to forestall anxiety about not getting the A.  So now, at the tender age of way-too-old-for-this, I’m trying hard to fix some of the fundamental conditions that invariably result in pain.

Enjoy the read, if you choose to read.  This essay would have been written around 2010.

 

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Observations of the information age, where everything evolves quickly. Except people

“What else should we talk about?” I asked the therapist.

We were only five minutes into our session when I ran out of material. I had already briefed him on the weeks of my life since our last visit. I reported my success in managing workplace stress and how I could now get through a day without a bottle of Tylenol. He, in turn, praised me on my follow through.

Good doctor. Good patient.

So now we were free to talk about anything. But nothing came to mind. I had sought out his guidance after experiencing one migraine too many and now the migraines were gone. I was running and meditating and breathing lots of fresh air, all quite conducive to relieving the pressures of a typical professional life.  In my book, we had accomplished our goal.

“What would you like to talk about?” he asked. He was finished writing notes in my file and appeared ready for some good old neurotic entertainment.

The truth was I didn’t want to talk. It was a beautiful day and I had many other tasks that needed my attention. I wanted to be excused. But I didn’t want him to think I was using him only in times of crisis – even though that’s exactly what I was doing.

I decided to talk and to see where my innermost thoughts led.

“I was really mad at my mother last week,” I offered, trying a little to remember her offense.

“What happened that made you upset?”

“I don’t remember. But I was definitely mad,” I assured him.

“And did you confront your mother about your anger?” he queried with only the slightest hint of interest.

“Of course not!” I laughed. “I told her I was tired of hearing her talk. She said ‘fine, I won’t ever talk again.’ And then we went to CostCo.

“And now? How do you feel now?” he insisted.

“Feel about what?” I mumbled, completely confused about whether we had even chosen a topic with which to soak up the remaining time.

I should have explained to this very nice man that I didn’t care about any issue unless it was immediately disrupting my life. I grew up in a house where nothing was allowed to fester for long and any hint of misery was quickly nipped in the bud. At the earliest indication of upset, anger, confusion, frustration or anxiety, my mother would descend with a heavy bang and yell “What’s wrong? Something is wrong.”

After the required dysfunctional dance of “nothing’s wrong” and “I don’t want to talk about it,” my mother would reach deep inside of our throats and painfully pull out the problem by its roots.

A tearful and emotional intervention fit for reality television would ensue. And then, my mother would matter-of-factly say “Let’s talk to someone about this!” Emotional issues were nothing more complicated than leaky faucets or creaky doors. The key was to find a professional who owned the exact set of tools necessary for a quick and final fix.

My mother would race to the phone, conducting a full-on aggressive campaign to identify the best expert for the job. She was inspired and determined as she explained the urgency of the situation. Within hours we would be in the car on the way to a highly recommended specialist.

“Just tell us what to do,” my mother would beg, perched on the edge of her seat with her stenographer’s pad ready to capture every audible sound.

It was rare that we visited a professional more than once after that first consult. More often than not, we returned only to report on our prideful success in carrying out the expert’s strategy. Again and again, we heard that we were incredible and that we would do very well going forward given our outstanding performance in the current challenge.

Whatever the problem, we were always fixed in an hour or so. Low self-esteem? One hour. Trouble focusing in school? One hour. Confusion about whether to put off college for a year? Thinking of murdering a sibling? That would be one hour. I was completely spoiled, convinced that we could fix anything with one phone call and an office visit.

But I wasn’t as efficient once I left home. I remember my first visit to a university counselor. I divulged an enormous and disproportional anxiety about turning in papers that were less than excellent. Within five minutes, she had resolved my episodic perfectionism and was searching for more interesting fodder. Perhaps I was obsessive, she opined? Did I find myself testing the lock on the door more than twenty times before being convinced it was secure? I tried to thank her and get out before she discovered real problems, but she tricked me into staying. She said she could help find the real me. It turned out that the real me was a comedian who visited her regularly for a year, regaling her with funny stories of how I talked myself down on a daily basis.

I didn’t return to therapy for many years. I was busy working and loving and learning to get through the normal burdens of an independent life. But when I went back, so many years later, I was convinced that I finally had enough conflicts to fill up an hour.

I was at a critical point, personally and professionally. Should I stay or should I go? Should I fight or should I flee? Rent or own? Boxers or briefs?

“I am easily a once-a-week patient,” I commended myself.

But the fact is that I was worse than before. I had become expert at resolving my life issues. I could easily anticipate what a counselor would say and I just wanted to get busy on following through. With useful tools like acceptance, meditation, Diet Coke and Dr. Phil, I could fix myself. Counselors were quickly becoming the middle man with high rates for overhead.

“Why are you here?” a new therapist asked?

“I don’t remember,” I said. “I made the appointment last week when I was upset, but now life is good. I have nothing to say.”

And for the first time ever, a therapist earned my trust.

“Well, then…life is fine! You should be happy! That was your goal, right?”

I agreed. I was fine and I was happy.

And then I set up a meeting for the follow week. I may not have a problem, but I’m not stupid enough to dismiss a therapist who works that fast.

 

So many words. So few words.

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My friend Richard Thompson died yesterday.

Steven George Artley's photo.

 

Richard had been suffering with Parkinson’s Disease for years. The past few years had been as awful as you can imagine. Richard’s body was twisted and turned and frozen into contortions you can only imagine if you’ve seen them before.

I want to write about Richard, but it’s too soon.  Richard was special to the world and special to me and that kind of description requires careful thought and even more careful writing.

But this is just a blog.

This is just where I go to share things I hope will help others….or, in many cases, help me.

The journey to the end with Richard has been a mish mash of extreme emotions and more emotions piled on top.  From anger and more anger to frustration, resignation and pure sadness, each trip to Richard’s house has been a reminder that life sucks.

I’m sure another person could write that same sentence and end up with life being beautiful – and I know life is beautiful – but it sucks. At least sometimes.

I became part of the cartooning community in 2010.  I worked on the comic strip that ended up being published for a year while it was either officially or unofficially in development with the syndicate.

During that year, I became fast friends – more like sisters – with my wonderful (understatement!!!) editor, Amy Lago.


And, after the strip began publication,  I met a lovely cadre of local, long-distance and international cartoonists who were SO DAMN DIFFERENT than the lawyers I was used to and with whom I was comfortable.

When I first entered the cartooning world, I was still entrenched in a day job related to law and disability.

Disability was familiar territory for me since I had practiced disability law for two decades and worked in the field for longer than that.  I was confident of my perspectives, opinions and judgments as they related to disability issues.

Contrast that with the world of cartooning where I felt like the odd man out.

I loved the other cartoonists and believe many of them liked and/or loved me too.

But the other cartoonists were real artists, most having worked in or been trained in drawing. I had never taken a class or read a book on art. I knew nothing.

And there I was, learning to draw little by little.  I was starting from scratch. My cartoon had become syndicated not for its pitiful sketches, but for the writing.  I knew how to write.

When I met Richard for the first time, my confidence was at an all time artist low. I couldn’t draw and the process of learning – while my work was being published – was S.L.O.W.

I met Richard at Baltimore Comic Con, introduced by the lovely Mike Rhode.  In short order I met Chris Sparks and Nicky G and Bono and Amy T. (the other Amy) and a host of other sexy, smart, unceasingly silly clowns.  I got pulled into that world and gladly accepted the seat that was always saved for me.

    

 

And then, of course, Rudy, the Pill Whisperer, came along…and, well, let’s just say Rudy and RT should have had a reality show.

Let’s just say it would have been très real.

More on Rudy later.

Richard reminded me of so many of the men I had been in love with over the years. Wicked smart and equally stubborn and ridiculously cute.  I remember meeting Richard and thinking immediately that I would have dated him in a different lifetime.

There were so many things I wanted to say to Richard, but we were never alone long enough to talk.

And talking to Richard was laborious.

Richard lost his ability to speak easily early on.

Waiting for his slow whispers meant deep conversation was halted, at best.

Plus, there were always caregivers and friends and family around whenever I was with Richard and so I could only play the part of visitor, friend and random entertainment-provider.

So I just brought food.

Cause everyone likes the person who brings food.

But I really wanted to talk to Richard.

I wanted to tell Richard that I understood what he was going through more than he knew….even though, of course, I couldn’t really know.

I wanted to ask him what he wanted most of all and tell him he could have anything he wanted…that we would try to make anything he wanted happen.

I wanted to know if he could hang in there long enough to be showered with our love, respect and friendship.

I wanted to tell him that I would have traded places with him in a second so that he could live the life he loved and I could finally be helpful in a meaningful way.

There is so much to say about Richard and the importance of our friendship.

I can’t say it yet.

I’m just too sad.

And I’m working hard to not let the way-too-early deaths of two cartoon world friends in one week mess too much with my head.

I don’t understand death, but I don’t want to fight it.

Perhaps more cogently articulated, I don’t understand how to live life joyfully while accepting the inevitability of death.

Perhaps I just haven’t found the right book to explain it to me.

I wish I had been able to tell Richard more often, more loudly, more assertively and more insistently that his life changed mine in important ways.

But we were never alone enough for that kind of conversation.

But it did.

His life changed mine.

In important and lovely and cruel ways.

And I hope to hell he’s running around (even though he’s not really the running around kind) in heaven, free from his body on earth and free of pain.  I hope he’s eating everything in sight and laughing, laughing, laughing.

I hope the library in Heaven is really excellent and that they give him the old fashioned kind of library card, not a fingerprint or chip-driven card.

 

Bono Mitchell's photo.

I hope he’s happy in amounts outnumbering the immense amounts of happiness he gave to others.

I am sad in those amounts.

I miss you, RT.

xoxoxo, d