WHAT IS NEWSWORTHY IN MY LIFE
I used to go to sleep to the 11 o’clock news. What an oxymoron that is! And I remember any number of evenings, staying up after the news watching one of those high speed chases, secretly hoping to top off my evening with a spectacular crash, right there live. I wanted to see people fly out of the car and bounce around on the roadway. I really am embarrassed to share that voyeuristic part of myself. And knowing that I am not unique in that department does not give me a great deal of comfort. Admitting to that insanity is worse than admitting that I pick my nose in the privacy of my car on the freeway where no one will catch me.
In December 2009, I went from being addicted to the news at eleven to eliminating listening to the news on radio or television. In fact, I stopped watching television and listening to the radio all together, even in the car, with a few exceptions. I have to be honest. I stopped watching television at first because I could not pay the cable bill, so initially it was a financial decision, not a spiritual one. But I soon noticed I was not missing the eleven o’clock news. And I could not tell you for sure what it was, but I began turning off the radio in the car, preferring to drive in silence.
I even stopped listening to music in the car. And I love music. It is always so soothing and refreshing. Well, yes, of course, I guess depending upon what you are listening to. Sometimes Country Western can be pretty depressing, and some forms of rock, metal, and punk can create bipolar-like conditions in an otherwise perfectly sane person in two notes!
So how in the heck do I keep up with what’s going on in the world? Well, I still skim a newspaper maybe once a week, but I pretty much rely upon the conversation of friends to inform me if the Chinese are preparing to ride their bicycles up the main drag in this little town of Yucaipa, after having taken over the rest of Southern California before the illegal aliens do. Yucaipa, by the way, is snuggled up against the San Bernardino Mountains, about 86 miles southeast of Los Angeles off Interstate 10, just south of Highway 38, the back road to Big Bear Lake.
Now just to clarify, I really am not concerned about either the Chinese nor the illegal aliens taking over anything, and I know some of you are mumbling, “Well, you should be!” But I am not. My comments are just a pinch of political satire.
I also pick up bits and pieces of news from internet sites, but on any given day, I can be pretty unaware of what is going on in the world. I mean I didn’t even know we were bombing Libya till I saw Moammar at the Seven Eleven on fourteenth Street buying a lottery ticket. When he realized I recognized him, he put his finger up to his lips, so mum I was. I thought, afterwards, I should have opened my arms to give him a hug and said really loudly, “Say, don’t I know you?” But he has always seemed like some kind of a crazy dude, so I’m glad I mined my own business.
I did not know for several days that Liz Taylor died. Probably best I didn’t because I would have been running from cemetery to cemetery trying to attend the service. You live your entire life in the public eye, and they bury you in secret. How ironic or just plane weird is that?
Now this next part is really not funny. I heard about the Japan earthquake from someone talking about it at a meeting, and I had no clue what they were talking about. I did turn on the television then and watched, in total disbelief and horror and fear, the reruns of the shaking and the tsunami. The scenes hit home, not just close to home, but home. You see, Yucaipa snuggles up not only to the mountains but to the San Andreas Fault, so someday, it is going to really shake around here. And hopefully we will pull together as a little town and share our food and water, our concern and first aide. Hopefully we will be able to dig deep enough in to the well of fear and territoriality, and no doubt it will be there, to pull up buckets full of love and compassion for our neighbors.
Okay, so back to eliminating news. Here is the really cool deal about eliminating television and radio news, noise, and static. Here it is. There is more silence in my life. There is more room for the creative Spirit to move about my brain, my mind, and my soul.
There is this saying. Have no idea who came up with it. Probably some Chinese philosopher making up sayings for fortune cookies. No, I have nothing against the Chinese. I love Chinese food. Most of what I buy is made in China. So I’m good with my Asian brothers. So back to the saying. The saying is “SILENCE is the cup that holds the music.” Wow! So even though I no longer listen to music in the car, there is plenty of music in the silence of my car and in the silence of my heart and my soul.
There is room now in my life for my passions for journaling, writing (no, not the same), for praying, for walking. Those are all “love-making” activities which happen in silence.
So when I am walking in silence, I am either praying or composing part of a blog or a book. And when I walk, it IS a walk, at least four miles, but often five or six miles. And I now know why Native Americans consider sweating a spiritual experience. At the end of my walk, my clothes are drenched. And it is, indeed, a holy walk.
I take my camera when I walk and capture the “news” going on around me. There are interesting roads, some paved, some dirt. There are spectacular clouds, seductive flowers, old and new reservoirs, plenty of hills and mountains, and one mountain, in particular, Mount San Gorgonio, quite the lady, quite the bride, when covered with snow. She is mine by the way. No, I do not have the deed. I think the Bureau of Land Management does, but she is mine all the same. But I will share her with you. She is always right there. Never moves, although some day when the big one comes, I suppose she might budge an inch or two. But she is right there. Anyone can have her for the gazing and the staring in awe and wonderment. As much as I like to say she is mine, of course, she isn’t. She is yours as well. If you take the time to get to know her many trails, you will experience visions and new perspectives of your life and the world around you.
In addition to my mountain, I get very excited twice a day anticipating, often waiting with camera in hand, to capture the sunrise and the sunset. I have also become more interested in what is newsworthy in the lives of my many friends and family, news that will never make it to CNN, Fox, definitely not to Al Jazeera, or any other news organization, yet important news all the same. And news that I really need to keep up with: something as grand as my son winning the Grant Cardone Social Media Contest; something as simple but profound as my niece, Brigid’s latest blog about her son, Harper; something as huge as Lillian passing away after ninety some years of life, some sixty of those years being a catalyst to the music community here in town; something as seemingly insignificant as seventy six year old Betty telling me that she was just plain lazy today and never got out of bed or watching Tom take his dog, Ruby, for a walk.
Now speaking of illegal aliens, sometimes referred to as “the undocumented,” perhaps the most renowned undocumented is God! God has no papers, no country. I mean talking about the disenfranchised, God is at the top of the list. So I hang out with God a lot on my walks, in the silence of the car, and in the silence of my room. However, I have to admit, I have music playing in my room twenty four hours a day. Soft, gentle, notes from the Manhieim Steam Roller 1984 rendition of "Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella." That song plays repeatedly twenty four seven. It seems to enhance the silence with its gentle melody. Email me, and I will send you the words I wrote to match the melody which has its own traditional words.
Now speaking of my room. My room is much like a sanctuary or small church. There are no statues or icons, but plenty of flowers and plenty of sacred pictures, and it smells good as well. Two of my most sacred pictures are 8 X 10's, one of a little boy and one of a little girl, each just shy of three years old. I also have a wonder filled picture of the Good Shepherd.
My room does not, like the Church I grew up in, smell of incense, but instead of lavender and roses. I’ve invited God to live here. That is a place God can call Home. And from what I can tell, I think God has taken up residence here. I have not shared this “secret” with the other people who live in the house, some of whom are members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints and are desperate for me to join them. I am tempted to invite them into my room to just sit and to experience the burning in their bosoms so they know it is true, that God does in fact live here. The burning in the bosom is how they know there Book of Mormon is true.
And I am not sure what possessed me to share this “secret” with the whole world now. Maybe it is a streak of pride or something, but please don’t make a pilgrimage to Yucaipa, for heaven’s sake nor even for Christ’s sake. You could send money, if you like! Just kidding. But remember, Silence is free and God is undocumented, disenfranchised. So God can come to live in your room as well. So invite God. I am not totally sure, but I think God is looking for invitations.
Come on, keep reading. It gets more interesting! You know, I have been separated since the first of August of last year. It has been excruciatingly painful. I mean the pain is just like a tsunami. It sweeps up everything in its path, and I have no control over the tears once they start, and well I’m glad I don’t try to control or stop the tears. They need to come out. They are part of the healing. But being separated has given me even more opportunities to be with myself and by myself in the silence, in the silence of my walks, in the silence of my room and in the silence of my heart,
We are not getting back together, so the silence has afforded me opportunities to look at just exactly what happens when a marriage does not work out. I published a book about relationships in 2008, From The Frying Pan To The Jacuzzi. Recently, I have had difficulty “pitching” the book, because I have stopped being sold on my own ability to live in relationship. Some wonder-filled folks have told me that my recent separation adds credibility to the book. Isn’t that interesting?
Well, as life would have it, my son, David gave me an audio book by Grant Cardone, Sell To Survive. So now I am vicariously “working with” Grant Cardone via Audio Book, to once again be sold on myself, on my worth as a human being and a man, on my abilities as a therapist, and on the intrinsic value of the book.
Notice, I refer to the book as the book, not my book. Nothing we create belongs to us. And the more we know that, the more the creative Spirit is able to work within and through us. So the book is not mine nor does its value depend upon my capacity or incapacity to be successful in or at relationships. This awareness makes it possible for me to once again be sold on the value of the book.
And, lo and behold, out of that being sold once again, in the silence of my walk two Sundays ago, pops out the title and the initial pages of a new book for divorcing couples who are faced with the daunting challenge of continuing to raise their minor children together, Your Final Gift To Your Children. I will let you know when it is available. Coming "soon."
Now one of the important awarenesses I address in From The Frying Pan To The Jacuzzi , and which is blossoming even further in the new book, is wholeness. So for our relationship to work, we have to bring a whole person to the table.
Well, we all know, right off the bat, none of us were whole people when we came to the table in our relationship. We may know now, but unfortunately, we did not know back then, nor even if we did know it intuitively, we didn’t know what to do about it.
So how is it that we are whole or not whole? Well, first of all, the answer is not about blame. It is simply about observing and seeing and knowing what we know.
So here is what we know. It is hardly a perfect world. Our lives, either as a little person or a big person (and some of us are really big), are hardly perfect. The old saying, Sh*t happens is so very very true, and it happens sometimes when we are infants, sometimes in adolescence, sometimes somewhere in between and sometimes in every stage of development.
The fact that sh*t happens, that we become less than whole, really is not a big deal. It just is. But the big deal is there is no one to take us through the grieving and healing necessary to reclaim our wholeness. Most of the time, folks want us to simply forgive, forget, and move on. So we move on fractured, wounded, split apart, less than whole. The result of that is we come to marriage or partnership or relationships in general searching for someone to fill in the holes, to fix us, to make us whole again. We even call the people we find “our better half!” And when we are lucky enough to find our so-called better half, we never realize it is not our better half to own, but the so-called better half belongs to that other person. It is not ours to take or to keep nor even to use. Whenever I hear someone refer to their partner as their better half, I cannot resist teasing, “So what half is he/she?”
And, of course, when we get married and are unaware that we are starting out less than whole, and we are told by tradition that marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition, we just keep right on becoming less and less whole. We actually give up parts of ourselves to make the relationship work, to make the other person happy. And it does not take long before there is nothing left of who we once were or who we were meant to be. And, of course, the lack of silence in our life, the incessant noise of life's demands makes it conveniently impossible to ever know or become aware that there is nothing left.
I think when a relationship ends or dies, the pain is less about what happened in the relationship on the surface, but more about coming to that awareness that there is nothing left of myself. And as I walk away, I walk away with absolutely nothing. It doesn’t have to be that way, but I think for many of us, that is exactly what happens, and that is why it was so absolutely excruciating for me.
I walked out the door that first day of August, thinking and feeling that I had given up absolutely every part of myself, that I was walking out the door with absolutely nothing left of what I once knew to be Vern.
And I have to stay aware that my partner had the same experience. So it’s not about feeling sorry for me, but about both of us being in sorry shape, mainly because we were not whole people to start with. And then we gave up even additional parts of ourselves in hopes of making something work that probably was never meant to be, nor could be because of the shape we were both in or better the shape we were NOT in.
Musing about wholeness, wholey-ness if you will, in the many moments of silence in these last eight months, has brought me to an awareness that maybe one of my own prized beliefs may be off the mark. St. Augustine has this saying, “Restless will I be, till I rest in Thee.” I have always believed that each and everyone of us has an existential restlessness that will never be quieted until we come face to face with God either here or later. So we can come face to face with God now on what via Carlos Castenada refer to as the Wayne DyerActive Side of Infinity. We can come “home” now, end our restlessness now. We don’t have to wait for death. Well, google the term. "active side of infinity" and ponder it. Maybe another blog, but it is a very interesting and fascinating invitation.
But aside from all that, I am beginning to wonder if the existential restlessness is not about God afterall. I am beginning to think this restlessness will be quieted once Vern accepts Vern and becomes whole, heals the wounds, brings all the split-off parts back together, and becomes the person I was when I first popped out. My thought is that if I can accomplish this in any small way, perhaps then I will not NEED another person to complete me. Perhaps that marriage of myself to myself is the “real” door into relationships with not only other people, but also with God. If I cannot be at home with Vern, why would I be at home with God or God be at home with me? Why would anyone be at home with me?
Men, in particular, we have this funny thing we do. We wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and then say just really awful things to ourselves. “Man, what an ugly SOB I am....”
Then we do this really weird, strange thing. We turn and look to our partner, and hope to God our partner will see Prince Charming. There is something really wrong with that picture. Do you get it? How is your partner going to see anything different than what you see and project?
Yes, the Prince Charming, the Sleeping Beauty, we each want to be, is INSIDE. It is not something someone can give us. Not even God can give it to us, because God already gave it to us when God created us in God’s image and likeness. It is already there, waiting for us to notice, waiting for us to love, waiting for us to nurture, waiting for us to reconnect to.
You know when I hear that commandment, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” I just hope that particular folks don’t get too serious about it because I can tell just by looking at them that I don’t want them to love me the way they love themselves! That’s suppose to be a funny, but this business of loving myself is serious business. There are serious consequences when you start thinking about it. The manner in which I love myself impacts the entire neighborhood.
So when I am out looking for a partner to complete myself, because I do not feel whole, I am only going to find another half person. M-m-m-m. And maybe that is why so many marriages do not work out.
I hope someday, to once again laugh, cry, and hold another human being close to me, someone with whom to take a walk and share the wonders of being alive. So right now, I am working on becoming as whole and as wholey as I can. It is all new for me. It is going to take practice like anything worthwhile. But I am beginning to enjoy, in small increments, a new kind of relationship with myself, with my friends and family, and with God. Loving and being loved is taking on a whole new meaning.
Some time ago, I shared my experience of my relationship with God in the poem, “Sleeping With Jesus.” I love this poem. It makes me laugh and it makes me cry all at the same time. It describes my relationship with God as an experience of wholey-ness. Again, the experience itself, the poem describing the experience, all rush from some place deep inside the silence, the silence of my heart, the silence of my soul, the silence of my room where I write most of my poetry.
So part of “it’s going to take practice” is holding myself to this little question whenever I am feeling particularly needy. I am going to ask myself, “Is this a need that Vern can meet, that you can meet for yourself? And if not, why not? I am going to really challenge myself.
And when I decide to connect with family or friends because I am feeling needy, I am going to watch myself. I am going to remember that wholeness precludes me TAKING from another person. If I am staying focused on wholeness, then when I reach out to another person for love or support, I “need” to remember that I am entering into that relationship to GIVE and to RECEIVE graciously. I am all growed up as the book says (From The Frying Pan To The Jacuzzi, Chaper 5 ), and taking is no longer on the menu.
So the silence of these past many months, the being with and by myself these last eight months, and the elimination of “news” has been a gift, a journey of coming home to myself, perhaps the most newsworthy story of my life. It is being able to look God in the eye and account to God for respecting myself, holding myself accountable and responsible in everything I do. It’s definitely not about perfection, because I am not perfect. I bat about three hundred!
And speaking of perfection. I have literally hated even the word perfection. But after listening to Wayne Dyer on audio for about five years during my walks, I finally got it what he was saying when he equated the biblical verse, “Be as perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect,” with SELF RESPECT. So it is not about following rules, never making a mistake, having to be absolutely sure of every decision I make. It is simply about asking myself, “Is what I am about to do, going to enhance my self respect or not?” Wow, that’s been powerful for me. It’s what made me stop drinking all together. It’s what moved me to finally begin treating my “wife,” with respect, kindness, and the love that I have had for her all these years, even though we are ending our relationship as we have known it. It’s what has moved me to commit totally to my practice of Marriage Family Therapy and to stop looking for a job which leaves me with one foot in and one foot out and totally lacking confidence that I can make it even though I have for the last twenty nine years.
And I am still often shy of self respect, of being as accountable and responsible as I can be. But it is no longer some awful admission. It is just seeing and noticing the places where there is “hole-ness,” where there is no holiness, and where I can begin gently remolding myself, so to speak, the way one does with dough or clay, into wholeness and wholey-ness. I like that word, “shy.” It is an accurate description of holding ourselves back from being who we are, who we are meant to be, of achieving all we can.
I do not want to be responsible for folks losing their jobs and the economy getting any worse than it is already, so I do not want to invite the whole world to stop watching television and listening to the radio. But I do invite you to find your own way of inviting silence into your life. Consider giving up being “shy” rather than giving up parts of yourself. Think about and feel what it might be like to be whole and wholey. Consider enjoying what is really newsworthy in your life and the life of the people you love. Consider bringing at least a conscious semblance of wholeness and wholey-ness to the table in all of your relationships, including the folks with whom you are walking and the folks with whom you are choosing not to walk, and including your relationship with God.
Thanks for reading and please share your thoughts and comments with me and with all of us.