Saturday, September 20, 2014

What Is the World Coming to?

What Is the World Coming to?
By Karen Nelson, M.A.

Here is my big prediction for the future of our planet: sometime in the next 30 to 40 years (give or take a decade or two), there will be a tremendous change socially, world-wide. People will learn to live in peace and harmony with each other. Wars and other violence will slowly dissolve away as people forgive their own tendencies to see danger in differences. Humans will accept that they do not have dominion over the world or nature. It will not be a utopia, without issues or problems, but we will take notice that the solution to every problem lies in the question and how we ask the question. In fact, humans will come to realize that we ARE a part of nature and when we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves. Humans will also recognize that dealing only with symptoms does not necessarily resolve the cause of those symptoms (such as throwing money at homelessness). Symptoms are messages that something is amiss, something or someone needs our attention.
If you are interested, here is why I believe this monumental evolution will occur sooner rather than later. I see evidence everywhere that this change is coming not the least of which is the struggle people are having with change. People all over the world seem to be reacting to what’s in the air (and I don’t mean pollution). People seem to be trying to hold onto their past ways of living while other parts of the world move forward with or without them. Its how I imagine it was for neanderthalers when homo sapiens arose out of the jungles. It didn’t take wars or a nuclear holocaust to extinguish a weaker-minded species. All it took was environmental press to which the neanderthalers could not adapt. In this day and age, it will take much more than environmental press because all peoples are the same species. It will also take social press. Humans are built for social interaction. They tend not to thrive or survive for long in social isolation. A group of humans in the pain of social isolation tend to lash out, trying to get attention in all the wrong ways. Look at what happened in Jonestown. Look at what’s happening right now with ISIL or North Korea, or Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
All, it seems, wanting to hold onto the past, to their usurped power, and all trying to get the attention of the world. I see all mayhem and destruction as a reaction to the enormous change that’s in the wind.
And, here are the winds of change. There are some very wise, wonderful young people all over the world who seem to have tapped into a larger purpose and meaning for life: The young girl, a teenager, in Pakistan who dared to get an education and to speak out against the misogyny that keeps girls from schooling. She took a bullet to the head from Al Queda terrorists and survived it and continues to speak out. “I am Malala Yousafsa” is the affirmation now heard around the world. Angelina Jordan, the 8 year old from Norway who seems to have tapped into the soulfulness of Billie Holiday singing her heart into existence. Ethan Bortnick, the young composer, pianist/singer who expresses his joy for all to hear and see. There are many, many others, some known to the world, some others quietly expressing their different perspectives on life and living. I have had the privilege of meeting some of these “youngsters.” I’ll bet you have, too. Look for them. Talk to them. Hear their voices especially when all the news talks about is the mayhem and destruction. Don’t build that bunker. Prepare for something new and exciting in the world. Its coming.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Lessons of the Desiderata

The Lessons of the Desiderata

By Karen Nelson, M.A.

The Desiderata© was written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann. Mr. Ehrmann was born in the 19th century to German immigrants to the United States. He earned a baccalaureate degree in English from De Pauw University and later studied philosophy and law at Harvard University. He was known as a poet, and the most famous prose poem he wrote was The Desiderata (Latin for things desired). The poem was very popular, as I recall, in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. I remember being very impressed with it at the time. Its popularity seemed to fade after a time, and I forgot all about it.

Then, a while ago, it was mentioned by Morgan Freeman on Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class. I remember feeling impressed with it years ago but couldn’t rightly explain why it was forgotten. So, I pulled it up online and copied it to my computer. I was impressed all over again. Each stanza has a kernel of wisdom for living. So, for the following two weeks, I began memorizing it one stanza at a time (or what I defined as a stanza). In my configuration, there were fourteen stanzas…some longer than others. I am determined to never again forget The Desiderata. And, I wanted to re-introduce it or introduce it to anyone who would listen. So, for two weeks, I tweeted each stanza. I did not call it The Desiderata in my tweets but did note the author each time. I believe others of my generation can re-connect with Mr. Ehrmann’s wisdom while members of younger generations may learn from it anew. I have learned that many people of my generation have a vague recollection of The Desiderata while a younger generation finds it beautiful just as we did.

I cannot speak for anyone else here, but perhaps my musings might inform yours. A friend asked me why I felt the need to memorize this small tome. I quipped, “Well, I know now that there is nothing wrong with my memory except that I can’t recall why I needed to memorize it!” When I re-read The Desiderata, I found that certain stanzas spoke personally to me while others seemed to speak to my impressions about certain people in my circle. I do not recall this individualization in my earlier experience of it. I am hoping that as this experience of the The Desiderata has opened a learning experience for me, then writings such as this may bring your lessons into sharper focus as well.

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”

In this day and age, there tends to be a lot of silence that is not peaceful. Recently, I was in a restaurant and observeded a luncheon with four people. The only silence that seemed to happen was while everyone was checking their phones for messages and texts. Occasionally, one person would share something amusing that someone had sent. I sat there just observing, thinking. I realized that, if I'd been a part of that group, I would have taken a text or message as a way of distraction, and I do not need to be distracted from life or from myself. THAT is the peace one can find in silence. These days, even people who claim to know better, take the time to meditate. Don’t get me wrong…there is nothing bad about meditation. However, if you have to set aside time from your busy life to re-connect with yourself through meditation, then, don’t you think there might be an issue? Why, in God’s name, aren’t YOU the most important person in your life? I maintain if it’s a duty, then there is no peace within one’s self.

“As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.”

Wow. “Without surrender”…this, I thought, was MY stanza. I was raised to be a fighter – I’m sure my sisters would agree since they were all older than I by five and a half and more years. The trick is to not surrender. This, I find, tends to be difficult for women especially. Women need to assert their needs and desires. The opposite end result of this stanza seems to be, you cannot be on good terms with someone who demands surrender. Women tend to want and need connection with others and sometimes give up their integrity in order to maintain connection. I credit my mother and my sisters for the inner strength I developed as a female child growing up in the U. S. They all challenged me in myriad ways and provided models for observation and learning. Early on in my life, it was more about the fight to avoid surrender than it was about finding common ground for good terms. Maturity and a lot of psychotherapy gradually brought me to looking for common ground whenever possible as a place where I could find connection and maintain integrity. I do not recall that this stanza resonated with me as strongly in the early 70’s as it does today. I have confronted more challenges in the last year or so than I had in all of my growing-up years. Nevertheless, it was those years and experiences that gave me a foundation for this new growth.

“Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.”

Growing up, there was a part of me (admittedly a small part) that worried about how much I did not know. I learned how to generate an opinion and to express it even when it was uninformed or, simply, made up out of the knowledge I did have. At around eight years old, my mother, who loved to read poetry out loud to my sisters and I, asked me for my “opinion” about an e.e. cummings poem. Just asking me for my opinion seemed monumental to me. Still, it was an eight-year-old’s opinion.

It took a lot of practice for me to learn how to say, “I don’t know.” Being ignorant is being without knowledge, and being without knowledge is being without power. This idea fueled my desire to be educated beyond secondary school. I learned to love learning. There will always be something else to learn.
My mother was very intolerant of the plaintiff cry, “I’m bored!” And I found boredom excruciatingly painful. At around age ten, I decided for myself that I was never, ever going to be bored again. This also fueled my drive for education. I’m still learning. Now, I mostly learn about myself and do so, I think, without hubris and ego. I do this because I was fortunate enough to find people throughout my life who listened to my story, who saw potential even when I couldn’t see it.

“Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.”
This has been a difficult one for me because some of the most vibrant, attractive and smart people in the world come across as loud and aggressive in public. I love most music and connect mostly with rock and roll. Rock music has a tendency to sound loud and aggressive. For me, it wasn’t this aspect that attracted me to it. I connected with groups or soloists whose songs resonated with me: the sound along with the lyrics. So, I have spent a lot of time watching and listening to rock stars away from their concert venues. Many seem contemplative and reserved. I also drew the line at heavy metal and punk rock. To me, those two were loud and aggressive for nothing else but the sake of being loud and aggressive. It was similar to early live-performances of some comedians swearing up a blue storm just to get a rise out of people. It felt manipulative.
I’ve decided that this stanza must be taken as written: avoid loud AND aggressive persons; not just loud and not just aggressive people. People tend to get loud when they feel unheard. People tend to act aggressively when they’re frightened. Persons who are loud and aggressive seem frustrated with life and demanding surrender and all of the attention for themselves alone.

“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
This quote suggests that comparing yourself to others is not about identifying one’s self as an individual and separate from “the other.” Often it is about keeping score in some kind of race for success or notoriety. Keeping up with the Joneses (or the Kardashians, whichever is your neighbor) is truly unhelpful. Not only will there always be “greater and lesser persons than yourself,” but each person has a different set of experiences as well as congenital propensities. You and I can never really know what it is like living in another person’s shoes, seeing, experiencing life from that perspective. All one can do is seek to understand another person’s experience. Even that is fraught with problems since your own filters will always be there coloring the lessons of life.
So, it seems that one's intent behind any comparison is likely to determine if one becomes vain and bitter or not. Notice, Mr. Ehrmann does not prescribe never comparing any more than he states it will always lead to vanity and bitterness.

"Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time."
It may not be healthy to live entirely in the past or in the future. Take the time to be present to yourself, to what you do and what you've done. Then, take pleasure in your vision for the future even if you're not sure how you will get there. Your career represents the path you've taken to get to where you are. It is something no one can ever take away from you. Mr. Ehrmann wrote The Desiderata just two years before the big stock market crash of 1929. I do not know what effect the crash and the subsequent depression had on him, but if Mr. Ehrmann took his own advice, he survived it well. He lived until September, 1945. He was in his seventies when he died. Either way, the next stanza fits very well.

"Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is. Many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism."
Be realistic and be realistic. Nothing we encounter in life is either black or white. As the book indicates, there are at least fifty shades of grey! And which shade is entirely up to you! In fact, consider: as one looks at shades from white to black, there is NO clear deliniation between one shade and the next. It is only when one sees the opposites together that deliniation appears.
If you find yourself in the midst of someone's trickery, be open to that so you may extricate yourself.
When you start out trusting people 100%, then watch for their intentions to surface. They always will. Sometimes their intentions will be good for you and sometimes not. And, sometimes, their intentions will have nothing to do with you! Draw a line in the sand (if you need to) where your expectations of other's behavior still maintains your integrity and care for yourself. Beyond that point, there will not be enough trust to believe in the other. Keep in mind the psychological truism that we tend to find what we expect to find. If you tend to see someone as evil, then that is what you're likely to see. Conversely, if you only look for the good, then you are vulnerable to trickery. Keep your balance by noting the different shades. Allow yourself to re-evaluate that line in the sand.

"Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass."
It can be a tall order to be yourself and not pretend that you like a person. Some parents have been known to encourage their children (especially young children) to give an adult a hug or a kiss even when the child feels shy or scared. I suspect that the parent who does this isn't aware of the message this gives the child: your feelings are not as important as the feelings of this adult. This is one of the ways in which we learn to hide ourselves from others and, frequently, from the self. How do you figure out who you are?
One way we do this is by how others treat us. How others treat us might be related to how they perceive us and our behavior. There is a so-called reality show on television wherein one character is always shown as either stupid or sociopathic (without ethics). He is treated as such by the other characters on the show. Now, this person is not a child. Nevertheless, there may be subconscious messages being taken in by him every time he is treated disrespectfully. The producers/director seem to believe this makes for good entertainment. It is hard to tell what effect this has on the person's self esteem. It must be pointed out that, for whatever reason, he accepts this role and plays the role. All parties have some responsibility in this: those who demand it, those who accept it and those who support it by watching.
Another way we figure out who we are is by our own internal dialogue. Knowing what are our values and then acting consistenly with those values provides a feedback loop to our brain and our personality. Cognitive dissonance results when our values do not match our behavior. Sociopaths are really good at ignoring the pain of this dissonance. Some mentally ill persons learn to reject earlier values to match their current experience thus reducing the dissonance. This may be one explanation for recent school massacres (Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook). If this is so, it speaks volumes to rejecting bullying behavior.
When one allows others to choose one's values (whether it is accepting values or rejecting values), it becomes easy to be critical about love altogether. If you have a poorly defined sense of self, how could you accept being loveable? Even if you desparately want it, you'd likely never trust it. On the other hand, if you train yourself to ignore dissonace, then it is likely that you will also ignore love and its consequent vulnerability. Nevertheless, loving and being loved are the bases of the human social contract. As John Donne wrote, "No man is an island entire of itself." We are all part of the whole and are diminshed by the loss of any person.

"Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth."
This one has taken me longer to contemplate. Of course we all age, and, with age, we find there are things we either can no longer do or "shouldn't" do. I guess I'm not sure that the "counsel of the years" is only about giving up youthful activities. It seems to me to be about giving up old attitudes and mal-adjusted behaviors.
I am old, but I'm NOT old! I still ride a bicycle from time to time. I have play dates with friends. My favorite performer is P!nk. And, I'm still learning new things about myself and about the world. That all feels young. I want to believe that these kinds of things will keep me feeling young.
When I look back to my childhood and remember what "old" looked like to me (my grandparents), I saw one who was stubbornly stuck in her ways, intolerant of new thinking and new attitudes. When she died, my grandmother was only eleven years older than I am now. The other grandparent was bent over with horrible arthritis for the last ten years of his life. There was much he physically could no longer do. However, he sought to understand others and tolerated much younger beliefs and attitudes. He was eighty when he died living three and a half years after his wife's death.
I find myself really resisting this one. I do not want to be like my grandmother or feel the constant pain my grandfather experienced. The future scares me. Holding onto some of "the things of youth" seems one way to challenge my perception of "old." So, while I have some pain in my shoulder and creaks and crackling in most of my joints, I refuse to give up on myself and my body. I "walkercise" several times per week for at least an hour and a half each time.
My question is this: what shall I give up from my youth? Well, in the last year I've given up what feels like a lot. I've given up driving. I've given up work/career. I've given up manufactured sugar and sugar substitutes. I've given up smoking. I changed my eating habits. I've given up fighting out. I've given up my self-definition: I will no longer express a need to be heroic. Recently I received an email that spoke to an issue with my former employer and the sender's irritation around that issue. In the past, I would have found a way to feed the irritation by finding agreement. I didn't have enough information to do this and asked for more information. Nevertheless, my response was reasoned and reasonable rather than irritated or irritating. I am done with that part of my life. It truly no longer serves me.
Now, I strive to be balanced with all things. Its a work in prorgess. Some persons avoid the things that "triggered" them in the past. I choose to overcome. Maya Angelou once wrote, "You can tell a lot about a person by how he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights." She never advocated avoiding the things that might lead to anger or frustration. She did advocate keeping perspective and balance.

"Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune, but do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself."
Note that Mr. Ehrmann does not prescribe how to nurture strength of spirit. I suggest that some practice that feeds your sense of well being in the world based in your values and beliefs will do. To the extent that your values and beliefs are solidly in place for you (no matter what others think or believe and no matter what happens), you will find it easier to rebound. When one does this, then catastrophizing is unnecessary. I used to believe that my own brand of "pessimistic optimism" was the best way to protect myself: if I could imagine the worst, then I would already have lived it and feel comfortable when the worst happened. If the worst did not happen, then that was icing on the cake. It took a long time to understand that this was a very bitter cake that held no nutritional value for me or the world. I still occasionally revert back to this strategy. I am able more quickly now to be gentle with myself and let it go.

"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here."
There is nothing one needs to do but be! What a concept in this post-puritanical culture. Do the trees and stars struggle with self esteem? Do they strive to be useful? No. They just are. If a tree provides shade or fruit or nuts that nurture other beings, it does so without seeking approval. If the stars provide light and navigational guidance in the dark, they do so without fanfare. They remind us that our concerns are miniscule compared to the vastness of the universe. It is entirely up to the other to find advantage in their existence or not. The trees and the stars do not fret about it either way. Your right to be here is solely ensconced in the fact that you are here. Do what you love and it will find you (to paraphrase a TV commercial). You can be a cloud or you can be a rainbow. Both can be beneficial to you.

"And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."
This is a statement of optimism and faith. It is optimistic in that one can accept events for what they are, for what we make of them. It is important to take responsibility for your own understanding of events. Nothing you see, hear or feel is independent of you and your experience. Your filters color everything you perceive. In other words, the universe is unfolding in the way you believe it is unfolding. It is what you make it.
I find it is a statement of faith in human nature and our ability to control our responses to any event. Once you discover that you have this control, it is more likely than not that you will use it over and over again.

"Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your dreams and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul."
I thought it extraordinary that, in the 1920's, Max Ehrmann had the courage to publish this statement of "God, whatever you conceive Him to be." There are today areas of the world where this statement would cause consternation. How much more so in the 1920's! Still, as someone pointed out to me, there was a movement of spiritualism and a movement of intelligencia in the 20's that might have informed the statement. It would have been even more controversial if Mr. Ehrmann had not used any gender specific pronoun. In one spiritual tradition that I have studied, the Creator is defined as "all things and no thing." "It" would be a more inclusive pronoun and one that speaks to the ineffable nature of such a creator. So, how can anyone be at peace with the ineffable, the unknowable? I suggest that one can do this by being humble enough to admit to the limitations of human nature and the human brain. There are some things, perhaps many things, we just will never know. Be at peace with that.
It is likely that humility will also lay the way to keeping peace with your soul (whatever you conceive that to be!). I think Mr. Ehrmann may have suggested in this passage that your dreams and aspirations come from the soul. I don't know this for certain. I can only say that. for me, there is a part of me that feels soarful when I utilize my talents in a pleasing way. That which soars, I believe, is my soul. I have a talent for dreaming while asleep as well as while awake. These days, I aspire to plant seeds and take pleasure in tilling the soil, watering the planted seeds and then moving on. Like Johnny Appleseed, if an apple tree grows, it grows. If it doesn't, then it doesn't. Painting in oils or watercolor satisfies this aspiration. This blog post satisfies it as well. Will someone buy my paintings? I don't know. Will someone read this post? I don't know. If someone reads it, will he/she get anything from it? I don't know. That is up to the reader.

"With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy."
Beyond hide nothing from yourself, there is nothing more I need say about this stanza. It stands alone and speaks clearly and concisely to all our knowledge, experiences and hopes.
Karen Nelson, M.A.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sad Expressions...

Sad Expressions:
Wasting Pronouns, Talking in Questions & The Word, “Like”

By Karen Nelson, M.A.


I admit that I was trained by my mother to be a stickler around grammar and communications. And, as a result of that training, my sisters and I were very fond of driving our mother crazy by purposely mis-pronouncing names and words, by occasionally placing the em-pha-sis on the wrong syl-lab-le or on the wrong word: reading a street sign, we would yell out to mother as she was driving, “STOP! A Head!” Or “What’s that in the road. Mother?” Typically, mother would shudder and then laugh at our antics. I believe she was secretly proud of our understanding of grammar and the English language. Now, all these years later, I find myself acutely aware of two things: English is the craziest language in the world, and language can be a living, breathing mess of change. I suppose this is my karma…


All right people. There are three patterns of speech that are growing in popularity: one is the often unnecessary use of a pronoun within one sentence when the subject has already been identified or the indiscriminate use of pronouns between sentences. The second pattern is speaking in questions. And finally, the last one is like using “like” at the beginning of, like, every phrase.

Hasn’t anyone learned anything from Twitter??? One hundred and forty keystrokes (not characters as is frequently claimed since a blank space is NOT a character) means that people waste time and space by using a pronoun (he, she, they, it, etc) once one has already identified the subject in that sentence. For example, in talking about the arrest of an elected official, the reporter says the person’s name followed by “he did such and such” Or on the subject of increased cases of measles, the anchor says, “Officials in Orange County, they say there is an increase in reported cases of measles.” Of course, “they” said it. You already identified the subject as Orange County officials! Didn’t any of these people, reporters, take “bonehead” English in school? Doing this, this is ridiculous and unnecessary. I guess what irritates me most is the suspicion that such individuals, they do not trust that I am capable of following the thread of a their communication.

In contrast, communication is made more difficult when people use pronouns indiscriminately. You know what you’re talking about, but I’m not in your head. So, “John” talks about his son. He is so special. WHO is special, “John” or his son? Now, I might be able to tell who it is you’re talking about by waiting for further context. So, I don’t interrupt. It is only when my understanding seems hopelessly mired in indiscriminate pronouns that I will interrupt you. “John was talking about his son. He is so special. They couldn’t decide if he was a genius or just plain disturbed. I mean, they just can’t get around their pedagogical ideas! How rigid can you be?” Now I interrupt, and you have to re-explain your point. Who is special? Who is pedagogical? Who is a genius? Who is rigid? I might be rigid, but I haven’t really given any indication of this!

An especially insidious practice in speech is using a lilting tone at the end of a sentence. I have no problem with people asking questions. I do have a problem with people who talk in questions? A question begins with a who, what, where, when, how or why and ends with a question mark which is spoken with a lift in tone of the voice? I suspect people who do this often are very insecure people or very insecure about their opinions. It seems to have replaced the nearly ubiquitous “Ya know,” ya know?
Stand up, people! If you are wrong or mistaken in your opinion, accept responsibility and “stand corrected!”

Finally, the mis-use of the word “like” it is also a signal of insecurity? According to The Oxford Dictionary of English, the word like as used informally in speech is a “meaningless filler” or is used to “signify the speaker’s uncertainty about an expression.” The dictionary gives an example: “So she comes into the room and she’s like, ‘Where is everybody?’ ” It’s like you can’t be sure, like, what you’re talking about or, like, what the other is, like, understanding?

There used to be a saying when I was in high school, “Put your brain in gear before you open your mouth!” Let's face it, English is crazy enough when spoken without Fad-Talk! "Re" in front of a noun usually means a repeat, except in repeat! "I" before "E" except after "C" and in neighbor and weigh. The "gh" in neighbor and weigh are silent. "Gh" in tough and rough are pronounced like an F. The "f" in "if" is pronounced like an "f," but in "of" it sounds like a "v!" What the "F?" LOL?

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Chance to Grow

The Chance to Grow

In physics, we learn that nothing in the universe happens only once. Infinity goes in all directions. There is no singular point or moment. What I take from this is that there is never a need for regretting lost chances in life. If I don’t play the Lotto today, for example, there is no reason for regret. My chances to win the lotto are no better or worse any time I decide to play. The old adage, opportunity knocks but once, is simply not true depending, I suppose, on how you define opportunity.

When I review my life, as many are wont to do around this time of year, I am aware of events and the cause/effect process that leads me to describe these events as messages meant to get my attention. They tend to include interesting synchronicities that, in retrospect, are hard to ignore. In my other blog post (Turning Blue in Southern California), I noted several of these events, what I will now call “opportunities.” For several years now, I have had an interest in neuroscience but did not research the topic extensively until beginning in late December, 2012. I was initially encouraged to do so by a person at a local university who asked me to speak to an incoming class of scholarship recipients about how to make the most of their university experience. My intention was to give them up to date information about how the brain works in relationship to guided imagery and self-hypnosis. That deal fell through after I put the presentation together. Consequently, I modified the presentation and offered to present it to the college of hypnotherapy I attended. In April, 2013, it was agreed I would present the information to the American Hypnosis Association’s monthly class in late June. At the beginning of May, I had a stroke…now, I’m not at all saying that my study of neuroscience brought on the stroke. That had origins and synchronicities elsewhere. But, you have to admit, it IS a strange coincidence! Having that information enabled me to do two things: relatively quickly resolve my mis-identification of my condition from a TIA to an ischemic stroke and to easily overcome the common response to stroke which is depression. This allowed me to focus on recovery as well as understand how this happened to me. This led me to make many more changes to my thinking as well as to my life.

I suspect that change is the only constant in the universe, but change that revolves around a sphere of expansion. Infinity goes in all directions. The universe expands in all directions. We grow through our challenges in all directions.

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963

November 22, 1963: 10:40AM, Pacific Standard Time. I am 11 years old and home alone, sick from school. My mother is at work and two of my sisters (who are still living at home) are in school. My oldest sister is married and living in east Hollywood with her husband and children. There is nothing to do but watch television. I haven’t yet learned how to avoid boredom. I do not have any connection to what is on TV until there is a breaking interruption: just a voice at first with a set of the word, Bulletin, repeated three times. The president’s motorcade in Dallas, Texas has been shot at. Not much was known at first. A little while later, the news was that President Kennedy and Governor Connelly of Texas were both wounded. Shortly after the TV station went live from New York, Walter Cronkite announced the terrible news that President Kennedy was dead, the victim of an assassin’s bullet. I was shocked and furious. This was MY president not just the American President, but the one who represented my first political identity. Prior to him running for president in 1960, I saw the presidents as old, withered men with whom I could not identify. My political birth happened with JFK’s candidacy when I was eight years old. I strongly encouraged my mother to vote for him. I believe she did…after all, he was born the same year as she was. He was smart, charming and attractively young. He was seemingly open. The future. Now what? I demanded of the world that they find the person responsible and bring him to justice. I wrote something like that in big letters and pasted it on the dining room window as it looked out to the world racing by. I’m certain no one saw it except my sister several hours later who berated me for my stupidity. There was no one there but me. I HAD to express my feelings somehow even if no one saw it. By the time everyone was home, it was clear that they all knew what happened. Incredibly, no one shared their feelings or thoughts about it though we all were stuck to the TV broadcast. While watching the funeral procession three days after the assassination, I cried privately, silently to myself. In our family, crying in front of anyone was never encouraged.

For the next few years, it seems, I lived in a bubble alone. I always suspected Lyndon Johnson had something to do with the assassination…after all, who had more to gain from Kennedy’s death? LBJ ran an ugly campaign in the primary elections and lost to Kennedy. He was seen in Fortworth, Texas in the day or two prior to the assaaination as seemingly irritable and unhappy. Those in the know explain that things were not going well for Mr. Johnson politically at the time. He was a man used to having unfettered power as Speaker of the House prior to his failed primary campaign against JFK. Now, he was playing second fiddle to a relatively young upstart that he apparently despised.

Recent re-examinations of the forensic evidence seem to confirm that all three shots came from the Texas schoolbook depository, fired by Lee Harvey Oswald. So, he was a lone gunman. Nevertheless, I still wonder how it was that a man, who defected from the US to the Societ Union, lived there for two years, married and had a child, was simply allowed to re-establish his citizenship and return to the US bringing his wife and child with him. How did this happen in the midst of a very cold war? Unless, he was helped by someone in power...When Oswald was in the US Marine Corps, he was a radar specialist with "confidential" clearance. He was living in the USSR when Francis Gary Power's U2 spy plane was shot down. Did Oswald have anything to do with that? I have no idea, but it's hard to believe in so many co-incidents. It should have been just as hard for US officials as well. He returned to Dallas, Texas where he had lived with his mother prior to joining the Marine Corps at age 17. Of course, Johnson's home State was Texas.

I was devastated and had no idea how to deal with it. It was my first major loss. No one, it seemed, understood the momentousness of that experience for me. They were deep into their own grief.

Five months later, our maternal grandmother died. I remember my sister Hilda crying bitterly in the arms of our mother while I stood across the room dumbfounded. My mother was crying as well. Still, there was no instruction on how to grieve without crying, without stumbling into my mother’s grief. Hilda, apparently, had no problem with it, but she was special…the only one of us born at home and seemingly our mother’s favorite.

When, three and half years later, Hilda died in a car crash, my mother was inconsolable. She never got over it. I felt so helpless. I remember wishing that it had been me who died believing Hilda would’ve been able to help her.

Now, fifty years after the assassination of John Firtzgerald Kennedy, I still grieve and cry alone.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Religion!

Religion!

Ahhhh! I know there are those of you who are very worried right now because you don’t have any idea what I’m about to write. Just stay with me for a little bit.

A while ago, I listened to a debate posted on NPR’s website and aired on 11/21/2011. The title of that debate was “Would the world be a better place without religion?”


Now, most of you don’t have to think about what the word “religion” means. Your set of values and beliefs are arranged nicely and neatly in your own minds and hearts. In the United States, that term most often involves a place for worship, a routine way of worshiping, a set of values or beliefs and a concept (however defined) of a supreme being that created and/or maintains our world and existence. I suppose that this is what was being debated on NPR. However, I cannot say so definitely as NO ONE bothered to define the word religion before or during the debate except for the pro-side which proclaimed that what was NOT being debated was the existence of such a supreme being and that one common aspect of all religious ideologies is that the structure of any religion affords sanctions against doubters or non-believers (“pagans” or “infidels”). That debate, I believe, has been on going since the dawn of recorded history! Now, if you want to listen to the debate on NPR, it will take you about 50 minutes of time when you go to NPR’s website. I’m not going to reiterate the points made for either side here.

Personally, I think it is a moot point, since there seems to have been no time in recorded history when there was no religion and, it could be argued, that humans are hard wired to have beliefs and values based on personal experiences, cultural and family training and an “us versus them” mentality. We look for the similarities and differences between us and "the other" to improve an assessment of danger. That's the "hard-wired" part. What we do with those assessments, is NOT hard-wired. Consequently, the question leads one to wonder if the world would be a better place without humans.

In North America, if you're walking in the forest and, in the distance, see a big, dark brown, apparently furry figure, it is appropriate to feel alarmed...most people would freeze, at least momentarily, until a better look can determine if it is a bear or a bush. If it is a bear, what kind of bear might be important to know in order to develop a suitable plan for response. For example, no matter what kind of bear, knowing that you are not capable of out running it will play a role in your survival. Knowing the difference between a brown bear or a grizzly bear gives you a chance to either make a lot of noise (brown bears are easily startled and tend to run away) or climb a sturdy tree (grizzlies, with their long claws, tend not to climb trees but can push over smaller trees). On the other hand, if you're walking down a well traveled, well lit street in, say, Glendale, CA, and see a person wearing unusual clothing that marks them as an observer of a certain religious persuasion, this is not automatically a cause for alarm. If the person is dressed differently from you, the momentary alarm (your amygdala in your brain) will begin to sound just as it did in the forest before you realized the distant figure was not a bear but a bush. So, what changed between the moment of uncertainty and relief from alarm? Recognition. You recognized the bush was not a bear and experienced relief. Recognition literally means thinking a second time. We fear the unknown for good reason. Once someone or something becomes known, our fear resolves to a certain extent. The more we know, the more options we have for responding to the world around us. What if you can't tell by how one is dressed? Should you ask? Yes, ask YOURSELF, "where are the points of intersection between myself and this other?"

Interestingly, what we need to know more than anything or anyone else is ourselves as individuals: Inside and out, conscious and subconscious, good and bad, beliefs and doubts, peace-loving and angry, loving and hateful, spirit and body. Back to religion...my observation is this: religion is the natural, human outgrowth of our beliefs and values. Atheism is as much a religion as anything else. So is science. When you are truly comfortable in your values and beliefs, NO ONE'S other belief system is a threat to you. If your values and beliefs are not yet there, work it out within yourself. Trying to convince or coerce others that your religion is the one and only true religion is, in my mind, evidence that you have doubts. And, there is nothing wrong with having doubts. We are human beings living in a world of constant change. Doubt is natural. Balance is not something to achieve but something we play at from moment to moment. Like riding a bicycle, balance is best experienced while moving forward, not backward and not stationary. Your beliefs and values serve a purpose for you. Know what that purpose is, and you'll know your purpose. Namesté.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Turning Blue in Southern California

TURNING BLUE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Karen Nelson

CHAPTER 1

Volition: the faculty or power of using one’s will (Oxford Dictionary of English).

Some years ago, a gentleman, in conversation with me, insisted that he never sees, hears or touches anything that does not have a concrete presence in reality. Red is red. Blue is blue. Do re mi is do re mi, not fa ti la! Had I tried, I would have had no luck at all convincing him that his belief was a delusion!

No one (indeed, no living, breathing organism) sees, hears, touches, tastes or smells with the brain. The brain interprets electro-chemical impulses that arrive via nerve pathways for each of the five senses. In fact, the brain, under normal operation, is so efficient at its job, we don’t even recognize the nanoseconds of time for such interpretations. And even this pathway description is way too simplistic. It turns out that nerve pathways aren't so cut and dried in their purpose. Neuroscientists have discovered that we can "see" with our tongues! And snakes, apparently, smell with their tongues.

So, everything in your mind is perception, not reality. Or rather, there is no reality outside of your perceptions. And, perception is, by definition, an interpretation of movement, of friction in space. As such, perceptions can be wrong...

What does this have to do with volition? Volition is NOT an all-or-nothing position. It is, at best, a potentiality depending on past and present circumstances for each individual.

Do you find that scary? Disturbing? Freaky? Well, let me just qualify all of this for you: while you may find your behaviors (both internal and external) not 100% of your own choosing, you ARE responsible for all of it, 100%. Taking responsibility for your life, for your thoughts, for your behavior, for your feelings while understanding that you aren’t entirely volitional in these things is, I think, what Dr. Brene` Brown calls “daring greatly.”

So, if you lay down in front of a doorway, do you have a legitimate complaint when people step on you? Perhaps not.

If, on the other hand, you are minding your Ps and Qs, acting respectfully of others and someone taps you on the shoulder and slaps you in the face when you turn around, do you then have a legitimate compliant? Perhaps.

No one that I know feels good about being stepped on or slapped. And, while you may not be culpable for what someone else does or does not do, you have a choice in how you respond to what someone else does or does not do. If nothing else, you have a responsibility to yourself to perceive your experiences in a way that allows you to survive and be well without denial, reprisals or shame.

That's a hat trick! Much, much easier to say than to do. And, it’s a choice...until it isn't any more.

So, at almost 62 years old, I'm really tired of fighting out with everyone and everything. In the immortal words of P!nk, "Just beam me up. Let me be lighter. I'm tired of being a fighter." Working for a crazy governmental agency that cares not one wit for its employees if it sees no political gain in it; being willing to throw its employees under the bus for political gain; feeling like my "friends" really don't care about me or what happens to me or support my endeavors; feeling truly alone and bereft of all human kindness really sucks, is not life affirming nor does it ever lead to growth. Neither does feeling sorry for myself. Yet, this is my default closely followed by anger.

To be honest, I don't know how to get off of this f'in rollercoaster. It doesn't feel good and brings more of the same. I went through something similar about five and a half or six years ago. Clearly, I didn't learn an f'in thing. I feel stupid and incompetent. Talk about reprisals and shame; I'm deep into that hole. Reaching out to "friends," not going to happen. They have their own problems and issues with which to deal. Clearly, one has to be on or close to death's door for them to jump into action (this is BS. See * below). Don't get me wrong, I greatly appreciate my close friends' efforts in this regard. Some more so than others.

*And now, I must modify these statements about my friends. I must take responsibility for feeling alone. I have done that to myself. My friends did not do this to me. I did reach out and expressed verbally my current state of utter confusion, grief and anger. I feel listened to and heard. Thanks, my friends (by the way, this word Friend encompasses family as well).

The only thing I can think of doing, is to jump off the rollercoaster into space. That is, essentially, what I've done after finally recognizing the years of messages: I let go of my car, I've let go of my careers (the government agency job and my private practice) and downsized all of my expenses. Some ask, "What will you do?" At this point, I can only answer, "I don't know." I'm just waiting for another message from the Universe. I'm "waiting to exhale."

And, it's not easy...I feel like Muhammad Ali might have felt after he began showing signs of Parkinson's Disease. He was a fighter all of his life in everything he did or didn't do. Even his choice of a spiritual path shows that fighting spirit.

Me, too. Though I'm not a boxer nor attached to any religion, I've always fought out for my own rights and have, quite literally, stood up for the "little guy" as a child protective services worker. I spent the better part of my tenure working in that agency investigating allegations of abuse and neglect. I worked hard to NOT detain children from their families as the State, quite frankly, is not a good parent. I have to admit, though, the fact of someone (law enforcement) having that option was a great relief.

I was a union steward and picketed my bosses when necessary. At one point, I was the only worker walking the line for several hours with my boom box playing Aretha Franklin's RESPECT and other songs that seemed pertinent to me and the situation. All that, while management came out to the parking lot to take photos of me, I'm guessing, to intimidate me. Didn't work. The boom-box volume went up, and I danced that line.

Even as a child, I have many memories of fighting out against what I perceived as wrong. At seven years old, I wanted to be like Super Girl: strong, independent, fighting for justice against injustice and, of course, able to fly at will!

I learned early on in my childhood that being scared was a liability. Vulnerability was like having a target on your back. Two of my sisters risked the "wrath of mother" by shaming me into seeing a horror flick they wanted to see. It didn't matter that they were five and six years older than I. What I couldn't control was the resulting nightmares which is how our mother learned the truth. I don't recall or, more likely never knew, what consequences they faced from the "wrath of mother." I know that she beat my oldest sister with her shoe on the back some years earlier when I squealed about my sister slapping me in the face. I was about fours years old which made sister about sixteen. I felt horribly guilty. This is not to say that I never told on my sisters again. It did mean that I only told on them when I felt I had no defense. And my default defense was always anger.

And, for the most part, it worked for me. Or, at least, that was MY perception of this strategy. It came with a hefty price that I now realize I shouldn't have paid. Over and over and over again. Now, I'm bankrupt. I have no more juice for any of it. I keep getting the message from the Universe, from Source, from the Creator, whatever you want to call it if anything. No matter in which direction I turn, the message is, "STOP!" Left, right, forward, back, "STOP!" "STOP!" "STOP!" "STOP!"

Fighting out is deeply ingrained into my identity. I don't know who I am without my fight. Last week, another friend called me and asked me what I was doing at mid-day. I replied, "Nothing." She, in an effort to be supportive commented, "Just taking it easy, huh?" I said, "No. I'm doing nothing and its NOT easy." This is not to say that I am a human "doing" instead of a human being. I can do nothing with the best of them. I haven't been bored since I was about eleven years old. Doing nothing isn't the same as BEING nothing. And therein lays the rub. "The Fight" was my raison d'etre. Struggle, struggle, struggle. We come into this world struggling. Everything we do or don't do, it seems, is designed to counter entropy. Friction will slow us to a stop if we don't fight against it! Once you're stopped, it’s harder to get going again, it takes more energy. The sweetest, most sublime music stems from friction, from this struggle against entropy.

We rail against the coming of that "good night," against the wind or the current, always trying to get upstream. Just so we can feel alive. There must be something else. Some peace, satisfaction or happiness downstream. Once I figure out how to stop rowing upstream and allow whatever I want to be, once I find out what it all means, I'll let you know, too. Until then, I'm still "waiting to exhale" and turning blue in Southern California.

"You live in a dream world of your creation. To find your way, discover your power, learn what matters.

There's no room for guilt or doubt and little need for hesitancy or half measures." Mike Dooley

"Even if you don't have reason to be happy—make it up. Fantasize it. Make a decision that you're going to be happy one way or another—no matter what." ---Abraham

"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."
Albert Einstein


The following is a brief time-line of the messages I have received in the last nine months or so from the Universe about my fighting out:

In late January, 2013, P3 workers (part-time and temporary) at Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) learned that, not only will we be fired and rehired every year like we had been beginning in the summer of 2010, but now there are new requirements: each P3 worker (75% of whom are retirees) must complete a psychological evaluation and medical assessment prior to rehire every year; for the psych eval, P3 workers would have to bring an updated resume` for the interviewer/psychologist. A number of P3 workers quit on the spot. Until this time, P3 workers, when they were released and then rehired, were done so in small groups of ten to fifteen making the process easier for all concerned and meant a loss of time of approximately 1 week. P3 workers were live-scanned prior to release so that all were approved for rehire (the older one gets, the more difficult it is for the live-scan machine to register one's fingerprints). The first group exposed to the new process went through it in February, 2013. It wasn't until April, 2013, when we learned that 72% of those workers were not rehired because they "failed" the psych eval. One P3 worker, who passed the eval was, nonetheless, demoted by these evaluators because his educational background didn't fit with a higher grade. Another P3 worker flat out refused to go through the process citing DCFS policy that there are NO new hires hired as CSW IIIs or above. She was rehired without the psych eval. Because of this loop-hole in hiring policy, the department changed its procedure to exclude CSW IIIs and SCSWs (Cbildren's Social Worker and Supervising Children's Social Worker) from having to complete the psych eval and medical assessment. However, Personnel now required live-scan AFTER release and BEFORE rehire which, for many retirees, now stretched out the lost time from one month to as long as three months. They also required that everyone be released/rehired individually rather than in groups thus isolating the individual experience.

I began a process of complaint about this change of procedure by, first complaining to the P3 manager, then to my representative on the Board of Supervisors for L.A. County. Our manager was between a rock and a hard place: typical for DCFS, she was ordered to comply with Administration's requirements of this process and yet also required to deal with the extreme fallout of workers quitting, others not being rehired, others complaining but going along with it and still others not being able to do any meaningful work on their cases due to long absences not of their making. My rep on the Board of Supervisors, Zev Yaroslavsky, apparently didn't care that his county government was violating federal law.

Toward the end of April, 2013, I complained of age discrimination by the department to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a Federal Government agency sworn to make companies and government agencies comply with federal law. One week after I was interviewed by an investigator for the EEOC, I experienced a mild stroke. The interview had gone well, and I felt bouyed by the outcome. The stroke only affected my visual perception for part of my right eye. Nevertheless, after three months, I had to finally admit to myself that I am now visually impaired at least until my brain re-wires around the damage. It took me three times as long to read the records on my cases, and driving to an unknown location for home calls was very frightening. I worked a lot from home.

When, finally in August, 2013, my car died and I learned that the department was further seeking to isolate those who complained of age discrimination by offering unsolicited raises in pay for only retirees, I got the message from the Universe. Stop fighting.

There have been other messages from the Universe as well: concerning my private practice as a hypnotherapist and my inability to make it profitable enough to keep my office; having to learn about hypnosis and neuroanatomy in order to make a presentation to students at my former school in hypnotherapy BEFORE I had the stroke (!) in an effort to put myself out there for possible other teaching opportunities; applying for disability benefits and being turned down because DCFS does not contribute to social security for its employees; and other messages always about fighting out. I'm not at all saying that these messages against fighting out are for anyone else but me. And, I still don't know where it will lead. I am willing to try anything, any suggestion once (like applying for social security disability) as long as I see it as potentially beneficial for me. If it doesn't work, that's when I give up the fight.

Back, again, to some other immortal words of P!nk: "I don't feel like calming down, no I don't. I don't feel like hiding out, so I won't. I can't turn the volume down, so I sit here in this chaos and piss watching the storm passing. Storms are beautiful. Right here it's beautiful, it is."

CHAPTER 2

So, the answer to the conundrum, if a tree falls in the forest when no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound, is no, it does not make a "sound." Sound is perceived and a brain interpretation. Therefore, if there are no brains with their sensory pathways to perceive it, there is no sound. This does not mean that there is no disturbance in air waves. Physics clearly supports this idea. Disturbances in air waves is what our physiology picks up and transmits to the brain for interpretation all things being equal. If there was a person in the forest who, say, is totally deaf, they would likely perceive this disturbance as a vibration in air or ground (depending on the size of the tree and how close the person was). That person's presence, assuming he/she was conscious at the time, would give credence to the "sound" vibrations the brain may then interpret.

Why in the hell am I writing about trees falling in the forest? Our presence as sentient beings in this world makes a difference. Just being present and witnessing life events changes those events, making them sensible if nothing else. But, to what end? Well, one of the finest minds we've ever known, Albert Einstein, said, "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." Is that true? Can we really change events simply by changing how we look at them? In some ways, yes, in other ways , no. Ignoring reality does not make it disappear. I don't believe we can change the fact of the fallen tree in the forest. Way back in the pre-history of our country, a sizeable meteor fell to Earth in the northern desert of present day Arizona. Geologists believe this event happened some 50,000 years ago during the Pleistocene era long before, it is believed, that humans inhabited the area. It wasn't even a desert at the time. We can pretend this event never happened since there was no one around to witness it. Nevertheless, the presence of the crator leaves us wondering about its origin.

In May of this year, when I experienced an ischemic stroke to my left occipital lobe, the doctor in the emergency room told me this is what they discovered through the miriad of tests they ran on me. I know this is what he told me for two reasons: a friend was with me at the time and heard the conversation, and I immediately called my sister in Arizona and informed her thusly. Nevertheless, some time in the hours or days after that conversation, my mind distorted the information and reduced the diagnosis to a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Transient being the operative word meaning temporary with little or no permanent damage. I clung to that distortion for better than two weeks before I was disabused of it in my first appointment with a neurologist. I didn't like the neurologist, but this isn't why. He did nothing to find out who I am and gave me no hope for recovery even when I asked about neuroplasticity and rewiring around the damage (clearly showing an acceptance of the true diagnosis). His statement was, "That takes years. Now let me prescribe for you this medication that works to prevent a second stroke, a blood thinner." I took the prescription but never filled it since its own website described some side effects like memory problems and confusion. While I don't know who I am right now without my fight, I do know that I am nothing without a working brain. I went back to him a month later, told him that I refused to take his medication and why and challenged him to test my blood to see if my over-the-counter supplements were doing what is necessary. He refused by lying claiming there was no such test and insisted that I had only two choices, aspirin (I am allergic) or his prescribed meds. I had a third choice, I said goodbye.

My point is this: distorting the reality to make a diagnosis more palatable did not change my reality any more than the neurologist distorting the truth changed my mind. I am fairly certain that he did what he did out of an ethic to fight against death at all costs. This would likely be his way of keeping his oath to "first, do no harm." But, without knowing who I am and what is important to me and MY life, he cannot adequately assess "no harm."

Now, back to what we CAN change. I could see that neurologist as old, as rigid and as a product of a learning machine (medical school) that finds it difficult to accept its failures. In this case, a huge failure to appreciate the wonder and flexibility of the human brain and it's outcome, the human mind, until about ten or fifteen years ago. The information was out there all along in anecdotal stories. But, because they couldn't really SEE the changes and damage before death and only SAW the unhealed damage after death, the neurological community clung to the belief that the brain is fixed by age 22 or so, does not repair its damage and is set in stone. They clung to that belief much like I clung to the distorted diagnosis of a TIA. I suspect that the old way of viewing the brain is what that neurologist was yet clinging to as well. I can do nothing to change his mind.

There is an old joke: what is the difference between God and doctors? God doesn't think He's a dostor! My own personal belief is this: no doctor is any MORE a god than I am. I prefer to believe that the placebo effect is not an anomaly, a mistake to avoid in medical research. It is evidence in support of the idea that, even with all of their schooling and experience and knowledge about the machine workings of the human body, doctors have no idea of how the human mind can find extraordinary ways to heal the body. They refuse to acknowledge the "ghost in the machine." Ghost in this sense refers to the human spirit, the power of the human mind and belief system over which doctors have NO CONTROL! Many (but certainly not all) M.D.s, D.O.s and D.C.s find that idea very scary. It seems to fly in the face of all they know, all they've ever been taught and all they believe. And, if the face of neurology can change so dramatically in just the last ten or fifteen years, perhaps doctors' knowledge and understanding of the machine workings of the human body is not as complete and final as they want to believe.

Do I believe that I can repair the damage to my brain done by an ischemic stroke? The evidence so far suggests that I cannot undo that damage. However, there is much evidence that I can help my brain rewire around it, that I can, in time, recover my brain's ability to fully interpret the input from my sensory organ, my right eye. So, I will.

Can I change the sequence of events and messages that lead me here? No. I cannot change what happened. I CAN change HOW I see it. I can change what it all means and be open to whatever new experiences are in store for me. I CAN focus my energies to pinpoint what I want for myself in this life once I figure that out! There's a psychological axiom: you tend to find what you're looking for. To the extent that this is true, I'm going to look for what I want and expect to see that within whatever configuration it appears. It is all in process. I still find myself ruminating about how things could be different. In order to do that, I have to focus on what is or what has been. Nothing is likely to change that way. I can only allow myself to acknowledge and, to a certain extent, honor this for what it is, my former strategy to protect myself from pain or hurt. At one time, it did work otherwise, I would never have adopted it as
a strategy. It has not worked well for quite some time. Time now to adopt a new one.

CHAPTER 3

Bet you thought I was done. Ha! Gotcha!

The last chapter ended with a note about time. Now, I have to talk about Time -- it is such an interesting phenomenon to me. More than just a weekly magazine, and much less than we care to know, Time does not exist outside of our perception. Yes, humans can make an instrument that, for a while, accurately measures time passing. And our brains carry the thread of our experience from one moment of consciousness to the next. But what does that even mean? Here, on the planet Earth, in an eight or nine planetary system in the "back water" of the Milky Way, we accept that there are 60 seconds in every minute, 60 minutes in every hour, 24 hours in every day, seven days in every week, approximately 30 days in every month, 12 months in every year, 365 days to every year which is how long it takes for our Earth to revolve around the primary star in our system...wait, that's not entirely correct. The Earth does not revolve around the Sun in a perfect circle. It, like all of our planets, travels in an elliptical configuration. Consequently, the Earth takes approximately 365 and 1/4 days around the Sun, and every four years, in order to acknowledge that course of "time," we add a day to the end of February, our shortest month. What?!!! Oh, dear. Another damn conundrum! This is not to mention that RIGHT NOW, in Australia, it is tomorrow! So, how old are you? How old would you be on Mars? Or Venus? And how could anyone adequately measure the age of the Sun never mind the Universe?

All right, enough time spent on Time! As you may imagine from the previous chapters, I have a point. I just have to organize my thoughts...Back in April, 2013, when I filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (a federal agency) against DCFS for violating the law against age discrimination, I was advised that the EEOC had a time limit of 120 days to investigate and come to some kind of decision about the complaint. That time limit is rapidly coming to a close this month. However, as far as I know, with the Republican Party holding our government hostage over a law (that the Supreme Court has deemed constitutional) because they don't like it, I'm guessing that the EEOC is on full furlough. After all, the EEOC is not vital to our nation's defense. Okay, I just called the investigator on my "case," and the recording confirmed that the EEOC is closed for business until further notice (as of 10/3/2013). I have no idea what this means in terms of that time limit. It may mean that the complaint is dead in the water. I don't know, and I can't effect it one way or another. I do know that since I filed that complaint, DCFS has done some backpedaling. So it, perhaps, made a difference. And, I have no way of knowing what effect my resignation had on the cases I had or might have been assigned. On the one hand, this makes me very sad. On the other hand, I know the people who remain part of that program and know they all have, at heart, the best interests of their charges. I cannot ask for anything more. I'm learning to let go of that part of my identity, too.

On 9/30/2013, my private practice in hypnotherapy and my office where I practiced closed down. In mid-September, I took the bus to my then office and began the process of closing it. I already had and understood the message of Stop Fighting Out. Nevertheless, the process of closing down something I truly enjoyed, hurt which made me angry, my default. When I was done for that day, I walked back to the bus station to go home. As I walked, feeling royally pissed, I kept to the right of the sidewalk just as we do while driving in the U.S. to give plenty of room to people walking the opposite direction. I first noticed this guy walking in my direction when he was about 100 yards away. He was, perhaps, half my age, two or three inches taller (which means, in our culture, that he was a short man), shaved head, and buff. I also noticed that, initially he began to move out of my path, then veered back and squared himself directly into my path as we approached eachother. This little game of "walking chicken" brought my anger to full steam though I showed none of it. I purposely kept my face impassive and maintained my path. He couldn't know what was in my mind, that my intention was, if he bumped me in any substantial way, he would end up on his ass before he could say, "Whoa." At the last possible second, he veered to his right (and my left) his seemingly empty backpack just grazing my arm. I kept walking, never saying a word and not looking back. I don't know what he did except that he never said a word either. I initially felt powerful and good that I focussed the energy of my anger to "stand my ground."

When I thought about this event later, it occurred to me this was a lost opportunity to not fight out, that I was absolutely stupid in doing what I did. While he couldn't know what was on my mind, neither could I know what was on his mind. I couldn't know if he had a gun or a knife or was an MMA fighter. I put my life in jeopardy for a "right." I was reminded of an epitaph written on a tombstone somewhere in New England, "This is the grave of Mike O' Day who died defending his right of way. His way was right, and his will was strong. But, he's just as dead as if he'd been wrong." Holy crap! I knew then that I still had a ways to go in this new process.

Finally, in the last week of September, 2013, I found myself ruminating about the dysfunction of DCFS as run by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and decided to write it out in an effort to discharge the negative energy. I did some research on Google about the history of DCFS and its many directors. I found an interesting piece on how the ACLU was successful suing the BOS over problems DCFS had in its abusive process at Mac Laren Children's Center. Mac, as we called it, was temporary housing for dependent minors awaiting appropropriate placement in foster care or with relatives. The ACLU's success in the Katie A. case caused the BOS to precipitously close down Mac without any provisions to replace it much like then California Governor, Ronald Reagan did when he closed down most of California's mental hospitals. While the outcome of closing down Mac brought about many more problems that I believe the ACLU couldn't have foreseen, I decided to focus only on their success. I turned my writing into a letter addressed to the Children's Rights department of the ACLU recommending they sue the BOS over the right to place on the ballot a change to the County Charter changing a political appointment of Director of DCFS to an elected position. I sent off the letter with the intent that this would be my last attempt to encourage a change for the positive in the DCFS culture. I don't know if this will do anything and, quite frankly, will not follow it further. The fact that I found the information so easily including the address of the local chapter of the ACLU suggested to me this was not an incident of fighting out as long as I commit to no further demonstration.

This last sentence might sound odd or slightly superstitious, but this is part of what I've noticed in my process of late. I already explained what happens when I try something I think may be beneficial to me and experience a stumbling block. I walk away believing it an opportunity to stop fighting out. This last effort regarding DCFS only benefits me as a way of discharging remnants of frustration and anger. Sending it off to the ACLU is a sign of hope for our future. Continuing that fight is nothing but an effort to hold onto the frustration and anger. And who needs that? Well, some people might say that anger and frustration are a little better than depression and melancholy. Frustration and anger represent more energy and less entropy. There's truth in that statement, and the changes some might see in my behavior might look like depression to some. I am not depressed or melancholic. Depression is marked by a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. That is one hole I'm not in right now! For those who are, I agree with the witicism of Will Rogers (no, not Trigger's cowboy!) who said, "When you find yourself in a hole, the thing to do is stop diggin'." And, from that hole, getting "royally pissed" can be the first step out of it as long as the energy is focussed outwardly and positively. Facing off against some short, angry stranger on the street, not a good example!

Many years ago, in my most stupid mid-twenties, I got myself into a relationship with a married man. Not my proudest moment, I know, I know. When it became clear that he was using this situation to play me off against his wife, I, initially felt helpless. My therapist asked a simple, but very important question, "Where's your anger?" Because I was wrong to be in such a relationship in the first place, I didn't believe I had any right to anger. When I finally got in touch with my anger, I wrote him a letter (starting to see the pattern?). I accused him of pretending to be a prince gathering a harem of water lillies when in reality, he was just a frog. And frogs don't know how to treat water lillies. All they do is sit on them, shit on them and move on to another. I sent off the letter and let him go. Then, I focussed that energy into getting an education and getting on with my life. I never again involved myself with him or any other married man. This is a good example of digging out of the hole of depression.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene` Brown lists several of the "great unravelings" of life, a time "when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and embrace who you are." Her list includes mid-life, marriage, divorce, becoming a parent, recovery, moving, an empty nest, retirement, experiencing loss or trauma and working in a soul-sucking job! This last one made me wonder if she knows about DCFS. She goes on to say, "The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We're just quick to hit the snooze button." Amen to that!

Now, I am beginning to exhale!