Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chicken Soup & Perseverance

"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” -Christopher Reeve

It’s been a few days since I’ve written anything and I’m anxious. I’m anxious because I haven’t written in a few days, not for lack of ideas or stories to tell but because I’ve been very busy with my day job and evening job. Between dealing with plagiarism at the University of Phoenix (pre-published thank Buddha), to starting the first day of my three classes – I’ve felt a lot like a chicken with my head cut off. [I was not prepared to work the 17 hour day this Tuesday, especially after not being able to sleep Monday night.]

Maricopa Community College District courses began on August 20, 2011 and I had my first course for Chandler-Gilbert on Monday night from 7:10-9:50 pm. It’s funny that doing what I always dreamed to do still gives me butterflies in my stomach – not necessarily because I am nervous, more because I have the tendency to say information (sometimes personal) about myself and once you have announced it in class – it’s public. On the first night of class, I went through my introductions, student introductions, syllabus review, class expectations, and tried to incorporate fun into each of the classes I met for the first time. I make an effort to make a good impression with everyone I meet no matter what. I was more successful in some than others but I’m sure comedians have the same problem, some audiences get the jokes – some think they are lame. I laugh at anything but I was quick to realize I am mostly alone in that respect.

One thing I have always taken pride in is being myself, all the time, even in high school – I purposefully didn’t fit in (that electric blue sequined dress in the class of 2000 yearbook from Prom Court 1999 shows historically I have stuck out in a crowd [sorry, I just didn’t want a pastel dress]). I’ve never really minded it much, fat or thin – I don’t fit a mold but it isn’t a bad thing, on the contrary I feel good knowing that I am different from everyone else. (Humming Jessie J’s song Who You Are in my head.)

Each of my three classes has a distinct culture. My Monday night class at Chandler-Gilbert Community College is full of students, mostly under 30, and were quickly (in my head) dubbed the Happy Hour Class. They all genuinely seem to be fun and very unthreatening. My afternoon class (same class model) but at Estrella Mountain Community College is very serious. It seemed like every time I was looking for a smile I found a frown. Not sure what I’m going to call that class yet, I’m hoping today everyone lightens up a bit. Reminder college is supposed to be fun (and work). My evening class on Tuesday/Thursday at Estrella seems to be very light hearted and friendly, most of the students are adults with families very comparable to my own – so teaching them public speaking should be really fun. They are going to be my Prodigy Class.

I think I made a fairly good impression Monday (despite the room making me feel like I was dripping with sweat). However, Tuesday did not go as planned at all. I began the morning nearly being hit in a three-car highway closer situation (they missed my bumper by a foot), normally I would’ve called or stopped but because I had the after work commitment I had to just keep driving so that I could be at work on time. But I was immersed in feeling disappointed in not being able to help, but I was also so exhausted I wouldn’t have made a good witness anyway. After opening my inbox at the University of Phoenix the drama unraveled and I was made aware of a serious issue with one of the courses I am developing. Plagiarism by the subject matter expert let me know that the day was not going to be easy. Since I was not feeling well because I didn’t sleep – I didn’t eat very much and found out (the hard way of course) that I must make sure I eat in the middle of my 16-hour days or I will embarrass myself.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” ~Calvin Coolidge

Who was the adjunct faculty member dry heaving in her class as they were walking out of the room? This girl. Typical luck, so not only was I sick - I humiliated myself in front of half the class as they were leaving. I felt horrible. So I had about two hours before my next class and I tried desperately to eat something, even though it was just beef broth. What happened? Well, I began dry heaving in the Adjunct Faculty Office in front of the secretary… I sounded like I was dying, she kept asking me if I wanted to cancel my class - but I have that no-giving-up attitude (especially on the first day)… I reassured her I was fine and I would be fine. I did manage to maintain my composure for the later class until after the students left – but I quickly fled to the bathroom. Then after some cold water on my face I proceeded for the long drive home across Phoenix Valley to East Mesa.

A few lessons I learned quickly from my experience:

· I am too old to go without sleep anymore, with 30 creeping around the corner I guess I just don’t have the resilience I had when I was 19.

· No matter how hard you try, inevitably your daily fate is not within your control. If I could go back and redo Monday night and sleep six hours – it would’ve made a huge difference in Tuesday, but I can’t and the only thing left to do is press on.

· Keeping the not-giving-up attitude, though I felt a lot like I was acting as a professor and not being a professor on Tuesday – I still got through it, dry heaving and all.

· Being myself is all I can be, whether it’s good or bad, I’m staying with being me.

“A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her.” ~David Brinkley

Photo by me, August 2011.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Being a Child at Heart (and in Reality): Both are OK!

Today I arrived at work ready for the day. It’s going to be the first day of the next 16 weeks of chaos. The first day of Maricopa Community Colleges semester; I’m excited I will be teaching three courses, which is quite an increase from my one course this past spring. The courses I am teaching this semester include two: introduction to communication courses and one public speaking course.

Instead of focusing on that or any of the work in my inbox today – I found myself on the Disney Store online to see which Disney Princess was released for the Disney Princess Designer Collection. I couldn’t help but to remember the days shopping with my mom and dad, and the long drives to specialty doll stores to purchase dolls I was only aloud to look at, never touch. I laugh out loud thinking about how I reacted to that concept as a child, why would you waste money on something you can’t play with? (I still kind of feel that way.)

But following in my mother’s footsteps, I raced to the Disney Store in Scottsdale (closest one to where I work) to waste my break time (and hard earned money) on buying Nina a doll she can’t even take out of the box. She got 6447 of 8000 on the first in the series Cinderella Designer Collection Fashion Doll, now only 9 more designer princesses to go.

After carefully inspecting each doll to come out (they were on a large display in the store), I came to the conclusion that I will be buying two Ariel’s and two Mulan’s because they HAVE TO come out of the boxes. I know I’m a child but if I get one for myself out of the box, Nina is going to have to have one out too and the prettiest one in the set (in my opinion) is definitely Ariel. (Mulan is my favorite so I’m getting her out of the box for myself.)

Either way I realized something today, I may be a child (at heart or in reality) but it feels great! Now I can’t wait to get Ariel and Mulan… watch they will be the last two released… that would only figure!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finding Peace When the World is Throwing Rotten Eggs

“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.” ~Marcel Pagnol

I work in Corporate America. If that statement doesn’t tell a story then you haven’t been awake for the last ten years. My day consists of collaborative teamwork and nothingness. The first thing I think of when I say the word “nothingness” is The Neverending Story that I watched as a child. I remember the young princess screaming at the boy reading the story “Bastian, what’s my name?” Then the two of them sitting in nothing but darkness and Bastian asks something to the affect of ‘what will happen to Fantasia’ and the princess says “whatever you want.”

On a daily, if not hourly basis, I find myself in that darkness – it’s a pit of despair that everyone around me is also stuck in. The nothingness has consumed us all. We don’t say anything because we have to be “happy we just have jobs” but the truth is we are silenced by the thought that we and our families could be left with nothingness – but in essence the nothingness has already consumed us. The nothingness monster can be anything from our bosses, to our spouses or even the traffic we get stuck in during our morning drive. Often, we all feel we are in an inescapable place because we don’t try to escape. We feel there is no road out, because there really may not be one. What a waste we are being nothing. Our lives revolve around whether we have a good day at work, essentially whether we please others. No one stops to realize we aren’t even pleasing ourselves. But the nothingness is everywhere, how can you escape it?

“Stop searching the world for treasure. The real treasure is in you.” ~Pablo Valle

I go back to the scene with Bastian and the princess. After spending hours and hours reading this book, he realizes he was the most important person in the story the whole time. So why not be the most important in your story? Stop trying to please others because their pleasure doesn’t depend on you, it depends on their own growth and happiness as a person. I often watch one of the associate directors at my job, nearly skip around the office with pleasure and I find myself loathing him because he has made so many of us unhappy with his ill rulings – yet, he is as happy as a clown. Why? Probably because he doesn’t know everyone hates him and he is stuck in the reality that everyone really likes him. I am jealous. Why am I dwelling on all this hate when he is skipping around? Shouldn’t I be skipping around and saying “I’m not going to let this job affect me as a person. I am happy with my life, I have a family who loves me and nothing about this job defines who I am as a human being.”

"This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time." ~Narrator, Fight Club

If you are an unhappy person, you tend to spread your unhappiness – even to your loved ones. Stop! Stop dwelling on all the things you can’t change and focus on the things you can. If you are trapped in your Corporate America job, only be trapped at work - don’t bring your work home with you! If you are trapped in a leadership role and you don’t want to quit because you’re not a quitter – don’t quit, but leave that anxiety in the emails you read in your inbox. (All lessons I am still working on myself.)

Now I recall the scene from Groundhog Day where Bill Murray re-living every day over and over again and he has an epiphany – “I am going to change.” He takes up piano, starts saving the day and becomes a better person than who he was when we started the movie. We all carry so many unnecessary burdens around with us all the time. Like the fight you had with your spouse this morning – don’t reconvene it when you get home. Let it go. The sooner we find ourselves and try to make ourselves happy, the happier people and things around us can become.

"Be the change you want to see in the world." ~Mahatma Gandhi

Don’t live in the moment, live for the moment. So you had a bad day, so your inbox is full of garbage and drama, so you got stuck in traffic, so you had a bad morning with your spouse. So what? None of these things are worth dwelling on; if for only a minute you try to change your own perspective. You can persevere through this stage in your life. Make the best of the situation you have been dealt. Of course doing the best at a job you hate is difficult, especially without recognition, but by doing your best you are going to feel positivity knowing you are doing your best.

“We practice Buddhism so that we can develop and improve ourselves, and carry out our human revolution in our workplaces, in our families and in our communities. We do so in order to create the greatest value where we are right now…” –President Ikeda, Soka Gakkai International

When we work to improve ourselves, our responses and initiate the mission of kosen-rufu in our lives we are creating order and balance. Good comes with the bad, and the dreaded nothingness disappears and becomes something we could have only dreamed of.

I have a job in Corporate America but I know I am the best at what I do and everything else in-between. I am striving for the philosophy of changing my own reality. I will continue to follow a courageous path wherever it leads, whether it is mountains or molehills.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Inspiration: Something You May Not Always Want, But Do Always Need

(Image at left drawn by my daughter, Nina Marie Williams, age 3)

I subscribe to daily Buddhist emails from and I will be the first to tell you that more often than not, I get exactly the email I need on any particular day. Today’s email was two fold; it was about being a strong person and accepting who you are. In my communication courses, I always do a segment on self-concept, self-image, self-perception and self-esteem; though these are each separate in entity – they are common in nature. Understanding one-self is something people struggle with from early childhood through late adulthood. Accepting yourself as merely who you are can be the trickiest thing you may ever do. There were several key points in today’s email I feel are worth mentioning and giving my own interpretation/perception on. The blue pieces I am incorporating for this post were written by Jessica Ainscough, but the blog itself is primarily written by Lori Deschene.

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” -Mahatma Gandhi

Control what you can, and let go of what you can’t. (Worrying about it won’t change it, so why waste your time spinning your wheels?)

On the issue of control, I won’t lie - I struggle with it on a seemingly daily basis. I find myself often trying to control not only all the elements of my job, but the elements of my home-life, my husband, my daughter, my dogs, my dad, this list is long. But in actuality, I don’t really control any of the elements (even down to my dogs). Every entity in life has an uncontrollable karma, sure I can punish my dog for chewing a hole in my favorite nightgown - but I can not “control” the thoughts or the fact that my dog will probably do it again. (She’s a puppy, puppies chew things.) I like to think that I have control over my work, but in reality my job is done in a highly collaborative environment and when one person fails to do their job, they cause a kink in the project – though I might catch their error, they have successfully slowed down progress. So, knowing I am a control-freak without any control… seems futile. But going back to what I said earlier this is merely self-perception, when I really think about it – I am more passive than I am comfortable with. This past weekend I was told “learn your place” and as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I know my place – but I do need to stop worrying about all the elements of my uncontrollable life. When I finally stop worrying about it, I will make peace with it. I know that, but letting go as I’ve mentioned on other days is the hardest thing one can do (especially when I perceive myself to be a control-freak).

Learn to love yourself. (Death is a part of life for all of us. Coming to terms with your own mortality adds an extra layer of empowerment to your life.)

Learning to love yourself, go back to two different items I mentioned above “loving self-image and self-concept.” As much as I try, (and have tried over the past few months) I can’t find happiness in any image I have of myself. My husband likes to mention I have a problem with vanity shots for my facebook account. I take photos of myself constantly. The other day I gave him the excuse that “I only do that when I spend time on myself and I like my hair or the outfit I’m wearing.” I shutter to think I lied about that on the spot. I really do it because every day I struggle with my own self image; I don’t seem to ever really like a picture of myself. I always find a flaw; I can’t keep my profile photo the same for more than 48 hours because I find a problem with my own image. I do not think this is just a self-image issue; this is a problem with my self-concept as well. I give the impression that I am a professional, strong, intellectual to the world - but when I look at my own self-esteem I feel like I am still that third grader that was taller and wider than everyone else with glasses that I didn’t want to wear (and clothes my mom picked out).

I see myself slowly getting older and I realize my own mortality could be ripped away from me in an instant on a Phoenix highway driving home. Yes, I am that scared. This same feeling of losing my life makes me depressed because I would leave my family, most especially, my daughter without a mother. (And again, my mom’s death enters the picture. It pops up everyday in my own thoughts.) So when will I be empowered to rise above all my self-created negativity, imbalance and fear? I hope someday, it’s a slow process though and as Jessica indicated in her writing it took two strikes with cancer before she finally got it. I have already been in one serious motor vehicle accident that there was a 90% chance I shouldn’t have made it out of. I mean being hit from behind and swung into a 180-degree angle into oncoming traffic going 65mph+, being hit head on and flying another 180-degrees plus… should’ve pretty much sealed my fate. It didn’t and I’m still here – then why am I depressed? I read once somewhere that “Depression is not a sign of weakness, it is just a sign that we have been strong for too long.” I’d like to think that is why I’m depressed frequently in my life, but I won’t hide behind a quote this time, the real reason is I need to come to terms with my own mortality and self-image and until I do – I will be stuck on this page of my life.

Spend time with people who make you happy. (This seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how often we keep people around just because they are familiar or because we don’t want to rock the boat. Of course, this is a little more difficult if the negative energy belongs to someone you love.)

This one is very hard for me because I do spend time with people who make me happy, but very often those people are stuck in the wheel of depression. My husband has ankylosing spondylitis and it literally rips the joy out of him every day. I watch the person I love fall subject to his illness and there is nothing I can do about it. I can be there and be supportive but I can’t escape the negative energy that pulls at him. My daughter on the other hand, is an amazing gift, she believes in herself unwaveringly and why shouldn’t she? She’s four years old and she believes she can do anything. (Even water bending, thanks Nickelodeon.) The innocence of youth has an amazing way of making you feel amazing. I wish I could go back to my youth and appreciate it more for what it was and less for what it wasn’t. But we can’t change the past; we can only change the perspective of ourselves to make a better future. Bringing me to the next point in Jessica’s article:

Get some perspective. (When it seems as though life has handed you a bad hand, take a moment to think about all the people who are in a far worse position than you.)

I remember all the times I used to complain when I was little, my mom would always see “You have it so much better than so many other children, next time you think about complaining – think about everyone else who is worse off than you.” (She was truly wise beyond her years.) After hearing those words (which I heard quite frequently) I would sit and reflect. My idea of reflecting was to sit and think of all the things I had - rather than all the things I didn’t. Believe it or not, I think those times of reflection is what has helped me have such a wonderful memory today. I can recall moments from my early childhood where I felt extemporary freedom, honesty, trust, value and beauty. I remember a moment where I stood on top of a large rock (that marked the edge of our property) and I had my eyes closed but my head was facing the sunshine and I felt warmth throughout my body and was truly feeling “on top of the world.” I remember that moment as often as I can; it usually puts me in a good mood. It was a mere moment where I was one with the universe and I could only see blind light and warmth. I recommend everyone searches deep within themselves and looks for these types of moments frequently.

Pay it forward. (Being charitable, doing your bit for humanity, going out of your way to do something for someone else—it all helps to make you feel good, as well. Not only will it help others and attract good karma in the long run, in the short term it will give you a great feeling of self-worth.)

Ever since the movie Pay It Forward (which I cried like a baby through) – I have tried as a professor to offer moments to my students that shed light on the fact that anyone can make a difference, small or large. I often tell my students about a time in my life where I could only find darkness and with the help of one single person, I was able to overcome a great deal of obstacles. This person was more than just a mentor, she was a friend. She didn’t just care if I graduated; she wanted me to graduate with honor. It’s really true that if you help someone you feel warm and cozy inside, but in this economy it makes it hard to help anyone with anything other than words. Not just any words of course, words from the heart. I started writing again for three reasons, one because I hoped that someone who needed it would stumble upon it one day; two because I needed it and three because if I do end up one day with my life cut short, the people I love (Zach, Nina, my dogs, my dad, my aunts, my uncle, my cousins & my in-laws) would know how much I cared about them and they each were true inspirations in my life whether they knew it or not.

Today, I want to mention one particular cousin who I don’t think she knows it is an inspiration to me. Her story wasn’t really this short (but for the purposes of the longevity of this blog, I will abbreviate it). I won’t mention her name because she doesn’t know I am writing about her, but perhaps some day she will come across it and feel happy to know this is how I felt.

She got pregnant when she was fifteen, my family and extended family was not nearly as supportive as they should have been. We are the same age (only separated by a couple of months) and as family’s do we were often compared to each other: I was looked at as the “good” cousin and she was the “bad” cousin. But for the record, I think it probably was the other way around. She stayed in school until she was very close to having the baby, often walking to and from school pregnant (and the distance was more than a mile). The people we went to school with were generally shitty people; but adolescents are mean – and they were mean as children, so why expect otherwise. Either way, she had it pretty rough for quite some time. She wasn’t given the same opportunities that I and my other cousins were because she had a baby. At the time, I noticed, but what could another 16 year old do to make a difference. But the part of her that was so inspirational to me was: she took care of her son, kept him and finished high school despite the odds of not. I was adopted and everyone in my family knew, but I don’t think she ever realized how much I respected her for not putting her son up for adoption – at no point in her pregnancy nor in his life did she see that as an option. I respected that decision more than I think she ever realized. She now has four children and is a great mom. She is happily married and in general is a lot happier than I remember her to be, at least compared to her adolescent years. Even though she may not have a college degree or some highly respected job, I think she has much more than she even realizes. In fact, I know several executives who would trade their high class worlds for simple “meaningful” lives like she has.

Get your OM on. (The absolute best way to re-connect your mind with your body is to meditate.)

Finally, the last portion of my blog for the day: (I know you were probably wondering if this rambling would lead somewhere.) I just finished watching the cartoon series Avatar: the Last Airbender and not to sound like Kyle on South Park but “I learned something today.” The avatar series was based on Buddhist and Dali concepts and ironically enough, every time the lead character would come to a difficult trial - he would do as the monks taught him. Meditate. I don’t know if I have ever really meditated in a formal way, but I do “zone out” frequently. I call these moments “Lost in Reflection” usually I remember some happy moment from my childhood, or a moment with one of my dogs (past and present), my mom, my daughter, or some weird event that happened to me which makes me laugh out loud. These moments can be brought on by something someone says, does or even music which makes me reflect to the moment I first heard the song. For some reason my brain processes these moments and shuts down to the world around me and all I can do is live in this reflected moment. These moments are the moments I live for; they are a stop of the watch, a moment plucked out of time for my review. Unfortunately, as I’ve grown older these moments are not always happy, sometimes they make me cry. The problem is they are so real when I have them; I am reminded of the emotions that I had while they were happening. I do actively try to only reflect on happy times but as balance would dictate, some moments must also be sad. Just as the yin is to the yang, I can not always reflect happy without bringing out the sad. But reflecting on sad moments of my life doesn’t mean I always feel sad, actually when I think of sad moments – I try to fix the emotion I may have had. When my mom first died, I was devastated, then shortly after I was emotionless, then disappointed, but now I just feel sad. I think my evolution of feelings on this particular moment has been for the better. Perhaps that’s the point to meditating, reflecting as you should have to moments when you might not have. Either way, reflection is good and incorporating meditation into your life can only make your actions better with enlightened wisdom.

This image is a painting by Jim Thompson. More information on his art can be acquired at this web address:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Peace of Mind, Freedom, and Lack there of

I started this blog as a tool to lead myself to peace of mind. I’ve used many other artistic models for this in the past. My first tool was drawing; I started when I was very young and got pretty good when I was pretty young. In fact, one of the earliest times I remember being hurt was when someone in my elementary school first grade class told me I had traced a picture that I had drawn. I remember feeling so hurt that one someone would think something so beautiful wasn’t my own work, but also it threw me because it was one of the first times I was called a liar to my face.
When you are young, other children are mean. It is also true that when you are an adult, other adults are also mean. I would question whether it is human nature for us to be cynics. The sad part about my childhood was I never really had any friends. Don’t get me wrong, I had family who were much nicer, understanding and worth their weight in gold as friends. But I never really bonded with other kids in my age group. Many kids were mean to me because I didn’t look the way I was supposed to (but even as adults – our vision of ourselves is skewed). If you are too fat, you are wrong. If you are too skinny, you are wrong. If you have a pretty face, you are probably wrong. The list goes on. Either or, I learned by young adulthood I had to be comfortable with my own appearance because in essence: I was the one who had to look at it the most.
[My husband and I determined when my daughter was born that she would be home schooled, with social activities such as ballet to create friendships and bridge the social gap home schooling creates. We both disliked traditional schooling methods for various reasons, the clich├ęs, the bullying and lack of an educational curriculum which is slowing diminishing in the American Education System. (I recently read an article that cursive is no longer required. How sad we have come to such a state that music, art, and our cultural essence has diminished so much.) But this is all off topic, back to my main point.]
I continued to draw into college to relieve stress and give myself peace of mind, but at one point in my life I shifted gears into writing. (It was probably around the time, I focused on English writing as my undergraduate major.) I loved art and drawing but after about a year and a half of art school, I knew that if I continued on that path, I would not only learn to hate my hobby - but I would also have a very difficult time finding a job.
When I first started writing, I began with traditional poetry which often rhymed or followed a pattern – later I would find that that particular style of writing was “old school” and it was “in” to write your personal stories and creative concoctions. When I began writing about myself I was uncensored, it was drilled into my head that if I was going to write anything, it should be the truth (you know - freedom of speech who-raw!). That was the first time I got burnt as a writer. Someone read something I wrote and determined it to be unprofessional because I had written exactly how I felt, swear words and all. At that point in time, I took a step back and tried to be more censored. I’ve actually followed that suit for well over seven years now. I avoid swearing or stating exactly how I feel because it isn’t accepted by everyone.
I truly believe that when I began censoring my feelings and writing, I took a huge step backward. Even now I avoid saying exactly what I’m thinking because I want to pursue peace, but pursuing peace and achieving peace of mind have definitely turned out to be very different things.
I actually feel as though I have regressed to elementary school and the professionals I deal with daily are merely kindergarteners in my class. Not only is my peace of mind hindered, my freedom seems to be as well. I’m constantly worried about who is watching and how I am being perceived. I’ve spent most of the last six months making what you see when you “google me”: professional, admirable and successful achievements. But I don’t feel any peace of mind and my freedoms as an individual are being squashed. I’m struggling to find my peace of mind even in my own image and the more I search for it, the more my husband seems to dislike me as a person because I’ve changed.
A long time ago I read a quote “The only thing in the world that is constant is change.” I feel this is accurate because I am constantly changing myself to find myself - yet I’m not sure I am lost - just some of my elements are. Even as I look for guidance daily in Buddhist literature; I often find exactly what I’m looking for, but just when I begin to feel empowered again – something happens which makes me feel like a prisoner again. I was literally told this weekend by a colleague that I “need to learn my place.” My problem with that comment is I know where my place is, it is where I have worked so hard to be. Yet, why am I feeling most of the time like I need to take a time out and find it all over again?
To Be Continued.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Birth to Death & all those Things In-between

I spent the last week in Pennsylvania because of a death in my family, but oddly enough not much time was spent dealing with the death and it reminded me a lot of when my mom died.

My mom had terminal cancer and was given three months to live. She was the only person who was strong during those three months and she left me, my dad and my dog to pick up the pieces afterwards. When someone dies no matter what philosophy or religion you believe in, people come to pay their respects. For a week or two, your house may be transformed into a shrine where there is constantly a discussion of memories, old times, the good, the bad, the ugly and loneliness. While your home is a shrine, people come and go and bring stories about your loved one – these stories may not be any you were directly involved in, they are usually the personal experiences of your loved one and that special person who came to pay their respects.

After the week or two has past, you are alone. I don’t mean physically alone, you may live with your parents, spouse, and/or pet but mentally alone. You start to realize how much of a role that individual played in your life. I think this is when the official grieving begins.

I spent much of the month of July, reading Buddhist philosophies on death, dying, aging and everything in-between. Did I find the answers I was looking for? No. Will I ever find the answers I’m looking for? Doubt it. Why did I waste my time? Because one of my mantras is to try to always make sense of things, not necessarily a tangible sense of things – but sense that I can deal with and accept in my head. I learned a lot about Buddha and his experiences of encountering all the problems of life and I could probably answer any question someone would have on how he came to the conclusions he did. But one thing I am still trying to do is accept the past.

Dr. Seuss said something to the affect of “Don’t be sad that it’s gone, be happy it happened.” Very basic concept and I am happy that I have wonderful memories of my family who have left this cycle of life – I also hope someday I will meet those people again in another life. But learning to accept what’s been taken from you unfairly is more than an overnight adventure. Letting go is more than a one day choice. Memories of your family and friends resonate at random moments in the present and future, sometimes they make you happy and you smile, sometimes they bring on the tears.

What did I gain from all of the research I did over the past few weeks? A clearer understanding that I am not really alone, everyone feels alone frequently – there is a cynic in us all when we seek out to make ourselves happy all the time because in reality we can’t be happy all the time because our good and bad experiences are all a part of our hearts. You never know when a moment will resurface and you will have to deal with it again. You never know how many times that moment or another will come back to haunt or to guide you. What you do know is, it’s only a moment and moving forward to make new moments is all that you can really do.

I will miss my family that has left this cycle of life forever, but I will chant to make sure that I remember all the moments of them I have in my memory and I will not let anything stand in the way of making new moments to remember forever. I believe that’s how great stories are made, by floods of memories and adventures we’ve been or wish to go on.