One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces. “There are two wolves struggling inside each of us,” the old man said.
“One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self-pity, fear . . . The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love . . .”
The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: “Which wolf wins, Grandfather?”
His grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”

This blog is about the constant struggle. Mostly about mine, but then all the major themes running through my life are universal to everyone else. If my experiences are able to help even one single person find their way through the labyrinth of life, then I am better equipped to stand in the face of any adversity and say, "Bring it. BRING IT! And pack a lunch." Its not about me at that point. And for me, that is the point, the whole point, and nothing but the point.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Flea circus, or how I stopped hating and learned to love my enemy

Lately I have been reflecting on the theory of the fleas in a jar. It goes like this- say you took a bunch of fleas, and placed them in a jar. I don't know why you did it, but just go with this for a minute. So you put the fleas in a jar and put the lid on. The fleas are not pleased and try to jump their way to freedom, only to smash their tiny bodies against the inside of the lid. "Dang it," they think. "Best not to jump that high, that hurt like a mofo!" And so, they reduce the velocity of their jump, and do not hit the lid. Thats about the time you decide to remove the lid. Now those guys could, if they wanted to, escape the confines of the jar. They leap and leap, but don't make it out. Previously they could have, but now they have set a limit on themselves, and they can't seem to realize that the power to escape is theirs. The limitations are self imposed. and so they perish in that jar, even though freedom is at hand.

Damn! This is so like life. I am constantly finding those self imposed limitations, and also constantly wondering about the ones I don't even know about. The most recent is in regards to finances. Since March of 2009, mine have been a hot mess. I was laid off of a really well paying job in the fashion industry and found myself in line for food stamps, selling vinegar at outdoor markets when I could, hosting poker parties (I sucked at this; I am not a flirt and it is a requirement), making jewelry and selling it at local stores, and making calls for a law office about class action law suits. Then I got a good gig doing a project that I was passionate about in December, which tanked two months ago before launching. All the while, my ex has refused to pay child support, and let me tell you, that child support would have been a huge help. It would be right now. And even with the project, its been a rough spell, since they only brought me on part time.

During this rough patch, more people than you can shake a stick at have come forward to help me. Its astonishing the love I have received from my dear friends and the people in the recovery community. I have survived almost entirely on miracles, and have learned that the net DOES appear when you leap. Now its time for me to be the net for some one else.

But still, there has been a self imposed limitation. A limitation I was not born with, one that I learned. I seem to constantly be struggling to make ends meet. Last month, when the project folded and I was given only half the pay check I was expecting, my power was shut off, and I didn't have the money to have it turned back on. I had just been hired at a new treatment center (ONE80) and my new boss heard of my predicament and he himself called the DWP and had it turned back on. I have never experienced an employer going to this length for me, much less on my third day of work.

But I could feel this code red in the financial area of my life, never having the entire rent, worrying about my car being repo'd, or having to neglect one bill to pay another, it was getting out of hand. Wtf?

I was given two almonds and told to put in my wallet by a new friend, who did not know of my financial woes, who said, "This will bring you prosperity." Another friend told me to say, every day, "Money comes to me quickly and easily, and it always has."

I did these things. But more stunningly, I started to notice the opportunities I was being given for a real paradigm shift.

When I was little, my dad impressed upon me his loathing for people with money. They were the enemy. This was mostly instigated by my mom's family. He came from a long line of railroad workers, while my mom's dad lived in a big house in Atlanta with a baby grand piano, a real zebra rug, and a library. My dad hated my mom's family and made no effort to conceal it.

My mom's dad had a daughter who was one month older than me- my aunt. We played together a lot when we were kids; when we were littler, the money thing did not matter so much. Yes, it was hard to go to her big house and play in her big pink room that was almost as large as our apartment. But it wasn't until we were pre-teens that I began to really develop an inferiority about it. When I had one pair of Calvin Klein jeans from the Odds and Evens store and she had them in every style and color. When the shoes I wore for two years were finally replaced, my toes curled painfully inside them, were 4 sizes smaller than the new ones that fit, and she had a closet full of barely worn, correctly sized, shoes. It began to take its toll, and I could see why my dad would hate the wealthy, especially in our position. What else could one really do? And so that thing took root in me; reverse snobbery. The rich were the enemy. My enemy.

I've always enjoyed my bohemian sensibilities and have been really good at convincing myself that I do not want too much in life. I've had my moments, where I have found the perfect YSL boots for $1500 and curled up in fetal position for days for want of them. Not really, but I thought dramatic effect would help get the point across. Whenever I wanted something 'out of my league', it always felt terrible, and made me despise the people who could afford that stuff even more. SO I tried not to want stuff, and made a game out of making sure my whole outfit didn't cost more than $100 all together. I made it be MY choice. And its been kinda fun.

I last saw my aunt when we were 14; there was some family drama following the death of my grandfather and that ended it. She has always stood as the beacon that shone the light on my state of lack. As much as I loved her, I couldn't stand that all those lovely things came to her so easily. But what happened to her was not lovely- she lost her father when she was 18, then her brother in the same year at 21, and many years later, her husband and the father of their two little girls. Her life has been filled with tragedy. I've thought of her often, and was sad for her losses, but we didn't speak.

Fast forward to now; I find myself working in a treatment center that is filled with people who come from that world of privilege. 20 year olds driving range rovers, 19 year olds looking to invest a half a million in something or going to their dad's yacht off Ibiza...these are the very people my father warned me about. And how absolutely perfect that I should be in that situation. Because what I have learned is this- compassion. I have learned that it is so easy to have compassion for a homeless person, sleeping on a bus bench. Their condition is obvious. But these people- they have the same state of squalor inside, although their outsides are so perfectly packaged and pampered. they are just as deserving of compassion as the homeless.Of course, not all people of privilege have this condition of spiritual emptiness, but for me, being around these people who are given everything and feel like nothing were exactly what I needed to undo the spell that was cast on me when I was young. They are not the enemy. These people have become very dear to me, and I care about their well being and their future. I can't even understand now how I, a great lover of humanity ,could have overlooked the fact that the rich are people, too.

As I was watching Pretty in Pink with my kids, it really struck me how that division is created- Molly Ringwald and Ducky hated the rich as well, as it flew in the face of the poverty they lived in. Hating the rich was not only sanctioned but encouraged by pop culture. She had to overcome it in order to be with that sparkly eyed guy with the pouty lips, and so did he, for love to prevail.

And for love to prevail, so did I. I feel a huge relief. And I know that this is a big piece of my self imposed limitation that has been keeping me from prospering. I had not applied love to it, and love cures everything. But there was still more. And that involved my Aunt, the two almonds, and the mantra mentioned above.

In the span of a week, I had gotten the almonds and the mantra, and had gone to work (was working very part time and for the least amount of money per hour I've made in years and years) and as brought on board to do some marketing stuff on the side, thus increasing my salary. Then I got a call that I had a check from a year ago at the store where I sold my jewelry. I kept saying that mantra. And then, in my mail box on facebook, there is my Aunt, whom I have not spoken to for 27 years. My best friend growing up and the source of so much angst. Now, in the midst of this spiritual shift, as it should be. She is a huge part of this and healing of this relationship is a big part of jumping out of the jar for me.

And yesterday at work, I am offered a full time job in a different department with a small increase in salary, as well as the outside marketing stuff. My income just doubled, a little more than that in fact. Its still not as much as I need, but the shift is happening, and its progress, because I know I will be making not only what I need, but more than that, enough to give my kids the things they need at their age that they are going without, and me too, for that matter. Best of all, I am doing what I love, with people I adore and respect and cherish like family.

I am always so astonished at the way God works. "Ask and you shall receive" isn't so much like Santa Claus, but more in the way of asking not for the thing but the ability to see why you are not able to see the opportunities that will bring that thing. We jump to low, we get tunnel vision, we rush right by our dreams. I ask to see the things I can not see that block me from my full potential as a human being, but also what human characteristics block me from my full potential as a spiritual being. I can't possibly know what I don't know, but I can ask to be illuminated. And then its my job to pay attention. To suit up and show up. To act out of principles. And own my own shit. And be open to waking up and waking up again, as often as it takes to become whole and complete and one with the divinely animated universe.

The dialogue between me and my Aunt has commenced, and I don't know the outcome, but to reconnect at this time, exactly now in this paradigm shift, has healed much. And it isn't terribly far fetched to imagine that was her exact role in my life, critical to my own soul's development, and the whole reason we didn't talk for 27 years- so that her re-surfacing right now, so synchronistically, would be dramatic enough to shock me into a whole new level of consciousness and awe.

I am not less than (or more than) her, nor is anyone less than me (or more than) me. And perhaps I am to fulfill some part of my destiny with her right now, some missing link that will illuminate her journey in a new way. I don't know. But God assembled quite a few players to impress a new mode of thinking upon me, and I am grateful. From Alex and Berni and Justin at ONE80, to my Aunt, to Napoleon who suggested i say that mantra and invite wealth into my life, to J who gave me the almonds for prosperity ALL in the matter of three weeks, to my family and their drama that tore my aunt and I apart for so long, to my dad who gave me his legacy to begin with- all of this so I could see more clearly,

They say when the student is ready, the teacher appears. I am finding that when I am ready to accept it, the people who have brought about the most discomfort in my life have been my teachers all along. It isn't the teacher that appears, its the student who appears when we become humble enough to recognize the teachers. I have learned that I do not have any enemies. Nor am I an enemy to anyone. I have learned that its important to insist on illumination. I have learned that love is the antidote for all darkness. And, oh yeah, money comes to me quickly and easily and always has. And always will. Word!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nerds, corn, and dragons, oh my.

I had a funny sort of epiphany this week. The type of revelation that, in the true spirit of revelation, reveals to me yet another layer of armor that I had not previously been aware of that keeps me from being truly present.

Something this week that was meaningful to me was referred to as 'corny' by someone else. That same person also referred to the hobbies he had as a child, that he still loves to this day, as 'nerdy'. Things such and building models, reading, studying the dictionary. Quiet activities.

So I started thinking about this. The whole concept of 'corny.' Its a judgement, first and foremost. But a judgement of what? Usually things that are so fraught with significance that its obvious, and therefore embarrassing. We can not stand for anything to be blatantly sentimental. Billy Joel has a whole song about trying not to mess with a tender moment; it gets intense and he wants to do something to defuse it, say something silly or screw it up somehow. So now we seem to be programmed to avoid doing something that could be deemed 'corny', and that is pretty much anything where we let our guard down or say something sentimental that might not look cool.

I can't help but reflect on all the times in my life that i have wanted to say something entirely sweet or loving to someone, and, out of complete fear that it isn't reciprocated, or deemed corny and looking foolish, clammed up and said nothing. Fear! How much of my life has been dictated by fear? How many choices did I make to avoid being uncomfortable? Too many. I once couldn't fathom taking a risk of that magnitude. Now, I can't fathom not.

As for nerdy, yet again there is another judgement word for past times that are not deemed cool. Not deemed cool by who? I'm not really sure who makes these decisions. Perhaps any past time that involves solitude, or thinking, anything academic as opposed to ego serving, like shopping or doing drugs or making out, or which are not considered that which magnifies your gender's most obvious aspects- competitive sports, or cars or cheerleading. I am referring to high school because we carry those labels, and the fear of those labels, into our adult lives.

As my beautiful friend sat there, peacefully building models with his sons, he called it 'nerdy.' He said, "I used to love all this nerdy stuff when I was a kid." And I thought, well, no, I actually said, "No effing way, this is a valuable, quiet past time when alone, and something your sons will remember always. Its not really nerdy. Its fun and relaxing, isn't it? " And he was like, "Oh, yeah, you're right." And I was right, because he looked content. Moreover, he is showing his boys that its okay to have hobbies that allow for using hands, crafting, sitting quietly- no computer, no hoopla, just focusing on a project. That is missing in our culture- so much emphasis on interaction, and showing off that the value of focusing on a project or learning because one loves to learn in one's spare time is mostly lost. And just that one word- NERD, helps shut people out of that arena for fear of being judged. It got me to thinking about my childhood, spending so much time alone, reading all the time, building houses out of boxes and mud huts for crickets...nerdy. And suddenly I don't want to fight the label anymore. I want to embrace it. Emancipate it. Re-appropriate it. I AM A NERD. I AM A CORNY NERD!

I am a nerd. And I am corny. Because I will no longer be afraid to leave a tender moment alone, will not fear being vulnerable (or, if I do, I will just have to climb over it and stay present and take risks in spite of the fear), and I will embrace the quiet activities and solitude that nourish my soul and make me better company. It seems silly to have spent years avoiding these things because of labels concocted by pimply teenagers. Its crazy to me how we live at the behest of others, always seeking approval, always shrinking to fit the situation. But it is learning to identify the bars of the cages we build that is the challenge, and love is the thing that melts the obstacles that kept us small. There is nothing else more worthwhile than becoming more authentic, and more available to others. The process of self discovery is easily the most epic journey. It is what the old fairy tales meant by the slaying of dragons. Its why the dragons always needed virgins- the dragons of our psyche devour all our innocence and leave us trembling in fear. The hero's journey takes place inside. As they say, the longest and most epic journey one can take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart.