April 25, 2008

Feel the Yearn

At the gym this morning I did the unthinkable - I grabbed a magazine to read on the stair master: Oprah's magazine. But for once, rather than the usual savage beating such magazines normally bestow, I was rewarded this time. Oprah had interviewed Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun. Her point is this - we humans often have complaints and discomfort with our lives as they are and we are constantly seeking a 'fix' for our problems. What if we could (I'm paraphrasing here) develop a passion for our lives as they are, rather than reserving our passion for the life we imagine we would rather have?

"The problem is that we have so little tolerance for uncomfortable feelings. I'm not even talking about unpleasant outer circumstances but for that feeling in your stomach that—or heart—that I don't want this to be happening."
And the solution? Feel the feeling, rather than dismissing it or medicating it away. Stay with it. Hold its hand, because it's what we have in common with other humans. It's what allows us to be compassionate with them even when they're behaving badly. My particular uncomfortable feeling is the yearning itself - I grow exceedingly weary of wishing for things to be different - different job, different hair, different wardrobe, a home, a sense of security, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

As I was driving home from the gym I listened to radio story about a special law in Colorado that makes it easier to charge juveniles as adults - a reaction to Denver's "Summer of Violence" in 1993. The interviewees were chock full of explanations and excuses on the prosecution side, questions and demands for accountability on the defense side. No one discussed compassion, because hey, that's a trigger word that would instantly label the argument as woo-woo and dismiss it as irrelevant.

Maybe it really is irrelevant. Compassion isn't something we can impose on ourselves or on other people. I've often admonished myself to "be compassionate," but if you have to admonish yourself, is it real? Wouldn't that be mere 'acting?' Yes, and it's fake - we can't know how to "act" compassionately if we don't experience real compassion in ourselves. We can't impose it on ourselves. But that's how we're most comfortable - we think if we buy the right product or repeat the right words in the right order, we'll feel better. Sooooooothing, isn't it.

April 18, 2008

Malignant Growths

On March 20, 2008 I learned that my uncle has a large, malignant growth on his leg, and "fifty to sixty nodues on his lungs, that are probably malignant."

My first thought was "I wonder what 'nodue' means."

My uncle is a retired junior high school teacher in the L.A. public school system who referred to his students as "niggers," "spics," and "beaners." At home he was a violent alcoholic whose wife protected him with scorn and derision for anyone who came near, presumably because she feared their criticism. One Thanksgiving he punched me and my cousin, about 7 and 10 years old, in the head. Rapid fire, "bam bam," all at once, without spilling a drop of bourbon. More than 20 years later I can recall the dull pain in my jaw and hear the ice tinkling in his glass.

My cousin once innocently asked me why I feel bad about his father (my uncle) when he did "the best he could for his nieces" whose "real father was such a screw up." (Yes, that's my Dad he's talking about, who cared about what happened to me, who never laid a hand on me except with love, who paid my freshman tuition, who gave me a safe place to live in high school, who fixed up my series of old cars with his own hands free of charge, who gave me difficult books to read, who taught me to cook, who cared about what I thought and felt, and who told me never to settle for less than I deserved.) When I reminded my cousin of what happened that year at Thanksgiving he grew numb and said he doesn't remember. He wasn't defensive, he just faded away; changed the subject. He doesn't remember ANY of the beatings he received from his father while my mother and her sister stood greedily by, enjoying my cousin's fear and shame.

There was a time when the news about my uncle would have filled me with guilt and angry glee. But I don't feel glee. Just relief. And I don't feel guilty anymore when saying the world is simply better off without some people. Especially those whose only goal in life is to abuse others. I'm not advocating for the death penalty, I'm just suggesting that, if you truly love people, maybe feeling joy when their tormentors are dead is simply . . . normal.

I'm not sure what I feel about this news. It's a lot like having a malignant growth removed.

April 17, 2008

Denver at the Edge of Spring

March at the Denver Botanic Gardens:

Enduring, stubborn little flower husks that refuse to fall over no matter what.

April 11, 2008

The View OF My Desk

This time, for reals, here's a bona fide snapshot of the corner of my desk - this time it's my desk at Scott's place:

Regrettably I lack the Photoshop sophistication to add cool labels just like my hero The Bloggess, but if I did I would have labeled: (A) the interesting fruit photo taken either in Africa or at the Sea of Cortez by my wildly talented and well-traveled future mother in law, (B) the folders labeled "Porta-Potty Incident 2008" and "Taxes 2007," and (C) a worth-while little book about verbal self-defense called "Tongue Fu," which is sitting in my inbox waiting for me to outline it.

That green thing (by the way) is my inbox.

Speaking of inboxes, this year I've been embracing the "Getting Things Done" method from David Allen's book by that title. It's been a revelation.

All the best to you and yours. :o)

April 3, 2008

The View From my Desk

What has Red Flashlight been doing?

  • Taxes. More taxes. Other taxes.
  • Playing Settlers and Milles Bournes.
  • Moving unique pieces of paper from one location to another.
  • Suing a telecom provider under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  • Theorizing about the nature of the universe.
  • Teaching violence prevention to Middle School students.
  • Going to the gym.
  • Negotiating with insurance to repair the port-a-potty damage.
  • Watching "The Riches" on DVD.
  • Writing detailed disclosures under 'simplified procedure.'
  • Wondering why there's no beginner's manual for practicing law.
  • Worrying about family and wedding business.
  • Setting real estate showings for a start-up, part time.
An now, because I love including visuals, here's the view from my favorite 'desk:'

One drawback to this location: bad, loud music. Otherwise, It's my office of choice.