Saturday, October 1, 2011

What defines "family"?

Greeting Brothers and Sisters, and thank you for casting your gaze upon these scribblings. I hope this moment finds you well and well-tended.

Time to toast the silence again with a question for those who have pondered such things - what, exactly, is a family made of? The obvious first answer is borne of biology and then expands out to unions, but how can we move beyond these boundaries or even knock them down and allow ourselves to choose who we want to live our lives with and not be shackled by traditional definitions that often trap us in situations that we would ordinarily not willingly embrace?

These questions arise due to a looming issue with a "family" member. I use quotations because by definition, this person is a part of my family but is also the type of person who I would avoid at all costs and certainly seek to shelter my children from. We are talking about a person who has spent a lifetime seeking the "easy way", and now finds herself in the position that she has sought for decades. This is a woman who endured verbal and physical abuse herself, and allowed it to be perpetrated upon her children, yet would not divorce the man responsible for the following reason;

"Why settle for half when you can have it all?"

So, now she is there. With the death of her husband, she now "has it all" in the form of material things like investments, a big house (paid for), and all the other "stuff" that kept her in her relationship for so long. She has "won" her prize, yet finds herself in poor physical health and with far too much to manage on her own. This has created a situation where her 2 children are being pulled upon by emotional manipulation to come to her aid so she can maintain her lifestyle without having to give up her new booty. Offering to pay her son minimum wage to become her handyman/laborer/go-fer so she can run off to the casino and do her thing is one of her solutions. Never mind the fact that he has his own life. Crying on the phone about her fears and loneliness, yet unable to find a solution that does not require a major disruption of the lives of her kids to make the next transition. How does one sift through the rubble of the past to arrive at the "right thing" that needs to be done?

This is a woman who once said to my wife, out of the blue, "You know, I think Winona should have been an only child" (Winona being the older of my two daughters). WTF does that mean?!? That our little one isn't worthy of living is what I get from that. This is a person who has made a career out of tearing others down and back-stabbing while putting on a smile and adopting this sweet little old lady stance. She is evil. She is of the opinion that I am worthless as a partner since I do not act like her husband did - being the "provider". I may be deeply flawed and possibly even a loser, but I have NEVER beaten my wife or told my kids the were worthless and would only succeed in life by using what lies between their legs to get ahead.

So here we are, facing a choice about what to do with this person. The vengeful part of me (or maybe the wise part - I honestly don't know yet) wants to allow her to enjoy (suffer) the fruits of her efforts, yet there is a compassionate part that sees the damaged child that is scared and in need. Then there is the notion of "duty" to one's family that keeps coming up. But I ask you, does this exist? What obligations do we have to those who brought us into this world? How many of you have family that have been cast aside because being around them was seriously detrimental to your mental health?

I remember being faced with a similar choice when my father was dying. We had moved into a small cabin at my auntie's resort in the north woods with my aunts and uncle to care for him as he slipped out of this world. Winter was upon us and we were faced with having to move into the main lodge with all of them as our cabin was not adequately equipped to deal with the cold, and I could not fathom being under the same roof with my "family" all winter ( images from "The Shining" kept appearing). I had a brand-new baby and a house back in the city to deal with, not to mention the thick cloud of tobacco smoke and psychopathy that hung in the air in that lodge, so I chose to move back to our own home and let my elders deal with my dad. Upon informing him of my choice, he cursed me and said that this would never be forgiven, and that I was violating some sort of family code. This from a man who left my life at age 2 and popped in and out for the next 20 years and never contributed a dime to my upkeep while my mom raised me and my brother (different dad) by herself. Was it my "duty" to expose my own family to the virtual and literal toxicity of that place just so he could be happy in his final months? I didn't think so and I have never regretted that choice.

I did return in the spring and was there for his final breath, spending the last few days sleeping at the side of his bed to help him deal with the dementia that had arrived due to his cancer moving into his brain, and when he asked me to help him end his suffering I obliged without hesitation. This was not done out of a sense of duty or from some sense of obligation, but rather out of a desire to help the human being in front of me. I would do the same for a complete stranger. There was no inheritance, no windfall or cashing-in, just the desire to do the right thing as I understood it in that moment.

So now a similar situation has arisen with my mother-in-law. She is toxic in the extreme, and is eminently capable of inflicting great harm to my wife and kids due to her complete lack of a filter on her mouth. Our current life situation is not perfect in every way, but the one thing we have cultivated here is a deep sense of respect and an abundance of love for one another. The thought of uprooting my family and exposing them to such potential harm causes me great angst, and does for my wife as well. Are we bound by blood or is there a different meaning for this word "family"?

I often visit many of your blogs or read your comments and have come to view you as a virtual family that brings love and wisdom freely without any sense of obligation. I have very little real family alive and the same situation exists for my wife. I see so many of you as my kin and have felt blessed by the love you have given me over the years without even ever having met most of you in person. This is what a family is in my mind - people who choose to come together and find a way to support and honor one-another with no thought about what is to be gained in return. I have heard it said that we choose who we will be with before we enter this realm, and that is often a tough one to wrap the brain around, but at what point does the blood connection cease to have any meaning and become a shackle rather than choice? I really don't know and am asking humbly for any insight any of you may have regarding this distinction.

We are most certainly in the midst of the Apocalypse. All of the sticky, nasty stuff we have been carefully hiding away seems to be surfacing whether we like it or not, and the time has come to sort this shit out once and for all. Some appear to be meeting this challenge with grace and amazing strength, while others are completely melting down and losing their shit. I find myself vacillating back and forth between the 2 and hope to find some strength and wisdom by putting this out as call for assistance from my own family, wherever or whoever you are.

I do hope that life is bright and filled with kindness and loving embraces for all of you. I know that things seem really dire in so many ways, but I also know that we are capable of moving beyond what appears to be our current "reality" and finding the real definition of what it is to be a loving and supportive group of scattered and separate entities (or so it seems) and live our lives as a true family, no matter what has come before. All it requires I think is letting go of the hurt of the past and a willingness to see where we are One, not many. Best of luck to all who choose this path.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Moving In Stereo

"Life's the same, I'm moving in stereo,

Life's the same, except for my shoes

Life's the same, you're shaking like tremolo,

Life's the same, It's all inside you....."

Well, that really about sums it up - thanks for dropping by!

But seriously, what can be said at this point? This point of "nothing is as it was (or appeared to be) and anything goes" we have arrived at seems poised to rewrite the rules of existence and the question then becomes "what'cha gonna do about it?"

I can tell you what I have been doing. Absolutely nothing. The past 6 months of winter were spent emulating a large bear or possibly a hedgehog, with only short periods of activity (mostly shoveling snow endlessly) interrupting the stasis. A sort of half-aware state that offered a great deal of reflective space and an opportunity to get dragged off on some pretty interesting paths by the ceaseless actions of that old reliable friend, the Mind. I will observe that the passage of time has accelerated to the point that it really is pointless to try and "keep up", so learning to surf the waves rather than try and outsmart and avoid them has been a good practice to be in. I should add that the surf is definitely "up", so suit up and meet me at the beach later and we'll have us a grand old time.

There was a self-imposed internet-free zone in the middle of my hibernation and I must say that after I got over the initial withdrawal and settled into the heightened isolation, it was a wondrous thing. It showed me that rolling around daily in the world of internet "news" was damaging a part of me badly and it needed to stop. I'll say this as observation, and only as a personal view, but dragging one's soul daily through the endless parade of doom porn has consequences. There is "being informed", then there is "wallowing in it", and I'll state that no matter how many different ways you can say "We're hosed" (with links and pictures!), it does not do the soul any good to get too wrapped up in it. It is just an illusion, after all.....or so I'm told. For some, this is their profession, and others are obviously aspiring to make it theirs as well. Good luck with that. You should be plenty busy from now on.

Ultimately, when one comes to terms with the reality that we are ALL doomed in one way or another, it comes to the question - "now what?" For many it seems, this real is seen as the only avenue of expression and there is no "next" plane or expectation after what happens here. This leaves the opportunity to go absolutely into indulgent mode and act out in all kinds of ways. If this is truly all there is, then they might as well pull the pillars down on the way out. I think it is clear to see that this is what is occurring in the places where those who fancy themselves "in control" gather. The party is ending, so let's go out with a bang. Many have spent decades, lifetimes even, sussing out who and what these creatures are, but they are somehow always out of sight and just out of reach, so we'll never know the full extent of any of these dramas and I believe soon it will no longer be relevant to those who wish to exist beyond the system of hierarchy and dominance. The character of "Mr Gold" in the excellent movie "Revolver" comes to mind. It's all mysterious and creepy and even a bit amusing in some ways if the right frame of mind is engaged. It sure seems to work for an awful lot of people, though - seeing the ills of the world as being the product of shadowy ghouls and bad guys. That is one choice and I respect it entirely. Be afraid works for both parties ultimately.

So what of those who sense a new beginning rather than a tragic end? How about seeing the destruction of our old flawed ways as a beautiful thing? Is that even possible? No one wants to have their comfort zone messed with, but it is here and not going away, so again the question becomes "what are you going to do about it?". This is where the sense of being split in 2 has emerged - Moving in Stereo if you will, because movement is certainly called for and a division in 2 distinct directions is quite obviously needed. Finding the balance will be the key of course, as always.

One path is the remnant of the old - one of "taking care of business" and doing the best to maintain the responsibilities to those who's space I share. Yes, I will help my kid fret over college options and whether or not she can have a Facebook account, even though I see these things as fading from our reality with great speed. Pets need to be fed, friendships maintained, and things that need tending to will continue to be tended. But in the meantime, the other path is all about preparing for the new reality that is being created before my eyes. This path is all about becoming the thing that is ready to make a transition in a willful and deliberate manner rather than being dragged along or pushed. This whole trip has been about shaking loose the baggage, and there is work to be done yet.

When I look back at the past winter, I see a resting state that has provided a clear image of what is to be anticipated, and gave lessons about how all things that pass before our senses have within them the power to teach. In this current time, it seems more intense than ever. I can't get away with anything these days. The most obvious reminder I have of the work to be done is found in a mirror. I see the weight on my body as ballast, or an anchor to keep me stuck in place. I see the obsession to "collect" guitars and musical gear as another form of "piling on" of things that keep the density up and the distraction heavy. It is so clear, yet these things remain unresolved. The mental exercise has hopefully been completed, now we'll see about practical application and results (please).

Of all the things I long for in the physical realm as I stretch and move again after the slumber, I want to learn to move my body. Being somewhat of an athlete as a young man, the effects of being sedentary for so long are currently showing how far one can go to the other end of the spectrum. I am aging, creaky, tight as hell from not stretching and need to shed a significant amount of weight. This will be aided by further exploration of how to actually eat and by declaring the space between the ears "Closed for the Season" and working out body rather than mind. In the meantime, if anyone knows of a good Tai Chi workout video or similar low-intensity path to help re-awaken a sleeping bear, please let me know.

Above all, the lesson learned from the time in the cave was this - you get what you give out, and low vibrations are going to attract the same without fail. With any luck and willing participation from those on this path with me, I hope to explore the deepest depths of the other end of that spectrum. And really, as cliche as this one is, I have to begin by learning to love the one called "Z", because without that in place, I'm not going to be of much help to anyone else. It is time to fully emerge as a true Love Person, because THAT is where we are heading.

Believe it.

Love to All