The Wheel of Time is Exceptional!

I entered a completely new landscape in the past few days, a land where women are incredibly powerful and racism does not exist. This land exists in the new series “The Wheel of Time” on Amazon Prime. I should preface this by telling you I never enjoyed fantasy before this. I walked out of the first “Lord of the Rings” movie because I found it all so male and predictable. The “Wheel of Time” is a series of high fantasy novels by American author Robert Jordan and spans 14 volumes. The first volume “The Eye of the World”, was published in January 1990.

This high fantasy has many characters all on a quest to save their world from “the Dark One.” Set in an alternative world very unlike ours, the main characters are dynamic, compelling women who wield amazing and unpredictable powers. Filled with subtlety and rituals, I found this story to be the opposite of most fantasies in that nothing was easily predictable about their quest. First of all, the women were the wise ones and leaders in this world. They held most of the power, unlike human traditional society for the past few centuries. I found it entertaining how sexist I could be in my own mind when the women took charge and ruled the world of The Light. The characters dealt with dilemmas like women needing to mask their power in the past and how they might show no shame when they embrace their power now.

I also enjoyed the way both European and Asian mythologies are displayed, most notably the cyclical nature of time found in Buddhism and Hinduism, and the characters’ respect for nature found in Taoism. The metaphysical concepts of balance and duality are well displayed as well as a creation story where the creator is Light, not the Lord, and the “Dark One” wishes to destroy human life on earth.

I found the casting amazing in that all cultures, skin colors, and languages of people were expressed. It seemed there were no “races” in this world. They also seemed to make a point of not selecting the most beautiful or attractive for the lead roles, all were represented like life itself. So much about the casting was the opposite of traditional Hollywood practices and it struck me how surprised I was with that. I LOVED IT!

The other thing I loved was how much I learned from the characters, both men and women as I watched. For example, there is a group of travelers called “The Way of the Leaf.” They are totally non-violent and their wise woman Ila explains why. At one point in the past Ila’s daughter was killed “for sport” and she wanted revenge! Then she discovered:

“What greater revenge against violence than peace? What greater revenge against death than life? If I can change two peoples’ minds I’ve left the world better than I found it.”

The Wheel of Time created a geologically-interesting, beautifully appointed imaginary world to live in for a while with magic, subtlety and ritual, all things I was encouraged to abhor as a child. Most imaginary worlds have the same basic rules as our present world for me. They just seem too predictable. Not that portrayed in “The Wheel of Time.” I was left guessing the whole time and I loved that.

The movie for academics and us bookish types!

“So, you went to college. Is your life better because of it?”

First of all, you should know I was raised on college campuses and worked on them my entire adult life as an academic librarian. As kids, we collected pop bottles on campus and I was born at a university hospital. So when I watched the film “Liberal Arts” this morning it spoke to me in so many interesting and unique ways. This screenplay is superb!

This film, which premiered at the Sundance Festival in 2021, deals with so many important aspects of life: love, romance, sex, maturing into adulthood, retirement and what happens to aging academics. The story is told from the perspective of a 35-year-old played by Josh Radnor, who wrote, directs and stars in this little gem. He plays Jesse, an admissions counselor in NYC whose life is on the skids (fully disillusioned and going through a divorce), when he is invited back to his small liberal arts college for a retirement party for one of his favorite professors.

Jesse absolutely loves returning to college. Ah. the feel of total irresponsibility on a small liberal arts college campus! There he meets a few characters who complicate is pathetic life. There’s a beautiful, young woman who he falls in love with over long-distance letter writing, there’s a mysterious elf-like creature who shows up regularly to share his truths. ‘Nat’, played so well by Zac Efron, seems so ethereal that Jesse says at one point, “I’m not even sure you’re real.” There are a few bitter older professors who cause Jesse some serious disillusionment over choosing the academic life, as well as a college kid who is right on the edge of giving up on life all together.

Jesse slowly begins to see that being such an intellectual and expert on books and ideas has stunted his growth in terms of simply living an authentic life. He connects with everyone through books and ideas. When asked at one point why those of us who are lucky enough to go to college should appreciate it, he says, “Because you have time to sit around reading books all day, and you have lots of smart people around to discuss ideas! That’s not true when you leave here…” Yes, college was certainly that for me, and caused one of my greatest disappointment in life. I’ve been seeking intellectual types to talk with my whole adult life. Where are all the intellectuals in rural Huerfano County, Colorado?

When I saw the preview, I thought this would just be a fun romp through the ridiculousness of academia, something I am a bit of a expert on. Oh the stories I could tell… “Liberal Arts” turned out to be one of my most favorite films. It somehow covers most stages of adult life and disillusionment with so many great lines like, “I think being old will be OK. It’s getting there that kicks your ass.”

See this film if you loved getting lost in books, being in college and have felt disillusioned ever since. You know, if you happen to be an academ-idiot like me!

Further thoughts on being an academ-idiot…

Thank you readers!

As one more year slips away, I wish to thank all of you who come by here occasionally to see what’s happening in Mike and I’s life. I know we are not action-packed, just 65+ers surviving day by day…

You may sometimes wonder why I write here. The best reason I can think of is to keep myself going. As most of you know, I have been slammed with health problems in the past few years, and the truth is, I don’t know how much longer I can keep writing, but it gives me meaning every time I do it. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother. Don’t worry, I am NOT trying to be an ‘influencer’ here.

In return for your loyalty, I will share a few of my favorite T-shirt sayings I have seen lately. I don’t wear T-shirts, but if I did, these are the ones I’d choose. Perhaps you can relate to a few of them:

From years of living alone:

Sometimes I talk to myself, then we both laugh & laugh!

A Rasta Special:

All dogs are therapy dogs. Most are just freelancing.

From the therapist in me:

Keep talking. I’m diagnosing you.

From the writer in me:

I’m silently correcting your grammar… (And also noticing all misspelling everywhere!)

From the analysis paralysis in me:

Hold on. Let me OVERTHINK this…

And my favorite doormat:

Come in. We are awesome!

Aren’t we all a little lost in ‘Nomadland’?

I know, I get the movies a lot later than most of you. I borrow them from La Veta Public Library, such a lovely, friendly place, where everyone knows my name 🙂 It’s so much more personal than streaming…

In the first few minutes of watching the film ‘Nomadland’ I thought about my brother John, who was homeless until about a year ago when we helped him find a home in Walsenburg. I thought, here we go, this is going to really make me appreciate the fact that I have a lovely solar home on a ridge overlooking the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo range, and yes, it certainly did that. But as I got deeper into the daily life and choices of Fern, the roaming nomad in this film, I understood the metaphor presented for all of us to relate to. Questions like: Do we need to work to feel adequate? Do we look down on the nomads we meet and should we? What about all the homeless in towns like Walsenburg whom we see sleeping in doorways and down by the river? What about them?

Nomadland was unique in some ways because all of the characters were mobile, moving from place to place for jobs, or help from others, or whatever suited them. The freedom of being mobile was important to who they were. They also found great fellowship with other nomads by camping together for long periods of time. Not everybody wants to be alone all the time, or around others much of the time. I got their lifestyle and their choices. I loved the honesty with which these folks spoke of end of life choices like choosing not to die in a hospital, and their own celebrations of life when one of their members died.

Many of them were depressed and why not? How many of us wonder everyday about our world and where it’s headed? Past a certain age, loss is a major factor for all of us. Loss of abilities, health, independence, loved ones, stability and sanity. The characters here deal with all of that day to day in an honest way, like we all must to some extent.

Pretending that life will not change or that this will not end soon is hopeless. We may all be lost in our own version of ‘nomadland’ and this film might help you accept that.

What have I found to be healing?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our use of the word “healing” in normal conversations. There can be no doubt that many who have defined themselves as spiritual healers have plundered this word to gain the trust of those who feel unhealthy, unhappy or incomplete in their lives, but what does it really mean?

Definition of healing: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the process of becoming or making somebody/something healthy again, OR with physical damage or disease suffered by an organism, healing involves the repair of living tissue, organs and the biological system as a whole and resumption of functioning.

I have been incredibly lucky to have experienced mostly good health in my life. Even as I suffered from many emotional challenges, I kept my physical health, mostly. It has only been in the past six years that the physical difficulties arrived. In my past, my struggles have tended towards emotional.

This morning’s sunrise from our home in rural southern Colorado

Emotional Healing

I finally found a truly ‘healing’ therapist in my thirties in Boulder and met with her for over five years. She provided for me my first trustworthy relationship in my life and then proceeded to offer me reframing and reparenting therapy, which showed me why I had suffered so much in my past and how to move forward in a more healthy way. This is why I believe strongly that most could benefit from finding the proper psychotherapist and spending a few years building trust with them. There is no doubt in my mind that this therapist saved my emotional life and set me on a much healthier path towards full-personhood. But this healing therapy required much trust and time to occur. I paid cash for those five years of counseling, and to this day I feel those were the best dollars I ever spent!

Spiritual Healing

In addition to a number of positive counseling relationships with others, I used the skills I gathered from studying counseling at Naropa University for five years, to learn to love and accept my Self, so much so that when I hit a major midlife crisis at age 49, I was properly prepared to change many aspects of my Self. When I got divorced, lost my job and then my career, I found I had the time, the need and energy to spend a year or so alone, deciding what was next for me. That was when I made a conscious decision that my highest priority for the rest of my life was to experience genuine love and loyalty from another person. As soon as that became my most honest and powerful priority, I met someone worthy of my love and trust.

This has been my second most powerful healing experience for the past seventeen years. Learning trust on deeper and deeper levels has made me feel truly safe and happy for the first time ever.

The Healing Power of Nature

My final healing experience might at first appear contradictory. We moved to a rural space in southern Colorado in 2014. At first I was resistant because it was all so foreign to me. I had always lived in cities for my career as a University Librarian. Now I found myself in a bit of a foreign land and it took me a few years to adjust to the peace and beauty of this land…

From the beginning it was the silence that seduced me. Observing sweeping, majestic sunrises and sunsets also gave me a new sense of purpose and peace. I found my city-induced, unconscious level of vigilance slowly melting away as I relaxed into the safety and peace of Mother Earth.

Today I rejoice in the fact that I have found my sacred place to throw my ashes when I die…

In contrast, my health has slowly dwindled by living at 7,000 feet. It took me a long time to accept that I would need supplemental oxygen to continue to live here. Falls and concussions have become more common. No, life is not perfect, but this place still feels like home in the best sense of that word.

When I look out over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains numerous times each day I feel certain I am home…

So, as I look back over my life I see that I needed to learn lessons in loving my Self, loving others and loving the silence and solace of living closer to nature to heal my life. All of these avenues to better health were chosen by me either unconsciously or on a fully conscious level. All I feel is gratitude at this point in my life…

Postscript: After further thought I realized I need to add a few more important avenues to my own healing: pets, art, music, travel, writing, reading, art, color, my still lifes, the weather, photography, gardening, and especially the SUN!

Are all illnesses caused by our minds?

You cannot control how other people receive your energy. Anything you do or say gets filtered through the lens of whatever they are going through at the moment, which is NOT ABOUT YOU.

I met a new person this week who has me quite perplexed. After speaking to her for only a few minutes, she offered me quite a bit of advice. She diagnosed my problems as, “You need to get out of your head to attract good health and healing.” Her swiftness and certainty was disturbing and mildly annoying considering the fact she does not know me at all. She apparently believes all physical ailments are simply a manifestation of emotional problems. Solve those and the illness disappears. This left me wondering, if I told her I have lung cancer, would she recommend better counseling?

To deal with my confusion I spent some time today talking with my favorite health professional about my exchange with this self-defined “healer.” She first emphasized to me that there is no certainty in the field of medicine. That is why they call themselves “practitioners.” Even what may seem like a perfect diagnosis after months of testing and analysis still has no certainty. So for someone who describes herself as a “healer” to decide after just a few minutes of conversation that she knows how to “fix” me is absurd. That same health professional I once told to “Walk a mile in my shoes!” when she suggested that she knew how it felt to be constantly out of breathe while dealing with a severe head injury. Since then my friend has read and recommended the book: “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” by Jill Bolte Taylor Ph.D., who experienced a massive stroke at age 37. Now I believe my friend has a much better understanding of what I deal with every single day.

Blaming the victim?

I never forgot an image from my counseling internship at a rehab hospital 25 years ago. I went in to speak to an elderly lady and the first thing she said was, “Why is this happening to me? Doesn’t God love me anymore?” In other words, what did I do to deserve this illness? First of all, we all will die of something. I do not believe we “cause” everything that happens to us. Did Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained brain scientist, cause her own stroke? Did I choose or cause myself decades of bronchitis and extreme breathing difficulties? Did I somehow choose to almost die numerous times from hypoxia? What about genetics, air pollution, and my choice to live a stress-filled life in a number of foreign countries?

What do we hope for when we make ourselves vulnerable to others?

What I need from others when I tell them about my difficulties in breathing and concentration is caring concern, non-judgment and, most of all, compassion. I crave exactly what David Richo lists in his book “How to Be an Adult in Relationships.” Drawing on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, David recommends we offer others our attention (observing, listening, and noticing the feelings at play), acceptance of them just as they are, appreciation of their gifts, limits, longings and affection.

After a lifetime of carefully observing how others respond to pain, I was disappointed with this recent acquaintance. Some run away from pain or change the subject. Others immediately try to “fix” me. When they suggest that they have simple answers to complex problems I have been dealing with for decades, I know they do not know of what they speak.