We just took a trip up to Denver for a few days, and I mean “a trip.” I never get used to the many changes that happen as we drive up there. As far as Pueblo, the highway is pretty mellow, but north of there we quickly get into “get the fuck out of my way” traffic. That’s how I differentiate city traffic from life down here. Suddenly everyone around me is in a gigantic hurry, swooping down on me and sitting on my bumper. This just doesn’t happen much down here, especially on the county dirt roads…
My Mom is doing OK in her senior patio home, although she misses Dad terribly. She says she’s lonely and a little depressed. I get so nervous when she drives in Denver. It’s beginning to be too much for her now. She’s looking forward to moving to assisted living after Covid restrictions lift. Soon I hope. Even going to the store is stressful and exhausting for her.
For me, being with my Mom is always a reminder of the environment and rules I grew up with, especially because she seems to think I’m still ten years old. Heaven forbid I might make some choice or decision on my own! Sometimes I really can’t believe that I’m 65. I’m sure she never believes it. We also have to remind her ever few minutes what day it is and what she’s doing today. It’s sad and yet she is quite comfortable with no real health issues besides a slow dementia.
Yes, it is difficult to see my Mom this way, and yet in her more coherent moments she sees that she has had a great life and appreciates that fact daily. She says she is ready to downsize her life and have others around to help all the time. Thank goodness she can choose and afford the help she needs.
Ever since I wrote this post about taking a worry vacation,I’ve been thinking more about why we worry. Of course there is a reality to why we worry. When I watch the tiny birds outside my window, I think about their worries. They need to be ever vigilant or some other animal might eat their food or even eat them!
In the history of our ancestors on this planet, it would seem the hyper-vigilant of the species must have survived longer than the lazy ones. But in this day, I have very little to worry about.
I realized yesterday that I live in a time and a place where I have less to worry about than just about anyone else in the history of planet earth. I’m warm, I’m safe, I’m well-fed and I’m happy. Yes, many of us have hit the sweet spot, and yet still we worry.
I wonder what percent of why we worry is based on completely faulty reasoning. Some say we worry to feel in control because our attention is turned to solving a certain problem. While we think we are solving the problem, we have the illusion that we have control over it. Worry can be reinforcing. We think due to the fact that we worried properly, we got the desired outcome.
The faultiness of this logic became far too obvious to me when I recently learned that I could not live without supplemental oxygen. It had never occurred to me that I would ever have trouble breathing. I had maintained a healthy lifestyle at 5,000 foot elevation and certainly never smoked. Then, after a few years living at 6,500 -7,000 feet, a doctor observed that I might be hypoxic. Very observant. But it still took a couple years and too many different medical tests to prove to me that I needed to live on full-time oxygen.
See how that theory about worrying properly worked out?Ah humanity! How we labor to convince ourselves that we’ve got this, and yet we still all have to die of something…
Since then I have tried to keep my heart open to change, because it’s coming whether we like it or not. These are my watchwords now:
“Even in seemingly dormant times, we are in transition. Losses and gains are in constant play. We are the change-agent, and we are changed. Even without toil, we transform. So wisdom advises us to open our hearts to transition; to honor fully what is passing, to learn from all that unfolds, and to welcome what arrives at our door each day with courage and curiosity.”
Sometimes it seems like I was born with a lot on my mind. Starting with the “terrible twos” I have been perpetually asking why. I think too much, I worry even more, and I can still never figure out what may happen next. I guess I was raised to expect the worst, or else this is simply the human condition – more brains than we know what to do with!
So on this blissfully relaxed snowy day, miles from almost all human beings, I wonder what might happen if I stop thinking and worrying and embrace the peacefulness of this moment in time.
Should I risk this level of non-vigilance? What might happen if I stop thinking for a while? What if I feel as free as the falling snow for just one afternoon? There’s always tomorrow to get back to my worries…
Morning rituals help me center myself for each new day. Since moving out into the southern Colorado foothills with few neighbors, I feel privileged to be able to view an unobstructed sunrise every morning as a part of that ritual.
Often I think, “It won’t be amazing today” and then I turn around in my bed and see something like this.
Living here has made me even more grateful for my life and that it has led to this place full of love and acceptance. It has also led to some tough physical challenges for me. The simple act of breathing has become more and more difficult. I can no longer live without supplemental oxygen. For a while we wondered if it was lung cancer.
There is nothing like the ‘c’ word to make you sit up and take notice, and the challenges of simply breathing every day naturally call my attention to my own mortality. Many years ago I was a follower of Stephen Levine, a well-known poet, author and teacher best known for his work with those with life-threatening illnesses. For over twenty-five years, Stephen and Ondra Levine provided emotional and spiritual support to those who were dying and their caregivers. I highly recommend his books to you. I went to hear him speak in Boulder once for an all day event. That was the beginning of my own internal conversation about my own death. I still enjoy listening to his meditation called:
“Take each breath as if it were your last”
I used to feel so afraid of death. Then my experience of moving quickly in and out of consciousness with a traumatic brain injury provided some strange reassurance. Death is simply the final loss of consciousness. Death is inevitable and really quite simple. I accept it now, and try to love each day that I have left to be alive.
I need to imagine myself in the future doing what I love. For me, now, that is a radical act of courage.
I did this research back in 2007 and wrote it up then. Interestingly, no magazine would publish this article, because their sponsors were companies like Coca-Cola. It’s called industrial espionage and it goes on all the time!
The Mysterious Natural Sweetener Stevia
With its extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, but no caloric value, the South American herb stevia would seem to be the perfect solution as we all search for low-carbohydrate and low sugar food alternatives. Stevia is now showing promise in medical research into the treatment of obesity and diabetes because it tastes so sweet and yet has a negligible effect on blood glucose levels, in some cases enhances glucose tolerance.
So why aren’t we all using stevia instead of food additives like aspartame? Political controversy have limited stevia’s availability in the United States since 1991, when the USDA labeled stevia as an “unsafe food additive” and restricted its import. Even though this herb has been used as a natural sweetener for centuries by the Guarani Indians of Paraquay and now claims over 40% of the Japanese sweetener market, the FDA contradicted its own guidelines under which “any natural substance used prior to 1958 with no reported adverse effects should be recognized as safe.”
Stevia occurs naturally, requiring no patent to produce it. As a consequence, since the import ban in 1991, consumers of stevia continue to believe that the FDA acted in response to industry pressure. Stevia remained banned until after the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act forced the FDA to revise its stance to permit stevia be used as a dietary supplement, but not as a food additive.
In an interesting coincidence, Coca-Cola Company and Cargill have now developed a stevia derived patent-pending calorie-free food and beverage sweetener called Rebiana, which they plan to obtain approval for as a food additive within the United States by 2009. It seems stevia may only be safe when Coca-Cola decides to patent it and starts adding it to their own products.
Suddenly, when big business can make big money on it, it becomes magically safe for the rest of us.
I would only add, be sure what you buy is real stevia and not something with all sorts of additives!
Only at the ripe old age of 65 do I now see how much I have suffered from apparently terrible experiences, which turned out to be the key to all of my present happiness. It does take a really long time to see this, but if you keep living your best life and paying attention, you will learn this eventually.
My worst experience happened at age 24 when my lover of two years left me for the friend I had introduced him to. To my 24-year-old mind and heart, this was the worst thing that could ever happen. I loved him so much and he just dumped me like a bad habit. Decades later I spoke to him about this experience we shared, and he told me his terrible depression ruined so many relationships for him.
And yet I still “carried a torch” for him: “The idiom to ‘carry a torch’ for someone first appeared in the 1920s. To carry a torch for someone means to remain in love with someone even though they have rejected you, to pine away with unrequited love.”
Just a few months after he rejected me a second time at age 49, I met Mike and fell “head-over-heels” in love. “This phrase originated in the 14th century as ‘heels over head’, meaning doing a cartwheel or somersault.”
Yes from our first date, which lasted over ten hours (!) Mike and I were partners for life, seeing the world in similar ways and even perceiving the world at about the same rate of speed! How lucky were we to find each other, when we lived ten miles apart along the same road that ran from Loveland to Fort Collins Colorado.
Sixteen years later I can assure you, that was our lucky day!
But somehow I still kept thinking about my loss at age 24. Finally, just recently, I realized how much of a delusion my old love was for me. With all proof to the contrary, I still thought he should love me. And worse, I denied that his depression was so great that it might have ruined our life together. Instead I now live a friendly, stable, balanced life with a man who loves me completely and absolutely.
Love is not rational. The heart wants what it wants. But few would deny that being with Mike for the past sixteen years has been wonderful for me.
We have found a beautiful place to live and a peaceful, happy existence together. That is what fortunate is all about…
For the past five years, just over 40 million Americans moved each year, or about 13 percent of us. Most moves are local, either within the same county or within the same state. Within-county moves accounted for 65 percent of all moves in 2019, while moves between counties in the same state accounted for 17 percent, according to the federal government’s Current Population Survey (CPS) data.
We moved from one of the northern most counties of Colorado (Larimer) to one 50 miles from the New Mexico border in 2014. Larimer County’s population has grown over 30,000 residents since then, while Huerfano County may have gained 200 residents. The only reason Huerfano has not lost residents since 2014, when it reached less than 6,400, is the beauty of the rural areas west of Walsenburg.
When we moved here from a nice suburb of Fort Collins, I experienced extreme culture shock, and most of the residents we talked to could not believe we had chosen to leave Fort Collins for here. I gravitated to hanging out in La Veta even though we lived in Walsenburg while having our solar home built in the foothills, halfway between La Veta and Walsenburg. I did not find Walsenburg residents particularly friendly to outsiders, and La Veta people seemed a little more welcoming. I later learned that most long-term residents here don’t like newcomers and don’t think they’ll stay, so they choose not to invest in friendships with them. I’m sure you see the self-perpetuating prophecy in this. La Veta was not super friendly either, but at least I did meet some nice people there.
Six years later, I continue to try and understand this area and its resistance to newcomers and new businesses. At first it really bothered me, especially when our next door neighbor offered friendship at first and then decided to hate us within six months for no apparent reason. After a few years I didn’t care as much because we were so happy in our solar perch with phenomenal views in every direction. As of today I only have one close, local friend and she is wonderful.
We have had to adjust to many differences between city and rural life, but being able to order almost anything on the Internet has made all the difference! I would say if you are very independent of mind and truly celebrate natural silence and beauty you may end up loving it here. However, trade offs must be made. None of our restaurants are stellar and most are closed down now. No pizza deliveries here! You need to like cooking and have a few different avocations than city people, avocations like hiking, camping, gardening, photography and the arts.
As far as the differences between Walsenburg and La Veta go, Walsenburg has one of the highest crime rates per thousand in the U.S.
“The 2016 crime rate in Walsenburg, CO is 628 (City-Data.com crime index), which is 2.3 times higher than the U.S. average. It was higher than in 98.0% U.S. cities.”
Just about everyone I have met there has been robbed. I cannot find a crime rate for La Veta, but it’s very low. The main difference you will find in Huerfano County is that land prices east of La Veta average around $5,000/acre or less, and those in the higher mountains can be well above $50,000/acre.
Springtimeview from our solar perch!
The apparent draw to this area, including ourselves, is that you can still find inexpensive rural land with tremendous views for reasonable prices. Just remember there are very few decent jobs here and most of this county is above 7,000 feet, which can challenge the breathing of many lowlanders.
Want to learn more about moving here? I kept a journal of this process:
Why we decided to move here after first checking out Ecuador (!)
The difficulties of renovating our old home and leaving our old life behind.
The culture shock of very small town living.
Building a passive solar home in a rural area,
and so many other challenges & adjustments to be made when you choose living rural.
To continue my train of thought from my last post, I choose to believe that we humans are uniquely supplied with a brain and conscience so that we might go beyond our reptilian or primal brain. Yes, we must maintain our innate and automatic self-preserving behavior patterns, which ensure our survival and that of our species. But I know we can be so much more!
A part of my learning at Naropa University in Boulder, was the study of higher levels of consciousness, most notably with Ken Wilber. There I learned of the research into what can happen in the human mind when we are able to shut off the constant thinking, wondering and worrying, reaching beyond this primal state of mind.
Buddhist monks have shown us that we can achieve an infinitely expanded true self through deep meditation. This is in accordance with Buddhist philosophy, which focuses on being liberated from one’s insignificant self consciousness to attain a higher state of being, thereby reaching an “infinitely expanded true self”.
The Buddha taught that consciousness is “like a stream of water” with different layers or levels. Mind consciousness is the first level, using up most of our energy. Mind consciousness is our “working” brain that makes judgments and plans; it is the part of our consciousness that worries and analyzes. The brain is only two percent of the body’s weight, but it consumes twenty percent of the body’s energy. So using mind consciousness is very expensive. Thinking, worrying, and planning take a lot of energy.
“We can economize this energy by training our mind consciousness in the habit of mindfulness. Mindfulness keeps us in the present moment and allows our mind consciousness to relax and let go of the energy of worrying about the past or predicting the future.” – Lion’s Roar
As strange as it may seem, my own trauma brain injury in 2008, helped me to access this higher level of consciousness more easily. Partially because I don’t have the energy to think and worry as much as I used to, I can simply slip into a state of mindfulness as I choose. Call it what you will, this is a great relief! I tire quickly with too much interaction or “thinking” and then I give up and just live in the present.
I have also found living close to nature to be quite mind liberating. City life kept me in a constant, often unconscious, state of anxiety and vigilance. It took me a few years of living away from cities and most other people to relax that vigilant mind state and just be here now. Sometimes I may still feel sudden city anxiety, but I quickly recognize it as not needed and let it go.
Those who know me, know that I find most human behavior exemplified in the 2012 Disney Nature film Chimpanzees. Go watch it and you will learn the simplicity of how most of us behave and why. Protecting our young is the female role in nature. Aggression against others is the male role, especially when it comes to defeating our enemies. This is human nature or our natural behavior when confronted with the many challenges of life.
What is not natural is non-violence in the face of violent opposition. In fact it seems counter-intuitive and certainly not in our best interests. And yet, Gandhi defeated the most powerful colonial power on earth with these methods. Martin Luther King also championed this response to hate-filled, deadly mobs. Even that Capital policeman who seriously considered shooting at the rioters who were attacking him on January 6th, decided that his best means of defense under the circumstances was to tell them he was human and had children instead. This probably saved his life.
But this method did not save the lives of Gandhi or Martin Luther King. The “might makes right” assassins murdered them both. They were both quite clear that this would probably happen. Witness the many strong American advocates for racial justice. Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King knew that they would probably die at the hands of assassins, but this did not deter them from walking the talk everyday. Not one of them lived to be 40 years old. These were the human leaders who decided to believe in something far more audacious than brute force. It wasn’t about more powerful guns and bombs for them. It was about taking a stand against those who had no sense of fairness, equality and integrity. Those who felt boundlessly insecure about their place in the world. Those who simply said: “might does make right.”
Democracy is also a force that stands stubbornly above the simple and stupid assumption that whomever has the most guns wins. Democracy is based on the idealistic assumption that we can each have our say at the voting booth and then have a peaceful and civilized transition of power in our country.
Amazingly, this system has worked for decades, until a few ill-informed, hate-filled white-supremacists led by the craziest president in American history, decided might makes right. That mob crime scene at our capital was a sacrilege, a violation of all we find sacred about this country. I cannot imagine the day I would break down the doors and windows of my capital and destroy so many symbols of our democratic system of government. In other countries these traitors would be summarily shot.
How ironic that the system these anarchists hate so much, is the exact same one that will save their lives!