Preparing for the winter solstice now, that time of year when the sun graciously agrees to return one more time.
I am filled with wonder that I live in such a splendid natural place, where every sunrise and sunset hold the potential for breath-taking awe. I must constantly remind myself to appreciate this time in my life and stay focused on the present, where all of my loved ones are still here with me.
Yes, there will be losses. We must all sometimes stumble and fall. But we are here together now for one more dance around the sun… and that is enough!
Yesterday I was struck by exactly how unreasonable love can be. What is this feeling that often goes against all reason and just is?
As far as I’m concerned, the definitions of love are completely inadequate. One definition is: “an intense feeling of deep affection.” Another is “a great interest and pleasure in something.” Or “to feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone).” How inadequate is that?
Reasonable is taking into consideration your own interests first, something most of us do unconsciously and continuously. “What in this for me?” I learned early to notice how so many people I met consider what they can get out of a new friendship before they jump into it. These people are very fair weather friends. I tend to avoid them.
I spent my first few years of college at Colorado College, a very expensive private school in Colorado Springs. There I met a number of very wealthy kids who first wanted to know if your family had a condo in Aspen BEFORE they decided to like you. Who knew there were such people in the world?
That’s when I learned to be much more careful in choosing my friends. Then, for young women, there is always the question whether the men liked you for sex and nothing else. Unfortunately that took me quite a while to figure out. Who knew some men are just pigs?
At age 64, I have known so many friendships, and most have not lasted very long. These experiences left me doubtful whether any of these “friends” ever really cared for me at all. In other words, I don’t expect true love and loyalty in this lifetime. I have experienced too many disappointments in this department.
Then yesterday I had a very frank conversation with Mike on this topic. We have been together for almost fifteen years now and still I doubt. We have been through serious, debilitating illness with Mike in our early years, and the same with me recently. I wondered why he would choose to sacrifice to be with me when he could certainly do better at this point in life. His love and loyalty astounded me. Finally I have found a lover and friend who actually loves me…in sickness and in health.
Love and integrity are so hard to find. If you find them in your personal relationships, return them in full force…
In one week my parents will celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary. I rejoice in the fact that they are still with us and together. I celebrate that fact, and yet the most difficult emotions I experience lately are watching them struggle and slowly fade away from their previous levels of clarity and vitality. This is so hard for them. They are still clear enough to understand what is happening to them. They have both lived long, positive and productive lives. We all must accept our eventual demise, and yet I resist.
I also know that resistance is futile. I know in my mind that acceptance of the realities of life and death are so fundamental, and make it all easier in the long run. But how can my mother die? How can my Dad, who has always been the wise teacher to so many, be at the end of his life? When I speak to him about this he says that as a botanist, he sees himself as an old Oak tree and he knows that old trees must die to make way for new seedlings. So philosophical and yet so sad.
My sister Diane Carter recently received recognition from Long-Term Living Magazine as one of the ten most influential people in the past 40 years in the field of long-term care. She gives her all every day to help my parents negotiate the American medical establishment and protect them from its many shortcomings. She understands what is happening to our parents and explains it to me. I know it is all real and true and yet I still hate it. This is the toughest reality I have ever faced, but face it I must.
Just about every person I know now is dealing with some version of this sadness. Perhaps the best we can do is to be there for each other as we face the end of an amazingly vibrant and caring generation, our parents.
Here’s another way to look at death:
”To fear death, my friends, is only to think ourselves wise, without being wise, for it is to think that we know what we do not know. As far as we can tell, death may be the greatest good that can happen to us, but we fear it as if we knew quite well that it was the greatest of evils. What is this but the shameful ignorance of thinking that we know what we do not know?” – Socrates
I hope you were all able to see the CNN Special about CBD products, and the CBS 60 Minutes piece this Sunday on how psychedelic drugs are helping patients with depression, anxiety and addiction. I believe the point of all of this information is that we as a nation have wasted decades, when we should have been researching exactly how these substances work and how they might benefit all of us.
The special on CBD spent an hour explaining how almost nobody knows what CBD is or why you would even consider using it, especially why anyone would want to inhale it. Since there is no regulation nationwide, like there is here in Colorado, criminals are passing off just about anything as a CBD product. I’m sure even they couldn’t tell you what it is for. They just hope to make money on idiots who will try anything once. I’m so glad this program included the work they have been doing in the UK for decades to understand and regulate CBD products. They are taking a much smarter approach to studying this substance. Why haven’t we done any research like that?
We all know why psychedelic drugs have been illegal forever in the USA. We can thank Richard Nixon for that. In the meantime research like that described on 60 Minutes this week is finding solutions to depression, anxiety and addiction. It is obvious now how we might have saved thousands of lives by knowing more about the uses of psychedelics in a controlled environment. Too bad so many Americans have died from opioid and heroin overdoses, often seen as suicides.
It seems the Native Peoples who used these substances in ceremonies for centuries had a far greater understanding of the power of these plants to wake us up and help us explore far beyond the mundane day-to-dayness of life, to dig deeper into our own consciousness. I found one statement from the 60 Minutes piece essential to understanding deeper levels of ourselves. One man said that by taking mushrooms, he felt like he could get beyond so much emotional armoring and his sensitive ego. The experience helped him to discover his true Self beneath it all. I believe this to be the genuine work of our lives.
That is why I have devoted so much of my life to researching the uses of different types of therapies and learning experiences in search of true Self. That is why I attended an alternative graduate program like Naropa University to study counseling psychology. That is also why I wrote my books.
Getting beyond the extremely limited boundaries of the rules in our head and simple, fear-based ways of being in the world, is the first step towards the freedom of self-compassion and healing. This is my goal before I die.
One of my favorite reminders on the wall above this computer:
First have the strength to meet Self. Then have the strength to let go of Self.
I hope some of you saw the great piece on CBS Sunday Morning today, called “Pete Hamill on Jimmy Breslin and the heralded world of beat reporters.” Pete Hamill is well worth listening to as a wise man. He is also very well-spoken. One of the first quotes from his interview hit me close to home:
Interviewer: “Did you grow up poor?”
Pete: “We grew up poor, but not impoverished.”
Interviewer: “What’s the difference?”
Pete: “The library.”
That is the perfect explanation for my choice of careers! Many of my fondest memories revolve around getting my first library card and beginning my search for knowledge and entertainment in the small public library in Emporia Kansas. From searching endlessly through the stacks, to getting an additional dip on my imaginary ice cream cone for every book I read in the summer, libraries have been a quintessential part of my life, my search for meaning and my identification as an American.
“Since this country’s founding, public libraries have received broad and consistent popular support for their democratic missions and services. The ability to access free information has become a core ideal of what it means to be an American citizen, despite periods of historic inequality. Libraries help make this access possible by placing public benefit at the center of their work and continually adapting their strategies to meet changing public needs over time.” — A History of U.S. Public Libraries
Granted librarians are rarely glorified in our culture. In fact, historically we’ve been made fun of constantly as nasty ugly old sour-faced women who wear sensible shoes, their hair in a bun and say “Shhhhhhh!” To quote Wikipedia: “Stereotypes of librarians in popular culture are frequently negative… portrayed as puritanical, punitive, unattractive, and introverted if female, or timid and effeminate if male. Such inaccurate stereotypes are likely to have a negative impact on the attractiveness of librarianship as a profession to young people.” But many of us were too smart for that!
Use your mind everyday! Become a librarian!
I believed so much in the connection between American freedom of information, critical thinking and citizenship that I worked for years as a Government Information Librarian. The reference question I enjoyed most was introducing people from other countries to the book on “How to become an American citizen.” I was also an United Nations and International Documents Librarian. My funniest exchange there was the man who came up to the desk and tried to convince me how horrible the UN was. I responded with, ” I didn’t become a United Nations Librarian because I hate the UN.”
I have no regrets about being a librarian for 25 years. It was a positive and flexible career, one which allowed me to enjoy many adventures worldwide, while providing job security and a great retirement. In addition, I was able to celebrate and support everything I love about being an American!
Somehow I never pictured myself with oxygen equipment. For most of my life I have felt strong, healthy and very self-sufficient. That was how I saw myself as I traveled the globe, collecting sometimes difficult but important life experiences and M.A. degrees.
Life certainly has an amazing way of surprising us!
Ever since I moved down to southern Colorado in 2014 and then up to seven thousand feet in 2015, breathing has been a struggle, leading to many doctor’s appointments, cat scans and even a recent lung biopsy. No, I don’t have cancer, just damaged lungs from decades of bronchitis and bad air. What a great thing to find out as we settled into our forever home near the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
I fought hard for a couple of years, not accepting that I needed oxygen full-time to live a normal life. I thought I would eventually adjust to our thin air, using all of my inborn stubbornness. If you know me, you know how stubborn I can be! Accepting reality has never been my forte. But finally, twenty tests and a sleep study later, I have resigned to my new reality. I will probably be on oxygen for the rest of my life.
Acceptance releases everything to be what it already is!
Some say just move to a lower elevation. My answer is a resounding NO! Living away from cities, listening to the marvelous natural silence and looking at the mountains constantly has changed me completely in ways impossible to describe to others. I feel so content, safe and grateful here in spite of my breathing struggles.
I know what’s happening in the “world” but I can also completely ignore it here, close to nature and what matters most to me…