If you were to take a piece of gold ore and a piece of iron pyrites, place them side by side and ask random people to select the most valuable stone, the majority would most likely choose the pyrites – also know as Fool’s Gold… And why not? After all, it’s shiny and has a glitter that true gold can not match in its raw form… yet it has virtually no value. True gold has a dull luster and only becomes bright after being put through flame to have the impurities burned out and then polished. It’s not much different with people … I am always amazed by how impressed most folks are with “glitter” and those individuals that are coated in it… In a conversation this morning I was told to extend credit to an individual without the requisite credit check simply because “…he’s been here forever.” My response was to observe that shysters and con men have to live somewhere… To judge an individuals’ worth by their social status in this extremely small, pompous community leads to a very narrow view of what is really important in life… I have lived in many small towns and this one seems to embody many of the negative traits of such places. It’s not all bad though… there are good people here as well… Sometimes it’s harder to see them because they aren’t as “shiny”… I’m glad I was raised to value the “man” and not the “money”… We were taught that no job is without honor if it’s done well… if you are a ditch digger and you do your job to the best of your ability then you and your craft are to be as esteemed as the jewel merchant or any other businessman… I guess that it’s because of this I’ve never cared about how much money someone might have or what their family did… what have they done?… how do they treat others? To me those traits are what determines a persons’ value… One of my favorite lines from Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ is “All that is gold does not glitter…” I hope I can always discern the difference.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into into acceptance, chaos to order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melodie Beattie I ran across this quote some time ago and it is now one of my favorite… I think it is particularly apt at this holiday of thanksgiving especially in light of the fact that the holiday seems to have moved so far away from what is was originally about… I see very few people taking the time to reflect on all that they have and to be thankful. Most people seem to celebrate the holiday as an excuse to overindulge, watch football, shop or have a family gathering which frequently degenerates into an adult version of show and tell… As most of you know, I enjoy all the aforementioned “vices” as much or more than anyone but not necessarily as the focus of the holiday. We have so very much to be thankful for in this time and country and yet I almost never hear anyone acknowledge all that they have… Our consumer culture is always holding a newer, shinier, faster bauble out in front of us in order to distract us and create a false sense of need… If we fall prey to this scam we run the risk of being never satisfied… never able to see how much we do have, how richly we have been blessed… Sadly, I see this on a very regular basis… People who only count their wealth by the possessions that they have accumulated and the experiences they can buy… counting their friends and social circle by their presumed net worth… While there is nothing inherently wrong with money or “stuff” if it becomes the central tenet of your existence, how you define your self worth and place in this world then it impoverishes your soul… After all, “he who dies with the most “toys” is still dead.” It doesn’t have to be this way… it’s a choice… We can choose gratitude and all the joy it brings or we can choose the malnourished existence of want… my mate and I will make a time, and a space on this holiday to be thankful, to express our gratitude for all we have.
Most people deny the fact that parents have favorite children… In fact, the most fervent deniers are the parents themselves! But it’s true… unless you have an only child you will have a favorite… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What is bad, is if children are not loved. It was a real shocker to me when I found out that the first person my mother called when the doctor told her that she had breast cancer was one of my brothers… After all, I’m the oldest, I’m the one that gets “stuff” done I’m… not the one she felt the closest emotional connection to… not the favorite… It was definitely an eye opening moment for me… and a liberating one. It allowed me to stop striving to live up to impossible self expectations… I had spent so much time and energy seeking to make myself into what I thought the favorite child should be that I was destroying my true self… the end result of this realization is that I came to understand what truly matters is that I am loved. The only down side to this is that the favorite son and the favorite daughter in my family don’t realize how much their parents depend on them emotionally. … how much it means to the folks when the favorites make time to come see them… How painful their absence is… although nothing negative will ever be said and endless excuses will be made for their behavior… I have observed this in my mate also as he too is a “favorite” child… My sister in law puts much more effort into connecting with her mother than my husband does and yet he is the first one the mum-in-law will call if she is facing a difficult situation… She loves both of her children equally and will move heaven and earth if need be for either of them but she just has an “easier” bond with my spouse… My daughter plans on having more than one child… when we talked about favorites she insisted that she wouldn’t have a favorite child… I told her that it would happen, there is nothing you can do to prevent it… just as we all have some friends we are closer to than others, some aunts, some uncles… it is as inevitable as the turning of the tides and if you can see it for what it is then it ceases to be a big deal… after all, I’m not my parents “favorite” child and that’s O.K… because I AM loved… warts and all.
Who we are and who others think we are, are sometimes two completely different things… Most people, if asked, would say that I am an extrovert when quite the opposite is true… Although I am not quiet or shy, and am reasonably skilled in working with the public I am an introvert to the core… For anyone just observing me, it would seem that my preferred career would be working with people when in truth, I would much rather work alone or with just my mate or a few close friends… Like it or not we are all judging and being judged constantly and our perception is our personal reality… If the only time people in this town saw my mate and I was on a Saturday when we were filthy from working outside in our oldest clothes they might well assume we were street people… The same logic carries over into moral perceptions as well… If we act in a manner that is inconsistent with who we truly are then we should not be surprised when we are judged accordingly… Is it fair? Probably not – but it is reality… If we dress like a hooker or hang out on street corners we may very well have someone proposition us… If we continually banter with members of the opposite sex in a risque manner we should expect the rumors to spread … It pains me when people say things about my loved ones, friends or family that I know to be untrue but unfortunately, there is often nothing I can say in their defense because I have witnessed the behaviors that caused these perceptions to develop… It’s a hard lesson to teach to our children… especially in today’s culture where questionable behavior is the norm on social media… How can we help our daughters understand that dressing like a “working girl” is not attractive – simply slutty… How can we help our sons understand that the language of gangs and criminals does not make them “cool” or “tough” – just ignorant… the sad part is, people who don’t know these youngsters may forever judge them by their youthful actions… Fortunately for us we are each masters of our own destinies… our actions and words become self fulfilling prophecies as the world around us responds to each individual as they see them to be… In truth, perception IS reality.
I said “Farewell” to a friend yesterday… it wasn’t easy… still isn’t… and probably won’t be for some time. I know from past experiences that tears and time will soften the jagged edges of grief. Life goes on, the wheel of seasons will continue to roll and if I am fortunate, I will be blessed with other friends who enrich my life as much as he did. I knew when we became friends that I would most likely outlive him but this was sudden, unexpected and gave me no time to prepare for the loss… Life is not fair… it happens without consulting us and all we can do is look at what “is” and decide how to move on from that moment in time… every path we take will lead us in a slightly different direction and irrevocably alter who we will become… As painful as it is to deal with loss or injustice, it can be a wonderful gift… we can choose to let bitterness, grief and perceived unfairness stunt our growth and twist our soul until it resembles a bonsai tree or, we can use the adverse circumstance as an opportunity to grow stronger. Some people when faced with such a situation let grief scar their heart so that they are never hurt again… in doing so they shut themselves off from not only the pain of loss but also the incredible joy and love that is found in living life fully… I have loved and lost family and friends… some have moved on from this life others have simply moved on… No matter how they leave each loss is a death and must be mourned… their memory honored… We come into this life and one day we will leave… it has always been this way… we are born, we live and we die… moving from one life to the next… learning and growing with each lifetime… There are those here now that I have known before… Others I will see again in another life. In the days to come I will cry and remember my friend with love knowing that in the end my tears and this crushing sense of loss will transform his memory into a diamond in my heart. Fare well on your journeys Cochise… Thank you for all that you gave to me… we will meet again.
There is a vast difference between being alone and being lonely… I have felt most lonely when in a group of people but seldom have I felt that way when I am alone…I am by nature a solitary person… fortunately for me so is my mate. I find that one of the nicest things in my life is being alone with him… Especially now as the days are shorter, the nights are (hopefully) cooler and the time of regeneration is upon us. Like the wild ones, in this season I retreat more into my den and into myself… Don’t get me wrong, I come from a large family and I love them fiercely… but I am only able to take them as a whole in small doses without having a meltdown… For years I tried to be excited about the large group festivities that occur at this time of year… Madly throwing myself into preparation and being as involved as I possibly could… And then, I moved far away and discovered the joy of being alone. I understand that it’s not for everyone… One of my sisters was visiting when I lived in Nevada and after remarking how nice my place was , how quiet and peaceful, she said that she could never live there… it was too lonely, to far away from people… For her, it would be punishment to live in solitude but for me it is paradise. My mother is uncomfortable staying out at our house alone because we are “in the country” – too far from other people and yet, to my mind we simply live in an overgrown subdivision… I hear car doors slam, voices raised in conversation etc. I have never been more uneasy than when I lived in town next door to people… The closeness making me hyper-vigilant, unable to relax. We are working hard to get our home ready to sell. When it sells we will move to Idaho, further from “civilization” …more into the wilds where I feel comfortable and safe… This desire for seclusion is in no way a comment on how we feel about our family and friends… they are always welcome in our home and we will always be there for them if they need us… but we need our solitude… our haven from the bustling madness that is the 21st century… Henry David Thoreau wrote “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” I don”t know about “the world” but it is definitely the preservation of me.
Somewhere along the line we have lost our civility… Manners and respect seem to be relics of a bygone era… Nowhere has this been more apparent lately than in our political process. Over the past several months I have observed politicians and the general public behaving like a bunch of five year old children arguing over what game to play at recess. They have gotten so caught up in the “my side” versus “your side” argument that they have overlooked the issues… Now that the elections are over they, unlike five year olds, don’t seem to be getting any better. When a group of youngsters are having a disagreement over which game to play they generally argue for a bit before either going with what the majority wants or compromising on a game that everyone likes… The ones that can’t play in those parameters are left on the sidelines as the game goes on without them. I have observed similar behaviors in the animal world also… a group of pups may be playing and one will decide to go off in a different direction… usually there is an older relative around to insure that no harm comes to the young one and he or she is herded back into the group… wild animals instinctively know that their survival depends on cooperation… young children know that if they do not want to be left out of the game they have to compromise. Why are we so willfully ignorant of this as a nation? We live in what I believe is the greatest country on this earth… Our government is not perfect because people are not perfect and we live in a democracy which means it is the rule of the people…. the majority has spoken and picked the way we will play for now… So instead of all the negativity, whining and general” fit pitching” I feel it is time to put on your “big girl” panties and look at what needs to be done. We may not be playing your favorite game but we, as a nation are still playing on the world field and if we don’t learn to play together we will be relegated to the sidelines of history… Reread Lincoln’s Gettysburg address as it seems to me as fitting today as when it was first read in November of 1863… Then as now the nation was divided along partisan lines but somehow with great struggle we made Lincoln’s words true, at least until today “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”