Notes on the Journey

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Keep An Open Mind

I watched the Diane Sawyer interview with Bruce Jenner and thought it was very well done.  Not only was there a lot of time spent talking with him, but there was also a lot of information given and time spent educating the viewers.  For most of us, these issues have been more recently raised, and there are a lot of questions that come up.  The program did a good job of trying to answer many of those questions.

Bruce Jenner, to his great credit, was very honest and forthcoming about answering all the questions Diane Sawyer put to him.  And, he kept his sense of humor about his journey, throughout.  I was also happy to see that he has a good understanding of the role he's playing for the collective, and how he's in service through the sharing of his experience.  He said that he thinks his whole life has prepared him for this moment, and I think that's true for all of us.  We don't know how all the parts of our journey come together while we're living them but, in hindsight, we can look back and see that, yes, everything played its part in preparing us for our now moment.  Maybe our "now" isn't as fully realized as Bruce's is at this moment, but we'll all get there, or have been there.  And, most of us won't be playing out our "nows" on the world stage the way he is, but that doesn't make any of our experiences in the living of our journeys any less impactful or important.

After watching the interview, I felt that I'd been given a lot to think about in terms of my own perspectives and understanding of the issues involved in Bruce's story.  One of the explanations that was given was in regard to what the word "gender" means.  Very simply, I always thought of gender as the thing that was determined by one's genitalia.  But, not necessarily so.  It's more a state of mind, a state of being.  Bruce has the genitalia of a man, and yet identifies himself as a woman.  He's been seen as a man, but is now in the process of a transformation that will allow himself to be seen as a woman, although his genitalia might remain the same.  He hasn't made a decision yet as to whether to undergo "gender reassignment" surgery.

Bruce is not gay, in that he's never been sexually attracted to men.  One of the questions Diane Sawyer asked him was, since he's sexually attracted to women, once he's gone through his complete transformation into womanhood, will he then be a lesbian?  He didn't have an answer for her and said to just consider him asexual for the moment.  For, like anything we do in life, we don't know the full ramifications and repercussions of it until we're in the midst of the living of it.  Things will continue to reveal themselves as his journey continues.  And, labels will change and need to be let go of altogether as our perceptions expand and grow.

Another thing that was said in the program was that sexual desire is not connected to gender.  Of course, as I think about it, that should have been obvious to me, but it wasn't.  Although, it would be something that a bisexual person would probably understand very well.  Desire is desire, attraction is attraction, love is love...irrespective of gender.  I think it's connected to the ability to be attracted to the essence of someone, separate from their outward appearance; the ability to look beyond the physicality of someone, and/or to accept it, and commune with them in whatever form they happen to inhabit.

Labels and definitions have also been called into question, which is always a good thing.  Our minds love to label and identify things, to figure them out and compartmentalize them.  When our definitions of things get challenged, it means we have to rearrange our whole way of thinking and perceiving, and humans don't historically like to do that.  We fight to keep our definitions of things in tact, sometimes literally.  There were examples given on the show of transgender people who've been physically beaten up and murdered because of who they are.  The embodiment of transgender, and the challenge to perception it represents, is so unacceptable to some people that they respond with physical violence.  Instead of rethinking to incorporate a new concept or idea, or at least opening up to the possibility that it's okay for someone to be different from them, they try to eliminate the evidence of difference altogether.  And, humans do this with many things, not just gender-related issues.

Why is it so hard for us to accept people who are different?  Why is it so hard to allow others to believe and live their lives differently from the way we do?  Historically, when life was lived in tribes in a wilder time, someone who was different might have posed a threat.  So, maybe it's our primitive brain that still registers "threat" when faced with anything or anyone different.  Somehow, it seems that we're hard-wired on some level to respond defensively to difference.  And, we still cluster in tribes of our own making.  Gangs are urban tribes and wear "colors" to denote themselves.  Within work environments and corporate cultures, people dress similarly and often think similarly.  There are dress codes and codes of behavior that we're expected to adhere to in certain cultures and environments.  Countries are the same way, there are established ways of being that are accepted depending on where we're from geographically and culturally.  But, slowly and surely, these types of definitions and boundaries are dissolving, and we are learning to become more accepting of our differences as we expand our awareness from a small geographical area to include the whole world.

As our tribe becomes all of humanity, our acceptance of differences among us becomes mandatory.  It can no longer matter if someone is transgender, because they're human, and their humanity is the most important thing.  No matter our differences, on any level of thinking or believing or being, we are linked by our humanity.  We are all the same at our core.  The Life that lives us is the same, no matter what we look like, or how we think, or what we believe, or how we live our lives.

At the end of the interview, Diane Sawyer asks Bruce Jenner how he'd like people to respond to what he's doing and he says he'd like them to keep an open mind.  Just that...keep an open mind.  That's not much to ask.  If we could keep our minds open instead of jumping to conclusions of threat based on ancient impulses, peace would have a chance.  We can acknowledge feelings of threat and realize they're baseless.  We can acknowledge the fight or flight response and realize it's unnecessary.  It's not about ignoring the impulses that are genetically hard-wired into our systems; it's about receiving them, listening to them, and responding to them in the truth of the moment with an open mind.

Keep an open mind.  Listen.  Consider.  Be ready to change and adapt and accept.  There's no singular correct response to anything that confronts us.  It's not about right or wrong.  It's about keeping an open mind about whatever it is that's presenting itself...being willing to receive...being empathetic...being compassionate...being respectful...keeping an open mind.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bruce Jenner

I've thought a lot about Bruce Jenner lately.  Normally, I have no idea what the man is doing.  I don't watch the Kardashian family reality TV show, or read celebrity magazines; but lately, you can't get away from what's going on with Bruce Jenner.

Transgender, according to the dictionary I used online, means:  a person whose self-identity does not conform to conventional notions of male or female gender.  From Wikipedia, taken from the GLAAD Media Reference Guide:  "Transgender is the state of one's gender identity or gender expression not matching one's assigned sex."  Wow...I truly can't imagine how difficult it must be to be in a body of a gender that doesn't match up to how one sees oneself.

Bruce Jenner is my age.  I've tried to imagine what it would be like to have lived my whole life with a self-identity that didn't match up to who I was at the most basic level.  The confusion, pain and anger this would cause would be huge and far-reaching.  And, might not have been obvious for a long time.  I have my own struggles with my self-identity, but certainly not with the fact that I'm a woman.

I think it's incredibly brave of Bruce Jenner to finally be going through a process of change that will allow him to be who he feels himself to be.  The blow-back from family and culture is huge after revealing such a deeply personal truth about oneself.  The strength required to stand up and say, this is who I am, and this is what I want to do about it, as well as to then stand up to the media and familial pressures that come in its wake, is admirable.  To do this on the world stage takes a great amount of courage.  And, even though he's doing it for himself...finally...he's also doing it for all of us.  He's contributing to an open discussion and acceptance of what it means to be transgender, and helping everyone to deal with it in a way that will only help all the transgender people who come after him.  He's in deep service to us all by doing what he's doing.

We're living in a time when so many ideas are being challenged and so many boundaries are being pushed, and it's a wonderful time to be alive.  We're growing into a much more accepting culture through every discussion that's triggered by what Bruce Jenner, and people like him, are doing.  And, thank goodness for the medical community that makes it possible for people to make this kind of transformation.

We've got a long way to go to get to the point where everyone is accepted and embraced for who they are, both personally and culturally, but Bruce Jenner is pushing us forward toward that goal.  Each and every person who takes their personal journey public, and triggers deep thought and discussion around subjects that have historically been hidden in the shadows, is moving us all forward.  And, step by step, we open our minds and hearts to each other, and find our way to an acceptance of each other that will allow us to live in freedom and safety.

Thanks, Bruce Jenner.  You're helping us all more than you know.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Long Overdue Update

Boy...have things changed since I wrote the last post before "Negri."  Jeez...  It's been a long time since I felt like writing until I did the post for Negri's passing.  A huge fallow period with no desire to write or post whatsoever.  Nothing.  Zip.  Nada.

I did find work, unexpectedly, at a Home Goods store not far from where I was living.  There was a "hiring" sign in the window and I went in and applied.  They took a few weeks to call, but hired me as a part-time, temporary, seasonal Christmas cashier and floor associate at the end of 2013.  I was just happy to have a job.

I worked as a cashier and then was promoted to being a supervisor over the cashiers at the front end, which I initially thought was a good thing, but soon realized wasn't at all what I wanted.  It was too many hours of work each week when what I really wanted was a part-time job.  And, it was too much stress and too much responsibility for someone who didn't want to "move up the ladder" and become a manager.  So, I went back to being a regular cashier and also working a couple of days in the cash office, which was perfect.  Now, I only work in the cash office and don't cashier at all anymore, and I really like it.  I balance the cash drawers, do the bank deposits, get to work in the quiet of a small office away from the sales floor, don't have to lift heavy furniture, don't have to be on my feet all the time, and don't have to deal with customers.  It's only a few hours on the days I work.  I go in early in the morning and am off before lunch.  Ahhh...

Working in the cash office is a job that I didn't realize existed.  I wouldn't have known to apply for it.  And, I wouldn't have thought I was qualified for it, even if I had known it existed.  But, by taking the available job that was offered to me, the better job opened up after time.  I also had to get over my old pattern of wanting to do more and take on more responsibility, by realizing I didn't want to be a supervisor, before working in the cash office showed its real appeal.  But, the journey got me where I needed to be.

I downsized from the first apartment I got when I moved back to San Diego, which was a two-bedroom, into a studio apartment.  Before I retired, I needed a second bedroom to use as an office and a place to keep all my work supplies and paraphernalia.  After I retired, it took me a while to realize I didn't need an office anymore, a desk and a small file cabinet were enough.  I also started to look around me and want less stuff.  All my stuff was starting to feel suffocating.  So, I sold everything I could, gave away the rest, threw away what was left, and moved into the smallest space in which I've ever lived.  And, I loved it.

My studio apartment was in a charming old building that was over a hundred years old and just a couple of blocks from Balboa Park close to downtown San Diego.  My foldout secretary desk was built into the wall next to the small built-in bookcase.  My bed pulled out like a big drawer under the desk and bookcase.  And, my small, but "walk-in" closet was above where the bed pulled out.  The kitchen was small but complete, and the bathroom was bigger than the one I'd had in my two-bedroom apartment.  There was a rooftop deck that looked out over San Diego Bay.  There was a laundry facility for the building.  They took my three cats.  I had to park on the street, but it was never really a problem.  I had everything I needed.

While living in the studio apartment, my beloved cat, Buddy, got very sick and made his transition, which was a very difficult passage for me.  I only got to be Buddy's companion and caretaker for the last four years of his life, but he was a very special being, and took over a large part of my heart.

Winter in the studio apartment proved to be very uncomfortable when it became clear that no heat was ever going to reach it from the boiler system in the basement.  And, no amount of complaining about the lack of heat brought any improvement over a period of months.  So, not long after Buddy passed, I was given permission to move prior to the end of my lease.

I'm now living in a small one-bedroom apartment.  I'm very happy here and have more amenities than I ever thought I'd be able to afford in an apartment.  I have a garage, which, after parking on the street, is a huge luxury.  I have a fireplace, which isn't something I would have told you I wanted, but is something that I love having.  I have a bedroom.  Amazing.  It's nice to have a bedroom again after the pull-out bed.  I have my own washer and dryer!  Which, after going up and down three flights of stairs to a coin-operated and shared facility, is something I'm on-my-knees grateful for.  I have a garbage disposal, which might sound basic, but which I greatly missed not having.  And, I have a private outdoor balcony, which my landlord was generous enough to screen in for me so that the cats could safely go out there and not jump off.  We've been very comfortable here.

The next big change came when Negri, my oldest female cat, whose health had been in serious decline since just before Buddy passed, made her transition.  She'd been with me for fifteen years and was the dearest, sweetest cat.  Losing her is a huge adjustment.  And, losing her and Buddy both within the space of a year, has taken a large emotional toll.  With the multiple moves, the turmoil and stress of work, and the death of two dearly loved animal companions, I'm left feeling a bit fractured.

Since I'd retired a few years ago, through all the changes since then, many voids have been opened in my life, and none of them have been closed or filled.  All the losses and changes came close enough on top of each other to leave me feeling overwhelmed and lost.  The effects of everything that's happened have been larger than I realized they would be, and have resulted in my feeling empty and without purpose.  Nothing has given me any real energy for life or a feeling of forward movement until I made the decision to walk The Camino.

A friend recommended a book to me by Sonia Choquette, called "Walking Home."  It was about her experience of walking The Camino, and I was only into the beginning chapters of it when I realized that walking The Camino was the next thing I was being called to do.  As Life would have it, I experienced some synchronous events after making the decision to walk it that confirmed that it was indeed the door that had opened for me:  A friend of mine will be starting the walk with me; and, my current landlord has walked it three times.  So, in September and October, I'll be in Europe walking The Camino de Santiago from St. Jean Pied-de-Port in Southern France, over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain, and across the north of Spain to Santiago de Compostela.

For a couch potato like myself, to put on a backpack and walk such a pilgrimage as The Camino, which is 500 miles, would not have been something I would have thought I'd do, but what do I know?  So, this year, I'll spend my 65th birthday in Spain while walking The Camino.  It's something I'm very excited about doing.  The prospect of doing it is giving me energy and something to look forward to.  And, I finally feel like my life is finding its footing again--pun intended.

I've got everything arranged for The Camino and have what I need to do it.  I've read as many books on it, and watched as many videos, as I'm going to; so, all that's left is to do it.  In the meantime, I enjoy the time I have with my one remaining beloved cat, Sophie.  We've grown much closer now that it's just the two of us.  And, I go to work and do what I do, which is a lot of nothing.  But, no matter what, knowing that The Camino is coming, continues to inspire me.

Some of you know what I've written here and some of you don't.  But, I felt a need to write a post to fill in the big void of not having posted for so long.  And, now I've done that.  I hope to post more often, but I never know when the words will start to form themselves in my mind and ask to be recorded.  When they do, they will appear here.

Deep thanks to all my friends who've been there to support me through all the changes the last few years have brought.  I'm grateful to all of you more than you know.  Thanks as well to all of you who read what I so humbly put forth in these posts.  Thanks to my mother for making me learn how to type when I was very young and had no interest in it, and for which I'm grateful every day.  And, thanks for my ability to write and process the events of my life through words.  Writing is the thing that ultimately gives me purpose, inspires me, and makes me feel useful and of service.  Writing is the thing that brings me peace, and a deep and quiet joy.  And, writing is the thing that brings me into a state of pure, on-my-knees gratitude, which is where I am right now.  Thank you...in all the ways one can say thank you.     

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Negri

My baby girl, Negri, who has been my feline pet companion for the last 15 years, crossed the Rainbow Bridge today and got her wings.

Of course she was not a "baby," but she was always my baby girl.  She was actually a very old soul, very wise and loving.  I rescued her from a shelter when she was around 4 months old.  She was feral and bouncing around in her cage, having a hard time understanding the confinement after spending the beginning of her life outside and free.  It took her a very long time to allow me to touch her, much less pick her up, which she never enjoyed.  She growled over her food and ate very quickly so that no one could take her food away from her.  It took her a long time to stop growling when she ate.  And, I'm not sure she ever truly trusted that no one would take her food away.

She also didn't trust anyone who entered our space.  She would run and hide in the closet at the first sound of anyone approaching.  Someone would have to be around for many hours before Negri might decide to venture forth out of latent curiosity.   This was something that never changed.  She was also afraid that someone might take her away from me.  She was a grateful cat.  She appreciated her life and didn't want it to change.  So, if she hid anytime anyone came near, then they wouldn't see her, and so wouldn't take her away, and she'd be safe.

Her constant anxiety and nervous tension over things I understood and things I didn't, resulted in a stomach and bowel situation that proved worse and worse for her as she aged.  Everything that could be done was done for her, but some things just are, and her digestive system was always a weak one.  Eventually, her body just couldn't continue.

I had many animal communication sessions with Negri over the years.  There's nothing like hearing your animal speak to you about their perceptions and how they see their world.  I always loved hearing what Negri had to say about things.  And, I loved the opportunity to ask her questions and see what she wanted so that I could respond.  If you have an animal companion and have never given yourself and your animal the gift of an animal communication session, you're really missing something wonderful.

I had my last animal communication session with Negri right before she passed.  She told me she was ready to let her body go and that she'd been spending a lot of time out of it lately anyway.  And, as comforting as it is to know that your animal is ready to go, nothing makes the moment of leaving any easier.  It's wrenching.

It is the very crux of this existence for humans, and all living beings on Earth, that we are having a physical experience.  We are Spirit made manifest.  The physical matters, it's what we're here for.  So, even though we know that Life is eternal and that we're never really separated from those we love, the physical separation when a loved one moves on is not an easy adjustment.

There's nothing like being with a loved one, human or animal or otherwise...hearing their voice, or their purr, or their bark, or whatever endearing sounds they might make; feeling their touch, holding them, hugging them, feeling the warmth of their body next to yours, the weight of them; spending time in their presence...all of it is precious and special and unique.  It's something to be treasured and never taken for granted.  This physical experience is a gift, and so is every moment we get to spend with those we love.

So, yes, I know that Negri will still be with me energetically, but I'll miss her presence.  I'll miss her body.  I'll miss her.  And, even though I can sometimes "feel" the energies from different realms of Life, I don't have the ability to communicate with them consciously.  I'll have a sense of Negri, but it will never be the same.

No matter how long we've gotten to spend with a loved one, when they leave and move on to life elsewhere, our life here is forever changed.  I've had two animal companions transition during the last year, and both times my heart has broken at the loss.  They are both deeply missed.  I will never forget either of them and will continue loving them.  They both changed my life...made it richer and more full; brought joy and enjoyment; opened me more deeply to love and to being loved; supported and comforted me; taught me to be more grateful and not to take things for granted.

Every being we love and are loved by increases us, grows us, teaches us, heals us, makes us better and deeper.  I'm so grateful for the love in my life, however it shows up and whatever it looks like.  I'm grateful for everyone and everything that has cracked my heart open wider and wider and taught me about what love is.  I love you forever, Negri!  Fly free my baby girl!