Thoughts & Memoirs

Thursday, March 7, 2013

You can hold the door for them
But they have to walk through [it]

 You can advise all day long
But sometimes you have to [let others] live it
To know that it is true

 You can lead a horse to water
But you cannot make it drink
You can give somebody a thousand books
But you cannot make them [read] them [or] think [about them]
Sometimes you have to get your Fingers burnt
Before you can say,  Lesson Learnt

The Unlikely Poet

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Semantics: How We Communicate

Dear Readers,
A discussion with a friend led me to a deep thought process on Semantics and why we have so much trouble with communication with each other. My friend commented "Semantics will kill us if we let it! Good thing we are persistent in learning loving communication! By persistent I mean that I feel comfortable in clarifying myself...and hope yo do too."
After a restless night I awoke with the following rolling around in my head insisting to come out.
What is Semantics? I know we say, its all just semantics and ugh, its semantics, etc, etc., but what exactly is semantics. You probably know this, so just bear with me, I'm learning this morning. I found this lengthy article describing what Semantics's actually is, you might want to refer to the site for a deeper analysis than mine:

I have always looked at the word and thought of semantics as a catch phrase to brush off anothers opinion when I did not agree with that opinion. I never looked below the sentence I was reading to see what was truly being said. I'm not sure we can see what another person is really saying and meaning without asking them to clarify what they are saying. Before I found this article I came up with my own explanation and a question to help me understand how to understand what another person is saying when I take what they say as a negative statement and an injury to me directly.
The question that needs to be asked is: am I interpreting what is being said to me as it was meant to be heard, or have I put my own interpretation to what was said and come up with an inaccurate meaning, then judging what was said as a negative gesture, when it was actually something very different.
Consider the following sentence:
The man's face is blue.
The man painted his face blue. or
The man is feeling the emotion we call blue, and it is showing on his face. or
The man is oxygen deprived, and his skin tone is actually turning blue from lack of oxygen.
I'm sure there are other perceptions of what blue means to many other people. So this brings us to our own perception, the following web site discussing Ruiz's Four Agreements really hits how we perceive meaning on the head.


We get our perceptions from a lifelong learning unique to each of us, then, in my opinion, when we try to communicate with each other, we may not understand or accept that each of us interprets what is being said according to how we each understand and define what is being said and then we clash. Then depending on our level of mental and human development, we interact either with anger and attack or with diplomacy. The Fight or Flight instinct prevails. Even fight or flight has levels based upon where we are developmentally. Fight: We might actually punch someone, we might write a scathing letter, we might gossip and slander behind each others backs, did you see what she said now? Flight: We might actually run away from the conflict and then play the innocent, pretending not to know what someone is talking about when confronted, we might put up a wall and refuse contact by not answering emails and telling ourselves we are just too busy, we might avoid the issue in one way or another. Both aspects are natural to us, its not right or wrong, nor good or bad, it just is how we have learned to cope with life and each other. This is how we survive.
Then one day we start to wake up and we begin to see past our ego's and we want to change our wiring, change our point of view and adopt philosophies that encourage peace, love, and harmony. What are we doing when we start this change? We are doing more than just saying we are changing. We are asking our entire chemical and electrical body system and our brain to stop working the way it has for however many years we have lived and to reboot with a new program. What happens as we start to do this, is it easy, just a new download? No, we hit RESISTANCE!!! and WOW what resistance it is. Not only do we ourselves resist change but everyone around us also resists us changing. This is not a bad thing, its a natural human thing.
So as we start the process of change we also start the process of dream interruption within and around us. Dream interruptions are when we either intentional or unintentionally disturb another persons dream, by dream, I mean, how a person views their life, what they believe, and what they know as a truth for them. This dream is how a person survives in the world. So when we are changing our dream, changing how we live, what we believe and how we interact, we disturb others around us who rely on our dream to validate their dream. We are so interconnected that any kind of change effects each and every one of us on some level.
However, changing our dream is not an easy task, we slip up, make mistakes, fall back down, what have you. Its very difficult to change brain wiring, just ask any addict, there will be and are steps backwards as we go forward. At the same time since we are all interconnected, the attempt to change our dream sends ripples out to every other dream on the entire planet, and if you believe in ET's and inter and multi-dimensional life, to every other life form in existence. We get The Butterfly Effect or The 100th Monkey Effect, just google if you are unfamiliar with these terms.
Some of those ripples just flow over gently and cause little clash, but some of those ripples meet other ripples who are connected on a deeper level with us, whether through past life, or current life affairs. These are the people we have agreed to experience, experiences with, and then the lightning flashes and the thunder roars, the extent of the clash will depend on where each participant is developmentally.
What you and I, dear readers are doing right now, writing and reading this blog, trying to understand the meanings behind the words of communication written here is making ripples. One someone out there is connecting and getting an Aha! Another may be getting angry at what they are reading. Another may be confused. We are connecting in many different ways, listening to each other, loving and communicating with each other and that my friends is making ripples in all our dreams. Ripples that sweep across the planet and into both inner and outer space, making changes, disturbing the planetary dream.
This brings me to one last thought about words and how we say them.
When saying something while in a state of emotional pain, it is so important to clarify the full meaning of what is said. 
Remembering to clarify a statement so that its actual meaning is clear is very important. Remembering that if we read something that sounds awful to us, not to jump to conclusions, be insulted, take whatever is said personally and in anger assuming the worst rather than the positive, but rather to take the courage to ask for clarification, is very important. Asking, what did you mean by that statement is very important. We harm each other when we assume to know what another person means when they speak to us when they are in pain. We harm each other when we make an assumption and then spread it to others without knowing the meaning behind the communication. I read in an article the other day that issues between parents and their adult children occur worldwide, however its at the highest rate and the most violent in the United States, this is food for thought.  W/deepest respect. Find your voice.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Walking Song

Dear readers, 
           I love to sing, I'm not a great singer with a silvery toned voice, my voice is a nice voice, not formally trained, but not awful. I love to sing. yet as far back as I can remember someone has been telling me not to sing.
          As this last few weeks draw to a close, July turning into August, the dog days of summer come with fire, heralding the star Sirius who has returned to claim status in the night sky, bringing with it the energy of personal change and enlightenment. I have thought over all the events the month of July has brought, both personally and world wide. For me this has been a month of facing suppression, in our world there have also been many types of suppression, suppression seeking to stop a voice from speaking, to stop many voices from speaking in many different countries.  Its so very easy to lose our song of life when suppression in any form presses down.
       In an exchange of emails with a dear friend who came into my life almost 15 years ago. Fifteen years, where does the time go, its so long ago, but seems like yesterday. Time has a way of shrinking the older one gets, what youth sees as an event from very long ago, age sees as just the day before, the length of life as we feel time, suddenly becoming very short as we find ourselves in the mid-Autumn of our lives on the slope towards Winter, and our old age. Ten years are nothing in the scope of time, just a few short days ago, when time reveals her immensity and infinity, something not seen until we reach a certain age, if we are lucky enough even then to understand time.
       My friend came teaching that it was OK to sing my song as loud and as brilliant as I want to and when I forget that I can sing, she reminds me that I know how to find my voice and encourages me to sing again when I have shut down.
       My dear friend sings a song as well, her song is the most beautiful one I have ever heard, she sings quietly, telling the story of humanity to whoever will listen. She sings over the bones, (a story from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes's book, Women Who Run With the Wolves) as she walks along the road.
       This road of life, my friend  offered, was a road that as I walked along it's way I would find I would not be able to take everyone I loved along with me, for this was my journey and each of us have our own journey. She taught me that we could share that road with dear ones, if they wished to travel with us, but it might not be for the whole distance and that sometimes the walk would bring about clashing wills and beliefs. She taught me there may be people who could walk with each other on this road, for the journey of life, the whole way, individual and different but together.
       My friend taught me how to sing the walking song of life. Walking song...I think there is a poem here...I'm going to go let it out...

       Dear readers, the song came, spilling out, wanting to be born and sung. I offer this song to you.
The Walking Song. Dedicated with love to my dear friend, Carmen, bone singer, myth keeper, story teller, friend.

The Walking Song
by Edna Johnson July 30, 2012

Come walk with me along this road, this road of many colors
Come walk with me through rain and shine, the way is long, the climb is high
Come walk with me through toil and grime, through sparkle and shine
Come walk with me
Come walk with me
Come walk with me through youths sweet laughter
Come walk with me through mid-life banter
Come walk with me through senior days
Come walk with me
Come walk with me
Come walk with me through summer showers
Come walk with me through falls great bowers
Come walk with me when days grow colder
Come walk with me
Come walk with me
Come walk with me along this road, this road of many colors
Come walk with me my dearest friend, the road is long, right to the end
Come walk with me through this wondrous life, this beautiful life
Come walk with me
Come walk with me
Come walk with me

Also posted on the Day Dreams page>
w/deepest respect....find your voice.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sharing ....being without intent...

A friend sent the following, it is so warm and delicious and so very true, I just had to share.

Jane Fulton Alt: "....being without intent...."

Lenscratch is on vacation this week and I asked fellow photographers to contribute a post or an essay. This is one Jane posted on her blog in 2008 and is utterly appropriate to the last days of summer.

Last October I spent 2 weeks at Ragdale for an artists residency. My home was the Beach Room in the Barn.

Next to my bed was a notebook in which previous artists shared some thoughts about their time spent at Ragdale. There was an essay on the word "squander" written by Johanna Keller on July 15, 1999. I was so taken with it that I photocopied it and have had it on my bulletin board for the past 9 months. I just unearthed it and with Johanna's permission, would like to share it...

v., to spend wastefully or extravagantly (according to the Webster's New Dictionary on the desk in the Beach Room)

In art, as in nature, nothing is wasted.

Cherish the hour lost to the shimmer of cottonwoods rimming the prairie, the afternoon swimming in the lake, the croquet game at dusk. Let yourself be a child bedazzled by the town fireworks on the Fourth. Write of love-making on the creaky bed. Search for dusty treasures in the attic. Rock on the screened porch reading a book that serendipitously came to hand, a book you didn't bring with you, one that wasn't on the planned list.

Plan?List?----those are words left behind, words for the architects of the busy world, for the makers of cities and maps, for the times when it is necessary to know the destination and estimated time of arrival (and there are those times in the creative life).

But, in this long month of summer, I don't know where I'm going. I confess to allowing myself to drown in a sweet delirium of sensory experience. The result has been new and strange poems, daring essays, and odd drawings whose purpose and place in my manuscript are unclear to me as yet.

I don't know my path, but I'm traveling extravagantly.

Art spends us extravagantly, demands we lavish our lives on it. And in return, at the times when the deepest impulse is gathering force, we experience a blessed state of being without intent.

We enter a space previouly unimaginable, surprising, dangerous, uncharted on any map. This place of impressions is very like the tangled and subtle prairie with its unplanned glories of wildflowers, tall grasses, cattails, dragonflies, birds, sky. And at the center of it, we find the source. Encircled by stones laid by other hands many years ago, brimming with liquid light, the wellspring is a small eruption, a rupture in the earth, the location of correspondence. It is here where what lies underneath comes to the surface, where the invisible is transmitted into the world of the senses. It is here the unseen becomes known to us."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Enlightened Witness

       The rain is falling so hard on this stormy Florida night, it woke me from my sleep, a sleep filled with stories and dreams of those long ago days spent in Washington State. I was 19 when my second daughter was born, very in love with my husband, my children, and my life . It almost sounds a fairy tale when I read what I wrote, its so easy to talk about the best memories. But everything wasn't peachy keen, as my granddaughter is fond of saying.
       The farm we lived on was wonderful, but I also remember feeling an intense loneliness, especially when my husband and I argued. I can't tell you what we argued about, probably money and my being left alone so often. We were isolated on that farm. We also had debt, debt, that squeezed our payments to a finance company that sold us a set of expensive pots and pans on an easy pay loan, our utilities and the rent. Dear readers, do any of you remember those companies, high interest lenders, when high interest lenders were not in the news. There were many financial institutions that targeted young couples and military families, all you had to do was take a trip down the main road that led to the front gate of a base, any base. You saw them, used car dealers, pawn shops, rent it centers, check cashing centers, all high interest, all after the dollar. Its still that way, although I believe the young military family of today is more savvy to the predation of such places. But I think this is a human condition, that goes way back, wherever there were soldiers of any kind, there were always the less than scrupulous money dealers.
        We also lived in two other places before moving to the base, we lived in an apartment in Cheney, where to our dismay and our neighbors, we had the female Siamese and they had the male Siamese. When our cat went into heat, no one slept! I still remember hearing the stomping footsteps of the man next door as he yelled his anger at a cat who would not shut up, Siamese howl very loudly when they court, as he tossed the offending feline out the door. We then were offered what was called sub-standard housing, homes that were little more than salt boxes with a one door entrance and really bad interiors. Our oldest daughter had bowed legs and the doctors had put her into a heavy metal brace that kept her legs spread, feet turned out to correct the bone problem. Our baby learned how to walk in that brace, tottering along her leg movement limited. The floor in the kitchen was badly torn linoleum and even though I asked for a new floor, housing authority was slow to comply. That is until I called the Commanders hot line and said the magic words, our baby is trying to walk in a brace over torn flooring. Its amazing what can be done when you go straight to the top of the chain of command. One was not supposed to, but the hot line was there and we had need. I was never afraid to ask for my children or husband, I just never had the moxie to ask for myself. This came from my early training to never object, to just do because the consequences were terrible if I spoke up.
       When we moved onto the actual base and had a really nice home, don't get me wrong, I could live anywhere and it never mattered what state the house was or where it was, I always found beauty and charm in whatever home I was given, but when we moved onto the base home, life became very easy. My husband was an avid hunter and he wanted a bird dog, so we found a litter of Brittany Spaniels and got a pup. We had a great time teaching that young pup to point and fetch, the pup, a male we named Duke, was a natural and training easy, or maybe it was easy because we never believed we could not train that dog. When I reflect on our life together, we had a lot of easy times, but I think I remember things being easy, because I believed in life and all its possibilities. I never believed anyone who told me life was awful and full of misery, even when it was, I guess I had a huge dose of Pollyanna-itis. The biggest neighborhood problem we had was that darn dog, a great bird dog, was a terrible pet, he was a biter, and would not come to me if he got out. I would call my husband and yell, that darn dog of yours is out again and he would have to come get him, easily accomplished from an open car door and a whistle to go hunting.
       My children were very well behaved children too, the oldest was willful, with a terrible temper when she heard the word no, but, an incident at a grocery store stopped that willfulness in its tracks and that temper would not reappear until she was a teenager. She was 2 or 3, I don't recall the year, but trying to get past the bubblegum machine at the grocery store was a real drama, my oldest a drama queen when it came to treats. She went into the tantrum, screaming, tears, sobs, stamping her feet, turning to her father because mommy said, No, she grabbed his trousers and screamed her want, looked up and saw a man who was not her daddy. This poor man just happened to be right next to my husband when our daughter went into her tantrum. The shock of seeing an unfamiliar face stunned her into silence, and she never had a grocery store tantrum again.
       I don't think I had any magic touch with my children, they were rarely sick, outside of the normal childhood diseases, and then mild cases. There were a broken bone or two along the way. The child who wore the brace was taken out of it by a very wise doctor who told us to get her a pair of roller skates. She would tire of banging into her ankles with them and that would make her straighten her legs, and those roller skates worked. The only thing we did through our childrens formative years was stay consistent, there was a set bedtime, a wake up time, Breakfast, lunch and dinner at specific times and not a lot of sugar or processed foods, I was a stay at home mom and I could cook anything, very well. All I needed was a recipe. I was lucky to be able to stay at home, but, it was also a desire from my husband and the one time I did work later in our life while still in the military, he acted out very badly, and I was forced to quit my job, or lose my marriage. I'll talk about that when I get to that period of time.
       I did not believe in beating my children and they were rarely spanked. and a spanking was just a couple pats to a bottom, along with the words no-no and an explanation why it was a no-no.  We could take our toddler children into a fine restaurant and have dinner, we could take our children anywhere. Perhaps it was consistency, perhaps just luck. There were cranky times, but nothing like I hear other parents complain of today.
       Maybe it was because we did things as a family unit, I don't know. I'm grateful and very glad, my children were not difficult when they were young. I also think environment had a lot to do with their behavior, and isolation from well meaning, but interfering family members. I often think our marriage lasted as long as it did because we only had each other and we wanted to be a family. Another factor I believe helped was our connection to nature, being so close to the natural world and not being a part of the drama we saw on the news. I'd had enough trauma in my life already and I did everything I could to protect my children from the trauma that tore apart my childhood.
       I did not have a voice, but I did have something that kept hope, love, and a positive outlook a high priority. This something I believe is what Alice Miller PhD, termed the enlightened witness, a person somewhere in my childhood who loved me deeply and touched something in me that lit the hope and positive nature I had through out my life and have today. You can find her work at the following web site:

I also believe personally that this witness does not have to be a human being, I believe the witness that lights a spark can come from a book, a poem, a mountain top, an ocean sunset and even in the most dismal places, something can trigger an enlightenment of hope. Sometimes just a word from a kind stranger is enough.
       Communication with each other is so very special, perhaps the smile you give a sad child or a shattered adult, will be the witness that person needs, what we say to each other is crucial to our existence on this planet. What we say, how we say it, how we receive what is said and how we perceive it. Words build bridges of love or they build bridges of hatred. w/deepest respect...find your voice

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Different Lifestyles

          I'd like to pause again from my story for a moment and take a look at lifestyle and culture. Although we were head over heels in love with each other, and had many things in common, our families had different lifestyles. The schools I went to offered many field trips, from elementary through high school; we went to Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Williamsburg, the Baltimore and Washington zoo and many other places. The ultimate trip was to be taken in the tenth grade to the United Nations in NY. However the class before my tenth year behaved so badly the trip was canceled by the time we got to the year my class would have gone.
       Along with all the field trips, my mother took us to the Smithsonian Museum when ever we had the extra for gas. We would load up very early in the morning, pack a picnic lunch and go for the day. It was less than a 2 hour drive, parking was free if you walked a mile, and all the museums were free. We would run from building to building delighting in our favorites, walk back to the car to get our lunch and eat it on the lawn in front of the Jefferson Memorial or another grassy place shaded by a tree.
         Of course there were the camping trips I talked about earlier in another blog, and the Civil War grounds at Gettysburg. My sisters and I loved running over those grounds, climbing rocks, looking into crannies and imagining we might find a long lost soldiers affects. There were many trips to historical areas close enough to make day trips, as well as day trips to amusement parks. We went to Glen Oaks and Fairyland, and Dutch Mills. I’m hoping I have the names right, this is from very young days.
       I’m not sure about my husbands childhood days, he never spoke much about them, except that they went crabbing on the Eastern Shore at Rock Hall, and took vacations that were over night and did not involve camping. He was also a Boy Scout. When we started dating he went camping with us and fell in love with it, so that part of my life incorporated into our marriage. I had a great love for theatre that came from watching plays on TV. I also loved Ballet, thanks to Ed Sullivan. One of the biggest influences on my young life was the historical areas. If there was a sign that said Historical Area, my mother would stop and we would look. Later in our marriage when we traveled back and forth across the nation from military base to military base, my husband would call those signs, hysterical areas, because I would insist we stop and see, and he rarely wanted to unless it was convenient to stop because it was lunch or a potty break was needed. Throughout our marriage one of the greatest arguments we had was when I would ask why we never got to go to museums or plays and why we never did the things that my creative soul longed for. I loved camping and all that went with it. But I dearly missed those elements that developed and enhanced my creative nature. I’ll discuss this as my story evolves.
       In addition to my love of the arts, the greatest difference between my husband’s lifestyle and mine was in the kitchen. We ate differently in my home; a sandwich was 2 pieces of bread, 1 slice of lunch meat and 1 slice of American cheese. We never had take out that I can remember, never had sub sandwiches or pizza. For me pizza was a delight ordered at the Boardwalk in Ocean City by the slice, as a vacation treat. Food treats for my family came in the summer when the horse drawn farm wagon would travel down the alleys, the driver singing, watermelon, cantaloupe, strrrrrawberries.
       Fresh peaches made the best homemade ice-cream and when we bought them it was for a special family occasion and everyone came, all our maternal aunts, uncles, grandparents and all the kids. Watermelon was fresh, huge, and sweet, the driver always ready to cut a plug to prove he had the best. Cantaloupe filled with cottage cheese made a light refreshing supper on a hot summer night long before air-conditioning was in every home. My mother would can fresh fruit and vegetables so we would have them in the winter, food not filled with chemicals. IMHO, the watermelon found in the stores today along with many fruits and vegetables are styrofoam in taste compared to real locally grown produce. In my memory the seedless frankenmelons can not compare to the sweet juice seed spitting watermelon I remember well into the 1980’s. What happened to our food quality America? Why do we accept what is sold today as food?
       When I started dating my husband I was introduced to pizza as more than just a slice had while on vacation, and subs, I had no idea such a yummy food existed, fried oyster subs, Italian subs, and so many others. In my husbands home a sandwich was made with several slices of lunch meat, and other deli cheeses and you used Kaiser Buns and other rolls. Everything tasted so good. I had no knowledge about nutrition and calories, or body types. My husband could eat anything well into his 40’s and never gain an ounce, all I had to do was look at something and it went straight to my hips. I started gaining weight while pregnant and gained weight all through my marriage.
       I struggle with obesity today and although I am educated and understand nutrition and portion size, I know what to eat and what not to eat. I still can not make myself lose this weight. There are articles that talk about why, marriage is to blame for women’s weight gain and divorce for men’s weight gain, in some articles;

Even more evidence supports a link between childhood abuse and obesity along with other health issues.

Every article I read talks about the connection between childhood traumas and obesity, showing indications that Childhood physical abuse may have an impact on the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, through dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and subsequent increases in peripheral cortisol, that have been linked to abdominal obesity (36,37). (ii) Physically abused children may eat as a form of coping with their childhood traumas and this pattern may continue into adulthood. Indeed, one study (15) reported a significant impact of neglect on central obesity, despite controlling for childhood obesity. (iii) The increase in size associated with weight gain in physically abused children may serve a protective mechanism against further harm.(Bently & Widom. 2009.
I think one of the reasons I studied Human Behavior and Psychology when I went to college after my divorce in my late 40’s was not only to learn how to help others, but to understand my own issues and behaviors. I believe that obesity is a systemic issue that involves more than just abuse in childhood; I believe this is an ongoing effect complicated by a lifetime of issues, lack of education and our societal behaviors and treatment of what is considered acceptable and normal. We are a nation of bullies when it comes to the fat kid or adult validated by a media that glorifies abnormally thin women.
       My husband is not to blame for my weight gain, but the pressure to join in and not be different from those I love added to my obesity. My greatest hope is that as I write my life story; apply everything I have learned over the years. I will find the key and unlock the door to healing and weight loss without the drastic and invasive surgery that scares me to death. I know Bariatric surgery has worked for many, but it has harmed many too and there has got to be a way to a healthy body, a healthy mind and a healthy life without cutting body parts away. A doctor once told me obesity was an addiction, that our brain chemicals behave the same way with food as with drugs. I believe he is on to something here. It takes a system of support and love to beat an addiction and when family members enable or sabotage the struggle of any addict, the battle is so much harder to win. I live with a room mate who is my greatest enabler. So to my room mate I ask, please help me, stop killing me, and to myself I say, stop blaming others and just do it.
        In writing about the different lifestyles my husband and I brought to each other. I think about people around the globe who live with different lifestyles, some of those lifestyles we find delight in sharing with each other; others bring out the worst of our nature and behavior. Suspicion and gossip rule over education and tolerance. We don’t have to live this way. Isn’t it time to say…Enough is enough?... My story is for me, and I hope through it to help not only myself but others, others who are tired of living a life that could be so much better. I have all the tools I need, I just have to find the key to enact them.
       We as a world have all the tools we need and its time to enact them. Stop the disservice and hatred at every level, from enabling an obese loved one, to global apathy and war.
       One way I’ve found is right here on this Internet with social networking, blogging, etc., if something belittles, judges, gossips and serves no one other than to incite anger and hatred. Don’t share it, don’t pass it on, and don’t display it. Seek only those things that enhance life and serve through love. Speak your mind and your opinion without belittling, negative caricaturing and stereotyping others. You can display dissent by saying I don’t like this or that without attacking anyone or anything. You can point out a difference without being a bully. You can have a peace rally where peace actually is the foundation and is present , rather than hatred of the other side being evident through angry display; you can support patriotism without spewing in hatred that anyone who is not exactly like you is not a patriot. You can realize that we are all human and we all have not only our good side, but a shadow side as well. We can forgive ourselves and each other when we allow that shadow to voice itself.
Find your voice dear readers.
Please forgive me for pontificating with this blog. I feel so strongly about communication and mediation without violence.
with deepest respect.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Highly Sensitive People

     Dear readers,
     How we communicate with each other is based on several different factors. Our perception, our assumptions, our world views are among the many ways we communicate. One factor I believe is important is our emotional being. How we feel in our environment. We are all different, some of us are hard shelled, nothing bothers us, some are more soft shelled, some of us fall in-between being hard and soft with our sensitivities. Then there those among us who are highly sensitive. We feel things deeply. The idea of there actually being a normal personality that is highly sensitive came after searching the web for long hours wondering if I had a personality disorder or was mentally ill. I am soooooo sensitive. I found Elaine Aron and her work with HSP's (Highly Sensitive People) Her web site has helped me tremendously.

Elaine writes that:

If you find you are highly sensitive, or your child is, you need to begin by knowing the following:
  • Your trait is normal. It is found in 15 to 20% of the population--too many to be a disorder, but not enough to be well understood by the majority of those around you.
  • It is innate. In fact, biologists have found it to be in most or all animals, from fruit flies and fish to dogs, cats, horses, and primates. This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting. The brains of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) actually work a little differently than others'.
  • You are more aware than others of subtleties. This is mainly because your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply. So even if you wear glasses, for example, you see more than others by noticing more.
  • You are also more easily overwhelmed. If you notice everything, you are naturally going to be overstimulated when things are too intense, complex, chaotic, or novel for a long time.
  • This trait is not a new discovery, but it has been misunderstood. Because HSPs prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called "shy." But shyness is learned, not innate. In fact, 30% of HSPs are extraverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion. It has also been called inhibitedness, fearfulness, or neuroticism. Some HSPs behave in these ways, but it is not innate to do so and not the basic trait.
  • Sensitivity is valued differently in different cultures. In cultures where it is not valued, HSPs tend to have low self-esteem. They are told "don't be so sensitive" so that they feel abnormal. ~Elaine Aron
We live in a culture that values a stiff upper lip, we have catch phrases that tell us to pull up our boot straps and get over it. Sensitivity is seen as a weakness when I believe it is a strength. Especially with communication. Being able to pick up on the slightest nuance of a persons demeanor and inner self can add greatly to understanding that person. For those of you who are highly sensitive, someone is listening and hears you. For those of you who don't understand or refuse to believe, read Elaine's site. This is new territory. Just as the world was once flat and people were persecuted for daring to speak other wise. New breakthroughs in human understanding are also hitting walls of disbelief.
     There is a story in Itzhak Bentov's Stalking the Wild Pendulum: On the Mechanics of Consciousness. I believe it applies well here:
     One nice day an elderly resident of the Bronx decides to visit the zoo. As he walks along, admiring all the unusual animals, he suddenly finds himself staring at a set of very tall legs. As he lifts his eyes, he finds the belly of the animal connecting those legs; he keeps looking up, and all he sees is neck, neck, and more neck, and then, somewhere up in the clouds, a head. "No", he says, "this is impossible. There is no such animal." And with that he turns away from the giraffe and walks calmly on, not casting a single glance back at it. Bentov p. 7
     The more we understand ourselves, the better we will be able to understand others. Communication is vital if we are to meet the coming Age of humankind. Understanding how we communicate and WHY we communicate and believe as we do is crucial. Find your Voice!
With deep thanks to Elaine Aron and all the HSP's out there.

More info on HSP:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

You Have to BE Just Like Every one Else

      I recently read a blog from a young woman who was feeling squashed by her families refusal to allow her to be the creative person she is. A recent college graduate, all she wants to do is write, make a career with her pen. Instead of encouraging her to follow her dream, instead of asking her how she might support herself while at the same time creating her life as a writer, The family want her to just get a good job, anywhere that will pay her big bucks. She is hurt and wondering why her family would be so uncaring about her feelings.
     This brought up a lot of thoughts for me, having lived a lifetime of having creativity in any form squashed by seemingly cold hearted family members. I wonder why we do this to each other. Why is it a condition of family acceptance to make the move to adulthood by doing what is expected and what each generation has done before. Does this go back to primitive days when humankind each had a role to fill that was important to the clans very life. If the best hunter wanted to draw cave pictures, the clan might starve.  Or is it a hand-me-down from rigid, condemning Victorian standards. Who makes up these rules that govern our society and why are we so cruel when someone wants to break away from what is considered normal. Why is a job as an artist somehow less than a job in an office.
      The instability of working for self is a big red flag to many parents. How will my child exist if they don't have a good, nine to five job that pays every week. Will I have to pick up the bill if my child can't get pay from their creative endeavors. These are very good questions to ask.
      A look in history shows us that many parents have put down the iron fist on many children. Einsteins teachers told his parents he was below a normal IQ, He worked as a file clerk while changing the world as we know it. Carl Jung also was told he was stupid, yet he among others in his field brought psychology up out of the Dark Ages. There are so many people who were told they could not do something because of one thing or another through out history, both men and women, yet they did. I was told I was not college material by my mother, yet when I went to college, I found the work exhilarating and I did very well. Algebra was a pain, but I passed with decent grades and excelled in all my other courses.
      So why squash a light a child has for their future. I believe this is all about fear, fear for the child and in this culture we live in, fear about what others might say if they find out little Johnny might be a bohemian. But who in the world says if you paint, draw, write, if you are a sensitive, an idealist, you are going to destroy your life and live like a criminal.
      Its time Dear readers, to get past all the fear and ego and be kind to each other. Support dreams with kind words not words from fear. Ask objective questions and explain your concern but with respect, not anger expecting failure. Autonomy is a treasured thing.
     There is a story from the tales of Arthur, this is the version I was given: In this tale Arthur is out on a hunting trip and separated from his group. He comes upon a stag and takes aim and shoots, wounding the animal. The animal runs into the thickets and Arthur being the King that he is can not allow a wounded animal to suffer, so attempts to follow and track it down. He finds he can not walk through the thick of the brush with his weaponry, so removes them and continues unarmed except for a small dagger. Coming upon a clearing he meets an old foe, his foe seeing him unarmed, cries “Arthur, I have you, and today you will die!”Arthur thinks quickly, and responds, “we have been enemies for many years but always with honor have we battled, would you kill me now when I am unarmed, what honor will this bring you.” His foe thinks a moment and says, “You are right, I’ll tell you what, you must answer a riddle, you have one year, if at the end of that year you can not answer my riddle, your head is mine.” Arthur responds with agreement and asks “what is your riddle.” His foe responds “What do women want?” Arthur turns several shades of gray as they part, his thoughts are something like, Oh no, what do woman want, my goose is cooked, how can any man know what women want.
     He returns to Camelot and puts the riddle forth to his knights and his court; they all groan and begin the search for the answer. The year goes on and no answer is found, then one day this woman, Dame Ragnal rides into town. She is horrid; earthy, ugly, tusks for teeth, stench surrounding her, smelling like a bog, an absolute repulsive sight. She rides to Arthur, dismounts and tells him she has the answer to his riddle. Arthur looks at her and thinks, well maybe, what have I got to lose but my head, so he allows her to speak. She says, just a moment, “before I give my answer, there is a trade I wish. I wish to marry your most handsome knight, Gawain.” Guinevere shudders, steps in and says, “oh no, we can not allow this, it is too much to ask from Gawain.”
     However, Gawain steps forward and replies, “If her answer is correct, then to save my King it is not too much of a trade. I will marry Dame Ragnal.” This agreed upon, the time comes and Arthur’s foe rides into town and asks his riddle, Arthur responds with many different answers and as each one is found wrong; his foe begins to sharpen his sword. Then finally Arthur looks to Gawain and then to Dame Ragnal and shudders and reluctantly gives her answer. “What women want is sovereignty,” his foe looks up startled and dismayed, and he stomps off muttering, “my sister must have told you!”
     The wedding is arranged and on that day, Dame Ragnal in her earthy repulsiveness is even worse, everyone feels so sorry for poor Gawain. At the reception, the bride tears at huge halves of hog with her tusks and eats and drinks great quantities, much to everyone’s horror at her mannerisms. The time comes to retire to their night chamber and Gawain ever so truthful to his word and himself, goes with her. In their chamber he has his back to her as they prepare for the night. Dame Ragnal speaks and asks Gawain, “Husband, how about a little kiss.” He still has not faced her, he takes a deep breath and before turning to his bride, responds “nay Lady, you are my wife and I will do more than kiss you.”
     He turns and there before him stands the most beautiful woman he has ever seen; of course he gasps and asks “what! Why! How!” Dame Ragnal replies, “By your gallantry you have broken a curse that was on me, and now you have a choice to make. I can be this way for you here in our chambers at night and remain that horrid creature during the day at court, or I can be this beauty you see during the day at court and be that horrid creature here with you at night.
     Gawain struggles with this decision, confronting his ego and his fears he finally looks at her, taking her hands he says,” this is too great a decision for me to make for you, it is your decision and only you have the right to choose for yourself.” As he says this she cries aloud, “Gawain, in your recognition that I must make my own decision and not have someone else make it for me. By allowing me the right to choose, you have broken the spell completely and I will now remain as I am, the beast has been vanquished.”(Casey, The Planets. recording tape 5)
     Our dear Gawain gave his lady respect and allowed his love to choose her own way. It was hard for him to step away from what others might think, hard to make a decision the royal court might frown upon, he had no idea the curse upon his lady would be broken if he gave her sovereignty. None of us know how our children will turn out after they leave home. I'm not saying let your children do as they will. I'm saying accept your children as adults when they become adults legally. And here is a message for the adult children out there, get off your parents backs, If mom or dad wants to paint themselves blue in Borneo, they have every right to. Your parents did not spend a livetime living, learning, loving and raising you to have their now adult children treat them like idiots and a bothersome duty. Love, respect, dignity, and tolerance go so much farther than spite, anger, and ruthless control ever will, no matter what generation we are.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Our Own Stories

Dear readers,
     We each have a story that belongs to us, a story that we each write. Borrowing an example from Don Miguel Ruiz, pretend you are going to the movies. You walk into one theater and see yourself sitting and watching the show, it’s your show, just the way you know it to be. Then you walk over to the next theater and you see your sister watching the movie. But, it’s not the same story! The people, places and things are all the same, but it’s different. That did not happen that way, its all wrong!
     Haha! You are seeing your story through your sister’s memories and perceptions. This goes on and on as you walk into different theaters and see your mothers, fathers, brothers, friends, all the people involved in your story each have their own version of the story. Each person is absolutely correct in their memory of events. Why? Because we are all different, we each have our own unique perception of life. Every experience we have is routed through our very own editor and written according to our perception. This can make life wonderful and it can also make life hell. Wonderful when you can use your voice without fear, hell when you believe you are not allowed to speak.
     When a person has lived with suppression throughout their life, there comes a time when they have had enough. All of my life I’ve been told, forget about it, don’t make waves, you can’t live in the past, the past is over just let it all go. The big one “there are no BUTs allowed, you are not allowed to have a voice!
     Who the heck is someone else to tell a person they have no right to speak up about personal injustice. No right to say, this event caused me great pain. I’m not talking about constant whining or living a victim mentality throughout your life. Or accusing someone and attacking them. I’m talking about just being acknowledged. Allowed to have a voice without someone else telling you to shut up, stuff it down, forget it
     There are many different ways to suppress a person’s voice. I think the worst is ostracization, to be made an outcast, to be shunned. To turn a cold icy back to the person who needs to be heard. Telling that person they are not a part of your everyday life and that they are not important to you. Or ignoring them, brushing aside their need to communicate, assuming whatever it is is an attack on either you or your family.
     It amazes me that we will stand over a loved one or friend holding their hair while they vomit during sickness. We will rush to mend a cut, bruise or broken bone. But when a heart and spirit are wounded, we push it away with swift denial. Yet at the same time we will tell the broken heart, the broken spirit, that we love them so very much. Well, as long as no waves are made, as long as we shut up.
     Why would anyone tell another to stuff it down? Maybe hearing another person’s story makes you uncomfortable, or maybe you believe you have participated somehow and feel guilty.
     As for the person who may seem to constantly whine, perhaps they whine because no one has ever listened. Perhaps it is you who hear whining rather than a plea to be acknowledged. What does this matter to you, it’s not your fault some one got a bad deal or is unhappy. I hear this repeated over and over again, it’s not my problem and it’s not your problem. However, if we truly care for the people we say we love, then perhaps just taking the time to get past our own hang-ups and just acknowledge whatever it is the other person is trying to say would help change hell into wonderful.


     Have you ever thought about words? What exactly is a word? A word is a group of symbols/letters that everyone within a given culture agrees will represent a thing. Take TREE, the word tree is not a tree, its a symbol for that thing that grows tall and offers shade in the backyard, the park or the wilderness. People who speak English have all agreed that the letters t-r-e-e will mean that tall shady thing usually found outside, but sometimes found indoors in pots. People who speak other languages each have a group of letters or symbols that mean tree.
     Words have great power. A word can be used to heal and a word can be used to harm. But sometimes a word may be intended for one meaning yet somehow gets interpreted to mean something different than the original intention. Why is that? Why do words sometimes get taken in a way that is not intended?
     When we are born, we don't know anything. We rely on our parents, teachers, social media, friends, and many different people to teach us the meanings of our cultures agreed upon words. As we grow all of our experiences come from the people who have the greatest influence over what we are taught. Then we reach our teen years and start questioning and rebelling against everything. Sometimes we start questioning what we are taught a little younger than our teens and some people never question at all. But, even with all the questioning and rebelling, we still have a foundation of agreed upon meanings that allow us to communicate. This is where perception comes in. The way we as individuals interpret the meaning of the word we hear or read controls the power of that word.
     There is a story found in many different cultures. This is the version of that story I was given on my journey of learning words:
     There is an Indian story told by a grandmother to her    
granddaughter that goes like this:
    Within each of us there live two wolves. One is mean and hateful, always complaining and unhappy. Nothing can make it happy. The other wolf is content and at peace with life and finds the good in all, rising above the bumps in life. The granddaughter asks the grandmother "which one lives grandmother?" the grandmother replies, "the one you feed".
Unknown author
     The one we feed is the wolf that reads and interprets the words we hear and read. Does this mean we must always be some happy-go-lucky person always humming and singing happy thoughts? Nooooooo! It just means that if we are aware of how each of us interpret/perceive words, we can help each other communicate.
     Don Miguel Ruiz has written a wonderful book called The Four Agreements, and a follow up book, The Fifth Agreement. I highly recommend his work and teachings. There are so many teachers and so many ideas of how to communicate. Seek them out, question everything, observe everything and make up your own mind. Find your voice.