“All is flux; nothing stays still.” ~ Heraclitus

True Pathway of Life by Feathered Tary (Flckr Creative Commons)

                      

“Sometimes in life, from out of a myriad of prosaic decisions like what to eat and where to sleep and how to dress, a true crossroads is revealed. In these moments, when the fog of relative irrelevancy lifts and fate rolls out a demand for free will, there is only left or right”. ~ J. R. Ward
The Bamboo Forest by Trey Ratliff (http://www.stuckincustoms.com/)

My hearing with Social Security is coming up on September 16, and I believe that I am beginning to panic. After all, that hearing is going to be a live-altering event.  I mean, if SS determines that yes, I am in fact disabled, then I go on their roster of disabled people. It makes it official—government official.  

The fear of being officially classified as a nonfunctioning member of society is causing me to look at the job listings with George Washington. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, wandering aimlessly through job listings, thinking about what I could do.  

But time for total truth: Would I be able to do it—it being return to the job force full-time, rejoin the lot of functioning, productive members of society?I honestly don’t know, and probably wouldn’t know until I tried. But the catch 22, the big iron in the works, so to speak, is that if I tried and found that I couldn’t do it, then what? Start the entire process again? Would that even be a possibility?  

Hence, my panic. I remember my mother used to repeat a phrase when she was perplexed: “What to do? What to do?” Exactly. Précisément.  

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” ~ Lewis Carroll
Doorways Neuville: Number One or Number Two?

A person could go mad in the face of such a conundrum: choose to act, and the possible failure has innumerable ramifications, but choose not to act, and the acquiescence may lead to the ultimate loss of self.  

Search your soul . . . Let your conscience be your guide . . . In the end, you’ll do what’s right . . .  

Really? Seriously? Being in this position make me realize acutely why some people consult psychics, have their palms read, have a Tarot card reading: Just tell me what’s going to come, and I’ll know what decision to make.  

Sorry, but no. Back to that whole free will concept: Each individual possesses the ability to control his or her fate by choosing a course of action from among alternatives; whether or not free will is connected to moral responsibility depends upon the individual. That being said, the concept of free will implies being responsible for one’s actions as a result of being accorded the freedom to choose.. However, as most philosophers point out, the concept of free will is illusory in that whether or not the individual succeeds in carrying out actions decided upon depends on a number of factors beyond that individual’s control.  

Or at least, that’s how I perceive it to be.  

“Although every man believes that his decisions and resolutions involve the most multifarious factors, in reality they are mere oscillation between flight and longing.” ~ Herman Broch
Stair Pathways on Hillsides of Valparaiso, Chile

The sticking point for me, then, is that if I do what I most want to do, that is, try to go back to work, possibly work on another degree, then I am subjecting my family to risk. That and the fact that I decide, but many factors out there loom beyond my control.  

The positives of trying to go back to work: 

  • Improved self-worth from feeling as if I am doing something productive
  • Increased family income, thereby helping to move us out of this never-ending miasma
  • Having health insurance paid for by the company instead of self-paying
  • Depending more on myself to get things done
  • Possibly feeling better when my mind has other things on which to dwell

The negatives of trying to go back to work:  

  • Working again and finding out that my body cannot tolerate the activity
  • Not being around full-time for Brett while he is beginning college, or being available to my family on a full-time basis
  • The costs involved in going back to work: purchasing another vehicle, travel, wardrobe
  • Having to go out on disability again and possibly not being able to get coverage
  • Having to pay back debts that were forgiven when I went on disability

I did not put having time to write on either of these lists as my experience in the past few years has shown me that I will write whether or not I have the time depending on my need to say something. In all of the time that I have been out on disability, I still have not put together my book, which is what I said that I would do. That in itself is telling.  

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~ M. Scott Peck
 Pathway bridge in Saharna Moldova, by Guttorm Flatabo

                      

As some of you may realize, I write my way through, the logic being that as I put the words to page, my mind processes and sifts, allowing me to arrive at some kind of logical conclusion, and if not a conclusion, then at least a moment to pause. Having written about decisions countless times, I can say that at this moment, I am not more certain as to what I should do than when I began this post.  

No great truth has come to me. At least, I don’t believe that it has. I heard a homily or proverb one time that went something like this: If you toss a coin in the air to help you make a decision, pause as the coin is in the air to reveal to yourself which outcome you were hoping for. Kind of like truth in a fortune cookie.  

I know what I want to do, but so many things make me afraid to take this route, not the least of which is how much pain I am in from concentrating so hard on getting these words out.  

Best five out of six . . . any words of wisdom would be appreciated.  

“There are no prescriptive solutions, no grand designs for grand problems. Life’s solutions lie in the minute particulars involving more and more individual people daring to create their own life and art, daring to listen to the voice within their deepest, original nature, and deeper still, the voice within the earth.”
~ Stephen Nachmanovitch 

More later. Peace.  

Music by Dryer, “Seen Enough”  

The Road Less Taken

Point Woronzof Park along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail AK

 Point Woronzof Park Along The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Alaska by Janson Jones

 

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

edward-hopper-rooms-by-the-sea-1950
"Rooms by the Sea," Edward Hopper (1950)

Today, my mind seems to be going in seventeen directions at once. I feel that I am being bombarded by thoughts and feelings too complex to unweave. Part of me is in Australia where a dear friend is going through some major life difficulties. To worsen things her daughter is also ill and experiencing ups and downs.

Another part of me is thinking about the wife of one of the writers whose site I visit. She, too, is ill and awaiting some kind of relief from her doctors.

Another blogger, one whose writing is just amazing, is anticipating the death of her beloved dog who has been with her for years.

A poet with whom I try to stay in contact has just lost her nephew. Her words are full of pain and sorrow, yet they are hauntingly beautiful at the same time.

Yet another compatriot is awaiting the birth of his daughter. The excitement that he is feeling is palpable, making me excited for him.

It’s so hard in some ways to be connected to so many people, to be intimately familiar with their lives and their loved ones. These connections bring me laughter, insight, opinions, joy, and sometimes, heartbreak.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 

It is the empathic side of me that feels too much, that perhaps delves too deeply into the pain and joy of others, leaving me bereft at times, and full of inner delight at other times. I have always been this way—too willing to take on the emotional burdens of others. I remember being a young girl and feeling such complete despair when one of my friend’s dogs was hit by a car, and then being filled with delight when a neighbor’s dog had puppies. Granted, these are probably normal childhood emotions, but it is hard to put into words the keenness I have always felt emotionally, the incisive way in which my emotions have held sway for as long as I can remember.

Henry County Indiana from When Worlds Collide
Henry County Indiana by Julayne from When Worlds Collide

I remember being devastated when someone I worked with at the newspaper died after a bout with cancer. And how absolutely crushed I was when I heard that John Lennon died.

My emotions have always guided me, which is why, I suppose, I have the incredible highs and merciless lows in my life. I’m not suggesting that this is the preferred way to live. On the contrary: There have been many times when I have wished that I could simply turn a switch, turn off everything that I was feeling. There have been moments in which I would have given anything not to be able to feel. To be numb, completely without thought, emotion, or concern.

No one has ever accused me of being a Stoic. For me, nature is not rational and perfect. I do not see everything from a fatalistic viewpoint. In Stoicism, whatever happens, happens, and nothing can change that which is determined, so there is no point in questioning or trying to alter things that are not within the individual’s power. I would never have been able to converse with Zeno, the father of stoicism and his philosophers of the porch. For each statement made, I would have asked why.

But why? Why does this happen? Why didn’t that happen? Why? Why? Why?

For me, every change is felt, not just within my psyche, but by my corporeal self as well. It’s as if my body is a barometer to my soul.

Admittedly, pure elation is an emotion that eludes me much of the time. That’s not to say that I have not been elated many times in my life. Of course I have: when I first held each of my children, on the day that I graduated with my B.A., when I finally completed work on my publishing degree, whenever I finish a piece of writing that I feel certain has come together well, each time that Corey returned home safely after being on the water, each accomplishment in my children’s lives, to name only a few.

As I have mentioned, the beauty that I find in the smallest things—flowers, birds, beautiful images, music, words—brings me a tremendous sense of inner peace and can affect my mood and sometimes reverse an impending low.

But spontaneous elation? I am mystified by people who are like that. You know the ones—they are genuinely happy most of the time. Very little seems to penetrate their cheery dispositions.

To be honest, I am uncomfortable being around people who are like that. Something in me tries to find the falseness behind the cheer. But sometimes, there is no falsehood. These people are happy, with every fiber of their being they are happy. I don’t understand that, nor do I particularly care for it, or perhaps the more accurate statement would be believe it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish unhappiness for these people, but to have that much happiness all of the time? How does one go about feeling the inevitable calamities in life if everything is always good? Positive? When faced with tragedy, to speak homilies such as “well, it was probably meant to be,” or “you’ll feel better soon” seems to ignore the pain. And if pain is ignored, if the individual does not allow herself to move through it, embrace it, and come out on the other side, how can any knowledge be gained?

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
 

Bear Lake Trail Everglades Fl by JJ
Bear Lake Trail, Everglades, Florida by Janson Jones

Admittedly, I am a cynic. I question everything, take nothing at face value, and tend not to accept glib explanations. Am I proposing that that is the way to live life? No. Sometimes, I wish that I could just enfold myself in the easy answers, ignore the nagging doubt. Wouldn’t that be easier?

But then, I would not be true to myself if I did so. I question. I doubt. I wonder. But once I believe in something, I will argue vehemently in support of whatever it is that I believe.

For me, the path isn’t always clear. Where it is going is never defined, but I would never change that. The not knowing is what allows for exploration, what encourages the soul to seek out the truth, even though the truth is not always what we desire or what we are prepared to accept.

The truth is such a complex animal. It changes with the wind. It is ephemeral. And that is why the search for it is usually not well-trodden nor lit with beacons pointing in the right direction.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

andrew-wyeth-easterly detail
"Easterly" (detail), by Andrew Wyeth

My life has been one long search for beacons pointing the way, but just as sailors have been misdirected by false light, I too have been misdirected: by believing the words of the wrong person, by holding dear to someone who was not worthy of my heart, by listening to misleading echoes.

And then the path becomes unclear, no boundaries, no borders. And at these times, I have become lost. Yet I have always made my way back, whether it was a friend who guided me, or my love for someone or their love for me, or just being attuned to my esse—I have always managed to find my way home.

For me, the lie is the worst thing. It rips apart the existing reality. It causes shifts in time and space, and as a result, things must be moved around until a new pattern can be formed, and the result is a grey spot where the truth used to be.

But then the opposite holds true: each new friendship, each new person who enters my life in a meaningful way also causes a shift, but the resulting move to accept these new people into the fold increases the beauty of the tapestry, enriches the colors, emboldens the pattern.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 

Even though I may wish at times that I had it within me not to feel things so deeply, I know that that will never be. I have my peaks and my valleys, and the movement between the two is an amazing journey, regardless of the pull on my psyche or the taxing of my constitution. My emotions are my plinth: They bolster me and keep me buoyant. But more importantly, they allow me to open my heart to others, to sustain my empathy, to avow the truths of my soul.

Arctic Valley Chugach St Prk Anchorage by JJ
Arctic Valley, Chugach State Park, Anchorage by Janson Jones

Admittedly, the pinnacles of my highs and the chasms of my lows do not make me the easiest person with whom to live, or even, to love. But I hope that the ferocity of my loyalty and my unstinting willingness to follow those for whom I care into the breach help to compensate for my ever-shifting spirits.

And so it is my hope that all of those individuals who I mentioned in the beginning of this post know that even though many miles separate us, my heart and my thoughts encompass them as fully as if I were sitting across the table from them, sharing a cup of tea.

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference” ~ Robert Frost
 

edward-hopper-houses-of-squam-light detail
"Houses of Squam Light" (detail), by Edward Hopper

I do not know where my path will continue to lead. I only know that I am willing to follow it to its end. I hope that along the way I continue to meet new people, to enter new lives, to touch those who seek comfort, to share in the great moments of bliss, to ease the way for those who will allow it, and to love and be able to call myself beloved.

It is these stops, these waysides that make that path more enthralling and that make me want to continue on this journey. I do not know the full purpose of my quest; I only know that it began years ago and that I still have a long way to go, many more observations to make, and more words to write before I reach my inn.

I’ll leave you with this track from Die Romantik. Haunting song.

 

More later. Peace.

 

The Road Less Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

High School Should Be Abolished

The Boardwalk Trail in Trail of Cedars Glacier Natl Park by Janson Jones
Trail of the Cedars, Glacier National Park, Montana by Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana

“The Long and Winding Road . . . ” ~ Paul McCartney, The Beatles

“Will Never Disappear. . .”

pathwayI picked up my son Brett from school today. When he got in the truck, I could tell that it had been another bad day for him. My heart aches so much for him as he is certain that the rest of his life is going to be as bad as it is right now.

Even though most of his teachers and his counselor have been extremely understanding and have agreed to work with him, he is still suffering the pains of the anxiety and depression, and I have little doubt that almost all of it is caused by school.

When he asked me if his life is always going to be so bad, I just wanted to cradle him in my arms and hold him and never let go. That’s the mom in me talking, but it is also the person in me talking who has been and continues to be terribly unsure of herself, even after all of these years. I know how it feels to believe that life just sucks and that it is never going to get better. I know how it feels to believe that you are worthless. I know how it feels to bear the burden of putting on a good face just to make it through the day.

And because I know these things, it makes me wish that he could just skip these years and arrive at a better point in his life.

“I’ve Seen That Road Before . . .”

stone stepsI mean, I actually didn’t have a horrible time in high school. I did pretty much whatever I wanted, managed to still get good grades, cheered, and belonged to every club I could join. But the truth is that it was all a big act: my attempts to fit in, to belong. And I always wore this façade, one that reflected someone who knew what she wanted and wouldn’t let anyone stand in her way.

I have to tell you that maintaining that kind of façade really takes its toll. I would move through school at this frenetic pace for weeks and weeks at a time. I would go to all-night study sessions, take my advanced courses, work part time four or five times a week. The pace I set for myself was insane now that I look back on it. But then the inevitable crash would come, and I would get sick and be out of school.

At the time I suspected that I was manic/depressive, as it was called then, but only from the little bit of research that I had done on the subject. Of course, information was not a mouse click away at the time, and research meant pulling books and articles from shelves and reading them on the library’s time. I just knew that I had these extreme highs that would shift on a dime.

My mother, of course, would say things like “snap out of it,” and “you’re just making yourself sad.” Or the best one: “You have your period.” To be fair, though, even though I cast my mother as uncaring, it was not that so much as uninformed. My mother came from a very small town in North Carolina and had no formal education. What she knew about depression was only what she might see in movies. And in her generation, mental illness was a big stigma: People did not talk about such things as it would end up on their permanent record.

Permanent record. You won’t believe how many times I used to hear that. I asked my mom one time where this permanent record was kept. She told me not to be a smartass.

But I digress . . .

“The Wild and Windy Night . . .”

Dark-stormy-cloudsMy main point is that high school is an unendurable test of strength, will, character, and emotion. Think back to your high school days: Did you love them? Do you look back on them fondly? Bigger question: Would you go back?

No. Absolutely not. No way. Never. Fry some chicken and call me for dinner but N-O.

I was telling Brett that there are some people who never leave high school because it was the best time of their lives. We all know those people, and we usually feel sorry for them.

But in retrospect, there are only a handful of people from my high school days that I still care about. One of them is dead; he died much too young of cancer. One I was married to (no, we were not high school sweethearts, ugh). One is his best friend and was my best friend. One reads my blog regularly and has come in and out of my life for years and has always been in my life because we have known each other much longer than high school. And one is a gay man who lives with his partner up north.

There are other people who I remember fondly, There are moments that I remember fondly. There are incredible adventures that I will never forget. But that was then. I’ve moved on, matured, grown, aged, changed and changed again.

“That the Rain Washed Away . . .”

silver-birch-forestWhat I was trying to tell Brett was that all of those popular people in high school, the ones who everyone knew and envied, or wanted to be like or hated just a little because they were too popular or too handsome or too privileged—those people are not who they were in high school.

For example, one of the really sad stories from my high school concerns the football star, the quarterback. He was actually a quiet, troubled soul, but few people knew that. Everyone just knew that he could throw a ball. A few years after high school, he killed himself. I won’t even try to surmise why he might have done such a thing. No one can ever know another person’s demons.

Or take some of the beautiful people in high school, the pretty blondes, the handsome jocks: Some of them are on their third marriages. Some are with spouses who they thought would treat them like queens only to find out that their husband is a monster who beats them behind the privacy of their closed door.

Some never made it to 20. They died from drug overdoses, suicide, homicide, illnesses. The ones other people looked down on, the brains, are working for GE, fortune 500 companies as engineers, NASA.

“Why Leave Me Standing Here? Let Me Know the Way . . . “

Standing AloneWe can never know where life will take us. Most of us would never have guessed that we would be in the places we find ourselves today. Some of us have done much better than we ever hoped. Some of us have done much worse. Fate is fickle, and life is hard.

When we are in high school, everything seems possible at some point. Then nothing seems possible the next day. We go from highs to lows in the blink of an eye. Maybe it’s because of a rejection letter from the college we really wanted. Maybe it’s because we lost a parent or a sibling or a best friend. Maybe it’s because our family’s circumstances changed, and what we once had was taken away. Maybe it’s because we have no support system at home. Maybe it’s because we have no home. Who knows?

All of the petty grievances we had with people in high school seem so small once we move on and have to deal with real world issues: paying the mortgage, working with a boss who is sexist, finding out our spouse is cheating, losing a job because of circumstances beyond our control.

How can breaking up with your one true love at 16 prepare you for such things? It can help you to understand loss, but without a broader context, that loss will seem overwhelming at the time.

How can failing English or Trigonometry not make you feel like a failure? It can’t at the moment, but in a broader context, it can help you to learn how to overcome failure, and as long as no one rubs your nose in that failure, you may be able to deal with it in a way that does not tear at your sense of self.

“Many Times I’ve Been Alone and Many Times I’ve Cried”

Wild and Windy NightI’m not trying to diminish all of the emotions, feelings and flailing that a young person in high school endures. It is precisely because of the constant bombardment of things that so many young people take their own lives. As I wrote about in a previous post, being bullied when you are 13 and unable to sort through all of the emotions can cause a young person to snap. And how sad and utterly wasted.

If only there were some way to go inside the heads of these young men and women and let them know that in one year or two or three, their lives will be different. They won’t have to endure humiliation, verbal abuse, or whatever obstacles they face now because they will have the power to get away from that source of pain. If only they can hang on long enough.

I’m not naive. I know that not everyone escapes. I know that for some, the abuse continues. I know that because of economic circumstances, some will never be able to touch even the periphery of their dreams. And some will continue patterns begun in high school that prevent them from ever really maturing emotionally.

Many an alcoholic and drug addict are born in high school. Those bullies grow up to be spouse and child abusers. Some of those who endured constant ridicule grow into people who survive by belittling others because that is all that they know. Others who had to lie and live in secret grow into adults who always keep their true selves hidden. And some who were never able to overcome their childhood fears grow into individuals who continue to be victimized their entire lives.

But there is always hope, and with luck, maybe the sorrows that they endure during this emotional, hormonal, confusing time will help them to become stronger people, or at least give them insight into how they don’t want to raise their own children, the things they should never say or do to their own children because they have the emotional and physical scars to remind them of how much words can hurt.

“. . . You Will Never Know the Many Ways I’ve Tried”

Solitary Walk on BeachIf high school was the apex of your life, and you still look on it fondly, then good for you. Cherish your memories. But for most of the rest of us, it’s a period that we are glad is in the past. We might go to a reunion to see a few familiar faces and say hello, and probably, we want to gloat a little inwardly at the beauties who have gained weight and the arrogant young men who are now balding and pot-bellied.

Sometimes, revenge is sweet when it is never served at all, when we just let life take care of things. When we just allow fate to dip into the well and present its own version of just rewards.

I wish with all of my heart that the high school years could somehow be avoided, jumped over, or abolished altogether. But that is not reality. As much as I might want to cosset my son and keep him from pain, I know that I have to step back and allow him to finish this particular journey in his life. I can be there to support him, but I cannot bear this burden for him, nor would I want to if I could.

“Don’t Leave Me Waiting Here/Lead Me to Your Door”

sunrise through treesThere is an old Spanish proverb that says “The journey is more important than the inn.”  Only when we are a little older and a little wiser and a few years removed from the hardest legs of our journey—only then do we begin to understand that life truly is a winding road, filled with twists and turns and hillocks and vales.

Until then, we must endure all of the more arduous legs of our individual journeys and bide our time for the smoother paths. And if we can be patient, sometimes along the way the light will shine through the trees to help us along our paths.

Let me leave you with this beautiful memory of Paul, George and Ringo together live with John in video. More later. Peace.

 

 

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