Lisa was 97 years old when I worked at the center for the elderly. She always sat in the chair by the door with a romance novel in her lap. I commented on her love of romance one day and she said, “I’m old, but I’m still human.”
I squatted beside her chair; her eyes sparkled. “When you grow old,” she said, “you don’t stop being human. You don’t stop having feelings or having dreams.” She shrugged, “I’m nearly a hundred, but as long as I am in this world, I have hopes.”
She then spoke of what it was like to have people look at her as if she weren’t in her right mind, because she was elderly and what it was like to have others think she needed someone to make decisions for her. She told me of how it wounded her pride to be treated like she was senile when she wasn’t, of how people just assumed that because she was old, she had somehow stopped having any pride or emotions or feelings of self-worth or that she deserved pretty things. Then spoke of how she had served as a nurse in WWII and how she had paid her dues for her country. She was a veteran. She told me of how she had come from the Choctaw Nation and she was an American of all Americans.
She asked me for hot cocoa and told me the special way she liked it. I went in the kitchen to make it and the young worker in there said, “You making chocolate for Lisa? She won’t like it. She’ll send you back. That old bitty can’t be satisfied.”
But I made it exactly as Lisa had told me to make it and if she had asked me to redo it, I would have done so. I sat beside her and listened to more stories until I had to go attend to another matter. Daily, I listened to Lisa’s stories and I read manuscripts from 80 year olds with dreams of becoming writers and I discovered something that I hope every 30 year-old will soon discover, age is nothing. Our spirits, the real us, are ageless, eternal.
Lisa at 97 was the same Lisa who had done all of those amazing things in her 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. Lisa, at 97, was more mentally clear and intelligent than that 30 year-old who called her an old bitty. It is a foolish person who writes someone off because of age or appearance. She wasn’t any more demanding than I would have been in her shoes. Who wants to eat tasteless food and drink watered down hot cocoa? She wasn’t hard to please, she just wanted to be treated with dignity and respect. I don’t know what ever happened to Lisa. I’m sure she’s gone by now or else she is 115 years old, which isn’t impossible, but I doubt she’s still with us. Still, at 97, she taught me a thing or two about life and I am forever grateful for the two summers I spent working at the center and the insights I gained into human nature.
**Another post I found here in my drafts. I apparently, never finished it. It’s dated 2010. It sort of just leaves off in the midst of a train of thought, but I decided to post it anyway….
I think I’ve spent my whole life trying to communicate, to truly connect with others. This connection can’t be made in a materialistic way and it crosses all racial, cultural, gender and economic barriers.
I think I’ve always been trying to say what can’t be said with mere words, seeking a pure communication of the heart. I remember a co-worker once telling saying of me that I “always spoke my heart.” I responded with, “Is there another way to speak?”
I believe it was Like Ironweed who said, “You must speak straight so that your words may go like arrows to the sun.” I’ve tried to speak straight, to speak my true heart and to be true to what I believed. I think that perhaps in matters of style I have often wavered and changed course, but in matters of spiritual truth (not religion for there is an enormous difference between spirit truth and religious traditions forced upon others by those in authority) I have remained steadfast.
What matters to me most is spiritual truth and in knowing those spiritual truths, how we treat one another as human beings. So often the words we use are clumsy and get in the way of what we really want to say. Edgar Cayce, an American psychic, is quoted as having said that God put artists on the earth to act as windows to the spirit world. But in order for a window to offer a clear view, it has to be clean. I believe it was King David who prayed, “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.” I wish for a pure spirit, a spirit without malice or intent to do harm or take advantage of others, a heart that doesn’t want to manipulate or control, a heart that sees the good in others, even when it’s not obvious.
I have long believed that my entire purpose for living in this world was to be a conduit, a window, to the spirit world. There is a way of wisdom and I long to walk in it. I’d rather be wise than beautiful. I’d rather be wise than famous. I’d rather be wise than wealthy. Once, when I was thirteen, I prayed that above all else, above beauty, above talent, above wealth, that I would be wise.
The spirit world is all around us every day. It is in the pond, it is in the rain and wind, in a baby’s giggle, a kitten’s purr, the night songs of the crickets, early spring peepers, because it’s in us if we chose to listen. In the spirit way, ordinary things are sacred and blessed and are of far more value than all the man-made things combined. The spiritual laws is the WAY in which we should conduct our lives in order to obtain true satisfaction, which is far above what the world deems as successful. It is the way is the way of kindness, forgiveness, love, selflessness, compassion, mercy, endurance, patience, understanding…everything that is good and lovely and worth thinking about. It is the way of the spiritual warrior.
The spirit world does not operate on the same value system as the laws of the materialist world and for that reason, the person who choses to walk the spirit way will often be misunderstood by those who value the material world most….
I diverge from my writings on depth psychology today and revisit a concept I found in my notes from some years ago. It comes on the heels of a post I made on my artist blog concerning one of my paintings. I look in the mirror and I see gray hair beginning to peep out of my dark strands and yet, I’m okay with it. I may dye it, eventually, if I don’t like the way it looks later on. But if I do, it’ll be my choice and not something that I feel pressured to do. However, like with many things, the voices in our world scream that we need to “fix” that gray hair, and instill fear that if our hair is gray, we are less attractive and if we are less attractive, then we are less valuable.
We are daily bombarded with messages that we need to be slimmer, taller, prettier, smarter, richer, younger-looking; that we need newer gadgets, smart cars, smart phones, smart homes, and I-everthings. The internet tells us what to wear, what to eat, and where to go. We get the message that we need to have these things or do these things in order to have a better life, to be happier. I actually know women who will not walk out their front door without make-up, because they’re afraid someone might see them and reject them. I want to tell them that make-up can’t make them beautiful or more acceptable. Beauty first has to come from inside.
It kind of reminds me of the story of Adam and Eve when the serpent told Eve she needed to bite the fruit because then she would be better. She would have something she didn’t already have, know something she didn’t already know. She would ‘move up in the world.’ Yet, Eve was already at the top and she already had all the knowledge she needed inside herself. All she had to do was trust the voice she already knew was true. But I don’t fault Eve. The liar was probably persistent, showing up day after day, looking good, charming, appealing, promising high rewards. The same thing happens to us all on a daily basis. The same lie, the lie that we “need” to obtain something to be worthy or better or just good enough, is being pitched to us all every single day and like Eve, we bite into it, and then offer the same critical lie to someone else. I believe happiness is found when we know our own worth and live according to our own values. In other words, we have to assert that we are ENOUGH and don’t need to bite into anything else.
Somewhere in our pasts someone criticized us out of their own insecurities or thoughtlessness or ignorance; but the criticisms stick, the lie continues, the lie that says, “You’re not _______ enough.” The lie says that you need to do something, obtain something, to be better, to have more knowledge.
At the very least it is a lie that causes a woman to look in the mirror and turn away with a knot in her stomach, feeling that she isn’t–enough. I hear women make negative statements about themselves all of the time. They look at some woman in a magazine and compare themselves. The kind of beauty we see on television and in magazines is what some money hungry cooperation has designed to get more in their bank accounts. That’s why fashion is always changing. They want things to consistently be hard to obtain so that people will pay more to get it…and that includes everything from beautiful hair to buns of steel…anything to make money.
Now, I’m not advocating letting yourself go. I believe in being responsible for the house I live in and not just letting it fall apart. Yes, we should try to eat right and get adequate sleep. We should exercise, but the belief that our value is tied up in our physical appearance or the things that we own, etc., is a lie. If that were so, beautiful young celebrities who “have it all” would not be overdosing or committing suicide.
Real beauty is found with the inward adorning of the heart. It’s okay to look our best, to want to be pretty, but the mistake comes when we began to believe that our value is tied to our appearance or that anyone in this this world actually knows what true beauty looks like. Who gives “them” the right to define what is beautiful? Is not beauty in the eye of the beholder as the old saying goes? When we allow anyone to determine our value based on…anything…or when we believe that our value is determined by what we look like, what we have or what we can do…we believe the lie that we are not____enough. It all comes down to who and what are we believe and our beliefs determine the quality of our lives, not our looks, not our bank accounts, not our popularity, but our beliefs. So, that is where beauty lies.
I recently found the following draft from a post I intended to publish in 2011, a month after my dad died. For some reason, I never published it. I thought it was fitting to post it now. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
I’m a writer and an artist.
I have discovered that whether I’m writing about a person, a character, or painting a person’s face, there is one thing I must do. I must really SEE the person.
I don’t mean that I have to notice the color of his hair or eyes, but I must really SEE. I have to determine what makes that woman in my chair, her. What characteristic makes that man, him.
Sometimes I portray a distant sadness, a longing in the eyes, sometimes…pride, self-importance and sometimes, a free and generous spirit. Sometimes a sketch ends up projecting a sense of wandering, longing. Often a person will sit in my chair and in ten minutes time tell me his or her entire life story. There is a comfort in having a stranger draw your face, much in the same way that there is a comfort in sitting next to a stranger on a bus or an airplane.
As an artist, I often feel like a bit of a palm reader. I have to look into a face and discover what line, what shadow or smudge, portrays the depth of a person’s character and if I leave it out or add what is not there, then I loose something.
It’s not so much an emotional experience. I suppose it can be, but it’s more like a revelation. I think drawing is a spiritual experience, not a religious one. Pencil on paper is honest and it’s hard to mask. Not everyone will sit in my chair. Some people are afraid to see themselves through the eyes of another. Some people are too self-important. Some just aren’t into art. Some just have ants in their pants and can’t sit for ten minutes.
Another thing being an artist has afforded me is a fly-on-the-wall view of people. Often times when I paint murals in a public place, people come and go without so much as realizing I’m there. I hear their conversations, pick up on body-language, and other things that I would not maybe notice if they were in conversation with me.
Whether I’m painting in a resturaunt, a school, a church, a business or drawing faces at a festival, pow-wow or some other type of gathering, I have come to understand that inevitably I will encounter the following types of people:
1. The-Whatever-People. These folks follow trend. They make up the vast majority. They don’t want to stand out, or think too deeply. They worry about being branded as weird, yet, they secretly want to confide their hopes, fears and life details to someone. They are usually good-hearted, hard-working people. They just want to be reminded that they have value.
2. The -I’m-More-Powerful-or-Spiritual–Than-You-or-Anyone-Else-Here-People. I call them the Moses Wannabes, because they want a crowd of followers. I’ve met them in churches VERY often. They are the ones who exert power over others, who tell me what I should or shouldn’t wear or whether or not my motives are “righteous”. They are the self-appointed gaurdians of everybody’s lives and the ones who rejoice to know that all the “unworthy” are gonna one day get what’s coming to ’em. They know more scripture or are somehow more equipped by God to tell me what it all means. They are the ones who expect people to follow them. And, of course, at Pow-wows, they are the ones who self-proclaim to know the “Old Ways” better than any of the rest of us and they are also the ones that get mad and storm off like a child when someone doesn’t swoon over them or asked them a question which they can’t answer [um, yeah, I do that sometimes]. They seem to gain energy from other people by exuding some type of control over them. I guess, in some ways, they are intimidators. They control by lording over others. They are dictators at heart.
2. The “Lone Wolf” People, this is usually the I’m-so-cool tough guy, you-can’t-touch-this type or the “Redneck Woman” (like from the song) kind of woman. These people are usually putting up a big front to mask the insecure child they still are on the inside. They’re usually full of a life lived in pain, fearful of rejection and terrified of being ridiculed and embarrassed, so they put up a front. Often, when they know they can trust me, the front falls. I meet a lot of biker, redneck types who are like this. I meet a lot of women who are like this. They often cuss and talk bold. They sometimes brag about fighting, but sometimes they tell me stories that tell me that they are fragile and vulnerable. They don’t want pity. They want someone to say to them that they are brave spirits. They are still searching. Their pretense isn’t to gain power over others. It is merely to protect themselves from pain and hurt and from those who want to exert power over them.
3. The I’m-a-Mystery-so-Notice-Me People. This is, I hate to say it, often the artist. Sometimes when I go to art festivals I will encounter artists who feel they don’t need to actually “talk” to you. They can just drift around, being all mysterious, because they get some kind of pleasure from people trying to find out about them. Seriously. I meet a lot of musicians like that, too (and oddly enough…mechanics) Sometimes, these folks will try to be all “mystical” and “super spiritual”. I don’t know what the deal is except that having a Merlin persona somehow gives them a boost of energy. Then there are the ones who are self-sacrificers because looking super humble and meek makes them feel more spiritual which in turn really feeds their ego.
4. Then there is the I’m Smarter Than You People. No matter what subject you bring up they know more about it. They are the “experts” on everything and rarely shut up long enough to learn anything. Whatever topic I bring up, they twist it back to their own topic of choice and ask me questions so they can prove how much more they know. They get power from imparting information, whether it’s correct or not. They just have to know that they know more than I do. So, I let them believe they do, because informing them otherwise might destroy their fragile selves.
5. There are the Poor-Me-Feel-Sorry-for-Me-Because-My-Life-Sucks People. These are the ones who gripe and complain and tell me all of their woes, their angst. It gives them a sense of power when someone feels sorry for them and it feeds them, at least for a little while. They have predetermined that their lives are full of negativity and it makes them feel good to know that they feel worst than the next person.
6. Finally, there are the Genuinely Rare People Every once in a while, I will encounter these rare gems. There are people wandering around out there, some who have endured great hardships, others who have not, yet they do not need anyone to pity them, nor do they need to be in charge, or to know more or to feel they are more spiritual. They do not need put on a show or try to prove how tough they are, because they KNOW who they are. They are like sparrows and dragonflies, they just exist and go through life being what they were created to be and doing what they were created to do. They aren’t afraid to laugh or smile or cry. Nothing is done for a show or to gain dominance over others and upon these people rests the responsibility to let others see that when you know what is true and you act on what is true then you are free.
They have no need to control because they have no fear of being controlled. They have no need to dominate because they have no fear of being dominated. They are the people who have learned the secret–the one who lets go, gains all and that the one who holds on too tightly ends up empty-handed.
They are not religious. They are not prideful. They do not feel that they have prominence over others and whenever one of these people happens to be a leader, they understand that being a leader means never asking another to do what you would not do yourself. It means never lording your posisition over others just for the sake of feeling important, not proclaiming yourself more annointed, or spiritual, or needed. They understand that each of us is a spoke in the wheel of life and no one spoke is more important than another.
When I was a kid I used to start giggling so hard that I couldn’t stop. My parents would say that I had my “giggle box” turned over. I see kids getting their giggle boxes turned over once in a while and tonight I’m thinking about how good that is for them and how maybe adults need to laugh a little more. It’s okay to be silly. We’d all be healthier if we could just let loose and giggle. It’s not just may opinion, either. Long ago King Solomon of Israel said, “A merry heart doth good like a medicine but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” It seems that modern science agrees, too.
Laughter releases dopamine and endorphins into a person’s body and activates the pleasure pathways to the brain. If a person laughs hard enough and often enough, these pathways become easier and easier to access. and this may be a key to overcoming depression. Granted, it’s hard to laugh when you’re depressed, but one chuckle can lead to another. When we’re down it’s tough to pull ourselves out and surround ourselves with funny but doing just that can potentially cure us.
So many times when we are sick, I’ve come to believe that it isn’t the sickness that gets us down as much as it is the worry, anxiety, pain and fear that go along with the sickness, not to mention the stress that comes with dealing with mounting bills, hospital stays and coping with how to handle every day life. These things continue to worsen a person’s emotional, mental and physical health. That’s where laughter comes in. Deep belly laughter triggers endorphins in the body, which act sort of like natural painkillers.
Humor is as important to our health as eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising. George Burns, the famous comedian who lived to be over 100, attributed his long life to laughter. Many other centurions accredit laughter as one of the reasons for their longevity. You can’t take life too seriously, or it’ll take you out. I believe a person needs to laugh several hundred times a day. Psychoneuroimmunology is a field of research that is telling us that depression actually suppresses our immune systems. Laughter affects us exactly opposite of the way that stress does by decreasing epinephrine and cortisol levels. Researchers at Loma Linda University School of Medicine discovered that laughter also increases in germ-fighting cells.
Laughter ramps up your heart rate and circulation, and afterwards, the heart rate drops below average while the improved circulation continues. The body goes into a state of relaxation. In the same way that anger and stress can elevate your blood pressure and heart rate, laughter can lower it. Laughter also exercises your lungs and diaphragm. It creates vibrations that massage your internal organs. While stress and tension elevate stress hormones, tighten your muscles, constrict your blood vessels, upset your hormonal balance, and tax your immune system, laughter relieves tension, lowers stress hormones, improves hormonal balance and boosts your immune system.
I remember reading a Bible verse that talked about how the “joy” of the Lord is our strength. I do believe that evidence bears it out that joy which brings about laughter truly does give strength to our bodies. So, go ahead and get your giggle box turned over!
I believe Love is the force of all creation. When I speak of love, I’m not talking about romance. Romance is a compulsion to get people together so they will pro-create. I’m not talking about infatuation or needing to be with someone because they make you feel better about yourself. Some people think they are “in love” with a person but what they are really in love with is the way that person makes them feel, usually about themselves. Others say they “love” a person but what they really love is the sense of safety and security that the person gives them. Love isn’t about how someone makes us feel about ourselves. It’s not about “feeling” good, because if it were, it would be impermanent. If it’s impermanent, it’s not love. It’s something else disguised as love.
Love is an eternal connection that may or may not involve sexual interaction. Love is the spirit energy of life itself. Love is the light of the world and without that light, life on earth would have ended long ago. In essence, Love is the author of life, the source of faith and without it, hope is squelched.
Now faith is the substance (foundation, elemental make-up) of things hoped for, the evidence (proof) of things not yet seen. Faith works on the principle of Love and Love casts out all fear. If we are made perfect in Love we are not acting in fear. If we are acting out of fear, then we are not acting from a center of Love. Fear has to do with punishment. I have heard it said that there are only two true motivators for every human act: love or fear.
Some would argue that greed, violence and the struggle for power are not motivated by fear, but they are. If a person feels the need to keep getting more and more and more material possessions then ultimately he or she has a deep rooted fear of not having enough, not being powerful, etc. All acts of narcissism and selfishness are rooted in some realm of fear; fear of disrespect, fear of lack, fear of death, fear of disapproval, fear of abandonment, fear of being powerless, fear of physical harm, etc. Fear compels us to harm others, to manipulate others and to try to control others.
Love, however, is fearless. Love is God and God is Love. God doesn’t “have” love. God IS love. Those are not my original words. They were written by a man named John, the same guy who said that perfect love casts out all fear. So when we live by the principles of Love, we live by the principles of God.
What are those principles? We have Paul’s account in I Corinthians 13. We have other accounts in other books, too. Here they are in my own words.
WHEN YOU ACT FROM LOVE….
*you never give up on a person or a dream. You may have to walk away sometimes in order to protect your other loved ones or even your own life, because you do have to love and care for yourself, forgive yourself and be kind to yourself (think of it as putting the oxygen mask on yourself first when a plane is going down so you can be alive to help save the person with you.) Walking away doesn’t mean you’ve stop caring; only that you have to think about others and is sometimes as much or more an act of love as staying.
*you don’t wish “bad” on others
*you don’t want what others have or plot to take it
*you don’t think yourself more deserving or better than others
*you don’t force yourself on others. Real love, real respect, doesn’t push itself on people.) Respect them enough to walk away or let go and not keep pushing on them until they react the way you think they should.
* you aren’t arrogant and need everything to be all about you and your needs or wants. Believe in yourself and seek to do your best but don’t expect or wish for others to pat you on the head and tell you how wonderful you are.
*you don’t brag about how great you are.
*you don’t always assume that your needs are the most important and insist on being first all the time.
*you aren’t quick to get angry and fly off the handle or throw a fit every time something doesn’t go your way or when people don’t give you what you want.
*you don’t plot revenge on people or seek to socially destroy them even when they don’t do what you want or even if they do something that “hurts” you. Remember that they may not be very spiritually advanced and pray for them to be able to ‘see.’
*you don’t constantly bring up someone’s short-comings or past mistakes.
*you don’t try to guilt people into behaving the way you want them to or doing what you want them to. I’ve heard so many people pull the “if you really loved me you’d________) card.”
*you don’t take pleasure in the downfall of others, even those who have been unkind to you.
*you are glad when someone or yourself learns true things, receives beautiful things or has a joyful experience. Celebrate in the successes of others.
*you rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.
*you look for the best in others and see the best in all situations.
*you don’t look back. The past is over. The future is out of sight. Make today the best it can be.
*you keep going. Never give up on yourself, your dreams and never give up on others.
*treat everyone with dignity, basic human respect and compassion
THIS IS LOVE.
Love doesn’t force people to bend to its will, doesn’t manipulate them into conforming, guilt them into acting, intimidate them into surrender, interrogate them into sorrow or dismiss them into despair. Love simply accepts people as they are and asks nothing in return. Love has not strings attached and no covert contracts.
I think this may be the first time I have EVER actually written a blog post on New Year’s Day and I’m not about to make a resolution that I will write a post every day, but I am making one to just be me. I made a resolution last year and I tried very hard to keep it all year. My resolution was to love radically. It’s not easy to love radically and some days I fell short of the goal, still each day, I’d start all over again and I am still doing that. I don’t plan to stop. I do plan to love those who persecute me and speak harshly about me. I plan to love them by just accepting that they are the way they are and it’s not my job to fix them or even change their minds about anything, especially me.
I’m not sure what loving radically involves but I have learned that only when I am in tune with my truest self, and accepting of that self, can I look at others and just accept them for who they are and not feel the need to change them. It has been a hard lesson for me over the years but I’ve come to understand that there will always be someone who misreads my motives, misunderstands my motifs and misinterprets my meanings. I understand that there will always be those who mistrust me without a true cause, who villanize me to validate their own actions and warn their kids about the “wicked witch up the road.” Bottom line, as a dear friend tells me, “Everybody has enemies.”
There is no way on earth to make everybody happy because we live in a world of fearful people who are always afraid of losing something. We live in a world where no matter how hard you try or how good you treat others, someone is going to be offended, someone is going to accuse you of ulterior motives, of arrogance, of….just fill in the blank.
So, how do we love radically in a world where being rude and selfish is the norm? I think loving radically doesn’t always involve an onslaught of mushiness or warm-fuzzies but a simple acceptance without judgment. We may not ever be a person that the offended will want to speak to kindly or for that matter, at all, or even smile at, but we don’t have to hold bitterness in our hearts against them and we have to realize that there comes a time when it really isn’t about us. Everybody has their own battles to fight and their own roads to walk. So, I am going to walk mine with a thankful heart and let my light shine the best I can. Some may see me as a beacon of light, love and kindness, and others may not. It’s okay. I accept that. I think that’s what love and forgiveness are all about, letting go. I love me and I am thankful for my life on earth. If others have issues with me, I’ll try to avoid getting in their field of vision as much as possible, but I won’t stop being the person I’m meant to be. I’m wonderfully weird and creatively created and this year, in addition to loving radically, I’m going to be the most ME I can possibly be.