March 2007


March 31st, 2007

Then I lived in a small one bedroom apartment just off an alley near 13th street. I didn't have much and I didn't need much. I had a twin bed I'd slept in since I was three, an octagonal kitchen table someone had given me that I used as a computer desk, my computer (for school work and the random video game), a few books, a small colour television that received three or four channels with any consistency, and just enough in the kitchen to cook and serve for one or two people.

I must have been cooking rice that day in a little rice cooker I'd bought from an old neighbor while they were moving. I was standing at the kitchen sink looking out into the alley towards the neighboring apartment complex when I noticed a large wooden entertainment center sitting next to the dumpster. I wasn't exactly sure what it was doing there. Maybe someone was moving and was going to pick it up?

The next day the entertainment center still sat by the dumpster where it had the day before. I walked across the hall and knocked on the door of my friend who lived across the way. We walked down the staircase and across the alley to the particle board shelves. Besides not being entirely stable it was in good shape. He picked it up by one end, I by the other, and we carried it up the narrow staircase, down the hall, around the corner, and set it in my living area and leaned the right side of it against the door trimming since, as I'd mentioned, it wasn't entirely stable.

I held on to that "garbage" for a year or two. It provided a nice place to set my little thirteen inch television, college textbooks, and flowers which I'd pick from time to time on my walks. It wasn't exactly the nicest thing to look at and it always required some kind of support on the right side, but it was useful.

Whether we recognize it or not, whenever we look at an object we instinctually categorize it as "useful" or "useless". We don't do this because something inherently has a useful function but more so due to the perception of whether or not something is useful to us right now. Eight years ago or so what I saw as something I could use I'd now look at without so much as a second thought. And yet, maybe I could use the wood to build a smaller shelf, bird house, or a gift box

Everything is useful, everything has a function. It's easy to know something's usefulness if we immediately see it as something we want. But what about those things we've never really thought about or those things we, for whatever reason, don't like? That's when creative intent is key, to look at something and say, "What benefit can this provide me? How might I change it, use it, take care of it?" and if we can't come up with anything the next question should be, "Do I know someone that could make use of it?"

March 30th, 2007

I have only once lost a friend to death. I have lost many a friend for any number of other reasons and, though not quite the same thing, it feels like a little death. I feel a sense of loss, a sense of emptiness, and a recognition that I won't see their smiling face day in and day out.

It's the little deaths that make us stronger. These are the changes that teach us to listen to our inner voice, to live with integrity, to adapt to change when change is inevitable, and to support one another when all we want to do is be held or reassured.

I can't say I'm quite there yet. I struggle with it. I feel sadness, I feel loss. I have moments of grief. And yet on some level I've begun to recognize it's okay for the world to change, it's okay to be recognizant and yes, even supportive of those changes.

This is a picture of my friend from work. He almost always has a smile on his face even when having a terrible day. We've ridden motorcycles together and shared ideas and books on spirituality and philosophy. He gave his notice a week and a half ago.

I'm going to miss him.

March 29th, 2007

I am impatient. I want it all and I want it now. When I was going to university I'd spent nearly a year longer there than I'd originally intended and was still short a few credits but I wanted my degree and I wanted it now. When I was selling my car, trying to get into a better financial space, I just wanted to get it off my hands and into something newer and I wanted it now. When I found the house I wanted I didn't want to do the paperwork and wait for the seller to move out, I wanted it now. I have wanted a girl friend now, I've wanted to have a baby now, and I've just wanted it all now, now, now, now, now!

Balance is a tricky beast. True balance, once achieved, is a gift. It doesn't work well with notions of, "Now, now, now!" Balance is a gentle creature. It thrives on patience, it thrives on time, and yes, it thrives on conscious intent.

When I want something now I've already lost my balance. I've lost my balance because balance demands one be present and to be present one must accept what is.

In the ever present Now.

So how does one have future goals, stay in the moment, and remain in balance?

Perhaps that is not the correct question to ask. A question that might better help us find our balance is why do we see a future goal as something in the future at all? Why don't we simply accept that part of our present reality, our momentary now after now after now, includes the desire for future change? Isn't it possible to recognize that a feeling we have for change is nothing more than something we experience in the present moment? Why do we need to be anywhere else but where we are, why do we need to feel anything but what we feel?

I think that's part of the trick, recognizing the thoughts and feelings we have are just manifestations of the present moment. When we read too much into them, when we want to be over there instead of right where we're at, that's when we shoot ourselves in the foot, that's when we lose our grasp on the balance that's right there at the base of our feet waiting to be accepted and nurtured.

One stepping stone on the path towards true balance uncovered.

Will you share the one's you've unconvered with me?

March 26th, 2007

My plan was ingenious--at least for a pre-teen. This was to be the first time I as a youth would use social engineering to get something I wanted and by doing nothing more nefarious than giving others what they wanted in exchange.

The proposition was simple enough: my brother and I would work for it. Problem: We didn't get an allowance. Solution: I came up with a point system with checks and balances that would provide my parents with high throughput and it was so simple yet fair that it would work. It had to work!

The rules were simple. For each extra chore my brother or I did we'd get one point. Didn't really matter what the chore was or how difficult it might be, it was one point. I knew my parents would love this as it would insure the house was always vacuumed, cleaned, and dusted, the lawn would be well groomed, wood would be chopped and ready for the fireplace every night, etc. and so on. I knew this wouldn't be enough, though, as my parents were extremely picky about things so I said, "Okay, so if we get in trouble that's minus three points and if we get spanked that's minus six!" All we had to do was make 300 points by Christmas to earn this "Christmas Present" and in return they'd have two months of a clean house plus two infinitely well behaved children, how could they say no to that?

My parents agreed to my terms. That afternoon I drew up a contract (as much as I was able to at that age) and used a ruler to carefully put together a chart with days of the month, boxes to list points, and an area next to each where mom could sign. And so it began, every morning I miraculously found myself waking up on time, making my bed, and heading for breakfast. In the afternoons I chopped wood, got the fire going, vacuumed (when necessary), cleaned my room, washed the dishes, put dishes away, and so forth and so on. My birthday and thanksgiving came and went and I kept this up for two months at full bore even when my younger brother lost all interest in the prize (that lazy little twirp--I'd get to 300 without him!!!).

And that was it. Mid-December and the chart showed 300 points! The Atari 2600 was as good as ours and I waited for the 25th to get there like you couldn't believe! I salivated, I was dying, this was my Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle! Then the morning came and as per usual my brother and I were up well before sunrise going out to look (but not touch) and there were boxes and stockings but no box big enough for an Atari 2600 but it had to be there somewhere, it just had to be! And then the adults woke up and took their time as they sat around chatting and drinking coffee and hot coacoa and I'm just dying, just dying to rip through every present but no, there is a natural order to things and so we waited and we opened as whomever was Santa that year handed out the gifts and...what?...where?...everything was opened but no Atari!!! Had my parents completely betrayed me? Had they taken advantage of my loyalty, my naivity, the sweat off my back?!?!

And then, just as I was about to leave in angry defeat one of them said, "Did you check over there?" I look back now realizing how they played me for their enjoyment--an ounce of titillation as a parent I can identify readily with--but at that moment I was a mix of disappointment and fear and anger. Was this really it? Were they serious? Oh, I didn't want to be let down, please oh please let it be my sweet, beautiful, black Atari 2600, please God let me spend the afternoon playing Pac-Man!

And it was.

There were many models of the 2600 but this four switch model I later learned was known as the "Vader" (per its completely black façade). I kept this machine in excellent shape up into high school and though it wasn't often used anymore I treated it with the respect one should of a memory of hard work, perseverance, and personal creativity. Then I made the mistake of lending it to a friend who later bored of it and tossed it in the garbage. About two years ago I found a little place in downtown Portland, a little hole in the wall called Ground Control that had all the old arcade machines I grew up wanting to play in pizza parlors (Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Dig Dug, Asteroids, and so on), and they restore classic game machines for collectors and one day I said, "Hey, you know what, can you get me a Vader?" and they said, "Sure." And that was it, I didn't have to do two months of work, just pulled out the credit card and it was mine so no, it's not the old Vader I worked so hard to win and no, I haven't spent countless hours with sweaty palms trying to keep those nasty aliens from invading our beautiful green blockish planet, but it is none-the-less part of my child hood and a part that I honor and share with my daughter. Yes, it helps that we can play Pac-Man on an 85" screen as she'd probably rather be playing Mario Party on the GameCube but still, what was fun then can still be fun now, and more importantly what brought people together in 1982 can still bring people together in joy and laughter in 2007.

P.S. The game is never over when one has a reset button.

March 21st, 2007

The first time I saw one was in first grade. The sleek black body and faux wood fçade mesmerized me. This was magic! What else could it be?

And the Atari 2600 was magic. We'd never seen anything like it before. A pound or two of plastic and metal it was the first device anyone plugged into the TV and it didn't just plug in but it painted images on the screen and it didn't just paint images on the screen but you could take this thing--this "joystick" thing or this other "paddle" thing--and you could make the images on the screen move! The TV was no longer something to be stared at passively but something to have an active relationship with. All you had to do was plug in the "cartridge", flip the power switch, and hit that one red button with your left thumb and you were Luke Skywalker heading towards the Death Star to save the free galaxy or Indian Jones going deep into ancient catacombs to discover something amazing. In moments you could transport yourself from the boring "real" world into an exciting 8-bit 1.19 megahertz one and everyone that was cool was doing it!

Forget the Playstation 3, who cares about the X-Box 360 or Nintento Wii, the Atari was the first, the Atari was the bomb, and all the coolest kids had one--at least it appeared that all my friends had one so every opportunity I had I would visit, go in the family room (way back then people usually only had one television), and play so hard my hands would sweat and my fingers would cramp. *ZAP* *ZAP* I'd kill those aliens good before they got me!!!

Now my parents weren't cheap and they provided well for me but they weren't exactly the types to go out and buy me something like a $120 toy just because it'd put an ear to ear smile on my face. No, they were a little trickier but I knew that late October afternoon standing in the electronics isle of K-Mart that the contents of that beautiful box had to be mine.

Yes, it would be mine. It would be.

I didn't have an allowance and at most I'd get five bucks from relatives for Christmas and my birthdays so I'd sooner have enough money finding pop cans and bottles on the side of the road (something my brother and I did while riding our bikes up and down the rural roads near our country home). Begging and pestering would have resulted in a stern talking to and somehow I knew writing Santa wouldn't do much good (I was a pretty good kid all year round but he tended to ignore most of the toys I circled in the Sears Roebuck catalog). What to do? The ideas swarmed around in my mind keeping me up late at night. There had to be a way.

It would be mine!

To be continued...

March 20th, 2007

Eckhart Tolle wrote The Power of Now. Don Miguel Ruiz wrote The Four Agreements. Pema Chodron wrote The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult times. All of these books focus on key areas of conscious living and introspection that the author's discovered, studied, and have found useful in their own lives. By sharing their knowledge through the incredible gift of the written word they have touched countless lives and help create a better world. And if I, little old Aslynn, were to sit down and dedicate so many hours to writing a book that would touch others in similar ways it might be titled: The Psychology of Better.

To summarize this book it's based on three fundamental ideas:

1) Everything in the universe (excepting of course the fundamental natural laws that govern it) is governed by the law of change.
2) Our lives our governed by two types of change we have control over: conscious and subconscious.
3) By first honestly acknowledging where we are at then using those insights to make conscious decisions we can effect positive change in our lives.

And the fourth idea, which is more of a rule, is simply this:

Take baby steps.

Though most don't know the gritty details of my life, if not for The Psychology of Better I wouldn't be writing this today. My journey may have begun as a middle child in your average American Nuclear Family, I may have been a straight A student with dreams of college at MIT, and I may have had a supportive upbringing at the local Lutheran Church. Somewhere in there, though, I was poisoned by experience or more correctly my perception of my experiences. These festered very quietly at first and seemed completely innocent yet they were like a virus, at first innocuous, then as they replicated from tens to tens of thousands the hold they had over my life, my perception of reality, my reaction to experiences that someone else might easily shrug off, lead down a brutal path.

I changed my life by taking countless baby steps of better, building better upon better upon better. This day has already offered me dozens of chances to practice bettering myself and the world around me. What a wonderful gift to acknowledge! What a tragedy if I did not! Every one of these moments provided me an opportunity to make a choice and with each choice the potential to better my world. Some of them I have caught and used, others I missed and promised myself to catch next time. I continue building a foundation out of moments, a foundation of hope, love, and conscious direction. What an easy thing to realize there's no timeline, no need to go faster than I'm able, just one foot after the other, enjoying the view ahead while taking the moments to enjoy the daises sprouting in the grass to my left.

March 12th, 2007

I like strawberry bubble gum the best (Bubblicious if I must be specific). I don't blow bubbles nearly as much as I did as when I was a kid though I must admit this is more due to the fact that the only time I chew gum as an adult tends to be during those times I have a cigar in my mouth. Yet I still love those first few chomps where all that faux flavor rushes around my mouth and I really don't know what it is about bubble gum but don't you find it irresistible to at least blow one or two bubbles?

Bubble gum isn't without its problems. I mean, forget about it if you have braces and even an oddly shaped filling might make a mess of it in your mouth (not to mention food and gum just do not go together!). Gum can be visual (as when you blow a humungous bubble), embarrassing (as when that bubble pops and sticks to your nose), and frustrating (as when the other half of it ends up in your hair). Bubble gum can hide under tables, desks, on walls, oh, just about anywhere (it must have Spiderman genes!). And then there's bubble gum in the carpet (expensive!), a two foot long string of bubble gum holding on to the heal of your shoe (yuck!), and bubble gum that people collect in huge bubble gum balls (people are strange!).

I think thoughts are like bubble gum. Thoughts have flavors and it's usually those first few bites that taste best, oh yeah. If you're dealing with difficult emotional issues and working on straightening yourself out thoughts can really have a tendency to get stuck in your mind (not to mention too many thoughts and self healing don't always go together!). Thoughts can be visual (as when you throw your opinions around), embarrassing (as when an assumption has caught you in a faux paux), and frustrating (as when a song you can't stand keeps going through your head!). Thoughts can hide in your subconscious, live on the tip of your tongue, be set down on a piece of paper, oh, just about anywhere (they must have some kind of Buddha nature!). And then there's thoughts eating at your mental health (expensive!), a nasty glance of a thought shot across the room from a total stranger, and then there are people that collect thoughts in huge balls (I'm strange!).

Meditation is for people who chew bubble gum. I mean, bubble gum is great and all, but let's be real, it doesn't have any health value, it's annoying when people chomp, and it sticks to damn near everything. Sure, it's fun, sure, it's mighty tasty, but then what?

Meditation is all about turning bubble gum into, well, soap bubbles. Do you remember those? You'd have the little plastic container of liquid soapy stuff and there was a plastic thing with a loop at one end and you'd blow through that and hundreds of bubbles would shoot out! So you'd run out to the front lawn and blow and blow and run around and maybe your dog would jump up chomping your bubbles one after another and barking at the ones they couldn't reach and you laughed and giggled until your ran outa soapy bubble stuff.

Okay, so they taste soapy but they are what they are: light, fleeting, unobtrusive, and beautiful. And shouldn't that be a goal of meditation, to transform heavy, sticky, garish thoughts into light, fleeting, beautiful ones? I know, I know, gum tastes so good and it makes that nice smacking sound and you can chew on it damn near forever but then it gets stuck…in your hair…in the carpet of your car…in your favourite sweater…on your shoe…and it's not going anywhere so whatchu gonna do about it then?

Chew more gum?!?!?!?!?!

Ideas, notions, stereotypes, schemas, dogmas, certainties, insecurities, fears, and the like, these all stick to things (namely you)!!! So quick, find a safe place, a quiet place, hurry up, and sit! Stop chewing, I know, hard but you can do it. Be courageous! It's okay to just relax your jaw, it's okay to be in a place where your mind isn't dictating the script, it's okay to let some thoughts float and others to fall, it's okay to let some pop when they need to and others stick around when they need to. It's okay when they dance, it's okay when Buddha's dog jumps in the air to chomp and bark at them, and it's okay to open your eyes and find yourself somewhere completely unlike the place you sat down. And maybe after awhile you'll begin to expect it. And that's okay too.

Big bubbles, small bubbles, rising bubbles, falling bubbles, bubbles of every colour and weight and life. And they do the same thing whether they land on your nose or in your hair.


How cool is that?

March 9th, 2007

I like to know how people think. I don't exactly know why. Asking what a person's motivations are is like breathing to me. The complexity of the human spirit, the emotions, the backgrounds, the passions, everything that makes up every person (and every animal for that matter) is fascinating to me.

A good friend commented on this seemingly unique trait of mine and that in particular I put a language around describing the how, why, what, when, and where, of human behavior. One the one hand, I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't be absolutely fascinated by the mysterious interplay of our unique universe; on the other, I can understand the sheer psychological necessity in simplifying the world into a set of workable stereotypes. And yet being a truth seeker I feel compelled to dig into the various fundamental realities that make up our worlds and the areas where those realities overlap.

When I sit down with someone whether it be at work or at home, a cacophony of parallel realities flow through my mind like a warm summer's breeze. One, coming from the north, is my own experience, my thoughts, feelings, and sensibilities. Another comes from the south representing my perceptions of the other person's reality. On one level I feel these as two distinct and separate forces moving towards each other. On another I experience them coming in contact with each other swirling, changing temperatures, pushing, accepting, understanding, or building into a whirlwind of opposing forces. While this interplay is transpiring part of me floats high above watching dispassionately, like a weatherman reviewing satellite imagery.

Your world. My world. Our world. The world. I want to know them all.

For me to acknowledge how you feel and how I feel and how it makes each other feel and all the trickling new realizations created by that…it's an every day experience. I could not imagine buying a cup of cappuccino and not being immersed in the life of the barista. Are they happy, are they sad? Are they about to get off? Did their boyfriend just break up with them or maybe they met someone new who's made them happy? Are they worried about money? Do they have classes in the afternoon? And so on and so forth.

And yet…and yet I have gained some great wisdom from people over the years, wisdom in other ways to be. For instance, though I could be described more or less as a life long introvert I have noticed over the past five or six years that extroverted behaviors aren't as easy to emulate from an empathically immersed position which can be so overwhelming at times as to limit one's ability to react/interact with others in real time. And so there are times where I allow my empathic side to rest and open those areas of my brain up to functions related to social graces and…I have to be honest, it feels very much like down hill skying: fast, excillerating, but if you miss a turn, hit a tree, or fall, it becomes very obvious to those nearby.

I've also come to recognize that though my particular perspective is incredibly useful and brings in a great deal of information, there's a point where one must be practical. We learn in so many ways, from books, from tv, movies, each other…yet if we don't put that knowledge to good use in the present moment whether it be while buying coffee or in a business meeting or when engaged in a deep conversation with someone important to you, then what is our knowledge but a waste of brain cells? So there comes a point where the consumer must give back, must be present, must produce something in return that is tangible, visible, useful. Maybe you write (looks in mirror), maybe you're a good listener, maybe you're artistic, maybe you know how to work on cars or houses, maybe you're good with kids, maybe you know how to bring joy to other people's lives, and maybe you like to help animals, maybe you have connections and know how to sway people in a positive social direction (politically or otherwise), maybe you know how to plant seeds and maybe those seeds will grow into a tree and maybe someone will build a tree house in that tree and maybe the children that play in that tree house will dream and maybe their dreams will change the world.

March 8th, 2007

Work: Check.

Taxes: Check.

Cat food: Check.

Dinner: Check.

Rug-rat tuck: Check.

Yack for 45 minutes: Check.

Slightly alter view of reality: Check.

Picture of Rose: Check.

Brush teeth: Check.

Life: Check.

Sleep: Check.

March 7th, 2007

When I was five or so I met my first friend and peer. He never let me play with him on the playground. I didn't have nice clothes; I didn't have the newest toys; I wasn't popular enough. I spent my time wandering the playground alone. Maybe I'd play on the monkey bars or sit on the swings. Maybe I'd cry.

When I was six or so I became best friends with the pastor's daughter. We played all the time. Then the first day of third grade she pretended I didn't exist. The adults said that's just how girls were at that age. In fifth grade she moved to Salem so I wrote her letters. She rarely wrote back. Her last letter was on a crumpled up piece of notebook paper. I sent her an envelope with a friendship bracelet and I never heard from her again.

When I was in second grade I met a boy with the same birthday as me. We were the only boys that liked science, math, and science fiction. We spent many nights at each other's houses and were best friends. When I was in seventh grade he stopped hanging around me. When I asked why he said, "You aren't popular enough." When he came back I forgave him. When I was in high school I considered him my best friend again. When I went to Australia I had a psychic vision that he'd try to steal my first real girlfriend. When I returned I found out he had tried. When I confronted him he lied. I forgave him. When he got invited to the high school parties he did not invite me. When I began to fall into a deep depression I found out at these parties they made bets whether or not I'd commit suicide. When I couldn't ignore the quality of his friendship any longer I asked him why. He acted as if nothing was going on as long as he was having a good time.

When I was seventeen I went to college a year early because I hated my high school. There my "friends" were in one of the same classes as me. They sat on the other side of the room. My high school sweetheart had left town so I had no one. My time was spent working, sleeping, and going to school. One night on my way back from school I ran into a deer and mangled my car. Only a few mornings later my dad woke me up and told me I was wasting my life. That night I packed a few clothes, a pack of cigarettes, and left for good.

I drove to Eugene. I smoked two packs. I cried the whole way. And it was raining.

When I was eighteen I lived in a house with my high school sweetheart, a paranoid schizophrenic drug abuser, her boyfriend, and her sister. I tried to be sociable. I tried to overcome my fears. The three other roommates lashed out at me on almost a daily basis. I began hiding in my room. I would only leave at night and walk around Eugene and talk to whomever would talk back.

Later I met a girl. She had a baby boy. I became quite attached and she started to fall in love with me but I was too much of a gentleman, I didn't play her or push her and when her life became rough she went back to what she knew, an abusive x-boyfriend, the father of her son.

When I was nineteen or twenty I met the love of my life. I gave her a rose because she was sitting by me in psychology class and I had a rose and no one to give it to. I was not looking for anything else. I knew I was broken. She moved in because we needed roommates and we'd kicked out the psychotic drug user, her boyfriend, and her sister. She seduced me. I asked her to marry me. She drove away most of my friends and I supplanted them with hers. We moved to our own place. We hurt each other. We disappointed each other. We weren't ready for each other. I moved away with a promise to get my head on straight first. Her friends were never again there for either of us.

When I was twenty three or twenty four I moved back in with her. I had gotten most of my shit together. I made another friend. She didn't trust me. She kicked me out.

Karma sucks.

I moved into a small one bedroom apartment. I met another girl. We were just friends. Our friendship was genuine, simple. I met a guy online. We were just friends. It was good. He had problems with depression, suicidal tendencies, and abusive behaviors. I had been there. I did my best to help. I knew what it was like. I knew how lonely it could be. I had been there. I learned she had met a guy. I learned he had met a girl. I found out they were talking about each other. I spent two days chain smoking trying to figure out what to do. I was afraid I would loose both friendships. I wanted to do the right thing. I finally talked to him, said he needed to be honest with her. He said he would. He lied. Two days later I told her she needed to be careful. She wasn't sure what to say. She talked to him. She called me back and said I was just trying to get in her pants. I was not. I lost both friendships. She moved in with him. Should found out he was a drug addict. He physically abused her. He got her pregnant. She lost the baby. She lost the ability to have babies. Nine months later she apologized. I was upset by what had happened. She said I shouldn't be and did not talk to me again.

At that time I met a friend on the east coast. He was a good man, a once friend of Einstein, and a lover of good food. We had a lot in common. We talked about computers, programming, mathematics, and the human condition. He sent me plane tickets. I went to visit. I had a wonderful time. When I returned home he barely talked to me anymore. I didn't know why. I thought he hated me. Four years later I learned he had had multiple strokes. This last year I learned he had died a completely disfigured man. I was saddened.

When I was twenty five or twenty six I met a girl. I was not interested in a relationship. I told her this. We spent many days together watching tv, going out, and writing poetry and short stories. She had a habit of sleeping with married men. I listened to her. I was there for her when she cried. I never took advantage of her. When she realized my word meant something to me she lashed out at me, said I was like all the other selfish married guys she'd been sleeping with. I never heard from her again.

When I was twenty five I moved into the apartment of someone who had a one night stand with someone I loved. It was my way of challenging myself. I had to forgive and the universe had flat out given me a straight forward and highly symbolic opportunity to. I could not pass it up. I had to work on myself. My life was eat, sleep, bath, study, and go to class. I had no friends for a long while. I spent my evenings at this computer by the window, smoking and studying and playing video games. The love of my life moved in next door. I thought she had because she wanted to be close again. As I sat at this computer by the window smoking and studying and playing video games I watched as she was picked up and dropped off by her new boyfriend in a red pickup truck.

I have never been so brutally tested by karma and circumstance.

When I was twenty seven I worked my dream job. I programmed video games. I met some great people. I laughed. I had a good time. And I married the person I cared about more than anyone in the world. Then I experienced my first set of layoffs. My parents, both teachers, never had to go through layoffs. I thought having a degree would be like that. I was wrong and I was frightened. I asked my wife if I lost my job if she'd be willing to move if I got employment elsewhere. She said no. I was afraid; there were no other software jobs in town. I went through six or seven more layoffs before I was eventually laid off. I lost my marriage. I accepted the only person that would have me at a steep price. I tried to keep in touch with my x-coworkers. They did not keep in touch with me.

In 2000 I moved to Portland. I worked another dream job. I met some wonderful, creative, inspired people. I was not entirely ready to open up to co-workers again. But we had parties. We went to clubs. We were surrounded by music. I started to be happy again. I was growing. I felt I finally found a place where I belonged. Then the company went bankrupt. I tried to keep in touch. With one exception, they did not.

I had another friend who was living up in Washington. We sometimes talked over IM or I drove up to visit. At this time I really needed someone to talk to, who would listen and give me some support. When I told him the difficulties I was having he told me to, "Get off it." I have not heard from him since.

In 2001 I did not have a job. I did not have friends. I spent my mornings sleeping in. I would get up then walk to the 7-11 and get a Super Big Gulp and a pack of Camel Lights. I would go home and sit at the computer and send out three or more resumes a day. Sometimes I would meet someone. We would get close and I would give them my friendship and they would trample on it. When I said, "I don't like being treated this way," they'd give me the finger. I would not hear from them again.

I had a friend, the only friend I'd known since grade school. We went to the same church. When I had gas money I would go visit him. I would travel over a hundred miles and sit in his house and watch the back of his head as he smoked and played video games. He did not want to do anything else. In ten years he only visited me twice. I met a girl who was a mutual acquaintance. We became quite close. It was hard for her having a long distance relationship. She was insecure. I was completely committed to her. I would drive to see her every week or two. We talked every day on the phone. Then she started calling over and over every day. She would accuse me of cheating on her. I calmly reassured her each time. I did this for two months. I never yelled at her, I never judged her, I just talked and listened. My phone bill went into the hundreds. After being hung up on one too many times I had to tell myself I didn't deserve to be treated in that way. I asked her to stop. She wouldn't. I then said I couldn't be with her under those circumstances. She went to my old grade school buddy and fed him lies. A day later he sent me a nasty message. I attempted to talk with him to ask what was going on. He has not welcomed any communication since.

In 2002 I dated a girl. She was seeing another guy. She said it was only a friendship. When she went out with him she put on her nicest clothes and makeup. When she came home she'd be carrying a nice gift. I stood up for myself. It ripped me up inside. It was time to stop allowing others to walk all over me.

When I bought my first home I met a girl. She was beautiful. She was witty. She was dishonest. She took advantage of me physically. I knew she'd walk away the instant her son returned from summer vacation. She did. A week later she started using someone else.

A few years ago I met a girl through She seemed very nice. She seemed very sure of herself. She said she was a good listener. I fell in love with her. I considered starting a family with her. She took advantage of me emotionally. Whenever I needed to talk she said, "I'm a good listener, we don't need to talk," to which she'd add the disclaimer, "I'm perfect!" I later found out she was seeing an x-boyfriend. When I asked about this she accused me of being paranoid. When I explained how I knew she told me another lie. About once a year since I would receive an e-mail. The first half was always about how she missed me and thought of me often. The second half was a new and improved set of rationalizations about her behavior yet again putting the blame on me. I told her I deserved to be treated better and said I was done.

The consistency and safety I make in my life is my own. I have learned to pick my battles. I have learned to give out my friendship and my heart more wisely. I have learned that I will sometimes be left standing on the sidelines. I have learned to give freely without expectation of return and I have learned to roll with the punches, no matter how difficult they might seem. I have learned that the people I wish to spend my life around will not walk away and that those that walk away are not those I wish to spend my life around.

That's an irony of karmic law.

Now this is only a highly abridged version. That said, I have every reason to distrust. I have every reason to protect myself. I have every reason to fear abandonment.

And I have at least three reasons to hope:

The first is my high school sweet heart. We've known each other since we were fifteen. We live over a hundred miles away from each other but keep in touch by e-mail. We see each other two or three times a year. She has a loving husband (who is everything I could have wished for her) and two beautiful kids. She has always been there for me when I've asked for an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. She is creative, unassuming, patient, and warm spirited. This coming June I'll be headed out to help her again with the Race for the Cure.

The second is my x-wife. We met when I was nineteen or twenty and I consider her to be one of the most beautiful souls I've ever had the honor of knowing. She has experienced difficulties over this lifetime that most people couldn't imagine yet she always comes out a little wiser. She cares for this world, she cares for her friends, she cares for her family, and she never gives up. I imagine one day she'll be a cantankerous creaking old lady with straight grey hair, a beaming smile, and a sparkle in her eye. She's the strongest person I know. She makes me want to be a better human being.

The last is Vipassana. We don't always think or communicate on the same wavelength. We have misunderstandings and we've had our share of fights. Yet through all this she is the only person that has consistently stuck by me. She has helped me to create a feeling I haven't had since I was a young boy: that I have a place to call home. Since we met she's evolved more as a human being than anyone I know and that's no small potatoes.

I am a product of my environment and this is just one story of my life. I am also the product of hope, strength, and tenacity. In so many ways I feel like a child. I am only learning to trust, I am only learning to be more vocal, I am only learning to do simple things that others take for granted. You bet I'm nervous; consciously choosing to be vulnerable when it'd be safer to hide is no easy feat. Yet I see the world with new eyes and new eyes and new eyes.

For all my tomorrows,


March 6th, 2007

Unless you're in the unique position of experiencing reality from the third person omniscient point of view then you're a creature of subjective expression. I don't care how many books you've read, how many degrees line your wall, how many security cameras you watch, or how psychic you might happen to be, everything you experience is a dance of a hundred billion electric signals being conveyed through senses that translate wave and particles into what you conceive of as ideas like love and hope and fear and denial.

For some it is a mind blowing experience to realize that not only are they the center of their universe, but they create it. Then it is even more humbling to recognize that what we see and hear and touch and smell and believe, these things aren't necessarily solid or real but are subject to change.

Our lives are not written in stone.

Each one of us is a tiny universe. I take that back, each of us is a complete, dynamic, evolving, breathing universe. When you sit down to talk with another person you're not talking to a face, you're reaching out and blending with another world of beliefs, values, and experiences. When you say something as seemingly trivial as a word or sharing an idea that word, that idea, becomes part of that universe, finds a place in it, settles down and makes a home in it.

Do you not see the importance of this, the need to expand and continually ask questions about what's out there? Have we grown so old and certain of ourselves that we have forgotten what babies do every time they pluck something in their mouth?

The child uses their mouth, the adult questions, explores, and reevaluates.

We are subjective beings, you and I, and this is the only way we can reach out to each other, touch each other, and learn from each other. We must be couragous in spirit, accepting in heart, and conscious in our actions as it is our actions that build the bridge between our worlds. This is the poetry of sharing and reflection. This is where our journey begins.

Outside God watches with perfect understanding.

March 5th, 2007

Owning a home is a wonderful experience. You're the landlord. Improvements are only limited by money, time, and creativity. Lawn work and gardening aren't simply chores but an strange excercise in self grooming. The thousands spent on morgage don't go into the black hole rent does and interest is tax deductable. Not exactly sure why I waited so long to purchase.

Oh wait, when things break I can't call the landlord and say, "Hey, my hot water heater's leaking like a siv, mind popping a new one in the garage?"

I love my morning shower. I love the hot water, I love the steam, I love rubbing the soap over my arms and legs and sitting for a few minutes as the conditioner softens my hair. I love drying my body off and starting my day out fresh and walking out into that world squeeky clean.

Are there no super heros with water heaters on their backs leaping gracefully from building to building to save me from my scrungy self? Oh, great Goddess of the Internal Plumbing Showering Device, I worship thee and will sacrifice up to four questionably sane cats to bring life back to thee!

P.S. I love my gym membership!!!

March 4th, 2007

This afternoon I found myself outside in the sunlight with Vipassana and our daughter mixing concrete. I was wearing my favourite ripped Levi's with red paint spots and a t-shirt, my Sunday best for gardening and home improvement. We poured the dry concrete into a large orange bucket and sparingly mixed in water. The skinny shovel I'd previously used to dig the post hole provided adequate means for vigorously stirring the mix. Never having mixed concrete before I felt like I was stirring cookie dough.

The directions on the back of the sack went a little something like this:

"Stir water in and mix. Do not add too much water as this will weaken the concrete. Allow three to four days to cure."

If my weekends had a set of directions they would be this:

"Get up, do stuff. Don't do too much stuff as this may weaken your spirit. Allow two days to cure."

I follow those directions as best I may. Wake up, check my e-mail, check in at work, take a gloriously warm shower while listening to Car Talk or some Chaney Chiseling on Air America then I get out the magical list of things to do.

  1. Set fence post in ground (~1 hour)
  2. Fix latch on door in same area (~3 minutes)
  3. Clip down one of the vines (15 minutes--thank you Vipassana, first year here I didn't have to!)
  4. Drive to Lowe's, pick up five 1x8x8 boards of hemlock, two 1x6x8 boards of hemlock, two 2x2x6 strips of hemlock, a corded power drill, and power sander paper (~1 hour and $175)
  5. Reseed front lawn.
  6. Clean bedroom; includes but not limited to send in software rebates, vacuum, set new books on bookshelf in the "to read" section, file away paid bills, and dig back into the octopus of computer cords behind my desk to install a 6' USB extension cable for the new USB hub attached to one of my monitors (~1.5 hours)
  7. Discover hot water heater has a leak and must be replaced (~1 minute + $200-$500 later this week)
  8. Write in journal (~30 minutes)
  9. Write to friend (~15 minutes)
  10. Relocate mystery beetle from bedroom to front porch, saving from feline furiosity (~5 minutes)

And then I take a hint from God and sit down to relax for an hour to watch one of my favourite TV programs with one of my best friends.

Moral of the story: use clean water but not too much, then mix thoroughly and wait.

March 3rd, 2007

I woke up this morning with at least three subjects I felt compelled to share with you. All had been catalyzed by a very difficult conversation I'd had the previous night (or more accurately through the early hours of the morning). My mind was a swirl with the things I'd learned about myself, the lessons, the insights, and wanderings. I saw a reflection of myself I have never been so clearly blessed by and though I found my first hour of the day one of emotional and physical recuperation, I found my soul alight withpersonal insights and hope.

The purr of the engine between my legs transformed uncertainty to confidence, confidence to joy. As I leaned to jet onto 185th and ahead of neighboring traffic I felt warm air rise into my helmet and the sun reflected off the rims of my glasses, memories of summers past and summers future. At the Shell station I found myself in conversation with the attendant who, obviously another motorcycle aficionado, shared my enjoyment of this truly rare and wonderful March afternoon. Four gallons later I skipped to the left, right, left, right, right, and right again, down the onramp, leaning forward and hugging the tank; I pulled the throttle completely back and gas rushed through the engine, 120 ponies galloping away under my chest.

I am overwhelmed from this day, this Saturday, March 3rd, 2006. I woke up with new ideas and realizations and I sit here now with a dozen more, all note worthy, all of which I wish to share, all I believe will provide benefit to myself and those that enjoy the walk through the inner gardens of this place. How do I, an imperfect being, internalize so much so quickly then translate that into linear words, one series of letters after another, a set of concrete ideas for our mutual benefit. I am only beginning to awaken to them myself.

Today I experienced sorrow, frustration, confusion, and shame. Today I experienced understanding, transformation, truth, and hope. Today I met someone in person who I've talked with over the internet, someone who was new to seeds of a friendship planted first in e-mail then Instant Messaging. Today I felt the most childish joy I have ever had with a passenger riding pillion; I sang to the music and laughed at the unexpected wiggling and brief moments of stop sign chit-chat. Today I partook in my first round of African fair. Today I met two amazingly vibrant women who unknowingly caused me to question nearly two decades of assumptions about the nature of human kind.

This day has been a gift to me, the most poignantly delightful day of 2007.

To everyone who's inner beauty has made this possible: thank you

March 2nd, 2007

Whoops, I did it again, I fell a day behind in my writings and I lack anyone that will spank me for my discretion.

Now if you are a regular here in the sage filled walls of The Temple you might remember a month or so back I asked for each of you to send me a sentence and I'd use that sentence in a journal entry. As of today I have only received one response and that's fine, but I've chosen to keep that in my inbox until such time I feel the inclination to write on that subjects. Until then I have a new exploration I'd be appreciative if you'd be willing to take with me.

I'd like each of you to send me an e-mail or snail mail letter, you choice, with two things:

The first is a subject. What would you like me to write about? The subject doesn't necessarily need to be a complete sentence nor does it need to be specific or general. Your chosen subject might be "Human Rights" or it might be "How the small arms trade promotes the degradation of human rights in third world countries." The field of possibilities is wide open though I prefer the subject be free of personal bias.

The second is tone. Would you like my tone to be serious? Argumentative? Factual? Silly or playful? Comedic? Warm and fuzzy? Fictional (as in a conversation between two or more characters)? Newspaper-like?

As with previous requests please only include these two items, I will fill in the blanks according to my own unique expression. I look forward to reading and responding to your tones and topics.