Burning the Mask of Obligation

6

October 13, 2018, Prescott-

Obligations are things one takes on, in order to please other people.  They could become passions, which are those things one takes on out of sincere spirit and pure love.   Parenthood, spouseship and a sane and intelligent patriotism are examples of the latter.

In this life, however, there are obligations each of us take on, which raise the person to whom we feel obliged to the status of superior, or master.  Unless one feels passionate about the activity  in which s(he) or he is involved, the obligation becomes a false one.  Many holiday celebrations, for example, become empty rote activities- none of them memorable.  Going to the place of employment, for all too many people, is an empty obligation.  Even having a conversation, if there is no passion, involves putting on the mask of caring, almost a political and vapid exercise.  It fools no one, except, perhaps, oneself.

I have been in the process of shedding obligations, for the past seven years.  Marriage was an act of living love, and never felt like an empty obligation.  There were plenty of moments of misunderstanding, but the passion did not disappear.   Fatherhood is an act of living love, even when miscommunication and physical distance seem to create a sense of discord.  The passion does not disappear.

Working with children and youth is an act of living love, even when their behaviour seems to be enough to drive one to the edge of insanity.  The passion cannot disappear.

Growing as a spiritual being is the greatest of passions- otherwise I would likely dissipate as a person. This means two things:  Do not filter communication, no matter how seemingly drawn out it may be.  Presence is a burden, when viewed in the least obligatorily.  It can only be viewed, from a passionate viewpoint, by not filtering the subject presenting self, in any way.  This requires being totally non-judgmental, as to what is worthy of one’s attention and to what is trifling or frivolous.  How many wars have been started, and fought, because of a perceived or real slight?

So, as I look at obligations, great and small, and bring those that matter to the level of passion-I must chance the burning of the masks of obligation, that I may show the real face that comes with passion.

NEXT:  The Mask of Self-Disdain

 

The Flow of Consciousness River

16

October 6, 2018, Prescott-

Today, and for the eight days that follow, I will be on Fall Break from my place of work.  As ever, much of this break will be spent in service (today, tomorrow and Monday), dealing with the details of life (Tuesday) and focused travel (Wednesday-next Sunday).

I woke this morning, in a focused, but rather detached state.  Going through the regular grooming routine and dealing with news of the outside (more of the same back-and-forth, between right and left; the stock market, once again, dealing with good economic news by imagining future bad stuff; the Navajo Nation dealing with yet another collapse of its western lifeline road).

Nothing earthshaking has happened in my little world, overnight, and I have much to get done in the next hour, before a long, freely-chosen, day of service activities, so I will be brief about this:  I am now in a very detached, almost surreal state of consciousness. No substances have been involved, I just woke up this way and am still in a very aware, but unusually calm, state of being.

This will work in my favour, through a Baha’i gathering, two hours hence and the Convergence at Arcosanti, where I am serving for the second year, at a gathering of various groups to ponder and discuss the direction of society.  Hopefully, there will be no disruption of a meditation session, which I hope to join. Last year’s session was obliterated by a loud and pushy group, who represented the antithesis of meditation.

I will have more to say, in snippets, over the next few days, but will be mostly offline, until Monday night.

Love to all.

Sponges and Rocks

10

October 2, 2018, Prescott-

Each of us has a wish list.

Each of us has a need list.

There are those who fancy themselves

as being totally ignored,

even if the people supposedly ignoring

have more than just the aggrieved party

on their plates.

I blame the ignored one’s parents,

in part, because mine considered it

their bounden duty to teach us

that there are two kinds of people

in the world:

Some are sponges,

who absorb all the hurt and pain

that comes their way,

until they can take no more.

Then, it all gets squeezed out,

flowing all over everything,

and everyone,

without any direction or purpose.

Some are rocks,

who absorb a measure of that pain and suffering,

but let the rest flow where it may,

usually downhill.

I have been a bit of both,

over the years.

The sponge will say:

“I am here for everyone else.

but no one is ever here for me”,

as the rock looks on,

and says to itself,

“Hello, I am not exactly

going anywhere.”

People tend to want

what they can’t necessarily have,

at the exact moment the want

comes into consciousness,

or on a schedule which

suits them,

but not the person or people

providing the service.

We are all islands in this big stream,

in need of bridges,

rather than the walls,

built of rock or sponge,

that the mind deludes itself

into thinking to be a solution.

Bridges require things like

deferred attention,

setting aside time,

and seeing oneself

as a builder,

not as a victim.

Walls are just fine

with victimhood

and adversary ties.

End of this series of digressions.

Mixed Blessings

15

September 29, 2018, Prescott-

I went to an annual event, this morning, with a full intention of serving, to the best of my ability.  The day started at Hope Fest with my joining the off-loading crew, that helped the vendors  of various merchandise transport their wares from vehicle to booth.  That part always goes fairly well, as there is a highly-motivated group, with no ego attachment to their work.

This year, I agreed to serve much of the day, as personal assistant to the headliner group, which, for propriety’s sake, I will not mention by name.  The group and their manager arrived, around 4:30 pm, and after introductions, I helped them settle in to the Green Room.  I took a seat,  in the meeting area, but far enough apart from the artists that they had no one looking over their shoulders, whilst they were practicing and discussing ideas about their music.

When it comes to  these sorts of things, I am like Las Vegas.  What happens in the room, stays in the room.  At this point in time, I could not and would not tell you the things that were discussed, though there was only honourable and uplifting dialogue.

For whatever reason, however, as soon as two security guards showed up, and announced themselves as the band’s detail, one of the teens who was volunteering with hospitality showed up and said the band manager, who was on the other side of the event grounds, wanted all three of us to get out of the Green Room.  We went outside, but were readmitted by the band members, five minutes later. They apologized to us and said they saw no reason for us to be out of the room.  I wondered, though, how did the manager think to get rid of us, at that particular moment?

The rest of the run-up to their performance went fine.  I got them to select a restaurant and had them write down their selections.  The manager was included, of course, via text.  The performance was lovely, and I introduced a Christian friend to the band members.  They seemed to hit it off well enough. I even got my friend, her sister and nephew prime seats near the stage.  Then, I went and got the group’s dinners and set the table in the Green Room, waiting there with another hospitality crew member. When the band returned, I prepared to go outside, whilst they ate.  That was co-opted, though, by what appeared to be a private meeting, to which I was not invited, among the crew on the sidewalk outside, followed by  a loud, angry message from the manager (still elsewhere) to our crew chief:  “Get that guy out of the Green Room!”  Well, certainly- people are normally given privacy whilst they eat. There was no need for such anger, especially when he was not at the site.  Again, I wonder, were the band members being passive-aggressive and messaging their manager, letting him be an unnecessary heavy?

Needless to say, I left the area and went to help with the breakdown of the stage and artist’s row, as I had promised the event’s founders.   That was accomplished with a much larger crew than in past years.

My takeaway, from the behaviours of both the band and my fellow crew members, is simply to take part in the set-up and breakdown of the next such event, and leave the day to the small, self-contained group, which doesn’t seem to like newcomers.  That is, if I am even invited to participate, next year.

Aged-Out?

19

September 24, 2018, Prescott-

I have heard, from a well-meaning person, that a man my age cannot handle intense romantic relations, of a physical kind. I guess it depends on the man.  Unless I find another woman who makes her way into a marital situation, I will not know as that applies to me. So, there is one moot point.

I do, however, manage to complete even a lengthy, and vigourous, physical job, to its completion, as I did on Saturday, whilst helping on a school garden project.  There is a major faith-based project, next Saturday, in which I will take part, and another, the following weekend, at Arcosanti’s Convergence, which dovetails with a Baha’i event and a nearby Pancake Breakfast.  I feel good, after vigourous work, so I don’t anticipate issues there.

I get the sense, from my building supervisors, that maybe I am occupying shoes meant for a younger person.  My immediate supervisor may well resist that, and I think I just need to stay the course, for as long as my stamina remains as it is now.

In a nutshell, I intend to keep on working, as I have said before, for at least two more years.  December, 2020, would be a good time to bid adieu, but there would have to be a younger person ready to finish out the academic year, at that point.

Pain

19

September 18, 2018, Cave Creek-

A friend called me, a while back.  The message was that someone had been harassing her, leading to severe anxiety. We spoke for a time and I made the offer of a window of opportunity to put a good distance between her and the tormentor.   Tomorrow could be the first step in that direction.

I was raised to take action, when confronted with pain in my own life- be it physical or emotional.  Several times, I’ve had to pull myself together, and do the uncomfortable or the inconvenient, in resolving hard issues. Hey, we all have.  Life has never been mistaken, by anyone but the foolish, for a sweet bowl of cherries.

So, a week ago, yesterday, I had another tooth pulled, not because it was causing me pain, but because it was seriously infected and heart problems run in my family, on both sides. Dental issues are directly connected to heart issues. My own heart is physically in good shape, and I’d like to keep it that way.

Arrangements are being made for a replacement denture, which led me down to the office of my dentist of the past seventeen years, this evening, after work.  Then came the follow-up call to my above-mentioned friend.

Candice Bergen said, many years ago:  “Men are such jerks about beautiful women”.  To be sure, I have had a few periods of jerk-hood, and came to the conclusion that, if I didn’t have so many doubts about myself and my own worth, any obsession with beauty would not take hold. The physical frame is a fine gift of the Creator to mankind, but it is only part of the package.  Were that not so, then plain or homely people with exquisite spirit, personality and skill sets would never have a shot at much.  Were it not the case, ravishingly attractive people would never suffer pain, and we probably all know of at least one person who has suffered, either despite, or because of her/his comeliness.

My physically attractive, suffering friend (who, we both agree, is like a sibling, and no more than that) is enduring things that I, and many others in my circle, do not have to tolerate.  It happens that way, sometimes.  Life is an equal opportunity provider, of both good and ill.

I thought further of this, whilst in a small burger joint, Big Earl’s, in this, my favourite Phoenix-area town.  The very pretty teen girl who was serving me whacked her elbow, whilst loading a bucket of ice, and my paternal angst winced a bit.  She shook it off and kept on with her work.

So must we all.  I will do my darnedest to help sister-friend get through her current nightmare.  She will, eventually, find her own light.

 

Tangential, Part 1

15

September 8, 2018, Prescott- 

This morning, on a visit to Prescott Farmers Market, I spent a few minutes sitting on a bench, near where the  guest musician was playing an acoustic version of Outkast’s “Hey Ya”, accenting the powerful words of the sometime party tune.

I began to get caught up in the presence of his delightful little family, noting his daughter’s interaction with a another little girl, about her age.  As I smiled at a nearby vendor’s waving and goofing around with the singer’s infant son, the mother looked at me quizzically and I gave her the  proper explanation, as to what was happening, before excusing myself and going off to finish my purchases for the day.

I was challenged, earlier this morning, as to having been short and to the point, in my communications of late.  Simply put, I felt a lot of pressure this week, especially at work, with hard things happening to my team members, and a difficult person inserting herself into the classroom mix.  I have no problems, in particular, with the person who sent the message this morning.  We each are highly intuitive, but intuition, on a human level, is not foolproof.  One’s own fears and challenges get mixed in, invariably.  I take my own intuition with several grains of salt, and end up doing the same with other people’s observations, regarding my life.

Prescott Farmers Market, and the local Planet Fitness franchise, are places I frequent.  I notice that, with one or two exceptions, the management team in each of these places tend to keep me (though not their favoured few) at arm’s length, most likely for good reason-but what that reason has to do with me, specifically, I’m not sure.   Conversely, having the managers of a given establishment be my well-wishers is not why I avail myself of its services.  The Market does have several stalls, where I am on good terms with the vendors and can chat for several minutes, without the emotional door slamming in my face. The gym provides me with a reliable set of full-body machines and the incomparable Hydrobed, a next-gen version of the Ceragem massage bed that we had, in the Phoenix house.  Besides, the manager’s front desk assistants are uniformly more personable, and actually seem happy to see people come in, who are less than buff.

This leads me, again, to the whole culture of anonymity that seems to pervade the urban American West.  This puzzles me.  No one really seems to enjoy living as if under siege, but each of us does it, to some degree.  I have made some headway, walking to and from downtown and Yavapai College, and joining in more group activities, especially in the past two years.

I am approaching a crossroads, of sorts, which I had hoped would not be imminent until at least Autumn, 2020.  Still very much hoping to complete this academic year in one piece, the difficult academic specialist aside, I go to work each day and give it my best.  Still hoping to be of value to my Baha’i and other communities, I am a regular at scheduled and spontaneous events.  Still hoping to keep my head above water, I listen, carefully, to the voices of both support and of criticism, to glean the necessary lessons.

Part 2:  Affirmations and expectations

 

August Didn’t Kill Me

27

September 7, 2018, Prescott-

August didn’t kill me.

It was not for lack of trying.

I am, like others in my family,

stubborn, determined,

that the month,

this year,

the next two or three years,

are not my swansong.

Joint pain came and was dispatched,

thanks to my chiropractor,

and a gift from a trusted friend.

Secrecy, in and around my little work family,

means nothing to me,

in terms of my getting my job done.

Harsh criticism,

coming from a casual acquaintance,

who claims to know my future,

will not blunt, or alter, my life’s course.

August didn’t kill me,

nor will September.

The 2018 Road, Day 39:Plowing On, Through Remorse

16

July 3, 2018, Moriarty, NM-

I woke up in Sallisaw, just after 6 AM, which is my usual wake-up, when on the road.  Ed’s Cafe was across the road from Sallisaw Inn, so I headed over for breakfast.  The waitress looked to be a sassy sort, the kind that can handle truck drivers very well.  She plopped a menu down in front of me and took my coffee order, then walked over to a gray-haired gentleman and plopped her cleaning rag in front of him.  I liked her right away.  Turns out, he was indeed a regular, coming by here every two weeks.

I ordered the special, and Sassy Stacey got me to change it to the same plate from the regular menu, telling me quietly that “the boss jacks up the price for the special, when all it is, is more hashbrowns.” So I got a good deal on a very decent breakfast.

I headed straight across Oklahoma, bypassing OKC, and stopping at a Braum’s, in Weatherford, for lunch.  I like Braum’s for their milkshakes and malts, getting one of the latter, to go with my chicken tenders.  Weatherford is a nice little town, so getting in out of the heat there, and giving the Elantra an hour’s rest, made perfect sense.

Next was the Texas Panhandle, a far more magnificent place than many people might see.  My remorse came from not giving old Texas Tidbits enough of a heads-up, as I approached Amarillo.  So, it happened that my only Texas stops were gassing up in McLean and a short meditative visit to the rest stop off I-40, at Alanreed.

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Despite the ominous clouds, I did not get so much as a drop on my windshield today.

After leaving Texas behind, I made two stops in eastern New Mexico, dinner at K-Bob’s, in Tucumcari, taking advantage of the chain’s delicious catfish plate and generous salad bar, then gassing up at a Mom and Pop store in Milagro- just because the young couple are making a heartfelt effort to revive the windswept little settlement.

Finally, the day ended at one of Moriarty’s oldest inns: Sunset Motel.  The widowed daughter-in-law of the motel’s founders runs this place with a velvet fist.  Her business acumen and graciousness do not clash- which I find admirable and reassuring.  She keeps her late husband’s and in-laws’ legacy running very smoothly.

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Burned, but Not Broken

22

August 4, 2018, Prescott-

As I stood, gazing at the sunset, this evening, admiring just how beautiful this city is, I think of different people here, and also realized:

You the disaffected one, silently snarl,

and greet me sullenly,

no longer by name,

just a perfunctory “Hello“.

You’d like me gone,

because I’m not who you want me to be,

WHAT you want me to be.

I’m still here,

as it’s the Universe,

not human beings,

deciding what I am going to do,

and where.

You, the gym managers, greet me by name,

because you see my heart,

and your only agenda

is to love and serve.

You, the busy entrepreneur, make time for me,

when it fits your schedule.

That’s okay, as

I was brought up

to honour people’s privacy.

You, the children and youth, smile

when I walk in your space,

or into the classroom,

because we share

a tenderness of heart.

You, my co-workers,

know of my undivided loyalty,

and support,

because we share a love

for the youth we serve,

and all else is secondary.

I have no real enemies,

just people who read me  wrong.

I suffer no lasting injury,

just the temporary wounds

which those in dire pain

want so badly to share.

As I looked at the sunset,

I realized the wounds are healing.