Ghosting

4

November 30, 2019-

The question was posed to me, earlier this evening:  “Why do some people not acknowledge texts for a week and a half, or a month?”  I can’t speak for any of those who do this as, if I can’t respond to someone’s messages in a timely manner, I’ll let them know at least that much- “Will get back to you by (thus and such day or time).”  If the person’s messages become offensive, I will say so, and free myself of her/his company, as I’ve done exactly twice, permanently, and once, temporarily.

I did a bit of thinking, though, about the phenomenon known as ghosting.  People seem to remove themselves from someone’s life, without notifying the individual, because:

  1.  They’ve lost interest in the person.
  2. They are going through difficulties/trauma, which they feel is all-encompassing and that the other person’s tests and difficulties would only add to their distress.  I’ve been there, on both sides of the struggle.  I can only thank God that I was taught the tools, such as deferred attention, which obviate ghosting on my part.
  3. .  They just don’t know what to say to the person anymore; perhaps because s(he) always has a counter answer for their suggestions or just plugs her/his ears to whatever they say. There are also those who  don’t know how to address chronic, seemingly intractable, matters-especially if they involve the person’s family.

Ghosting, as a means to restoring one’s sense of inner harmony,  is a falsehood.  The person, whom one is avoiding, has not disappeared from the Universe, and unless one summons the fortitude to let her/him know that ties are being cut, for whatever reason, then there is no closure-and the same challenge, from which one is running, will present itself, in the form of another troubled person, at some point either shortly thereafter, or a few years down the road.

Their Voices Will Not Be Silenced

2

November 29, 2019-

I read, a few days ago, about a homeless man in the Phoenix area, who had committed a heinous crime, whilst suffering psychiatric illness.  The story stated that this man had been passed through the Arizona mental health system, for over a  decade.  He had enough of an understanding of his own condition to ask for a shower and a follow-up appointment with one of the original counselors who had first met with him, when he was brought into a facility, by the police.  These requests were denied, according to the newspaper account, and he was back on the street, largely against his wishes.

In Maricopa County, there are at least a dozen agencies, which purport to address mental health issues.  I once worked, briefly, for the agency that, also briefly, worked with the man in question.  I was not successful in my endeavours with that agency, partly because of my also serving as Penny’s caretaker and partly because the ego feathers of the agency branch’s leadership were ruffled by my personality and manner of talking with my clients.  The agency, in the case cited above, was one of several which dealt with that man, and somehow they all dropped the ball, not knowing of each others’ presence in his life.  He remains a person whose only security comes when he is incarcerated.

I mention this, because in dealing with the mentally ill, each of us finds self in  a bind, of sorts.  When someone dear to me faced a severe mental illness, many years ago, I chose to address the matter head-on, but not address it alone.  There was a team of professionals, who helped solve many of the problems and it was left to me and others close to this person, to resolve  the rest.  We were, however, not left alone and the person has gone on to lead a masterful life.

I have had a few people present their issues to me, over the years, both in Phoenix and here in Prescott.  Two of these people stayed with my family and me, during the last two years of Penny’s life.  We were able to help one of them orient his life, but the other was a work in progress, when I moved to Prescott.  At that time, my own grief was still raw and I was the one who needed compassion.

Time passed, I was able to help one homeless man get situated and centered, albeit with some difficulty.  Once he trusted in the agencies with whom I put him in contact, things went better.  The second person I tried to help, at the behest of a mutual friend, turned out to be someone who had already tried all the resources I recommended, and was irritated by my personality and foibles, to the point where we are no longer in contact.

The beat goes on, and I am open to those who have difficulties, who don’t know to whom else to turn.  I will maintain, to anyone who is suffering mental or emotional health difficulties, to not rely on social media for resolution, nor to rely on any one person for same.  I am a loving soul, but I am also far from perfect and the last thing I want is for my own lifestyle, activity level or personal mental state (mild Asperger’s/autism) to waylay the progress of a person whose viewpoint, regarding  that progress, is at variance with how I see things.  I had a brief online conversation, this evening, with such a person. Besides, each of us is marvelous complex.

That individual is right about something, though.  Mental illness is anything but a laughing matter.  You will not find me including someone else’s affliction as a punchline, in my repertoire of jokes.  He’s also right about people paying attention to his problems.  That attention, first and foremost, needs to start with family and one, committed team of professionals, of the individual’s choosing, in consultation with family.  Random people, no matter how compassionate they are, can’t direct a suffering soul towards the light, in the way that family can.

The voices of the suffering will not be silenced and they will not “go quietly into that good night.”

My Gratitudes

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November 28, 2019-

A year ago, my shoulder was getting better and my left knee, injured by what seemed to be a psychic attack, as I walked down a short, routine set of stairs, was also well on the mend. The “woo-woo” aside, my health has been fabulous this year.  I am grateful to do Terra essential oils, hemp-based CBD cream, a team of physical therapists, my dental team in Phoenix, Planet Fitness and my chiropractor for helping me maintain that fabulous.

My family has been extraordinarily gracious and generous this year, as always.  Being with Aram, Yunhee and the Shin family, on the occasion of their Baha’i wedding, and the travels around southern South Korea that followed, remains the greatest of blessings.

My Baha’i community and other dear friends, around Prescott, continue to keep me grounded.  Those whose aim was to bring me down also had a role to play. Rearranging my priorities this year, has only made my life richer and more satisfying.

Prescott, and Arizona as a whole, continue to be inspiring, good hosts.  I never tire of the view of Thumb Butte, from my front window or of any of the exquisite scenes that unfold, no matter which direction I go.

My many friends and family, across the United States, and beyond, are ever present and encouraging, even if we rarely, or never, see one another in person.  I am grateful to have spent time with some, from California to Massachusetts and in-between, over the past twelve months.

Being ever expansive in my view of the world, visiting new places and making new friends is always a plus.  I found new perspectives on Albuquerque, Memphis, Charleston, Raleigh, the Eastern Shore and Delaware, West Point, Pittsburgh, Chicago/Wilmette, Kansas City and Los Angeles, over the past twelve months. Youth hostels, Airbnb and the comfort of friends’ and family homes made all the difference.

Time in nature is always huge, in my life.  The Centenary of Grand Canyon National Park saw me visit both North and South Rims.  The Navajo Nation’s Coal Mine Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, Window Rock  and Monument Valley ever warm my heart.  Being in New Mexico’s El Malpais was a comfort, after a case of food poisoning upended my Father’s Day.  There were meanders along the banks of the Mississippi and above the Goosenecks of the San Juan River; focused exploration of  Utah’s Natural Bridges and Hovenweep National Monuments, Lake Powell’s Wahweap area and the urban solace of Los Angeles’ Venice Canals re-affirmed who I am,at my core.

The greatest gratitudes are reserved for what is ongoing:  My mother’s continued presence in our lives, my little family returning to the United States, having three of the finest people as my siblings, my Faith in God being reaffirmed, each day, and my physical, financial and mental health remaining optimal.

Thank you, 2019, for having been, and remaining, a space of strength and comfort.

This Close….

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November 27, 2019-

My mother used to say, “You’re THIS CLOSE to…..” Sometimes, when one of us crossed the line, “close” became up  close.  It happened often enough to shape each of us into being responsible adults.

I learned, over the course of my educational career, that there was precious little daylight, in a good many cases, for muddled responses to people who acted out.  “This close” only worked with students who were genuinely respectful, but who were just testing the waters.

I am having to mean exactly what I say with more people on the periphery of my life, who can and do try to push the limits of what I will tolerate.  Obviously, taking an old-style parental disciplinary approach is going to be counteractive.  Like a good parent, however, I do need to stick to my boundaries.  I have told an online correspondent that I am limiting my time, responding to his long thread of sound bites, to no more than thirty minutes a day. His response, for now, is to send even more voice messages.  No problem; they will wait until the next day.  I know he is just pushing my boundaries and I don’t see any need to be yet another person to cut ties with him-unless the spam fest becomes  a series of threats.  Then, it’s game over.

I’ve only had to delete people twice, in twelve years, and one of them recently was let back in-as the problem was initially my fault.  I am a patient man; some say, too patient, but no matter.  My aim is to live my life as I see fit, within the bounds of my personal beliefs.  Those who are really close to me understand that.  The others, including the lonely soul, will just have to learn.

What, Exactly, Is Kindness?

6

November 26, 2019-

Many years ago, I was present in a colleague’s classroom, when a distraught boy kicked and slammed a chair.  This was in the days when corporal punishment was still the norm, so it happened that my co-worker grabbed the boy’s arm and shook him, very hard. She told those of us who witnessed this, that he would remember this moment and be unlikely to repeat such a destructive behaviour.

I had my doubts about that, then, and still am doubtful.  The teacher has since passed on and the boy is now a 50-year-old man.  I have not seen him since I left the community where this took place.  He’s still up there, in that rural community, and I wonder if he remembers that incident.  I wonder how it affected his world view, and more directly, how it affected his raising of his own children.

I chose to physically punish my own child, prior to his adolescence, on a relatively few occasions.  None of those occasions saw me lose my self-control, yet I have often thought since, that there had to be better ways to correct his behaviour, than presenting myself as somehow more powerful, more dominant.

There was a song, in the late 1970’s, entitled “Cruel to Be Kind”.  While the songwriter included the phrase, “in the right measure”, I found myself disagreeing with the sentiment.  Nonetheless, there are occasions when, in order to save one’s own sanity and overall usefulness as a human being, it’s necessary to deny another person’s request.  None of us are perfect, after all, and there are times when a soul is unreasonable, in her/his expectations of others.  I dealt with such a person, four years ago; with another, last year and with yet a third, over the past weekend.  In each case, I was taking on a situation which would have been best handled by a team of people.  In the first instance, I was able to assemble such a group and the man lived his last years among us, in a fairly comfortable environment.  The other two- I was, and am, unable to help very much, as an individual.  Sometime, the issues are just too complex.

That said, there was also a time, six years ago, when I was the problematic one.  The person on whom I was fixated, handled the whole thing masterfully.  We reached a very quiet understanding,  and I made a promise that I have kept and will uphold for all eternity.  That person’s kindness has been a model for me, ever since.

Kindness, then, can assume many forms, though I daresay cruelty, in its true state, is never one of those forms.

A Few Rules for Self

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November 25, 2019- 

I made it an enjoyable day, by setting a few rules for myself, a few days in advance of turning sixty-nine.  The more one takes care of self, the less likely it is that others can slip into the vacuum and divert attention from what matters.

I found myself trying to help another person,  yesterday afternoon, and only ended up feeling like I was about to tear out what’s left of my hair.  That’s not a direction in which I plan on heading again.

The first rule I have set for myself, therefore, is to limit my time on any one online discourse to twenty minutes, per day, maximum. I will make exceptions for my immediate family.  Time is far better spent, at least in my view, by doing things like walking, tending to my home, cooking and reading.

The second rule is to read at least an hour each day. I got away from that practice, a few years back and found it most rewarding to return to the printed page today.

The third rule is to not procrastinate about doing a task, just because it is novel to me.  Specifically, I have a new water system, involving a complicated piece of equipment.  Fortunately, there is a DVD that is likely to guide me through the process, certainly more than the confusing paper diagram.  I am one of those who doesn’t easily comprehend the tie between a piece of equipment and a wordless diagram.  It’ll get done, though.

It’s been a fine day, though.  I received my new driver’s license, good for another five years, and a document needed by a family member also arrived.  Thanksgiving plans appear set, and the last few days of being 68 look to be spent in fine weather, albeit rather windy weather.

Smelling The Roses

4

November 24, 2019-

For the longest time, I went through life being purposeful, and regarding taking time with non-essentials as a waste of time.  Even time in nature had to be for the purpose of reaching a goal.

Penny got me to slow down, just a bit, and to not  look at life as just a thing to be accomplished.  Since I wasn’t really all that ambitious, in the conventional sense, learning to relax and not be time-driven was actually refreshing.

Jordan Peterson’s twelfth rule for life is “If You See A Cat on The Road, Pet It.”.    Although many of the cats I’ve encountered in life are hardly willing to be petted, the sentiment is  a charming one.

Being semi-retired, I now take more time for the gentle pleasures of life.  Most of the people in my life understand this, and many say it’s high time. I have encountered a few who take umbrage at my pastimes, and their words sometimes trigger memories of my past.  This leads me to lash out, as I did in the earlier version of this post.  Time away, reading “Abby Wize”, brought me back down to the level at which I am in a better frame of mind.  Nobody likes being triggered, yet I need to keep above it.

That is the thing.  I have worked hard, at a number of endeavours, both professionally and socially.  I have earned a measure of taking time to smell the roses.  Lest anyone think I was playing the victim card earlier- think again.  Lest anyone think I am dodging social responsibility, think twice.  I  continue to be very much involved in community activities. That, to me, is part of taking time for what is beautiful in life.  Towards that end, I enjoy walking in our lovely town, spending much time in leisurely walks through nature.  I will continue to enjoy time with non-judgmental people.  I will pet animals, especially dogs, which enjoy that kind of attention.  As you may have guessed, I will also continue to travel widely, especially towards the late spring and summer months of next year.  As Dr. Peterson says, taking time for what is meaningful is what keeps us in good health, and even helps the sick to recover.

This concludes my first set of commentaries on the Twelve Rules for Life.

 

 

Both Halves of the Whole Are Necessary

6

November 23, 2019-

The practice of chivalry has long taken a bad rap.  For this, I blame the degeneration of the once noble art into infantilization, then misogyny.  What was a system for honouring all that women did for the good of the world, became a means to dominance.

As the old saw goes, “When the worm turns, we all turn.”  It’s been masculinity’s time to take some hits, in the name of a level playing field.  The point of overkill appears to have been reached, about ten years ago.

Both genders can claim a plethora of contributions to the well-being and advancement of society, and of civilization.   There are men and women of distinction, in just about every field of endeavour that comes to mind.  Due to a long-standing system of such things as the disparity in salary between men and women, for the same work and the false equivalence, “whataboutism”, that gets raised, every time lingering issues of misogyny are raised, the temptation to take even more away from men is understandable.

Gender, itself, owing to both the frequent imbalance of gender-determining hormones, in all too many people, has been under a degree of attack.  This is not the fault of anyone who has a greater degree of testosterone compared to estrogen, or vice versa.  There are likely a good many causes of the imbalance, from genetic modification of food and drink to pollutants in the air and water.

However, I digress.  The fact that I was born male, am very happy to remain male and am physically attracted only to women does not need to be renegotiated.  I can be, and am, friends with a fair number of gay men and transgender people.   That, and the fact that I once cried easily, has never had anything to do with my gender identity.

Jordan Peterson’s eleventh rule for life is, essentially, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”    The legitimate achievements of men, those on which a man did NOT piggy-back on the work of a woman, need not be minimized. (There are certainly plenty of the piggy-backed cases.)

Indeed, there is often a tendency for people to not know where to stop, when correcting a past wrong.  The misunderstood term, microaggression,, has been offered as a reason for excess revisionism in history and for an overage of caution in determining a proper course of action.  Microaggression is essentially between  individuals, and is best sorted out, at that level.

Dr. Peterson carries this to the achievements of Western European/North American society.  Certainly, there is much about the “Western civilization” to admire, which is a large part of why it has been so universally emulated.  There is also much that needs correction, and some of the answers to our issues may be found in examining other societies.

In essence, then, no community can long exist, successfully, without equal contributions by BOTH women and men.  In addition, no society can thrive on one set of social practices alone.

Each One, Let The Other One Live

4

November 22, 2019-

I am reading the updated version of a young adult novel, “Abbie Wize: AWAKE”.   It is the story of a misunderstood, isolated and battered young girl, who experiences a unique spiritual awakening.  Her main nemesis is her own mother, who appears at this point in the novel as a brutal and controlling menace.

Jordan Peterson’s Rule 10 is ” Don’t Knock A Teenager Off A Skateboard”.  Basically, our task as members of society is to not be so up in other people’s business, that we quash their legitimate joys, experiences and efforts.     This is even true, to an extent, of parents, so long as a child is not harming self or others.

I tend to concur with that sentiment.  My own parents were not brutes and I can count on one hand the number of times I was physically chastised, as a child and teen.  I was not too different, as a father, in that respect.

As adults, many tend to think it is within their boundaries to prescribe to others, exactly how they should be handling their business.  There is a story about an old man, a young boy and a donkey.  As they went on their journey to a town that was ten kilometers away, the old man walked, while the boy rode the donkey.  Some objected, saying the robust boy should let his elder ride.  They switched places and kept going.  Others appeared, berating the old man for making such a small child walk.  The boy joined the old man, riding the donkey.  Animal rights activists chided the pair, for putting the poor donkey under such a strain.  The man and boy decided the activists were right, and began carrying the donkey!  A group of rowdy men gathered, and began mocking the two, for being so stupid as to carry an animal.  The old man and the boy decided to take turns riding the donkey, and so they went the rest of the way in peace.

Dr. Peterson’s point here is not that we should be apathetic towards our fellows, but that we should adopt a posture of seeing each other as they see themselves, and taking steps to encourage right behaviour-rather than aiming our arrows solely at what is being done wrong.

This, combined with his earlier point about listening to one’s critics, calls for a balance in our interactions with one another.  I have learned to measure my criticism carefully, as well as to sift my own naysayers’ words, with a view towards continuous self-improvement.

 

A Humble Posture of Learning

9

November 21, 2019-

One of the things our parents instilled in my siblings and me is that it’s possible to learn from anyone.  I took that as a dictum to listen and to draw lessons from what someone does, as well as what is said.

Jordan Peterson’s tenth rule for life is just that:  “Learn from those who know what you don’t know.”  Watching and listening is always a good thing, when combined with the ability to discern right from wrong.  I can listen to someone describe how they snookered gullible people, in their old neighbourhood, and LEARN:  1). How not to let that person, or someone like him/her, take advantage of me; 2.  How not to treat a gullible person.  On the other hand, I can watch and listen, carefully, to a seasoned automobile engine mechanic demonstrate how to remove and replace the rings and valves of the engine, and maybe, given the right circumstances, perform the activity myself.

A Roma man, in Paris, after failing to con me into taking a ring that I had seen him drop on the sidewalk, decided to tell me of  other tricks that his rivals, on the Right Bank of the Seine, might try on me.  These tips came in handy, especially as when it started pouring rain, I only wanted to get back to my hotel.  Yes, the scams included “Monsieur, look! My uncle is coming, with his pedicab!!” (There was no pedicab, as my Roma friend had told me there wouldn’t be.   He had said that, if I looked on cue, two deft fingers would search my back pockets.  As it happened, I had only a soiled handkerchief in my  back right pocket, and nothing in my left, as my valuables were secure, elsewhere.)

One can also learn from observing others, and from overhearing them.  I try to keep that to a polite minimum, but it has often been beneficial, so long as I don’t try to inject myself into their business, without cause.

The greater point is:  None of us knows everything, and those who pretend as much, fool few outside of their own circle-if even them.  Baha’u’llah prescribes adopting a humble posture of learning.  It is that which leads me to read, to observe what goes on around my Home Base, to stay abreast of  current events and to travel, when time avails itself.