My New Hang-out

Pahoa, where I’m staying in Hawaii, is a very small town. Does not get much smaller than this. Does not get much more beautiful than this, either.

The Tin Shack is a local cafe, with delicious food, and the best coffee. For instance, their poached eggs, with pesto, purple potatoes, and gluten free toast is to die for. These particular purple potatoes are, I believe, what Poi is made out of. It(Poi) really isn’t as bad as you might expect, given all the rumors! I actually quite like it.

The Tin Shack is literally a tin shack, with bright blue and orange painted on the inside walls, and surfboards hanging strategically over customers heads. It sits just off the main road in Pahoa central, and is very open and breezy. I’m sitting at a table outside, covered by an overhang, as rain is no stranger to this place. In front of me are a row of parked cars. Slightly past those cars is a field made up of very long, nearly lime green grasses. It’s surrounded on one side by palm trees.

Watch out for the falling coconuts! Seriously, it can be an issue here in Hawaii. I was told by what I believe was a reliable resource, that more people on the islands are killed by falling coconuts, than by sharks. Comforting. Especially given that I grew during the ‘Jaws’ years. I was totally scarred by that movie. At least now, I’ll go into swimming a swimming pool…

They have the best coffee here, as well as homemade Kombucha-Basil flavored today. Surprisingly it is tasty, and it’s shaping up my intestinal flora, with each gulp I take.

I will later attempt to add pics. I’ve been having technical issues, and I’m certainly no Techie.

Aloha!

Losing Those We Love

Cats are lovely creatures. I even have one myself. But they are also natural hunters. I read that house cats are actually more likely to to catch the creature they are after, than any other animal!

The cat that I’m taking care of in Hawaii is no exception. Here we are, on nearly 5 acres of untamed land, with birds of every color flitting about. All sorts of wild things inhabit this property-even wild boars.

This morning, when I was having my cup of coffee outside on the lanai, I heard a chirping noise behind me. I turned around, and my darling adopted kitty had caught yet another bird, and was playing with her.

I grabbed the poor bird out of Pua’s grasp, and held my breath. Had it been damaged beyond repair? It sat quietly in my palm, closing it’s eyes, seemingly unconcerned that I was holding it. Worrisome, to say the least.

I’ve had three recent experiences with dead or dying birds in the last month. I’m wondering if the universe is trying to tell me something.

The first was in Ashland. A lovely yellow bird smashed into my sliding glass door, and proceeded to die in my sight. I was devastated. I cried so hard. It brought up so many feelings of loss and despair. My eyes are tearing up, just thinking about it.

The second time was in Hawaii. I was half asleep, and heard something squeaking. The squeaking continued. Annoyed, I glanced over at the cat, and noted wearily that she had a brown squeaky toy she was batting around. It took me awhile to realize what it was.

I saved the birdie, but she did not look well. I held her in my hand, as she closed one eye, and then the other. I cried for her. I wasn’t sure if she would die, or if she was in shock. I made sure that the cat was indoors and occupied. I placed her on the ground, underneath a palm tree, as she wasn’t stable enough to sit on a branch.

I came back later and she was gone. I will never know if she was eaten by some beast, or if she recovered, and flew away.

Again this great sadness welled up inside me. I sobbed. This poor, gentle little bird probably died in terror.

I think often of my brother Matthew, who died when he was 16. He was having surgery for a heart defect, and he never made it through. I prayed to God over and over that he might live. It was a huge shock for me, when the surgeons came out and told my parents that he wouldn’t survive.

It’s hard for me to grasp that this was over 30 years ago. Losing someone you love stays with you for your lifetime. I still talk to him, and he visits me in my dreams. He made everyone laugh, and was so full of life. It doesn’t make sense that he died so young.

I am guessing that my sorrow over these birds has something to do with innocence being destroyed. With my brother being snatched away from me. God didn’t hear me, or if He did, he did not answer my prayer.

For a very long time I was infuriated with God, and I denied that He existed. Slowly over time I have welcomed Him back into my life. But that’s another story.

Trapped by Expectations

Pahoa is an interesting little town. It reminds me vaguely of Santa Cruz, CA in that it’s populated by hippies, and outsiders. Well, maybe it’s more reminiscent of how Santa Cruz used to be, before the Techie industry claimed in for their own.

When I first ventured out into central Pahoa in early July, I was dismayed by the two block span of the town. I received many dirty looks from locals. I didn’t appreciate the vibe here, or the people.

Things have shifted for me. I’m finding that most residents are kind when I am. I especially noted this when I dropped my expectations of how I felt I should be treated.

Okay, there was one guy downtown who was too friendly. I think he was on drugs. He told me that he spends 90 percent of his time on fishing boats. Then he asked if I wanted to hook up later that evening. It was during the day when this happened, so I didn’t feel threatened. I must admit that I did feel grossed out.

Expectations are interesting. They can be problematic. I’ve noticed that when I’m occasionally able to drop them, I am surprised. When I hold onto them, and to my expectations of how I want things to work, I’m generally disappointed.

It’s my last week here and I want to see some of the sights that I’ve missed. I feel a renewed sense of excitement about being here. For the most part, I don’t care how I’m dealt with.

Today I walked into a store that I had not noticed before. The man at the register was speaking to his wife, and he had a fairly strong accent. I asked him if he was from Israel, and was correct in my assumption.

His wife was very kind. Ellie. Lived in Israel for four years. She told me she is Japanese by birth, and that the aggressive nature of the Israeli’s was difficult for her to take. She’d come home crying most days while living there.

She had an interesting perspective on Israel. She told me that you could feel the holiness of the place. She’s not Jewish, but reported this as being very tangible. She also said that the Israelis have to be tough, as they have to be diligent about protecting themselves. I know this won’t be popular for my readers, but she added that she believes the Israelis are protecting the world.

I’ve never been to Israel, but I do plan on going sometime in the next few years. I’m sure it will be everything but boring. My expectations will play into my experience of it’s inhabitants, I’m sure. Maybe, as in Hawaii, I will find it possible to release them. If I can do this I imagine that the experience there will be richer. That I will get a more honest view into the Israeli people.

It’s not so important where I visit next in this world. I’m more interested in my expectations and how they affect my view of people, and of places. Sometimes I see what I expect to see, and when I let go am able to see life and people as they really are.

Every time I write, I am working out thoughts and notions swimming around in my own head. I do hope that others find my work interesting, but that is not my sole purpose in writing. It’s more to remind myself of things that I already know to be true, that somehow I’ve forgotten. Isn’t it funny how much each of us truly knows at our depths, and how easily that knowing is forgotten?

Perhaps that could be a compelling topic to write about. Another subject for me to dig into. I think my writing will be successful if I can continue to retrieve those memories that are with me, but seem to be lost. So many caved in dark secret places to discover. And they are all within ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

The Joys of Commitment

Okay. So, I just got back from the Volcano National Park, and I’m tired. Really tired. I don’t feel like writing. I’m not even sure what to write about.

Perhaps I’ll write about making promises to myself that I keep.

Remaining committed and enthusiastic about anything I do is tough for me. I get caught up in the initial glow of any new endeavor that I am engaged in.

Inevitably, the excitement passes. I feel leaden in my body, and don’t want to do what I was once so thrilled about. I feel, God forbid, uninspired!

It seems kind of the same to me as being in a romantic relationship. At first everything is so great. I cannot wipe the smile off my face. I am full of energy and want to be with that special someone every moment.

Then time passes. I realize that not everything is so wonderful as I thought, with my new love. He in actuality can be annoying occasionally. We start to fight once and awhile, and to clash in ways that I did not expect. To keep the relationship going, there is work involved. Oh, the drudgery of it all!

On rare occasions, I am so excited by the prospect of writing that I want to do nothing else. Mostly I know that I made a serious promise to myself to write every day. Not one of the usual promises I make with myself that I discard when I’m not feeling it. Every other day won’t cut it. Maybe I could skip certain days, when I’m not feeling motivated…?

Even creativity has to be worked on, and worked with. If I wait for inspiration before I write something, or do art, I could be waiting for a long while. Sometimes the inspiration comes after I begin writing. Strange, that.

There is something to be said for persistence, and for consistency. I hate to admit this as I am such a free spirit. I much prefer to be spontaneous!

It’s not easy to stay with something you can fail at. Something you take seriously. Something that defines who you are.

That is what I’m doing now. It terrifies me, but I realize that I will get nowhere if I don’t stick to at least some of my goals. Yucky word, I know. I try not to use it.

I have hope that if I keep writing daily I might become a better writer. Maybe not a great writer, but somewhat improved. Don’t want to shoot too high, of course.

Cut Into Pieces

It’s strange how out of step, and disconnected I can feel sometimes. Like my body and my mind are totally separate and acting independently.

There is an entrenched way of thinking about ourselves in this world. Doctors like to set up artificial boundaries between mind and body. Diseases are mental or physical. It’s a false demarcation. And it gets us into trouble.

Diseases like Major Depressive Disorder, and Schizophrenia are labeled as mental health conditions. Diseases like Crohn’s disease, Lupus, and heart disease are referred to as physical issues.

The funny thing is that the more that is understood about our beings, the more of a confirmation is arising that everything within us is interconnected. I’m not sure where this need for isolating physical and mental health problems came from originally. Where the denial originated. The denial of us being more than the sum of our parts.  This kind of compartmentalization has had a very deleterious effect on humanity. It’s marred our understanding of how the world works. Of how we work.

We are far from simple organisms. I know from my own experience with doctors, that there are a myriad of questions that they cannot answer. What they know seems to be constantly shifting. They only have a small piece of the equation, but like to think of themselves as experts.

What is good health? What does the word ‘healing’ truly mean? I believe that sometimes we heal our souls, but the body does not heal. And that often we heal our bodies, but are unable to heal our minds.

Is anyone really well? I know that I am asking more questions than I’m answering here. Often I think and think. My mind goes around in circles. It’s when I’m not thinking that most answers do come!

I’ve had an auto-immune disease since I was 10. I turn 50 in September. I’ve also had Major Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder for nearly as long. If I’m upset and stressed out, my symptoms get worse. If my physical symptoms get worse, my mental state suffers. And so it goes.

I’ve grown closer to feeling at home within myself as the decades have passed. Part of that feeling comes from the realization that nothing is separate within me. That I am a unified whole. That I can’t honestly break myself up into bits and pieces. That understanding doesn’t necessarily come from my head.

I believe that finding total health is elusive, and unattainable. I believe that some of the people that are physically the sickest have the greatest level of awareness, and are the healthiest of spirits.

Part of feeling at home in my body has come from an acknowledgment that all of us are sick, and have our weaknesses at varying levels. I’ve also understood that there is no such thing as normal. That was a life changing paradigm shift for me. Understanding who I am,  and learning to accept her has been for me a huge part of becoming healthy.

I still have my intestinal issues. I still suffer from disabling fatigue. I still have moments, even days where I feel terribly depressed. But it’s really okay. Being able to see that all of us have our struggles, and all of us have our shortcomings has been helpful to me. Perfection is subjective. It’s a state that doesn’t exist. Once I swallowed that one down, it made my life easier.

Darkness Makes the Light Shine Brighter

Have you ever noticed that the light in paintings is much more striking when contrasted by darkness? The dark colors make the light pop. A painting that is all light pales in comparison.

I have learned a lot from the New Age movement, but in certain essential ways I believe it’s lacking. The idea that we are all light, and that we must dispossess the part of ourselves that is imperfect is problematic. It’s can inflict a good deal of uneccessary pain upon us.

Part of being human means that we experience a wide range of feelings. Including anger, grief, envy, and despair. To dismiss that side of us, is not onely disingenious, but it prevents us from feeling whole.

I have studied many different philosophies, and belief systems. Judaism appeals to me in part because I was brought up with it. I believe that part of what is of value in Judaism, is that the God of the Torah expresses every feeling we encounter in our lives. I believe this helps to give us permission to feel those feelings ourselves.

I’m not saying that spreading our anger around by shouting at people, or by being unkind is okay. What I’m saying is that it’s okay to be human, and to feel our entire range of emotions.

When we try to suppress those emotions, they only get bigger, and begin to fester inside of us. When we deny the darker parts of ourselves, we become disjointed and broken.

I also think that expecting only joy puts us at a disadvantage. We cannot control a whole lot in life. Especially what goes on around us. I’ve found that if I expect only pure happiness I end up feel disappointed in myself, when I am not happy. I end up feeling I’ve been remiss in my responsibilies.

There is something superficial in the word happiness. Joy is a better word, in my mind. The rabbi at a local temple put it this way. Joy is large enough to encompass sadness, and anger, and disappointment. It is not something that is necessarily dependent upon what happens to us. It can be present when happiness is not. Joy is very rich and doesn’t deny any part of ouselves.

If I’ve learned anything in the 50 years of my life, it’s that we need to be kind to ourselves, and to each other. We must be gentle, too. I’m not saying that this is easy. Being human isn’t easy. None of us can escape a certain level of suffering, though some people experience less than others.

I used to think I was so different from other people. Often I’ve felt that I don’t fit in. As I get older I am realizing that we are all so much more alike than we are different. None of us likes to suffer. All of us appreciate being treated with kindness and respect.

Dismissing that we are made of darkness as well as light serves no usefull purpose. Life is already hard. We needn’t make it impossible.

We are human. Most of us survive though or sorrows may be great. Some of us even thrive. This in itself is lovely, and it is enough.

 

 

Controlled By Fear

I deal with major anxiety on a daily basis. I get so frightened sometimes, that I feel like hiding under my covers like I did when I was a kid.

It’s awfully confusing to understand why my fears are so intense. Why they can prevent me from getting out, and from living life more fully. I am often controlled by the way my mind chews and chews on the same problems.  The terror holds me captive.

I’m not exactly sure why I’ve been so anxious for the majority of my life. All I know is that it’s always there. Like my shadow.

It can be difficult not to place blame on myself. What could I possibly be so afraid of? Well, life terrifies me. Much more so than the thought of death. If I don’t try I will achieve nothing. What happens if I do try? What if I work as hard at I can with my writing, and I fail to find an audience? Or ever publish a book? Or earn a cent for doing what I love, and believe that I’m good at?

The terror gnaws away at my insides, and leaves a lump in my guts. It prevents me from going to the supermarket, or going to that party, or introducing myself to that interesting looking person sitting next to me.

It is like a monster, eating all of my energy, stealing all of my reserves. It leaves me drained and broken.

People who haven’t experienced panic attacks or chronic anxiety might think I’m silly when they read this. As everyone knows who’s lived with it, it is anything but silly. “You are not a real artist. You are not a real writer. You are boring. You are insignificant.” These thoughts drain away my resolve. At time they convince me that I’m not worthy enough to make my mark in the world.

Why is it so easy to believe my inner critical voices, and so hard to believe when it’s positive and encouraging?

I have been in therapy for a long time. I have meditated regularly for decades. I know myself quite well. It’s funny, though, how intellectual knowledge doesn’t always translate into real knowing. It’s one thing to understand why I do what I do, and believe what I believe, with the brain in my head. It’s another to know something so deeply that it merges with my entire being.

I do know that it’s always been important to me to express myself. Through sculpture, painting, writing, and dance. However much criticism or support I’ve gotten in regards to my creative side, I have continued to do it in order to survive . I suppose that is what’s key. That is how I boost myself up. That is how I make my life meaningful.

My imagination energizes me. It’s been my friend through amazingly painful and lonely times. Writing helps me to clarify what’s going on in my head, and to free myself from obsessive thinking. It informs and it educates me. It is something I can rely on, and something that distracts me from my suffering.

So, even if I never gain an audience, I will continue to write.  Even if I am never formally published, I will continue to write. Even if some of the people reading this believe I am without talent, I will continue to write.

It is good to be clear in my mind on this. It is something I can grasp tightly to, and utilize to buouy me up. And it is something, that I must never, ever forget.

 

Strange Sounds At Night

The other night, I was startled awake by the sound of boxes falling over, and other unidentifiable noises. This came from the downstairs of the home I’m house sitting in. The bottom story of this house is unfinished. It’s open to the elements, and has only two completed walls.

I didn’t check out the scene, as it gets quite dark here, and I was afraid that I might encounter thieves with machetes. I am rather paranoid, you see. This beautiful space sits on over 3 acres of land, bordering the ocean. It’s gorgeous, but also isolated. Which is part of it’s appeal.

In the morning, I decided to give the bottom floor a once over, to see if anything was out of place, or missing.  I was surprised by what I found.

Three stray kittens, gazed up at me, as I descended the flight of stairs. Two gray, and one black. They were adorable, but I knew that they needed to go. I slammed some pan lids together, and did so with gusto. The kittens ran around me confusedly, but did not run away. They each crawled into different hiding places, which there are a large variety of on this property.

Then I called the property manager, and he came over with his big dog, Rufus. I felt very badly about the whole procedure here, because I’d rather have fed the little cuties, and invited them to sit on my lap.

He clapped his hands loudly together, and shouted at these poor little stay creatures. This seemed to work. I was relieved to know that they had left the premises, and wouldn’t be pooping in secret places that might never be found.

About 2 hours later, I started the Honda, and saw the same aforementioned kitties, running away hurriedly. Well, that should do it, I thought.

Suffice it to say that my objective was not achieved. The little monsters have been persistent. They are brave, and desperate.

Last night, the 10-year-old kitty that I’m taking care of began to growl, as she stuck her head out of the bedroom window. Next thing I knew, she was downstairs acting ferocious, and protecting her territory.

It was shocking. This kitty is perhaps the friendliest and most mellow of kitties that I’ve ever known. She did not at all take kindly to the young intruders. She raged at them with intensity.

It sort of felt like a cartoon. She growled. And growled some more. I heard little meows coming from the poor babies, but the resident cat obviously felt no mercy. She persisted.

I think that they are finally gone, now. I haven’t been downstairs yet today. I suppose when I rev the Honda’s engine, and honk its horn, I will know for sure.