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From a friend …

 

It’s dark because you are trying too hard.

Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.

Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.

Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.

 

 

I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig.

Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me.

When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic.

No rhetoric, no tremolos,

no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell.

And of course, no theology, no metaphysics.

Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light.

 

 

So throw away your baggage and go forward.

There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet,

trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair.

That’s why you must walk so lightly.

Lightly my darling,

on tiptoes and no luggage,

not even a sponge bag,

completely unencumbered.

 

~ Aldous Huxley

A Necessary Ramble

Somewhere around eighteen years ago, around the birth of the most Senior Junior Midget (and, yes, for those who have known me all these years, the little zygote will be turning eighteen in just eleven very short days), I commented to my siblings and parents that I thought it would be a good idea if we could write down stories of relatives past and present so that the next generation would know more about their ancestors and where they came from.

I was thinking about this:  the story about my great uncle who died when somebody stuck an axe in his back.

Or this:  how my grandmother was told by the town witch (in Rottenturm, Switzerland) she would marry a boy who rode by on a bicycle and a few years later, after WW I ended and my grandmother immigrated to America … and married the boy on that bicycle.

Or this:  how my grandfather died in a construction accident when my mother was young and her mother was pregnant with my uncle.

Or … all these stories lost in the memories of people who grow old and forget the details.

For the most part, although my family wholeheartedly agreed with the idea, nothing came of it.  My mother produced a few pages of memories.  Then, a year later, my mother called me one afternoon to ask if she and my father could come over.  “There’s something we want to give you,” she said, cryptically.

They arrived and my father, who is a writer, handed me, in approximately 130 single spaced pages, the story of his life.  It was, possibly, the greatest gift he could have given me.  After they left, I read it and completed it the next night and cried when I was done.  The reasons why are a story for another day.

But, if my memory is correct, in the introduction to the volume he handed me he acknowledged that my idea contributed to his work and stated that I was thoughtful, not in the sense that I was thoughtful of others (although I’d like to think I have that quality as well), but in the sense that I was “full of thoughts.”

I read that and thought what an incredible compliment he had paid me.

A couple of years later, the less Senior, more Junior Junior Midget entered my life.

I was a father of two boys.  Life took a serious turn.  I had responsibilities.

For years I have defined myself as a father and believed, and acted, as though there was nothing more important than my role as my kids’ dad.  I wanted kids, and in the having of them, I committed to a sacrifice of myself.  There was a good that was greater than the selfishness of me that was my goal.

Here’s where I interrupt this and acknowledge that, along the way over the last eighteen years, I have certainly engaged in my own pursuits.  It is not like I have devoted every waking moment to the feeding of my children.  I took up golf, I took up writing, I tried to learn the guitar and the saxophone, took up running, and more or less never stopped finding little things to feed myself as well.  For, as I have told people more than was necessary, I have always believed that, to be the best father I could possibly be, I also had to take care of myself.

However, there have been opportunities I have had to change the course of my life that I rejected in the name of “I have to finish my job as a father.”  I had these two little boys who meant more to me than my own life.  My success or failure as a human being would be measured by how I did in raising them.  Nothing else mattered other than how I did with them.

My role was to teach them about life.  How to live it.  How to treat others.  How to achieve.  How to deal with success and failure.  I was responsible for teaching them life lessons.  Like this – no matter how much your former coaches may have wanted you playing goalie, your new coaches have never seen you play before and you have to prove yourself to them.  Or, this.  No matter how much you want to play soccer, wanting to doesn’t get you there, if you really want it, you actually have to work hard towards that goal.

What ended up happening along the way was that I began to care so much about everything and anything that I lost sight of a few basic truths.  Now that my boys are reaching the age where they need me less and want me even less, where they are ready to spread their wings and leave the nest, to be the people they are meant to be, I realize it’s time to make an adjustment.  I can no longer care quite the way I have over the last eighteen years.

A few years ago I acquired a friend.  We would talk about other people in our lives and marvel at how they seemed to “float” through life without really seeming to care.  We wished we could be the same way, but we felt bound by the idea that life was worth caring about.  The good.  The bad.  The painful stuff, and the hard things.  That to really live life meant that you have to experience it all and worry about it all and, well, actually talk and feel and think about everything.  You know, be full of thoughts.  But, not just thoughts, but emotions and effort, as well.

That’s how I believe I’ve lived my life for the past eighteen years.  I’ve cared.  Maybe too much.  A few years ago, I wrote the following to my youngest.  I no longer remember the exact reason, but based on the content, it was probably prompted by a moment when I got on him about something that I didn’t believe he was doing well enough.

Why do I care so much?

Because I have no choice.  This is my one and only life.  I don’t believe in heaven or hell.  I don’t believe in an afterlife or reincarnation.  This is my one life.  My only shot.  I have to get it right.

The longer I live the more I realize how valuable relationships are.  Friends.  Those who you care about and who care about you.  That’s why I care about you.

Why do I care?  Because this is my only life and I have to get it right.  That means choosing to do things that mean something to me, choosing to spend my time with people who matter to me, and trying to do everything I do as best as I can.  I, unfortunately, seek perfection.  As a result, I can’t ever stop caring.  If I stop caring, my quest ends and there’s no point in continuing.

I have yet to live a perfect day, a perfect week, or a perfect year.  So, I keep caring.  I keep trying.  I keep moving forward in search of that perfect day.  I actually hope I never reach it because, if I did, I’d have an excuse to stop caring.  And, I don’t ever want to not care.  It’s through caring that my life improves, that my relationships improve, who I am improves.

Every day I fail.  I’m not the best father I could be.  I’m not the best husband I could be.  I’m not the best friend I could be.  I’m not the best attorney I could be.  I’m not the best person I could be.  So, I keep caring.  I keep trying.

It’s why I push my kids to choose things they enjoy and then to care enough about those things to be the very best they can at them.  To not just go through the motions, and do the minimum, but to actually do those things the correct way.  The right way.  The best way.

Why do I care so much?  Because I have no choice.

I wrote recently about how my youngest voluntarily, without prompting, joined me in helping a friend move.  I asked him at one point that day why he did so.  He told me it was because of what I wrote above.  So, this is groundbreaking to me.  If I were to ask such a question of my oldest, he would shrug his shoulders and mumble “because” or something like that.  But, my youngest had a reason and tried to express it.  He told me it had something to do with what I wrote about the importance of friends and that if helping this particular friend was important to me, he wanted be a part of it and help as well.  Every time I think about this, I tear up just a bit, as I did when we were done helping my friend and his girlfriend and she gave him such an incredibly authentic thank you hug.

The problem is I realize how much I got wrong in what I wrote.  This is the epiphany that has slowly grown in me over the last couple of months.  It’s why the bear is waking up.  It’s why …

A couple of co-workers started talking a few weeks ago about providing a mood wheel to hang on my door.  As they described it, it would have pictures of Eeyore and nothing more.  What another co-worker produced instead was a mood wheel that included Eeyore, Tigger, an M & M, and something else which escapes me at the moment.  This week has been all about Tigger.  Every day.  Tigger and more Tigger.

Why?  What was it that I figured out?

It goes back to something basic.  The same friend with whom I puzzled over how people we know could take life so lightly, told me something critical a couple of months ago.  As I’ve shared on this blog, I’ve been monumentally frustrated by my inability to kick my latest Pepsi habit.  One day, my friend and I were talking about it and she said something that resonated with me, something along the lines of “stop beating yourself up over the fact that you drink Pepsi every day.  You’re making yourself feel worse because you can’t do it than what the Pepsi is actually doing to you.”  Or something like that.

I began to evolve that day.  Yes, I was kicking myself in the ass every single day for something that just shouldn’t have been that big of a deal.

Other things came along the way.  Reading Mindfulness Yoga and its description of meditation, opened my mind to something else.  The author describes why so many people “fail” at meditation and explains how to succeed instead.  Basically, anybody who tries to meditate, will grow frustrated by the thoughts and sounds that creep in and believe they have “failed.”  What the author explained was that, as you sit there, in the quiet, focusing on your breathing and clearing your mind, if a thought creeps in, look at it, consider it, recognize for what it is, and then … let it go.  Same thing, if a sound from outside pierces your meditative state, consider it, recognize and … let it go.  There’s no sense in getting frustrated or angry about what has crept in.

Although I’ve only meditated a few times since reading about the above, it’s a concept I’ve taken to heart.  I want to continue caring as much as I described to my son, but I no longer want to, in the process of caring, allow the things that don’t go my way control me through the frustration and anger that results.  Instead, what I need to do, what I’m working on doing, what I am doing right now, is acknowledging the interruptions, recognizing them for what they are, and …  I’m trying to let go.  I’m trying to accept more and resist less.  This doesn’t mean that I have accepted, or will accept, the inevitability of things in my life.  Instead, it means that, in this very moment, I can’t get frustrated, I can’t care so much that I become incapacitated while also continuing to move forward on my life’s path.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of conversations with friends about the cycle of emotions I live in.  There are the high times, the “in the middle” times, and there are those days, weeks and months when I feel like I’m buried at the bottom.  I realized today that every time I have that conversation I’m at the bottom of the emotional cycle.  I never talk about being at the top of the cycle.  I want to talk about being at the top now.  I want to stop wallowing.  I want to stop feeling the pain and enjoy the good.

I wrote at the beginning of the year that my word for 2013 would be consistency.  Here’s my further statement regarding that.  My objective is that my cycle ends.  That I spend each day thinking about something that is good in my life.  That I embrace those things and, while I will still care about everything just as I always have, I will no longer focus on the failings, but instead focus on the successes.  This week is not the only week that will be entirely about being Tigger.  This year and the years that follow will be about being Tigger every moment I can, in a caring, loving, embracing way.

Join me.

And So It Begins

Back at the end of November, I wrote about ropinirole, a drug I had been prescribed for restless leg syndrome.  As I noted back then, the seeming worst potential side effect of the drug is that it can aggravate compulsive behaviors.  The primary example being gambling.

After writing that post, I quit the drug.  For a little over three weeks I didn’t take any.  To see what might happen.  I felt like my sleep suffered as a result, but how could I possibly know.  As a friend has told me, I was born tired.  When you always feel tired, how can you tell if you’re sleeping better or worse.  Call it a change in the nature of my ever-present fatigue.

So, about a week ago, I started taking the drug again.  Half the dosage the doc had prescribed me.

This morning, unlike Olivia O’Bryon, who woke early to the sounds of her dog having a seizure, I woke at 4:17 a.m. and decided I needed to go play Blackjack.  Hide your wallets, stash your credit cards.  It has begun!!

But back to what Olivia posted about for a moment … she wrote about being lost in her mind at times, including the last couple of days.  All you writers out there — I bet you can relate.  It’s one of those things I experience that leads me to believe I live in a different world than those around me.  It’s not necessarily always related to a writing project I’m working on, but I frequently find myself lost in my mind as well.

Wednesday evening, the Midget family went out for dinner.  I was distracted as I frequently am.  One of my kids brought up that there is always a point every night at dinner when I get a far away look in my eye and my face kind of glazes over.  The other members of my family had a good chuckle about it.

Yes, son, you’re right.  It happens every night.  Because every night, I spend some time somewhere else.  I’m not really there with you.  I’m thinking about a story I want to work on.  I’m thinking about that thing at work that happened that frustrated me and that I need to figure out how to address.  I’m thinking about how I got to this point, raising two boys who threaten physical violence on each other, like guns and cars, and seem bent on growing up to be the opposite of me.  (That isn’t so unusual, I know, but I wonder about it anyway.)

It’s also frequently why I’d rather not engage in all the required social engagements … because, I’m lost in my mind.  I’ve spent a lot of time this past week in my own mind — it’s a part of that whole hibernating thing.

One of the things I wrote a few years ago was an essay about my father, who also writes.  It’s called The Shadow Man because there was a point at which he seemed to retreat from our lives and occupy the shadows around us instead.  On some level, what he seemed to be doing was retreating into his own mind, on a more or less permanent basis.

I worry some times that I’m happier there, in my own mind, than I am with the outside world.  I don’t think that’s a real problem, though.  I still enjoy people far too much.  I crave conversation — with the right people.  I crave touch — from the right people.  I crave and need humanity.  But, I think, in response to the aspects of my life that are driving me crazy, I’m retreating further and further into my own mind.  It’s one of those things that needs to change.

And, now, I’ve realized in connection with my recent post about what writing counts is that Theryn is right!!!!!!  As much as I hate that my writing these days has themes (or points), the reality is that it does and much of those themes can be found scattered through my posts about real life found on this blog.  But that’s one of the biggest dilemmas I face these days — I don’t want my fiction to track the themes I write about in my real life.  Otherwise, it’s not really fiction, it’s just my transferring my own feelings into a character’s life.

Enough about that.  It’s time to go find a blackjack table!!!  (Oh, shoot, there’s carne asada marinading and a pot of beans to make.)  OK, maybe tomorrow.

Time To Wake Up

It’s been an interesting few weeks.  Or I should say an incredibly un-interesting few weeks.  As I have described to several friends, I feel like I’m hibernating.  Things are slowing down, I’m conserving energy.  I sleep a lot when I have the chance.  There are lots of reasons for this.  (pssst, it’s called depression, but don’t tell anybody, and, please don’t worry, I’ll be fine).  I haven’t written anything for a couple of weeks.  Fiction, that is.  Even more significantly, I haven’t really even thought about it.  That part of my brain has shut down lately.  No longer frustrated by the lack of time I have to write, I have apparently accepted it, at least for the time being.

hibernating bear

It’s actually one of the things I set out to do a few weeks ago.  I read parts of Mindfulness Yoga, (confession time: the initial version of this post referred to this as Mindless Yoga) at least through the portion that describes meditation.  And started to meditate.  I don’t do it every day.  In fact, it’s been more than a week since I sat on the floor and assumed the position.  But, what I have done almost every day is found a moment or two here and there to “meditate” in my own way.  Slowing down, breathing, focusing inside rather than thinking about outside.

That first day I sat and tried to meditate, I focused on this one thought.  Letting go.  It’s what I’m trying to do even when I’m not meditating.  Letting go.  The frustrations that have piled up blocking my view of the rest of my life.  I’m trying to let go of them.  One of those is what I wish I could do with respect to writing.  I simply don’t have the time, energy, or opportunity to write as much as I would like.  So, I need to slow down.  And accept it.  There are other things I need to let go of as well.  There are changes to be made.

I’m hibernating.  Conserving energy.  I’ve started thinking lately about changes to come.  Some of those changes will be felt around here.  I started this blog about a year and a half ago, blogging intermittently until a year ago, when I decided to do the loony and commit to blogging every day.  Hell, if Andrew Sullivan can do it, why can’t I?  He has a staff who helps, you say.  Pshaw!!  I fulfilled my commitment for more than six months before realizing it was, well, loony.

In the days ahead, I’m going to be dividing my blogging between three blogs:

http://www.markpaxson.com — my blog about writing.  I created it earlier this year when I decided to start the self-publishing venture.  I should establish a website with my name on it for people to find me.  And, then I didn’t do much with it.  So, for 2013, any thoughts I have about writing, publishing, and all that will be found at markpaxson.com.  Any time I post there, I’ll probably link to it here, but, who knows.  In the crush of time, I tend to forget things like that.

kingmidgetramblings.wordpress.com — this, my first blog that finally took off, will be for just about everything else.  Thoughts.  Politics.  Interesting tidbits.  Pictures of food.  Songs that move me.  Moments of time found through the lens of my camera.  Whatever comes to mind about life.

And, well, that other blog that I told you all about a few months ago.  The one about turning the page.  Hope you remember it, because I won’t repeat it here.  All I’ll say is this … there are a lot of other changes ahead and I may end up chronicling them there.

I set out in 2012 to do a lot of things.  I believe part of the reason hibernating now (isn’t that a much better way to describe it?) is recognizing I couldn’t get it all done.  I achieved a lot, but not all of it.  I’m now trying to figure out how to address where I missed it and how to re-adjust my goals.  I self-published three books, barely selling enough to cover my costs, which were minimal.  The fourth book I intended on publishing still awaits its fate.  I’m not going to throw it out there like the other three and “just see what happens.”  I need to figure out a better way to do it.  As I’ve indicated, I’m submitting that book to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 contest and see what happens.  If that fails, I’m going to look for an agent or publisher for it.

I also will continue working, as the mood strikes me, on the other novels I’m working on.  The Irrepairable Past is a story that means something to me and, I think, it has incredible potential.  I believe I’ve got it right so far and I don’t want to screw it up.  I’ll keep taking my time with it and see what happens over the next few months.  To the extent I work on existing projects, that will be my focus, but it has to happen at its own pace.

2013 awaits.  This is not about making resolutions.  It’s not about identifying goals and achieving anything in particular.  Instead, it’s about this.  I’m still hibernating.  In my slumber, I’m thinking about what I need to do in the year ahead.  About what I want to do in the year ahead.  About how I can end 2013 better than I started it.  It’s about figuring out ways to tame the demons and find happiness and contentment.

Day #4: Celebrate Me

From I Saw You Dancing:

How are you going to celebrate your self this festive season?

Well, here’s a tough one.  Being harder on myself than anybody else, being constantly self-analytical — well, it’s difficult to conclude that I deserve to celebrate myself.  I could be a better father, a better partner, a better boss, a better employee.  I could always be a better human being.  And, given that, what is there to celebrate?

Ah, this is just a bad topic for me today.  Very contemplative.  More so than usual.  More blah.  More so than usual.  Celebrate myself?  What’s to celebrate?  As I wrote to a friend today … I’ve spent a lot of energy today thinking about the regrets that fill my life.

Here’s what I’ll do … I’m going to try to find a day some time in the next month where I’m going to do everything I possibly can to shut my brain off.  Find a place to go and do … what?  I don’t know.

Who am I kidding?  Shut my brain down?  Turn off all the endless thoughts that fill every nook and cranny?  Yeah, right.  Here’s what I need to do.  Here’s how I’m going to celebrate myself.

Find every opportunity I can to spend time with the people I enjoy the most, delving into their innermost secrets and desires.  Laughing and living.  Being instead of becoming.

There will be a day this month when I find a river or an ocean beach.  (Strong preference for the beach.)  There, I’ll be by myself for a bit … walking and pondering.  Maybe just maybe, I’ll celebrate myself by considering the positives that have come from the things I regret.  Because you know what, every regret has a good that came with it.  Here’s one …

I regret that I lived a childhood filled with fear.  The other boys got together and played tackle football every fall for years.  I refrained because of my fear of getting hurt.  All I could see when I envisioned playing tackle football was my body lying at the bottom of a heap of boys with broken bones protruding from my body.  I regret all the fun I missed as a child because of my fears.  I feared roller coasters and never rode them until…

Well, here’s the positive of this regret.  Went to Disneyland this summer and for the first time ever went on just about every roller coaster there and had such incredible fun.  Best time ever!  So, the positive?  Maybe, it’s this … saving some of those things for later and then overcoming the fears and experiencing something you’ve resisted for years, decades, well, it makes it all the more sweeter.

Another way I’ll celebrate myself this holiday season … overcome a fear and experience something I’ve never experienced before.  Got any ideas?

Best I can do with this prompt.

 

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