If there is one realization I would say is both persistent and perfectly-timed for the start of my “Year of Living Intuitively,” it is this:
If I want to be happy, I have to fight for it.
I say this because life IS hard.
It is hard for all of us. And if I choose to, I can always find hardships – mine or others’ – to focus on.
In fact, without even breathing hard, I could keep myself miserable 24/7 just thinking about the incredibly painful, awful things happening all over the world right at this very minute to people, animals, and the Earth.
With all that grimness so visible and readily available, I have to make a conscious, intentional, and absolutely consistent effort to find the bright bits and hold on tight.
I have decide that every glass that looks half-empty at first glance must also have a less easily seen twin that is half-full….and then I have to muster up the guts to walk over and introduce myself and make a new friend.
A few weeks back I posted about my journey towards releasing false self-esteem.
I really loved reading your comments on this post – thank you!
As part of my work to release false self-esteem, I have discovered I also need to re-learn how to forgive myself.
To start with, I am noticing some things are easier to forgive myself for than other things.
For example, right or wrong, it would seem I can forgive myself for transgressions against myself without even breathing hard. (“Oh, it was only me who got hurt – oh, well, then, no big deal!”)
More challenging is to forgive myself for transgressions – accidental or otherwise – against others (in order of difficulty – most to least: family, friends, acquaintances, total strangers).
Nearly impossible is forgiving myself for any transgression that may have put an innocent (my pets, any animal, a child) in harm’s way.
Yet in this new “re-learning self-forgiveness regimen,” forgiving myself for all of the above is not optional.
If I am going to learn – I mean really learn – to forgive myself, I can’t just do the easy ones and call it a lesson learned. I have to be able to forgive myself no matter what.
Here is an example of particularly challenging one I’m working on now:
The other day I was on the phone with my best friend. She was in tears – I had taken care of her during her eye surgery, and she was telling me she had been taking her eye drops in the wrong order. I was the one who was in charge of reading the directions and organizing her drops. While we were talking, my parrot started screaming. He was very loud, but my friend was very upset, so I ignored him. He screamed for at least 10 minutes (probably longer) before I went to check on him. When I did, I discovered he was on the floor and unable to get back to his cage (he can’t fly so if he ends up on the floor he needs me to help lift him back up to safety).
So here, there are two main areas where I need to forgive myself:
Where I’m at with the eye drops oops:
Can I just say I thought being a tortoise mama would be easier?
I kept several water turtles when I was a girl, and it felt smooth and simple (of course maybe this was because my mom was the real “keeper of the torts” and I just fed and admired them….and fled when it was water-changing time!)
But for years I had wanted a tortoise (land turtle) and one day, after a bit too much “bad day” for my taste, I got on Craig’s List.
The next thing I knew I was driving home with a tortoise the size of a silver dollar sitting in a tiny tupperware in my front passenger seat.
It has been like this ever since.
She is 1 year old this month, and I don’t feel any more confident (well, only marginally more) than I did on that very first day.
One of the hardest things about being Malti’s mom is not knowing where to go to get my questions answered.
With my parrot, Pearl, there are loads of amazing cockatiel groups and communities with wonderful peeps who eagerly respond to all my queries.
It is not the same with Malti.
Last year my boyfriend and I watched a very sad (but good) movie.
It was called “Now is Good.”
One scene featured some kind of flying contraption – you went inside a clear tube, and somehow it made you float in the air.
Of course, I thought the filmmakers just made it up – something cool you can only do in movies.
When I found out the flying contraption is a real thing called ‘iFly,’ and that the newest one had just been built in the city of Houston where I live, I signed us right up!
Being a parrot mommy and all, I assumed I would be a natural.
Plus, I was so eager to discover if real-life flying would feel like the flying I do in my dreams (which feels very floaty yet controlled, and so wonderful!)
When we got to iFly, we quickly got all oriented and suited up (our ensemble included a full “flight suit,” goggles, ear plugs, AND helmet).
Then we entered the flying chamber, where we discovered the way we would fly is to be hit from below by 170 mph gusts of artificial “wind.”
When the instructors did it, they looked graceful and confident, like human birds.
When my boyfriend did it, he was a pure natural – he said it was so relaxing he nearly fell asleep in the chamber.
When I did it, I felt like a giant (and really pissed off) bird had just chewed me up, swallowed me, and then spit me back out again.
I emerged shaking and sweating, drool coating my chin and the top of my neck (the wind blew my mouth open and my saliva took its chance and made a break for it).
Well, not exactly.
But at least I didn’t kill it.
That – for me – is major progress.
Lately I’ve found myself having a number of conversations about why we human beings spare – or kill – what we choose to spare or kill.
Growing up, my family lived in a humid place near a bayou, so every day was like a brand new episode of “Bugs Gone Wild.”
I got used to killing with impunity (the other option being the possibility of ingesting, being bitten by, and/or sleeping with whatever creepy-crawly I was staring at at that particular moment).
But then I started meditating….and studying teachers like the Dalai Lama (a bug pacifist if I’ve ever met one).
From an interview with the Dalai Lama:
His Holiness particularly emphasized the role of education in developing compassion so that intellectual development is concurrent with moral development. He urged that children should be taught the value of compassion when they are small. He said that Tibetan parents teach their children not to kill insects and the children grow up to value all life. If children do not value insect life, that can be a slippery slope to devaluing all life.
Yet, when asked (by Oprah) if he ever needed to forgive himself for something, His Holiness stated:
My attitude towards mosquitoes is not very favorable, not very peaceful. Bed bugs also.
I can’t remember how I heard about Robyn Davidson or her extraordinary journey.
I just remember, the moment I heard about it, I was online hunting down her book.
Titled simply “Tracks: a Woman’s Solo Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback,” the story she has to tell is simply mind-bending.
Davidson embarked upon her solo adventure in her mid-20’s.
When I was in my mid-20’s, I, too, was embarking upon a solo adventure. Mine was to India and Israel, hers through the Australian desert.
But I will confess it took me many more years since then to unpack even a portion of the wisdom she unearthed within herself during her 1,700 mile journey.
For the record, it also seems pertinent here to mention I have never once in my life had even the merest inkling of desire to walk across any large, hot, dangerous body of sand accompanied only by camels and a dog.
Clearly, my life is the poorer for it.
During the early stages of her journey, Davidson frequently gave in to bouts of panic, which, to hear her tell it, were largely initiated by intense inner battles between the order/regime/structure she had previously relied on and the freedom to live in the moment that desert life demanded.
As the desert’s ever-changing environment did its work on her and she slowly learned the wisdom of opting for the latter, her panic eased and inner wisdom arose in its place.
That inner wisdom was – is – as timeless and profound as the desert itself (click here for amazing vintage photos from her journey).
Davidson on her love of animals:
I am quite sure Diggity [her canine companion through the desert] was more than dog, or rather other than dog….She combined all the best qualities of dog and human and was a great listener…..The trip, of necessity, had brought me much closer to all the animals, but my relationship with Diggity was something special. There are very few humans with whom I could associate the word …
Not so long ago, I found myself standing on a warm, sunny, sandy beach in my very favorite place on earth.
My folks and I were passing a pair of binoculars between us.
The focus of our avid interest?
Soft round brown harbor seals.
After struggling through half a mile of soft sand on foot, we burst over the top of the High Head dunes on Cape Cod to discover them by the hundreds, basking on the warm sand and bobbing happily in the surf with just their plump sweet noses upturned towards the sun.
We were riveted.
Suddenly I heard myself exclaim, “I love seals and all their round soft cute rolls of blubbery goodness!”
Did I really just utter the equivalent of “I love blubber?”
Yet there I was, standing on the beach beside them, feeling uncomfortably, well, blubbery, myself.
My latest favorite read is called “Wild Connection: What Animal Courtship and Mating Tell Us About Human Relationships.”
Written by scientist Jennifer L. Verdolin, the book’s fundamental query is simple:
What can studying animal relationships teach us about our own?
Right from the start I identified with the author, who described her early experiences with the opposite sex as “a puzzle I couldn’t quite figure out.”
In the opening pages, she shares, “I realized that I knew the ins and outs of the mating behavior of the animals I studied, but I knew very little about my own species or even about myself.”
From the first chapter, years of confusion, frustration, and disillusionment about how my own species dates and mates began to melt away. I began to understand why things often feel so messed up – so complicated when they “should” be so simple.
I felt validated as well – if only through realizing I’m not the only human being who just “doesn’t get” how our species facilitates romance.
Here is one example.
I recently returned from our family’s annual pilgrimage to Cape Cod.
Cape Cod is my favorite place on Earth.
I can learn more there, unwind more there, rest more there, restore more there, in just 24 hours than in 24 days back in my hometown of Houston, Texas (or anyplace else, for that matter).
This year – my fourth year of visiting the Cape – I have finally begun to detect the reason why.
Here at the Cape, and especially in the small town of Truro where we stay (Truro is the most remote town on the Cape itself), the ratio of nature to humanity is much more balanced.
In other words, here, human beings are in the distinct minority.
There are 100 trees to every one human, and nearly as many wild turkeys, dogs, and assorted wild birds in similar ratios.
Same holds true for sea life.
In fact, much of the Cape is made up of national parks and reserves – places where wildlife merit much stricter protections than man.
For this same reason, Park Rangers are a big fixture here – and yes, they do wear the traditional green and khaki outfits, complete with hats that would make Smoky the Bear proud.
During tourist season, the Park Rangers lead all kinds of nature walks and talks. During these events, they like to tell tourists, “when you enter the sea, you enter the food chain.”
I have been blogging a bit about a fabulous book called “Voyage of the Turtle” by Carl Safina.
At some point, this book has become less about gaining a simple “tortoise education” and more about learning how to simply live life.
In one of my favorite quotes, the author writes (this about watching a single baby sea turtle enter the surf for the first time, encouraged in its first steps by a group of witnessing conservationists):
I wonder if this is the end of something ancient or the start of a future regained. I’m not certain what it is, but I know what it means: it means there truly is hope. Other peoples, other species, even other kinds of sea turtles – in situations as bad, sometimes worse – have recovered. Turtles have taught me this: Do all you can and don’t worry about the odds against you. Wield the miracle of life’s energy, never worrying whether we may fail, concerned only that whether we fail or succeed we do so with all our might. That’s all we need to know to feel certain that all our force of diligent effort is worth our while on Earth. (emphasis added)
And in fact, I told myself this very thing (although not so eloquently) when I first began my mighty struggle to recover from anorexia and bulimia.
The odds seemed powerfully stacked against me – leaning over me like a slobbering muscular bully, in fact.
My “support team” was minimal – one mentor, and me.
I had no money for therapy – inpatient, outpatient, or any other kind.
No one – least of all me – really understood what was wrong with me or how to fix it.
And I wasn’t yet fully convinced that what was wrong was a “something” – that it wasn’t just me, consummate failure at life and all things.
Yet I had nothing but time at that point, and I wanted to try.