Here’s how Life works.
See if any of this sounds familiar.
You work hard at relearning to trust again and Life comes along, seemingly going out of her way to trick us back into thinking we were wrong to think we could ever do any differently than we have in the past. What is with that?
In the same vein, one of my Life’s ironies of late has been wishing I could be as wise or aware in the waking moments as I am when all the work is done, and I get to sit down and write.
My third epiphany? Have you ever heard someone in a position of power or wealth being defiant? Smug or pompous, maybe. But defiant? I don’t think so. But live as a poor person; as someone facing a catastrophic illness or life tragedy and one of the first casualties is your pride. Not the braggadocios kind of pride mind you, but rather the self-worth kind. Yes, Virginia. Defiance is often expensive (and dangerous).
In early April, I watched hundreds of food workers walk off their jobs in NYC, protesting for a raise in the minimum wage. The Huffington Post reports: “The state Legislature last month voted to raise New York’s hourly minimum wage of $7.25 to $9 by 2016”. These fast-food-anistas took a huge risk in protesting. They had very little and what they did have, they were willing to put it all on the line. Not surprisingly, I’m reading that similar protests are being organized here in Chicago and other cities around the Country.
Grateful to be working on a good assignment, I can empathize with the protesters in that I want nothing more than to have my gig go ‘perm’. The thought is so fleeting when I think about what it’ll feel like to know I’ve found a forever home when it comes to working a full-time job with benefits. But in the meantime, the somber reality feasting on my insides is knowing until I get insurance, I can’t go to a doctor or get my smile fixed. Land of the free? Not exactly. But for now, that’s the ebb and flow of my walking around reality.
So what do I do? I work hard every day. I pay attention to fitting in with my environment. I make the moves to have my co-workers like having me around. I learn every day how to be good at what I’m doing. Like I said, I want this gig to be my forever job. As a consequence of that wish, I am always on-time. I treat every day like an audition and I do the work. No room for defiance. Being able to feed us and keep a roof over our heads doesn’t leave much room for much else. What’s curious is what has been happening in the meantime – inside me and my Soul. Having lived through my fair share of tough times, I’ve seen what happens to me when things are tight. I can feel myself getting small because the net reality is we don’t have the luxury of taking a big hit. There is no margin for making mistakes or getting hurt. When you’re thinking ‘survival’, it makes sense that little targets are less likely to get hit. It’s the same reason soldiers keep their heads down on the battlefield. And so it has gone for the past couple of months. I’ve been getting smaller and smaller, excited to find what we need on sale. And in the same breath, needing to pull over on the way home the other night, having been reduced to tears after being treated with amazing respect by pantry volunteers who put an extra bag of potatoes and an apple pie on top of the other groceries they helped load into the back seat of the car. I’d never been in a position when I needed a food pantry before, but Life happens and you get faced with decisions. Like I said…pride gets sacrificed in the name of the greater good (?).
So what happened to ignite all this scribbling? Nothing less than the most recent episode of my own personalized telenovella starring our landlord. Let’s call him Larry.
As far as landlords go, I’d always thought Larry was better than average. Granted, he’s not a rocket scientist and tends to be a little more gossipy than is professional or cool. But when we needed something or something was going on, we have formed a good working relationship with him over the past several years.
As I indicated earlier, we have just been coming back into financial stability. And like Dorothy and her band of travelers, just when we were coming out of the woods into the daylight, Wham! I’m not complaining or whining so the details aren’t nearly as important as it is you know ‘it’ all happened the day after we’d written our rent check. So being ever creative in facing the disaster coming down on our heads, I went to Larry and asked him if we could write another rent check for a lesser amount and then, catch up on the rest 2-weeks later. I’d like to think it was because of our past dealings, but Larry knew we weren’t trying to be slick and so he agreed. Whew! I breathed a collective sigh of relief…yes, things were going to be tight, but we had dodged a bullet. We were going to be fine. That was on a Friday.
Sunday morning came and the subject of homemade pancakes had me getting dressed so I could get to the grocery for some of the missing elements that would complete our breakfast palooza. Still not entirely sure why, but I thought to go online and check the bank before I left…just to be sure.
I kept rubbing my eyes to work the sleep out of them. I couldn’t be seeing what I was seeing. But the negative numbers on the screen had nothing to do with having just woke up and they certainly weren’t in the mood to magically be a changin! We were overdrawn…and not by a little. We were bounced by a lot, with miles to go before my next paycheck. That never happens! What the…
You kind reader, being of ever so quicker mind than I, have already deduced what happened. Even though he knew different and had agreed to his part in our battle plan, Larry had deposited both checks. To add insult to injury, we learned that “because you’re good customers”, the bank was honoring them both while slapping us with a hefty tag for the privilege. Thanks for nuthin.
As my mind tried to wrap itself around the reality of what this meant to our cash flow for the next several weeks, I also had to contend with my other Half. In tones tinged with panic and disbelief, he got louder as he wound up, saying things like: “You didn’t get the 1st check back?”. “You didn’t at least stop payment on one of them?” And on and on it went. While suppressing the urge to stuff a sponge down his throat in order to silence the scolding, eating my own humble pie while knowing it was my hand holding the smoking gun was even worse. I could feel myself swirling down the drain towards any one of the psychological hells I’d colonized in my past – all dark, angry and self-imposed. Who better to punish me for my trust in Larry than me, right?
Those rushes of memories reminded me of the chill running through my spine as a child when one of my parents would inform me they had decided that I was to choose my own punishment for some violation of the cultic code governing our herded genome. I hated that! And to add insult to injury, I was usually far more effective in conceiving a tailored path of penance more painful than anything anyone else could have ever divined.
But I digress.
It is widely known that good dinner etiquette prescribes never talking about politics, religion or money at the table. But when landlordegeddon went down, money came up – over and over again.
And in that same week? We both agreed that each of us quitting smoking would not only help us to tighten what little belt was left in our dire cash strapped straits, but it’d be good for our health too.
Nice thought, but wrong.
We nearly killed each other (figuratively) when every other hour or so found one of us ‘inadvertantly’ picking a fight with the other – usually over nothing. And always, money was at the core of the spat.
“No matter what I say, you always disagree with me.” Stinging from the charge, what sterling response did I offer? “No I don’t.” Defiance.
But in that same moment, I caught just a nanosecond of clarity and it hit me. I am defiant. In one form or another, it has always been so. So here’s a thought: Why not flip ‘defiance’ on its head and unleash its power on the damaging stuff; the bad behaviors; not the good ones. The simplicity of it was gob-smacking. Why not put my defiance to work on the inside? Case in point, now, when I want to light up, I go all defiant. “No, I don’t NEED one right now…let’s wait 10-minutes and see if the urge is still as strong.” And usually, it passes. I am gaining influence over my own rote behaviors! As a consequence, my consumption is dropping daily and we haven’t had to fill out any police reports! Who knew?
What hit me was that my fights are not really with some slick landlord or some other impostor posing as a figure of authority or power – real or imagined. Rather my fights are on the inside. It can be tough to choose to begin looking up again as things begin to improve in our lives – and they are. And why are they improving? Because I am defiant. I didn’t give up looking for work. I refused to stop believing in anything else that really mattered, even when all the external evidences said I should. And now, that determination not to starve or be homeless is paying off. My defiant urges are again being used in service of what is good in my Life rather than succumbing to the easy urge to destroy it. Remarkable.
What’s cool is the indisputable evidence of knowing I’ve stumbled onto something real here. Case-in-point was the other other night when Rick said something that would have set me off just a few weeks ago. This time, I got defiant with myself. Rather than slipping into a hand-to-hand episode of point-counterpoint, I acknowledged what he had to say as being valid. “You know, you’re right.” And then, I got even more inwardly defiant in the face of my old well worn neuro-pathways, adding my own better thoughts to my response. We had a real conversation. It was good. It felt right to be talking again like it had so many other times in our past. But the difference was not my innate talent for defiance, but rather it was having my defiant streak being aimed at targets meriting the full bore of my blasts.
I have standing in the eyes of my Creator. The only person who was forgetting that this was so, was me. In the last week or so since, I’ve been speaking so much more like I do when I write. And doing so, on-the-fly and in the moment.
Why? I am defying Fear’s ability to keep my shoulders hunched over for very long. We are not born to fear. I am defying my well developed sense of false pride by accepting the generosity of others. And yes, lesson-learned. I will never be so trusting in the managing of our affairs when it comes to being at the mercy of others and their motives when our backs are up against the wall. It isn’t worth it. They do not have the right (unless I surrender it to them). In an odd kind of way, our financial disaster is proving to be more of a tuition payment than a reason to descend into familiar bunkers, kicking myself as I sank into old and familiar darknesses. I wouldn’t have learned the valuable gifts hidden within defiance if I hadn’t been thrown off the cliff only to find myself able to glide on the updrafts climbing its’ face.
My Life is begging me to be live bigger, not smaller. As Atreyu learned, it’s essential to our survival that we say ‘No’ to the Nothingness. I get it. What our intrepid hero was really demonstrating to all of us wasn’t that he said ‘no’ as much as he said ‘Yes’ to something better.
Life looks good from up here and we’ve both got things to do. Climb atop your own dragon and fly. Me? I’ll be seeing you on the other side.
September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013
(CNN) — “George Jones, the country music legend whose graceful, evocative voice gave depth to some of the greatest songs in country music — including “She Thinks I Still Care,” “The Grand Tour” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” — has died, according to his public relations firm.
Jones, 81, died Friday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, the public relations firm said. He had been hospitalized since April 18 with fever and irregular blood pressure.
Jones’ career was marked by a tumultuous marriage to Tammy Wynette and bouts with alcoholism that led to occasional concert cancellations. (One of his nicknames was “No-Show Jones”; after he got clean, he puckishly used “No-Show” on his license plates.)
But there was no denying his talent. Waylon Jennings once wrote a song that said, “George might show up flyin’ high, if George shows up at all/But he may be, unconsciously, the greatest of them all.”
Famous friends chimed in after learning of his death.
“My friend, the greatest singer of all time, has passed,” Brad Paisley wrote on Twitter. “To those who knew him, our lives were full. To those of you who don’t: discover him now.”
In a statement, Merle Haggard said,
“The world has lost the greatest country singer of all time. Amen.”
More Source material at: http://www.cmt.com/news/country-music/1706448/george-jones-10-prime-hits.jhtml
January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013
(NPR) “Richie Havens, a Brooklyn-born singer who sang gospel as a teenager, began playing folk music in Greenwich Village clubs in the 1960s and was the opening act at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in 1969, died Monday of a heart attack at his home in Jersey City, N.J., according to his agent. He was 72 years old.
Havens had a long career as a musician, but if he had done nothing else, his performance at Woodstock would secure his place in American music history. Havens was the first performer to walk onto the stage at the festival; he sat on a stool and performed for nearly two hours — including an improvisation that incorporated the spiritual “Motherless Child,” later called “Freedom.” It became a highlight of the documentary about the festival and introduced him to audiences around the world.
As a black performer, he was a rarity in the folk-dominated Greenwich Village scene. His sandpaper soft voice and percussive guitar playing caught the ear of folk impresario Albert Grossman, who first signed Bob Dylan and helped create Peter, Paul and Mary. Havens released his breakout album, Mixed Bag, in 1967.
Havens went on to act in films and on television, and he continued recording for more than 40 years. He had a Top 20 hit in 1971 with a cover of The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” and released his last album, Nobody Left to Crown, in 2008. But it was onstage — with his guitar — that Havens was in his element. He toured constantly and in 2008 told NPR that he never planned his shows beyond the opening and closing songs.
“Many times people have come up to me after and they’d, they’d say, ‘Richie, do you know what you did?’ I’d say, ‘What?’ They’d go, ‘I wrote these songs down for you to sing and you sang ’em all in a row.’ That’s the kind of communication happens, you know,” Havens said. “It’s like if you let the audience lead, then you are the audience.”
PHOTO CREDITS and ATTRIBUTIONS:
Defiance Arch from Defiance (SyFy Channel): http://www.syfy.com/videos/Defiance/What’s%20Hot/vid:2634361
READ MORE ABOUT IT – NYC fast food workers protesting for a raise in the minimum wage (AP Photo by Mary Altaffer) : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/04/fast-food-workers-protest-nyc_n_3018123.html
office-workers: http://old-photos.blogspot.com/2009_11_01_archive.html; Landlord and Frustration: http://rentpost.com/blog/keywords/landlord/; Poverty_shutterstock_119884378 (Credit: Shutterstock/ makler0008): http://www.salon.com/2013/01/30/nearly_half_of_americans_on_edge_of_financial_disaster/; boy making face as he gets scolded: http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/parenting_hardest_job_in_world_coping_strategies_parents_when_going_gets_rough; Two Guys Arguing: http://garyfurr.org/2012/09/ (a WordPress blogger); aha-moment: http://www.amyvolk.com/an-aha-moment-about-organizing/; Noah Hathaway as Atreyu in the Never Ending Story: http://cinema.theiapolis.com/movie-2T7Y/the-neverending-story/gallery/noah-hathaway-as-atreyu-in-the-neverending-1080603.html and The Never Ending Story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_NeverEnding_Story_(film) ; Falkor and Bastian flying: http://www.tumblr.com/hello_lightbox/spitt/43297645573?follow_source=FOLLOW_SOURCE_BLOG_LIGHTBOX#; George Jones: http://www.georgejones.com/; richie_havens: http://www.soundspike.com/story/5239/richie_havens_news_the_roundup_richie_havens/; The AURYN (closing inset) by Tropican – The original prop of which is now kept in Steven Spielberg’s office: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AURYN_72.JPG
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