Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On Life

Be warned: I've written this mostly for myself. I'm pondering joy, how to let it come, how to chase it down, how to hold it tight. 

I took a walk with JB yesterday and hundreds of black birds nestled overhead in the trees. It must have been some kind of special day for them because they sang more than they squawked. The weather and my perspective was grey and chilly and all those birds singing added an aura of intrigue that shouldn't have but it molded into sadness.

There are times when I feel so utterly alone and sometimes I welcome those times because I figure I need the experience for a time when that might truly be the case. It's a foreign place for me, really--to feel and be alone--and I think it would be a plus if only the feeling didn't include sadness.

You know those sappy inspirational quotes exhausting the serenity of living near the ocean and spending the day reading books and living leisurely?  I know a couple of people who tell me that's how they actually live. Because I live near the ocean and have time to read books I think that should be me too. I view those people with awe.

I still work because I want to. Money has ceased to press on my day-to-day. I've had a few medical scares this year and my back screams at me to lose weight, but all in all I'm healthy. JB and I have been together long enough that the fibers of being known and permanent love and shared interests carry us past our differences. My daughter is married and it's a good marriage with four children who never fail to delight when they run to me when I pull into their drive way.  I'm smarter than I ever thought I'd be and I have the creative benefit of loving to write.

To be clear: I have no doubt I'm committed to my own happiness. But at that point things get murky. I had this epiphany this week: with surprising precision I remembered the two months I came to the Cape to write a manuscript on Happiness. I sat on our red sectional couch each morning, the early morning sun poured in, I had my Peets coffee, and I began to write. I wrote for a couple of hours and then my dog Rosie and  I walked one block to the bay beach and I let my mind think and wander and I watched her swim and I chatted with people about what a great day it was, and then I came back to the red couch and followed the same pattern through lunch and then dinner. By the end of the day I'd written for ten hours or so and I was thrilled. JB would come down on weekends and that was nice too.

Where the heck has that 'me' gone? Here I am again on the Cape and on this couch. It's not red but teal this time and the morning sun is more subdued in this house. But I have an exciting book to write and the bay beach is still a block away. What's changed besides the fifteen years between then and now?

I can answer this in a flash: a too-tight body, some too-soon losses, the too-high price of prickly wisdom. But there's something deeper. There's a core of 'me' that's this close to knowing how to really BE. Here. Now. Sometimes I already know. But other times I watch the knowing slip right through my fingers. 

I starting writing this post three days ago, in a funk. Tonight I'm at the end of a good day and I have a feeling. What I'm looking for isn't out there. 

I tell this story in the the training programs
I sometimes do:

"Long ago the wise and powerful gods of the world wanted to protect the secret of happiness. "Let's hide it at the bottom of the deepest ocean," one of them said. "No, they'll find it there. Let's bury it at the top of the highest mountain." "No, no," another said, "One day they'll have planes."

Then the littlest among them said, "I know! Let's hide it inside them. They'll never think to look there!"



  1. You are so honest and open KJ - and it makes me happy to read your work - ALL your work.

    Where have we all gone? I think these things every day. I wonder where "me" has disappeared to and when did I start only thinking of others and not myself. Then sometimes comes a flash of understanding and it all seems right again, until the worry-burden hits again.
    All I can say to myself is "let yourself be human" and try to be the best human that I can be. But it's a great thought to take a peek inside to that hidden joy and pull it out, stretch it, take it for a walk and let it live out loud.

    Don't know if this makes sense, but anyway - xoxoxo mim

  2. It seems you were poking around inside my head and wrote down how I feel. I often feel the same way. I should be happier, should be more content, should, should, should.

    Maybe we think too much? Who knows. I count my blessings but still I struggle.

  3. I shall return after school to comment. :)

  4. "I have seen the sea when it is stormy and wild; when it is quiet and serene; when it is dark and moody. And in all its moods, I see myself." - Martin D. Buxbaum

    The sea is a great teacher.

  5. I've been stuck in the desert for two months and a minimum of 2 months before I can escape. I keep thinking a whiff of salt air and some beach sand will fix everything. Now you're telling me I have to find it inside of me??? That's a VERY scary place to go!

  6. A life of work, self-discovery, parenting, writing, aiding others to see inside themselves to ease their pain and questions, and now finally free to live where and how you you want to live and you're finding it difficult to be content & serene? My that was a long sentence. Hemingway would scorn me.

    Actually kj, if the answers were all inside I am pretty sure you'd know what room to look in. You basically wrote that you have all you need, your wants are primarily complete and fulfilled, yet you're finding being at lands end disconcerting. A conclusion which actually destroys the myth of self awareness and contentment. As soon as I know myself and my being, it is no great fun being me anymore. Not because I change or see ugliness, but knowledge sucks.

    Me knowing me is boring--I after all--am not the most interesting man in the world? "Stay thirsty my friends." Beer commercial dude, how about you kiss my ass? Thirst is for the young, the always questioning of ones state of mind, position on subjective ideas, politics all that bullshit is what we went through to get to be old.

    Old is good, accept that. Want that inner peace kiddo? Then quit warring with yourself and your new circumstances. Don't get the same pleasure from the dawn? then sleep in. Don't want to gab with strangers then isolate some and gab with your own self.

    I told you once, maybe twice, retirement blows the big flatulent one. It took me near on a decade to adapt but then I was forced into it. You made a plan, stuck with it, and now you are adapting to the new reality. Talk to me of this spring of discontent in a year--a year of adapting to time moving at a far different pace than your, after 40 years of working and parenting etc, used to.

    If you need a little excitement move here, the slums of Detroit, and we can go shoot guns together at the range. If you've never done that before I guarantee you it will brighten your day.

  7. Maybe you know this about me, but my best guess is that none of us have any choice about anything whatsoever. Either I’ll change a word or two of what I’m now writing, or I won’t, but whether I do or don’t, I will have had no choice. If I brush my teeth now versus in 30-seconds from now, I will have had no choice. If I eat 100 peas instead of 99 peas, I couldn’t have done differently. We humans have no more freedom than a rock, although we most definitely have the illusion of freedom. You know, perhaps, of studies in which people have been shown to make decisions before they themselves are consciously aware of those decisions. How can this be if we’re free to choose?

  8. I love that quote! I have often thought that as I get older, that sense of joy - pure and clear - that I often (when I least expected it) experienced when I was younger, has gradually slipped away, replaced by a more muted (but perhaps deeper) sense of something near to contentment. I have come to accept that that burst of joy I remember experiencing when I was younger - an almost un-containable heightening of sensory perception, is something that belongs to youth. However, the compensations that age brings, of peace and patience; of finding pleasure in 'just sitting'; is not a bad replacement. Although i do miss that remembered sharp bliss. What age appears to bring is a deeper sense of self. May you find that contentment JB - I don't know that I have completely, either - but I feel I'm getting there. Perhaps we're not meant to be completely content. Therein lies the road to apathy and that would never do!

  9. Kj, You got it. Happiness is not a thing to chase and to me it can be in sadness and even grief. My path has come to a place of loving whatever arises and that everything is happening to help me. I believe this and I have also found that happiness does not mean having a smile all the time or a constant state of bliss. It is all good. xoxo

  10. Snoopy knows,,,,

  11. Ah, but all my dreams and all my words were lost while I was looking...

    I have learned from silence that it is wise at times not to look for words. The are as elusive as the fragrance of the lilies of the valley bursting into full bloom today, early April. Never before in my garden, at least not for the past 17 years. Begin the month of May with lilies of the valley and you will be happy and lucky all year, so my French ancestor will tell us when we were children.

    I have learned from words that the wounds we open with our mouth are the ones that seldom heal. Yet words are both a balm and a poison. How can this be? Bending to smell an antique rose I prick my finger and bled. Did I regret to have tried to smell a rose since they price was pain? the pain quickly passed, the fragrance of the rose kept me company by my night table, and it was easier to forgive her for the price she extracted of me.

    It can never be all happiness or all despair. We must be the muse and the poetry, the savior and the executioner to balance the weight of our lives. Some pains never leave, Renee, Barry, my nana Petrona. I carry them with me because it is the only way I know to keep them alive. Are they heavy in my heart? like a breeze and just as joyful.

    Take care my dearest Karen, it is hard to find what we are looking for if we don't know how to look. As Barry used to say when I was looking for something "Just in front of you,
    like everything else". Go back to your book, it may not be what you need, but it needs you.


  12. My, I don't know how I missed this post. I recognize the feeling you're in, or the phase. I also recognize all the words and sentiments conveyed by the good friends that follow you. We turn to writing, and reading to explore these situations, to grab a light of hope and explanation, to join others who have traveled that way.
    The journey is all we have.
    The journey and the ah, ah! moments when joy and grace peak out through cloudy skies and give us a respite, a moment of peaceful bliss we want to hold on to for ever.

    As long as we breathe, we seek, we plan, we hope, we feel...
    How lucky that we are AWARE.

  13. Long time, no post. I hope you're doing okay, kiddo.

  14. I love the cartoon at the beginning and the story at the end. Happy May to you!