Temenos Journal II

July 29, 2011

an Attitude of Gratitude… for Life

Universal Symbol for Gratitude

When I was in my 30s, I was in the hospital recuperating from emergency abdominal surgery. This was caused by a misdiagnosed ruptured appendix that had become abscessed and was speading like lava to other parts of my body.

I thought I was in hell. I rarely ever even caught a cold, and now I found myself immobilized with an open rotten belly (they didn’t stitch me up for five days), with needles in my arms and tubes down my nose and up my crotch.

Boy was I bitchy. I was in a room with two other ladies. One was in her 60s and was having trouble holding the enema they kept giving her for diabetes testing. There was crap everywhere. I could have endured this for one day, but the second day of flying crap when you’re immobilized began to grate on my nerves. The poor lady, by the way, was also suffering greatly, and she was so embarrassed and very apologetic.

The other lady in the room had to be 90-something and she, too, was miserable. She continually cried and moaned and yelled for the bed pan. The poor thing was having a lot of false alarms, so it seemed as though the nurses were now paying less attention to her calls for the bed pan. Of course, it was inevitable that there would be accidents, with all the confusion going on.

So I was trapped in an environment of random flying crap on both sides of me. I thought that being in that particular hospital room at that particular time was the worst luck in the world. Being one of those people with an acute sense of smell, I thought this must be what hell is like.

There was no privacy. Some of the nurses were rude and obviously hated their jobs. Some of the doctors would pat you on the knee in a condescending way and ask, “And how are we today?”

I wanted to say, “I’m fucking MISERABLE!” and I don’t even swear. I wanted to choke his stupid neck and slap him around, but of course I’m too polite to do that.

That is, I was polite until I started feeling stronger… about the 5th or 6th day after surgery. I started asking each doctor who came in, “When can I get out of here?” and their answer would always be some version of “not yet.”

This scenario went on day after day until one day I got quite belligerent and demanded that I be released from the hospital. I was miserable in this place and I wanted to recuperate at home. And another thing, take me off these horrible drugs — they are making me sick to my stomach and they’re making me hallucinate!

I will never forget my surgeon’s response to my demand.

“Now you listen to me. You are damn lucky to be alive. Your appendix was abscessed and had turned gangrenous. Your belly was so infected that we do not want to take any chances removing the IVs before we know that the infection is under control. You are healing quite satisfactorily, but we cannot rush these things. Do you understand?”

He didn’t holler at me, but he was stern. Of course I understood. I felt chastised, but, given the circumstances… that was the least of my worries.

The day before, a friend had brought me a copy of Louise Hay’s book, A Garden of Thoughts: My Affirmation Journal. The first page I opened had this affirmation:

I allow the love from my own heart to wash through me and cleanse and heal every part of my body and my emotions.

This touched me. Something opened up, like when your ears pop after being plugged by an altitude change. Well this was an attitude change, like Scrooge in the last scene of A Christmas Carol.

I smiled at the lady next to me, and appreciated the sweet person she really was. I even smiled at the next doctor who visited — I was healing! I caught a glimpse outside the hospital window of green leaves on a tree branch against the gray Cleveland sky and I thought it was the most beautiful nature scene I had ever seen. I was no longer irritated when the old lady began her hollering for the bed pan — at least I was alive and could hear her hollering! I could smell!

I was getting better, wasn’t I? I could stand it here for a few more days. I’m healing. Now the world took on more of a golden glow, and even the crap on the walls became more humorous than horrifying.

I believe I experienced, as they say, a spiritual awakening. I grew up a bit.

Since that day many years ago, the feeling of gratitude has continued to permeate every corner of my world. Gratitude has become my way of life.

So sometimes I seem less than sympathetic when a parent focuses on their child’s hyperactive nature as if it were a catastrophe. (The child is alive and healthy! Would you rather have a listless child with no spunk?)

Or you might think I’m callous if I don’t think it’s the end of the world because your son is skipping a year of college to travel across Europe with his girlfriend. (What a great adventure! How fortunate that he has the means and the health to do it! He can always return to college.)

And I may not sympathize when you complain about never having enough money, when you live in a 3-bedroom house, with two cars, multiple TVs, central heating and air conditioning… and a swimming pool!

A dear friend of mine used to talk about the “lottery of life.” We loved each other and he used to ask, “What are the odds that of all the millions of people in the world, you and I would meet? How lucky are we to have been born in the U.S., where there is an abundance of food and clean water and where we are free to do just about whatever we want to do? We are the winners in the Lottery of Life!”

What are the odds that of all the doctors in the world, that I would get one who would chew me out and change my whole perspective on life at the same time?  I feel like I won the lottery! (Although I didn’t even know it at the time.)

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July 28, 2011

On Bullshit Busting and Allergic Reactions

nobull

Besides being allergic to cats and shellfish, I am allergic to bullshit. Cats give me hives and cause my eyes to turn red and burn and itch. Bullshit causes me to go insane. So, naturally, I avoid cats and I avoid bullshit, whenever possible.

Bullshit can be defined as “anything which impedes clarity.”

Perhaps someday I will be strong and solid enough so that bullshit will just roll off me like water off a duck’s back. But I hope I don’t become too desensitized. Even though I’ve been in recovery from codependency for many years, I’m still vulnerable to its seductive lure. I guess you could say that I am a recovering bullshitter myself.

My friends call me a bullshit-buster. That’s because I will expose bullshit when I encounter it (and my bullshit sensor is keen). I will invite it to either transform or leave. Or I will leave.

I’ve found that when you are dealing with other bullshit addicts (i.e., codependents) – especially if they are still in denial – to expose their bullshit is to invite intense defensiveness.  It will undoubtedly cause tension and sometimes an emotional reaction. This intimidates a lot of people and so they allow themselves to be manipulated into going along with the bullshit. Or they go away without at least trying to smooth the tension.

But I’m not easily intimidated. I stand up to it and call it what it is. Because I know that bullshit is only that… bullshit. Pshaw!

Bullshit takes many forms.

1. DRAMA

A few years back, a couple of girlfriends and I were planning a garage sale. Peggy, Maryann, and I decided on a date and a time for the event and then we went back to our busy daily lives. When Peggy called me to see if we could move the date back a couple of weeks, I agreed. I just assumed that Peggy would also call Maryann and check with her, too.

When I spoke with Maryann the following week, I discovered that she had not yet found out about the date change. “Oh… Didn’t Peggy call you about the date change?” No, she hadn’t. It was an unfortunate – though innocent – oversight, I thought.

Maryann did not think this was so innocent. She reacted in anger, insisting that she had been intentionally left out of the loop. I apologized for the oversight, but that did not satisfy Maryann. I asked Maryanne what I could do to help make amends for this mistake. She said, “I want you to admit that you didn’t call me because you have little regard for me as a person.” I thought to myself, “That’s bullshit.” And I answered, “No, Maryann, that’s not why I didn’t call you. I mistakenly assumed that Peggy was going to call you.” This only aggravated Maryann, who replied, “This conversation is going no place!” and she hung up the phone.

Maryann was determined to create a drama that would support her self-image as a victim. When I refused to participate in her drama, she left the friendship. (There was no garage sale.)

2. IMAGE CONTROL

A person will modify or cover up the facts in order to engineer a desired image – either for themselves or for someone they are protecting (for whatever reason).

To quote Anne Wilson Schaaf from her book When Society Becomes an Addict"":

Codependents refuse to see people or things as they really are. In doing so, we are fundamentally disrespectful of them. It is only when people are seen as they really are that they can accept and honor and take responsibility for themselves. It is only when they own who they are that they have the option to become something else.

3. OVERLY GULLIBLE

Codependents tend to trust people who are untrustworthy. This only contributes to perpetuating more bullshit in the world.

Bailing someone out is often a kind, compassionate thing to do. To bail out the same adult person over and over again is not helping them, it is hindering them… and it’s participating in the person’s bullshit that they are not capable of taking care of themselves.  It is hindering them from learning to take responsibility and become self-sustaining.

When I first met Connie, she confided that she struggles with a compulsion to rescue people. She liked to feel needed, especially by her children. She continued to send her grown son – an intelligent, capable, resourceful adult – money whenever he asked for it. “I believe in him,” she would say. But she really didn’t. Because if she truly believed in him, she would have allowed him to learn to live within his means. By continuing to bail him out, she was helping to perpetuate his bullshit – his lie about himself that he was not capable of taking care of himself. She robbed him of an opportunity to grow.

Another way to describe people who are overly gullible is to say they believe what they want to believe. “The polls are wrong,”  for example.

5. IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION

And then there is the bullshit of expecting instant gratification or quick-fix enlightenment. I know this one well. How many of us have gone from workshop to workshop, read book after book, tried one method after another… only to be disappointed that instant transformation or instant salvation did not magically occur?

So many seekers think that enlightenment is like instant mashed potatoes… no peeling, no boiling, no mashing… just add hot water and you’re done. Many are even reluctant to add the hot water! There are no shortcuts to an authentic and lasting bullshit detox. It’s an ongoing process and requires practice, like any life skill.

Step One = Stop bullshitting yourself. Take an honest moral inventory and start cleaning up your act. Simple… but not easy.

Group Bullshit

It seems so ironic that a person like me — who is allergic to bullshit – wound up in Reno, Nevada for 17 years… home of instant weddings, quickie divorces, neighborhood pawn shops, billboards promising the biggest  gambling pay-outs and the prettiest girls. This city depends on bullshit to sustain its very existence! The bullshit habit had become so ingrained in that city’s culture that lying (bullshitting) is not only tolerated… it’s expected and accepted… in its government, in its media, and its business climate.

I’ve heard that there are more nicotine addicts per capita in Reno than in any other city in the U.S. There are also multitudes of alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts, and compulsive gamblers. For every addict there are the accompanying multitudes of codependents. It is a culture of denial, avoidance, and getting numb.

Naturally, such a culture makes an imprint on its inhabitants. The psychic atmosphere is so muddy there that you cannot help but get your feet dirty.

What if we made it less acceptable in our communities and tribes to tolerate bullshit? If we can’t do that in our homes and families and neighborhoods, then we can’t change the world. We have to start with cleaning up our own little circles. We can do that in our homes and our workplaces and communities by sticking with a very simple guideline:

  1. Do what you say you’re going to do.
  2. Be courteous and respectful.
  3. Take responsibility for your own equanimity. If you feel you can’t be kind and emotionally stable while being truthful, then walk away until you figure it out
  4. Don’t exaggerate. Be truthful and reasonable.

It’s a start.

 

You might also like: On Spiritual Activism

June 19, 2011

On The Strategy of the Dolphin

Filed under: Business — by Genie Webster @ 5:58 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

When I was in business in the 1990s. I was a huge student of the book The Strategy of the Dolphin: Scoring a Win in a Chaotic World, by  Dudley Lynch and Dr. Paul L. Kordis.

The authors brilliantly described how most people approach problems in one of three ways. The “shark” believes that if you win, that means someone loses. And the shark is not going to lose at any cost.

The “carp” believes that he’s never going to win anyway, but he’s going to try to avoid losing. So he doesn’t risk anything, nor does he contribute much of anything either. These are the comfort addicts in our society, the lame ones. The authors believe that 80% of our society is composed of carps.

The third category is the dolphin. The dolphin always goes for the elegant solution. The dolphin believes everybody can win. It’s not too well-known that the dolphin can be deadly to a shark. The dolphin will warn the shark to go away, and then as a last resort, it will circle the shark until the shark becomes dizzy and confused. Then the dolphin will bludgeon the shark to death with its nose. The dolphin will always beat the shark with intelligence and strategy.

The dolphin is an infinite player*, whose primary motive is to stay in the game, but who also wants to keep the game going. The shark is a finite player, who only wants to win the game, even if it means that might mean the end of the game.

The carp watches the game from the sidelines.

*Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility

Related: https://temenos2.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/leap-how-to-think-like-a-dolphin/