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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

more lived and learned

You are perfect and you are good, right where you are today. You made mistakes back when, but you were a different person then. Now you are more lived and learned, and you’re allowed to choose again. Right where you are tomorrow will be a different place; that’s how it is, it can’t be helped.  It’s something we call time.
We’re only stuck when we think we are; we’re only stuck in our minds. Even in shackles, even in prison, no one controls our thoughts. Unless we let them, as often we do, when we listen to their judgments and wonder if they’re true:  Maybe they do know me better than I know myself, I’ve often heard them say it – “you don’t mean that, you can’t believe, you should, you ought, you’re wrong, I’m right, if only you were different”.  But you’re not.
You are you, perfect and good, right where you are today. If others choose to judge you, that’s their mistake, not yours. They, too, will soon be different, time moves for them, as well. They’ll choose again, be somewhere else, more lived and learned – like you.
You are perfect where you are, you’re good and getting better. Love yourself now, and as you were then, back when you made those mistakes. They might have been for someone else, they might have been for me. To help me learn to be better:  understanding, forgiving, compassionate, brave -  we’re all in this together.
I thank you now for who you are, and for who you will be; the things you’ve lived and done and thought – it’s all alright by me. Your part of the human family, a part we can’t do without. Hang in there, do your best, as i will too, we'll get there yet - the better.                                  ©Melissa Falls 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

Balancing at the Fun House

The ground gives with every step I take, like at the Fontain Ferry Fun House, where I spent as much of my childhood summers as possible. On my first walks across the sinking plank boardwalk, my parents each held a hand, swinging me up above the moving ground when I lost my balance. By the time I was six, I felt ready for a solo stroll, and with my cousins, I stumbled and scrabbled my way to the solid ground at the other end, glad to have the long pants and sleeves mom made me wear.  I picked myself up and did it again, and again and again, until I learned to run across the moving planks with confidence and balance.

Not holding on to the metal hand rails, no matter what mom was hollering at me, was the key to not falling. A tight grip on those handles kept my feet from feeling what was going on beneath them, and I invariably ended up on the floor.  Using my arms for balance, keeping my knees loose and ready to absorb the surprise of the fall, and not listening to the well meaning advice of those watching – that’s what got me safely to the other side.  Not holding on was essential for the three story slide ride, also, which we were sent down with our legs and bottoms wrapped in burlap. “Keep your hands in your lap,” the attendant told us. “Don’t touch the slide.”

We were kids. Of course we touched the slide. Thinking we might control our race downhill, or our fall on moving ground, we reached  out to steady ourselves. Instead, we were thrown off balance, fell and rolled and tumbled and then tried it again until we learned to let go and find our own center of balance.


The ground gives with every step I take, and there is nowhere to stand in this world that is stable, there is nothing I can do to control the movement around me. No matter how hard I’ve tried, I have been unable to make my ride through life be still while I find my balance. There are surprises around every corner, and I’ve found it necessary to be ever alert. There are no reliable handles that won’t eventually throw us off course and make us fall. There are no handles that won’t eventually make me stumble and fall.

Although I secretly believe myself to be smartest, I have been unable to control hardly anything and certainly not any of the people any of the time;  not the ones in my own household or the ones far away. Not what they think or do, not the choices they make or the beliefs they hold, not what they consume or how they raise their children, none of it. Neither can I control opinions people might have about me, personal advice they might give me, or malicious rumors. I cannot control the economy or political climate, the air I breathe, the extinction of amphibians, or the new, night-shattering light that blinks through my window from the top of the cell phone tower.

We can’t control the way life unfolds around us. There are just too many variables. Now, with world wide communication – this very net we’re on - there’s more to know, more to keep up with, more to break down, more variables than ever before. The more there is for us to keep up with, the less control we have over any of it. Progress  is going to keep happening. Evolution is happening. It’s bigger than a Fun House ride; and – given the numbers of clinically depressed adults and children – it must be blowing our minds.

So. What are we going to do?

It’s possible for each of us to find a personal balance so sure that will carry us through to the end.  We do this by learning to control our thoughts about any situation that arises. We  can’t control how life is unfolding, either in our personal worlds or on the planet; but we can control our thoughts about it, no matter how far-fetched that seems during those middle of the night worry marathons.

It takes some practice, but it’s entirely possible to unlearn worry, to skip anxiety, and get straight to balance and peace of mind. No matter how unstable things seem, no matter what the situation.

Letting go may be the best first step to reaching personal balance: let go of the idea that you ever had any kind of control, let go of every should-would- could in your speaking and in your thinking, let go of cherished outcomes and even deeply held beliefs. Let go of the secret belief that you’re smartest.

When we begin to control ourselves and our thinking, it doesn’t seem so all-fired important to control the situations and people around us. If we can learn to participate in life without getting emotionally bound up every time the ground gives, our contributions to life are genuinely helpful to ourselves and others.

Everybody’s happy. 

©Melissa Falls 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014

without fear

 Hi. It's Tuesday, and I got snail mail.

The most stunning change imaginable is being able to live without fear. This is what the outside of the envelope from a foundation seeking money told me, and I couldn’t agree more. Reading more inside the envelope, I heard my mom’s voice intoning that could be us, you should be grateful, and I am. The fears I face seem small in comparison to the pictures and descriptions of river blindness in Uganda, about which I can do but very little, but I face them daily.
   It seems small, for instance, that I’m afraid to be here on the world wide web, spilling my thoughts for anyone out there to examine. It’s so huge, the www, so much bigger than I or anyone can grasp; so bright and shiny, a world digitally enhanced and without blemish - or so dark and dangerously fascinating, conspiracy theories abounding. Do I really want to be here? What if I say something wrong or fail to give credit where it is due. What if I unknowingly plagiarism or commit libel and am sued and lose everything? This is where my past newspaper experience leads my fears.
An endless audience is scary, and so is endless knowledge. I wonder if it might be driving some of us a little bit crazy, as our tribally oriented minds try to catch up with instant global communication, information, and mail order.  There’s no one it doesn’t touch; even the very elderly gentleman up the street who has never touched a computer. He hears the wealth of information from his family, he is subject to global shopping through his global TV. There’s no denying it.
It seems to run away with a lot of us. Like any overindulgence or addiction, it can take our lives away. I bet we all know about somebody who lost some part of their lives or fortunes to internet something or other.  So maybe, probably, we’d better catch up if we want to live somewhat balanced and sane lives, which for me translates into peaceful sleep at night and anxiety free living. The internet, so far, hasn’t been helping me with that. Facts and trivia, not shopping, are what I look for, and the search engines invite me to stay up nights and ask questions, which they are able answer in a few million different ways. The net also makes it easy for me to insert my foot into my mouth in a really big way.
Global Socialization, I heard the net called recently, and the man who called it that to me also confessed to a certain despair over all that great stuff available on the internet, all those amazing tools and devices and toys and books that he couldn’t have and knew he probably would never get. It was overwhelming and unattainable. And all that information about what’s going on everywhere. Maybe we need a new psychology that includes globalization, he suggested. The Beast, I heard it called. This was before I returned to and explored the internet after a long boycott.
But being a writer, and pretty frustrated with what’s had to become of newspapers in competition with the www, I thought I’d face my fears and hook up to the world wide web. Since I’m hooked up,  I got online last week  to order trees from a catalogue I’d gotten snail mail. Since I was there, it was easy to click on the top ten related sites of interest.
 Almost three hours later I came to and pulled myself out of the amazingly beautiful world of cherry tree images and information and best deals and free shipping, returned to the first site, and ordered my trees, my original intent.  I couldn’t believe it had been so long. I felt kind of dazed and dumb, and my house and landscaping looked pretty drab and shabby and unenhanced. It took me a while to get back on track and pick up a shovel.
Shopping, I think , is just the tip of that iceberg, the most alluring one and possibly the safest.  Alongside shopping and oh so much bigger is the globalization of information and communication. Countless voices – like mine and yours – giving their opinions; endless information about everything under the sun in every corner of every population and government and medical school, vivid images of war and starving children, Guinea worm and  Ebola, tsunamis and mudslides and melting glaciers. Last night I found out my second toe wasn’t supposed to longer than my big toe, of all things!
 You name it, we can know about it. We can see it. And we want to know, it’s just a lot to take in. Actually, it can’t be taken in. It can’t be ignored, and it can’t be grasped or controlled by any one mind or search engine. It’s alive and slippery and moving and never, never holds still.
There’s really very little most of us can do about most of the stuff we find out about, but people everywhere want to do something to improve on the quality of their lives and can’t help it. It’s our nature. We all want to change or prevent what we see as wrong with our lives, and that’s how we got where we are now.
And  now, pretty suddenly, within the course of a short generation,  our lives include their lives; and theirs, ours. There’s so much more for us to think about and improve on. Globalization. This is good.
I think for most of us, knowing and seeing  makes us feel something. Concern, sorrow, judgment or anger, fear or responsibility. We feel something, maybe we send a little electric cash to the cause of our choice, then - it’s over. We can’t do anything about it and that leaves us with a kind of loose ended anxiety and vague fear. A flood of do something hormones have been released by our feelings – which can’t tell the difference between their tsunami and ours -  into our bloodstream;  but there’s nothing we can do. Maybe we stick that little discomforting thought away, deny it. Without an outlet or end to the problem, those hormones keep our bodies and brains and emotions in a state of unhealthy imbalance. Our thoughts get scrambled, and it’s easier to develop some degree of anxiety and depression. Not good.
But armed with that info, we might be able to break the cycle and figure out what we can do. Maybe most of what is left for us to do is to think about the world of information and images and opinions that we’re bombarded with; to face it and learn how to deal with feelings of anxiety as they crop up, before they knock us off balance. We can do that. We can learn to control our feelings and thoughts.
When we do, when as a global society we have learned to live our lives free of fear and anxiety, we’ll be making better decisions. Solutions to problems like disease and world hunger can only come easier when we’re in our right minds and sleeping peacefully.
We can do this.
©Melissa Falls 2014