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Divine Feminine

September 22, 2011
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I had a little, unexpected conversation with my tree one day last spring. She is a large, stately white oak in the middle of a thick woods right alongside a deep valley wash. Her circumference is about 7 or 8 feet around, and she shoots straight up to the sky to dominate the local woodland canopy. The stream side of her incredible root system is radically exposed from the tremendous forces of the flood waters that pushed through here a few years ago. She looks vulnerable, yet powerful, hanging on tenaciously to the ever shifting, rocky soil.

I went to her that day and gave her my usual daily hug that allows me to enjoy her solid, massive, girth. This connection also gives me the opportunity to transcend myself up her deeply furrowed trunk to the upper-most leaves there above everything else, intermingling among the valley breezes and the open sun.

As I was holding on to my stately friend, I heard her comment: “how lucky you are to be such a self-sufficient, portable, compact little thing down there far from the threatening storms, protected from the flashing floods, and hidden from the barren cold.”

Without hesitation, I heard myself respond: “well, you wouldn’t think this if you could see what I had to go through to procure sustenance, protection, and shelter for this fragile, high-energy bag of vulnerable flesh; whereas you simply stand there proud and mighty, impenetrable, solid and strong, with all the nourishment you need coming right to you. You are a most favored of Earth’s children.”

My towering friend heard this, thought a moment and then responded: “well, what is your saying: ‘things always look greener …?’ Look at me; my roots are buried in the Earth and when the earth washes away, I have no where to go but down. And when the air gets bad, I can only choke and wheeze and endure until my green lungs give out and turn brown and shriveled, and then I die; and when the bugs start chomping, my limbs are not flexible enough to swat them away. It’s not easy being a tree.”

So I said, “I’ll tell you what: if you continue to provide beauty for me to gaze upon, and shelter for me to protect this feeble little body; and if your sweet breath continues to fill mine, and if you continue to provide those wonderful fruits and nuts to nourish me, and if you always provide that wonderful umbrella of shade that keeps the hot sun from scorching my delicate skin; then I will use my own limbs to protect you. We can have a partnership, a friendship, a bond … from my heart to yours. I vow to love and protect you as long as I have life in me. I will keep the floods from washing you away, I will make sure the air remains suitable to your own lungs, I will nurture the soil that intermingles with your long, convoluted toes, and I will wrap my arms around you each day so you don’t get lonely.”

She listened to this and pondered my statement for a long, long time. I thought that maybe I had moved her heart so much that she was crying in a tree sort of way and couldn’t find her words; but then she finally replied:

“And how are those scrawny little limbs of yours going to do all that?”

About two years ago, I had a profound realization: much of my life I had been looking for God without much real success; it only occurred to me during one particularly insightful walk that the reason for this is because HE isn’t present right now. SHE is! The era of the god of Abraham, the era of the god of Muhammad, the era of the god of Christ,  of Shintoism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Sikhism … and on and on is over as far as I can tell.

God the king is dead, long live the Queen.

I jest, of course, but only slightly. Referring to divinity in terms of gender seems ludicrous anyway, yet we have done so for eons with what I would say are tragic results because time and time again the culturally dominant gender has empowered and enthroned his own sexual identity while devaluing and disregarded the whole other half of our dualistic reality. Any readers who are not offended by these statements need no further explanation, for you probably already know this and already sense that we are gradually entering into a new spiritual epoch.

I mentioned in a couple earlier posts that last year I was involved in a spiritual journey with a group that met once a week for a year. This was only weeks after I had that significant spiritual insight. What I don’t think I mentioned, and what I didn’t know at the time of that vision, is that I would be the single male among 12 women. When I began that life altering group journey, I had little awareness of the significance of this situation; but by the end, I knew with simple clarity what the Universe was teaching me. After thousands of years of emphasis being put on the Divine Masculine imposing the Yang qualities of fast, hard, focused, and aggressive on nature and cultural reality, it is now time for the Divine Feminine to help steer things back to some Yin qualities of slow, soft, yielding, earth based, natural, and compassionate realities. Nearly everyday for a year, I had 12 teachers who literally manifested the Divine Feminine to me in uncountable ways. Were I in the group with other men, I -and maybe even the other women- may have been distracted by the traditional story that we have all become acclimated to. As it was, I learned to strip many of the facades I acquired throughout my life that reinforced the meaningless masculine strategies that sequestered my own nurturing qualities of compassion, attentiveness to others, unconditional love, and slow, attentive, spiritual endurance.

I then realized that my my mom and my three wonderful sisters were my earliest teachers; and that my life partner, Peg, has been my greatest teacher of all. It is Peg who stays with me day after day as I learn to strip the foul layers of a lifetime of accruing the rancid over-clothing of institutionalized Patriarchy (or more accurately, Kyriarchy). She was never deceived … not even once. By the time I had reached the opportunity to intimately share my life for a year with 12 more women, I had already been uniquely prepared.

The point of all this is not to promote a swing to another polarized extreme and empower the Feminine over, or at the expense of the Masculine, but simply to find a balance that once again (or maybe for the first time) harmonizes our two halves and makes us whole.

How-bout a little ricktla mythology?

In the beginning, the Universe was singular. There was no such thing as division, separateness, or individuation. In the beginning we were one. But for some reason too remote for me to comprehend, the Universe expanded and split into a trillion, trillion stars, planets, and living beings. The Universe was still one, but had the illusion of many separate stories disconnected one from the other. Here on Earth we divided into male and female, and developed our primary relationships as mother, father, and child. Father was harsh, strict, aggressive, and driven: the protector … just the thing a young species needed to physically survive in a challenging and competitive environment. Mother was representative of unconditional love: soft, compassionate, patient, and giving … just the thing to nurture the spirit of a growing species. And to round out our little divine nuclear family we introduce Child, the lover; this is where our partnerships come from, where we learn to be both giver and receiver in an equal relationship.

Up until now, the Father has dominated the religious scene with judicial control, while the Mother played Her role in the background as undying love. As Her children, there was nothing bad enough we could do that She would abandon us for … even when we neglect and destroy the rest of Her creation. Enter Child, our lover. For me this is feminine, as it seems to be for many spiritually inclined people these days as far as I can surmise … including women (this is not a carnal love relationship afterall). I am no longer a child, and unlike a mother’s undying love, I do not have the luxury of neglecting, ignoring, or abusing my Divine Lover or She will abandon me. So long as I am present to Her beauty and wisdom, She will remain my constant companion, will show me uncountable wonders, and I will experience joy in my life. The more I focus my attention on the trivial, the temporal, the ambitious, and the ego self, the more she disappears from my life.

Nature is a good example of this. We as a species have neglected and abused nature for so long that She is abandoning us. This is not done with intent, but as a result of indifference,

"Tree Goddess" sculpture by local artist and "Rivers and Roots" editor, Stacie Anthony

disregard, disrespect, and carelessness. As with most things in life; our actions have consequences, and the consequence of neglecting and abusing that which supports us, is we lose the support.

So, part of the moral of the story about the conversation with my tree is to illustrate the way we have gone about dealing with Nature and each other. We always think we know what is best for everything and everyone else, and we insist on manifesting this at will. Yet, we most often don’t know what is best, and Nature is teaching us this in so many ways if we only listen to Her. We can teach each other this as well, by listening to each other rather than only listening to ourselves and deciding what everyone else needs.

We are entering a new spiritual epoch … one that should bring a new understanding to how we relate to each other and the Universe. Wednesday the 21st, Autumnal Equinox, was the start of another year long Wheel of Initiation sacred circle at the Calliope Center in Viroqua. Our group this time consists of 6 men out of 13. The times they are a-changin, and I think I see our Beloved on the horizon turning back to embrace us once again.

rick

September 21, 2011
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Thank you everyone who came to see me last weekend during the Driftless Art Festival in Soldiers Grove. Thank you to those of you who were not able to make it but wished you had … I felt loved and supported beyond belief.  I apologize to those who I was not able to speak to personally … as nurturing as it all was, I was simply overwhelmed at times and needed to take breaks.

Playing with my shameless irreverence, I joke that everyone aught to try cancer on for size, just to see how loved they are.

Shameless!

The Festival was also a big success financially for me. Thank you for that too. It helped in a big way toward filling the gap in income this year from cancelled art fairs. I made as much as I would have from a big city, top tier art fair. Jerry and Liz Quebe (the originators and directors of the Festival) have put together a very nice, high quality festival over the years, and I’m glad I was able to do it before retiring. They made the generous commented that when they were cleaning up the next day after the show, they knew exactly where my booth was because the grass was worn down to dirt in that spot. They took this picture of my booth on Saturday.

THANK YOU EVERYONE!

Tuesday I had the discovery deposition part of my lawsuit in LaCrosse. I spent 7 hours in a room with 14 attorneys, and another 8 by conference phone. It was a grueling marathon, but I held up better than I expected. To be fair, all the lawyers showed me a lot of respect, and were patient and polite with me. I never felt like I was in a room with adversaries. At one point, in fact, when I asked my questioner if a certain line of questioning was relevant, he was sincerely concerned that he had offended me. After the proceedings he came up to me to make sure I was okay.

It was only while I was driving home that it all hit me. I had spent 7 hours in an environment I no longer care to be part of. For 7 hours my head was absorbed in mental processes that I no longer want to do. I felt like I was back in grade school taking a test I was not prepared for and for which I didn’t know the answers, so I simply filled in the spaces as best as I could, knowing it was all BS.

I can’t remember the name brand of the brake pads I put on my VW bug back in 1972. I can’t remember the name on the boiler in the factory I worked at in 1973.  I can’t even remember the brand of the shingles I used on a roofing job I did back in the 80’s.

But mostly I felt outside myself … alone and disoriented. I felt like a failure … I could have prepared better.

But it’s over now until the findings deposition scheduled for next week or the week after. But that is when my own lawyer has the show, so things should go smoother.

As for now, I am exhausted and a little off kilter. But I should be back in shape in a day or so, so you aren’t rid of me yet.

rick

September 15, 2011
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To die, or not to die … this is the question.

Well, for today it is!

A dear friend recently sent me a note lovingly and gently admonishing me for what appeared to her to be my apparent lack of fight regarding my diagnosis. Looking at my blog posts, and realizing how I often speak of my “impending” death, I do see her point.

There is a strong movement in some circles today to promote the notion that we are fully in charge of our own fate. That we can decide how successful, healthy, wealthy, we are going to be;  when we are going to die, be sick, or even how popular we will be. This idea has been promoted by uncountable books and films such as: “What the bleep do we know?”, and the “Secret”. I think it is also a combination of reactions spurned by certain fatalist notions of traditional religions, as well as the increasing awareness to the limits of allopathic medicine, or maybe even simply the increasing inaccessibility of such. I don’t know if this is the case with my friend, or if it’s simply a conclusion drawn from her own life experiences (I suspect from the flavor of her note that it is the latter), but the idea that a terminal diagnosis need not be terminal is not a new one, nor is it an isolated one. Although my own life experiences see dangers in this ideology if it is not tempered with time-tested spiritual insight and wisdom; the fact is that I don’t live very far from this “philosophical” place myself. However, the purpose of this post is not to debate the strengths or weaknesses in any self-deterministic philosophy, but simply for me to explain just how I see my own life (and death) in this regard.

The miracle of life for me is that life itself is a miracle … nothing less, and perhaps nothing more. This is a rather late addition to my teleological perspective. Earlier in life I desired to have dramatic signs of the more metaphysical sides of the Universe which would provide me with some tangible evidence of a spiritual dimension which I believed underlies all things. However, this was not meant to be part of the spiritual experience for me … at least not in any dramatic, life altering way. I learned that true faith is based on informed, reasoned belief and obviously not on firm knowledge; and that it is by having faith that I -in fact- do learn to employ my own free will. My ideas about this are convoluted and far too wordy for a blog post, so let me just say that in my own nuanced way I do believe I have some control over my fate … if not my destiny; but I really only want as much as is good for me. How do I know just how much is good for me?

Precisely!

I have often experienced in my life that fate, even when it seems bad, may have positive consequences. If I had the power at any given time to avoid a painful fate, I would have lost many good lessons that may have contributed to me being the person I am today … a person I happen to like. This doesn’t mean I always surrender to my fate, but often there is simply nothing I can do about it other than accept it.

Getting back to my illness; as I explained to my friend, before I ever got my diagnosis I knew something was wrong with me. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had a deep intuition that I wasn’t going to be here much longer, which was a very new, and very uncharacteristic feeling for me. However, what I have often noticed in my life is that intuitions can point to a lot of possibilities, not just the obvious one(s). If I have a perennially vexing personal issue, for example, that I have been unsuccessful getting past in my life, illness may provide a pathway through, or be a consequence of, that … or both. I have found in my life that change sometimes comes about only when there are no alternatives left and I am left standing at the precipice and looking down. At this point, surrendering to my fate might be the best option, allowing me to drop unnecessary attachments thus helping to clear my mind and spirit enough to see a solution. However, it’s also possible that my destiny is simply to jump because I have clearly run out of options and the time to completely surrender is here.

I honestly don’t know what my fate is at this point.

I guess the best way to explain this in regard to my friend’s concern is to say that I haven’t decided to jump quite yet. I am still looking for a solution. By this I mean that I am still fully invested in life, still trying to learn all I can by being present to life, and still remaining very connected to what life has to offer … like I am going to be here for a long time yet. But I am allowing myself to let go of it, as well, should this be my fate. In other words, I am surrendering to whatever destiny might be in play for me right now so I can be more open to what the Universe is trying to tell me. It’s a strangely liberating place to be.

All that being said, as far as what my body is telling me is that I continue to experience decline. I often feel slightly sick to my stomach. Eating and keeping an appetite are still complicated procedures. I have lost the capacity of nearly half or more of my right lung, which makes navigating my day quite an effort. I have to be very mindful as to how to pace myself, and to withdraw from activity when I sense my batteries are getting low (but before they are empty). While I am successfully managing my pain for the most part, the discomfort of being in a body which is slowly being altered by an aggressive alien presence is no longer an easy place for me to live, so I have to spend a certain amount of my daily energy just trying to stay motivated and positive.

Nevertheless, I AM positive! Not necessarily because of any notion that I will beat this thing, but because -no matter how soon I might be slated to move from this place- so long as I am here and am able, I am going to live as fully as I can. And I am also positive because of my connections; the friends I have who now take the time to let me know I mean something to them. Plus my body can still give and serve and learn, and I still have many opportunities to do so.

Yes, I do have to pace myself more. I do have to be more mindful of how I use my limited energy. I do have to accept more help, and I do have to accept being more vulnerable; but these too become my current learning experiences which help to grow my spirit and my appreciation for that miracle of life I was talking about. I have a lot yet to live for, but I am also prepared for, and I accept when, this is no longer my fate. In my mind this is not the same as giving up.

Now on to attitude; it’s clear to me that everyone deals with circumstances differently. For example, there is the optimist and there is the pessimist … yet these two are not necessarily what they seem at first glance. I am a dreamer, but I am also a pragmatist. I happen to be driven by an ideological visioning of what is possible, but deal with life better when I consider all the consequences … even the negative ones. I think most people who know me think of me as an optimist; yet I think most people after hearing me speak on the subject would consider me a pessimist. Be that as it may, my pessimism is anything but “negative”. I live my life expecting the best, while preparing for the worst. By considering the worst, someone might think I am being negative, but I believe I am being thorough.

This approach to life simply works for me because when things don’t work out as hoped for, I am not disappointed, but am wonderfully surprised when they do. This does not seem to inhibit my determination, but it does keep me from getting too attached to outcomes, and it also protects my rather vulnerable heart. Last, but not least, it also keeps me from becoming angry or cynical toward things that don’t go my way.

So in conclusion, if all that is necessary for driving my own fate is to be engaged and to hope for the best, then anything is possible, even if I do have a terminal diagnosis. I will be pleasantly surprised if this turns out to be true, but I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t.

rick

September 12, 2011
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I have been pretty busy and tired lately, so I haven’t had a chance to add a new post for a while. This week I am busy as well, aiming for what will probably be the last art fair of my career with the Driftless Art Fair in Soldiers Grove. I have been wanting to do this little gem for years but always had a conflict with another commitment the same weekend. This year I cannot go the distance to do this other show so I am thrilled to finally be home with all my friends for this one.

In the meantime I did want to get out a short note expressing another little blessing in my life. Last weekend Peg and I went to Burlington, Wisconsin to gather with my six siblings at the beautiful country home of another couple who have been like siblings to me over the course of 30 some years. The intent was -as usual- to enjoy each others company, but also to meet and communicate about all our thoughts and feelings about my illness and impending death, and to listen to Peg as to how they can all support her in this.

A little history! The seven of us siblings moved a lot as we grew up due to our dads job, which caused us to become fairly dependent on each other emotionally. Always being the new ones on the block or in the school opened us up to a lot of ridicule, constantly reminding us each of how “different” we were. Of course we could do this very effectively with each other as well; but -still- we knew we were a tribe, and this gave us some comfort. Then we all grew up, left home, began our own lives, and developed some distance.

About 15 or 20 years ago is it (?), we started our annual sibling reunions where we get together to share, laugh, hike, reminisce, and -of course- eat … always eat … basically renewing our bond with each other. Since we did rely on each other for emotional support, and for understanding our constantly changing environments while growing up, we had a natural habit of sharing what was on our minds and in our hearts. Little was relegated to being taboo in our conversations, and we learned a lot about life by sharing our different perspectives about it.

Following in this spirit, we realized that we were all dealing with my death in different ways and thought it might be a good idea to share these … thus last weekend was organized. At times during the weekend I would become fatigued, and I would either go for a short, relaxed walk in the familiar 40 acres of woods around the home, or I would just put my feet up in the recliner in the next room and listen to the lively chattering’s around me. My comfort came from knowing that the sibling bond would still be strong even without me, and that everyone will be alright … including Peg who, being the love of my life, has become a sister to my siblings, and I am comforted to know that they will be there for her always.

I have learned over the years that the LaMartina sibling relationship is not all that common. Misunderstanding and distance has often created alienation between family members, and the natural bond can often be lost. Or -less dramatically- there was just never that much trust and sharing in the first place. Still, there is much that may be salvaged in many of these sibling relationships. Few may be able to share what the La sibs can, but many can share an unspoken love and understanding. This reminds me of a double blessing in my life because Pegs seven siblings are another close knit family. They come from a very different background than mine, but their love for, and their friendship among each other is clearly palpable. I have never doubted that they loved me too (and their support for Peg and I right now can’t be overstated), and I have never doubted my love and respect for them. How lucky can one be?

And maybe now I am getting to the point of this post. What I have learned about love and connection with my own siblings has enabled me to create this with you, the other friends in my life. I have never been contented with shallow, ambivalent friendships; but thrived on deep, honest, and loving ones. My friendships ultimately became an extension of the tribal affiliation I had with my family of origin, to blossom into a larger, broader group consisting of a diverse and rich community of friends. Even though most of our upbringings may have encouraged us to evaluate, judge, and create exclusivity; most of us have managed to dig beneath that and enjoy each other in spite of our differences. It’s not always easy, but love is what lubricates the process. I love all my siblings, and love them in spite what what I approve of, agree with, align with, or not.

To take this another step; connecting with people outside my family shouldn’t seem like such a huge bridge to cross, so long as I don’t feel an obligation to judge or criticize them. Love means knowing that we all have our problems, challenges, vulnerabilities, weaknesses, flaws, and problems, but that this only represents a small portion of anyone and should be taken as a given. The rest is a massive series of novels containing insights, feelings, thoughts, cares, compassions, experiences, and affections which, put together, make up the character and personality of a person and establish our commonality. We are all related, and this relationship creates the foundation for compassion which derives from a desire to love.

It’s as simple as that, really … was never meant to be complicated. It may not be easy to practice, but it is not complicated.

As I walk through my final days here on this Beautiful Earth, this is what I carry with me: the connections, not the differences. It’s those rich connections that remain in my heart; the rest is just transient dust that blows on and then blows off the core of what is valuable and true in the hearts of all those I love.

rick

September 7, 2011
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Before I begin this post; one of my friends mentioned to me that when she clicked on the “new post” link in her e-mail notification, she didn’t have access to comments. This is too bad because there has been some very interesting comments from readers that add much to the discussion. She has since worked around this glitch by entering my blog address into her address line and this gives her all comments. I’ll look into this to see if there is a better way … but if you are still having problems, please let me know!

I made a commitment to myself when I started this blog that I would be honest and open. Like many of you, I am now very aware of how little exposure there was in my life regarding death and dying. Not only did I avoid this subject myself, but so did my culture. Other than a few inspired groups, like the Threshold Care Circle or Hospice, this natural part of life continues to be delegated to the gloomy fringes of society where it exists in an almost fictional reality. Yes, we all vaguely know we are going to die someday, but we tell ourselves that this is reserved for sometime in the distant future when we cease to be who we currently are. I -this person who now inhabits this body- will not die because … well … I am too much alive for death to catch me. Besides, death is an ending and endings have nothing to tell me about living.

But this is wrong. I am learning each day just how much death is teaching me about life and living, and I only wish I had taken some of the lessons I am learning now into my life in earlier times. Far from being an ending, I now see death as an opportunity to distill life down to it’s most essential form as I move toward a new beginning. I have decided that the best way to be fully awake to this journey myself is to document the experience as I walk through it. This fulfills two things for me: 1) It is a creative outlet, and I must be fully present to my current experiences and thoughts in order to share it, and 2) it gives me some purpose that provides the needed meaning for me to go on living. I have come to learn that others are benefitting from my journey too, and this keeps me company as we walk through this together.

The greatest challenge for me so far has been to let myself be vulnerable and allow people to give to me. Vulnerability can be seen as a weakness, as if a fully functional person has no needs, faults, or deficiencies. Exposing my vulnerabilities means risking whether who I really am is enough. Yet, it is by exposing my vulnerabilities that I become truly accessible and -therefore- a part of everyone else. Receiving from another person means that I believe in my own rhetoric stating that this closes a circle of love … receiving being the twin sister of giving. Receiving from another person also means to believe in my own rhetoric that “earning”  has nothing to do with true love … we all deserve to receive love as well as to give it.

Up until now, this vulnerability thing has not been too much of an issue because I have been physically doing pretty well and not needing much … but this seems to be changing. The last few days have created a new benchmark for me, and I realize I have lost more of my natural capacity than I care to admit to myself or anyone else. My body is continuing to narrow down my prospects, and my job is to keep abreast of what ways this is happening so I can adjust to it. Part of this adjustment is to mourn the new loss and try to surrender to it so I can move on and experience joy in what I still have. After a lifetime spent learning to become an independent and giving human being, it’s sobering to realize that now I must learn to trust that it is okay to need.

So I am thinking about giving and receiving. Traditionally, giving has made me feel useful, given me purpose, and has also given me respite from my own problems … especially giving others my full interest and attention. My reward is that through this active presence with another person, I can be filled with another persons story. Ideally, this giving would be reciprocal and a good friendship nurtured and formed. It’s obvious that for this circle to remain unbroken there needs to be receiving as well as giving. I mean, this is pretty fundamental stuff … so fundamental, in fact, that most of us pay it little attention; and without our “attention” we fail to realize just what we are really holding back in order to protect our vulnerabilities, which only make us lonely. We in essence protect ourselves from deep connection, and from true love out of fear of being acceptable. How sad! Much sadder than this illness of mine. This sad fact has certainly been true for me at times in my life too, but the dying process is my opportunity to let go of any expensive facades and surrender to who I really am, and to trust that the people I love will still be there.

In the meantime I have realized that, although I started this blog for myself, one of its deep satisfactions for me is in the sharing. This is not so different from my art … my photography. I went into the field for myself in order to commune with nature and to participate in and mimic nature’s creative process by using my camera. This was very satisfying in itself … it focused me, it brought me into the present, it preoccupied me, and it broadened me. Yet, the completion of that process was through the sharing of my experience with others. Another circle closed. Giving and receiving.

Up until this point I have let people know what it is in terms of response to my illness and death that I want. I haven’t wanted sadness or grief around me (and here I am opening myself up to the shocking possibility that you all are actually relieved that you won’t have to endure that stupid facsimile for humor in me for much longer … hmmmm, see what I mean!). This makes things easier for me if everyone around me is happy and fully alive and engaged, but this no longer seems fair; I can’t expect this from Peg or my siblings or very close friends, nor does it fit with my wish to be honest and open and to fully share this experience and this journey. So to close another circle of give and receive, I would like to hear from you.

Many people want to let us -the dying- know how much they “feel” for us and our loved ones; but other than that, most don’t know exactly how to respond or what to say. This, I suppose, is due to the fact that everyone is different and responds to a “close” death differently. It should be obvious by now that I have no problem at all dealing with my own death … even to the point of irreverence, so no one should worry about offending me. This would help me understand what you are thinking and feeling and allow a more open and honest discussion about this blurry subject, which -afterall- is much of the reason I am sharing my journey in this blog.

So what do you say? You can share your comments with us all by doing so on this blog; or if you have a personal note you can let me know via e-mail: rickspix@countryspeed.com

Lets bring this subject out of the cellar and into the light of a beautiful Autumn day … like today! Do it to give something to yourself, and then close the circle by sharing your thoughts and feelings with the rest of us. I want these to include what you might want from me. I mean that! I’m not dead yet, and so the circle still needs closing … even for me.

Also, I might suggest that you avoid being as long winded (even without most of my right lung I might add) as I am so that none of us get overwhelmed with too much reading and avoid it altogether. Choose something you might want from me, or an aspect of dying that concerns or interests you the most and try to keep it to one short paragraph … or even a sentence. I am not looking for beliefs or philosophy here, but gut concerns, feelings, and questions. As I mentioned in another post (if I am any example) I am getting less and less interested in cognitive constructs of life and death and more interested in what is really going on inside myself and others.

rick

September 4, 2011
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Mesothelioma!

Many of my friends and family knew of this disease even before I did. I am one of those back-water hayseeds who don’t have commercial television, so I never saw any of the law firm ads promising millions of dollars to victims of Mesothelioma. When my oncologist first gave us the diagnosis and mentioned that he will back up any lawsuit I plan to file, Peg and I only looked at each other wondering what kind of TV fantasy this guy was living in.

I have since caught up, but I still haven’t seen one of those ads, thank god; however I have filed with a law firm. I chose one that didn’t try to lure me with the promise of a huge settlement, didn’t give me false hopes, and had a good reputation for serving their clients emotional needs as well as their financial ones. I’m not going to paint an overly rosy picture of an industry that rightly or wrongly has a reputation for exploiting people’s misfortunes; but the fact remains that I did initially learn more of what I know about Mesothelioma and about taking care of myself in relation to the disease from my law firm than from anywhere else. And as with most things in this world, the truth is much more sobering than fiction, and the truth is that most people don’t make a lot after all is said and done on these lawsuits.

My reality is that I will be happy if I just cover my own expenses, lost wages, and maybe a little something to leave Peg … if only to help her pay for her own health insurance in the future. I have never in my life worked with a lawyer, and I’m not exactly comfortable pursuing litigation. Peg -of course- wants nothing to do with it! However, even though I am at peace with my fate (I refuse to play the role of victim … even with this) the truth is that, even though I do have Badger Care (thank you Governor Doyle), my disease is costing us, and we didn’t have that much to start with. The truth is also that the asbestos industry (like so many before and after it) played the odds and decided it would make more financial sense to pay out any future lawsuits than to slow the stream of profits by making public what the execs in the industry knew long before I was ever exposed: asbestos is a carcinogen.

Even with this knowledge, I am not impassioned about going after a “bad” guy. I am not fighting a cause; and am under no illusions of being a Don Quixote tilting at windmills. I am only taking advantage of a set of circumstances that happen to benefit me above so many other individuals who suffer unfortunate or unfair situations in their life … many much, much worse. Lucky for me is all I can say, and I am grateful for that luck, but this is all that it is. I am not interested in a big settlement were that even possible; but I would probably be much more enthusiastic about pursuing this sort of litigation if I thought it would really affect the nature of the kind of greed that can so casually justify and contribute to human suffering. But, aside from that, I want to refrain from participating in any justification of greed in myself.

Alas, the sum total of all the mesothelioma lawsuits in the world … the sum total of all the lawsuits in history  …. will obviously not put a dent in the nature of greed anyway. This vice exists in a climate of tolerance, and most of us participate in this to some degree, myself included. Greed saturates the water we swim in. I think most of us reading this blog understands that fact to some extent, so I needn’t elaborate on it. Besides, I have already stated earlier that it is not my job to judge, and I am grateful that it isn’t because I would have to start with myself, and I know where that ends up. My job is simply to see my own barriers to an authentic and integrated life, and work to remove those barriers by being present to what true value really is. Being present to one’s life is a state of being, but it is also a process. As long as I am progressing along that path, I need not feel impelled to judge myself. As long as there is progress, there is change and there is hope. In this we can each celebrate with joy as we move along our chosen paths.

What about the “bad” guys who actually go out of their way to create a climate of greed? I can only imagine the hell they are creating for themselves. I can only imagine what it must be like to live as if power and affluence are all that matter in life. I can only imagine the loneliness and isolation and fear that must be present in a persons reality in order to spend so much of one’s life energy to continually feed this delusion and this impulse. I can only imagine what they are missing out on that is beautiful and free in this world. I can only imagine what my life would be like right now, as I face death, if I too had adopted this attitude.

Even though I admit that mine is a wimps way out, I can admit that I now have the luxury to pity those lost souls who are searching for meaning in all the wrong places; for I will not much longer have to live with the results of their delusions about life, other than to carry the sorrow I feel for those of you who do have to live with that. But if you can just remember that your main responsibility in life is to nurture your own sense of presence, to nurture you own depth of love, to nurture your own potential for compassion, and to nurture your own desire for truth, you will be okay and I will be at peace.

And I suppose (if my beliefs have anything to do with reality) I will be back again anyway to join you all in this task.

Hmmmmm! There is that blessing or curse thing again!! Which is it?

Well, I’ll let you know when I get here; but right now I suspect it is much closer to a gift than it is to a penance.

rick

September 2, 2011
by

A sweet fellow who lives here in the area was inspired to write a poem for me recently. He is a talented poet, and naturally I was extremely moved by his offering. It definitely belongs here as part of my blog to be shared with others besides just Peg and myself.

Thank you Mokasiya.