Thursday, October 28, 2010

Morning Reflection

Methinks we give Her cause for chortle …
A bit of a grin and a snicker, or a few.
Opening Her eyes with the dawn of a day, new to us.
But only another breath and of no particular significance to Her.

She smiles in patient acknowledgment of our supposed need to worry.
Is not her timeless humour engaged as She sees our angst?
Are we not silly children to believe that our flailings matter?
Can we not see, as She does, how fleeting are our concerns?

Earth stretches herself in boundless expanse, Her end … nowhere.
We fret over the scope of what we see before us.
She giggles the laughter of countless voices in Her infinite continuum.
Whilst we battle to create monuments to our meaningless impulse.

All that is Her expression adjusts and compensates,
realigning Her assets and resources, to sustain our newest affronts.
Whilst Her children greet Her with their songs and their awakenings.
She accepts our foolish indifferences and insults.

Ah, but what bliss would be ours
if we would but see Her in all of Her glory.
If we would only allow ourselves the joy of pause,
acknowledging Her constancy and power …
in humble gratitude.

IMAGES through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Re-visiting An Interview

Almost two years ago, I was interviewed by a Contributor, to a Web site that provides "timely, in-depth, trusted medical information, personalized tools and resources, and connections to a vast community of leading experts and patients for people seeking to manage and improve their health."

I looked over the completed interview, and considered the possibility that some, of what was shared there, might be of some benefit to Readers of this site. So, with the blessings of the
Contributor, I am posting the complete interview here.

I do hope that You, My Dear Reader, will find some idea or thought to be of use to you as an encouragement, consideration, or, perhaps, a provocation to further thought. I have deleted the name of the medical information site as well as that of the individual mentioned in the
Contributor's introduction to the interview. The interview is, otherwise, unedited.

How to Cope
When Your Adult Child has a Physical Disability

I was looking over the questions asked here at [
medical information site] and I began to smile as I re-discovered a question from a lady named "[DELETED]." She was worried about her adult son who had been diagnosed with MS. And although the title of her question was: "Can MS affect the ability to match clothing (plaids with stripes) and colors?" the true intent of her question was to be found in reading between the lines.

This was a mom who was worried about her son's disease and how he would manage the potential physical and mental challenges that Multiple Sclerosis could bring. I began to think about this disease from a parent's perspective. No matter how young or old your child is...they are always still your child. How does a parent cope when their child faces the daunting challenge of a physical disability? What is the best way to be of help?

In order to delve more deeply into these questions I have enlisted the help of fellow blogger and self help writer, John Michael. John Michael's extraordinary way of writing stems from having to face his own unique challenges including parenting a son who has cerebral palsy. You may find more of John Michael's insights by visiting his blog authentically entitled, "Just being John Michael."

Based upon your life experience, what comfort would you give to a parent who has an adult child who is facing physical challenges?

To begin with, please know that I do not, in even the most remote way, hold my opinions or ideas up as any kind of standard of measure or (God forbid) sort of rule to go by. They are, quite simply, my own perspective and individualized inclinations. That said, I can tell you (and any Parent reading) that my comfort with what Matthew (my son) and I share, in our partnership in life’s challenges, began with my acceptance of, the reality that we all … every living, breathing, struggling one of us, live with our own set of ‘disabilities’ and ‘handicaps.’

While Matt’s are more obvious and clearly pronounced than others’, I have accepted the fact of my responsibility to confront and manage my own … and to help him identify (in the most gentle and tenderly ways possible), and deal with his. I have, simultaneously, allowed my Self to be open to, and receptive to, the difficulties and frustrations in the lives of those whose life-paths intersect mine. And I discuss, with Matt, these obstacles, to ease-of-living, so that he can share, with me, an active appreciation, of the hurdles that beset others. We discuss possible ways that we can compliment and make easier the lives of Friends. And we have conversations centered around our responsibilities, as Human Beings, to the world around us. This has given him a sense of participation and worth, in caring for people along the way … and has (while not spelling out or focusing on his own set of Complications) allowed him to gain a sense of worth as a Care-Giver for others. It, also, takes the intensity of focus off of all of the daily irritations that his cerebral palsy unrelentingly visits upon him.

This “Mechanism” (if you will) has proven to be a ‘tool’ of some considerable worth in my set of ‘coping implements’ … for us both.

How emotionally difficult is it for a parent to see their son or daughter unable to do things that others may take for granted?

The “emotional difficulty” is compounded by the reality that (in Matt’s life) he does not possess the mental acuity to enable him to thoroughly process the complexities of his handicaps. While he is at a high level of what would be labeled as “trainable” (God! How I do hate those labels!) he is obviously vexed by his awareness of the areas of life and living that are part of the experiences of those around him … and his inability to participate or be included in them.

I then, accept the responsibility (inasmuch as I am able) to “feel” and “sense” these vexations for and with him … then translate them into means of communicating to his level of comprehension and appreciation of them … to him. All the while wanting (at my emotional core) to curl up in a corner and weep for him. Emotional exhaustion and an ever-present sense of being emotionally spent has, consequently, been my life-companion.

How does a parent express concern for their child's well being without coming across as overly intrusive or pushy?

In a word … you can’t! Yep! That’s about it. My experience has been that if I am willing to let Individuals or Organizations … whose role or mission in life is to ’administer’ the programs or services (I use the word advisedly) that are intended, by well-meaning Initiators, to reach out to the needs of those who find themselves less than optimally functional … operate at their own discretion or with their own set of priorities … my son will suffer neglect and even some measure of abuse.

Yes, I know that that sounds harsh. And I do wish that it was not the fact. But it has proven, over and over, to be the Reality. But … when I take the active, involved, persistent, and (in the view of some) “overly intrusive or pushy”, I have found that I can cut through the layers of superficial and uncaring individuals and programs … and mine the nuggets of wonderfully committed and professionally devoted gems who give of themselves willingly and thoroughly, for the benefit of those to whom they have dedicated their lives and careers.

So, I make Matt the “Good Guy”, and take the mantle of “Enforcer” upon myself, for his benefit. This has worked out to be most successful and beneficial for all concerned. It gets past the layers of incompetence and wasted time and efforts quite quickly. And gets us to the “good stuff” with a minimum of wasted energy and emotion (which, by virtue of living with this situation, are already in short supply.)

What is the best way for a parent to offer help?

I think that this is most effectively accomplished by becoming a living and breathing part of my son. I have permitted my Self … nay, demanded of my Self … to be … actually and legitimately become an element of my son’s Being. I feel what he is unable to feel. I think what he hasn’t the capacity to think. I sense what he wants to sense, but can not get through the haze, of his brain’s unwillingness to cooperate, to sense. I offer tears when appropriate … whilst not giving in to self-pity. I offer determination … where he is not equipped to be determined for himself … whilst guarding against insensitivity or lack of empathy. All the while recognizing that this commitment to Matt is made at the expense of other life-demands that must be sacrificed (willingly … even happily … and without remorse of bitter regret) for his ultimate benefit.

All too often, I have known parents who let it be known that they are some figure of “Noble Sacrifice” and are ’giving up’ something for their child. Horse hockey! (That’s about as ’cleaned up’ as I can make that. [smile]) Firstly, their child is constantly aware of this added burden upon their shoulders. They hear and sense their parent’s bemoaning of their ’plight’ in life. And that child has this ’gift’ to deal with, in addition to all of the garbage that is incumbent with whatever life has given them.

No! My son’s handicap is something that I accepted, at the very outset (when he was diagnosed, at less than one year old), as Life’s enabling me to grow and develop into far more than I ever would have, otherwise. I had to become more of whatever a man can be … to be what my son needs his father to be. I accepted Life’s challenge to develop Character and Strength that I would never have known without the demands and needs of my son’s circumstances. Matthew has only sensed and known the reality that I am indebted to him for my life’s flourishing. And he has a comfortable and calm assurance that I appreciate him … far beyond his cognitive abilities to reason out those truths.

These are my own perceptions of the best ways that I can be of help to my son … and simultaneously, my Self. Best summed up in ... give. (Which, I suppose, is the best way to benefit any relationship.)

Can you give any advice to the parent who has been seemingly pushed away after offering help to their adult child?

This question stings.

Three years ago, Matthew phoned me and asked me to cease phoning him, and/or seeing him. “When you call or we are together, it upsets Mom. And that makes me nervous. And I can’t deal with it.” he said. Understanding his Mom’s temperament and personality (which I have [Thank Goodness] taken a good deal of time and invested a considerable amount of effort in studying), I understood what he was saying. So, I agreed. And said, “Goodbye.”

Because I have an absolute certainty that Matt’s ability to make that phone call to me was born of all that we accomplished over the thirty two years prior to the call … and I know the stresses and tensions that he was referencing (after twenty years of marriage to his Mom) … and my certainty that I can look Life full in ’the face’ and give an honest account of my Self, and my having given absolutely all of all that I had of Me, to him … I have accepted, and respect, his choice.

For me to demand some form or sort of “Parental Rights” in maintaining contact with Matt, would be an exercise in selfishness. It would be at the expense of his comfort and tranquility. And it would serve no purpose other than negative ones, including putting him in the center of a tug-of-war that would render no possible benefit of value. So, I have had no contact with the Son who I spent every week-day, of every year, after he ’graduated’ from school (9 years) … for nearly three years now. Hence the “sting.”

In your experience of parenting your own child who has a physical disability, what was the hardest aspect for you?

The loneliness.

What gave you the greatest joy in parenting your son?

The day that he looked at me and said “My brain doesn’t cooperate sometimes.” It was a bitter-sweet moment in which he attained the level of acknowledging his challenges. This represented a heartbreak in our joining of awareness … and the joy of his readiness to deal with some of his own frustrations.

Last thoughts?

Life is … ultimately and beautifully .. GOOD!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Kinship in Spirit

As I enjoyed the televised travel show, I was impressed with the ceaseless supplications, transmitted by these Prayer Flags, on the pathway up to the Bhutan's Taktshang ("tiger's nest") Monastery.

I was glad for a better understanding of the concept of ongoing Prayers being carried heavenward on the bits of constantly-disintegrating fabrics. In this, I was reminded of the Scriptures’ “Pray without ceasing” admonition." In these Prayer Flags, I saw a physical manifestation of that directive. I appreciated further personal enlightenment in hearing the Commentator’s explanation of the Belief that each Individual achieves “higher Karma” through their commitment to climbing upward, in their arduous ascension toward the ‘Holy Site’ of this Monastery. And here I found a like Truth in “Take up your burden and follow …” as presented in so many various forms of exhortation, toward disciplined Discipleship, in scripture. I saw Unity in intent, purpose, and expression here.

My ‘virtual’ pilgrimage served (through the presentation by “Travels to the Edge”), to weave, yet more tightly, threads of Truth, into the Fabric of spiritual unity between Faiths. Truth, offered through the perspectives of authors of the Bible … in complete harmony with the very same Truth demonstrated in the utilization of these Prayer Flags placed by faithful followers of the Buddhist Faith. Both aware of some whispered inner Voice that communicates to them the Message that says, “It is good to always maintain a reverential and prayerful attitude toward that Power that created Us ... All." And Each responding, in methods and forms, in keeping with their particular worlds.
How beautiful is this demonstration of our kinship in spiritual awareness! And how blessed we are when we can accept personal growth and validation of our cultural and societal interpretations, and expressions of our individual spiritual sense … through one another’s shared methodologies. Prayers … whether expressed in whispered words, or bits of flags that send their messages heavenward … are one and the same. Our Souls’ expression of all that we know the need to render. Ever more clearly … we are Kin with each other. Or so it seems to my Understanding.

IMAGE: National Geographic Society

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Minister of Manure

It was in those sacred hours of early-morning quietness on a day that found me in the throws of a frustrated and discouraged struggle with my spirit. (I find these times that are without interruption or distraction an ideal time for dialogue with my Maker.) On this particular occasion, I was engaged in some strong bemoaning regarding my lifetime of losses, failures, frustrations and disappointments.

“Dear Father, I know that all that has occurred in my life has a purpose. I, as You see clearly in my heart of hearts, have complete confidence in Your control and purpose for my life. But, Father, with all due respect, I would surely appreciate some illumination on the picture of my life. It seems to me that everything in my life, every relationship, every career choice, every circumstance that this world uses to measure ‘success’ has turned to ‘dung’.” (I must note that I did not actually use the word ‘dung’ in that discussion, but I can be far more candid in my conversations with the Creator than would be proper in this text.) “So please give me some understanding of the relevance of this life of wasted effort that I have invested so much in.” Then came, by way of that distinctly clear inner Voice, His response.

This place, known to you as your personal world, is My Garden. I manage the preparations, the plantings, the nurturing, the pruning, and the harvest. You are quite right, all of your past could well be summarized, by the unknowing, as an accumulation of ‘dung’ (He used my actual descriptive term.) But, John-Michael, if you will agree to place that pile of waste at my disposal, I will direct you to those of my special ‘plants’ in My garden that are readied by circumstance (at My direction) for nourishment. Your ‘dung’ can become very valuable ‘manure’ for beneficial use or, at your option, can remain a smelly pile of unpleasant waste. What you must be willing to accept is the reality that it may not be your role in my garden to be the prize blossom or the award winning produce. What is required of you is your willingness to be the nurturing and sustaining dispenser of the manure of your experience and insight for the production of successes in others.”

“Oh, so I am being called to the ‘Ministry of Manure’” I laughingly responded. “Quite right” He affirmed, and we laughed together. (It is a good thing to laugh with the Almighty.) And so it has been for a decade or better now. I am most content to be His designated
Minister of Manure in the small patch of Life’s garden in which I live.

IMAGE: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Friday, October 08, 2010

Flexible Containers

With our environment of language, and practice, as the "container" and the truths that Life brings to to us as '‘substance'’ for our "containing"... might it not behoove us to be reminded that the container is not the measure of the quality of the substance contained, and should be readily reconsidered, when the demands of the substance, outweigh the capacity of the vessel.

It seems appropriate then, with the understanding that the confines of religious practice, nomenclature, ritual, and dogma are but Man's feeble attempts to encapsulate and express spiritual truths that transcend the bounds of earthly abilities ... it might be a good idea (as spiritual insight and awareness grow and develop) to adjust, modify, reconstruct, refresh, revise, and/or discard those practices, rituals, nomenclature, and/or dogma (
containers) that no longer accommodate our evolving Awareness (substance)?

Ah, the joy of freedom in expressing new truths and understandings in an environment of healthy, positive, and dynamic enthusiasm!

(Originally penned: 11 August 1998)

IMAGE: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Painful Presumptions

As with the previous post, I have offered this one before ... a bit over a couple of years ago being the most recent. But it is something that resonates within me, and I want to offer it to that those who are newer Readers. Again, with apologies to my lovely Friends who have seen it before ... here 'tis ...

Pre-sume /verb/ suppose that something is the case on the basis of probability
[The New Oxford American Dictionary]

He went forward on the presumption that He had the necessary understanding of the situation to equip himself for success. The elderly Gentleman (assumed to be the next-door neighbor) told him that after the locked door was overcome with the assistance of the ax (offered by the Gentleman for that task) He would encounter some resistance due to the rug that the occupant of the house customarily kept rolled up against the door as a deterrent to cold draught. And, indeed, after smashing the lock mechanism with said ax, He did, in fact, realize a firm, but yielding, resistance quite natural to a heavy rug. Hence, after persuading the rug to allow the opening of the door for a distance barely sufficient for his body to crawl through, he flattened himself to the floor and projected himself into the smoke-filled room and made his first attempt to evaluate the situation.

Having never before confronted a burning building, He was encouraged by the realization that the long ago learned (from sources not remembered) theory that there would be a space at floor level where the smoke would be eight or ten inches above the floor itself. And surely this was the reality that He encountered, as into that narrow space He crawled, and inched toward the room where He could clearly see the flames hungrily consuming every element and surface. This was the room that the neighbor had told him that the three children were normally in. Three small children who had been left by their mother who had gone for a quick visit to the store that was but around the corner. Three small children whose voices had been heard screaming for help just a short while before He had appeared upon the scene.

And now He was trying, through the acrid, oxygen-starved haze of that narrow corridor at floor level, to locate the children. Back out of the room He came to recharge his lungs with air. Choking, spitting, and coughing out disgusting remnants of that life-denying gas, He steeled himself for another entry. Again, He pushed past the rug-impaired opening and extended himself still further into the kitchen and toward what seemed to be the now fully consumed dining area of this small tinderbox of a dwelling. No luck … nothing … not a single child in sight and the heated chemical residue of all that the flames were converting into toxic gases scalded his eyes and his throat.

Back out, across the tiny deck that served as the back porch and into the small yard that was itself becoming engulfed in the stench of the fog from the fire. This time the neighbor was there with water (from some source that was not noticed) and offered to cool and wash his face. The water was gratefully accepted and used to wet his handkerchief, which He placed over his now-parched mouth and nose for his last foray into the hellhole of that inferno. He could only think of three small children who had not been heard from nor seen for what was beginning to seem like forever. Cursing the weight of that damned rug for its bulky resistance, He pushed yet again into now known territory and this time beyond until his lungs demanded retreat. Failure! With the mucous of a pulmonary system ridding itself of intruding threats pouring from his mouth, his nose, and even his eyes, He heard the arrival of the fire fighters.

To the first Firefighter to come into the back yard (where He and the, now still and silent, ancient neighbor stood) He yelled the information that He presumed to be a statement of all pertinent facts. The Firefighter gave him a look that was a puzzlement to him though it lasted but a fraction of a second. Then, to his astonishment, this huge (or so he seemed, clothed, as he was, in all of his fire-fighting equipment) fellow simply took a seat on that self-same tiny porch. The Man just sat there … “How absurd” He thought. He had just moments before used that surface as a launch area for entry into the chamber of unspeakable horror. “How can he be simply taking a seat and not doing anything?” He thought and wanted to scream.

Then … calmly … with measured deliberation … that Fireman leaned back, reached behind himself, around the still-open door, and, obviously (from the grimace of effort registered on his face) grasped that rug that had thrice been such an impediment to the would-be Rescuer, and pulled forth ... not a rug … oh no … a small boy! Cradling the inert form in his arms and hurrying toward the waiting medical equipment at the front of the blazing structure, the professional Angel of Mercy looked at the pair of dumbstruck observers and said “The children always go to the nearest door … and that’s where we usually find them.”

He had gone past that child three times. He had presumed the bulky weight to be what He had been told to expect there. He had presumed that He had all of the information necessary to do his best for the best outcome. He was ignorant of unknown probabilities. It is now thirty-seven years later and He still feels … really senses an actual awareness of the soft, ungiving weight of that little boy’s body as He pushed against it. He had cursed it for its impediment to his efforts to reach the children. Every time He now hears or sees a fire truck on its way to affect a rescue He instantly relives that moment. That boy would be somewhere around forty five years old now … but he is not. He never had a chance to be. And I … that’s right, I … will never stop regretting the presumptions that I made that day.

If there were no other reason for my efforts to share my perspectives … my ‘lessons learned’ … my little insights into this business of life ... the provision of an expanded set of possibilities for your consideration would be reason enough. I will do everything that I can to equip you with a wider understanding; a broader scope of outlook; an awareness of a more useful set of possibilities for your use in your entering into whatever areas of unknowns that present themselves to you. I can never accept the possibility that my reticence could leave you vulnerable to the pain, the unhappiness, the disappointment of missing the potential blessing of any experience … because your presumptions were left minus an expanded scope of possibilities that I could have offered you.

When I pledge myself to you as “Your Friend and Servant” (as I so frequently do) there is always, in my Soul, an awareness of the weight of some ‘rug’ against which you may be pushing in your life. And I must help you see the life potentials that could be there if only you know where to reach … what to grasp … perhaps, how to react.

To that end, I remain, as always, Your faithful Friend and willing Servant,

(originally penned 29July2005)

(IMAGEs: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Rum-Raisin Ice Cream

It was in May of 2008 when I last shared, this bit of perspective, with those who honor me with their attention. Since then, I am blessed with new Friends, and Readers, who have not read it. So, with apologies to those for whom this is a 'repeat,' Here is something that I still have strong feelings about.

I do not like Rum-Raisin Ice-cream.

There, I’ve said it.

There is nothing more to say on the matter (yet you and I know that there will, most assuredly, be more said.)

You see, Dear Friend, I do not begrudge anyone else their preference for Rum-Raisin Ice-cream. I hold no grudge against that flavor. There resides no bitterness in my soul toward the combination of elements that constitute that particular blend. I would never counsel anyone to disallow themselves the opportunity to sample that product nor would I undertake to undermine that dessert’s place in the universe of food products.

It is, quite simply, a fact that my own, personal, individual, particularly unique taste buds do not enjoy Rum-Raisin Ice-cream. And that is perfectly all right for there are myriad other choices offering themselves for my delight.

Yet... when my Friend of many years informed me, some time ago, that she is hesitant to allow herself to openly and publicly be my friend because of her children’s (all grown adults) reservations about me, I was disappointed. My big old twenty stone (sounds so much better than the equivalent in pounds) of feelings got themselves hurt. Why? Because ... (here is where I identify with Rum-Raisin Ice Cream) ... I am who I am. She doesn’t understand why I can’t mitigate myself to accommodate the sensitivities of her children. “Aren’t you denying them the opportunity to know you by insisting on Being you?” she asked. “Why can’t you soften up your presentation of yourself?” “They think that you are being ‘phony’ because you come on with such gusto.”

But who will they know if I present another image to them? Will the presentation of a ‘moderated’ me be an honest portrayal? Yet my friend persisted in the idea that we must ‘respect’ other people’s ‘space’ by adopting behavior that accommodates their sensitivities.

I lived the first four decades of my life in the daily practice of ‘accommodation.’ I was never relaxed. Every encounter was a ‘performance’ for the benefit and to gain the acceptance of, or create comfort for, my ‘Audience.’ This was as true with an Audience of one, as it was with a large gathering in some public meeting place. Consequently, no one (including myself) knew Me. I had no intimate relationships. There existed no place where I could go to, firstly, know who I was for my own knowledge and, secondly, to be that Person in comfort. The accepted social norm was that this was (and is) proper. I now reject that norm (for myself.) I also embrace the consequences resulting from that rejection.

One of those consequences is the reality that I will be (and am) sometimes rejected as a Person. That too is absolutely OK. For my Dear Reader, Rum-Raisin Ice-cream is not for everyone. But it is there for the individuals who have a preference for it and find enjoyment in indulging in its particular delights. And the Friendships that I now enjoy, I enjoy without reservation, in all of the intimate, passionate, and exuberant freedom, that is to be found, in Being the genuine ME.

(Don't you just love all of Life's available Flavours!?)

(NOTE: If You have been reading my stuff since February of last year, first,thank you for your kindness! Secondly, Yes! you have, indeed seen this piece before (March 2007.) But I like it! And I like to "run it up the flag pole" around this time each year (ice cream season is upon us!) So, if nothing else, maybe it will inspire a visit to your favorite ice cream parlor. [smile])

IMAGE Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

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Unless expressly stated, all original material, of whatever nature, created by J. Michael Brown (John-Michael) and included in this weblog and any related pages, including the weblog's archives is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.