It’s a Dog’s Life, or is it a Banker’s Life? Neither, It’s My Life

I’ve often thought it’s a dog’s life, and used to think it was a banker’s life, too.  Since I don’t have a photo of either a dog or a banker, but I do have this one I took of a gull, it will have to do.  Today I passed a bank I used to bank with, whose culture I despise.   Take as much as you can, make the client feel like a jerk.  Bully Power.  They’re an old boys’ club institution and happily fork out for men who were at the right schools.

I didn’t quite fit in.  Anyway, I did it without them, but all the money I earned went through them, so they had records of my achievements.  But staff were always horrid to me, unfriendly, unhelpful.   Well, after three years of being pretty successful, I bought land for the first time in my life.  It was very exciting.  My overheads skyrocketed, but I believed I could afford it.  It wasn’t huge money in the grander scheme of things but it was for me.

Then my business hit the skids.  Bad timing.  The bank begrudgingly allowed me a bit of credit.  My bad, I used it.  I didn’t have a clue my business was dying a quick death.   By the time I did, my monthly mortgage and overdraft payments were terrifying.  I had no money coming in.  I thought of a new business, to open an art gallery.

My plan was solid, I didn’t need operating capital, I found a gorgeous venue where the management promised me 6 months rent free.   All I wanted the bank to do was to give me a moratorium so that I could get my business going, and pay them back in full.  I’d already proved to them I could build something from nothing.

They disdainfully showed me the middle finger.  I begged them to give me a chance.  They  handed me over to their legal buggers.  From then on it was breakfast lunch and dinner with the sharks.  I got harassed mercilessly and didn’t have the skills or inner strength to deal with it.  I was treated like a criminal.

It wasn’t much fun.  I held it together for almost a year, despite that the venue management reneged on their rent deal and all sorts of other grim and ghastly things happened.   But in the end I folded, and eventually lost everything, and they lost their money.

Serve them bloody right.  Of course I don’t bank with them any more.  I didn’t used to be able to even think about this without being consumed with rage and hurt and a sense of utter, debilitating powerlessness.  But as I walked past them today I realized – I’m bloody over it!   It’s taken me eight years to recover and rebuild myself on the inside but holy guacamole* I’ve done it and deep within me I feel a security I’ve never known throughout my whole life.

Best of all, I haven’t just recovered from that crisis, I’ve recovered what I lost as a child, and that feels priceless to me.  I don’t regret any of it, because of what I’ve gained.  It’s true, your worst enemies sometimes end up being your biggest gift.   It doesn’t mean you ever have to like them, though.   Well, I don’t and I’ll never deal with them again.

But I don’t desire or need to punish anybody any more.  I don’t want revenge or justice.  Because I’ve got my life back, bigger and better than before.  It’s a nice feeling.

* holy guacamole – I have to acknowledge this isn’t mine.  I first heard it from Gregory Lewis.  Find him on FaceBook or Search.com

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Chocolate is more popular than World Peace, but Horses are more Satisfying

According to Google, only 110,000 people search every month using the words World Peace.  Isn’t that sad.  I guess none of them are arms manufacturers.  1,220,000 are interested in slavery.  I wonder how many of those are actually looking for potential slaves.  Scary thought.  Depression – 6 million.  Crisis – 5 million.  That’s understandable.

But top of the pops is chocolate, with 20 million, and coffee a close second with 13 million.  I would have thought that if you were obsessed with either coffee or chocolate you’d need to drink it, eat it, experience the pleasure of it.  What’s the point of reading about it and looking at pictures?  Choco-voyeurism.  Choco-sadism.

Well, somewhere in between lies a fascination with horses.  They get the same number of hits as depression.  6 million.  I can understand that.  I started horse riding lessons a week ago, and had my second lesson yesterday with a horse named Moolan.   It’s the most amazing experience so far.  I think words are going to fail me.

I’ve looked at horses all my life with awe and a pretty passionate desire to be able to ride them.  It seems so strange that it’s taken me all these years to start.  One good thing about starting anything after postponing all your life is the immense relief of finally saying yes to yourself.   I wondered if I’d find that I’d been in love with the idea of riding but wouldn’t like the reality of it and having to go through the learning process, but that didn’t happen.

My thigh muscles are weak as dishwater.  I don’t know much about how to relax and focus on everything you have to focus on all at once, let alone communicate with a horse, but I still feel as if I belong there when I’m in the saddle.  The whole world and its complexities, the challenges of trying to live my life in a way that brings me fulfillment and doesn’t land me on poverty street; how quickly time is passing – it all falls away.

Just me and Moolan, learning to be aware of what I’m communicating to him all the time, all the mixed messages I’m giving him, learning how to be clear about the ones I want to give, and what I have to do with my whole body to give them.

It’s a strange thing, the relationship between horse and rider.  I’ve often heard people say you’re the boss and you have to know and show it.  I didn’t like that, it sounded like bully power.  But actually I don’t think it is.  It seems to be more about being sure of what you want and telling your horse in a clear, unapologetic way.  It’s also about respecting the horse and its incredible power, intelligence and sensitivity to your every movement.

One thing’s for sure.  I can’t rescue Moolan and apologize for giving him an instruction, he just ignores me!   I have to deal with my own emotions – I certainly can’t take my anger out on him,   I’d be likely to get a kick in the face and be thrown, and it would serve me right.  I definitely can’t be a victim – I’m scared to ask for what I want.   He won’t feel sorry for me.

But he is a patient horse, and he’s gentle and understanding that I’m a beginner.  I feel pretty moved by that.  And when I got my messages clear we had a couple of moments of being in a kind of rudimentary harmony.  I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life.  I had a sense of what it is to be independent and accountable for myself and connected with another being.

It beats chocolate, I tell you.

Crisis is Awful and Uncomfortable but not Necessarily Bad

I’ve been thinking a lot about crisis lately, both personal and societal.  Obviously it seems like a bad thing, because it’s so traumatic.  But maybe what’s really happening is that it shatters the myth that everything’s okay right deep within and that the foundation our world is built on is healthy and solid. 

A world that was built on beliefs about Right and Wrong, about what we have to do to be accepted, and about our non-deservability.  It wasn’t built on ultimate truth about our real value or the real values that sustain healthy human interaction.

The thing is, the beliefs were our parents’ and society’s beliefs, they weren’t ours, we weren’t born with them.  We just soaked them up unknowingly.  That’s what children do.  We learned to compromise ourselves, over-adapt, suppress emotions and needs, be unselfish, be practical, be in control, be spiritual, be nobody.   All for the greater good of humanity which never transpires, or to get to heaven which never happens.  As adults we acted on those beliefs, and created our world around us.

It stands to reason that any world constructed on that basis is going to be limiting.  You think?  It doesn’t let you to breathe, let alone listen to your heart and soul’s desires and follow your dreams.  It doesn’t even let you interact honestly with other people.  It forces you to deny your inner truth, on a day to day basis, moment to moment.

So here I am with my sacred part shut in a dark room somewhere in the recesses of a world I’ve constructed that complies with other people’s rules.  I’m stuck in a tiny little box.  I make the box very pretty and comfortable, and convince myself that staying in my box makes me a good person and that the comfort is happiness.

But all the while I’m forcing myself to do things I really don’t want to do.   I rationalize that I must do them because it makes me responsible, keeps me safe, protects my family, ensures my future…  Then bam! CRASH!  Crisis from out of left field.  The world I’ve constructed falls apart.

When my seemingly safe world gets shattered, scary as it may be, I believe the potential for something much, much better is in the wings.  Something that gives me more freedom, more love, more mobility, more pleasure, more joy, more creative expression, makes life more meaningful, makes me thrilled to be alive.

So the crash, the crisis, is about breaking new ground, sorting through the rubble, working out what beliefs I want to keep and which ones I want to toss out, what really makes sense to me and brings real value and what doesn’t.   Building a new foundation based on rules that work for me, and on which I can construct a world that lets me live a bigger life, where I’m the boss of me, and where my interactions with other people are real.   Where I value myself as an individual as well as you, and I value our roles in community. 

There’s bound to come a time when I’ll need more.  The world I’m constructing now will make way for something better.  But for now, I’m in a better place than I was, and with that I can be happy.  I think this holds good for big crises and tiny little ones, personal and societal.  Something has to die to make way for something to be born.

I don’t think anything happens for nothing.  I don’t believe in chaos, or that we make irrevocable mistakes and are doomed to eternal damnation.  I think we’re all on a continuous learning curve, whether we realize it or not.  We’re learning about how to experience real value in life.  The value that’s everybody’s birthright.

My take on the Truth about Life and its Crises

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Thinking about crisis.   My take on it is that it shatters denial that everything’s okay right deep within and exposes the reality of everything that has created an impoverished self esteem.   Part of the denial is the material world we build around us, that tells us and everybody else we’re okay Jack.   That world was built on beliefs about Right and Wrong, and our deservability.   It wasn’t built on ultimate truth.

The thing is, they were our parents’ and society’s beliefs, not ours.   We just soaked them up unknowingly.   That’s what children do.    We learned to compromise ourselves, suppress emotions and needs, be unselfish, be practical, be in control, be spiritual, be nobody.   All for the greater good of humanity which never transpires, or to get to heaven which never happens.

It stands to reason that any world constructed on that basis is going to be limiting.   You think? It doesn’t allow you to breathe, let alone listen to your heart and soul’s desires and follow your dreams.   But this is the authentic you, the part that nobody can alter.   Not even you.   It’s that which is sacred and unique about everybody.   It has huge power.

So here I am with my sacred part shut in a dark room somewhere in the recesses of a world I’ve constructed that complies with other people’s rules.   I’m stuck in a tiny little box.   I force myself to do things I really don’t want to do.   I rationalize that I must do them because it makes me responsible, keeps me safe…   Then bam!   CRASH!  Crisis from out of left field. The world I’ve constructed falls apart.

When our little safe and stifling box gets shattered, terrifying as it may be, I believe there is the potential for something much, much better in the wings.   I don’t mean holy-spiritual.   I mean at every level of life – “this is more fun, it gives me more freedom, more love, more mobility, more pleasure, more joy, more creative expression, makes life more meaningful, makes me thrilled to be alive”.   And yes, I believe material reward is part of it.   I don’t buy this “got to be poor to be spiritual or enlightened” thing.   Can be if you want to, but that’s your choice.

So the crash is about breaking new ground.   Being a pioneer for your life, sorting through the rubble, working out what beliefs you want to keep and which ones you want to toss out.    Building a new foundation based on rules that work for you, and on which you can construct a bigger box that lets you live a bigger life, where you’re the boss.   Isn’t there a term for that?   Yess!   Stepping out of History.    Hah!

Pioneering is v. exciting and v. challenging.   Looks romantic from the outside.   It’s more like fighting bloody wars from the inside.   And they’re all inside your own head, which makes it even harder, because you have to deal with “am I just insane?” all the time as well.

Worth it, though.   My last thought on this: I don’t think anything happens for nothing, I don’t believe in chaos, and I think every crisis, no matter how small it might seem or how impossibly insurmountable, has the potential for a very brilliant outcome.   Just don’t give up.  That’s all, she wrote.

Bankruptcy, Poverty and Shame. Wanting Relief

I’m not enjoying myself today.  I’m hungry to have had a different history. Hungry for anything but the truth.  I don’t want to be where I am, don’t want to have found life so challenging, don’t want my bankruptcy to have happened, don’t want to have needed it to wake up to myself at a deeper level.  I don’t want to have taken so long to re-build myself and my life.

I just don’t.  It’s raining outside.  I’m raining inside.  Cup’s half empty.

I want solution quicker than I’m able to access it.  I don’t want a crappy rusty car that could break down at any time, and that has bald tires – I want one in good condition and is safe. I want a warm jersey and a pair of jeans, and a pair of track shoes. Mine are falling apart. I want to earn money with my writing. I want someone to reach out to me and say “hey, you could do this, this is how you go about it, I’ll show you”.

I want to not be ashamed of myself all the fucking time.

How am I going to make it out of this whole mess? I’m 54, and still wrestling, still trying to find a place of normalcy for myself, a place in the world that isn’t driven or defined by neuroses – mine or anybody else’s.  I’m still shuffling off, not this mortal coil, but the aspect of me that doesn’t belong to me.  At least I’m doing it.  I suppose.

I’ve always been dogged by fear that I was crazy.  I guess it’s understandable.   Thing is, I know the real me and also see the me that I was conditioned to be.  I can separate them out and distinguish between them.

I can also identify the dialogue in my head which has controlled me all my life, and separate it out into the different ego states of parent, adult and child.  I can see how we hold beliefs that we aren’t aware of, have emotions we don’t know about.  I know that unexpressed emotions create depression.  I can see the abandoned children in people. Does all this mean I’m just becoming conscious, or does it mean I’m crazy?

I so want to be done with all this.  I want to move on for real – at the deepest part of me, so I can be done with my history because I’ve brought my repressed emotions out and addressed my unmet needs, and my baggage is unpacked.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  I do want that right at the core of me, but today I can’t really care, I don’t want to be sensible.  I just want relief. 

The shadow of the past

I’ve never known that I had rights or could say no to abuse and bullying.  I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions and meet my needs – didn’t even know how to identify them.  Didn’t know how to use my brain.  Didn’t know I had creativity.  I was sure I wasn’t loveable.  My experience of  people was always traumatic because I was sure they despised me with good reason.  I survived by being a nonentity.   It was a nightmare, but it’s how I stayed alive, so there’s still sometimes something safe in it, something attractive.  I still have to wrestle with the darkest of my demons, the shadow of a past that beckons me become nobody again.

I understand now that I am entitled and I know how to establish boundaries and listen to my emotions, meet my needs.  But I’m not brilliant at it yet, and often the world still becomes a terrifying place as the shadow of my past hides the reality of my.  I can’t see the reality, I can only see the past, where there was no solution. Where I wasn’t loved or entitled or valued, where I was punished emotionally for being.  Where my self-esteem was like a piece of old, torn, moldy, smelly dishrag. Shameful.  Abhorrent.

6 years ago, bankruptcy made me supremely vulnerable.  Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.  I thought it was the end of my life. But getting to rock bottom isn’t a bad thing, it’s a challenging thing.  Uncomfortable isn’t bad, it’s the door opening to a new way of doing things.  New is painful at first.  Stepping out of history, leaving the past behind.  It doesn’t feel safe, it feels wrong, that’s what is so hard.

But it led me to see the authority I gave to money and the myths I’d learned about myself and life, about my self-esteem. I got a chance to start fixing things from the inside, rebuilding my foundation for living.

Although bankruptcy is about money, the crisis was provoked by my belief system and my fear that life would end if I couldn’t get material things.  Beyond that it was about my fear of becoming vulnerable and having to ask for help – which was about fear of being punished beyond my threshold of emotional pain, and re-experiencing the emotional punishment I was subjected to as a child.

The shadow of my past.  It’s still powerful, but not more powerful than my spirit and the part of me that is emerging from my history.  Still a bit tentative, a bit shaky, but with a resolve that’s indestructible.  The days of my past overpowering me completely are over.