Five Effects of Aging I’d Rather Not Acknowledge May 23, 2014
Okay. Time for a confession. Until recently I’ve been quite mature about aging. I’ve believed platitudes like, Why fight the inevitable? It’s just a number. Accept it with grace. It’s a phase everyone goes through…if they’re lucky enough to live that long. Stay active. You can still be a useful member of society. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…. Then, about halfway into my 70th year, the s**t hit the fan.
It began with some pain in a toe after a few weeks of vigorous walking on brick roads in wornout tennis shoes. The coup de gras was delivered on Thanksgiving Day when I squatted for about three minutes in front of a low kitchen cabinet looking for just the right serving dish. The next morning my toe was so painful I couldn’t walk without limping. Determined to tough it out, I didn’t consult a podiatrist until January. The black boot I had to wear until my stress fracture healed wasn’t pretty, but at least it brought me a lot of sympathy! Squatting, for heaven’s sake? Who knew squatting could be a health risk?
Then one day in February I woke up with the lids of my right eye stuck together. When I got them open I was appalled at the intense shade of pink staring at me from the mirror. Could I get an eye doctor to see me? Of course not! I’d just have to tough it out until next Monday. Fortunately, I had an appointment with my podiatrist that afternoon. After his eyes widened at the sight of mine, he asked his assistant to make me an appointment with the eye doctor down the hall. The good news is that I saw him 30 minutes later. The bad news is that the next day both eyes were stuck shut and as red as alligator eyes in the glow of a flashlight at night. Eat your heart out, Bob Costas! Speaking of… that was a weird coincidence, especially since I had made such a big deal about his case of pink eye at the Winter Olympics only a few days earlier. “Look at that, Fred! He’s got something wrong with his eye. Gross! What is that?”
The third indignity, this one even grosser than pink eye, cropped up soon afterwards. One day I developed an annoying itch in the center of my upper chest. Several mornings later I awoke scratching a wart! A wart? Seriously? I’d always secretly suspected that only people with character flaws got warts and now I was one of them! How could that be? Luckily, specially treated Band-Aids make them go away, but I have to tell you, hiding mine was a wardrobe challenge for the next three weeks!
So now I was hobbling around with a bum toe, alligator eyes, an unsightly growth and high-necked blouses! Next came a sinus infection. What was happening here? After a few weeks of moping around the house feeling as sorry for myself as a child, I finally had to admit the universe was sending me a humbling message: “Wake up, Princess. You’re not in Kansas any more! Aging is no tea party and you might as well get used to it!”
I’m trying. So here, thoroughly chastened by this latest wake-up call and determined to handle it like a grownup so I can get on with my life, I present my top Five Effects of Aging I’d Rather Not Acknowledge.
1. To my horror, health complaints are getting to be a common conversation topic.
2. When I don’t feel well I get cranky, petulant and depressed.
3. Your reflexes actually do get slower as you age, which explains why your driving does too. I’m thinking that if you see me behind the wheel 20 years from now (I’m determined to be optimistic about this) you better hope I’m headed the other way.
4. I don’t laugh at people who watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune in bed any more.
5. I’ve been sitting at my desk writing all day every day for so many years that sometimes just walking requires aspirin. I hope I haven’t done myself some permanent damage. At any rate, now I get the Tim Conway shuffle. (Check out the link for some good laughs.)
I still intend to live this phase of my life with grace, but after this winter I’m aspiring to more kindness and humor too.
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks .
The Soul’s Twins April 3, 2014
Have you ever felt like more than one person? I’m not talking about a psychotic split, but about how we can feel and behave differently in different situations or seasons. How sometimes we want to be with people and sometimes need to be alone. How we can be passionate about something today and indifferent tomorrow. How we occasionally feel separated from our true selves. If you’ve ever wondered about things like this, you, too, have pondered Life’s Big Question: “Who the heck am I anyway?”
I used to ask myself this during long summers at our vacation home in the Smoky Mountains. There I can spend hours on the porch contemplating hummingbird hostilities, listening to birds define their territories, scanning the sky for soaring hawks and gray clouds, conversing with the gurgling creek, and absorbing the rhythms of the day. I care for animals, feed fish, hike, garden. If we’re having a drought I spend hours driving around the property in my green John Deere Gator with the big water tank labeled WEEKEND WARRIOR lovingly spraying water on every growing thing in sight. I thrive on being alone. I love going nowhere, listening, feeling, sweating, getting dirty. I can’t get enough of the solitude or outdoors.
Do I want to be outdoors in Florida? Are you kidding me? It’s HOT out there! And why would I want to water plants? If they don’t get enough moisture from the dripping humidity and afternoon thunderstorms they’re on their own! In Florida I rarely think about fish or watch clouds or tend to plants. I don’t care if it rains. I want to be with my family, socialize with friends, write.
So who am I? In Florida I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, writer, supporter of the arts, social person. In North Carolina I’m a loner, gardener, observer of nature, enjoyer of solitude. In Florida I side with Apollo, god of the sun, civilization, the cerebral life and culture; in North Carolina I honor Artemis, goddess of the moon, wilderness, the instinctual life and nature.
Did you know these two Greek deities were twins? Which is the real me? The answer, of course, is both. Carl Jung said, “Within each one of us there is another whom we do not know. S/He speaks to us in dreams…” This Another is our unconscious, an inner soup of unknown characters, complexes, untapped interests and disowned emotions. At an early age our ego adapted to the life into which we were born by incorporating the tastiest of these tidbits into our conscious personality and neglecting the rest. We may not normally be aware of the rejected ones, but they are still part of us. Since most are not crucial to our soul’s purpose they don’t mind being ignored. But there are always a critical few we have wrongly disowned. Until we befriend them they show up in our dreams and erupt into waking life in problematic ways.
Splitting my time between two homes in separate and very different settings has actually helped me heal what was once a split between my soul’s twins. For many years my ego favored Apollo’s high ideals, intellectual pursuits and cultured sensibilities, but no more. Now Artemis leads me through the wild, dark unconscious and Apollo helps me write about what she shows me. Because I love them both as much as I love my twin grandsons, there’s no sibling rivalry, no need for them to vie for my ego’s attention. Life is so much richer and more peaceful this way.
Connor and Jake, this one’s for you. Thank you for enriching my life.
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks
The Feminine Symbolism of Vessels February 12, 2014
Our relationships with nature and matter are closely connected to our relationships with our bodies. In certain orthodox religious circles, love for God as remote masculine spirit has gone hand in hand with physical self-loathing. For example, Moses Maimonides, the greatest Jewish medieval philosopher, was merely stating a commonly held belief when he said that “all philosophers are agreed that the inferior world, of earthly corruption and degeneration, is ruled by the natural virtues and influences of the more refined celestial spheres.” Likewise, St. Augustine considered his body to be the major source of his spiritual problems and sufferings.
This attitude is an obstacle to the fullest development of our spirituality. In Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore writes:
“Spiritual life does not truly advance by being separated either from the soul or from its intimacy with life. God, as well as man, is fulfilled when God humbles himself to take on human flesh. The theological doctrine of incarnation suggests that God validates human imperfection as having mysterious…value. Our depressions, jealousies, narcissism, and failures are not at odds with the spiritual life. Indeed, they are essential to it….The ultimate marriage of spirit and soul, animus and anima, is the wedding of heaven and earth…”
Vessels are classic symbols of feminine matter. Of the many vessels symbolizing feminine containment, one that is particularly dear to Christians is the chalice or grail, the highest level of spiritual development and heavenly and earthly happiness. The female body is a vessel which receives sperm and produces eggs. A womb is a vessel within a vessel, the cradle of life that receives, holds, nurtures, and protects a growing embryo. A breast is a vessel which creates and dispenses milk. A skull is a vessel containing the brain, itself a vessel teeming with creative potential. In Christianity, Mary is a vessel for new spiritual life.
Another vessel-like symbol is the tower. A tower’s elevated position links it to heaven; its impenetrability to virginity; its vertical aspect to the human figure; its roundness to the womb; its containment to creative new life. Hence, towers that are closed and windowless were once emblematic of the Virgin Mary. In early Christian times a tower was often used to suggest the sacred walled city, another feminine symbol. The Herder Symbol Dictionary notes that a tower with a light is a lighthouse, which has long been a symbol “of the eternal goal toward which the ship of life [is] steered across the waves of this existence.” Its light suggests Sophia, the divine spark of life within us.
For Jung, too, the tower was a feminine symbol with sacred meaning. In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he describes the stone tower he built at Bollingen, a small town on the upper shores of Lake Zurich, and writes that it “represented for me the maternal hearth.” He wrote,
“From the beginning I felt the Tower as in some way a place of maturation — a maternal womb or a maternal figure in which I could become what I was, what I am and will be. It gave me a feeling as if I were being reborn in stone.”
Vessels accept, contain, protect and preserve the birth/death/rebirth cycle of life at both the physical and metaphysical levels. Our planet Earth is a living vessel whose life cycles mirror the soul-making processes of psychological and spiritual transformation. The matter (L. mater) of which our bodies are composed is our mother, teacher, partner and guide on the spiritual journey. For that, it deserves our everlasting gratitude. How do you honor and thank your mother/body for nurturing the life of your soul?
Photo Credit: “Chalice” by Barbara Sorensen
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,and Diesel Ebooks
The Thanksgiving Gift of Two-Way Partnership November 26, 2013
My Thanksgiving gift for you is a video about a very special young woman who can neither hear nor speak yet has an extraordinary gift of communication. Stacy Westfall is a bona fide horse whisperer who communicates with her body, heart and soul. Before you see her in action I want to tell you something about human-horse relationships.
Most people think working with horses is a one-way form of communication: the human does the training and the horse does the listening and learning so it can serve the human’s needs. Most riders and trainers love horses very much and train them with kindness and patience; others believe they need to “break” horses with bullying and brute force. Either type can achieve great success…from the perspective of the human ego.
But the truly inspiring horse whisperers like Stacy step out of their egos and into the horse’s perspective because they want partnerships that are as satisfying to the horse as the human. They don’t have special powers the rest of us lack. Their secret is quite simple. They let themselves be trained by horses. They appreciate and respect the otherness of horses—their desire to please us, their willingness to serve us—so they take the time to learn and use horse language. Horses are exactly the same in reverse. They are “human whisperers” who appreciate and respect our otherness, are acutely sensitive to our emotional nuances, try to learn our language, and let themselves be trained by us because they want satisfying relationships too.
The horse whisperer/human whisperer relationship is the best example of two-way partnership I know. You’ll see it going on between the horse and human in this video. Look for Stacy’s signals: hand pats and rubs, heel nudges, turning her head in the direction she wants her horse to take, shifting her body weight. Then watch for Baby Doll’s signals to her. Throughout the performance his mouth is licking and chewing, licking and chewing. Know what this means in horse language? He’s telling her he’s thoroughly bonded with her and is doing his absolute best to please her.
Watch his ears. When he’s alert and focused he points them forward. This tells Stacy he’s paying attention and ready to go. When she gives a signal he swivels one ear back toward her. He’s listening. When she asks him to do something that requires extra concentration and exertion, like spinning in circles or running backwards, he flattens them on his neck, indicating his agitation and determination.
Watch his tail. When he’s relaxed his tail is relaxed. When he’s asked to move sideways or kneel, his tail switches back and forth with increased intensity. And when he’s getting excited and probably a bit annoyed about the truly difficult things, he whips it up and down with some attitude. But he does what Stacy asks him to, then he licks and chews and pops his ears back to alert and all is well again. He does this for the same reason you push through your annoyance to do the tough exercises your trainer or aerobics instructor asks of you. Because this partnership is important to you, you’re grateful for it, you want to do your best, and it feels good when you do.
The best way I know to show gratitude to our loved ones this Thanksgiving is to be a human whisperer: To pay attention what they’re asking of us, learn the nuances of their communication styles, push through our annoyance, and try our best to be a good partner. May you allow yourself to be trained by your loved ones this Thanksgiving. Enjoy the video.
Sorting out Psyche, Self, and Soul September 2, 2013
As many of you know, I’ve been taking a sabbatical from regular blog writing after over three years of composing twice-weekly posts. But I’ve been staying in touch on Twitter and Facebook through reposts of some of my favorites from the past. As I write this it’s Labor Day and we’ve just returned to Florida from our summer home in the North Carolina mountains.
Just before I left I received this comment after one of my reposts. Busy with packing, traveling and reuniting with our family, I’ve been unable to respond until now, but I’ve been thinking about it all weekend. Having just written my response, it occurred to me that our conversation would be great material for a new blog post.
Here it is:
Hi Jeanie, In doing an online search for the meaning of psyche in relation to soul and Self, I googled your blog and saw that you posted recently…nice to have you back! If you have a moment, can you clarify for me or refer me to a specific post? As well, I’ve come across two books I really like: “Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr and “The Light Inside the Dark” by John Tarrant…have you read them?
This is a tough one that has stumped the brightest minds throughout the ages. I don’t know the answer, but I can tell you what I think I think at this moment!
Self: For me, Self is the central archetype of the human “mind” (another difficult term to describe). It encompasses everything about my personhood and distills it into my core desire to evolve, to transcend my human limitations and connect with the Grand Mystery. Jung called this compelling and wonder-filling form of energy our God-image. IT’s what tells us there is something “more” beyond what our puny egos can possibly know, and IT causes us to want to unite with IT.
Soul: Right now I see Soul as my unique essence, one small, but valuable and ongoing part of the Grand Mystery. My body is a physical manifestation of this very real, but invisible entity we call the soul. My soul has a unique contribution to make to physical life, and it will continue to exist, as does every form of energy, after it leaves my physical body.
Psyche: Psyche has long been considered another name for Soul. In Greek myth, the soul’s journey through life was personified in the human woman Psyche who, through her love for the God Eros (Love), was transformed into a Goddess. If I had to make a distinction between Psyche and Soul, it would be that Psyche is the aspects of the Soul that are accessible to humans through our study of psychology and the human personality.
These are fine distinctions that are by no means utterly clear. At least not to me. There are times when I use all three terms interchangeably, depending on the particular manifestation I’m talking about: archetypal reality (Self), physical/spiritual essence (Soul), or personality (Psyche). Three in one. Hmmmm….. Sounds familiar.
Thank you for this wonderful question. I hope I’ve answered it adequately for you. Thanks also for the book recommendations. I haven’t read either one, but will check them out.