Saturday, December 29, 2007

Follow the Signs

My friend Marie once told me, "If you're lost, stay on the big roads and follow the signs." She was speaking literally at the time because I was driving in an unfamiliar city, but I thought it was a very profound statement. [Note: I also recently found out it was our friend Carrie that actually first said it - we do tend to steal quotes from each other.]

Part of the magic I find in life is being open to signs from the Universe. I think some of them are to let me know I'm still on a good path, and some are to nudge me in one direction over another. I don't believe there are any "wrong" paths to take, but some are definitely easier or more pleasant than others, and I'd like to stick to those. Oracles like runes or medicine cards are great for poking around your subconscious, but receiving a little wink from the One is a thrill on the level of winning the spiritual lottery to me.

This three-part story is about the most obvious communication from the Greater Good that I've received, and since it happened around Christmas it's probably good timing to share it now.

Part I
When Katy was somewhere around 11 years old, she wanted to go Christmas shopping for me on her own so I didn't know what my gifts were. I wasn't comfortable letting her loose in the mall by herself yet, so I asked Mark to take her. I gave her $100 to spend, and told her to take a purse to put it in. Katy has never been a girly girl and wasn't in the habit of carrying a purse, but I was afraid she would lose the money if she put it in her pocket since that had happened several times in the past. I also wanted her to learn some responsibility by carrying it herself. She relented and put the money in the purse.

The first thing Mark and Katy did when they got to the mall was eat dinner at the food court. Once their hunger was satisfied they were ready to shop. Mark told me they got to the first store, Katy picked out something nice for me, but when they got to the register, she discovered she had left the purse on the chair in the food court.

They retraced their steps, but by the time they got back, the purse was gone. Katy was very upset. They asked some of the cafeteria workers and security if they had seen it, but no one had. One of the security guards suggested they report it missing at the mall office, and if it was found, management would call.

When they arrived at the office, someone had in fact turned in the purse, but the $100 was missing. Mark replaced the money out of his own pocket so Katy could do her shopping because he's a wonderful person that way, but she was very upset that another person would be so dishonest. I was disappointed she had been irresponsible, but tried not to make her feel worse than she already did. I told her the person must have needed that money much more than we did, and maybe that $100 allowed that person to have a much better Christmas than they would have otherwise. She wasn't convinced, but I could tell she was at least thinking about it.

Part II
A week or so later we were in Walmart, back when I still thought Walmart was morally and socially responsible. (Pssshhh. :rolls eyes:) Katy came to me with $40 cash in her hand and said she found it on the floor. There was no one around, so she wasn't sure to whom it belonged. I told her I would let her decide to either keep the money, or turn it into the front desk so if someone asked, it could be returned. I reminded her what happened with the $100 in her purse, and I pointed out $40 might be someone's grocery money for that week.

She reluctantly decided to turn it into the front desk. Once we were a decent distance away, Katy commented to me in a very cynical voice that the manager would probably keep it for herself anyway. I said even if that's true, that's the manager's karma to deal with. I told Katy she did the right thing, and when you do good things, good things come back to you. She agreed, but I'm not sure she really believed me.

Part III
A couple weeks after Christmas we were in the mall once again shopping for a birthday gift for Katy's friend. We purchased a gift card and some piece of clothing, and I gave the bag to Katy to carry. We went to the food court to eat dinner before we left. It was the very end of the evening when things were beginning to close, so as soon as we were done we headed to the parking lot.

When we got in the car, I asked Katy to take the gift card out of the bag so we didn't lose it, and once again, Katy discovered she had forgotten the bag at the food court. I'm sure both of us were thinking about what happened with the $100 only a month before.

We rushed back to the table, but the bag was gone. Katy started crying. She was distressed that she was absent-minded, and frustrated that people would take things that didn't belong to them. I was completely annoyed because I couldn't seem to break this pattern of forgetfulness in her and I couldn't afford to replace the gift.

The bag was not at the management office, but we left our name and number just in case it turned up. I didn't have much hope. I told Katy I wouldn't replace the gift even if I could afford to because she had to learn to be more aware. She was mad because she didn't want to show up to her friend's party empty-handed. I told her she would have to figure out another solution.

This time I could not be so generous in my thoughts about the public either. I didn't want to set a bad example and I knew the fault was really Katy's, but I was completely pissed that there seemed to be so many dishonest people in the world. In my thoughts I wondered loudly what the hell was wrong with humans today.

The next day I got a call at work from the management office of the mall. They said someone had left a message about picking up a bag the night before that fit my description. I was so relieved! I also felt more than a little guilty for assuming someone had been dishonest.

I called the name and number I was given and a very nice lady answered. She said she was just leaving that night and saw the bag sitting on a chair. She had a daughter about Katy's age that was forever leaving her bag or purse somewhere, so she figured she'd do a good deed and try to find the owner. We chatted a bit about children and responsibility, and she gave me her work address so I could pick up the bag that afternoon. I then called Katy to relay the message and to tell her I was sure this was a little bit of instant good karma from the $40 she had turned in at Walmart. This time I think she believed it.

When we met, I thanked the lady profusely and offered her a reward, but she declined. She said knowing she had helped us out was reward enough. As I got back in my car and prepared to pull away, I said a silent but heart-felt thank you to the Universe for resolving this problem for me. I pulled into traffic behind a large SUV and the personalized license plate that met me right at eye level was - I shit you not: "HV FAITH"

I was astounded.

Update: Years later I still think of this story often. I've had many divine winks since then, but recently there was one that was almost like a follow up to the HV FAITH license plate. I was driving home from the store and I'd been having "one of those weeks." At least I'm better at keeping a good attitude now, but it can still be a challenge. Anyway, this SUV with a Virginia plate pulls in front of me (I live in California now so obviously the guy wasn't even close to home!) that said: B F8HFUL. It took me a minute to figure it out, but I realized it was "Be Faithful." The rest of the day was full of grins and giggles. :D

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Being Here and Present(s)

Christmas, 2007

I know I haven't been posting much lately. I've had a lot going on and the new job keeps me much busier than the old one did, but I'm making up for it tonight so if you intend to make it to the bottom of this post, better grab a cup of tea and settle in.

Seems Death is the new black this season. Last Wednesday Jason, a friend of Katy's, killed himself. He was the boyfriend (sometimes ex-boyfriend, depending on the week) of Katy's best friend, Kat. I was shopping for some Christmas gifts in a basement store when I received the original call, but since the reception sucked underground it was dropped the minute I tried to pick it up. Seeing that it was Katy and knowing I had only just left the house, I went upstairs to street level to call her back to make sure things were okay. They were not. She relayed the message between sobs, and I had to ask twice to make sure I heard her right and understood who she was talking about. It's a very shocking thing to hear, even if you didn't know the person that well, and my organs felt rearranged - my heart blocking my throat, and my stomach somewhere around my knees.

I offered to come home immediately of course, but she said it wasn't necessary. Kat's mom was on her way over to pick her up and take both of them to Jason's parents' house. I don't think there is a more frustrating, helpless feeling than hearing your child crying on the phone (for good reason) and knowing it will take more than two seconds to get to her, and that you can't change anything anyway. She said there was really nothing I could do so we hung up and I stood outside the store a bit dumbfounded, trying to sort out my own emotions.

I called my mother under the pretense of warning her of the situation so that if Katy called her, she would be prepared, but in all honesty it was more an instinct of seeking comfort from the most familiar source in my life.

As I've written before, Katy's father shot himself in the head when she was six months old. If you've known someone that committed suicide, you'll understand when I say this event is not a surface wound for anyone touched by it; it cuts straight through to the soul and it leaves a mark. I was surprised my scars could be so easily laid open again, and although Katy doesn't remember the events surrounding her father's death it affected her greatly, so I couldn't imagine the hurt she must be feeling. I remember betrayal and guilt being the strongest tastes for me in the emotional cocktail when Joey chose to leave.

Jason was a good looking, nice kid with a huge grin that he wore easily each of the handful of times I met him. He was 20 years old, into rock climbing, and was engaged to Kat at one time (despite much parental disapproval, me included). He went to college in Colorado for a year, but I think he dropped out last semester. He came from a wealthy family where (I'm told) the parents were involved in their kids' lives. Not the kind of profile you normally find in a suicide.

He and Kat were not currently dating, but apparently she is pregnant with his child. I can see where that could put some pressure on a guy (one of the very reasons I didn't tell Joey about Katy), but I didn't get the impression Jason was the type that would make it the end of the world for him. What do I know though?

He wasn't without issues. I'd heard some tales of alcohol and drugs, and this was not the first bullet of impending parenthood he dodged. Still, he just didn't seem that unstable. Lash out? Yes. Run? Absolutely. Decide death was the only solution to the problems at hand? No way. I can't believe it. I don't want to believe it. I've had weird feelings about it being an accident, but my logical mind argues that I'm grasping at straws because I simply don't want to believe anyone can hurt that bad and not seek help, and that I couldn't have changed the outcome. How selfish and egotistical of me, but I guess I'm human. When I shine light on that dark corner in my head I also wonder if my thoughts are really about Jason or Joey at that point.

Jason knew about Katy's father. I think I'd even said to him and Kat once that if they ever had questions or wanted to talk about being parents at that young age, I'd be happy to tell them about my own experiences. It just hurts my heart thinking that anyone is feeling that kind of emotional pain. I've been down there, and there is no word to describe how much it sucks. However, even in my darkest days, when I toyed with some morbid ideas myself, I never came to the conclusion that my problems were worth dying over (and I reached that decision without the pharmacopeia I was offered).

The funeral was last Saturday and I actually felt like perhaps Jason moved on the day before anyway. Maybe it was just me that found some peace with the situation. I'm not sure where I acquired the belief, but personally I think after you die you spend three days reviewing your life and observing those affected by your transition. It probably takes that long for you to accept the change in circumstances yourself, and when you do, I think that's when your spirit moves on to other dimensions.

Katy has dealt with the events much better than I expected. One good thing that came of this is that she, too, has brought up and had to deal with some issues from her father's death. I hope those resolutions help change her perspective to a more positive one where Joey is concerned.

I am sad for those still sorting out the pain. There's just nothing you can do but offer your hand while they travel the road. I know how long it takes to heal that wound. It's not fun. I hope that Jason is at peace with himself now, and if he chooses to spend another lifetime here, I hope the information gained from this one was useful to his spirit.

So that's one story from this past couple weeks.

A few posts ago I related my concern with one of my chinchillas, Earl, having fur fungus. I've had him to the vet twice again since then. After his diagnosis of ringworm, he started having trouble eating so I thought perhaps there was a problem with his teeth. Dr. Welch checked them all and couldn't find anything wrong, but she said the front two were curved a bit funny so she trimmed them. I hoped it was something that simple and fixable, but my gut knew better. He stopped eating altogether a day after that, so I took him in again last Saturday. She put him under anesthesia and took some X-rays, which showed nothing out of the ordinary. You'd think this would be good news, but it's actually not because if you can't define the problem, you can't fix it. She had taken blood while he was under and sent it off to the lab for analysis. She said she would call me Monday with the results. Earl took a really long time to come out of the drugs, and I knew that couldn't bode well either.

Last night, just as we finished a big family dinner for Christmas Eve, I received the call. Dr. Welch actually looked my number up on the net to find me because there was no one at the hospital to get it for her. That's some dedication right there. She called because Earl's blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels were through the roof. They should normally be around 15 - his were at 120. The bad news is this is an indication of kidney failure, and there is no saving him from it. I guess you could consider finding the answer good news, but it sure doesn't feel like it. I asked her what she would do in my situation, and she said she would put him down.

Earl seemed to perk up more yesterday and today (he was sleeping on my lap in the pic), and he even ate a little bit on his own and he peed, but I know it's only false hope. I don't want him to suffer, but when he's acting more like himself it's impossible to look him in the eye and feel okay about putting him down. My aunt once told me that no matter how many animals you have it never gets easier when it's time to let them go. I completely believed her, I've lived through it before, so I'm not sure why the Universe insists on driving this lesson home so relentlessly. I GET IT ALREADY. I've begged him to leave on his own, but he's a little warrior right to the end.

Putting Kiwi (my 14 year old iguana) down last year because she had cancer was the hardest decision I've ever had to make - and trust me, I've had some fucking hard decisions in my life. I held her and cried at the vet's office for two hours until they finally came and gently told me they were closing up and I had to leave, then I felt bad for keeping them, but not as bad as I felt losing Kiwi. At least she was close to the normal lifespan for her species though; Earl is only middle-aged. I prayed I would never ever have to make this decision again, yet here it is in all its ugliness. The outcome is the same no matter what I decide, it's just a matter of time and pain levels. Obviously I will not let Earl suffer, but how do you tell how much they're suffering and when is the appropriate time to put an end to it when these small animals hide illness so well?

I've researched animal kidney failure as much as possible on the net. I understand the medical aspects of it, and I've read personal accounts of dealing with it in pets. There's not a lot of information about chinchillas specifically, but I did find some, and this is a common problem with cats so I can make an educated guess at the effects on a smaller animal. I've appealed to friends, family, the Gods, the moon, the stars, inner voices, silence - anything or anyone that might have some guidance or offer some peace. It's still not easy. Nothing is easy right now, not even knowing that all this too shall pass and the Sun will shine again.

Gaaaaaahhhhhh. Life! GRRRRRR.

Ok, so something happy to wrap this up because I can't go to bed feeling like this.

Today was good despite the weight of my heart. (Writing has definitely helped.) I was excited to give Katy and Mark their gifts, and I think they enjoyed them. As much as I hate the rampant consumerism of Christmas, it's fun to see people feel joy and know you caused it. It was really nice to have the house so quiet - it was only the three of us all day. It was awesome not to have to travel. We slept late, opened gifts, had a nice dinner and played Dread Pirate (a board game we received as a gift) by the fire (which is still crackling a little over there).

We actually tried to go to the movies to see I Am Legend, but I had to walk out because it was too scary. I think I can count the movies I've walked out on with one hand, so that's saying something. It's more like a horror movie than action/suspense. I can't imagine what possessed Will Smith to want to do that movie. He doesn't seem like the type of person that would support that kind of thing, but whatever.

Mraz made a Christmas post yesterday all about the stars. I'd heard before the story of the Sun and how it relates to Christmas, although I can't remember if it was when we went to the Franklin Institute's planetarium this past summer, or if I read it somewhere else. It got me thinking how brilliant the stars have been these past couple weeks when they haven't been hiding behind our atmosphere's fluffy white blanket, and how crystal clear the air of Winter Solstice is. I wish I had the knowledge of how to capture the game of hide and seek the Moon has been playing with the clouds. It's been awesome to watch. I've poked my head out the door each night to stare upwards for a few minutes, watching my breath freeze and float away to rejoin the matter that makes up our world. When I have the opportunity to really stare at the night sky awhile, I feel so connected to everything. I just wish it weren't quite so cold so I could stay longer.

Beautiful as Solstice has been, I'm also grateful we're moving past it and the days will start increasing in length again. I miss the sun terribly, and I know the grey weather hasn't been helping me resolve any of the difficult emotions I'm dealing with.

Even I see this is one of those times when I sound like I'm contradicting myself, but Solstice has been all those things. Don't be confused. It's all true. :) The air has been both clear and cloudy, beautiful and dark, bright and grey. And there are things I enjoy about the cold (like a roaring fire and hot tea), but I miss the warmth coming from above instead of the alcove in our living room, or the depths of my down comforter.

Shit, 3:07 am. I'm going to be so dead tired at work tomorrow. I seem to always look at the clock at 3:07. So weird. 1:11 is another one of those times.

One more train of thought I must get down on virtual paper, though it will probably only make sense to me. When I was in the shower the other day my thoughts went from the stars in general to the middle star on Orion's belt, to the fact that a friend once told me that star is a gateway to other dimensions; then I thought about imagination, and how our brains could be a conductor between dimensions like copper wire is a conductor of electricity and how imagination would be the electricity, and perhaps it fuels our awareness like electricity fuels a lightbulb. I moved on to water and its conductive properties, to wondering if in the future we will discover that water is really a conductor of psi energy/chi (which would explain why my most profound thoughts always happen in the bathroom) and perhaps it is the key to why Earth exists as it does (Earth being held in our thoughts and made real to us) and why we seem so alone out here in the cosmos. We all know the water supply on Earth is dwindling, even if we don't want to admit it. Imagination seems to be suffering the same fate at the hands of TV and video. Barely anything is left to the imagination these days because kids are too lazy to think (or read), and parents are too lazy or self-absorbed to encourage them to do so.

What if, in the future, as the water supply dries up and humans stop developing their imaginations because we are told what to believe about everything and so many are lazy with their thinking, we discover water and imagination are the filters through which we're able to bring our thoughts to a tangible reality. (Remember our human bodies are made mostly of water!) Think how precious both water and a creative mind would be. Without them, our doorway (perhaps the star in Orion's belt) would close and our existence could melt back into the dimensions surrounding us; unable to be sustained separately as we see and experience it now. Perhaps this is what happened to Mars. Maybe it's not that life doesn't exist on Mars (or didn't an eon ago), it's just that their water supply dried up and their imaginations were suppressed to the point they were no longer able to hold the door open to separate their perspective from the Whole.


Goodnight. Dream well and often.