Tag Archives: socrates

Regeneration, Anniversaries and Magnolias

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I have been struggling to write of late.

It’s not that I don’t have things to say; I have plenty. It’s that some subjects are ones that I’d really like to kick to the curb (like the bullying thing we dealt with) and another subject is too overwhelming to share, so it’s been blocking me from saying anything at all.

It was shown to me this morning though, as I went out to visit my “little gem magnolia” tree that I bought for my husband for a wedding anniversary / father’s day gift a few years ago, that life is about tending to ourselves and loving as best we can and that its moments — the good and the bad — are evanescent.

We had the tree in the front (north) corner of our home. I love to garden, but I hate the technicalities of “needs full sun” or “partial shade.” I can’t be bothered with those details. So when I planted the tree a few years ago in that corner, beneath  an eventual canopy of oaks, weeping willow and shade from houses, I sort of knew but denied that the tree was doomed.

I didn’t have the heart to plug it into our backyard, which I knew was shaded once the oak, birch, cherry and poplar leaves filled in.

So a couple years later, I moved it to a southern corner of our house which gets a fair amount of morning sun. It thrived there. The only problem was that it was just beneath an eave, so it was a matter of time: either the tree or the roof.

I loved that tree. My husband loves Magnolias. I knew that a Great Southern Magnolia tree on our property was out of the question as they are massive and well, dirty. But on the day we were wed, twenty years ago tomorrow, the magnolia blooms were abundant outside our little Georgetown church.

So I moved the tree again this spring. We took the slide off our playground set (why any of us buys swing sets is beyond me… the kids just want to be with the parents, our boys have outgrown it. Little kids who visit always end up migrating to the front of our house where the action is) so the tree is now taking up permanent residence in a nice spot which gets at least six hours of sun every day.

Here is a picture of how it’s dealing with its move:

I know it's common for these guys to shed, but this is about 50% of its foliage.

I know it’s common for these guys to shed, but this is about 50% of its foliage.

I’ve been very concerned about it. So I’ve taken, in the last three weeks, to giving it one gallon of water every morning; “slow and steady wins the race” as they say and while I’ve been slightly frightened of the dropped leaves, I have been absolutely amazed by the ability of this tree to get its crap together and rally.

Socrates said it best:

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

It’s like us. If we concentrate on what needs to happen, if we stop thinking about what happened to us and remember our goal: thrive and grow and learn and bloom, then we will be ok too. I’ve been so distracted by the bully stuff and old patterns in my behavior that I’ve forgotten the point of all of it: to rally to learn and to stick to myself.

The action of “mewling and puking” as Mom used to say about our past troubles is what gives them life. If we just see them for what they are: feelings about an action, instead of the action or result, then we’re ok.

To wit, Eckhart Tolle:

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.”

Every Single Person In Our Lives is a teacher.

I don’t care if it’s your spouse or your parent or your sibling or your best friend. Every single one of those people is here to teach you and to teach me — in fact maybe I’m supposed to learn something from you if you comment — how to live better. How to improve and to grow and to face fear and move on. Not shove crap deep away in some hole in our souls, to “man up” or crap like that, but to face it, own it, deal with it and learn — with great humility — from it.

In the case of the things that are bothering me, it’s not the results. It’s the feelings. The results are what needed to happen: self-advocacy, self-assurance, family solidarity, self growth. What the other people do with those situations I can’t be bothered with. It my attachment to an outcome or an expectation of an incident that gets me in trouble.

So back to the tree…

It's doing better.

It’s doing better. You can see the new growth at the “12 o’clock” position at the top of the tree. New stuff is coming in! It’s so exciting!

And so, we don’t have to think that growth can take a long time. For humans, it can be instantaneous and just as promising as that tree above. The tree would definitely not do as well if it weren’t for my intervention. It would get along and grow, but it would take a while.

For humans, it’s the same: we need each other. Even in the shitty, hard experiences, we need each other — to learn. To learn how to be more patient, to learn how to SEE THE OTHER PERSON, to learn how to deal with our own mucky crap, to learn how to press on and chin up and as Scarlett O’Hara did at that party Melanie threw after she was caught kissing Ashley (“oh! Ashhhlaay!”) we can hold our heads up high because why?

Because we are still here. And we must learn to go on.

So of course because it’s a plant, plants (trees, whatever) grow mostly at the top. I wasn’t sure of how the magnolia was going to respond to all those dropped leaves. But I do now…

Check that out! New buds are coming in where the old buds fell off... and soon, this tree will be unstoppable.

Check that out! New buds are coming in where the old buds fell off… and soon, this tree will be unstoppable.

I apologize for the out-of-focus nature of this picture. If you’re feeling nauseated, blame me. If you think you’ve had too much to drink this morning, blame the photo.

I’m so thrilled about this tree. I’ve made my husband come out at look at it at least once a week. He’s usually like this:

Oh cute >pat pat pat< honey, you’ve made a plant grow. >pat pat pat< I’m going to be over here doing something important.

Just kidding. He’s actually pretty into me.

But now these days, he’s totally excited because he knows how much this tree means to me that it means so much to him.

Look, our kids will be out of here in 20,000 years. We will be all alone. With the dogs. And the cats. But the tree will be here and we will have it to gaze upon while our kids are off being fantastic and ignoring us.

So remember what I said about tomorrow being our anniversary and that on the day we wed, the magnolia blossoms were abundant on the trees flanking our church?

HOLLLLLLA!!!!

HOLLLLLLA!!!!

Look who’s got some blossoms now y’all!

This tree has shown me: grow where you are planted. Grow any way you can. When you are planted in the best possible circumstances: light, sun, water and some dog poop to boot, you will do well. The dog poop, is not just a literal thing; it’s a metaphor as well: we only grow best when we see, accept and deal with the shit we are standing in.

Think of the shit you’ve had to stand in and deal with and muck through as your manure. Your manure to help turn you into the most amazing person. Because you are.

Thank you.

 

 

30 Days of Wisdom — Day 7: Sufferin’ Socrates

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So I had this low thought this morning, that my sense of “wisdom” in my life is inauthentic. That only true wisdom comes from knowing what we don’t know and then experiencing or discovering it as insight. Here is today’s quote:

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
― Socrates
tags: knowledge, wisdom 8032 likes

Last week on Facebook, a friend posted his status about other peoples’ New Year’s resolutions. He stated that some people spoke of getting to know heaven better while other people spoke of moving away from their concepts of hell. He posited (and I agreed) that we all have the capacity to create our own heavens and hells right here and that we may as well just live the best lives we can.

That got me thinking. This is not always a good thing. It started me down a path of wondering “What the hell I do know?” and then this quote. So it’s all about timing as we know. But it also has a lot to do with staring down the barrel of 30 days of writing about other peoples’ thoughts about wisdom, which is sort of a heavy subject. I should’ve chosen 30 Days about Ice Cream.

So … about that thought …

I write a lot about a lot of different things. I seem to be a generalist. One thing I am sure of though is that optimism begets optimism as much as pessimism begets more pessimism. This thinking then led me down a path which was most unpleasant. The bottom line is that I felt like I was a fraud. There. I said it. Plain and simple. That I was a fraud who writes about her insipid observations from the comfort of her home at the pleasure of her discretion and that is that. That in order for me to actually have a right to be spouting off here as I do, to wax philosophic as I do and to encourage anyone, including myself, to look on the sunny side of things means that I don’t know pain. I don’t know suffering and I don’t know hell.

This has long been a sentiment about myself that I’ve managed to quiet for the most part, but sometimes it just comes back into my consciousness like a freakin’ freight train and it literally derails me for hours.

Last night, my husband was talking about a book he’s reading, Dying To Be Me by Anita Moorjani. He’s almost done, he reports, but he’s been bristling lately from it because he said she was starting to sound preachy.

“Preachy.”

That word hit me like a grand piano. I sank internally and he noticed it immediately.

“What?” he asked.

“Preachy. You said ‘preachy.’ Am I preachy?”

“No. You just share your observations. You don’t tell people how to live, in fact, you make it clear that you’re no expert about it…”

And down the rabbit hole I went.

“No! That’s what’s great about your stuff! You are humble. You say you don’t have all the answers! You know this about yourself! It’s good….”

Where did that rabbit go? “Humble?”

“Yes, you are humble about it. You know that your life is fleeting. You know this is all we have. You know that you need to break cycles, pay attention to your patterns, do the best you can….”

Ouch! A root, or is a rope? I didn’t see that coming. Humble… Am I humble? Am I grateful? Or am I just a fraud…

I gave up. I fell asleep reading some Alice Munro because I wanted to read more Nobel Prize writers. My husband bought me two of her books for Christmas. I like her, but she’s spartan. Canadian. You can tell she grew up in the cold; her timing is precise and she doesn’t waste words like I do. I like word wasters savorers like Fitzgerald and Twain and just about every other human being who talks too much.

So when I woke this morning, the concept of humility came up. I wondered about my humilty: has God or the Universe shown me what it means? Do I really have ANY idea of what it means? My children are healthy, my marriage is strong, my life is blessed: I am an educated white American female in the 21st Century… that’s pretty kush.

So then that got me thinking, that I don’t know suffering and that the suffering I endured as a child and as a young adult and even now as a white American mother in one of the country’s most affluent counties is bunk.

I have friends and loved ones who have traveled the world; they speak of great art, literature, architecture and crowding, suffering and joy. I have not traveled the world. I have been to England twice, Canada many times, but mostly one place, Bermuda, NYC, San Francisco, Seattle and Las Vegas. I have not seen drought or famine. But I have seen the wretched, the “tired, [your] poor, [your] huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” One of the saddest things I’ve seen lately was a collection of gray, dirty, weathered, soggy and sad-looking teddy bears nestled and tied to the trees and desolate front porches of homes as memorials where drive-by shootings or child deaths occurred in Buffalo.

Does this lack of worldliness make me a sham? For about four deep and dark hours this morning, I thought so. Then because it’s a mess, I started to vacuum my house, clean up the bathroom, dust and dump stuff out of the basement and clear some stuff out and I came to the conclusion, with Socrates on the mind, that he never rode on a plane; nor do I believe Shakespeare ever saw Africa. That worldliness might invoke a greater appreciation of suffering, but it doesn’t necessarily validate it … or better still, that a lack of worldliness doesn’t INvalidate anyone’s concept of suffering. We can create our own little hells, right here, without moving an inch.

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Wild stuff. And with that, >poof!< the suffering –the feelings of fraud– that I unconsciously invoked while feeling sorry for myself, went away. What this tells me more than anything is that I need to keep writing and that it’s OK that I’ve lived the life I have; it’s not a sin, or something to feel guilty about (DAMN YOU, CATHOLICISM!) simply because I’ve lived the way I have so far. Would greater suffering or more epic harm to my family make me a better person or writer??

I didn't feel stupid anymore, I didn't feel insipid nor did I feel unwise. It was as though that pocket of low pressure arrived to flush out my self-pity crap; that Socrates is right: when we allow that we know nothing at all, is when wisdom can thrive.

So how about you? Do you ever feel fraudulent? Do you ever compare your suffering or woe with someone or conditions that are impossible to empathize? But that's the point I suppose: that even though we might not be able to have those experiences, we know what it's like inside ourselves, to feel low and to feel suffering. That's when we become wisest; that's when we can connect.

Thank you.