Stringing Together the Pieces

Part of my mindfulness training has seen me bringing together aspects of my life that I have often held as separate.

The most difficult act of inclusion has been uniting my job with my creative endeavors. In those initial floundering years post-college, I very actively and forcefully separated the two so that my job was a miserable march to earn a paycheck while my creative endeavors—writing! music!—were held as sacrosanct activities.

I suffered for forcing this separation. My personal life was unfulfilled (he wrote, summarizing multiple agonizing years of failed relationships in a mere phrase), and in retrospect, I know that my art wasn’t exactly flourishing.

The act of separating is more subtle these days, but I still do it unconsciously - even as the lines between work-self and artist-self are blurring because of how I work (at home or on the road), whom I live with (wife and children), and more self-awareness.*

To live my best life (as the kids say), I recognize that not only do I need to bring my presence to that life, no matter what it is I’m doing, but I also need to be who I am in all of those areas, which requires acceptance and confidence. Hence, I suppose, the word ‘practice’ that often cabooses the term ‘mindfulness.’

*It’s not easy.

Time Passages

I’m a child of the 1970s, so as life events transpire, songs from that era will pop into my head - hence the title of the blog.

(The song is by Al Stewart for the poor souls who did not grow up in that era.)

Anyway, my eldest son ‘graduated’ from elementary school and begins middle school in the fall. My youngest son is transferring to an arts-focused elementary school in the fall, and like that, we are done with a neighborhood school and community that we’ve been a part of for six years.

I’m certain that all parents go through this to varying degrees, but as a parent of two premature children who at various times had health struggles and showed signs of not being on par with the development levels of their peers, moving through these common milestones is, well, remarkable.

They are growing, evolving, thriving.

I credit the attention and care that my wife has given them; her efforts—her labor and her love—have done more for my children than anything or anyone else.

That’s remarkable, too.

Happy Birthday House, Home

This weekend my wife, children and I are celebrating our house’s 100th birthday.

Ours is no grand or palatial home, but a humble bungalow we have heard was built for the cherry orchard workers in what used to be the fruit-tree strewn hills of Northeast Portland.

There was the unfortunate 1970s era remodel, which added a bedroom at the back as well as a build-out of the attic space into two more rooms. Based on evidence and stories from neighbors, including a random visitor who used to live in the house as a child, the remodel was needed to accommodate the many children who once lived here.

My wife and I have lived her for fifteen years, and we are grateful for the home and for those who lived within these walls before we did. Thank you, house. Happy birthday.

Dysfunction Junction

It’s not too much of a concern, but at some point in my self-development process I might actually get better at managing how my emotional responses lead to my actions.

I’ve been self-studying mindfulness for several years now. I’ve been meditating about as long. And like some kind of self-aware lab rat, I’ve been observing how these additions to my life have impacted my creative interests and artistic output.

Or approached another way: Can self-actualized and balanced humans still create viable art?

I suspect I’m not alone in having anchored my creative ways to that Dysfunction Junction within, that dingy place inside where I store my most painful, shameful, guilty memories.

So what happens when I—to continue the metaphor—move out those rusty cars full of stale regrets, shameful feelings, stagnant fears and clear the tracks?

And even worse to consider: do I keep that Dysfunction Junction operational because I’m afraid if I shut it down that I’ll lose my creativity?

I really don’t know how this will turn out.

The Destiny Is In The Details

Not to bore you with details, but a large thematic component of my novel in progress is based on family lore.

As part of my research I’ve signed up for one of those analyze your DNA/create your family tree websites.

Quick side note: My wife is a fan of the various TV shows—Who Do You Think You Are, Finding Your Roots—that traverse this same territory with well known actors, politicians, journalists, academics. I’ve watched several episodes, and while I get the intrigue, the discoveries hadn’t up to the past couple weeks scored an emotional hit.

Fast forward to now and my own revelations about the various family and DNA components that brought me here. I’m struck by the many, many stories that are knitted in my chromosomal past.

I’ve had to confess to my wife that I better understand the appeal of her favorites shows.

Another quick side note: Many of my ancestors were scrappers and farmers who fought for whatever necessities and comforts they could. I was part of the first generation to go to college, and I didn’t realize what a monumental feat that was based on my history. I took it for granted.

Looking over that familial history, it’s very difficult to shake the evidence - social class was destiny. Opportunities were scant. Education was always the one societal mechanism for potentially pushing that destiny aside. Many in my background didn’t or couldn’t use that mechanism.

Which leads me to my reaction about the college admissions scandal revealed this week. This is a class issue. It’s disgusting, it’s cynical and it’s ultimately not surprising. There are many others who have worked harder and suffered more for the their college educations than I have, so I won’t go there, but the audacity of entitlement that this scandal (which I’m sure has just barely begun to reveal itself) has exposed underscores what we all know and live:

There are those with means—those who have always had means—and there are the many who have to pick their way through corrupt systems and do their best to survive with whatever tools they have available to them.

Here’s to the scrappers.