Posts Tagged ‘randy hasper’

My mom has dementia.

This is very hard for my dad, my brothers, me, all the family.

Last week my brother was with her. They sat together on the porch in front of the home where she lives with her constant nursing companions.

My mom was quiet so my brother asked, “Mom what are you thinking about?”

“I’m thinking about God,” she replied.

More pause.

“What do you think about God?” he plied her.

She paused again and said, “That he’s watching over me.”

Mom doesn’t know much these days, but she knows this. In her disabled, confused and very vulnerable state, she knows that God is watching over her.

Perhaps as we age, we become more and more like we are and retain and exhibit more and more of who we have become. Mom has always known this — that God is near — and at this very challenging time in her life, she still does.

That isn’t her dementia; that is her reality.

Short Grace

Posted: October 28, 2017 in poverbs, proverbs
Tags: , ,

Yesterday I drove my daughter to a dance, then later in the day picked her up from the E Street trolley station as she came back home.

While she was on the trolley, we kept in touch by texting, and I watched her progress on the Find My Friends app on my phone. When she accidentally took the wrong trolley to a rough and tough part of town, I called her, talked her down, and helped her get back on the other side of the tracks and headed for home.

I was relieved when she was finally safely in my car, and we gave a little hug. We stopped and got her her favorite lunch. She hadn’t eaten much all day.

My wife tells her all the time, “Your dad adores you!”  I do. Grace.

Yesterday, I did one other small thing. I wrote a set of thought-proverbs — as I so often do to sooth my soul — my five-hundredth set of proverbs, which means that I have now cranked out 5,000 plus thought-proverbs, quasi-epigrams, smart-assisms, tartlies and mini-aphorisms since I began in early 2011.

I love my daughters, both of them. I nurture them. I also love my axiomatic truths — and nurture them too — my short truths, brief truths, smallish quips, wititudes and truths-micro. I am a fan of Emily, Solomon, Ben, William, Mark and Leo, G.K., Jesus, Peter and Soren, they have inspired me, especially when they came at life shortly.

I began by simply extracting a few of my best lines from my personal journals, then got phrase-crazy and work berserk and began to perfect the art of blunt, brief and buzzy — unnoticed.

Thus, a secret milestone, 5,000  —   dined, lined and thrice refined.

I decided to celebrate the five-hundredth category with a notable topic, “grace.” And so I  talked it in, fed it lunch and brought it home with a deep sense of personal satisfaction.

Here she is friends.

Short grace, with a small hug.

I love these. I love them all. I hope you do too.

Grace

Grace — it is the means by which the unacceptable become the respectable.

Defeat your oppressor; use grace, and some pressure.

What saves us is grace — from relational mace.

Humor is the highest form of grace.

Too much grace and they’ll clear out the place.

The art is grace, with a straight face.

The truth is raspy; grace quite ghastly.

Quality not grace, defines the workplace.

Grace isn’t equilibrium; it spins within declivium.

Grace lifts the place, raises the face.

There, but for the grace of God, go the successful.

Proverbs — grace shards.

You can find my other 5,000 thought-proverbs at http://www.modernproverbs.net

I am the project manager on the buildout of a new counseling center for my community.

As a result, I feel weak — like one in need of therapy.

I am fairly confident that I will make the contract deadline for the center and handover a stunningly necessary, functional and even upscale set of gorgeous offices.

I feel strong.

Honestly — I fluctuate.

I worked hard today, and yesterday, and the day before that, and the week before that, and the year before that, and for the last ten years before that — and pretty much all my life on leveraging what I have been given for the benefit of others —  and myself.  I’ve worked hard on personal visions and also on institutionally core initiatives, and I’ve had some good successes — accomplishments and progressifications — but I’ve also had some keen and bitter disappointment-a-mongers too.

The week I enjoyed being part of a team that is finding housing for a resource challenged women with significant disability. I think we’ve got it, thanks to my partner, and God.

And yet, last night I dreamed of a silent, disapproving, disloyal group of fat middle-class white men hovering ominously over me. I wonder where that came from?

I know.

It’s okay.

I have agency, which requires past experience, and I have character, which requires continuity, and I have integrity (I absolutely adore integrity), and yet I have also had  bad dreams mixed up within my agency — which as I am trying to tell you — is required for success, a kind of abject brokenness comingled with unstoppable love — this is the stuff that keeps driving us forward like a giant tunneling, underground drill bit.

And so, and thus and such, like many of us I am making friends with the adversative conjunction “but.”

I’m confident, but also emotionally bumfuzzled.  My core emotions dive into the  abyssopelagic, but they also sore to the summit. I am weak but strong,  disappointed but fulfilled, cynical but annoyingly chipper.

These are normal feelings for all of us who work hard and hope for much.

The low country of emotion — despair, disillusionment and doubt — they are close companions, even friends, even family members of passion, strength and hopefulness. Empowered people suffer, keep moving;  fail, keep risking; despair, keep hoping.

When we hear of empowered people, we picture a person who is fired up, on vision steroids, on courage adrenaline, always strong. Not so much. Remember Sampson. The inspired people range, they vary, they run the gamut, they ply the spectrum, from high to low.

In fact, and this is the deal, as has been said before, “Your mess is your message.” Your weakness creates your strength, your broken moments are your credentials.  You are a hot emotive mess, and a fiery, muscle force, all in one.

Within your empowerment lies your weakness, like the core of a nuclear reactor, and this weakness fuels your success, producing within you a cardinal and necessary equipoise.

Don’t forget this: the essential, contradictory emotional dualism endemic to all humans   keeps us humble. It will keep us from becoming obnoxious, insensitive, and vegetal, and it will keep us emotionally bifurcated in exactly the way needed for others to survive the astonishing success we have yet to achieve.

Yesterday as we drove into the Rocky Mountains, I was particularly struck by the yellow fire.

It lit up the tops of the Aspens as they flamed above the dark green pines and blue-green furs. Gorgeous fall-infused yellow, lovely golden-yellow, perfect round leafed-yellow, pale-yellow, sunshine-yellow.

Some of the Aspens were light green at the base, that flowing up into pale-yellow, that transforming here or there at the tops of the trees into sunset yellow and faded-orange.

By way of contrast, we see.

One thing juxtaposed beside another, nature’s palate, a wonderland of extremes, one thing not another, one thing becoming another.

Colorado in the fall is blue sky, turning grey; green forest, turning yellow.

The Aspens seem to thrive on contrasts, their trunks soft bark-white, with back splotches and thin black horizontal lines marking them up. It’s an artist’s dab and artisan’s fine-brush stroke.

Black, white; forest, framed; free, bound; poor, less poor; lovey, more-so; faithful, not-so-much — one world, many contrasts.

I’m getting okay with this.

I am like you, but not like you, and more-and-more I like you. It’s mind expanding. I am able, we are able — by means of acute social ambling and oblique relational bumbling to get on down the path of experience and begin to see better.

We are able — aided by the brand of specialized humility that comes by being cracked wide open like a nut by brutal-beautiful life — to accept different, to like different, to thrill to different, to honor different, to see better by means of different.

This is good, this is better, this is best.

By means of contrast, we thrill.

“O life,” she said.

We’ve all said it, or thought it, or felt it.

It means, “O life, you’re so beautiful, you promise so much, and yet, you little traitor, you’ve let us down a bit now, you cad, you flit, you flipper flopper.”

The ancient turn, the classical about-face, the emotive “O,” the wistful, apostrophic, exclamatory sigh into the void — it gets precisely at the exacting ambiguity of life’s blissful-distrubatory.

I’m in the people business —  the nonprofit kind.  My young, optimistic staff and I people farm — daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.  We sow, irrigate, harvest, bundle, haul, barn, transport and distribute people — sometimes, mostly, kind of, always very gently.  It’s good work —  messy, fun, disappointing, fulfilling, exhausting.

Yesterday, I gave a talk to a room of biomes concerning the happy navigation of the various and sundry vicissitudes of the culture wars. This morning I set up a plan to pay for a disabled child’s therapy. Tomorrow I’ll work on the buildout of a new counseling center. Next week I’ll give a talk on mental illness and suicide.

It goes well. It doesn’t.

Yesterday a person I’ve been helping turned on me. Someone else I have high hopes for didn’t show. Another slept during one of my talks. Another seems to be on track to perpetually ignore reality.

Today, I am in need of some serious ice cream.  It’s an “Oh life” kind of business. They come they go; they shrink they grow.

I think that for me, the hardest thing is how life — and choices —  carry them away, like the bright orange and yellow fall leaves floating on an inclining mountain stream.

My particular brand of dysfunctional co-dependence needs people-permanence. I used  to teach full-time — in the humanities — and I used to grieve like a doleful poet when my students graduated.  My current role is better, they stay longer in a church, but not long enough.

And so it is, “O life!”

They ebb, they flow, they come, they go.

And yet, there isn’t an option; there isn’t any other kind of life, the kind without the “Hi,” the sigh and the “Goodbye.”

This life is the good life, but it’s the next one that will be more stable. Can’t wait!

“Hmm, nothing seems to be as constant as change.”

As part of my survival strategy, I’m beginning to make friends with that.

Nothing endures like helplessness.

Yup, helplessness just hangs in there and suffers, hopelessly, without taking any action, repeating the same narratives to explain the past, arguing for what happened, because helplessness believes it couldn’t and can’t change anything.

This morning I talked to a young woman trying to recover from her family’s bad choices —  substance abuse, addiction, divorce.

She said something like, “I am done with playing the victim.”

“Me too,” I told her. “I’m looking ahead not back, focusing on what I can do, not judging other people for what they did, or do. I’m done with judging people.”

She gave the “Amen” to that. I prayed for her. I believe God is all about moving on toward a good future.

But interestingly, last night I had a dream where I was trying to make clear to someone why a past relationship I had, failed, and I found myself explaining that in that particularly complicated version of bad blood — while I had clearly made mistakes — I had almost always been a positive force, an idea-crafter, a problem-at-hand-solver, a way-forward pointer, and that this was never, ever ungrudingly acknowledged by the other person. Instead it was turned to blame.

It’s a victim’s mantra, my explanation to someone else, my story retold, that narrative about what wasn’t acknowledged, what someone did to me or didn’t do for me or wouldn’t admit or hid so that they could villainize me.  My narrative may be true, (actually it is),  the damage done may have been real (it was), but it won’t help me much to tell it to that person.

I was reading in the Bible this morning and a verse stood out, “Do everything without arguing.” 

Bam!

I don’t have to stand toe-to-toe with those who have offended me and argue my perspective in order for me to be okay, for me to move on, for my story to be validated.  Neither do you. And that wouldn’t likely work anyway.  Head-to-head, we most likely wouldn’t be heard by the other side — the two differing stories would compete, there would only be noise. Loud voices only deepen divides. I know. I’ve stood by and watched people do this.

In other words, I don’t need to argue for my version of my past. I don’t need someone else to affirm this. If my story is true, then it is true, and if it helps me to see it, then it helps me, but I don’t need to convince anyone else of it. There is no vindication in that.

This is not to say that victims don’t need to tell their stories in court or confront their abusers. They do. But when court is impossible and victimizers won’t listen, at some point it becomes counterproductive to keep going over and over the same narrative and not moving forward

What I need is to be self-affirming, to know who I am, and to keep building on that. I have always been a leader, a problem solve, an idea sharer. I always have been that. That is who I am. This is who I always will be. I am a vision leader, a path finder, a good team player, and my current role at my job totally affirms that.

I help other people be successful by seeing what is possible for them, by seeing what is next, for them, by seeing what is next, for us.

What I need to do is just keep doing that.

While nothing endures like helplessness, it is also true that nothing endures like essential character, and not playing the victim, and hope and authenticity, and knowing oneself and moving on.

I’m not helpless. I am not stuck in the past.

I like myself like that.

We don’t do two things well — grieve and die.

No practice.

Literally.

Most of us shopped-out, played-out, TV-ed-out and worked-out Americans — this includes me — put a lot of time into living.

We lack experience in dying.

We shield ourselves from death by means of caregivers, professional death-watchers, CNA’s, CHHA’s, RN’s, LVN’s, who often spend more time with our loved ones in their last few years than we do.

We turn death into entertainment nightly. It’s product; we shop it, on Amazon and Netflix. It makes the movie thrilling, the TV series worth binge watching. We love a “Who done it?” not a “How goes it?” Death for us is as thin as film — fast-paced, shot fired, falling body — actors and stunt men playing hit men, victims and corpses for our evening’s entertainment — with popcorn on the side.

We need help.

Help is at hand.

We all know the sick, and the dying — we will become them soon enough ourselves — and so we can all choose to enter into their real experiences more.

This week I read Nina Riggs, One Bright Hour. It’s death alright, up-close-and-personal —  hilarious, tragic, beautiful, brutal, not sentimentalized, touching. I cried when she died, a young mom, leaving her husband and two boys behind, with no one to show them “how to find the orange juice in the refrigerator.”

It was better than a murder mystery, and it reminded me that life will murder us all — slowly. It takes longer to die in life than in the movies, there are more moments, to suffer, and thrill — many more. I needed that reminder.

Nina Riggs was 39 when she died in February of this year, 2017, of breast cancer.  She left us with her death memoir. It is wickedly funny, real — honest. I loved all this in her. Like all of us after the scary lab report, she runs between frightened-out-of-her-mind-and-can’t-breathe in a doctor’s office to happy-in-the-moment-back-at-home-with-the-dog-and-the-kids. Going through this with her, through her book, was therapy for me.

“How intensely I love this imperfect world, how grateful I am to be in it,” she said in an interview before she died.

We all need reminders of the wisdom of embracing the bright hours, and the dark ones too, of what it means to live and how it feels to die. We need to get up close to death more in order to better understand life, which always hovers on the edge of death.

“I am reminded,” she wrote,”  of an image … that living with a terminal disease is like walking on a tightrope over an insanely scary abyss. But that living without disease is also like walking on a tightrope over an insanely scary abyss, only with some fog or cloud cover obscuring the depths a bit more — sometimes the wind blowing it off a little, sometimes a nice dense cover.”

What do books like this do for us?

What does spending time with dying ones do for us?

Rehearsal, it’s rehearsal, for when our close ones die, and we do.

Living closer to death is walking within something that we will all walk through, it is accepting, it is learning, it is practicing, our own tightrope walk.

I am planning to drive up to LA again soon to see my parents, both now 90, both walking the tightrope, and to see my brother, who has cancer.

I want to get closer.

It might help me live better, love more, and one day die better too.

There is a some angst in the United States these days and it surfaces in the fear of strangers, and it takes on the language of “us” and “them,” and the language of our national “greatness.”

People say things like “We Americans need take care of ourselves first, we need to do what is best for us, we need protect our interests so we can be great again.” This makes sense to many people who aren’t doing well economically and to people who feel that they have lost power or place or status.

As a result our national sentiment has grown in being against those who aren’t like us. It is in vogue to suspect the stranger. The thinking is that they keep us from being great.

People of another color, people from another religion, people from another socio-economic background, people from another country — too often, these days, they are suspect. If they are not of us then perhaps they are not for us.

Hmmm.

But the facts are this; we are one humanity, one human family, all cut from the same cloth, all bearing the same needs, wanting many of the same things, and in truth — to be quite spiritual about this —  we are made, according to holy writ, in the same image.

I’m am not suggesting that there are not people to fear, dangerous ones  — there are — but I am suggesting that difference in culture, color, cult or cannon, doesn’t not mean that we can’t — even if we are strange to each other — respect one another, live close to each other, and even benefit from each other, and even help each other avoid harm from dangerous ones.

And, in fact, we do, benefit from each other.

I ran across a really interesting book a while back, The Necessity of Strangers. In it, the author, Alan Gregerman, asks the question, “What if strangers are more important than friends?”

He then explains that the advantage to strangers is that they can fill in the gaps in our knowledge. They can teach us stuff, and thus help us be more innovative and help us create more value and help us make our world great.

Is this true?

It has been for me.

At two points in my life, I have been overwhelmed by difficulty.  At both those times, I have gone to counseling for therapy. The two best counselors of my life were both Chinese women, both with PhD’s, one a Christian, one not. They helped move toward greatness, if my greatness is defined as surviving and triumphing in the face of difficulty, if greatness is defined as being more loving, if greatness is defined as being more understanding of emotions and becoming more skilled in handling conflict.

These strangers, these wise, educated women, from other countries, helped healed my heart. They did me much good. Professional counseling — think about it  —  it is the knowing and unburdening our hearts, to strangers, who can perhaps be more objective than family and fiends, who have been trained to have more skill in responding to relational hurt and difficulty.

This is not all. This is not the sole example of strangers who help, who have helped me, who help all of us.

Many, many strangers, people very different from us, have benefited each of us in the United States.

Strangers, in the form of farmers, grow our food. Strangers, in the form of doctors — virtual strangers, many from other countries — have treated and healed our diseases. Strangers from other countries — and strangers here in America  —   they have made and perfected the the technology we drive and the advanced tech we work with and communicate with. Strangers, from the past and present, have written the books that have influenced our thinking, they have made the great discoveries that has given us better lives, advanced the best political systems, furthered civilization, done us all much good.

It is endless. Our lives are enriched and sustained by strangers. Our scientific, philosophical, cultural, psychological, sociological, historical and spiritual knowledge has been built up and perfected by the work of strangers, both in other countries and in ours

And economic peace and prosperity —  if that is one of our standards of greatness in our now globally dependent system — will very much hinge on the cooperation of strangers.

I have nothing against striving for greatness, but as we do, we would do well to remember this: strangers, they have made us great, again and again.

Finally it was my turn.

I knelt down on the concrete, balanced on one knee, and put my eye up to the glass lens.

There it was!

The refulgent sun was being eclipsed by a revenant moon.

Beautiful.

And in that moment —  that perfectly rare and gorgeous moment of looking at a great sphere, the sun, 400 times bigger than the other sphere, the moon, but also 400 times further away — I was transfixed.

It was a moment of profound seeing, and of profound forgetting, because to focus on the moon crossing the sun, to concentrate, to see the thing, I was at that time relentlessly forgetting a million other things, massively and momentarily forgetting most of my life.

And this is the thing, this is the wonder within the wonder. To be in the present, we must forget the past. To see with all our might, we must not be anticipating the future.

To see is to be, present.

We tend to think of forgetting as a negative. I forgot my wallet when I drove away from the house today, and I had to go back. But forgetting is the sensory virtue that allows us to escape the thunderous cascade of memory that crowds our minds each and every day.

Looking at the sun eclipsing, I forgot about bushing my teeth earlier today, forgot about driving to the park, forgot about walking to the science center, forgot about every little and big detail that has previously filled up my life.

What a relief.

To lose oneself in the moment is to have respite from the exhausting mountain of sensory impression that we pile up everyday, and relief from all the failures and hurts and losses of life too.

To wonder, at a marvel, in a  moment  — it marvelously hinges on forgetting!

Thank God for forgetting!

This week I noted that in the news there was the usual hustle, activity and commotion around the country  — a new electric car on the market, some political wrangling, the usual celebrity gossip, the leaks about a new high-end smart phone, an incredible dinosaur discovery and some news about the latest self-appointed church apostles. There was also the Dow at a new high and the numbers concerning the cash raked in by the new block-buster movies.

The people get bored, and so there is the new stuff, in the news.

Sometime I guess we all want to live “the life” — or at least to hear about the life  —   the fast, fun, cutting edge, shocking, resourced, healed, powerful, cool life. We seem to have a ubiquitous interest in the best boost, the latest break, the newest go-to gadget, Gidget or gaggle. We seemed to be manic for the latest mission, mansion, murder, miracle or marketing “Wow!”

From business to government to church it sometimes seems as if the most common ambition is to get the next great thing, get the next good deal, aim for the next nearest star, to get rich or powerful — spirit-slain or financially insane in our own jet plane.

We seem to want to power up and move on out — a lot. We Americans are a fairly ambitious sort.

But a few days ago, digging around in my Bible for personal sanity, I ran across this line, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

Hmm, “ambition,” to “lead a quiet life”?

Don’t usually put those two together.

I think I like it, and need it, because I also get bored and I too fall into wanting more, or else or other-better-bigger-digger-jigger.

But it helped me, this idea, this admonition to go for quietness. And so this week I worked on taking pleasure and quiet satisfaction in the small, simple things that I needed to do.

I helped an older disabled woman pay her rent. Interesting, driving her to the bank, giving her the money, talking to her about her limited budget, working with her on getting more affordable housing. Simple, quiet, good.

I also took someone who I wanted to to keep in a leadership loop out to lunch. She is super-special to me. We’ve made quiet history together, empowering women in the church. She was the first female elder I had the privilege to appoint and work with. Cool!

This week I also helped an NA group get established in a new location. Very mundane perhaps —  a new room — but very good for a whole group of people trying to recover.  Good for them!

Quiet things.

There were more, some very humble activities.

I took a person with special needs out to coffee; she had asked for some special attention. I took some time to drive her to Starbucks, to sit and talk to her, to ask questions and listen. She left smiling. I knew that was time well-spent.

At home, more of the mundane. I washed my cat, I paid my bills, I made dinner two nights, I washed dishes. One evening, I had a nice quiet dinner with just my wife. Then we watched some favorite TV together.  After that, I drove out and picked up my daughter and a disable friend from a late evening event.

I must say, upon reflection, that I like doing these kind of quiet things. Today, alone in my office,  I laid out a schedule at work for the things that we will deal with and talk about at church for the rest of the year, including Christmas. I like thinking ahead about Christmas. Looking ahead, thinking ahead, alone, in a peaceful room — for the good of some other people —  hmm, nice.

What is a quiet life? What does it mean to be ambitious for a quiet life?

It is this: it is simply being wiling and open and even eager to be doing what needs to be done, what is next, what is needed, what is helpful, what is gentle, what is loving, what others need. It means doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

I don’t mean to demean progress or vision or big dreams or big successes or stages or lights or healings or awards or news.  I’ve dreamed. I’ve surged forward. I’ve gone for more. I’ve had public successes, good moments on the stage of life. It was fun. Some of it was good.

And yet, and yet, and yet-by-yet, what deep peace, what excellent feelings of integrity, what quiet satisfaction lies in small, silent, simple everyday, unselfish things.

I think about it. I breathe this in. Today, after a simple, quiet week, I  breathe as if breathing a great, deep, calming silence.

Yeah, go for it when you can — if you must —  but the scripture does say to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.

I think that this is in part, because God loves us so much, and because he wants us to love each other so much, and because God himself is deep and quiet and simply good — and because he wants us to experience great satisfaction.