I Am. I Can. I Shall.

images (1)A friend of mine recently introduced me to a weekly Buddhist meditation group.  The attendees get together, and we have two silent twenty-minute sitting meditation sessions with a ten-minute walking meditation between them.  After the second sitting meditation, we recite some Buddhist philosophies and have an open discussion.

Meditation isn’t something that is natural to me.  I’m a high-strung, hot-headed, anxiety-carrying, self-doubting dude.  My brain never stops obsessing over minutiae of all the things in my life, over possible outcomes of different scenarios, over money and bills, over the wrongs of the world, over all the things I need to do.  I also constantly berate myself inwardly for not living up to the high standards, especially moral ones, that I have placed for myself.  Attempting to be “quiet” inside is a challenge.

I’ve been told that you can’t control having thoughts during meditation, but that when you catch yourself thinking about something in particular, you acknowledge to yourself that you had the thought, but not entertain that thought.  You must let it go.  It has been described to me as watching a train come to a stop in front of you.  You know it’s there, but you don’t have to board. 

Last Sunday night, one such thought came to me during the first meditation session.  The thought was six simple words:  “I am.  I can.  I shall.”  While I was supposed to be thinking of nothing, I was writing this blog post in my head.  But I will gladly accept inspiration whenever and wherever it comes, so I don’t mind having boarded this train. 

As I mentioned above, I’m an individual plagued by serious self-doubt, and self-affirming statements are an uncommon occurrence.  But there it was.  I am.  I can.  I shall. 

I wrote a poem in 2009, which was a bit of wishful thinking in rhyming form, and even as I was writing it, I wondered whether it was something I could actually enact myself, actually make real.

                              At Peace  

                   Peace from all the voices,

                   Peace from crushing noise,

                   Peace from inner rumbling

                   That mania employs- 

                   I seek way through the river,

                   I’ve turbulence inside.

                   I yield too much to chaos;

                   Within, my thoughts collide.

                   I pray to God and Buddha,

                   To divinities that may be,

                   To help me find the hidden path

                   To a peaceful reverie,

                   To be placid as still water,

                   To rest when things seem grim,

                   To endure as does the oak

                   Despite the weather’s whim.

                   As a rock amidst the rapids,

                   Though buffeted, still prevailing;

                   It’s time I learned to simply live

                   With all that Life’s entailing.

                   Too long at war inside my mind

                   (Often war begets no peace),

                    I become as stone and waters pass

                    ‘Til the voices simply cease….

Lines from this poem also ran through my head while meditating. 

There was a time after my separation from my wife when I would constantly wallow in depression, and I would try to pull myself out of it by repeating the word “endure” to myself.  It was like a lifeline that I threw to myself.  I’m not in the state I was at that period of my life anymore.  So perhaps it’s time I had a new mantra, not one to help me simply survive, but one to help me grow.

Will I ever find a greater level of inner peace, be in a better mental place with reduced anxiety and fear and greater self-assurance?  Will I be the better person I strive to be?

I suppose my meditating mind already answered that.

I am.  I can.  I shall.

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Our Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”

6275825-a-pile-of-reference-books-isolated-against-a-white-backgroundI have a friend who said to me, “Words are powerful things.”  It was quite some time ago, but I believe I was saying something hurtful at the time.  And, as a writer (one of my few true skills), I had the ability to make my words really sting.

I’ve heard that there are studies in which the power of words was tested by saying “I love you” and “I hate you” to dishes of freezing water to see if there was any effect.  Reportedly, the ‘loved’ samples made beautiful crystalline formations, and the ‘hated’ samples made very fractured-looking structures.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I DO know what words can do to a person.

It’s rather hypocritical of me to be hurtful with my words, since I can still remember the things that were said to me as a child by my peers.  And let’s not talk about adolescence.  It’s because of that lingering pain that I have felt the need to amp up my words into a full-blown arsenal when I feel slighted.  It’s the desire to one-up the other and dish out more than you’ve received.

Words are indeed powerful things, and just as I’ve seen the hurt I can cause and have been caused, I’ve seen what KIND words can do and what my own have done for others.  I’ve had someone very important to me tell me how I always seem to say the right thing, the best, most perfect thing to help them stay grounded in that moment and maintain perspective.  You know what?  I like the feeling it gives me to have THAT effect on someone better than the scarring one.

I’ve mentioned a few times in this blog that I’m in a couple writers’ groups.  We ALL have this power, and ALL have this responsibility.  Even if you’re not a writer, the pain that words can cause can still last.  I’m sure the people that hurt me from childhood and on weren’t exactly Shakespearean in their verbal skill.  So may we all bear in mind the power of words, and pause before we do some damage to someone, because oftentimes that damage lasts far longer than it took to even speak.

Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”   

  

Someone once said to me, “Words are powerful things”.

They can be used to help, or to hurt, an array that each one brings.

I’ve used my words in scathing ways, cutting deeply as I could;

I’ve also used them to let one know their pain is understood.

     I hope that when my time is up, what’s left when mine are heard

     Is something benevolent and sincere or else be deemed absurd.

     May others feel the light of love that’s hopefully interred

     Every time, from here on out, within my every word.

I have a gift to use my words in all the ways I do;

I’ve often been praised for all the shapes that I can mold them to.

But I must revere that power that I know they each contain,

Remember all the times they’re used, intent to cause one pain.

     May each sentence that I share leave no darkness that’s inferred,

     And if I fail in that regard, leave the recipient undeterred.

     Unless productive, taking flight like a paradisiacal bird,

     May no harm and only help be born by every word.

© Jordan Alan Fox 

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National Tattoo Day

June fifth is National Tattoo Day, and I was asked to write about the tattoo topic.  I had previously posted about why I got mine, so I think I’ll cover some other, broader aspects.

Tattoos, of course, have a negative connotation due to various cultures using them to mark criminals, the times criminals (or would-be criminals) marked themselves as a status symbol, and the fact that anything that breaks the norm is usually scorned.

However, in today’s world, the tattoo taboo isn’t as great.  Tattoos are actually fairly commonplace, and are seen everywhere.  Many women have them on ankles, shoulder blades, or have the infamous lower back “tramp stamp”.  Men get them on arms, legs, backs, and chests.  But why do they do this?

Well, starting with the criminal element, tattoos can mark loyalties (especially to gangs) and acts committed.  I don’t think I need to cover this realm further; I’m sure you get it.

Members of the military have gotten them to show loyalty as well, or pride in their service.  Tattoos have also been done to honor fallen comrades.  One of the coolest tattoos for military (and sailors in general) is a pair of birds.  I believe the birds are swallows.  My understanding is that when one is sent overseas, they get one swallow to mark that they arrived safely there, and get the matching piece done when they arrive home.  I think it’s an awesome tradition.

Many get representations of loved ones and pets.  And some cultures, such as the Samoans, are tattooed as a right of passage.

Of course, a lot of people in the Western World get inked because they’re trying to be cool or present a certain image, but this should not be allowed to take away from the millions of works of art created every day that have legitimate meaning, if only to the person bearing them.  And this is indeed an art form.  One apprentices before they can get a regular gig as a tattoo artist.  They have to earn their dues.  And even the finest graphic artists would have a hard time doing what they do via a vibrating needle and oft-times moving, wincing, flinching canvasses.

I realize some may think of me in a certain light because I would have to wear long sleeves and pants to cover all of mine, but every tattoo I’ve gotten had thought put into it and means something to my life.  And this is the last reason I’ll give as to why people get work done:  For many, including myself, these works of art are landmarks.  They signify where we’ve been, what we’ve been through, and where we want to be.  The only one that brings me a twinge of regret is my ex-wife’s initial on my shoulder.  It happens, but I could always cover it up if I choose to do so.

I hope this was informative.  And maybe you’ll get one of your own now if you haven’t already–welcome to the establishment!

199 and Counting….

Furgii modeling her new tee

My animal advocacy page, Pet Patriotism, now has 199 followers.  Un.  Be.  Lievable.  One person shares it, and three more check it out and “like” it, and it keeps going.  It’s only been a week and a half since starting it up.  Ca-Razy.  I feel a certain pressure to keep these folks happy and interested in what I’m doing.

I admit there’s very little info which I have the knowhow to find.  I pretty much come across other postings and repost them myself.  It’s not to claim credit for it; I’m not erasing the originator’s tags on there.  It’s just that I want to keep the information flowing.  I might subscribe to a certain page that others may not.  You can’t subscribe to everyone–there’s not enough time to read it all.  If someone gets their info from me, great.  If they get it from somewhere else, great.  The point is to keep it all out there, educating more and more people and getting profiles of animals in trouble or petitions that need signing to cycle onwards to those that will help.

I don’t remember if I covered why I set this page up or not.  A friend actually messaged me asking me to “Please stop”.  It was in reference to an item I shared with a picture showing a pretty gruesome wound on a dog.  I knew when I shared it that I’d probably face opposition, but I shared anyway because every share was going to raise another dollar towards care for the dog.  I know that perhaps only three or four of my 93 or 94 friends on Facebook actually care to sign these things, can or will donate, or can spend time networking my posts.  So between reaching people that care and not pestering my friends, I set up the separate page.

I foresaw that this was going to be time-consuming, and boy I was right.  I was already spending a lot of time on Facebook and my email account as it was.  Now I’m taking the time to cross post it TO MYSELF, essentially, on my new page and sharing from there.

After the first week, I decided to take Tuesday the 6th off.  I still went in there a little, but I needed a break from the 24 hour media stream plus 40 hour work week.  Also, my own dog was being neglected regarding attention, which would not be good in general, and definitely not from someone who claims to be all about animals.

I realized that my voice was rather silent that day, but the world still turned.  And others were there filling my void.  Did I miss a petition or two?  Probably.  Did I fail to get something forwarded to someone that may have helped?  Possibly.  But I can only do so much.  There’s guilt, but there’s also reality.  I’ve made the decision that anytime I log in, I will only scroll back through four hours worth of material at most.  I used to go back all the way, even if it was ten or twelve hours, fearful something important would get by me.  I wrote in a previous post that I am a recovering addict (alcohol; two years sober), and I am left wondering if this is another form of addiction, even if it’s a meaningful one.  So I must impose limits, addiction or not.

It seems that some of the people that are informing me are doing this full time.  They are largely female, and, I believe, older, so they may be stay-at-homers with working spouses or are retirees, either of which having a great deal more time in theory.  I’m jealous.  I don’t know if they actually get paid for any of their time.  I doubt it, but if so, I’m jealous again.  Not because I want to profit, per se, but I would love to support myself this way and therefor be able to do this kind of thing all the time.

I previously mentioned reducing meat from my diet, for obvious reasons.  Well, I’ve spent the last two weeks primarily meat free.  I ate chicken three times, and that’s it.  I had already weeded lamb and pork from my diet, and beef and dairy are now gone.  Going forward, I may or may not occasionally eat chicken, eggs, and seafood.  The reason I ate chicken the three times I did was because I am getting some digestive upset from the continuous intake of fruits and vegetables.  A friend hypothesized that it could be all the live enzymes and fiber.  Going from forty years of meat, bread, pizza, and ice cream to this is tough.  So I’m throwing the chicken in there from time to time to make it a more gradual change and hopefully easier on my system.  I feel good about this.

The Tale of the Fox goes on….

Exactly why I keep doing this….

For the Children

Those of you catching my blog for the first time will soon learn what those who’ve been around awhile already do:  I am obsessed with animal advocacy.  This ISN’T what I’m going to write about today, though.  Not exactly.

I’ve mentioned previously the circumstances surrounding my divorce, and that those circumstances centered around my stepson’s abuse by his biological father.  The trauma and emotions and everything just destroyed my family. The divorce may have happened anyway, but the abuse and accompanying trauma was the trigger.

So, how does this tie into my affair with animal advocacy?  Well, I’d gotten a dog as a way of moving on and into another chapter of my life, and the more I loved my dog (and who couldn’t), the more I felt the need to be involved with animal rights.  It occupies a great deal of my free time, but I love it, I love doing it, I love being part of positive change.  I love knowing that I may contribute to the success of any given campaign.

But I often imagine my ex-wife asking me, “Why do you do all of this for animals, and you’ve never done anything for abused children, for children’s rights?”  I often ask this of myself in my own voice, let alone hers.  I feel guilty for not doing it.  Shouldn’t this be a topic even closer to my heart?

I’ve seen what abuse can do to a child’s life.  My stepson’s reality became daily and nightly rages that would require restraining him most days, for he couldn’t get himself under control and he was a danger to himself and everyone around.  He was diagnosed as having dissociative flashbacks as the cause of these rages, and obviously these are not remotely anything a 7-year-old can handle.  He usually couldn’t make it to bed without incident.  He couldn’t even make it to school a lot of the time.

By his 9th birthday, he was living in therapeutic homes and hospitals for children in such situations.  By that point, my wife and I had already separated.  We were back together, and then not, while he lived in several such homes for the next 3 years.  Having lived all of this and seen it happen to the child I tried to raise as my own, shouldn’t this be a cause I’d more eagerly join?

He still has the rages.  Anything can trigger them.  I don’t get reports from his mother as to how he’s doing most of the time, and frankly, I really can’t stand having to deal with her anyway.  My stepson himself isn’t going to volunteer the bad things that have gone on in my absence.  I still see him every couple of months, but I’m almost more of an uncle in a way at this point.  But when I DO get the news of incidents he’s having, I die inside.  He’s 13 now; He’s already lost his childhood, and now his adolescence is jeopardized.  I don’t know how to handle that, how to accept it.  It’s a crippling feeling.

I think this is why I don’t get involved in children’s advocacy, especially that for abused children.  It might be too close to home.  I see so many things daily on the internet doing animal stuff, like dogs being tied up and thrown outside to freeze to death.  Puppies who’ve had their eyes gouged out and then shot with BBs.  These things make me want to curl up and give up so much of the time.  There’s so much wrong, so much evil in the world strictly dealing with animals.  It’s hard to go on sometimes.  I don’t know if I can do this same thing and hear the stories of what’s happening to kids out there.  I already know so much of it.  Maybe it’s partially because MY OWN trauma is tied up in these things.  I don’t think I can handle seeing what I’ve seen happen to animals happening to children, but I still beat myself about not being involved.

I can only thank whatever powers might be, mankind generated and/or higher, that there are people out there who deal with those things daily.  Some of those folks are and have been involved in my stepson’s life.  There are so many programs out there that you wouldn’t know existed.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to stomach doing it myself; I hope it doesn’t make me a bad person that I’m not involved at present.  But for now, all I can do about it is what I did back then: cry.

      

In Better Times

2012, My Personal Apocalypse: “May You Live In Interesting Times”

I wanted my blog to consist of thoughtful things, things which might engage potential readers, and to NOT be a bunch of updates on my life.  I have FaceCrook for that.  I didn’t want my page to be a bunch of diary entries, essentially.  But I haven’t had any topic ideas, and it’s been 11 days since my last post (I think).

It is said there’s an ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”.  The phrase is allegedly NOT Chinese, nor ancient, but it proves an amusing curse nonetheless.  And I find myself in interesting times.  As I wrote about in my post “A Week of Friday the 13ths”, I began the year with some unexpected veterinary issues (with accompanying bills) after a clean semi-annual checkup of my dog on January 4th.  This all has come to $139 I didn’t expect to spend (on top of the $132 I’d just paid for the blood work, stool and urine samples, and office visit for the clean checkup).  The worst part of it , though, is Furgii having the seizures and needing to go back on the Phenobarbital.  The money is nothing compared to concerns for her health.

Then, on the 25th, I noticed that my email account was sending some strange emails to every email address of which there were records, even if they weren’t in my address book.  I figured it out when the Mailer Daemon sent me notices that my messages to Shop.NFL.com and some other addresses were undeliverable.  This had been going on for 5 days.  When I looked into my “sent” folder, the outgoing messages consisted of what sounded like Biblical passages followed by some kind of coding.  I had to get a new email account, and I changed every user name and password for everything I do on the computer.

Today, I found upon checking my bank account (which I do fairly regularly to double check my math) that a charge of $45.51 to a merchant (WMV*Match.com) is awaiting clearance.  I naturally thought of the dating site, Match.com, to which I have never gone or used.  I called my bank, and was informed that I can dispute the charge once it clears, which will likely be tomorrow.  I had to cancel my debit card and will have to wait for a new one to arrive via mail.  In hindsight, I maybe should have gone to an ATM to get some cash before canceling the old one, because I now have no access to money.  I do have enough food in the house, so I’m not that stuck.  It’s just inconvenient.  I wanted to cancel immediately so no other charges could be made by the villain.  After getting off the phone with the bank, I googled the address, and there has been a string of credit card fraud of varying purchase amounts all made to this “merchant”.  I happen to joyously be one of the latest victims.

Not a good start to my year, to say the least.  It’s funny because just a few days ago, I was telling a co-worker that I have always been a generally unlucky person.  I have had luck kick in when I needed it most, but otherwise, mine has been dreadful.

For example, I should have failed my senior year of high school, most notably because of my history class.  I can only conclude to this day that my teacher passed me because he liked me.  I never did the homework, I never paid attention, and my tests had to be abysmal.  But I used to talk to the teacher about music all the time after class.  I simply couldn’t have earned a passing grade based on anything of a scholastic nature.  It’s unfathomable., but luck allowed me to graduate.

My wife and I found out after moving to Rhode Island that my stepson’s father was abusing him.  Very unlucky thing to have happen (most so for my stepson).  But we found out just before we were up there 6 months.  After that time, my stepson would have been a resident of that state rather than New Jersey, where he was born, and the original custody agreement that my wife was his guardian, with visitation rights by his father, would have been nullified.  Once back in Jersey, we retained the original custody order and could pursue the eventual restraining order against his father.  This was the only lucky thing in the situation, but we got the information we needed in the literal nick of time.  March 1st of 2006 would have been the deadline, and my wife and stepson made a run out of town on February 27th (when we found out about the deadline) and enrolled him in school in Jersey on the 28th.  Nick of time.

Wy wife left me, twice, in the years that followed, but the one lucky thing for me there is that I’m no longer embroiled in the drama that has befallen my former family since then.  This is an awful thing to say and think, but I know I would have been destroyed if she hadn’t left me.  Nick of time (though the scars remain).

My first dog, which I’d gotten to help me move on from that situation, came with chronic health issues that were hidden from me by a completely irresponsible and negligent foster home.  I had the dog 5 weeks before I was able to get someone else to take him.  I could not as a single person care for the dog’s needs.  But he and I were a nearly perfectly compatible match of personalities.  It’s still heartbreaking.  My”nick of time” luck there might have transferred to poor Chance.  If I hadn’t adopted him, the foster home probably would have killed him through negligence, and the home that has him now was finally able to get the proper diagnosis for a dog that has many years to go still.  My 5-week role in his life literally did SAVE it.

I got my current dog to replace him.  She had 2 seizures in my first 2 weeks with her.  The foster home that had her had not witnessed any.  I covered this also in a previous blog post, but I DO NOT in any way blame that foster situation.  It was a young couple that worked and had social lives, and if the seizures had occurred, they hadn’t noticed them. They weren’t even part of the rescue.  They just found her and agreed to foster if the rescue paid the bills.  I truly believe them, and still correspond with them sometimes.

But at this point, my abused stepson, the woman who dumped me twice (and hooked up with someone in one of her outpatient step-down programs after she went bonkers), the two dogs’ health issues….God surely hated me.  In fact, I wondered if Furgii had never had seizures UNTIL she came here, because I’d given my bad luck to her.

And last year, I had a very bad year at work.  I had let so many of the negative issues in my life effect how I was behaving on a day-to-day basis.  I’m deeply ashamed of my conduct during the middle stretch of 2011.  I am very lucky that I was given a chance to turn myself around and was not disciplined or punished in any way, though I should have been.  I was fortunate to “see the light” before it was too late.  Nick of time.  I was looking forward to a good 2012.

And now all of this email nonsense and financial b.s. happens.  I seem to have caught both in the….well, you know.  But It’s maddening that I have to go through this shit.  I know my problems are greatly outweighed by the problems some others have, I do.  But still.

Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls”.  Well, THIS MAN wants to TRY to put the SOULS of his shoes up the ass of THESE TIMES.

The Ghost in the Machine

I have been posting for a few months now, and this is my 25th post (a milestone!).  What I want to say here today is how in awe I am that I’ve been able to reach readers.  It started with friends in one of my writers’ groups at a meeting about beginning/promoting/streamlining blogs.  I have since somehow magically gained readers, or at a minimum written posts that at least one of which landed on someone else’s computer screen, and they liked it enough to click “like”, to comment (nicely), and/or to even subscribe.

I thank all of you that have enjoyed what I’m doing and especially those that follow regularly.

I’m still very new to this, and very new to computers in general by comparison to most suburban Americans.  I’m definitely NOT a tech-savvy person.  I’m amazed that the wizardry of these computers and the internet has allowed me this “voice”, and for the digital ears to “listen” to it.  I’m grateful for that, grateful for the spirit in these electrodes and wires and satellite beams that lets us reach out to each other this way.         (Reaching Out)>>

But I’m most grateful for those that support what I’m doing via that spirit by liking and continuing to be open to what I have to say.  I most humbly appreciate that and thank you all.  Peace, love and light to you all, as my friend Jacquie would say.