Insight From a Meat Pan

Posting about the time religion wrang my doorbell reminded me of this (true) anecdote.

There was a woman who always cooked ham for holiday feasts, and as part of the preparations, she always cut both ends off the ham before she put it in the oven. This was how her mother had taught her. She believed it helped to get the seasonings absorbed.

After many years, her children began to question the method. Mom, why do you cut off the ends? It makes the ham dry out.

Suddenly she realized she didn’t know why. Later that day when her mother arrived for dinner, she inquired, and the reply taught her much about unquestioned assumptions. Oh that’s right I forgot we used to do that. We had to cut the ends because the pan we had back then was too short for the ham to fit.

The Daily Prompt: The Normal – Pack Response

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Do wolves get bored? Read on to find out.

I’m not much interested in normal. To me, normal is

  • average
  • typical
  • commonplace
  • predictable
  • unimaginative.

However, normal is also

  • fitting in.

On dark days, I feel like everybody else knows the rules but nobody thought to let me know. Even then, though, I don’t want to go normal, I just want to be better informed.

This reminds me of one of my favorite pieces of writing – ever! – composed by my sister in 2nd grade:

One day the wolf was strolling along with the pack
I am not satisfied he said will I have to run around with this pack all my life
So he left he came to a forest he got to a desert
He lay down in the middle he was dying of thirst
Oh he thought if only I had stayed

(This post topic comes from The Daily Prompt.)

The Daily Prompt: Silver Linings

We could debate whether silver linings exist in reality or in attitude but the answer may not matter. Either way, from my perspective, the ability to perceive silver linings is essential to happiness, contentment, and peace of mind. Silver linings are all about the ability to hope, to get past the inevitable bad and ugly times with the belief it gets better.  Many other people have thought about this, too, that’s why we have anonymous sayings like

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

or the Springsteen  lyric

It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.

or Eugene O’Neil’s

Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue. 

I know a young woman who tried to kill herself this year. Twice. In between, she found a boyfriend – apparently also preoccupied with death – who did then kill himself. I have struggled and flailed to find the right words or argument that would convince her to keep going, to not give up. But I realize it won’t be anybody’s words that turn her around. The desire to live has to come from the inside.

When I was younger I was obsessed with not getting tricked or fooled and I was always determined to Know the Truth in every situation. I don’t think I care about that nowadays. I’m not saying I believe everything I read or hear. I’m not saying I’ve lost interest in truth. All I’m saying is that a suspicious nature takes a severe toll.

It is a fantasy to imagine I or anyone can live without illusions. Optimism is a kind of illusion. Optimists live longer and happier lives. (There are scientific studies about this so it must be true.) My current thinking is that I am going to believe that things will work out and life will evolve in good ways. Maybe on my deathbed I will say Wulp I was sure wrong about that. but in the meantime I will have enjoyed many days of hope and enthusiasm rather than bitterness and resentment.

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Wildfires make nasty air.

Wildfires make for gorgeous sunsets.

Wildfires make gorgeous sunsets.

This post topic comes from The Daily Prompt.

Cruelty and Compassion, Feline Style

Because we must be insane, we have 5 cats. Two grown cats, Bop and Luna, age 10; and three teen cats age 8 months.  The youngsters immediately displayed distinct personalities but are all as friendly and as loving as can be.

Bop (left) and Luna at age 10. Bop needs an attitude adjustment. Luna is an object of worship.

Bop (left) and Luna. Bop needs an attitude adjustment. Luna is an object of worship. In ten years together this is the only time they have ever hung out together!

One of the grown cats, Luna, tolerates the youngsters but avoids them because whenever they spot him, all three converge to incessantly sniff him and follow him and try to get him to touch noses with them.

Grown cat Bop wants to be the only critter and she never will be, which has made her bitter. She is sweet to humans but chases the 45 pound dog; she is prone to unpredictable attacks on Luna (until Luna whaps her one); and she wants to kill the youngsters. Whenever she gets the chance she attacks youngsters Arrow and Bo.

Arrow and Bo, the most frequent victims.

Arrow and Bo, the most frequent victims.

Mostly we have kept her separate from the youngsters, which is even more of a pain than it sounds. Every so often we let them mingle, in hopes the youngsters will realize that they are now larger than Bop, and that if they stand up to her she will leave them alone. Bop is a classic bully. But so far the youngsters still run.

Recently, for the first time, Bop attacked the youngest cat, Leo, who started as a runt and doesn’t understand that he is now enormous. Leo’s is a goofy and gentle soul. He purrs when he eats. He plays with the dog’s tail.

Leo, the latest victim. Ferocious looking, isn't he?

Leo, the latest victim. Ferocious looking, isn’t he?

When Bop chased him, Leo got so scared he wet himself.

Now this is where the story gets good. After I sprayed Bop with water and locked her away, the other 10-year-old, Luna – the worshipped one – demanded to come inside.

He went over to Leo and touched noses with him several times, apparently in solidarity. Then he went back outside.

Leo pulled himself together a little and soon the other youngsters showed up to help Leo with his grooming. Within the hour he was back to his goofball ways.

P.S. Although this post makes light of it, I’d appreciate any advice about how and whether the youngsters can be put together with Bop. My son wants to get rid of Bop, but I can’t do that. She may be a mean asshole but she is part of the family.

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Bop the villain, back when we had a rabbit. Bop loved to go in the rabbit’s cage, probably for the adrenaline rush. The rabbit attacked anyone who went near that cage. Bop and the rabbit were kindred spirits.

Do Grown-Ups Get Bored?

Childhood was long ago but I clearly remember the pain and horror of boredom. Nothing to do, no one to play with, can’t go outside, and so forth.

I can’t remember the last time I was bored (except at certain work meetings or airports). Have I learned to embrace the moment and appreciate every day? Or have I dropped my expectations?

I no longer remember boredom but surely I must get bored. Tedious conversations and situations abound. I mean I drive in southern California, people. I must get bored but the boredom is no longer memorable.

Or maybe there’s a guilt component. I can’t be bored, I have too much to do.

Or maybe I remember childhood boredom because it was such a novelty. Maybe nowadays it is my status quo.

Maybe the boredom at work meetings is a key to understanding.  Maybe what underlies boredom are issues of choice and control. Surely I still stream boring movies, start boring books. But – ha and aha – nowadays I don’t have to finish them. And if the opening act is no good I can always go play with my phone  in the lobby.

I don’t seem to be coming to closure on this. How about for you? Are you more bored or less bored than you were 10 years ago? Than you were as a kid?

Peace in Thoughtlessness

The last few weeks, I have struggled to put two thoughts together, and this turns out to be a good thing. At first I thought it was a new stage of PTSD, my unfolding reaction to the fact that Someone I Love Dearly (SILD) is a heroin addict (today more than 2 months sober). Now I see this is part of my own process of healing and recovery.

My thoughts are very foggy and disconnected at the surface, but down below the thinking must continue. I can still hold a conversation – although if it is a work conversation that yields to do items, I had better jot them down when first discussed or they won’t leave the room with me. More importantly, I have written quite a bit on my new novel and it is really good stuff.

The fog disturbed me mightily at first, but more and more I see it as a protective cushion. My longstanding tendencies to brood and anticipate are not functioning well now – and I don’t miss them at all. I’ve got a lot of stress at work right now and when I start worrying I find myself trying to pull the fog closer and thicker.

Perhaps this is how I will back into mindfulness and an ability to be fully present – by thickening the fog. Not thinking is really peaceful. I recommend it.

The Long Plateau

It’s kinda like living in The Lost World, a previously unknown universe on a long, high plateau that ends in steep cliffs.

Someone I Love Dearly (SILD) is a heroin addict, just about 60 days into recovery. SILD could relapse. SILD could be secretly using. These coulds will continue to haunt me. But right now SILD is looking healthy and – remarkably – happy, intensely working a 12-step recovery program that helps to limit the power of the addiction while dramatically boosting self-awareness.

I have been working on my own recovery as a codependent and thus recognize that it will be a sign of my own improved mental state when I cease to start blog entries by talking about SILD. What happens with SILD is up to SILD. I can’t alter SILD’s path and I can’t predict the future. Hence all the treatment program mantras about focussing on today.

For a purebred westerner like myself, that living in the moment stuff ain’t easy to achieve but I can already see that getting to that point is an effort worth making. Lately sometimes I’ve managed to find the Off switch, to silence all my dreading and what-ifing. The sense of peace and the upsurge in energy are simply incredible. I wish I could tell you how to activate that switch – then maybe we could all flip it more often. At this point all I can do is reassure that it exists.

The biggest test of a codependent’s recovery is the ability to maintain peace, contentment, and joy in life even when the addict is doing poorly. So often we codependents say “I’m doing well today – because my addict is ___” Fill in the blank: Still sober. Working her program. Getting job offers.  That kind of thinking is still codependent. I’m okay because my addict is okay.  The goal is: I’m okay even though my addict is in a tailspin. 

Getting to that point is surely even harder than always living in the moment.

Thinking about a future where my addict could be in a tailspin is pushing against my Off switch. I’m knotting up inside and need to remind myself: nothing has changed as I type this blog. Today is still good. That is all I know for sure.

Today has been okay. Curiously, that simple realization restores my calm.

Folks, you have just witnessed mind control in action.

Perhaps two months ago I would have sheepishly deleted all of this.

Which One Are You Like?

Waking up.

Bo, Leo, and Arrow.

Recently our kittens had to wear cones after surgery. Their reactions captured their personalities and some basic differences in approaches to life’s troubles.

The cone disturbed Bo mightily.  He didn’t know what to make of it and he immediately became miserable. I’m trapped in a cone. This is terrible.  He dragged himself backwards until he hit a corner, where he hunched down and gave up.

Initially, Leo also wigged out and dragged himself backwards. But he quickly adapted. I guess now I’m a cat who — wears a cone. Okay! Within a few minutes he had evolved an odd but successful, neck-craned gait and had found new ways to pursue his favorite pastime, playing with tiny pieces of crud.

Arrow rebelled against the whole concept of cones. As soon as we put a cone on her, she began whipping her head from side to side and pawing the cone’s edges. No way am I wearing this, get this @#&%$ thing off me. She had it removed and hurled across the room within about 10 seconds.

So far, I have gone through life with responses on the Arrow-Bo spectrum, but I aspire to become more like Leo. How about you?

An Attitude to Aspire To

Recently, through the book-lovers’ site LibraryThing, I have gotten to know a woman who is plagued by two spinal conditions, each of which can be impossibly painful. When I expressed my regret about this, she replied that she always likes to look for a positive and at least her condition gives her plenty of time with some things she loves, books and reading.

Whenever I think about this it helps me to stop with the petty bitching about trivialities, for at least a brief stretch of time.