Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

The presence of joyous noxiousness

April 30, 2016

Well, I’ve died again.

It happens occasionally in my life. I’ll go underground, converse with the god of the underworld, and resurface to live the next iteration of my being in the world. This particular death process has lasted a few years and ended last night with a dream that I died and was able to read my autopsy. Here I was, dead, and reading my autopsy, alive, so that I could figure out what killed me. Dreams are great.

My cause of death was joyous noxiousness.

My response this morning is close to a WTF moment. But then, in order to come alive, to break the barrier, the part of me that went into darkness needs to die with all of its woe-is-me, heart-breaking, I-wish-the-world-were-different, my-mommy-and-daddy-were-mean-to-me excuses for not becoming fully alive.

We’re not talking soft sweet sympathetic head patting and empathetic eye blinks and hand holding meant to stimulate my emotional growth. No. We’re talking die already.

And what killed me was joyous noxiousness. Evidently, this joyous noxiousness has been quietly and steadily killing me without my knowledge and has now made itself known in a most magical and unexpected way.

My new life, then, is to learn how to live with it.

This one’s for you, Kathy.

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The presence of lessons and eternal mirrors

January 2, 2015

“It isn’t all about you.”

We’ve all heard that line.

Or, the sarcastic: “yeah, it’s all about YOU, isn’t it?”

The message is that I am supposed to think about others, have regard for their feelings, some empathy and sympathy for what might be happening in their lives, and that nothing is all about me.

Or is it?

Is there a metaphysical existence where I perceive everything as reflecting my presence in the world? In this existence, life takes every opportunity to define itself by reflecting the nature of its creator.

That little proposition is easy to take on when one is out in “nature” defined by glorious trees, dazzling mountains, endless horizons of flowered meadows, and Bambi chewing clover by the river. It’s a little harder when one is hustling “nature” the day after New Year’s chasing down the after-Christmas sales at the local ginormous nationwide superstore which is where I happened upon my most recent soul-opening exercise.

At said nameless store, ever hopeful for a stay-at-home snow day, I placed two 15-pound cartons of snowmelt in my cart and proceeded to checkout. At the checkout counter, I unloaded all of my items, including the 15-pound cartons of snowmelt on to the conveyor belt. As the cashier swept the snowmelt cartons across the scanner, she said, “Next time just leave the heavy items in your cart and I will scan them from there.” She didn’t look happy while she said it.

It took me a moment to realize what she said. I finally asked, “So, you think those are heavy?”

She responded by saying “If you have to lift them all day long, they get real heavy.” She was not smiling when she said this.

All sorts of responses went through my head – statements about how there are no signs about leaving heavy items in the cart, what qualifies as heavy, pointed remarks about how this was the job she had chosen and if she didn’t like it . . ., and one really super retort about how I was contributing to helping her prevent osteoporosis, but fortunately none of THOSE came out. What I said was: “Thank you for pointing that out to me. I learned something today.”

I did not tell her what I learned because I had not yet figured it out. At that time, I was mostly thinking that whatever her problem was, it had nothing to do with me and was all about her disliking what she did for a living. And, I thanked her because I made a mental note to self: “never work at Nameless Nationwide Superstore as a cashier.”

But then I came home and read my e-mail. My friend, Deborah Hart Yemm, from A New Gaia and blog Gazing in the Mirror, had sent me this poem written by Rumi:

You have no idea how hard I’ve looked
for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.

What’s the point of bringing gold
to the gold mine, or water to the ocean.

Everything I came up with was like
taking spices to the Orient.

It’s no good giving my heart and my
soul because you already have these.

So I’ve brought you a mirror.
Look at yourself and remember me.

It is like God said “no, this IS about YOU.”

I am that cashier and she is me. Just as she has to own her suffering, I must own mine. Just as I seek my soul’s happiness in the world, so must she.

She cannot order me to alleviate her suffering anymore than I can demand that the world relieve mine. She cannot complain her way into happiness anymore than I can.
Barbara L. Kass
©1/2/2015

The presence of self-promotion

August 1, 2012

I am at it again. I am blatantly using my own space to promote the Making Meaning blog at Loyola University where I am obtaining my Master of Science in pastoral counseling. My most recent post is on feeling bad.

Self-promotion is a tough phenomenon for me. I grew up with the meaning of “humble” to read “kick me.” Being humble meant never sticking up for myself. Being humble meant taking the least favored soda, popsicle, and seat. Being humble meant never bringing attention to myself EXCEPT when it was in the service of others.

As I grew up, I noticed that being humble did not feel very good. In fact, it felt pretty crappy. Plus, it seemed that I was the only one expected to be humble. One of my siblings or parent was getting the good soda, the favorite flavor of popsicle, and the best seat. I thought “Why don’t THEY have to be humble, too?” I was in my teenage years when (fortunately) those disagreeable hormones kicked in and humble was suddenly not my preferred way of being in the world.

Growing out of humble and into self-promotion was not easy. We are instinctively programmed to move away from pain and suffering, but there are times when a little pain and suffering is good for us. Struggle makes us stronger. I have struggled with the marriage of suffering to my desire for happiness. If I were to totally avoid struggling and suffering, I never would have had a child, quit smoking, gone back to college, and moved to Maryland. All of these sound like wonderful adventures, but let me tell you: there is nothing — ABSOLUTELY NOTHING — that feels good about quitting smoking in the first six months. Intellectually, there is the reward of saving money, getting that monkey off my back, breathing easier, blah blah blah. But the withdrawal is fearsome. The good news is that I was willing to suffer through those months so I could be successful. Yes, success is associated with self-promotion. I had to promote myself to myself. It was a hard sell.

Self-promotion was a part of successfully negotiating Bachelor of Science and Master of Public Health degrees. I had to get grants and scholarships to afford my passage. Self-promotion was a huge part of selling myself to my employer here in Maryland. Self-promotion is my prime method of sharing my words that can connect me to you.

I am still humble, though. I know I am not alone in my success. Many people and that ultimate spiritual being helped a lot. They promoted me when I wasn’t looking and I turn around in my life right now to find I am exactly where I need to be.

©2012 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of knowing

July 28, 2012

Knowledge is a dubious gift.

The problem with knowledge is that once something is known, it cannot be unknown. Even though we forget and often can’t recall what happened yesterday, some part of our brain still retains the memory of everything we have ever encountered.

Much of what we do and remember is automatic and linked to our survival and basic needs. Dementia and Alzheimer’s aside, it takes little effort to recall where we live, work, and play on a regular basis. I am grateful to remember my loved ones and special times shared with them. The memories I have a problem with are those when I witness the ugliness we create in life.

The current ugly in my life is the knowledge that people leave their babies and small children to die alone locked in vehicles. This summer, I have read at least five articles where infants and small children died of heatstroke inside a car or van. All of their stories yank my heart right out of its ignorant resting place. For example, a day-care worker “forgot” that she left a three-year-old strapped to his car seat in the van at the end of a field trip. I really would have rather not known this. My imagination has a field day taking on the suffering of others, and I wondered why I needed to know.

I tried to imagine what it must have felt like to die like that, so I purposely sat in my car one day when the temperature was about 85 degrees. I parked in the shade, turned off the engine and rolled up all the windows.

Within five minutes, a mild panic settled into my throat and I felt that certain restlessness that I was not in a good situation. Thick and heavy heated air went in and out of my lungs, but it was not enough. Sweat oozed from my skin as my body began its futile attempt to cool me off. Nausea settled in my stomach. Within ten minutes, I had to open my door and let myself out.

And my true suffering had not even begun.

The babies and children I have read about suffered much more. They could not free themselves. The three-year-old who was left in the day care van might have been able to get out of a car seat, but most likely he had been trained NOT to. He sat there sweating, waiting, and hoping for someone to release him. I cannot imagine the distress in their little minds, although I can imagine how I would have felt, what I would have thought, and how alone I would have been with my despair. In my ending, I felt total anguish at the betrayal of trust. I had been entrusted to someone’s care and they had broken that trust.

I think that before anyone gets to have a driver’s license, he or she must endure at least ten minutes of what it is like to be locked in a hot car and not be able to free themselves.

The question again came to me, though: Why had my attention been drawn to these articles? Why did I need this knowledge? I know not to leave a child locked in a car under any circumstances. When I am driving with a child, everything about that driving is with the knowledge that I have precious cargo on board. I could have easily lived the rest of my life without knowing the suffering those children endured.

My answer is metaphysical. God/Spirit/All-That-Is/Universal Consciousness is always with us, connected at the source of our being, even in our dying. I am connected to those children, just as I am to every living soul in the universe, through God.

In this moment, my presence is with every child who is suffering and letting them know they are not alone.

©2012 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of Magic

August 17, 2010

The Magic Cat
She has always been a creature of comfort. Her soul loves feeling good to the point that never mattered who might be inconvenienced in her search for warmth, a complete body rub, and dinner off my plate.

Yesterday, we said our temporary goodbye. She could no longer eat or drink water even though it was clear she wanted to. Sitting at her water dish, her meow was mournful and painful for me to hear. I made the decision to allow death to claim her body, and set her soul free. I needed to put her out of my misery. I feel only a little bit better that she is no longer physically suffering.

There is no doubt in my heart that she will be present for me when I make my transition home.

She represents more to me than a 7-pound feline with an attitude. We have a 17-year history and there are a hundred thousand memories associated with her presence. When she first arrived in our lives, Bethany was a young girl and Magic was her birthday present. Magic was supposed to be her cat, not mine. But I was working from home back then and she found my lap beneath the keyboard while I typed away. She snuggled up against me late at night searching for warmth and the familiar sound of another heartbeat. She taught me how to throw her cat toy and she would fetch it and bring it back to me to throw again. When we had visitors, people said she followed me around like a dog. I told them she was very much a cat: always on the wrong side of every door.

I dragged her 2,000 miles across the United States from Texas to Maryland and changed residences six times in 15 years. One time, she even put up with living with male cats for 3 years. She was always well-behaved and polite. These past four weeks were the only time she was sick or caused me any concern at all.

I carry the question of whether euthanasia and depriving her of suffering was the “right” thing to do. I take some comfort from the idea that if she trusted me with her life, then she also trusted me with her death.

I have a lifetime of stories to tell about her, but right now they all make me cry.

I miss her presence.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

a moody presence

May 24, 2010

I am not paying very good attention to my powerlessness. I still have illusions about power. On my fourth day of denial, I note the following:

• The plane crash in India and the suffering of people
• A good friend of mine may have to go to Afghanistan
• Work people making demands on my time
• Whether the optometrist will hear me

Only four items? It sounds as if I live a very cloistered existence. One would think I would have an endless list by now. The plane crash in India caught my attention as do most disasters. The people on board were there willingly, for the most part. The children may not have had anything to say about it. These random incidents where many people are in the wrong place at the wrong time always make me think about our status in the universe and the guaranteed exit. Most of us will not get to choose when and how we die, and I always pause and think about the people whose lives were interrupted and ended within seconds.

Similarly, a good and dear friend of mine may have to go to Afghanistan. He is military and it is his job, and he should only be there briefly, but still . . .

Random death occurs daily in Afghanistan. Other than breaking his leg to make sure he can’t go, I am so very powerless.

So, I take revenge upon my unsuspecting co-workers. They are a good bunch overall. I enjoy my job and my workplace, but today I became aware of just how powerless I am over people who want to make demands upon my time. One or two of them take precedence, but others – well, others are just lazy and trying to get me to do what they need to do. I am slowly learning to shovel it right back in their direction, but am admittedly powerless if they get the bulldozer and plow it all back into my corner.

And then there was the benign optometrist who appears competent, but only within his known world. He had his script on what patients need and did not want to deviate from the plan. I now need to make another trip or two to get exactly what I want.

Exactly what I want . . . there are all sorts of books and conferences one can pay oodles of money to go to in order to learn how to get exactly what we want. Some suspicious part of me thinks that the only people getting exactly what they want out of those books and conferences are the people who wrote and conduct them. Moody am I today, reluctant to bid farewell to my illusions of control.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Wanted: New Complaints

May 17, 2010

I was reading in May’s Science of Mind magazine about monotony – doing the same thing over and over and over, and getting the same results, including the same complaints about life.

Traditional wisdom holds that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting a different outcome. We won’t go there today.

Living life with regular repetition supports us. It is helpful to not have to find a new place to sleep every night. Looking for a new job every day would be exhausting.

This particular reading focused on living and thinking the same way, every day, all day long. Now if your life is “humming along” nicely and you are happy with the way things are, why change? The only thing that comes to my mind is “more of the same, please.”

On the other hand, there is that tendency all humans have to look for what is not right in our lives. In other words, complaints. A complaint is nothing more than a decision we make that life is not the way we think it should be or want it to be. A complaint is suffering – realizing that we want something else other than what is.

Suffering is a feeling, an indicator that we are hurting in some way. Suffering tends to lend itself to defining situations that we might be totally powerless over like the death of a loved one. We suffer in that person’s absence, but most of us seek ways to help us feel better. If we endure our grief and see that process through to the end, most of us find ways to regain our happiness level.

A complaint is a verbalization of our suffering and tends to be a judgment in our minds that we don’t like how we are, or what happens, or who someone is, or what a person does, or how life is. If repetitious complaints are showing up in our lives, we need to do something . . . anything . . . different, but it requires changing the way we think. In support of a new way of thinking, DO something different even if you are the only person who knows it is different.

The more we let go of what is wrong, the more we find what is right.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass