Friday, 29 June 2012

The way of the reckless optimist

In my journey along life’s precarious highway I’ve encountered the lot – hairpin bends, near collisions, long, winding, boring, scenic, plain ugly, rural and urban routes. If life is a journey then I’m prose in motion.

I’ve always veered towards optimism….don’t ask me why….since my life has been anything but. Difficulties are my life long buddies. In fact, when I’m trundling along “happily” that’s when the greatest challenges hit….and I have slain and conquered a great many of them.

When I say “happily” you’ll have to read that with a shovel of salt. Happiness to some degree has been tinged with a mixture of  melancholy, ignorance and aiming low.

R.O. motto
I used to be happy when I was underachieving. I used to be happy when I got left behind. I used to be happy when I experienced love as a painful and bitter state. I used to be happy when I faced rejection. I used to be happy when I trusted the untrustworthy. I’ve been “happy” with a heart full of lead. Basically, I was “happy” with disappointment and despair. How else could I have coped?

I’ve been rolling along the highway gathering a heap of insecurities, misconceptions and emotional baggage that now requires a highly skilled bomb disposal unit to make safe. Psychically speaking, I’ve been attacked. When it’s said that man is the most dangerous animal, you’d better believe it.

es, I’ve made really good friends and excellent frenemies….those people who come into your life posing as “friends”. They take pleasure in your trials and are secretly jealous of your triumphs. Life’s highway is scattered them and they’re as tough as any hard shoulder. Yet, they haven’t got the better of me. I’ve grappled, wrestled and pummelled with my demons and am winning this little war, albeit with a few battle scars.

I’m no misanthrope though. No matter how dark life I find, in the famous words of Camus: “in the midst of winter, I found within me an invincible summer”.
Courage is the fire that warms you and voices long buried feelings – sometimes – when its appropriate. Wisdom knows when words can’t make peace and it leaves well alone.

A reckless optimist, as I was and continue to be, approaches the same problem in the same way and expects different results….or is that just a stupid optimist! This formula for failure is found on the road most travelled and it’s a poor travel experience.

My gut feeling is that there are no mistakes, just opportunities for learning. The pain of learning (that lasts a long time) and the joy of a lesson learned is an eternal blessing.

I see the glass as half full as I never want to be empty. I am the vessel and I don’t take make a lot of noise! Looking on the bright side costs nothing and makes me feel light. I am the light and the light is in me.

My outer life is reaping the rewards of inner enlightenment. I don’t dwell so much on flaws (as there are no mistakes) and feel more than a little of the contentment that comes to rest on my shoulder now and again.

Recklessness gets a bad rap. Irresponsible, wild, though-less, uncontrolled, hasty, and heed-less. Yup, it’s all those things and I’ve been judged as doing all or some of them. My life couldn’t have moved in a productive direction if I hadn’t indulged in a little wildness.

Looking at life in an optimistic light
When I was over-responsible, thoughtful, controlled, cautious and heedful I felt dead inside. More than often I was manipulated into these conditions by others who profited from my zeal and vigour.
All I ever did was take care of business – theirs and mine. I was strapped into a straitjacket of anguish and needless suffering. 

I don’t care about the state of the world. I don’t watch or read too much of gloomy news. Interest rate increases, inflation and GDP, though they affect my budget, can’t deflate my buoyant spirit.
I smile at my reflection often. I laugh out loud. I allow joy to course through my veins and gratitude to flood my mind.

I don’t worry about what will become of my children. I know they are each unique and will grow into the fullness of their destiny.

If success is a state of mind then a reckless optimist is well on the way to it. Believing that your needs (and some of your wants) are going to be taken care of is the mindset of a spiritual warrior (even when reality paints a bleak picture).

Thoughts are things so perhaps the optimist is not so reckless. A sunny mind and a glad heart makes for a peaceful soul. Happiness is needing nothing as everything comes in its own good time and what you miss out on….is..... for a reason.

Wisdomona's view
Don’t pick at your soul searching for the reason. It may not be the right time for revelation.

 If everything has a rhyme and reason there’d be no mystery. Mystery is anathema to monotony.

 Do you want a safe life or an adventurous one?  If you’re looking for adventure then reckless optimism is THE way.


Sunday, 24 June 2012

Who's special?

A lot of us have grown up with the idea that it’s special to be special. We’ve been looking for special qualities in that special someone and been carried away with the idea that we’re going to live especially ever after. Well, I’ve got news for you….there’s nothing special about being special.
Thinking ourselves as special is the work of the ego, the unhealthy side. This is the part of us that is constantly seeking attention and feeling superior. When we’re in super-ego mode we look down on others and get more than a little selfish.  When we look for a partner we look for special qualities. Kind and caring individuals who will complement our own special qualities.
Too bad that many of us don’t value ourselves enough to know what’s special about us or anyone else.  We spend so much time disparaging ourselves that it’s a wonder we have any self esteem at all: “Oh, I’m no good at left brained activities.” “ I’m a klutz in the kitchen.” “My brain can’t grasp Quantum Physics.” 
No one can make you feel just are!
A large dose of arrogant esteem disguised as confidence makes us appear distinct, exceptional, extraordinary and unique…and we are are…but so is everyone. If everyone’s special and we fully accept it then there’s nothing to crow about. We’re all equally special not especially special! 
No two people are made the same or think the same way. If you want to know why there’s so much conflict  in relationships then there’s your answer – sweet and simple. There are special problems that feature in relationships  such as the balance of respect. How much to give and how much to take?
Often we feel that we’re too special to give more than we take. Some of us are so special that we just take, take, take with little reciprocity. Our divaesque egos believe that it’s our right to have what we want…..and it is ….as long as it doesn’t interfere with another’s freedom.
Mother - Daughter specialness
What we call special things are the abstract; things that we can’t see or touch. Happiness…however it’s defined….kindess…particularly when its unexpected….wisdom…since it’s rare….and freedom..the most precious state of all.
What the world labels as special are those children of a lesser God.
A god that understands that sensory disability is a teacher to mankind. They have come to earth with a special purpose and those that they choose to share their lives with are honoured.
When we truly understand why we’re special then we follow through – seeing, doing and being.
At the moment, we just do special stuff randomly since if we did it every day then it’d get ordinary. Special is a feeling, a thought, a voice in your head, your soul calling.
Carve out time for togetherness - that' special
I am special and so are you. Since we’re both in the circle of specialness then there’s nothing further to say. I cannot be greater than you and you cannot make me feel small.
This is where true equilibrium happens.....and that's special!


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Check, check, check. checking......

A straw poll has revealed that men (and some women) prefer money to  love. In fact, what the poll states is that men love money above all….more than their mothers, fathers, wives, partners, siblings and even children.

However, by a process of inverted psychology, when men achieve great wealth and are firmly in the mill-billionaire stakes their attention then turns towards to family.

Men in the middle income range are said to squeeze their families out….of their wallets and heart.
Neglected wives, partners and children will bear testimony to that. When there’s no one to play rough and tumble with, no one to teach you a little car maintenance or to talk over your stressful day, you know that money is usually keeping a father away.

Waiting for Dad to get home
Earning a living, managing a business keeps many a parent away from their children during the most important hours of the day. That’s the way the world is organised and until another way of bringing home the bacon is found, that’s how it’ll be.

Money is a powerful force. You can’t have one without the other. Men will sell their souls for it. What money buys them is as important as what their families bring to them. A truly great man has the ability to stoke the fires of his finances whilst keeping the home fires burning.

Once he gets home though he might find himself burn out but there’s one activity he’ll always have time for…..checking his bank balance…often several times a day.

A man’s worth is wrapped up in money. He only understands how completely misguided this is on his death bed.

I eat, sleep and breathe it
Good money management is a skill worth cultivating but not at the expense of personal relationships with kith and kin. A healthy bank balance does not warm the cockles of your heart…..or am I wrong? Does it warm the cockles of the cold heart of avarice?

Checking for errors is the reason that many guys give for logging in to their account. “You can’t trust banks to not make mistakes,” they claim. Well why keep your money in institutions then?  “I’m checking to see that the regular bills have been paid” – they’re regular, so why wouldn’t they be?

Men, being the left brained (and sometimes bird-brained) creatures that they usually are choose rationale and logic over their emotional and creative sides. Numbers can be added, subtracted, multiplied, divided and square rooted. There’s endless fun to be had… but staring at digits never changed your income or expenditure. That usually always remains the same unless you receive an unexpected windfall. Spending less that you earn is what’ll make you all breathe easier though.

For long suffering family, it’s a dull past-time, unless they feel the benefits. A trip of a lifetime for quality family time, a surprise birthday treat or a labour saving gadget…all these will aid fatherly appreciation. Money doesn’t buy love but it sure buys a little gratitude.

Hostile take-over
After all that’s what it’s for…. except to be spent on making people happy and not just with goods but experiences too.

Checking your bank account five times a day may decrease congeniality. People who number crunch – more than once a day– may need to get a life or just get out more. There are numerous things that cost little or nothing that are pleasurable, necessary and vital for bonhomie. 

Just walk into any bank and take a look around at the faces  - they're gloomy, glum and miserable. Money isn't rewarding but sharing it always is. Becoming uber meticulous makes you miserly.

Enjoying a sunset, a roll in the grass, reading aloud, singing in the bath, rustling up some “man food” to share with the  people in your life and playing golf with your young ‘uns. There’s a ton of stuff you can do which doesn’t involve staring at a screen or spending a fortune.

Wealth is not the mere creation of figures on a spreadsheet. Wealth is a feeling and an investment in contentment is trading up. Some of the fithy rich never feel this emotion and that’s when we know it isn’t all about making the six figure bracket.

If a man watches his money so that it accumulates for his family and he’s generous with it…then earn on. If he’s money watching as a past time then he might find his bed cold at night. If you want to add some zing to your life then counting the pennies is not the way.

Numbers in my eyes
Money doesn’t change but it changes relationships and brings disenchantment. Treat it with respect and you’ll never be without.
The finest asset you can have in your life is wisdom, not money alone, and intelligent men know it.

On your deathbed, you won't be worrying...'cos you're not taking it with you!


Sunday, 10 June 2012

Two-times-two sometimes equals one!

Peoples’ motivations for relationships are both straight-forward and dubious. Societal and religious programming has grouped the world into couples. Just as Noah ordered the animals into the Ark – two by two – to escape the great flood we also align ourselves with a significant other.

And what are we running away from? There’s no hurricane, tornado, earthquake on its way but there’s a psychological storm gathering pace? We choose partners for different stages of life.; it’s not just security but insecurity too that drives us into the arms of the opposite sex.

In our teens, it’s all a kind of newness. Just as new born lambs stumble around on spindly legs in the meadow, so we stumble upon love and revel in its newness. Lingering and languid looks in the moonlight, soft, dewy complexions and a dazzling smile are the laws governing pubescent attraction. It’s pure biology and if you get lucky you might find that there’s an emotional match too.

Into your twenties and your wild oats are pushing you towards seeding. Christmas and birthday parties, weddings, funerals, school, work places and in any place where two or more gather, your antenna is raised as you check out the talent. Tall, small, round, slim, curvaceous, knock- kneed or flat footed we find a little bit of everything.  There’s something for everyone but, don’t be fooled, there’s not always someone for everyone.

In your thirties, many people have “settled down” with their chosen one. The initial euphoria of couple dom is soon worn down by the mortgage, car insurance, gym membership fees, demands that you place on each other and an ever-growing list of household chores. Once babies come along your fate is sealed with the endless round of feeding, changing, educating, disciplining and socializing.

The parenting game lasts well into your fifties so it’s a treadmill that you’ll rarely get a break from unless you make a sustained effort or have the uncommon sense to allow your child to develop into adulthood with a safety net that has a few holes.

Desirable philosophy
Whilst you’re taking care of the babies, you’ll find that your partner might become active in his role or just a guilty bystander. He’ll let you take good care of him since caring’s what you’re good at, right? After all, you got together ‘cos opposites attract and he’s the very opposite of you!??

Whe life gives you a partner, add tranquilisers ….‘cos that what it’ll take to keep you calm when he’s on a tangent of watching sports, keeping abreast of current affairs, customizing his car, getting to the next level on “Call of Duty” and cruising with the remote control. Of course, he’s not idle but engaged with all manner of things except the things that’ll keep your relationship alive.

Equally your pursuits will irk him somewhat – cleaning the oven (since, in his opinion it doesn’t need it), de-cluttering (since it’s you who’s responsible for buying most of the stuff), taking the kids on holiday (he says, they’re on holiday all year long!).

This is when you need to start checking the fine print and noticing that you might have been short changed: “for better” – hey I missed out – and “ for worse” I’ve had a sh**load!
Living my dream
Still that’s just our rational mind talking. What about the emotional stuff?

Physical comfort – a warm bod in the bed,  little looks of love, kisses, driving you places (like Miss Daisy) and just being there so you can shout out:“hey world, there’s a man in my life!”
Two heads are better than one….too bad his is filled with baseball scores!

All of the above may satisfy and so the best thing to do is place a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign on your life to keep the naysayers away. It’s your life and love. This could be your game, set and match so don’t let the spoilsports near.

There are good people out there but you may find that they've been snapped up. Others are searching, just like you, for "the one", whilst pushing through their disillusionment and holding on to scraps of optimism.

Spaced out love
Men are from planet Slowdown and women from Xuberant. The ideal is to find a partner with gravity who won't float (or fade) away.  If you find "making it work" too much hard work then you know what you have to do.

Two might start off as a cosy  number but you may find that one is not so lonely! 


Friday, 8 June 2012

Losing my religion

What lies beneath?

Most faiths are big on confessions. The Catholic faith in particular has preserved the ancient tradition of herding their flocks into small pens known as confessionals and listening to their list of misdemeanours. After the said confession, the confessor is supposedly absolved of their “crimes” and then directed towards some suitable penance. In the case of Catholicism, a dozen “Hail Mary’s” and two “Our Father’s” always go down a treat.

A priest has always been willing to lend a ear, a shoulder and a helping hand. He is the first agony uncle that many a devotee turns to when they are ailing in spirit, mind and even body. He's a trustworthy figure; a man of the cloth. In fact, God is his right hand man or so we’re led to believe. In the 21st century as walls come down we start to understand that the men, we once trusted to keep the faith, are false idols with feet of clay.

I don’t want to adopt a holier-than-thou stance on which religion is more blameworthy. Men are at the helm of nearly all of them and until that changes they’ll have to grow thick skins and wide shoulders. Yes, verbal rotten eggs and tomatoes are about to be launched.

Praying he doesn't get found out!
My particular disappointment is with the ancient religion of Buddhism. Last week a renowned cleric of a certain South London temple was jailed for seven years. This was following a unanimous guilty verdict for sexual assault against a minor over thirty years ago. The minor grew up to become a leading ophthalmologist and, following her father’s death, decided to file a charge.

I know the priest in question and he certainly believed he had got away with it. His origins are from a developing country that is rooted in patriarchy. In this society, women have no voice and the law dismisses them as mere chattels of their fathers, brothers and husbands. Such is the contempt and scorn that is heaped upon women that men have become arrogant, selfish and with an ego greater than the small islands they call home.

Your body is a temple so why the desecration?
The islands where Buddhist monks are to be found are also home to some of the best beaches. A veritable paradise for tourists though the inhabitants live in quiet desperation or adopt demon like characteristics.  Priests  are cloaked in orange, they smile and appear gracious. They have taken vows but very few are put into practice. They partake of food once a day but they feed their minds with the unwholesome. They play on your sympathy and they’ll have you bowing in obeisance and respect.

Above all, the religion lacks the one essential ingredient of immortatlity. There is no soul. People with no soul also have no heart, They are poor in spirit. They are quick to anger and slow to forgive. They preach a doctrine of loving kindness but practise black magic against their neighbour. Birth, death, marriage and children are mere civil and social arrangements. These are a people that do more harm than good, protected by a constitution that disregards human rights.
No prosperity without freedom
I don’t care to dwell on the unsavoury,  but statistics reveal that the poverty fuelled sex industries are located  in developing countries of the Theravada Buddhist tradition; Bangkok being the most notorious. Where their is suppression, oppression and depression, exploitation is the natural outcome.

We must not put priests or anyone else on pedestals or build temples on shifting sands. The priesthood is political but it must be established with palatable utilitarian principles of “the greatest happiness for the greatest number.” Or perhaps it is.....”happiness” being eschewing holy vows and turning to depraved pursuits.

A priest must ever be conscious of his position in society. He may play the role of confidant and confessor but he must never be a friend. He may be warm and generous but he must not be exclusive with his outpourings of good will. Favouritism is not in his vocabulary. He seeks solitude instead of company. He is an instrument not the inventor.

Arrogance, conceit and vanity is the material life he left behind. Should he find himself hankering after worldly that would buy him a little status amongst his followers, visual aids (television and literature) that over stimulate and titillate and the company of women and children who arouse their sensuality....then it's time to find a cave or give up the robes.

Love, which is never romantic can only be understood from an aesthetic point of view. He has no truck with it and when it does enter his mind he recognises the imposter that often poses as love – lust. If he weakens during a trying time then he must redefine his priorities with integrity.

Offering her innocence
Greed is often the overriding emotion found in the hearts of men, whether they are in the priesthood or not. Lust and greed make for psychotic bedfellows. They were surely the motives of the fair skinned, snake eyed monk who preyed upon a mere child in the bud of womanhood. The spiritual destruction he wreaked on her will remain with her forever.

In the 21st century, the Buddhist philosophy needs to take long, hard look at itself. It needs to make a decision as to what it is. It must speak out against a social injustices that allow women and children to be used as sex objects by the vice cartels as much as any another group. It must de-frock and ex-communicate the flies in the ointment!

Wake up and....smell the truth!
What is noble about this path? Where is loving kindness? Where was desirelessness when a girl was being sexually assaulted? Why does Buddhism wish no harm to sentient beings but damage the body and mind of a growing child?

Justice has been done following this monk’s incarceration (a Chief Priest no less) but the memory of that foul deed he committed cannot be erased. 

"Religion is your daily life," so says the Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran. If daily life is about violation and abuse then count me out of religion.

It is a permanent stain on the robe and the mutilation of a noble philosophy. I lost my religion many years ago though my faith and zeal for righteousness remains intact. Religion is dangerous as it is made by men. 
Faith is something that never leaves you. I know which I prefer. It was Gandhi who famously said: “in heaven, there are no religions – thank God!”


Monday, 4 June 2012

Pearls of parenting: time, intelligence & tough love

Parenting is a vocation; trial and error and sheer hard work – everything ever said about the nurturing of offspring is true. The scary thing about parenting is that we receive no training for it. We are expected to produce well-rounded children whilst we are less than equipped for such a major undertaking.

If you’re ever seeking to apprehend thieves of your precious time then look no further than your children. Each one of them will, in their own inimitable ways, imprison time in their childish fortress and sometimes even throw away the key. 

Children are a force of nature and, like the wind, they rush around like a tornado or they may enter as coolly as a summer breeze. Either way they will claim your attention.

Children need attention as much as plants take their daily nourishment from sun and water. We are the givers of time and they are the takers. Children look to their parents as role models and that’s how they fathom the world around them. So when you find them eavesdropping, telling a white lie or two or plain gossiping, be sure that they’ve picked up the  nastiness from you. Equally, when you see them sharing with their friends or helping grandma to plant bulbs in winter or caring for a hurt animal then you know some of your good habits have definitely rubbed off.

Chase after the pearl

Children capture your time and it’ll feel as if you’re a butterfly caught in a net. You really have to work on that spreadsheet but Jessie wants to play table-tennis. You know you have a cupboard to clean out but Sam wants to go to the cinema. As they grow the demands on your time (and nerves) increase.

Resistance will not work. Children intuitively know when you’re reluctant. By all means explain why it may not be possible at that given time but if you make a promise to do it later – keep it. The more you try to squirm your way out of doing fun things, the unhappier they’ll be. T
hey’ll become withdrawn and sullen and emotional damage sets in.

The ignored child grows up to be an attention seeking adult. He craves, he demands and stamps his size 11 shoes if he doesn’t get his way. Anger management therapists are acutely aware that uncontrollable rages have a lot to do with childhood experiences.

So give your time for healthful experiences. Go play table tennis with your young ‘un. Spreadsheets can wait, children do not. Take time out for the cinema and other educational trips; a cupboard doesn’t value memories but your child will.

Never give your child money in lieu of your time. Time together is ultimately more precious. The latest gadget, clothes, holiday will get broken, thrown away or be forgotten, but time spent is stored in your child’s secret mental hideaway and will be taken out at a later date in adulthood.

Read all about it
If you don’t have time to give then don’t scatter your seed. The harvest will be poor and all you'll reap are regrets.

Reading books on child rearing is helpful but no child I know ever conformed to the principles of anything written on paper. Children, as much as adults, are a mass bundle of contradictions and complexities. They are mini reflections of us though we distance ourselves from any comparisons when they’re acting up but are quick to preen ourselves when they display positive behaviour.

“Johnny scored the second highest in his Maths end of year paper. I was just the same at school; always had a good head for figures,” replies Dad. When Johnny gets a middle ranking next time. “Hey buddy, I never hit the middle, always the top!”

To a child, this is not encouragement. In fact, it’s the very opposite. Comparisons are demotivating and irrelevant to a child....that was then and this is now. Intelligence in parenting is not the cerebral kind; it is emotional and it is non-judgemental. To achieve harmonious interaction between head and heart takes wisdom. Ultimately the presence or lack of wisdom makes or breaks relationships. 
Keep striving for wisdom; your children are in sore need of it.

Your child is a walking book of wisdom. Oh yes, this is the toughest challenge of parenting to accept. 
There comes a time when parents must do the learning. Children look at life with a clarity so rare that your adult mind jumbled with prejudices and half-truths will question it.

Recording her wisdom

Recently, my 14 year old daughter had a poignant encounter during a work experience placement at a kindergarten with a three year old – Tommi - who looked underweight and  slow for his age. She developed a rapport with Tommi and came home speaking gleefully about her day with him and the other children. Another helper at the kindergarten told her that Tommi was a foster child whose mother had taken drugs during her pregnancy which had caused Tommi to be developmentally delayed.

This information hit home and played on her blossoming mind. A day later, whilst I was discussing her work experience with her, she said: “I’m glad Tommi’s mother didn’t have an abortion because he’s so beautiful.” I was touched and thrilled that my daughter had found the positive in a negative situation. 
Every child is a gift and a child’s entry into the world does not have to fit in with conventional thinking. 
The “best” route can be littered with challenges and the “worst” can bring untold blessings.

Emotional intelligence is what’s needed and we must take notes from our children. Listen to their ramblings and complaints and you’ll stumble upon some uncommon nuggets. Wisdomona’s mini-me has her heart in the right place!

In parenting, love is so many things that it’s difficult to list them all. Love is all of the above and this vital, golden rule below:

I'll find that pearl even if it kills me!
Tough love:  stand back when your children get into trouble. As long as it doesn’t involve the authorities then leave well alone. Bailing them out, clearing up their messes and providing sympathy (when it’s not the best medicine) will prevent them from developing responsibility and resourcefulness.

This is probably the hardest one as it means hitting the rocky road which is full of bandits. It’s a journey that feels scary as you have to do it alone. This is a time for saddling up the stallion of courage within and galloping into the dark night of your insecurities. Husband, partner, family and friends will warn you off but audacity will take you further than cautious advice.
This where you find that true parenting means providing inspiration and how do you do that? 
By being inspirational yourself– thinking and feeling it – even when you don’t believe you have always do.

Inspiration is the pearl of parenting. But you’ve mislaid the pearl. It’s been buried deep under your wounds and scars in the vast ocean that is your half-lived life.

On the back of Inspiration
So take the horse to water (even if it's not thirsty), take a deep, sea dive and stop asking other oysters if they’ve found your pearl. 
No one can find your truth before you do. Accept help but grow strong in self-reliance.

It’s you; you are the pearl that needs a little polishing to shine....a few hard knocks are just what’s needed to restore your unique lustre (and you’ve had plenty of them!).
Shine the light of time, intelligence, tough love on your children and all will be well, trust me.