On working with pain

I don't believe life is meant to be simple or easy.

I don’t believe life is meant to be simple or easy.

My circle of Facebook friends often post about their physical and emotional pain. I read several such posts today. Some of them asked for guidance. I expect they all seek mercy.

I have studied this subject for many years. I have been to workshops, including yoga, many, many times. I also have read some excellent books. I will mention three of them in this post.

The most dramatic title might be Full Catastrophe Living. Subtitle is Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. The author is Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. He describes wholeness as “a vague feeling or memory left over from when we were children.” That says it for me. Wholeness is a major theme for the author.

Many years ago I went to a workshop guided by John Bradshaw. His book is titled Healing the Shame that Binds You.  He described shame as a false self. I was deeply shamed by my family. There were three suicides and a murder, and some divorces. He introduces the phrase toxic shame. I know something about that. It’s not an easy challenge.

The third book is Care of the Soul, by Thomas Moore. His friend James Hillman, whose work I also respect, wrote this: “Years pass. I get to read a lot of psychology but the sincerity, intelligence and style—so beautifully clean—of Tom Moore’s Care of the Soul truly moved me.” He advises us to see the significance of myths, and to see how those stories describe us. I think that is good advice.

I have been rejected several times by people who were my friends for several years. It is an informative experience, but not because they are willing to talk to me. I am left to wonder about my place in their myth, and theirs. Have you had such an experience?

On offending people

preacher

I could use a few of these cards.

It’s all relative, I suppose.

I offend what seems to me like a lot of people. It’s not much compared to, say, Donald Trump, but it still seems like a lot to me. Besides, he is rich and famous, and I am neither of those things. My numbers should be much smaller.

I mostly offend women, and this is in spite of the fact that I admire and respect all of them who have taken offense toward me.

One young lady was advised that I might be a danger to her. We had done a bubble bath photo shoot following several clothed traditional shoots, and that apparently prompted her friends to see lust in my motives.

My intention, if I read it correctly, was to affirm and honor her charm and beauty. She has a severe physical handicap, and I wanted to portray the wonder of her that shines past her physical limitations. I meant well.

Another friend simply said don’t call or visit ever again. She made this announcement in a phone call. She told me she would not reveal the offense because I would try to “fix” it, and such was not, in her view, possible.

I offended a lady I considered a good friend while trying to comfort her as she dealt with a personal crisis involving a domestic relationship. I had photographed her many times, always abiding by my rules of total respect and keeping a proper distance. She deemed my attention on the mission of mercy to involve inappropriate touching. I did touch her right thigh. I confess. I wish she had told me at the time. I would have adjusted my behavior.

We live in a world that takes offense easily. If friends do not announce their feelings in time to make adjustments people in antagonistic relationships are not likely to do so. Things seem to me to be getting worse. I encourage people to describe their experience to the people who appear to be causing it. It would definitely help me.

The perils of Facebook

the endI posted what I thought was praise for a friend on Facebook, and she told me in an email that she felt violated. I posted a photo that I thought was both modest and appealing. There is some message to her use of email, I think. I would have preferred a conversation. Do we still do conversations?

In any event, I cancelled my Facebook account. I don’t trust Facebook to begin with, so it was the kick in the butt I needed. I have had previous experiences of affront and mistrust directed at me. I can get those things in the real world.

Any thoughts from y’all?

 

Your dream conversation

chairs

You can invite anyone, throughout all of history, to join you in a conversation. And your choice is?

I saw this on Facebook, and the post attracted thousands of responses. This blog is certainly not Facebook, but I will venture to extend the same invitation.

Who would you talk to for an hour if you were not bound by any limitations of time, space, or our notions of reality?

I have largely scorned my family. Should I waste this privilege on one of them? Probably not. Or should I?

The good people who were murdered come to mind. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Harvey Milk, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln. I wonder how they processed the injustice done to them. How did they balance mortality with justice and goodness? I am overly preoccupied with injustice. A weakness of mine.

Then I consider artists. E. B. White comes to mind. I love his work, and I am intimidated by it. He wrote with grace, and finesse. Me? I work at it, and the results are clumsy and not convincing. And there is Ed Sullivan, the inventor of the television variety show. I stand in awe of him. I admire inventors.

And there is the outrageous. Elvis Presley comes to mind. And Michael Jackson. How could I narrow the field? I am outrageous, but probably in the wrong direction.

She is all grown up now.

She is all grown up now.

I also have a gang of dear friends. I would love to have an hour with each of them. Especially the young ones.

I think we can fulfill such a fantasy as this by drawing on our current community of friends, and by appreciating the gifts already provided to us.

My greatest wealth is the circle of friends who are available to fill that guest chair. I have no doubts about this.

We don’t need fantasy, but we do need imagination. Imagination does not get the respect it deserves these days. May we do our best to remedy that.

Your thoughts?

 

 

Enjoying the Storm

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Stormy Leigh (that’s pronounced Lay) is an example of my good fortune in life.

She performs with Black Cherry Burlesque on the first Friday of the month at the Surly Wench. Yvette and I have attended many performances.  And I have photographed her on several occasions at various locations. We first met at a group photo shoot, and I admired her so much I invited her to work with me again. She accepted.

We shot again yesterday at the Art Gallery in Tucson. It’s at the intersection of Stone and Speedway.

Several aspects of Stormy delight me. The first is her obvious beauty and playful spirit. I love her presentation before the camera as a lady of mystery. She does those facial expressions beautifully. I also like the way she poses with lots of angles and such gracefully all akimbo.

Then there is her wonderful level of comfort in presenting herself to a camera and photographer. I give her almost no requests regarding her pose. Once in a while I ask her to lower her chin. That’s it. She continues to deliver magic flowing from one pose to the next.

I relish photography because it enables me to record the notions of who people think they are, or better yet, have decided to be. Men tend to be shy and reluctant, and I care about that. Women enjoy celebrating who they are. None, so far as I know, more than the wonderful Stormy Leigh.

It’s good to contemplate one’s blessings.

 

On being a mess

Me and LadThis was sent to me by a Facebook friend who I have not met in person: “My life sucks. I really need a way out of my situation.”

I know lots of people who are experiencing deep distress. Our nation as a whole is experiencing distress from many sources.

I notice the people begging for handouts from the median strips, and I notice my tendency to judge them to guide my decision to offer them a little money—or not. I’m working on that.

I have been dismissed by a few people lately. It shakes my confidence when that happens.

I’ve been cutting people off left and right. I’ve got enough shit to deal with without your bullshit. I don’t need it and I fucking refuse to let negative people stay in my life. REFUSE. I’d rather be alone than surrounded by people who make me feel like shit.—A friend’s public post to Facebook

All in all, I feel messy. The possible advantages are greater empathy for people like the lady whose life sucks, and greater empathy for myself.

Our friend Lin had two golden retrievers who lived long, rich lives. They died recently, and it leaves a big vacancy in her world. Life throws us plenty of experiences to, hopefully, embrace.

One of the lessons in all of this, for me, anyway, is not to add blame when that sensation of being messed up comes over us. And let us not blame other people for their mess. They have enough problems already.