The Dao of Standstill Is Gratitude

Waiting seems like standstill. It is uncomfortable for this old dame.

I started The Doberman Project eager to press forward with my tlotal Life change.  I was full of concrete plans and an end-of-year deadline to enact them.

Future Is Unknown and Unpredictable

Circumstances beyond my control have intervened in my retirement plans.

Indeed the whole world is waiting to see whether the USA plunges into fascism, or the president-elect sparks a nuclear holocaust, or if the world economy goes into a tailspin as a result of the nativist tendencies sweeping the world.

movie still from All Quiet on Western Front
From film All Quiet on the Western Front.

The antidote to standstill is gratitude.

Gratitude is the antidote for any ill that befalls us. In the smallest pleasures of life we find redemption.

It reminds me of the soldier’s hand stretching from the foxhole for the tiny singing bird in the great film All Quiet on the Western Front (novel by Erich Maria Remarque). This last act of remarking beauty and life becomes his death.

Hexagram 12: Standstill or Stagnation

The 12th hexagram, P’i, in the I Ching is Standstill or Stagnation. The powers of heaven and earth are out of balance and pulling away from each other.

P'i: Standstill or Stagnation

“The way of inferior people is in ascent; . . . But the superior people do not allow themselves to be turned from their principles. If the possibility of exerting influence is close to them, they nevertheless remain faithful to their principles and withdraw into seclusion.”

I have been even more reclusive than usual. Having a Doberman to train and exercise would do me a world of good. An intelligent Doberman Pinscher is a true companion dog, noble, watchful, and protective.

The notion of standstill and stagnation appears repulsive. Yet smelly things transform in stagnation; from compost come the best fruits, vegetables, and flower.

From Stagnation Comes Transformation

P’i, read in its entirety, is a hexagram of hope.

Man in prayer

Line Three states, in the Wilhelm translation, “Inferior people have risen to power illegitimately do not feel equal to the responsibility.”

Fifteen USA security agencies say Russia meddled in the US election that has put this ignorant narcissist into office.

“In their hearts they begin to be ashamed, although at first they do not show it outwardly. This marks a turn for the better.”

The final three lines promise, “First standstill, then good fortune.”

I have a comfortable apartment.  I am in good health.

I mostly enjoy my teaching job and the chance to be with my terrific, hard-w0rking, hopeful students. I can increase my savings for The Doberman Project, retirement, and my total life change.

A few close friends and family are a treasure.  All my needs are met, by the grace of the Dao. I give thanks.

The Dao of Despair and Hope

Rembrandt studio, woman walking to the left
Studio of Rembrandt van Rijn, Beggar Walking to the Left, Rosenwald Collection

The election of a racist, misogynist, narcissist as president has shaken to my core.

Knowing that one half my fellow Americans think it’s okay for a man who shamed a handicapped reporter from the stage to be president earns my contempt for them.

There is no place to run and hide. A wave of far-right narrowly nationalist fervor is sweeping the planet, from India to England.

When I started this blog, I was inspired with a sense of purpose and energy for how to spend my retirement: I would find a home with a yard appropriate for me and a Doberman. I would participate in training to the highest level of excellence possible for the animal and me.

A simple plan for a total life change.

Then, whoosh, despair for the future of our great Republic swamped me — despair that so many people choose to put illusions of self-benefit above civility, the Constitution, compassion, and the law.

One person suggested that I need therapy. I think not.

Swamplands of the Soul: New Life in Dismal Places (Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts)

“The ultimate purpose of psychotherapy is not so much the archaeology exploration of infantile sentiments as it is learning gradually and with much effort to accept your own limits and to carry the weight of suffering on our own shoulders for the rest of our lives. Psychological work, instead of providing liberation from the causes of serious discomfort, increases it, teaching the patient to become adult and, for the first time in [her] life actively face the feeling of being alone with [her] pain and abandoned by the world” in Swamplands of the Soul, Hollis, a Jungian, quoting Carotenuto (The Difficult Art), p. 15.

After a certain age — and a certain age (often posited as post-50) is barely a shadow in the rear view mirror of life — and a certain amount of counseling and spiritual seeking, therapy is only a way of escaping the difficult realization that I am all I have.Oddly, I find these ostensibly cheerless words comforting. I even find a glimmer of hope and renewed purpose in them.

Figure walking, from back, Vuillard
Edouard Vuillard, Walking Figure Seen from Behind, c. 1894, Gift of Benjamin and Lillian Hertzberg

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

TS Eliot, Little Gidding, the last of The Four Quartets (http://www.coldbacon.com/poems/fq.html)

I was greatly influenced by The Quartets, a meditation on time, often as an undergraduate at New York University back in the days when Bob Dylan sightings at local cafes often turned out to be true. I listened to Eliot intone the words in a flat, gravely voice, on the now archaic invention of a long-playing album.

After decades of exploration, I cannot say that I know this place in life — despair — at all. I can say my current despair is a situational adjustment issue, as a therapist would frame it, and not the inner angst of youth that goaded my early consultations of this poem.

Woman working in garden, Pissarro
Camille Pissarro (French, 1830 – 1903 ), Woman Working in a Garden, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection

A Sufi notion suggests sometimes we are in the garden where life pleases us, and sometimes we are in the fire, where we are tested. Both are places where inner lessons may be learned.

TS Eliot reached the same idea in the final lines of The Quartets:

“And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.”

In such stoic acceptance of reality, I find hope.

If It Isn’t One Damn Dream, It’s Another

I used to drink, rather a lot. A persistent fantasy during this time was that someday, after my newspaper career, I’d be a blowsy old barkeep.

Some alcoholic private eye would run his business out of my little hole-in-the-wall tavern.

Every once in a while, I might even get laid.

At age 40, I got clean and sober. It wasn’t a goal, and it wasn’t my idea of how to march into old age as a fabulous old dame.

Funny story: I may be the only person in the world who was blackmailed into treatment by her physician for overdosing on a nutritional supplement — L-Tryptophan.

Read moreIf It Isn’t One Damn Dream, It’s Another

The Dao of Despair

My retirement plans are in shambles since the Election last Tuesday. My dreams and goals have become of little interest, like something from someone else’s life.

Change is always challenging for me to navigating.

Navigating the installation of a white supremacist in the White House is a change I find disgusting. I am not sure the Republic can survive this.

I researched many countries to which I might emigrate for many months this year as part of my retirement planning. There are places with large expatriate communities.

I am fond of my comforts in the USA. I don’t wish to die alone in a strange country.

It would be easier to move if I had a partner, be it lover or close friend, to negotiate such a thing.

I have an ongoing stomach ache, headache, and fatigue. All that seemed bright and shiny and full of hope when I started this blog is sucked dry of meaning.

The dao teaches us there are times of fullness and times when the tide goes out.

This Dame is grieving this repudiation of the values of my country.

Two Things L’Ombre Taught Himself

I’ve burned a lot of pots boiling water for tea since L’Ombre died.  He taught himself several things, and one of them was coming to get me when water started boiling.

The breeder, Linda Coggins, whose name shall forever be blessed on my lips, had me start him off by mixing his crunchy food with canned food and hot water. So he came to associate boiling water with meals. Realizing he had prevented me from ruining another pan, he always got lavish praise for this.

 

How L’Ombre Came into My Life

I never really thought of myself as owning L’Ombre.  It was more like he just “came into my life” in the way that friends and lovers and mentors show up. Kismet. We were a symbiotic team. He protected me, and he had a great life going places most people can’t bring their ill-behaved hounds. He was invited to parties,

Read moreTwo Things L’Ombre Taught Himself

The Dao of Duration: Hexagram 32

This old dame has been studying the I Ching for a long time — sometimes often, then for years . Some of the principles have seeped into my soul by this long acquaintanceship.

Hexagrams diagrammed, my early notes
Hexagrams diagrammed, my early notes

This is a challenging time in putting my total life change plans into motion, yet not stagnation (Hexagram 12). Lots is going on, like the gentle wind trigram beneath the thunder trigam in the hexgram of duration.

Read moreThe Dao of Duration: Hexagram 32

Each Home Is a Dream

Sunday, Sept. 5, 2016 — The drive into Ormond Beach along old Dixie Highway was sunny and fine, with a sky as clear blue as a bolt of cerulean cotton.

A distinctly north Florida mix of dwarf palms and stately trees hung with Spanish moss shrouded the road. The dappled drive passed mansions that look like assisted living facilities for the seriously wealthy (never a nursing home for Daddy Sawbucks) next to old cinder block homes from the Fifties and Sixties with louvered windows.

Each home I see is a dream.

Read moreEach Home Is a Dream

Ormond Beach: Each Home Sparks a Dream

The drive into Ormond Beach along old Dixie Highway was sunny and fine, with a sky as clear blue as a bolt of cerulean cotton.

A distinctly north Florida mix of some of the dwarf varieties of palm and stately trees hung with Spanish moss shrouded the road. The dappled drive passed mansions that look like assisted living facilities for the seriously wealthy (never a nursing home for Daddy Sawbucks) next to old cinderblock homes from the Fifties and Sixties with louvered windows.

Wrap around porch, Ormond Beach
Wraparound porch, old style

Read moreOrmond Beach: Each Home Sparks a Dream

Fear and Total Life Change

Fear is the enemy of total life change.

 

Woman wearing makeup mask
Total Life Makeover or Fantasy Mask?

My fantasies are rich and elaborate.

They rarely come true. One did. I was a very good reporter. I led an exciting and interesting life meeting and socializing with artistic, intelligent, and amusing people.

I haven’t lived a dream in a long time. Youth is a time of hopes and dreams. Old age is a time of maturing through recognition and acceptance of limitations – in health, income, opportunities of many kinds.

As my house hunting cracks into the reality of how little there is in my price range in safe, attractive neighborhoods, fear creeps into the schism between fantasy and reality.

Read moreFear and Total Life Change

Fantasy Meets Reality: The Dao of Pushing Through

Four hours, a dozen properties, an intense drive through the neighborhood I favor, and fantasy meets reality. I have arrived at the dao of pushing through.

Staircase with Trophies, NYPL Digital Collection
Staircase with Trophies, NYPL Digital Collection

Goals and dreams are the wellspring of vitality. Without them, a person might as well be dead. It’s important in late life to have another project on the horizon.

The desire that illuminates my quest is having a well-trained, well-bred Doberman Pinscher.

Affordable homes for myself and my faithful companion are, so far, underwhelming. A home can look good when the photograph crops out every undesirable aspect.

One is next-door to a double-wide mobile with a platoon of kiddies’ bikes and a tree house on the property line.

Read moreFantasy Meets Reality: The Dao of Pushing Through