Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

HAWMC Day #19: 5 Dinner Guests. Who are 5 people you’d love to have dinner with (living or deceased) and why?

This question… It’s a tough one. Dinner is just one meal, so you want to make it people who will count and folks who you won’t waste time on establishing a relationship with, unless you think it’ll carry over into other future meals.

Three of the seats are obvious to me: My deceased grandparents. I just know that Grandpa Baroff and Adam would get along like old friends, and I have so many questions about the afterlife and their perspectives on living life, now that they’re in a different place that I think Grandma and Grandpa would answer for me. Then there are questions about being a homemaker and a mother and things I never learned from them but wanted to that I would ask both Grandma and Grammy about.

I think I’d also like to invite Grandma Topor – Adam’s Mom’s mom, who lived with him while he was growing up. I’d like to meet her and get to know her at least a little.

It’s become increasingly obvious to me that the fifth seat would belong to Poppy, who is still alive and kicking in Memphis. I’m sure he’d be happy to see all of these people again too, and me and Adam. I miss Poppy a lot, but I don’t have much to report to him on, which is why I don’t call him like I probably ought to. I feel like he’s so much more active than me that my non-career-having self is probably a disappointment to him. I love him a lot though, and I love to hear his stories about how he’s in his mid-nineties and still is kicking around a college campus, learning from and teaching 20-somethings a thing or two about life.

There are plenty of Tables of 5 that I could construct for other purposes though — family is just always on my mind nowadays.

I remember a time when I was at Berklee where the answer would have been (without pausing for a BREATH): Madonna, Prince, Britney, Fiona Apple, & Tori Amos – And Prince would only have been there because I would have wanted at least one guy at the table who could play guitar. 🙂 And I would have wanted to bug all of them for how they became famous and how I could follow in their footsteps.

It’s funny how our values change. I used to want fame. Now all I want is peace and happiness for myself and the people I love.

Chapter 45: A Flood of Morality

The greatest accomplishments seem as though lacking,
they have no use for fraud.

The greatest surplus seems as though washed out;
it has no use for the poor.

The greatest straight will seem as if bent;
The greatest skill seems inelegant;
The greatest debate seems as cautious speech.

Quiet, cool, calm will always be victorious over hot-tempered impatience.
Cold will be victorious over heat.
Clear, distinct, and pure calm acts as everything’s correct 1st principle.

Chapter 44: Setting up a list of things you should give up or stop doing.

Fame or your body, which matters more?
Your body or wealth, to what extent will you go?
Obtain them (fame and wealth) and you’ll still die by which ailment?

Therefore, extreme popularity causes wealth to be squandered, while
Hoarding causes wealth to be stolen or to perish.

Thus, to be aware of your sufficiency is no disgrace.
To be aware that it is time to stop is not dangerous.
In fact, it may bring you long life.

Some things you have to learn the hard way.

HAWMC Day #17: Learned the Hard Way. What’s a lesson you learned the hard way? Write about it for 15 today.

One thing that folks may or may not know about me is that I am on my second marriage, and so I learned, the hard way, that the word “forever” only has the real meaning of “as long as something can last” as opposed to “for all of time.”

I was very young — 19 — when I accepted my first husband’s proposal. I had no idea who I was as a person yet, or what marriage meant, but I couldn’t yet say, “No.” to anyone either, and especially not to someone I had feelings for.

Without getting into the good, the bad, and the deeply personal of the marriage, I will say that it lasted for 2 years… and 2 years was not the rest of my life, which was what we had promised each other.

I was crushed and broken when he left. I remember sardonically joking with friends that, “Apparently, forever is exactly 2 years.”

But as I began rebuilding my self-respect and building a sense of who I was without him, I realized that “forever” is kind of a throwaway word that means “as long as it goes” and the only person you’re going to be with for the rest of your life for certain is yourself. Time with others is a privilege they give you and that you simultaneously give them.

“Forever” carries with it the hope that an activity will continue, uninterrupted, in perpetuity — but one never knows how much time you have with someone. Life is precious and tenuous. Any of us could be taken from existence in the blink of an eye, and “forever” is done. So too is the way it works with break-ups.

That’s why I’m really looking forward to my second anniversary with Adam in October of this year. I think getting past that milestone will mean more to me than I can possibly express verbally. I believe our forever is the longer-lasting kind, especially now that I’m a longer-lasting kind of person.

I mean, we deal with MS and seizure disorder on the regs. We’ve defeated my PTSD together, and I’m kicking my depression in the ass. Adam is my partner in life. We’ve gone through making the choice to move in with family rather than be homeless. We’ve pulled together and been stronger as a team rather than scream at each other and place blame for our troubles. We find strength in one another and support. We choose to be together to weather the storm of life.

And we raise foster kittens together who are awesome and cuddly and sweet, who won’t be kittens forever either, but who I will always love.

Chapter 43: One-Sided Use

The softest thing in all of the world gallops hard
until it is the most firm thing in the world.
(Water erodes earth. Still, air parts water. Softer, and softer…)

Nothing exists to enter where there is no space.
(Or, if we say it upside down and backwards:
Non-existence blooms where there is no room for it.)

I am blessed to understand the wholesomeness of wu wei (doing without doing),
but it goes without saying,
those in all the land under heaven
who benefit are rare to reach it (or notice it happening).

An End to My Second Year of Fire

On April 17, 2011, I tried to kill myself.

At least, I crossed the intersection of Colorado and Central against traffic and admitted to police officers that I wanted to end my life. In California, that’s close enough to a suicide attempt to land you with a 5150 – making you officially a danger to yourself, and getting you locked up in a mental institution for a 72 hour hold until they can determine whether or not you are mentally healthy enough to rejoin the rest of society, or whether they need to keep you, for your own safety, for another two weeks inside a facility with truly dangerous people (some of whose mental illnesses had caused them to kill others) and powdered eggs.

I only spent 1 day with the really troubled folks before the psychiatrist on site decided I ought to be allowed downstairs with the people who were less violent. But I’ll tell you, the talks I had with Victor, a 19 year old Mexican mafioso, who was also in as a suicide-attempter, will stay with me all my life. He didn’t know another way out of his life when his whole family was “the family” and his grandfather was the guy who was his abuser from a young age.

My woes paled in comparison, I felt — yet when I told him my story, he cried because he couldn’t imagine having a chronic illness and making your whole family poor because you couldn’t work either. He actually hugged me in the yard and hid me while I was having a seizure because he said “You don’t want the nurses finding you like this. They’re awful.” And the ones upstairs kinda were. I think they’d hit compassion fatigue.

But thankfully, that was my last seizure during the 72 hours. Those few days helped me gain strength for what would be an epic year of change for me.

Long-time readers of my journal will remember 2005 as my First Year of Fire: Getting Divorced, Moving from My House (That I Owned!) Back to My Parents House, Then To Poppy’s, Then Moving to Los Angeles, and Starting Law School. It was like I started a whole new life. It was like God was forging me to be stronger and better so that I could be a better Rachael and do more in life.

This second year of fire is no different. I got hit with God’s Hammer over and over again.

After getting out of Glendale Adventist, Adam and I had to deal with the very real situation at hand that Mom and Dad had removed their financial support and that we could no longer afford to live in CA. We went through the process of selling as much of our stuff as we possibly could, and we moved to Adam’s brother’s home in Romeoville.

Here in Romeoville, there is no public transportation in the subdivision where we live, so for the past 9 months, I’ve spent most of my days alone, unable to go anywhere, and without any friends in the area. It’s a drastic change from the life we were living, but it’s taught me a lot about myself.

It’s forced me to learn how to be alone and to be okay with it. I’ve gotten better as a writer, have learned to crochet, have gotten more into jewelry making, playing video games, playing guitar and piano, as well as cooking and researching paleo recipes.

Adam was able to get a job right away here, though not one that gave us financial independence from Nick — though we are hopeful for one of the 3 jobs he’s interviewed for recently to come through soon! Fingers crossed!

I’m now comfortably a part of the other side of my family, and I feel like wearing the Majka last name is appropriate and not just something I put on.

And I see the value in being a housewife: something I swore as a child I would never be. It was a position I looked down upon because I didn’t understand its beauty, necessity, or worth. I’ve been able to redefine success for myself, because with my conditions I can say that I am successful on a day now if I: 1.) shower 2.) do at least 1 load of dishes and 3.) do at least 1 load of laundry. I’m totally awesome if I have dinner ready by the time Adam’s home from work. All of that on top of watching foster kittens, writing blog entries, and being a Rae is enough for me.

I think the biggest success of the year, however, is that I no longer want to die.

Part of it is medication – Abilify has made a huge difference.
Part of it is meditation – Tao/Buddhism and being present in the moment makes a huge difference.
Part of it was working through things in EMDR in therapy – and it was a LOT of work going through the traumatic events of my early childhood, being honest about what I was feeling when it was shame based and scary.

But ALL of it is choice.

Happiness, contentment, solace – they require consistent choice in their favor, especially when times seem their bleakest.

I ask that if you know anyone who is suicidal that you please encourage them to get help, to learn about meditation, and to tough it out. A good life is possible, but it is constant work.

And it’s worth it.

Chapter 42: “Tao”ization (Transformation by Tao)

Tao gave birth to one.
One gave birth to two.
Two gave birth to three.
Three gave birth to the Ten Thousand things.

The Ten Thousand things endure the negative
as well as cherish the positive.
Powerful, vital breath serves to bring them into harmony.

People loathe to be alone and lonely, orphaned, widowed, unworthy,
Yet kings and leaders believe it to fit themselves.
Therefore some things might be a benefit to lose
and other things a loss to gain.

People actually teach what I also teach here.
Those with the strength of a bridge may not be uncrossable.
I will prepare you to consider God, the father.

You Know That You Like My Style…

HAWMC Day #15: Writing with Style. What’s your writing style? Do words just flow from your mind to your fingertips? Do you like handwriting first? Do you plan your posts? Title first or last? Where do you write best?

When I write, words just flow. I can’t imagine handwriting first, planning my posts, or being anything other than off-the-cuff from on-the-couch.

I do my writing spur of the moment because I feel like it’s more natural, more real. I want my readers to feel like I’m talking to them, because I am! Otherwise, I always feel like it’s stilted and impersonal.

I did plan menus during the Whole 46, so I guess you could say that I planned entries for a while. And I have planned to get through the whole Tao de Ching, so that’s planned. Hey! Look, Ma! Organization!

I guess that means there’s a little bit of both in here. Just like life. Yeehaw.

Speaking of life, it’s going pretty well. Today we’re celebrating Adam’s 33rd birthday with friends and family, at a champagne brunch in the city. (ooh la la!) That means that as much as I’d rather keep blogging and sitting online, it’s time to put the shine on this diamond and get cleaned up!

I hope everyone is having a good weekend!

Chapter 41: Same Difference.

When the highest scholars get a whiff of Tao,
they diligently try to walk the Way.

When average scholars hear about Reason,
it seems as though they store away the knowledge, but it perishes.

When lower-class “scholars” get wind of Tao,
they laugh at it and ridicule it.
If they didn’t laugh so hard at it,
it wouldn’t be Tao!

Therefore some things need to be established to speak of it:

To understand Tao, it will seem as if concealed.
To advance in Tao will seem as if to retreat.
To a barbarian Tao will seem flawed.

It’s highest virtue is like the valley,
Deep, pure, and empty, to seem as if in disgrace.
The broadest ethics seem insufficient.

To construct goodness seems as if to steal!
True and genuine nature seems perverse at times – twisted like the Chongquing river.
Generosity has no corner or stopping place.

Grand talents mature slowly.
Loud sounds are infrequently made by voices.
The greatest form is invisible.

Tao is concealed, nameless, and obscure;
Yet man is only made good through Tao and is forgiven and moreover made complete.

The Perfect Day

HAWMC Day #14: My Dream Day. Describe your ideal day. How would you spend your time? Who would you spend it with? Have you had this day? If not – how could you make it happen?

I am fortunate. I have lived a dream day. It was the day of Adam and my wedding.

I was surrounded by the people I love most in the world, and despite being ridiculously sick (I had the flu – on top of the MS and seizure disorder!), it was damn near perfect.

Could I have lived without the illness? ABSOLUTELY. But the day had everything about it that a perfect day ought to have.

  1. I got married to the love of my life – a man who treats me with kindness, respect, patience, caring, compassion, and all the love I could ever ask for, whose kiss lights my soul on fire and whose bedroom skills still make me blush. I felt so deeply loved and was able to reciprocate that love fully in a way that is everlasting. And the best part is, we still feel that way about each other and get to rekindle that commitment daily.
  2. I was surrounded by my best friends and family from all over the country. I felt totally loved and as though I completely “fit in” and was safe wherever I was. That secure feeling is one I will never forget.
  3. We all got to eat incredibly delicious food! (I’m a simple girl. Delicious food makes my whole day!)
  4. There was great music and dancing at the reception! I love to dance, even though I look silly doing it. It’s my favorite way to be active and work out. Can you say, “Living room dance time Me-party?” I can! 😀
  5. We had a karaoke after-party for everyone that night, which meant that there was singing! I love to sing. I try to do it every day, even if I’m alone.
  6. Despite my illnesses, we didn’t let the seizures or feeling bad get in the way of having a good time. My happiness showed through all day long. That’s the way I want to live my whole life.
  7. We didn’t spend our time worrying about anything but what was going on that day, and we were just in the moment. It made that time very special.
  8. I fell asleep the second my head hit the pillow, and I had the best sleep! There are few things better than that.

Care to see our wedding ceremony? It was a lot of fun! Adam and I wrote it ourselves, and even got feedback from the wedding DJ that it was the best ceremony he’d seen in 30 years of DJing!

You can check it out at http://www.rachael-and-adam.com — just let it load for a while. It’s a pretty big file.