Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

BS and meta-BS

I’ve written more about a particular relationship on this blog than about anything else. It’s the relationship about which I wrote the poem “DRY” and numerous posts.

The interaction has finally ended, as it should have more than a year ago, with a lack of ending: there is no bold statement or move to make; there is only the acceptance of what was and wasn’t, what continues to be not, and what will never be–acceptance that came with my recent “Acceptance Revolution,” about which I plan to write soon on this blog. Stay tuned.

My message today is a small one dealing with a lesson I learned from this relationship: don’t tolerate BS, and be wary of meta-BS.

BS refers simply to the modes by which one permits oneself to be mistreated in a realtionship. It’s just a truism that, in general, we human beings are willing to put up with quite a bit when we love and care about someone. It’s an understatement to say that I loved this person a lot, and thus I put up with a lot over a long period of time. I had a romance with her that failed. I tried to rekindle the romance, and that effort also ended in heartbreak. I tried to be “just friends” with her several times, putting a lot of time and effort into even that diminished relationship, but ended up her spiritual whipping boy each time.

Meta-BS refers to a person’s “going meta” on his or her BS, apologizing for it, explicating reasons for it (i.e., making excuses), and promising and perhaps even demonstrating efforts to reform it. Meta-BS differs from genuine apologies, reasons, and reform in that the person, either consciously or unconsciously, lacks the intention or the ability to do right by the target of the BS.

Meta-BS can keep you on the hook a long time. Think about the addict who cleans up and falls off the wagon in a never-ending cycle, while his or her family members in turn celebrate the reforms and suffer through the rock-bottoms. So it was in this unhealthy relationship, in which the person in question continually served up the BS and then apologized for it. Meanwhile, I was myself like an addict, unable to kick the habit as the aforementioned poem describes.

My Acceptance Revolution provided me the means of final (I believe) extrication. Contrary to past practice, in which I would try to push away the pain the relationship had caused me and the feelings for her that lingered, I simply accepted all of my internal content, committing myself only to the management of what I am able to manage: my words and actions.

The remarkable thing is that the pain and the feelings immediately subsided to the point where now I am truly beginning to forget her. Or, to paraphrase the country tune, “More and more I think about her less and less.”

Now that I have (I feel) extricated myself from one of the most painful situations of my life, I have little doubt that she will contact me again, show me her baby pictures, and try to do the little things that, in the past, pushed my buttons and roped me in. Come what may; that’s just how these things work. There is little more for me to say to her than, “Congratulations. Blessings.” I will continue to accept my internal content while managing my words and actions as well as I am able.

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Sick baby updates for January 25, 2009

First post in which I talked about interpreting at the hospital for a family whose baby had a severe birth defect of the liver: biliary atresia, or, in his case, the complete absence of a bile duct

Second post with update.

Thanks to everyone for the prayers and moral support along the way. I interpreted for the family for the baby’s checkup on Friday. Thus far, everything is going well. It will take about two more months or so to confirm that the Kasai procedure was a success. This family has been so kind to me. They bought my daughter a beautiful outfit from Gymboree, which she loves.

I have not heard anything more about the family whose baby was born with a birth defect of the heart. I assume at this point that no news is good news.

Thanks for your continued prayers for these children. I will provide updates as I learn more.

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Dropping the L-bomb

Under what circumstances do you say, “I love you,” also known as “dropping the L-bomb,” when you enter a new romantic relationship?

In considering the matter, one digs into a veritable sundae of sociological, psychological, and spiritual issues:

  • What is the vision of romantic love in the society?
  • What phrases, if any, in the society indicate a person’s belief that he or she is feeling romantic love of a particular level for someone?
  • Regardless of a particular society’s vision of romantic love, what actually is happening in “love” on various levels: sociological, psychological, physical, and spiritual?

One could write a book about how love has veen viewed through the ages and what phrases were used to indicate one’s recognition that love is present. Here, however, I’d like to talk about how things are in the US and Japan and how they jibe with my opinion of things.

Whereas in the past love and marriage were viewed in a more (but not necessarily exclusively) sociological context (i.e., marriage was more for practical and economic purposes, such as procreation and bringing families and even countries together), in the US we see marriage as existing for personal fulfillment: i.e., we want to find the person who complements us and experience love with him or her. The experience of love is primary; procreation and other aspects of the partnership are definitely secondary.

The following seem to me to be the basic principles of feeling love and using the phrase “I love you” in the US:

  • People in a loved-based partnership or relationship (e.g., marriage, living together, girl/boyfriend) ought to be feeling love for one another. Contrariwise, people who don’t have such feelings ought not be in such a partnership. For, there is a general belief that married people that don’t “really love each other” should get divorced and find partners they “really love.”
  • People who feel love for each other ought to express those feelings verbally (“I love you”), and something is wrong if they don’t, either with the relationship or with the partner or partners who won’t say the magic words.
  • Mutually saying “I love you” is a major milestone in the development of a relationship.
  • One ought not say “I love you” without really meaning it (whatever “really meaning it” means).

How about in Japan? The vision of romantic love in that country is not tremendously different from our own, and the way people approach dating is roughly the same as well. Furthermore, the phrase “ai shite iru” (literally, “I am loving [you], with the object of the verb usually left implied, as is common in Japanese grammar) has approximately the same sociological import as “I love you.” Once people are in a relationship, however, there seems to be much less of an expectation for verbal reinforcement.

So, according to the unspoken rules, we need to feel love for someone before we say “I love you.” We know as individuals what it’s like to feel romantic love for someone, but what is really going on? What neurological patterns are at work? What is happening in the spiritual dimension? We must confess our ignorance.

Furthermore, we cannot assume that a person who says “I love you” is necessarily feeling the same things that we are. We may try to judge through our five senses and even through senses beyond these whether the person is sincere in his or her words, but I have yet to see anywhere a table or chart that tells us what what degree of love goes with what facial expression or amount of light shining from the fourth chakra.

No, here we are definitely working in a world of fuzzy logic, in which a person must self-assess his or her feelings of love to decide whether to release the three-word trope, and we must in turn assess through uncertain signs whether that trope has been released appropriately. To complicate matters further, people drop the L-bomb even when they do not “really feel” love. For example, they may drop it in hopes of placating their partner now and “really feeling” love later. Or they may, like myself, be willing to say it under a rather lax standard, in which romantic love is conflated with altruistic love.

It’s true: I drop the L-bomb rather easily and retract it rather cautiously, as I try to “love everyone,” and hey–even if my romantic feelings for you are deceased, still “I love you,” right? I need to ponder more whether it is proper for me to use these words in this way.

All that said, there are of course times when the feeling of love is so strong on both sides and the energy working between and emanating from the persons in combination so great that only a fool would say, “We don’t know what’s really happening here in the hidden dimension; therefore we cannot say if they are really in love.” I would even venture to say that most of the time, when people say, “I love you,” they are expressing something sure and true, an apt symbol of something important and mysterious. Although I may be lax in dropping the L-bomb myself, I am no cynic when it comes to this most important of things.

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Sick baby updates

In this post I first talked about interpreting at the hospital for a family whose baby had a severe birth defect of the liver: biliary atresia, or, in his case, the complete absence of a bile duct. I reflected on my gratitude that my daughter was born healthy and has remained so.

In this post I updated the story of the baby with the liver problem.

On Sunday I helped this family out again. The Kasai operation their child underwent seems for the time being to be a success; the baby was discharged and will continue to be tested to make sure that bile is flowing properly. Please keep this baby in your prayers.

On Monday–it seems about two weeks ago–I helped another family. Their baby was just five days old but had to undergo open heart surgery because of hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect that leaves only half of the heart able to pump. Until the early 1980s, this birth defect was 100% fatal. Now, however, a series of three surgeries before 18 months of age can keep the child alive and even fairly normal as far as activity goes. The baby underwent the Norwood procedure, which sounds just wickedly complex from the Wikipedia article linked for your reference. Please keep this baby in your prayers as well.

Doing my job, of course, requires that I meet the surgeons who have performed the operations. Here they are, who have spent the pressured and long hours in the operating room, working on the tiny, vital parts within tiny bodies. When I put new windshield washer fluid in my car I splash it everywhere, but here are people so brilliantly skilled, who have altered the human organism to save life, creating pathways that were not there by means of what the body has to offer: intestine, blood vessels.

There is no blood on gowns, no drama of the OR attached to them. The cleanliness and calm they have is uncanny. In both cases, the majesty of success was theirs. The parents are grateful for the news. There is an intermingling of vibrations between the giver and the receiver, related yet distinct, like a river flowing into the ocean: both are happy that the child will live, but one had to make it happen; one had to prevent the worst from happening, at least for today.

I lived in the parents’ country for eight years. I have seen Japanese people laugh, cry, hope, and despair in countless situations. Fate chose for these two families to have children in the United States, in Indiana, how far from home, far from the morning NHK news and the train stations with their kiosks selling everything and miso soup and tatami mats and the black spider web of power and phone lines that no one thinks about until they are seen throughout the city and everyone forgets until they are seen again. Fate chose to give their children horrifying, burdensome birth defects–nothing to be fixed, sewn up, taken care and dismissed: no, in an instant they took on a life of thinking about, dealing with, and paying for them. These things.

Japanese people in the waiting room, and somehow I’m there with them.

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Reflections on three recent posts

In this post I reflect on a rule of thumb recently given to me by a wise man:

If the energy is not coming toward you, then there is almost no skill or wisdom you can apply to the situation to make it succeed. On the other hand, if the energy is coming toward you, then you can lack skill or wisdom or fail to apply them and still succeed.

Addendum: Make sure it is a lot of energy! “Coming towards you” means, “Wow, I can’t believe all this energy is coming at me!” This is more advice to myself than to you, gentle readers: I often tend to put more energy into a system than it deserves and reap a pretty awful ROI. Had I followed this rule more closely, I could have avoided some serious nonsense this past week.

Regarding that nonsense, in this post I told you I was “ready for whatever comes.” I was! The fox has had the sour, sour grapes shoved down his throat for the final time. Enough! They are sour.

Finally, in this post, I said, “Now I can feel you out there, soul mate.” I still can. That is energy that is truly coming toward me, and I eagerly but patiently wait for its arrival. When she arrives, we are going to make serious waves and rock the oh-nine! It’s going to be fun!

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Depression is power and wisdom within you and for you

Chapter 7 of Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore is entitled “Gifts of Depression.” Moore writes,

The soul presents itself in a variety of colors, including all the shades of blue, gray, and black. To care for the soul, we must observe the full range of all its colorings, and resist the temptation to approve only of white, red, and orange–the brilliant colors.

As the chapter title and the quote imply, Moore goes on to teach us how depression can be of great use to us. I highly recommend the book and praise the wisdom of Moore’s view of depression.

Here are a few ideas of my own. First is my take on the difference between sadness and depression: sadness is the painful mental state that occurs when one desires something that one does not have but can imagine having. One may be sad, for example, at the death of a close relative; the return of the relative is impossible, but one can at least imagine it. One key aspect of sadness is that it could instantly be eliminated were the object of desire made available.

In my experience, depression has something of the “flavor” of sadness but differs in that there is no particular object of desire missing and no apparent path to resolution. Depression may feel as though it was caused by, say, the death of a close relative, yet at the same time one does not intuit that the darkness would lift should the relative return. Moreover, despite whatever causes may seem to pertain, depression ultimately feels like a dissatisfaction with existence itself, with the very nature of the universe.

It is this existential nature of depression that makes it such an important tool for our development: it takes us to the very heart of things and lets us abide there for an extended period of time. Certainly, depression is the pathway to the “Dark Side” of the heart of things, but once we are in the heart we can learn more about both the Dark and the Light.

In our society at present the typical view of depression is that it always weakens and reduces, never strengthens or augments–but is that really the case? Depression, of course, used to be known as “melancholy,” which state of mind has spurred deep reflections into the human condition and produced great art in all media. Before you push your depression away, despising it, see what gifts it has to offer you within its black inner sanctum. It truly can be power for your use in many areas of life.

There is both a mundane side to depression and a spiritual. Of course, there is no firm dividing line between the mundane and the spiritual; they are completely mixed together, and the smallest things in life can have great meaning: that’s why we’re here. Too often, however, depression is merely treated as a mundane matter, a chemical imbalance, a nuisance to be rid of as quickly and conveniently as possible. Take a pill and feel better.

To those in extreme mental anguish, I certainly recommend getting the necessary help, whether from a therapist or a psychiatrist, whether through talking it out or taking medication. There is no shame in that; doing so doesn’t make you any less spiritual of a person. Indeed, I highly recommend working with depression on both the mundane level (this is a nuisance making my life worse) and the spiritual level (what can this teach me about myself and about Reality?).

I just got over the second-worst depression of my life (and I have only really had two big ones). It was a time, I feel, of great development for me. Indeed, both my commercial and creative writing work continued to go better than ever, I made tough deadlines, and in general my life was orderly and productive. I was able to listen to classical music, to read poetry, and to appreciate both of these at a deep level. At the same time, I was in deep pain, pain which could not be divided from the lessons I was learning and the power I was accessing.

Depression is a teacher, but eventually the student must graduate. After I felt I had learned all the lessons this particular depression had to offer, I requested help from a Higher Power to leave the darkness. Within two days, the depression had lifted. About a week later, I had what might be termed a relapse, but this time I felt that a different approach was being requested of me: I was not supposed to push the depression away but go through it, into it, and out the other side.

I prayed the prayer, or mantra as I call it here, that you see below. In this mantra, we empathize with depression, seeing it not just as the source of the bad but the victim of the bad–while at the same time recognizing our complicity in the bad. We also see our Sat-cit-ananda (being-consciousness-bliss) nature as the ultimate remedy to the Pain-darkness-destruction of depression.

This prayer had for me an immediate and lasting effect. I invite you to try it and see if it doesn’t work for you, too. Of course, it is not really the words that have power but the concepts behind them, which are the wisdom of many teachers and many times.

If you are in pain, I wish you healing and love.



Source of Pain, I bless you and succor you; I have caused pain. Order of Darkness, I bless you and succor you; I have done the work of darkness. Power of Destruction, I bless you and succor you; I have caused destruction.

With being I free you from destruction, who destroy all. With the light of consciousness I free you from darkness, who bring darkness to all. With bliss I free you from pain, who bring pain to all.

Source of Pain, I bless you and succor you; I have caused pain. Order of Darkness, I bless you and succor you; I have done the work of darkness. Power of Destruction, I bless you and succor you; I have caused destruction.

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Buy my house!

Wonderful Indianapolis home for saleAfter living in a house with a yard for 2.5 years, I have learned that I really don’t care for yardwork. I also miss living in walkable city, so my goal now is to live either in Downtown Indianapolis or in the main city area of Zionsville, which are two environments that have appeal to me.

Hence, I am currently trying to sell my house. This is a great house for those who want what it has to offer:

  • Three bedrooms, two full baths.
  • Nice hardwood floors.
  • Lots of storage: big workroom with lots of closets and attic; big detached garage with extra storage.
  • Nice 0.6 acre lot with large fenced back yard: great for dogs.
  • Washington Township schools, which get high marks. High school is North Central, considered one of the best in the state.

Here is the MIBOR listing.

I have on my side the world’s greatest Realtor: Pete Pedersen. His website is here. By the way, I wrote the copy for his site and also came up with many of the design ideas as well (such as the idea for the header). If you’d like to buy my house, please visit Pete’s site or call him on his cell at 317.418.3383. If you call Pete up to buy my house or list your own, please tell him, “Matt Rouge referred me” (I hold a broker license).

Thank you very much for buying my house!

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I am ready for whatever comes.

Yes or no, I am I ready for whatever comes.

I am more at peace for having asked; it was the right thing to do.

I do not need yes; I do not fear no.

There is love and purpose in the world no matter what happens.

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Sick baby update–UPDATED

In this post I wrote about a baby for whose family I was interpreting at Riley Hospital for Children. The baby is back in the hospital as of today and will have a test tomorrow that requires a surgical incision and perhaps even a Kasai surgery to make a bile duct for him out of a piece of intestine.

Prayers for the best result possible would be appreciated–thank you!

UPDATE 12.29.08

Thanks for everyone’s prayers! Today went as well as it could have gone, granted the physical reality that had been hidden up to now from the physicians’ sight: the baby had a rare type of biliary atresia in which the gall bladder is present but the bile duct is not. A Kasai operation was necessary: the surgeon connected a part of the intestine directly to the liver so that bile could flow to where it needs to go.

The statistical breakdown of what happens next is roughly as follows: 50% of Kasai operations fail, and a liver transplant is required; 25% of Kasai operations succeed but a liver transplant is eventually required (can be many years later); and 25% of Kasai operations are good for life.

This family definitely has a tough row to hoe. Please join me in prayer that the Kasai operation is a success; it will take two weeks to know if this is the case. Then please also say a prayer for the long-term success of the operation and the health and happiness of this family.

As I have learned, serving as a medical interpreter can be quite serious business. Certainly, there have been many “My child has the sniffles” cases. But this past week I have interpreted at Riley Hospital for Children and the St. Vincent Stress Center (=mental hospital). I was in the neurological ward of Methodist Hospital yesterday and today as well, which handles many difficult cases, and saw a man with staples all across his forehead. He has brain cancer and just had a stroke.

Today at Riley, I greeted a woman in the elevator with a Riley name tag on and asked if she was a nurse. She said, “No, I’m a bereavement counselor. I’m about to do a pre-death counseling session with a family.” In other words, she was about to tell a family that their child was about to die. It was horrible to hear this. This wasn’t TV; this wasn’t the movies; this was a family about to hear the worst news in the world.

As an interpreter, I could someday be asked to interpret such a session; I have thought about it a lot. I pray that this cup may pass me by, but, more importantly, having observed so much pain and suffering over the years, I pray that the cup may pass everyone by. It’s a naive and childish prayer, but I still pray it.

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The miraculous story of the Christmas cookie (true!)

I have been interpreting at St. Vincent’s hospital a lot lately. Each time I interpret at the 86th St. location, I go to an administrative office on the fourth floor and sign in, receiving my badge (I forgot to return it last time–oops!).

There are some nice women that work there, and one of them had a plate of cookies on her desk this last time. “Help yourself,” she said. I was not that hungry, and besides–these were those ordinary white Christmas cookies–shaped like bells, tress, etc.–with boring white and pastel-colored frosting on top.

I did my interpreting–actually, the patient never showed up–and I forgot to return my badge–and I came back, and of course the cookies were still there on the desk. “Help yourself,” said the woman.

“Okay,” I thought. “I will indulge in the boring cookie. The calories will do nothing for me! Instead of being five pounds over my ideal weight, I will end up 5.01 pounds above my ideal weight. But I’ll eat it. It’s free food. It’s a free cookie.”

I bit into the white cookie tree with pastel frosting. And the cookie was incredibly delicious! It had just the right thickness, it had ultimate freshness, it had a philo-esque flakiness to it, and the frosting had just the right flavor and sweetness.

It was the best cookie of its type that I had ever had. It was a mini Christmas miracle! And I really do try, and sometimes succeed, in being thankful for all the wonderful little things that people and life have to offer.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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