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Monday, June 4, 2012

This is Sam.
Moira adopted him Saturday afternoon, while I was away visiting my Mom. I didn’t get home until very late, but it was good to meet him, and even that first night, he started teaching me things. 
Of course, Smudge was less than enthusiastic about the newcomer encroaching on her territory. She’ll still whining and occasionally hissing. At first she was very hostile, growling aggressively. But Sam was fearless, and although he was cautious not to provoke her too much, he continually approached her, trying to make friends. This sense of openness and lack of fear I found very inspiring. 
Right off the bat Sam was comfortable in his new home. He accepted us, and was excited to explore the entire apartment. He felt comfortable enough to sleep on the bed, and eat from the established area in the kitchen. 
  1. Be mindful and open to what’s around you, and also content with it. 
    1. Trust and don’t fear. What’s the worst that could happen?

Thank you, Sam, for widening my perspective.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Zen Art of Archery

Tonight, we visited Trader Jan's archery establishment in Fall River. We've been meaning to go for a while, since we bought a gift certificate online. It sounded fun.

I was quickly overwhelmed by the seemingly complex instruction and intimidating proprietor. He was a tough guy, and knew exactly how he wanted you to do this thing. He showed us the basics of Olympic-style archery. When I started, because I was so intimidated I could not relax and was choking up on the bow, sending my arrows flying consistently off-target. That's why he said they were doing that. I couldn't have told you what I was doing.

That's one example of not thinking: I wasn't able to think about what I was doing because I was too busy being defensive. I was in the presence of a very masculine authority figure, and my body was tense and on guard for conflict. I am a very fearful, anxious person. Forget that I had mouthed off to a very non-masculine authority figure earlier in the day. That speaks more to the road rage effect of feeling impervious when shrouded by automotive steel.

Near the end of our lesson, another couple arrived and joined us on the range, and he turned his attention to them. This relieved the pressure I felt some. Finally, once we all knew what to do, he left, and I was able to relax. The female half of the other couple had met Moira before, and that broke some of the tension I would feel towards them. They are in the same book club. As we shot our arrows and then retrieved them, a rhythm developed. Even as my left shoulder ached and my right fingertips started to burn, I became more and more calm.

The main philosophical point of our archery lesson was that you don't aim; you concentrate on the motions of setting your stance, nocking the arrow, drawing and releasing the bow. Rather than concentrating on improving your aim, you focus on perfecting the repetition and consistency of this motion sequence. It is a practice, like meditation or biofeedback or many noble pursuits such as writing. I did not aim the bow, rather I breathed deeply and focussed on the propriety of my actions and I found that the arrow happened to go where I was looking, and my posture and state of mind continued to improve. This is the other example of not thinking: being in the zone.

It was a lesson on this concept of practice. Do the right thing and the results will follow. You don't try to hit the target; you focus on doing the work of operating the bow. Don't concentrate on success; just do each task that you undertake mindfully.

Monday, April 23, 2012


I am mentally disabled. I suffer from major depression, recurring, with psychotic features; social phobia; Asperger Syndrome; and Tourette Syndrome. I lost my last full-time job in 2005. It was a very easy job. I left my part-time job a couple years ago, because I became debilitated with anxiety thinking about having to go to it.

I don't really know what to say. I just thought that might serve as some kind of introduction. I mean to write here about what it is like to live with mental illness.

It can be a thin line that separates me from the sane. Like today, when I was completely disgusted with life and gritting my teeth against suicidal thoughts, until I told my partner something that was bothering me, and quickly felt lighter, relieved, and then human again. How could I not see something so close within reach? How could I not realize how easy it is to let myself be happy?

As that same example illustrates, it can feel like an ocean between myself and sanity. Every day can be a learning experience if you let it. I am very grateful for that opportunity right now.