Hooks

now I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that we all have seemingly endless bouts of stress, fear, sadness , anger, depression, anxiety, doubt, frustration, etc. so I was thinking about this and asked myself why suicide rates have not skyrocketed? What is it that keeps us anchored? What provides us with enough meaning to counter this barrage of negative and painful innovations and experiences?

After some reflection, I came up with an answer that seems to work for me – hooks. The aggregate of those phenomena that life throws out that appeal and give meaning , individually, to our senses, minds and souls.

A few of my Hooks-

  • the sensitivity and effect of human touch
  • a genuine smile
  • the imperceptible degrees of a gradual sunset
  • the perpetual hum of life unheard-especially crickets and birds
  • masasa moments- the popping and scattering of pods and seeds, the dazzling birth of new leaves
  • the alluring power of Rocky Mountains
  • music-that part of a song or melody that resonates instantly
  • summer rain
  • the warmth of direct winter sun (in Harare)
  • spiritual moments that no words can describe
  • the reality of dream
  • the gradual and/or sudden awareness of the above.

An interesting fact-when I was reflecting on my “Hooks”, all my negative and painful emotions seemed to be subdued and diluted. Not replaced, but I got the feeling that in being a little more mindful about my Hooks, I began to notice them more-and took them less for granted.

so, what are your hooks? Write them down, start noticing them..

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no control

Do you feel the tidal pull-

That ebb and flow right down

in the marrow of your bones?

the inevitable birth of a new moon

and the cyclical certainty

of its death?

 

Is that ok?

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relate?

Someone shares an experience or emotion of woe followed by a slight pause, a pause full of expectation, hope. The eyes spill out: “Come and share this with me, come and relate to my experience, come help, tell me you understand, come and validate..

Against this, I am eager, baited with bated breath. Driven consciously by a desire to set things right (and likely by an unconscious desire to solidify an experience that validates myself, gives me some credit) I want to participate, I want my imagination to leap in, I want a bond of understanding to develop. Where possible, I want to advise with wisdom, redirect the future to the benefit of all, drive off all anger, anxiety, jealousy, denial.

Convinced that I have “Put myself in their shoes”, I dive right in, dish out my own (more often than not self-untested) philosophies, conclusions and judgments in abundance. I recollect from somewhere that a person “walks” 1,000,000 miles and to fully relate to their experience, you would need to walk each step with them. Nevertheless, with undiminished ego, I plunge into the next opportunity to “relate”.

I find myself reflecting on this today in the midst of a relationship calamity which is not only on my doorstep, but very much in my heart. It seems that from the distant verge of my understanding (where I try to incorporate pieced-together snippets of my own experience/imagination), I am about as helpless as I can be. Logic (and my psychologist) tells me that I can validate (and help?) merely by listening, by hearing, by loving. Easier said than done- applying slippery judgments in the name of love in today’s society has never been easier. So easily justified and yet so invisibly harmful.

I cannot relate fully. And yet I am saddened by the sadness of others. And in this paradox, I realize that I am human, and that I have to accept that, and that others are human too, and that replacing judgments/advice with acceptance may permeate into compassion and healing.

 

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to be or not to be

there is so much to learn within ourselves. About others. From others, about ourselves. And, whether by design or not, there seem to be natural teachers randomly scattered around the world, drawing energy from experience and karma and offering it unselfishly to those curious or mindful or lucky enough to be passing by or leaning in. One such precious teacher has a blog site (http://lindseleanor.blogspot.com/) which I find myself returning to for my own personal growth of courage and conviction as well as a host of wisdom and insight from an individual honest enough with herself not to be ruled by a somewhat disillusioned society. Check out her post “to be or not to be-that is the question” which in a far more articulate way, captured a lot of what I was trying to say in my last post. If you like this, and you are feeling that you may have lost your faith (in whatever..) then move on to “redemption song”,and see how truth and honesty can return your soul to its rightful state..

 

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Pass

For most it seems okay, if not preferable, to pass on opportunities that may involve dabbling beyond perceived levels of comfort or participating in something that may threaten their sense of security, whether from a safety or materialistic point of view. I used to be firmly entrenched in this category. Now it drives me nuts – these opportunities (whether or not disguised as “out of reach” challenges or tasks that may involve responsibly helping others at the risk of some personal sacrifice) seem more visible and numerous than ever since my trauma. It is so clear in my mind that these opportunities, if taken, are what form the essence of self-worth. And, probably more importantly, real compassion. Every single one that goes by, is an opportunity missed. A chance to improve on understanding ourselves beyond our trivial distractions, and actually make a difference.

What drives me nuts is this:- the majority of these opportunities require some physical aptitude. The paradox that clarity came after disability is frustrating. This may sound a little deafeatist but I don’t think it is-my point here is not that I cannot grab-or even create-my own opportunities (I am doing this albeit at a sub-target pace) but that most people do not have “trauma-clarity” and are passing up on a means to get humanity back on track.

So, next time (you can start with once a day) you have a whiff of an opportunity, let it linger long enough to stir up the consciousness of its potential benefits. Then, follow-through.

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Kingfisher

yesterday, a hooded Kingfisher made a regal appearance

in our pepper tree,

staring at us, as if we had no business in its territory!

Then, showing us who is boss, it dived amongst our pair of Heughlin robins

claimed their patch,

and gave us a royal display of substituting fish with grasshoppers.

I welcomed this display

of adaptation.

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become a tortoise for a morning

I slowed down today. Stuck my wheelchair on its slowest speed for the morning. Although I didn’t go around much, the result was astounding. A quantum leap in observation. I noticed pot plants in my office that I didn’t know I had, mannerisms in other people jumped out at me. The world seemed to move in quick time around me. My thought processes seemed clearer, my priorities realigned. I felt more efficient.

The tortoise against the hare.

try it.

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Laughing

I thought I would post something  with a touch of humour, not only to appease those who knock me for seemingly always being negative, but also to show you that there is some laughter and accomplishment in our lives.

We are a family of competitiveness and tonight we broke our family record!  (Well nearly)

Arriving home from a lunch out with friends the Family Soper topped “The Dispatch Tom from Van” in record speed of 11 minutes…

Ciara: eldest daughter, (normally child sitting shouting orders) holding her Dad so tightly so he doesnt rock side to side in the van he hates so much, says: “Ready!”

Erin: youngest daughter, (normally child holding father as above, so lovingly and oblivious to the road rules of wearing a seat belt), fast asleep in double seat of van…

Sally: Mother, wife, driver, of van/ET: screams up driveway at breakneck speed and haults 2 cms (no lie) before the garage door.

Ciara: vaults to the front of her Dad, (Erin still asleep), to unclasp the 2 front harnesses at the base of her Dad’s wheelchair. Hand up! Done!.

Sally: rushes round to the back, opens the tail gate, presses the control to deploy the lift.  Lift Deployed. Leans over, unclasps (with difficulty) the bottom two harnesses. Then releases the next two shoulder harnesses together with Ciara, at her Dad’s chest, (Erin still asleep on the front bench. Not to knock her! as this is normally her role!)

Tom, Dad: reverses onto the lift that has been deployed. The call, “30, 20, 15, 10, 5cm… stop)…..”  And then lower….

Our record was not broken because I couldn’t find the **** keys for the back door so we could get inside the house…….!!.

Watch this space……….

Team Soper

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Two Years

My car (not me – as the calibration is wrong!) ran out of petrol for the second time the other day and I sat on the side of the road staring out the front window with such sadness.  I wasn’t sad that this was an inconvenience, I wasn’t sad that my new car was faulty, I was sad that in this kind of event all I could think of, was what every other wife would do in this situation. They would more than likely phone their husband.  Or if they didn’t, they had the option to.  And so I cried.  I cried because I didn’t want to inconvenience any of my friends, who I know would rescue me in a heartbeat.  I just cried because I wanted Tom to come and save me, even after shaking his head!  I phoned him.  Jimmy, his driver, saved me.  There was no shaking of his head just a glorious smile. As I drove home the song from Ghost Busters came into my head…. “So who you gonna call?”.  It made me think of so many instances where I need to call Tom.  And then I thought it’s strange how things happen, Tom married a very practical girl who does all the DIY jobs……. damn I wish I was a girlie girl and maybe this wouldn’t have happened to us?

The girls and I headed to Kariba on a houseboat with some friends for a couple of days before Easter.  The day before we left Tom gave them a lesson on fishing – how to “tackle up”.  I sat outside with them, in silence, listening to how he described to Ciara the way to secure a sinker on the end of the fishing line and how to thread a hook.  I was so proud of them both as she mastered it pretty quickly from his instruction.  But then I got angry. Why do these girls have to be told how to thread a hook and not physically shown?  The frustration of both father and daughter when words just don’t say enough when the use of hands would have clinched it in seconds.

It’s a sick kind of cruel because it feels like a carrot being dangled……  there’s your Dad but you can’t have him.  He won’t be able to thread the worm on your fishing h00k or take the fish off that you’ve just hooked! And he wants to desperately.  That job is now mine.  And I don’t really want it.  On one of the days I spent a couple of hours doing exactly that, the girls were fishing off the houseboat so they were catching a little tiddler every few minutes.  The experience for them was awesome but I became so overwhelmed at being this “one abled parent”,   I had to walk away and really pull myself together.  Literally physically hold my head in my hands and say “this is for them, this is for them”.  Tom sent me a text and I received it just as we were leaving the harbour.  Sal, be the Dad for fishing and the Mum for loving.  I’m tired and lonely and angry and bitter.  But seeing the girls reel in those fish was all about them.  So I juggled the video camera to catch the moment for Tom, under my arm, with a spare hook in my mouth and a slimy worm in one hand and dislodged a small tiddler with my other, oh and a beer tightly squeezed between my legs!  Yes their first experience of a houseboat on Kariba was with their Mum and not their Dad.

I keep thinking of those kids who don’t even have a dad and I immediately feel guilty for even showing or mentioning my sadness or anger for my girls.  But this is OUR reality and no one else’s and this is how I feel.

The last time I was in Kariba on the same houseboat was with Tom.  And the picture of Tom on his website was taken then.  It haunted me. I saw him on the speed boat calmly holding a fishing rod and sipping a beer with his huge smile.  We had the best time ever with our framily the Malloch-Browns and Greenways, in fact I would say those few days bonded us all so tightly in laughter and framilyhood.  Forever. So where was he this time?

A while back Tom wrote about what inspired us.  Ciara and Erin are my inspiration. 2 children’s lives changed in a breath.  A traumatic accident leaves them without a Dad to hold their hand to the classroom, to practice a golf swing, to turn the page of their homework book, to pick them up and squeeze them so tight it takes their breath away, to dance, to swim, to wipe a tear, to take them for breakfast, go for ride, cuddle in bed.  But to remember how he did these things and know that can never again.

I question why they have had to watch and learn how to help their Dad cough, wipe his nose, his tears, empty his urine bag, lock the house, operate a chair lift, feed the dogs, scream for me because they hear their Dad making choking sounds, worry if Dad will be ok if we go away without him. Accept that Dad will never run cross country at school with them, never take them skiing, or cycle round the block. The inspiration comes in the form of innocence and acceptance by these two precious girls.

I suppose this is what our new life is now…. a question of scales and balances. Sometimes tipping heavily to the side of pure sadness, sometimes perfectly level when it just doesn’t matter, and sometimes crashing down on the other side from love and laughter.  Yip I think that’s what this is, a life of scales.

It’s 2 years since Tom lost the use of his body from his neck down.  2 years that I have cried every day. 2 years since Keeks and Roo physical life with their Dad was abruptly halted.  But it’s been 2 years of incredible hope.  2 years of extraordinary friendships. 2 years of sheer amazement.  2 years of acceptance. 2 years of learning. 2 years of new ways. 2 years of unbeatable grace.

And 2 years extra.

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return to where you are

As Donal (an Irish Buddhist teacher) articulated quite beautifully this Friday, most of us are on some quest for the truth (when we are not too busy feeding our habitual patterns). We are looking for something beyond our suffering and discontentment. We have an intimation of something “other” just beyond our grasp. Most of us do not find it. We are looking in the wrong place.

The “truth” is in the ground and background of your life. Looking elsewhere is merely fooling yourself. The meaning of life is right here, and all the while, we seek arrival in a complex web of ideals and fantasies.

Return to where you are.

I may post a mixture of sad and self-revelational experiences to this website. This is the way it is. Somehow, I am sorting through it all, and I’m confident that I’m getting closer to the essence of this paradox that we call existence.

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