My brother-in-law’s funeral service is this morning, and I am visiting my parents in Colorado. John stayed behind to be with his family. As much as death is a part of life, we are never prepared for someone’s passing. John’s brother’s death is a loss shared by all of us.
I’m glad that I’m able to enjoy these next couple of weeks with my mom and dad. Their house is very peaceful, and I have a chance to relax, reflect and spend time with my parents. It’s been a harrowing past couple of years and I feel like things are just beginning to settle down. I always chant for John’s happiness and to be able to challenge my own weaknesses. I found a wonderful quote in Daisaku Ikeda’s “The Vow of the Ikeda Kayo-kai: Encouragement For Young Women” book:
True joy can be found in the midst of challenges. Problems can help us grow. Strong opponents can make us stronger. It is just as Nichiren says when he writes, “It is not one’s allies but one’s powerful enemies who assist one’s progress” (WND-1, 770).
Often we think that we need to be surrounded by warm, loving and positive people, whether they be family members, friends, neighbors or colleagues. When we are not, we are unhappy. This has been my experience for many years, only the powerful enemies in my life took the form of disembodied voices. It is hard for me to believe that my enemies assist my progress, but perhaps it is true. If not for my struggles battling against the extreme negativity and evil of the voices, I might never have mustered the courage and strength to challenge my own weaknesses. The voices amplified my own pessimism, doubt, negativity, and lack of confidence to the extreme. I still have to constantly fight against this darkness that is part of my own life and create something positive. This why I write.
We had a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday, and we truly have so much to be thankful for. I roasted my first turkey complete with brine and my brother-in-law’s herb butter sauce. Almost all of John’s family came to our house for Thanksgiving dinner, and we had his nephew on speaker phone during the prayer. We had a stressful weekend with John’s brother’s illness, and are starting to get back in the swing of things today.
I continue to improve with ignoring any whispering or yelling voices that I hear. At this point, I can ignore and disregard almost everything. Last week, I was very angry with the few voices I was still hearing occasionally, so I told John that I had written a letter and posted it online. We had a long discussion, and I also told him that I wasn’t taking my medication anymore. I am only taking the anti-depressant. I stopped taking the anti-psychotics because they didn’t work, I gained too much weight, and it was such a toxic dosage. I am doing well, however, and I believe that my weekly therapy appointments have done more to help me manage my symptoms and deal with this illness than the medication ever has.
Yesterday I took Savannah out for a walk along the bay. It was sunny and a little breezy, but by the time we started walking back to the car, the blue sky was clouding over. We walked down the path heading toward the drinking fountain, and I saw a man wearing a sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head. He approached the pump and held his right arm out in the air almost perpendicular to his body. I heard a gun shot. The shot sounded like it had been fired toward the levees, toward the man who had stuck his hand out. He put his arm back down next to his body. 15 or 20 minutes earlier I saw a KTVU Channel 2 helicopter fly overhead leaving the bay heading towards the city. I heard a few shots fired at that time as well. Duck hunters often come during hunting season in the fall and winter to hunt ducks and other birds out in the slough. They aren’t allowed to fire toward the levees though, because of the joggers, walkers, and bicyclists out there. Hearing gunshots along the bay isn’t unusual.
I called out to Savannah so we could head home, and as I turned back I caught one last glimpse of the hooded sweatshirt man. He had continued walking down the trail and past the pumping station. He was standing facing the treatment ponds with his arms in the air and knees slightly bent. I heard a few more gun shots off in the distance. I wasn’t sure what he was doing there. He looked as if he was exercising, praying, doing some type of Tai Chi, or maybe surrendering. I pulled Savannah along and headed back to the car. I was nervous and left in a hurry.
We’re going back to the same trail for another walk today. We’re fortunate to have trails along the San Francisco Bay that are so close by. There are thousands of birds in the marshes, as well as plenty of other plants, animals and insects for Savannah to sniff and me to take pictures of. In spite of the trails being located next to the water treatment facility, they really are a great public natural resource.
I woke up early this morning and remembered enough of a strange dream to be able to write most of down. I am not really able to decipher it’s meaning however, so I thought I would share it on my blog.
My dream began with me at my present age leaving my parents’ former Presbyterian church. I walked with my mom outside toward the parking lot and I saw a friend of mine from my Buddhist group. She was singing a song using a microphone and there were several people from my parents’ church listening to her sing. My mom wanted me to sing as well, but I was reluctant. I figured that I would go ahead and sing one song because I thought that the group organizing the singing performances only required the singers to sing one song. I walked up to the event organizer, only to discover that it was Chuck Norris sitting at the long table waiting to talk to me. Instead of requiring each singer to perform only one song, each singer was required to perform three songs! This was unacceptable to me, and I told Chuck Norris that I refused to sing at all. There was no way I was going to sing in front of such a large group of people who would just laugh at me because I don’t sing well. I left with my mom and apologized to her in the car as we were leaving. I had upset her by refusing to sing.
The next part of my dream I was in an elevator going up. When I got out, I found myself in a foreign country that I didn’t recognize. I looked around and saw green mountains, a few trees, and small houses with tombstones interspersed here and there. I saw a woman in her front yard watering the flowers. I stood gazing at the landscape for awhile and determined that I was in Austria. I decided that I didn’t want to stay in Austria and returned to the elevator. A man was in the elevator with me this time, and when I saw what floor he was going to, I was afraid. He had pushed the button for floor 106 and I was afraid of heights! I didn’t want to go up that high in the elevator, but it was too late. The elevator door opened and I found myself in another foreign country on a university campus. I walked around for awhile and decided to stay. I saw a couple of tall, blond women and starting speaking with one of them. She invited me to join her, and I followed her to her class. Along the way I took a picture of a small stream that I crossed. We entered her classroom, and the professor was speaking English. I saw the name of the university written on the wall on a long banner, and I recognized the language as Swedish. I was in Sweden! I had joined the young woman’s English class at a university in Sweden. This explains why the professor was speaking English. I saw a sentence written on the board at the front of the room – the first word was “Yah”.
My husband John didn’t know where I was, but fortunately he tracked me from the picture I had taken with my iPhone. My picture of the stream had automatically uploaded to Photo Stream, so he had access to it as well. He now knew that I was in Sweden.
Yesterday I was feeling very angry and negative during the first part of the day. I wasn’t really sure exactly why. Sometimes I let my crazy thoughts get the best of me, and I dwell on things that make me angry – often for long periods of time. I’ve come to realize that there is quite a bit out there to be angry with: politics (even though the election is over), my illness & the voices (they’re so much better than before!), and even my lack of earning ability. All I have to do is think about these things and I’ll be angry and negative. I’ve got to stop focusing on the negative, and start focusing on the positive. I need to constantly remind myself of this, or I slip into angry thinking. John & are very fortunate in so many ways, but I often forget about this and dwell on what we don’t have. I am really learning how to live with a sense of gratitude for everything in my life.
Yesterday morning I chanted to challenge myself to get up earlier in the morning and go chant at our Buddhist center for an hour. Our SGI Buddhist Center offers chanting from 6:30am until 10am Monday through Fridays. We’ve been doing this since April, but I’ve only gone once or twice. I decided that I should get up earlier at least 3 days a week to go chant for an hour at the Buddhist Center. This is a great way to make a fresh determination for my life. I left at 7:30am this morning and chanted for an hour. It really made a difference! I was a little sleepy and tired when I got there, but so was everyone else! Still, I was able to chant and focus pretty well for the hour. I focused my prayers on my dad’s health, my marriage, and my illness. Next step, finish my memoir!