muddy feet memoirs

The Chronicle of My Comeback

Trying to Remember to Live Like Jay

Live like jay

It’s been a year since Jay died – his anniversary was March 23.  I’ve had a difficult time of it, of course. I haven’t always gotten out of bed, or ensured Stella ate vegetables, or kept my revenge fantasies to myself…  As I think back on this past year I realize I’ve not always modeled on this blog what I’ve tried to teach my kids:  That the hardest thing you may ever do is be kind to someone who has been unkind to you, but you have to try.  In that spirit I will be archiving any blog posts that read as revenge writing and bring my focus back to the real work of living – growing and moving forward.

As a mediation on forgiveness and gratitude I share with you the words I spoke at Jay’s memorial service on April 26, 2014.

Reflections: Live Like Jay

About a year ago our friend Mara found a picture online – you see it on your programs:  graffiti on a low wall that reads “Live Like Jay.”  That image bloomed into a little phenomenon in our Facebook world – people posted it on their walls, used it as a slogan for life.  Friends really started to take it to heart.  The day after Jay died I received a picture of a beautiful little girl with a “Live Like Jay” sign held in her hands at the beach.  It was really moving.  Jay’s heart drew people to him, and his writing spoke to people around the globe ­- his circle of friends grew wider every day.  He was self-effacing, but truthfully he loved the whole Live Like Jay thing.  Don’t tell him I told you.  He really felt loved.

For the last month of Jay’s life he became more private. He slept increasingly more and his dream life started to supersede his waking life.  In the earlier days of this I would watch him constantly and share with him what he said and did as he slept.  We were both really engaged by his process.  But over time his dream life was where he really lived, and his waking life was spent looking forward to going back…  He was leaving incrementally as he slept, and by the last 10 days he was mostly packed and moved.  It was through bearing witness to Jay’s leaving that I started to form new ideas about the afterlife.  And I really started thinking about how “Living Like Jay” informed his experience of facing death and moving on.

Some call this stage of dying “the life review process,” some call it hallucinating – I can tell you that those were part of Jay’s experience.  But what I saw Jay going through was more like taking stock and reliving the characteristics he had cultivated in this life and that he was actually able to take with him to the next.  This is what he was packing and moving while he slept.

Jay was very content.  In his dreams he had a lot of dinner parties with friends (many of them here!), laughed, read books, he made shopping lists, bought groceries, made food, taught the kids how to cook food…  there was a lot of food  in his dream life!  His life review was a pleasure for him.  His honesty, integrity, warmth, bravery, his deep commitment to parenthood, his love of simple pleasures, his humor… he relived the wealth of qualities he accumulated as an exemplary person.  When I speak about what it means to Live Like Jay, this is what I mean.

Jay silently taught me a valuable lesson in his final weeks.  It became clear to me that we really only have one purpose on this earth, and that is to consistently choose love in its many forms.  Be kind, be compassionate, and serve others:  be brave enough to become the person you are called to be.  In doing this you are growing your soul and are preparing yourself for the next life.  It is the only kind of wealth you can take with you.  I honestly think it took Jay such a long time to leave us because his karmic storage unit was packed floor to ceiling with greatness!

I don’t want to bring us down, but I think it’s worth remembering that there is a funeral waiting in the future for every single person in this room.  We will all face what Jay faced.  We should be so blessed as to face it with the grace and openness shown to us by Jay.  He did it right!  He nailed it!  And he crossed over with riches only a person who Lives Like Jay can have.  He crossed over with a soul cultivated through an exemplary life.  I pray that we all remember him as an example of a life well lived, and strive to cultivate our own lives so that we may not only live like Jay, but have the blessing of one day meeting our maker with a smile on our face and a ready soul.


6 months

No Visitors Sign

Six months ago today was Jay’s last day alive.  It was a beautiful day – prefect Northern California sunshine with a breeze from the Bay that ran right through the house because the front and back doors were propped open.  Until then, for his final month, we relied on a home-made sign hung beside the front door to keep people away – largely because Jay had lost interest in hosting the onslaught of death-pilgrims and he (we) needed quiet time together.  But that day was different.  Food Rescue harvested in the morning, collected from the Farmers’ Market in the afternoon, and filled the house with a happy buzz of people for most of the day.  Dear friends were on hand to take their turns with Jay (who was no longer responsive but whose spirit was still present).  I even spent a luxurious uninterrupted hour downstairs chatting with wonderful people about things completely unrelated to what was transpiring upstairs!  One of Jay’s most beloved friends, Teresa, whispered in Jay’s ear as she heard me laugh downstairs “You hear that, Jay?  That’s Adrienne laughing.  She’ll be OK.  You can go.”

There wasn’t anything particular about Jay’s condition that day than hadn’t been true for many days before, but for some reason (probably because it was a Saturday, or maybe because he called them) we had a lot of visitors – the door was open and the sign was down, and they came with ease and joy in their hearts.  The last visitor was another dear friend of Jay’s – Mara.  She arrived long after the afternoon visitors had come and gone, leaving at midnight.

I had enjoyed a lovely day-off in many ways.  Most of our last month together I spent staring sleeplessly at him from the foot of our (now my) bed, not wanting to miss a single moment with him, but that day I was allowed a break.  When Mara left I stayed downstairs for another hour, enjoying my solitude and  the comfort I had been afforded by so many loving people.  And then at 1am I found myself walking upstairs without having made the conscious decision to do it.

Jay’s breathing was shallow and fast.  I gave him his scheduled doses of methadone, phenobarbital, liquid ativan and morphine, and though his breathing calmed down I knew it was time.  I went downstairs, got my bottle of wine, came upstairs and settled in next to him.  His spirit was already gone, but tethered to his body like a weather balloon high in the stratosphere.  I stared at the tumors protruding from his chest and rib cage, his breathing still strong despite a year’s worth of lung surgeries, and I hated his body for the first and only time.  It no longer housed my partner, it was just an elaborate petri dish for cancer.  I can’t remember what words I spoke to Jay that last hour of his life, but I was ready and so was he.  Jay died at 1:58am Sunday March 23, but really – for me – it was at the end of a long Saturday filled with love and a breeze from the Bay.

I Only Feel Relief

elephant tightrope

It’s hard for me to get angry any more.  I’m not sure if it’s because my adrenals are shot from the last few years or because I have gained greater perspective on life.  Probably a combination of the two.  Still, I’ve noticed things that would have surely outraged me in the past are now rolling off my back with little effort.  It’s nice.  It’s liberating.  Sure, I wish I could share those things with Jay, but I don’t even feel like I need to anymore.  Even if this is just a phase I’m glad it’s happening now.

One reason is because I am leaving my position on the school board, right at a moment when the many successes and real changes I’ve been proud to make are being eclipsed by the ways in which the District will never change.  You cannot expect an elephant to walk a tight rope.  There are things a giant can do that smaller things cannot, but to be outraged at the giant because you need the expertise of a smaller thing is absurd.  It’s disappointing – understandably so – but clinging to the unrealistic will not get you what you need.

I won’t lie, I am too much of an idealist to last in a system of gamesmanship.  I expect honesty where others expect deceit.  At the end of my tenure I am more subjected to the later than I expected, and from all sides, yet it doesn’t phase me.  Perhaps because I am leaving – my investment in the future is not burdened by these machinations.  Or perhaps because I accept and love the players in this drama, despite their machinations.  Whatever the case, I am free of it.

I feel the same towards Erin Murphy now, too.  She has lived a life of deceit and self-absorption.  That she did what she did to our family is not a surprise.  You can’t expect the insane to behave with clarity and kindness.  She inflicted more pain than any of us deserved, but was there any way around her machinations?  It was the drama that was destined to play out.  I am on the other side of it now, and relieved to be rid of her.

Gamesmanship and deceit will eventually become toxic to those involved.  I see the anger on people’s faces who want the District to be more than it is capable of being.  I know the fury I felt towards Erin, the liar who of course lied.  As I walk away from my role with the District and accept my simplified parenthood I only feel relief.  The farther I am from other people’s ulterior motives the happier I am.

A Time for Culling and Planting


The garden is an embarrassment.  Tall, dead weeds tower over my head, apples on the ground, tomatoes past their prime seeding the beds with next year’s volunteers.  Yes, I can blame grief.  But it’s September and it’s time to get out there and reclaim what’s mine.

It’s also time to cull some livestock.  Five young rabbits and a turkey need to be killed, and a few small hens need new homes or to become stew.  I haven’t killed anything since Jay died and I find myself reticent, but I must get back in the saddle and do what needs doing.

I’m parring down, looking at my garden with new perspective.

I like planning the garden in September, though the clean-up is always daunting and this year even more so. I’m also designing for two eaters, not five, so I am thinking differently about my priorities when it comes to veggies.  And meat.

For instance, historically I wrote off certain crops because they weren’t productive enough – kohlrabi, for instance.  A kohlrabi plant grows one globe, and once harvested is done producing, so it seemed a less viable use of garden space than it’s similar but more productive cousin – broccoli.  Broccoli would win the bed, though kholrabi is Stella’s favorite.  Not this year.  I’m growing for two now, not five – I can afford to devote a 12ft bed to kohlrabi if I want to.  New life, new garden.

Other crops for the Sept/Oct planting window:  12ft bed of carrots (a kid’s garden can never have enough!), a 4×4 bed of shallots (my last attempt after two failed years – hoping a new vendor will do the trick), the final 12ft bed split between broccoli and cauliflower, two rotating 4×4 beds of potatoes with shelling peas along their trellises (yes, I plant peas in October), and a final 4×4 bed for garlic.  I will let the remainder of the beds rest, pumping them up with rabbit poop, chicken coop hay, and wood ash throughout the winter.

My few remaining laying hens will live in the small coop as I prepare the larger one for Spring’s meat bird influx.  Until then, we will pray for rain and enjoy the quiet.

My Life According to Netflix


Jay and I discovered the joy of saturating ourselves in a Netflix television series when we started watching X-Files – probably within the last 18 months of his life.  Super fun!  And when Scully was diagnosed with Nasal Pharyngeal Cancer we totally knew someone in our support group who had had it!  Sick Bonus!  Thus began the parallel life I led – and may still lead – with Netflix.

The fact that Netflix allows folks to watch television series’ uninterrupted is probably the reason it’s still in business.

Anyway, soon after the bloom was off the rose with Mulder and Scully, Jay and I switched to Orange is the New Black.  I can tell you honestly, when Jay knew there were no more treatment options in October and then learned the next season of Orange wasn’t coming out till June – without a doubt past his expiration date – he added that to his regrets for dying.  No lie.

During the last four months of his life, when he was sleeping most of the time and in too much pain to hang out with me downstairs, I started watching a series that had me realize a psychological interpretation of my Netflix attachment might be worthwhile.  I became addicted to LOST.  I blazed through 7 seasons in probably 2 months.  I enjoyed telling Jay all about the twists and turns – in the morning, sometimes after an all-night LOST marathon.  I was engrossed. And in the end, when the characters were all dead together – Or had they always been dead together?  Or is it a commentary on the existential notion that Now is Now, no matter what the timeline is? – It mirrored what I had told Jay my own theory was: that when he died I’d be there waiting for him, because time is only here and not there.  Anyway, LOST blew my mind – and if you read any of my posts from that time you could tell I was in a pretty existential state.

LOST wrapped up while Jay was still pretty healthy, all things considered.  But I was still alone after the kids went to bed, and I had learned to love my Netflix, so I made an unusual choice (or so I thought).  I started watching Dexter.  I surrendered to my subconscious Netflix urges.  Why the hell not?

Truth be told, it’s not hard to imagine why I became devoted to a series about a serial killer.  Death was the theme, both in the show and in my life.  And Dexter was a smart series – well written, well acted, and in Florida – the place of my childhood.  I liked it for a lot of reasons, but most likely because it exposed me to death over and over again.  It was coming, upstairs, soon.  So I watched it on Netflix.  It doesn’t take a PhD to deconstruct the value I took from that sick premise…  Dexter was the Good Guy Serial Killer.  Be comfortable with death.  It’s not always a bad thing.

I was done with Dexter after Jay died.  I finished the series, sort out of habit, but the quality of the show was waning and my Netflix need was, too.  I moved on to Weeds.

Weeds, of course, is the series about a woman raising her two boys after her husband suddenly dies – supporting them with the new business she adopts to maintain their suburban lifestyle – selling marijuana.  She’s plucky, and aimless, and therefore hilarious/dangerous adventures ensue.  Her luck is always, and never, running out.  I watched until Orange is the New Black came out.  I watched the second season of Orange in probably a week.  Then I returned to Weeds.  No reason to dwell.

Jay got his medical marijuana card almost exactly a year before he died.  He had never really liked the stuff before, but once we discovered all the different strains available he was hooked.  It meant a lot to him his last year, being able to use pot.  It didn’t really address the pain like some proponents assert, but it took the edge off.  He knew he was dying, but while High it didn’t ruin his mood to know it!  The kids said “If it helps you, why isn’t it legal?  That’s stupid.”  They were right.

Weeds ended during that time of mourning when I wasn’t sure what future to hold on to.  I had to figure out how to move forward without my partner – as a parent – and for once had the bandwidth to turn my attention towards work, not cancer.  Suffice it to say, some crops are easier and more lucrative to grow than others.

And while I pondered whether to run for office again, I started watching The Tudors.  Evil, self-serving, back-stabbing, megalomaniacs for whom rises to the top, and subsequent be-headings, were all just part of the scene.  I wanted to watch through to the end but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  There’s only so much of that a person can take, and right now Vallejo has it in spades.

And so I surrendered to the Netflix addiction I secretly shared with Stella – GLEE.  Always taking the high road, despite the personal tensions between it’s well-crafted characters, GLEE is a hopeful and endless musical.  Yes, the cute guy who played Finn died of a heroin overdose, but that just makes it more real for us I think.  Sad to have lost such a genuinely sweet soul at such a young age.  But he’s still there for us on the TV screen, any time we tune in, and often singing Journey – one of Jay’s eternal favorites.

My Girl Deserves to Thrive

Beautiful young woman jumping on  a green meadow with a colored tissue

Last year I started asking around about homeschooling – not because I was interested in homeschooling particularly, but because I needed to bone up on my teaching skills.  I figured homeschooling sites would have good advice around helping your kids learn, especially once the curricula surpassed what I knew with ease… which was happening, even in the elementary school grades.

Of course we had a lot going on in our home, so it was understandable that the kids were slipping in their work – and we parents were slipping in helping them with their work.  I let last year’s school term end with the silent promise to be a better parent when the new school year began, once we all had the chance to recover from Jay’s death.  And now that I have only one child to focus on I have returned to the homeschooling websites for advice.

Stella had the good fortune of having excellent teachers K-3.  Last year her teacher was comparatively mediocre, and Stella was astute enough to recognize that.  She struggled socially – 4th-grade aged kids start separating into cliques and gender groups – and she began developing self-esteem issues around “not being good” at her studies, especially math.  At the time part of me thought “well, that’s what it’s like to be in school – some teachers are better than others,” yet part of me also recognized that I had been lackadaisical in Stella’s learning.

Now that 5th grade has begun I can see how overwhelmed and unhappy My Girl is. I find myself wondering if it is really just because of one year of a mediocre teaching experience, or is it because the system around her isn’t tailored to Stella’s learning style – and as she ages the gap grows wider?  Homeschooling is big on individualized learning – obviously something nearly impossible in a class of 30+ kids (I realize that after 5 years serving on the school board it seems almost heretical to say it, but it’s the trade-off made with large-scale learning).  Some kids need less individualized attention than others –  I wondered if Stella wasn’t on the side of needing more.

One way that secular homeschooling families determine the learning style of their kids is through the Myers-Briggs test.  In fact, they use it to determine the teaching style of the parent as well.  There are many online opportunities to take the Myers-Briggs test, even ones to determine the personality type of the child.  The results were so spot-on it blew my mind.  More importantly, it has helped me refocus on Stella’s learning dilemma, and strategize on how to help her.

Stella tested as ENFP – the personality type blogger Penelope Trunk asserts is the one most likely to be crushed in the standard classroom (I tested as INFJ, for the record).  They struggle with focus and follow through, being more inclined towards big-picture ideas and interpersonal relationships.  They are creative to the point that their fanciful imagination derails them from anything routine.  What people think of them matters deeply.  They tend to have greater test anxiety than most kids and become very emotional when criticized.  They are artists and creative problem solvers – and often not interested in expressing what they know in only one way.  They are motivated by meaning and relationships, not by grades.

My Girl’s brain freezes when I ask her the simplest math problem these days, not because she doesn’t know the answer but because her self-esteem is so entangled with doubt that she literally fails to think, like a deer caught in the headlights.  She is trapped in a self-fulfilling downward spiral of the “I’m stupid”s.  She wasn’t like this in the 3rd grade, though I can recollect some foreshadowing to what took shape last year and what has clearly has me worried this year – Stella’s feelings of self-loathing and impotence when it comes to learning.  Wow, maybe she is being crushed in the classroom.

Of course, my responsibility is to help her out of this pit of despair and to re-establish her joy of learning – which every child is born with in spades.  This trend can be reversed, and I must re-commit myself to Stella in every way.  I’m not ready to make the leap into homeschooling, but it’s clear she needs something from me that I have to deliver – and if it’s an alternative to the classroom I’m willing to consider it.  My Girl deserves to thrive.

Homesteading for the Single Gal

Laura and Guy Waterman

Laura and Guy Waterman

My great uncle Guy and his wife Laura were homesteaders in Vermont.  They were legends in their small world – acclaimed authors, wilderness heroes, backwoods aficionados.  They moved to Vermont and built their tiny mountain home in the early 1970’s, inspired less by hippy culture than the pioneering couple Scott and Helen Nearing, whose book Living The Good Life was first published in 1954.

I knew nothing of Helen and Scott Nearing until I read Laura’s book Losing the Garden, the chronicle of her life with Guy (and his ultimate suicide after 30+ years in the woods).  I ordered it immediately and began to see how substantially Laura and Guy had patterned their life after the Nearings.  Guy was a staunch Republican, Scott clearly a Marxist, but other than those two distinctions what I read was – without a doubt – the How-To guide Guy and Laura had used to make their move.  They even became vegetarians and moved to Vermont, just as the Nearings had.  They signed everything jointly, with the wife’s name always first, just as the Nearings did.  As stated in the first chapter of Living The Good Life, “We maintain that a couple, of any age from twenty to fifty, with a minimum of health, intelligence and capital, can adapt themselves to country living, learn its crafts, overcome its difficulties, and build up a life pattern rich in simple values and productive of personal and social good.”  That’s exactly what Laura and Guy did for decades, but when Guy died Laura moved to town.

Therein lies the heart of my dilemma.  First off, as appealing as leaving the urban center is to me, I am here now.  I have a home in a City with sirens and litter and people cussing at the bus stop around the corner.  In two years (when my mortgage modification allows) I may decide to live more remotely, but for now I am here, and it is here I am to homestead.  Secondly, I am no longer part of a couple.  And I have a 10 year old kid.  The Nearing’s How-To guide – and the life that Guy and Laura exemplified – is dependent on the division of labor between two adults, the caring of children clearly absent from their roster of country chores.  Even in the delightfully simplistic The “Have-More” Plan, by Ed and Carolyn Robinson – which showcases their success as homesteaders with a young son (and their decidedly 1940’s relationship!) – the weight is distributed across the shoulders of two adults.

The Nearings speak much about community-building but mostly for political ends, not their homesteading work.  Laura and Guy’s writings focus largely on ethics and wilderness, and though known as the ultimate backwoods hosts, rarely relied on others for their livelihood once their home was built – and never wrote about it.  The Robinsons, understanding that self-reliance can come in varying degrees, ironically stake out the most reasonable options for the majority of us – but still, the use of community is absent from their “plan.”  Is it unreasonable to create greater networks of reliance among your neighbors?  Is homesteading some kind of macho, separatist thing?

To my mind, homesteading is about meeting your family’s needs as independently from the money economy as possible.  It is not about proving that you can do it alone.  It is about simplifying things down to their most rewarding elements, and liberating ourselves from the monetary pressures that enslave us.  My future is dependent on my figuring out how to do it without a partner, but I do not believe it is about doing it alone.  So far no one has written the book Homesteading for the Single Gal.  Maybe it’s up to me.

That’s it for now.  Thanks for stopping by.


RIP Guy Waterman.


Dear Jay #3: It’s Over Between Us

Relationships are dynamic – when they stop being collaborative they die on the vine.

I’ve tried to think of us as the ultimate long distance relationship, but the thing is this:  I keep growing, and I’m growing past you.  You’re static, exactly where we left off, but I’m light years past that now.  Your death, and ALL the bullshit that came along afterwards, has propelled me into a completely different world.  I try to imagine you in bed next to me giving me one of your pep talks, but it’s just a memory.  I’m alone with this – all of it.  Erin’s heartlessness, the pointless fight over your Life Insurance money, losing the kids, the ruinous debacle at the school, my decision to not run for office, the blooming 8ft weeds in the backyard, the broken cars, my empty bank account, my debilitating depression…  fuck.

I’m glad to hear that you’re visiting friends in their dreams – it sounds like you, the stories they report, and so I believe that you are with us.  I’d love it if you came to me in a dream again, but that’s all I have to hope for with you – a cryptic vision from my subconscious, a Jungian interpretation.  What I don’t have is your support.  I don’t have you to forge ahead with.

I took my wedding ring off.  I know you’re not coming back.  It’s over.


PTSD & My Fucked Up Heart

In the five + months since Jay died I have known 3 people diagnosed with cancer and three people die of cancer – the majority of them young.  This does not include the folks in my cancer support group and their escalating maladies – the majority of them are young as well.  I have a lot to offer these patients and family members – insights from four years in the trenches – but the onslaught has me hiding under my covers.  Trench warfare can leave you with emotional trauma.  Do I have PTSD?

I find myself reflecting on the people who disappeared when Jay was in treatment with renewed compassion.  Some people were uncharacteristically mean, some shockingly glib, some total chicken-shit – folks I would have never expected to behave the way they did…  but seen through the lens of trauma I think I understand.  I do understand.  I have found myself glib lately too, uncharacteristically so.  I look into myself for reserves to share with people who have given me so much and instead I find anxiety and exhaustion.  That PTSD question was rhetorical.  I know the answer.

I am not sure how well I can support my friends-in-need while hiding under my covers – I’m open to suggestions.  But I do know that forgiveness is healing, and whatever grudges I’ve held towards anyone who failed us I can feel melt away with my new understanding of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder & my own fucked up heart.

No hard feelings.



Hanging with Gandhi at the Beach

Gandhi at the beach

I spent a few nights this week sleeping on the beach, meditating on three particular situations in my life.  All three I’ve historically considered key elements of my future, and all three are looking pretty dubious right now.  One has to do with my family – something I’ve blogged a lot about.  One has to do with my farm, or rather the expansion of the farm, and the last has to do with my so-called political career.  Three seemingly distinct endeavors with one thing linking them together – me.  And when all three seem to teeter on the brink of obsolescence I can only look to myself for answers.  What are the common threads, what are the similar relationships, at what time did I sacrifice my power to someone else?   With the possibility of wiping the slate clean, am I able to create a future with my own best interests in mind – and what does that look like?

I was reminded over my mid-week reading that early-on, Mahatma Gandhi was a married man with kids and a pretty swanky law career.  As a young professional he was a loyal citizen of the British Empire, one who thought himself to have a certain amount of political clout with the policy makers.  He wore tailored suits.  However, it was through his law practice – his public service – that he became radicalized, and at some point he had to surrender that supposed clout to continue his work as a humanitarian.  Had he not done that I’m sure he would have died a decent man with a pretty-good pension, but because he renounced his earlier plans we have a world saint – and he saw the end of British rule in India.  He says in his essay The Gita and Satyagraha, “Civilization, in the real sense of the term, consists not in the multiplication, but in the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants.  This alone promotes real happiness and contentment, and increases the capacity for service.”  Clearly one ‘reduction’ he saw early on was the egotism he had tied up in his law career.  In hindsight it seems like an obvious choice, but I feel confident it was not.  He followed his own self-realization through service to others, and at some point had to go it alone to continue forward.

In politics I find myself entangled not only by my own egotism but also complicit in other people’s ego-driven ends, often just through association.  I can see how disassociation would free me and “increase my capacity for service.” Five years ago I can honestly tell you that I was called to serve, and considering the radical turn-around we’ve seen during that time I can only feel pride, but now my term of service is complete.  I was considering another political position – one in which I could act as a watch-dog over this system, serve from a slightly more removed position – but perhaps Gandhi’s message is to seek a greater change.  Perhaps it’s time for me to go it alone….

The expansion of my farm is also a conundrum, essentially due to the blind trust I showed in another self-serving person (I’m detecting a theme!).  Fear of the future had me constantly desiring the comfort of a “plan,” and since I knew I had a future in farming – and a capacity for animal slaughter (sorry, Gandhi!)- I conceived of the Bone Yard (see past entries).  On one hand I regret blindly trusting this supposed partner to keep my best interests in mind, but on the other hand I have yet again been offered the lesson of less-is-more – and in this case, before I really had to extricate myself from something messy.  Again, my ego is involved.  I had PLANS.  I finessed relationships to realize them, and now I’m on the outs…  I am less nervous about making money than I am about losing face.  My grasping at hopeful strategies of self-support during Jay’s demise is understandable – I even feel compassion for myself in that regard – but again, it seems more driven by ego than actual, urgent financial need.  As Gandhi asserts in the same essay, “How can one seek Truth, or cherish Love [both words for God] without fearlessness?….  Fearlessness connotes freedom from all external fear – fear of disease, bodily injury and death, of dispossession, of losing one’s nearest and dearest, of losing reputation or giving offence, and so on.”  Freedom from dependence on the benefactor as well as the false-friend is probably best for me.  It was my fear that drove me to depend on them.  I do not need to excel at some fabricated business.  What I need to do is – yet again – avoid being used by others as a means to their own end.

On one hand I see that I should redouble my efforts to serve, but on the other hand I must remove myself from the situations in which my service can be manipulated by others to their own ends.  I must look out for my needs while serving the needs of others.

Sadly, I cannot see how service to Jay and the kids could have ended any differently.  It is the one example of tonight’s exam that I leave as-is.  I knew Erin was planning to screw me while I served my family, and still I welcomed her into my home.  I chose the path of service without blinders, clear about her intentions and clear about my priorities.  “Non-violence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering.  It does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means the pitting of one’s whole soul against the will of the tyrant.”  Jay’s death was inevitable, but my response to it was not.  My love for him and my kids cannot be undone, despite the “will of the tyrant.”  Jay’s life and death with cancer was a catalyst for me – an exercise in fearlessness and love.  His gift is my future.  And like all saints, his message transcends his death.  Clean Slate.