Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The secret to happiness is...

I ran across this unexpected shrine by the beach the other day while skating. The taped inscription reads, "Today is absolutely today. Today is not yesterday. Today is not tomorrow." Feeling the way I did, restless, impatient, and vaguely angry about certain things but really nothing in particular, I was touched nearly to tears. I pictured maroon robed monks from the local Buddhist center putting this up for constantly getting lost people like me to find. That's all I need to remember, I thought. The secret to genuine satisfaction in this lifetime, today is absolutely today...
which I of course forgot as soon as I turned on the news back home. And I had things to do, like this drawing workshop in the bar/gallery at 111 Minna...
Drawing and beer! Well, not for me because beer + drawing = bad drawing. And the chance to see old classmates and people I'd once worked with. It was comforting to see how little we'd changed: we looked the same; we dressed the same; the shy guy was as shy as ever; I was still a goof and a flirt. All this was familiar, but troubling too, somehow. Even more troubling after I talked to the shy guy about people we both knew. So and so, who I remembered as one unhappy guy, was now in Baltimore with a great house and job...but was still unhappy. Several more were, like me, temporarily suffering the effects of the recession. And he, now that he was a published artist and could do as he liked, was he happier now? "Well," shrugged shy guy, "now it's just like any other job." He had his reasons, of course. He wasn't doing so well that he could live wherever he liked, for one. In fact he'd just moved to a place he was not at all happy about moving to. But I couldn't help wondering...is it because, nine years ago, he was just like this, getting by, not quite thrilled with his life, not quite miserable either?

At the Academy, I remember, some of the instructors seemed like eternal boys and girls who'd married art instead of another person, and the marriage wasn't a good one. And I'd think I will not end up like that. I won't always struggle to get by, won't be forced to teach when I'd rather create, won't get burned out. I'll get married and have kids. But here I am. Not that different here than I was there. And trying not to panic about where I'll be in five/ten years. Not, I hope, still struggling, still single, still a goof and a flirt at an age when I should be developing a Georgia O'Keefe-like grandeur. What, I wondered, am I doing wrong?

Course if I'd remembered today is absolutely today, yada, yada, I would not have felt the overwhelming need to go to the New Living Expo (where New Age-y folks of all kinds gather once a year) hoping to get reassurance through cheap psychic readings. But I did, and I went. Here's a summary of my readings -

Psychic one, also a massage therapist. The second after he starts running his hands over my back he says, whoa! what's this?
Me: er...a knot?
Psychic: are you in a relationship? looks like you've been doing what someone else wants you to do and it's costing you.
Thinking, wow! he really is a psychic, I spill about being pressured into going to a party I did not want to go to (because the party was given by a certain woman I consider difficult). And how, after giving in (and being extra nice to the difficult woman), I felt my efforts had gone totally unappreciated by the friend who's been pressuring me the most, even giving me an e-lecture about it a while ago. And this, of course, has left me feeling confused and angry and wondering if my e-lecturing friend may not have deeper issues with me. But he's not listening because some woman's telling him something. I'm starting to get mad because his time is costing me money.
Psychic, getting back to me: You see visions don't you?
Me: er...I guess. (I am a visual artist after all. Then again, sometimes random images or scenes do pop into my head, images that later sometimes come true...)
Psychic: I can totally see that!
Me: Really? (how?)
He told me the reason my life seems so difficult at the moment is because 1. I'm an old soul who chose to reincarnate into a particularly difficult life and family situation in order to learn certain lessons. And 2. I haven't been developing my psychic healer gifts. And until I align myself with my true life purpose I'll have a difficult time of it.
Me: How, how?
Unfortunately, our time was up...

Psychic two recommended more laughter, more funny movies. She also said, 1. I've been waiting for work to come to me. 2. The same applies to my love life and men I'd be interested in can't tell I'm interested. I couldn't argue with 1. since, technically, I work for a creative agency, one that so far, has had no work to give me. But 2? I'm a flirt! I wanted to tell her. You should see me at those drawing workshops flirting with all those shy guys I'm not interested in. Oh...I see.

Psychic three I at first regretted wasting money on because she said, 1. a pale haired, pale eyed man would enter my life soon but the relationship will not last. 2. I would meet my husband in January. Then she ended her reading with the offer to change my energy (and thus get everything I want) for another $400. What bull! I thought. Where'd she pull all that out of, her a--? Then again she did say some things which struck me as (sad, but) true. She said 1. I'm a hard worker, and have worked hard my entire life...but I have nothing to show for it. 2. Any relationship I enter into right now will not last nor be good for me until I take care of my employment issues.

Psychic four more or less echoed two and three, except she added that my lack of work had mostly to do with the economy. She also recommended I rewrite my resume because it was too broad, too unfocused and potential employers can't tell what I'm best at. But then I asked her why there was so much friction between my mother and I. "She's enraged," she said. "Really enraged." She went on to say that my mother and I have had many lifetimes together and in some of those lifetimes we've actually killed each other. This didn't ring true (or maybe I don't want it to be true?) but I thought trying her recommended healing meditations couldn't hurt either.

Were these psychics genuine? Any reasonably observant person might have come up with the same information they came up with. In an acting class I once took, this fact was demonstrated to us when the instructor had us take turns doing nothing more than say our names as if at an audition. And the amount of accurate information we were able to guess about each other was impressive.

Then again, I've seen and experienced some strange, strange things, inexplicable things that have forced me to conclude that there just might be more to this world than what we normally see. But does it matter whether we believe in this unseen world or not? Many people get on perfectly well without giving it a second thought, as my no nonsense sister is proof of. But back to my main point...

Hmmm, doesn't seem to matter now. I just want to go out and enjoy the rest of the day. So I'll end with this painting I ran across last week. (Sorry, forgot to record title and artist.) Normally I'm not drawn to abstract art and yet this work I really love. That's change for the better, isn't it?


  1. Lovely wee piece this is, Cheryl. Makes a change frae (that's Scottish for "from") firemen and cannabis sessions!
    God bless,

  2. Thank you, Seanie. I'm glad now I didn't write about going out dancing Saturday night! And it's a lot longer than usual, but it was stuff I've been wanting to get off my chest (so I could clear my head). I do truly appreciate you reading my posts, thank you!

  3. Today is absolutely today ...! This always places life in perspective. It's such a profound and moving statement of truth.

    As for psychics, I think they provide glimpses of possible realities but it is our intention that sets our direction. Although there are outside influences, I do think we are able to shape our reality more than we realize.

    Sweet and adventurous Cheryl, thank you for another thoughtful post. x

  4. Very contemplative today. I do like the "today is absolutely today" mantra, but I have trouble with today not being tomrrow. I guess that's the point, no? Unfortunately life doesn't come with a rule book or instruction guide. You have to make it up on your own.

  5. Cheryl, I think that we are all stuggling to move forward no matter what point we are at in our lives. And I also believe that only we can make changes for ourselves, the first thing is focusing on the positive. I am married to a glass half-empty guy, he's wonderful but he is sort of like Eeyore and I have to work really hard at making the glass half full for my family.
    Keep smiling and creating.

  6. Good to question but also good to be in the moment and live right here and now. What a beautiful reminder.

  7. Hi Carol Ann, yes, I've been trying to really incorporate that into my being, so that I don;t even have to think about it. So many of my worries and fears would fall away if I did that, but, as this post suggests, I'm not there yet.

    I agree with you about psychics. I think they give us possible futures, and whether we go there is up to us.

  8. Hi Carol Anne, got distracted there (he, he)...I meant to add, 'sweet and adventurous!" I love that! Thank you!

    Hi Embee - yeah, though I admit I have a tendency to look for rule books. That's why I listen to or read books by Eckert Tolle, the Dalai Lama, etc. over and over again. Plus they're comforting company while I'm painting by myslef in my studio...

  9. Hi Cid, yeah, I'm generally a more glass half full type as well. But I also tend to think too much sometimes, and see things and situations from too many angles. And, focusing on the positive, I can see any number of positive changes in my life...1. my art, my skill level has definitely only gotten better. 2. I used to fear showing anything I wrote, now I have a blog! 3. more true friends. 4. I'm more open and, overall, am happier and more at ease with myself than I've ever been. 5. I'm enjoying my life. But I do get in these moody funks now and then. Thanks for the encouragement!

  10. Hi Shanster, thanks! I like reminding myself of those things and I hope I can help someone else, too, while I'm at it.

  11. I have a psychic reading for you: You are a beautiful women with incredible creative abilities and talents and you will succeed. You will meet a hot fireman and your love will burn brightly and warmly for many years.

  12. Lovely post Cheryl. I like the philosophy that today is what counts.I looked at a few of your other posts to and whilst hot firemen certainly isn't my thang you do seem to have had a fun time and that really is what life is about.

  13. As usual with your deeper posts, I had to resist the urge to answer spontaneously.
    I read this a couple of times last night, and decided to sleep on it. I’m glad I did. Upon awakening, my mind was flooded with what must’ve been worked out in my sleep…

    1) Flux Capacitor -- I must’ve exceeded 88mph last night. I think I’ve figured out one reason I’m affected so much by these posts. They transport me back in time, to a period of great turmoil and the occasional panic attack. How I struggled with time moving so quickly, the fear of losing opportunities, of being stuck in suspended animation while days, weeks, and months passed before my anxious eyes. Thank God for the DeLorean’s safe return.
    I must say, though, that this period of my life (which lasted for years, but seemed to last for decades) was incredibly important to my evolution. I only had my heart as a compass, like airplane instruments on a moonless midnight in the heavy clouds of a thunderstorm. This compass kept correcting my course, even after exceedingly lengthy strays. So the pain was really the needle struggling back to True North.
    But those stories are for another time.

    2) Buddhism (B) -- I was lucky to have the Dharma Center in San Diego, and the Zen Center here in Rochester. They were great sources of deep, deep comfort. This philosophy kept me sane, making sense when all others seemed to confuse me even more. B is no longer a place for me, no longer a practice, but lives within me and radiates throughout my days. B needs no reconciliation with the strong Christianity in which I was raised, it only leads to a clear distinction between dogma and the heart. One thing I’ve learned though, is to keep the philosophy to myself, as family (especially my very loving 95 year old grandmother) strongly believes (though based on ignorance) that B is a worship of false idols. I love family, respect their beliefs, and so don’t cause them distress. They believe I left B far in my past. It doesn’t matter, though… the affect B has had on me results in an unconditional love that helps family flourish.

    3) Damn! I had so much more to say, but if I do, this will be longer than your original post. Well… maybe I should respond more spontaneously, and leave the contemplation for posts of my own. But it’s so damn satisfying to respond here.


    PS -- I’m not really into abstract art (any longer), but the last pic seems to reflect more of an Impressionist feel. I could tell you what impression it gives me, but that might detract from yours.

  14. People never live just for the moment, do they? We are always worrying about what is going to happen tomorrow or cross with ourselves about something we said last week. But the here and now is the only true thing we have.

  15. Thank you Phil! And thank you for reading my other posts. I think, from reading yours, we both highly value the enjoyment of life.

  16. Hi David, I'm glad you're reading my posts from the viewpoint of someone who's been there, rather than someone who's still in the middle of it. I can really tell from the way you respond. And I know, from my calmer days, that this kind of unhappy questioning and panic about the future is nothing more than some kind of brain fever that overtakes me. I'm not in the here and now.

    Buddhism and meditation have helped me too. Along with Deepok Chopra, Wayne Dyer, but especailly Eckert Tolle. The first was Chopra, and after reading him some ten twelve years ago, I began to see how I was making my life a lot more difficult than it needed to be. And how all this is just part of the process and I have a choice in what to feel. It's still difficult making the more positive choice sometimes, but at least I know I have a choice.

    Hmm, I think you're right about the painting being more impressionistic than abstract. To me it looks like a landscape, with city lights off in the distance, a lake in the middle and trees in the foreground. But really I don;t care what it suggests. I just like how the colors make me feel, calm...

  17. Hi French Fancy, yeah, I'm struggling to truly realize that myself...

  18. la Belette Rouge - I like your prediction! And I didn't even have to pay for it, thank you!

  19. PPS --
    A) Deepak Chopra... I read so much of his work and ended up falling in love with The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success (of life, really). This seemed to distill his essence and provide a focus I never felt before. I've bought 4 copies since 1996, and downloaded the audio from Itunes just recently.
    B) Wayne Dyer... You know, his first book "Your Erroneous Zones" was the first inspirational book I ever read... in 1981, when I was, yes... 19.
    C) What I saw in the painting -- Goldfish swimming in a pond. I know this was pulled directly from my childhood, when I'd see them floating around my dark room at night. That was before I knew I was a Pices, or even what it meant.


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