Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Bluebird of Happiness


I sit here in the backyard of my village home on a mid-July morning.  Tibetan prayer flags sway to the morning breezes coming from the east.  The sun has long since risen and the neighbor children are at play gathering sticks, as I can see through the little opening between our yards.

Some sort of fatigue has set in and my mind and body need a shift.  Since I cannot go away to counter this depression, I have decided to move my bedroom outside into my own village backyard.  My tent that has an open net roof is now my bedroom.  I had fallen asleep to the setting quarter moon last night and awoken to the chorus of dawn birds serenading me with trill and chirps and one rather incessant crow who flew away in a tizzy early this morning.

I had not been sleeping well for months and my mind would awaken me most nights sick with worry and negative thinking.  My emotional self has been in turmoil and I am aware of why this is.  It is the attachment and fixation I have to particular outcomes, to a driving need to wanting something to be different, to my worrying about "why" all the time.  If the why could dissolve into the next moment and just be another fleeting thought, oh that’s right, that is what it is.  I have come to realize that the responsibility of my house is overwhelming on my own, as the only adult here responsible for its maintenance.  We aren’t really designed to do it on our own, to raise families alone, or care for homes alone; we are social beings and live in community, so thinking we are the whole team that needs to do it all is really driven by fear, a need to control, and reliance on this cowboy mentality in our country of a supreme independence mindset.  What’s wrong with being dependent on someone or something, since we are at every living minute dependent on this lovely earth, the air we breathe, the sun beating down on us and each other living being.

What actions have I taken to shift this negative mindset?  Which causes and conditions have I pressed the reset button on to make my life and my good mind and my raw heart more aligned with the basic goodness that I know is the foundation of my existence? I have decided to downsize my bedroom to a small open air tent and lay down each night on the earth and gaze up at the vast open sky. To let nature and the natural good world have a crack at healing the raw woundedness I feel.  And frankly I don’t want to repress the open wound but I also don’t want to go around oozing it into the world of my family and friends and colleagues.  It is my responsibility to take some action to heal and rejoin the fractures I feel, but first I must feel them and feel them I will.  I am being reconstructed as I lay upon the earth each night as I sleep like I am in a cave with less worry and anxiety.  My panic is not taking me over awakening me in the middle of the dark night.  Instead, I am being cradled by something older than me and my wisdom has led me to this place of healing in my own backyard.  No one will probably ever love me enough to fill up that hole; onIy my own inner wisdom will hold me through all this living, breathing struggle. 

I have a view about the difficulty that I have encountered.  I am aware that we are not alone, we are part of a team, we don’t need to cover all the bases our self.  They don’t do that in sports games, so why would we think we have to do this in our own lives?  We are part of families and neighborhoods and work communities.  Some of us are even blessed enough to have loving supportive partners and spouses.  Love is bigger than all the fear in the world.  Kindness is the remedy for aggression.  When we are angry with someone, we could try opening to our kind hearts to love that person without thoughts, we might try prying open our tender heart even if it feels broken and brittle and little like the Grinch's and let a little bit of the serum of compassion pour out.  Funny, then we feel suddenly more connected and tuned in to the other.  And our beloved helps us feel our own hearts of basic goodness, our own sorrows and our own joys.

And in relationships we just have to have these difficult experiences to get to know each other and our self with the other.  And, there may always be a theoretical better someone out there for each of us, but for my part, I am tired of shopping and I could just use a break from all the mental struggle with my own need to control outcomes, secure love, be safe, and be protected. My attachment to being attached causes me great pain, yet we as humans are attached by that visceral broth of humanness and interdependence that this human flesh requires us to be.  I see that it is not so much attachment to the person in the end as it is to wanting that person to be a certain way, to want the relationship to be a certain way. How liberating and loving if I might just let go a little more to let the person love me either the way he does or doesn’t?


This ongoing struggle with wishing for a particular outcome, an afterward, that hasn’t happened yet, and fearing it never will be, is just a reality that I am now feeling and I had to take matters into my own hands and change my causes and conditions.  I had to find a medicine that would heal me.  I had to let the earth cradle me in loving kindness.  I need to trust the world enough to let it embrace me, to heal me, to embody the qualities that I aspire to be for my world and heal something deep within me that has bubbled up and will not go away until I feel it.  As a mom and member of my family, I couldn’t go on an away retreat so I brought the retreat to me each night.
This all takes kindness, gentleness and courage, and I find out time and time again that I have all those qualities, and it takes a visit by the bluebird of happiness of my own basically good backyard to just let it all be even if it means falling apart.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Love's Litmus Test



When there is summer and there is no wind it feels like 1000 degrees.  Today is exactly one of those humid summer days where the air feels close.  Where our skin feels like it is melting into space and that there really is no space between our body and what always seemed like space before.  It is as if we are swimming in a summer soup of body and hair and skin and air and space and room.  Room.

Now I will say I am drinking a Lemon Drop Martini made with fresh berries and squeezed lemons and Mango Vodka (purchased at the Duty Free in Saint Kitts in the Lesser Antilles where I was conveniently stranded during an early February snow storm this winter) and Triple Sec.  All perfectly shaken and chilled with lots of ice on this close hot sultry summer evening in Western New York in early July.

I just finished a seven mile bike ride with my eldest son who is now 15 and a High School Sophomore in September.  I don’t actually think about how much I love these rides with him and our conversations, but now that I am writing this essay I realize how grateful I am for the ease of our communication as we both face forward riding into the summer air on this July day.  We just start talking to each other freely without agenda.  My usual worries and concerns which may very well seem like a rant to him at times, as they ought to, since he has had some serious lapses in judgment where school was concerned his first year in high school – the transition and high school learning curve was quite steep and I am still mystified on how a boy of his high intelligence could let good grades slip through his proverbial high school fingertips.  Despite all this, mom and son ride into space facing forward and the words just flow. 

I do confide in my eldest son quite a bit I think because I don’t have a partner living with me.  I lean on him like I might a husband at least as far as figuring out certain household issues or other life matters are concerned. And he is deliberate in his thinking and analysis and very considerate in his responses. 

Our conversation this evening orbited around creation versus evolution.  Recently he said to me during a rather difficult week of my life mainly having to do with the one I love needing space and me needing closeness.  Funny how someone we love saying they need space suddenly equates in our mind to ‘I don’t love you anymore.’  We may feel so confident in one moment, and then we feel deflated, and even worse, completely unlovable and worthless when the one we love turns away from us even if for a day or week.  Our ego can so fixate and cling to the other as if all the oxygen we ever needed is being provided by that one alone. 

I said to Kailen even this evening that there are three people in my life right now that if something happened to them and they were taken away from my life that I would feel I could not live without them.  Kailen said, “Well mom that tells if you are really in love with someone.  It is the In Love Litmus Test.”  And as we rode on through space I thought to myself about that for a moment.  And I said but I know I love so many other people but could somehow live on without them and how is that possible.  I then became aware that it is because of the clinging my mind and heart have to those three.  I am fixed on them like they are my true north.  And that may be the definition of true love but it is also the definition of fixation.  We both agreed and rode on. 

So as we moved through space so did our dialogue.  Kailen has shared a little secret about deliberate contemplative conversation.  Sometimes he has an idea he is formulating and he decides not to share until the idea or concept has gelled in his own mind.  I often thought if a man I loved held something from me he was holding his love from me.  It took years, really decades to realize that it is a sign of intelligence to give some consideration to thoughts or feelings and how to express them cogently in words before just simply spewing them forth. Or, it is just a different way, equally good.  And that I, too, have held back when I wasn’t sure how to quite put something out there into the world.  Now sometimes it is courageous to wait and sometimes courageous to deliver the message on the spot.  It is a matter of discernment.  And you can be sure that we will not always get it right and that is okay.   

We sort of blended the idea of creationism and evolution into a radical idea that probably neither camp would be too crazy about, neither the scientists nor the dogmatic believers would accept as a possible scenario.  There seems to be a gap in the evolution scenario somewhere between the hominids of the Neanderthals and the homosapiens and this, from the standpoint evolutionary biology, has not been bridged or reconciled.  What if there was a creator and that creator was simply a more intelligent life form from somewhere off in the cosmos, the great vastness of space beyond our planet but not beyond our own minds?

Our ride ended with that thought and I poured myself a martini and continued sitting in the quiet of this stunningly close July evening.