Waiting on a cure for SKS…

Yesterday, as My Beloved and I stood in line to receive the embrace of the world renowned humanitarian and Indian spiritual leader Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, also known as “Amma, or the Hugging Saint” at her ashram in San Ramon, I came face to face with what I believe to be one of of the most insidious assaults on all that is decent…the over-indulged, badly behaved child.

English: Mata Amritanandamayi.

Ok, there are multiple double-takes to be had in that introduction, so take a deep breath, and release the grip on your pearls, I will explain.  My Beloved can be patient man.  When this City Girl landed on The Ranch, he knew that packed in my bags were some things he would just have to roll his eyes and shake his head at, like my love of foreign films, yoga, meditation, and my nightly proclamations that our house isn’t clean enough (said of course by a woman who is a clean freak.)  Going to see Amma was just one of those things.  His only request on this pilgrimage was that I shield him from any of the “dirty hippies,” or Liberals known to frequent these events.  Deal.

When we arrived at the ashram, we felt victorious that we were 15th and 16th in line, having learned that Amma’s programs often attract hundreds, even thousands, at a time.  Cranky from our 0415 reveille, things were looking up–the weather was gorgeous, no stench of patchouli oil, and things seemed calm and well organized.  That was until our line was redistributed as we prepared to enter the hall where we found ourselves in the cloying presence of a 6 year old boy named Devon.

As we stood in our socks on the steps waiting to go in, it started.  While most were engaged in hushed conversations or quietly meditating out of respect for the “sacred” ground, Devon, with his whiny shriek, announced that he believed his father was made of “53,000 bricks,” and gave his father a swift punch to the gut. I didn’t react at first.  Initially, I thought, “Wow, it must suck to be this kid having to get up early and wait in line for an event he could not possibly comprehend.” Giving Devon this benefit of the doubt lasted about 45 seconds–thanks to his father.

The second Devon’s father opened his mouth in response, I knew exactly why this kid was afflicted with SKS–shitty kid syndrome.  “Devon, that’s not comfy, you know Daddy’s rib has an owie.”  Yes, those words came from a grown man’s lips.  I should have known.  Devon’s father was exactly the overly sensitive, straggly haired, emasculated pansy (with an English accent to boot) you would expect to say something as ridiculous as that. I hate to admit it, but as I stood in line waiting to see a beacon of compassion, I felt the urge to commit assault with great bodily injury.

It was evident that this kid was accustomed to doing exactly as he pleased, regardless of the irritation or offense it caused others. Each subsequent burst of shouting in line or rib shot was met with “that’s not nice love.”  Devon’s pathetic father even employed the questionable technique of pretending to be a dinosaur to try and distract this demon. Devon never let up.

By this time, My Beloved and I were not the only ones glaring at Devon and his father. Even the D & D weirdo in front of us who was reading Lord of the Rings, (and had suspiciously Hobbit-like feet) shot old Devon a few withering looks.  It wasn’t just that this kid and his father were annoying–they were downright disrespectful.  For me, this visit was about satisfying my curiosity, but for the vast majority of the people in line, this was a spiritual, or even religious experience.  Why was this idiot not disciplining his son knowing that?  What if this was in a mainstream church or synagogue?  Is this where we are as a society?

Wedged between The Hobbit and Devon, I knew that for My Beloved, the situation was getting desperate.  Luckily, the doors opened and we were calmly ushered to our seats.  If there was any divine intervention that day, it came in the form of being seated dozens of seats away from Devon and his father.  With the opening meditation and embrace from the Hugging Saint, the frayed nerves were supple once again.

Some could easily pass my account of Devil Devon off as the mere intolerance of a childless woman, who (insert whiny, self important voice here) “doesn’t understand how hard it is to be a parent,” or that maybe I am ignorant of Devon’s “special needs.”  I hope you can hear my hearty laugh at any of that.  What spoiled and over indulged Devon was in “special need” of yesterday was some “F-ing” boundaries, or maybe even a well-timed visit from smiley Mr. Backhand.

I am not a expert in child psychology, nor do I think you need to be in order to see that  the mode of parenting which lets the child be “king” is selfish and lazy. What made Devon’s father’s behavior so revolting was not only did he not correct it, with his weakness he encouraged it.  How can you expect to prepare your child for the realities and expectations of adulthood when you let them run wild like savages? What is so wrong with telling a child in no uncertain terms that his behavior is unacceptable and following that up with consistent, reasonable punishment if necessary? Why does everyone else have to suffer because you are failing at your responsibility? For heaven’s sake BE A PARENT!

In my profession, I have seen the reeking product of poor parenting sitting  “in the box,” waiting for their case to be called at arraignment.  It’s apparent to me that children without no boundaries, become maladjusted adults with no boundaries.

Despite the countless examples of poor parenting readers can cite, some may still insist on defending Devon’s father’s behavior as evolved and liberated parenting.  I just call it tragic.  Hopefully with a little common sense and regrowth of our collective backbone, together we can find a cure for SKS.

A Year Later…A Ranch Retrospective

It’s been just over a year since I packed up my bags, my dogs, the convenience of city life, and followed my heart to The Ranch.  It has taken me a while to digest all that has happened, all I have learned, and all that is on the horizon.  In a sense, the most telling thing about my Ranch experience is that I am still here. But, for me, as I sit here and savor the memories of the past year, with a healing patch of poison oak on the inside of my left bicep, it’s no surprise.

I’m not going to sugar coat it for artistic convenience, I knew when I set foot on this property that I was in for a huge helping of “WTF.” Not only had I moved to a Ranch, with a long history of inspiring outlaw-Redneck behavior and giving sanctuary to those ill equipped to deal with the “confines” of city life, but I was moving into a house that was still (and to a degree remains) an active construction zone.   Not fully appreciating the stresses of those two circumstances combined, on more than a few occasions I fantasized about making my escape back to civilization, or just plain sobbed.

Our Redneck Chimney

Our Redneck Chimney…don’t worry, it’s been fixed…

But, as I have said from the beginning, when I came to The Ranch I was following my heart.  I don’t mean that in the Cheez-Whiz, Nicholas Sparks sense.  I mean actually listening to my heart.  For most of my adult life, I had made almost all of my choices based on a cold calculation of fact based logic and reason (at least what I thought was logic and reason.) I prided myself on being someone who was not prone to flights of fancy.  I routinely subordinated, or flat out ignored what my heart was often screaming to me.  In some ways that robotic, emotionless existence worked out.  It got me through law school and helped me build a successful career in a field where virtually any show of emotion or vulnerability is seen as a sign of incompetence or worst of all, weakness.   The problem is, the most horrid mistakes I have ever made were the direct and brutal consequence of not listening to the emphatic pleas of my heart.

Clearly, logic and reason didn’t factor into the equation when it came to deciding to leave the comfort and convenience of city life.  I refused to ignore my heart shouting at me to be with My Beloved, and reminding me there could be more depth to my life than the thankless 13 months in grueling back to back trials, from which I had just emerged.  My heart craved something grounded and real.  Trust me, The Ranch is real.

Amongst other things, my world now includes a chicken coop for our 10 Ameraucana chicks and an organic garden.  I have even shoveled horse manure! A year ago one would have been better off wagering that I would do something insane, like vote for a Democrat, or wear acrylic nails, before I would get anywhere near horse poop.  Getting my hands dirty and being free to reach beyond the life I had known has made my heart sing.

Tending to our organic garden...more boxes to come!

Tending to our organic garden…more boxes to come!

I love my chickies!

I love my chickies!

Fear not, I have not been completely body snatched by the local 4-H, nor have I left my inner city girl stranded on some dirt road.  The evidence of her survival can be seen most strikingly in the absence of taxidermied animal carcasses in our house, not to mention in my victory at The Battle of the Bidet.  Hands down, I would still chose an afternoon in a city cafe over a ride on a 4-wheeler into the wilderness of The Ranch, but I am grateful that I have been able to experience the two.

My experience has shown me that there is no irreconcilable contradiction in being a Francophile City Girl that lives on a ranch. I love the things I’ve learned–hair raising critters and all.  It’s my truth.  It’s a reflection of what’s in my heart.  My life is richer for it.  Thank goodness there is room enough on The Ranch and in my heart for both.

Authentic on The Ranch: Sleepwalkers Need Not Apply

Image of Alan Alda taken at the World Science ...

Image of Alan Alda taken at the World Science Festival launch press conference (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having spent the last day and a half at home plagued with a gastrointestinal flu that has mercilessly raged through my household, I have had a significant amount of time to just lay in bed and think.  This can be a dangerous situation, as there is nothing like a fever and dehydration to dust off the welcome mat for one’s neuroses. I’d like to think however that my thoughts flowed in a more productive direction.

Prior to being kicked in the gut by this stomach bug, I happened upon a quote from Alan Alda that I could not get out of my head: “You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.  What you will discover will be wonderful.  What you will discover is yourself.”

Maybe it was the fortuitous timing of reading that quote, along with being asked about “life on The Ranch,” with a rather sarcastic and skeptical tone, that really got me thinking.  What would life be like if all you ever did was live according to the confines of whatever pigeon hole others put you in?  This question isn’t new or particularly clever, but it is important.  There is no doubt in my mind that most people, myself included, would like to think they are leading a life guided entirely by their own unique compass, but getting to the truth requires stepping a bit closer to the edge and asking, “am I really?”

That 3 word question, if answered with painful honesty, is a foolproof bullshit detector.  You will feel the truth in your gut.  Ignoring that truth is a recipe for the kind of soul scorching disaster that can only come from betraying yourself.  You feel the burn every time someone tells you your ideas are stupid–and you listen.  You feel it when someone tells you that “you can’t, “you’ll never,” or the bitterly dismissive, “good luck with that.”  Not to mention the thousands of images we see everyday through print, TV, or the internet, preying upon our insecurities in order to make a profit.  Throwing your hands up (literally or figuratively) and asking, with the kind of authoritative tone that only comes from believing that you are a person worthy of respect, “Seriously?” is the first step toward calibrating your compass to your own true North.

The Ranch has been the perfect backdrop for refining the vision that I have for myself and shedding the dead weight of expectations not authentically mine. Anyone who has followed this blog will know that this is a very different world for me.  I have learned a lot.  Here, convention is more likely to get “the finger,” than compliance.  In many ways the freedom and inspiration I feel on The Ranch reminds me a lot of Paris.  Clearly, they are not the same, but both have a long history of fostering individualism in wildly varying ways.

Have I perfected the art of living with 100% authenticity?  Hardly, but then again, perfection isn’t the point.  Being the exact dog mom, writer, chef, knitting enthusiast, Francophile, organic gardener wannabe, good friend, daughter, sister, all black wearing, other half of My Beloved that I define IS.  No more sleepwalking through the day, guided by someone else’s ill conceived expectations. Being a follower was never really my thing, but everyone can benefit from a fever induced slap in the face every now and then.  No one dimensional category or pigeon hole can contain me. Now when someone asks me quizzically about my life on The Ranch, I just smile.

Make people uncomfortable. Labels and categories are only for the convenience of others.  Be your most authentic self. It doesn’t matter if you have failed in the past.  Start small.  It’s never too late.  I dare you!  Let others say what they like–trust me, they’re probably jealous.  The people who really matter will love you for it.

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