10/5/06-Thurs.-Since involvement with the dream group, there seem to be at least two positive benefits (knock on wood): the lows, both generally and in my marriage, are less severe or long-lasting (and, indeed, on average I'm more upbeat, which does not, however, mean things are always perfect - I still, after all, live in the real world); and, there are more insights, both overall and with direct relevance to the dream issues.
Examples of irrelevant insights: 1. The current world geopolitical situation is a transitional phase necessitated and permitted by the collapse of the Soviet Union. It will take some time for a new, relatively stable balance to be achieved. Meanwhile, many different individuals, nations, ideologies, etc., have been, are, and will be attempting, with more and less true, lasting success, to put their stamp on the "new world order." Change is difficult, and contains many risks. The perspective of the US "neocons" is fundamentally detached from reality. Thus it will ultimately fail. But the cost to most all of us of the attempt to remake the globe in their image will be huge. Others may have the average person's interests even less at heart and do great harm as well.
2. Abraham Lincoln is rather universally considered to have been a great man and US President, and I certainly concur. But what if he had simply not gone to war over the secession of the southern states from the Union, using his great eloquence to persuade others of the need to avoid a rift that would have greatly devastating consequences for both sides? A terribly destructive conflict might have been averted. What might have been the short-term and long-term implications? Arguably, the north and south might have been better off and slavery might have come to an end in ways, as in Europe, that were not so traumatic to large portions of the society and culture. Without the war and its "reconstruction" aftermath, might things have actually been better in key ways 50-100 years later? The US Civil War has been cited as the first of the modern wars in the sense that civilian population centers came to be targeted for destruction as a way of bringing the enemy to its knees, and in that conflict the loss of life among the troops was of an unprecedented scale in wastefulness and ferocity. Might the avoidance of that clash have given more breathing room before still greater efficiencies of killing in the next century? But how might a divided US have had other, unforeseen repercussions for the history of Europe, in the latter 19th and, particularly, in the 20th or 21st centuries?
3. Also, it occurred to me that over the next Christmas and New Year's period would be a good time to visit Fran's mom again, so I suggested it, and that now has been arranged.
The last dream group meeting was held at the millionaire mansion of one of our members, a quite impressive residence! Makes the Spartan little "starter home" Fran and I still inhabit seem like a hovel. Oh well. At least our (far more modest) nest egg keeps getting a bit bigger, averaging increases, after expenses, of about $40,000 a year since my retirement.
We enjoyed a potluck supper before discussing the dreams this time. The folks liked my large, colorful fruit salad and finished most all of it.
We had some out of town guests joining us for the evening. There was not time, then, to focus on my most recent dream. I think I pretty well understood what it was about, though.
Given the dream group's emphasis over a few months now on my getting more in touch with my feelings, whether suppressed anger, anxiety, or, particularly, sadness, it seemed to me I could do no better to facilitate this than work through the grieving process using helpful works like Who Dies, by Stephen Levine, or How to Survive the Loss of a Love, by Melba Colgrove, et al.
I found the Levine book in our own collection with no trouble and began reading a little of it each day, but I felt the Colgrove work would really be more what was needed, as it does treat the issue of grieving gently yet head-on. Neither Frances nor I could find it anywhere in our things. It has come in handy on several occasions for each of us, so I was disappointed to realize it was missing. Then, I remembered we had given our copy to Allen after that brother's divorce about a decade ago.
The next morning, I went for my usual library shift, but glanced, on my way in, at the giveaway books available outside in boxes. On top of a box close to where I had parked my car, and in fact with the title facing up and toward me as I was walking by, was an excellent condition (except for a little neat writing here and there in the margins), hardback copy of How To Survive the Loss of a Love, which I happily put with my things to take home. Such examples of synchronicity are fun! So, I've been reading it, and it is, indeed, once again proving useful.
Besides that potluck the other night, this past Sunday evening Frances and I got together with our friends with whom we celebrate birthdays dinners, Glenda and Matt, for a buffet at the Shanghai River Chinese restaurant. They have a great assortment of meat and vegetarian dishes.
And today, Fran and I went to Tien Jin once more. There we met and had an interesting conversation with a waitress who comes from mainland China.
Tangentially, I am reminded that last week I learned from a BBC broadcast that The People's Republic of China is now harvesting the body organs of its political prisoners who apparently are kept alive till their livers, etc., are needed, and then the organs are taken and they are killed or vice versa, whichever way is most efficient and practical for the harvesting purpose. Doctors at a harvesting and transplant hospital were even bragging that they can find a good match for anyone in three weeks or less and that the cost to folks from outside China to receive a transplanted liver, for instance, is less than $100,000 (US dollars). They indicated they have more than enough "donors" to meet any demand, particularly in the last weeks before China's annual independence celebrations and holidays, when there is a big push to put healthy organs into a number of otherwise sick people in China, so many political prisoners and their organs are harvested. I have lived long enough for another macabre science fiction story to become horrible fact. This is the other end of the spectrum of suspending the rights and freedoms of people considered by those currently in power as unworthy of them.
So far, in the US, we are merely detaining and torturing hundreds or thousands of political prisoners, whom we call "terrorists," even if they are given no opportunity to point out that, in at least a number of cases, they are completely innocent. Such people, under our laws, no longer have rights of habeas corpus, etc. Some of the prisoners die in our "care" as well. But at least there is as yet no systematic plan to use them like cattle or assembly line organ creating machines.
Frances and I are going this Saturday to my extended family's annual reunion, being held again this year at a retreat center and ranch not far from Salado. I'll be remaining through both weekend days, then going on up to Waco to visit further with a few who had flown or driven in from some distance away, but I shall be returning Monday. Frances will be leaving the festivities late Saturday to rescue Puff from her travel carrier confinement at home. We considered putting her into a commercial kennel, but Fran, who has never developed much rapport with many in my family, really wanted the concern for Puff excuse not to stay for the whole event.
This time, the occasion is a big celebration of Allen's getting to be 50 years old (last month). There should be lots of eating, skits, singing, etc. My nephew, Jim, briefly in town from NYC, where he's currently working as a dance teacher, will be bringing a lady friend to introduce to others for the first time.
Recent dreaming included the following:
We're outside at night, close to and in sight of the ocean. Just a little over from us, the surf is churning, repeatedly booming and exploding into white water higher than our heads. I'm telling Helen Kazantzakis [with whom I work as a volunteer at the library --- smart, energetic, competent, extroverted, upbeat, a take charge lady but very personable, with a good sense of humor and physically attractive], who appears to agree with me, that I never really got into fishing, that I've gone fishing just a couple times and during the experiences kept wishing I were somewhere else or doing something else or that, instead of the waters just being placid, they were in flood. I mentioned that I could spend endless hours along the beach by the surf, and the stormier it was, the more intense the breakers, the better. [I get a thrill from much of the (inappropriately named) Pacific coastline akin to an intense spiritual experience.]
10/9/06-Mon.-According to one global climate hypothesis, when Earth's ice sheets melt, there is less pressure, from their intense weight, added to the planet's crust, to hold in the magma, always under great pressure on our active world. That pressure then, in some of the newly less ice bound areas, finds release through volcanic activity. Thus, periods of relative warming are often characterized by more eruptions, providing further greenhouse gases and, for a time, still more global warming. This tendency is heightened still more, at times, by the combination of Earth's tilt on its axis and comparatively lesser distance from the sun, causing, on average, more prevailing sunlight to fall on the northern hemisphere.
The entire system is always in flux and influenced by oppositional forces. Eventually, the confluence of slightly greater distance from the sun, a new angle of Earth's presentation to our star, and increased volcanic debris in the atmosphere crosses a different threshold, leading to global cooling, prolonged ice ages, and reduced volcanic activity again, as the polar caps and sheets once more apply enormous downward pressure over some of the crust's areas more susceptible to volcanic activity, and so reduce, for long periods, the average extent of excess greenhouse gas generation. Later, new forces, over long expanses of time, then in their turn shift the balance back in favor of the warming of the globe, etc. In this way, apart from our species' involvement in the process, the planet naturally shifts, sometimes rapidly and sometimes very slowly, back and forth between the extreme hot and cold ranges of temperatures to which life has adapted.
Our own moderate overall climate is coming to an end. Vacillating between the extremes is more the rule in Earth's history, while maintaining a Goldilocks, happy medium between them is the exception. Our species' civilizations have arisen and been sustained solely within this climatic golden mean, a bubble in which happenstance has graced our kind for the last 10,000 years or so. Barring a Deus ex machina, or divine intervention, the climate bubble is about to burst.
Since we are now again, for whatever reasons, in a period of global warming and hence of melting and thinning of the ice sheets, if the theory holds humanity can anticipate significantly more volcanic activity as well.
In some ways, we have grown fairly complacent, as if assuming a given, ideal set of environmental circumstances will go on forever, no matter what we do. But they may actually be in a more or less delicate balance. Through polluting the upper atmosphere with quite high levels of greenhouse gases, mimicking within but a century or two their natural buildup over thousands or millions of years, we may well have, in effect, banished ourselves from a formerly Eden-like set of circumstances. Those that replace them may seem as hostile to us as the metaphorical first couple, Adam and Eve, found their new lifestyles, once forced out of that initial garden. We may, as so often occurs, only fully appreciate how good we have had it once having lost forever the near perfection of formerly blissful times.
Perhaps this development was as inevitable as the regular cycles of ice ages vs. sultry times. Species of bacteria under certain conditions explode reproductively until the chemical wastes of their tiny lives, taken together, become too concentrated and so destroy them. We are similarly subject to nature's limits.
Five years ago today, the US and its allies attacked Afghanistan, our opening salvo in a "War on Terrorism," which some have regarded as a modern Crusade, an assault led by our "born-again" Christian president on the Islamic world.
Meanwhile, negotiations (to limit nuclear proliferation) with North Korea or Iran had come to a halt, and we were told these nations and Iraq were an "Axis of Evil." Early today, North Korea apparently exploded a nuclear bomb. The nation is thought to possess long-range missiles. Eventually, some may be capable of reaching Pacific coast cities of the US. Korea's leadership is also said to be very hostile to our interests. It might, we are warned by a bellicose administration, ultimately be willing to sell its nuclear information or even devices to terrorist groups and nations. (Ironic that our ally, Pakistan, which also has nuclear arms not compliant with any non-proliferation treaty, had already been doing that, yet we never apply severe sanctions on or threaten to attack that country.) In view of George W.'s decision not to negotiate directly with North Korea, though that country repeatedly requested bilateral discussions (in advance of steps to acquire or improve a small nuclear arsenal), today's development should be regarded as another major US foreign policy failure.
North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons likely will mean that other previously non-nuclear powers in the region will now "go nuclear" as well. The same result can be expected in the Middle East, should Iran continue to pursue atomic weaponry.
Given that I am sure to die within another 30-40 years, possibly far sooner, and that there is much to appreciate of existence in what time remains, it is a curious thing that I frequently dwell on the likely demise not merely of myself but of our entire civilization, perhaps even of the last of our kind within the next several decades, or at most another century or two.
One might, after all, focus on the positive, on the perhaps decreasing but still conceivable chance that our kind will, against the odds, make it through the looming rough times, at least by "The Skin of Our Teeth." I've no explanation for this gloomier perspective, but assume it must reflect my psychological makeup. The fact is, though, I find fascinating both politics and realistic "think tank" type projections from our present and recent past into probable future scenarios. Many such forecasts do currently look rather negative.
Am returning home, except that I have stopped for a break in Georgetown, after a mainly rewarding weekend of reunion with my extended family. There were no real surprises or hassles other than that, as I drove on up to visit awhile with my mom and a few other relatives in Waco, I inadvertently left a library book back at the festivities' retreat center, when I checked out. Fortunately, I was able to pick it up on my way back through that area this morning.
10/10/06-Tues.-On a long, late walk with Puff last night, we saw an armadillo, a rabbit, and a big, fat toad. I found things uncomfortably muggy, though. Later, in the wee hours of morning, a fresh cool front at last came through. Also, we received a lot of rain, an inch or two anyway. Now, all seems better.
With the assurance that the house foundation and our trees will be OK without our staying around to water, we are considering our options for possible vacation "tripping" over the coming weeks.
I recall this recent dream:
"You know, [one woman is saying to another, about different types of men and women] " not everyone needs all that blood, sweat, and tears to communicate with someone in a very complete, not to mention passionate way. Words are not even needed at all for that kind of communication, and you can really say a lot when two people are talking that way." [It seems she wants to get it on with a pilot who's waiting to fly a mission. - Hmm, maybe the dream's more Freudian this time.]
Earlier [in seemingly the same dream] I'm in my flight suit and almost ready to go on my first bombing mission [apparently as the pilot of a B-29] . I've been away from my unit for awhile. If I have a successful mission, all will be fine. But it is not time yet. Our briefing is coming up in awhile. Meanwhile, I ask an old buddy where I can buy a snack. I'm really hungry, and once I leave for the briefing and mission, it will be many hours before I can eat again. He directs me over to a little truck snack outlet, the kind that drives to different work locations and then the side is opened to reveal lots of food items and to serve and sell them, where I can get what I need. I choose a warm, chocolate chip muffin and start to pay about 50¢ for it, but someone says my money's not good there, that the food is free to pilots and others about to do some real fighting. Several ground troops are there and getting fed too. It's a friendly, camaraderie situation. I tell the others I'm about to fly my first mission, that I haven't been briefed, but the word is we're going to bomb an Asian nation. They are impressed.
10/15/06-Sun.-This is the only recent dream I recall, though I have had several that then completely escaped recollection once I had gotten paper and pen to write them down:
Being from a huge country, and it changing in major [but forgotten] ways. [Rather superficially (merely immediate associations to the literal dream content, the symbolic meanings not yet understood), my thoughts about this are that the US and its territories encompass probably the most vast "empire" in the world, from Key West to the farthest off of the Aleutians, from Maine's barrier islands to the most remote of the Hawaiian atolls, at least 1000 miles out from Hawaii, from the northernmost Arctic reaches of Alaska to the southernmost of the Virgin Islands, from Lake Superior to the Rio Grande, and from Atlantic to mid-Pacific and beyond. Our population, now at 300 million, is the 3rd greatest in the world, after only China and India, and, thanks to legal and illegal immigration, our numbers are growing significantly, perhaps to half a billion in my lifetime, though in countries like Russia and China the population is, on average, aging and in decline, which will likely have repercussions for their economies in the next few decades. For better or worse, the US is militarily and economically the most powerful state in the world, and, though it probably has already seen its best days, willy-nilly, it will exert a global influence for good and ill in the coming years.]
Unfortunately for my ego, the rest of the dream group did not think much of my interpretive comments about the above dream, considering all those words to be obfuscation. They said just dealing with the dream itself is best. According to them, the dream simply means that I still have significant work yet to do on major issues involving grieving or suppressed anger, that I'm worried whether the repercussions will be good or ill, but that I have already been undergoing big changes.
They were reassuring that the group is there for me, so I won't get in over my head. The main thing I have to "do" now is the same as they have suggested before: notice my feelings and then stay with them, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. They also noted that getting more into even negative feelings is a good thing, better than being detached or dissociated from them.
Interestingly, there was also comment on how in English it is very easy to stay at a non-emotional level, whereas in other languages, Spanish, for instance, one is immersed in feelings merely by speaking or writing. A bilingual member of the group commented on how difficult it is for her to express her moods in English, whereas in Spanish there are multiple words and concepts for things about which one is passionate.
In an e-mail later, responding to my note saying I would miss the next meeting due to a prior commitment, the group's founder said, though I am reticent, my suggestions in the group about others' dreams are usually quite appropriate, concisely and accurately pointing out the gist of their meanings. This was encouraging!
10/21/06-Sat.-In a dream last night: I'm in a big, bright church sanctuary. Something has just greatly upset my nephew, Jim, and he has left the front and gone back toward the rear of and to the right of the hall, so that he is now sitting by himself in an extra aisle chair near a back exit. I can see that he is upset and has been crying. I'm standing or sitting off to the right as well, amid strangers, about halfway between the front and back. I'm concerned about him and would go be with him, but think I had better ask. I look to the front where my brother, Ralph, Jim's father, alive again, is standing with several others participating in whatever is the cause of this gathering. He too has seen that Jim is upset. I make eye contact with him and, with a glance, ask if it is OK for me to go be with Jim. But Ralph gives a discrete shake of his head, "No," which I understand to mean that Jim must deal with this, whatever is the matter, by himself.
Hmm. I guess, among other things, though I'm not really comfortable with it, the dream shows I'm beginning to be willing to let the grieving happen rather than always intervening to "comfort" (suppress it). Don't know what to make of this otherwise. I suppose there remains some underlying distress. The Ralph dream persona seems to have his act pretty well together, more so than the ego persona. There is also a sense of what Joseph Conrad mentioned in Heart of Darkness, that, to paraphrase, in life we are all alone. (In death too, I would think.) So, if grieving, we grieve alone as well. Yet, sooner or later, we all (well, nearly all) deal with grief, and in doing so we can be empathic with others who are suffering. So, maybe Conrad is wrong, or he's right but only in a narrow sense.
Have recently liked a couple new books: Case Histories and Julie and Julia.
The weather for a change has been wonderful. Puff and I had a great four-mile walk this evening while a cool front was blowing in.
Meanwhile all's going well in my library volunteer work. Next weekend there will be another of the big quarterly sales of bargain books, with the back warehouse opened up to customers, in addition to the regular store area up front. We are better organized and more ready this time than ever previously since I started there.
I turn 63 in a few days. Soon I'll be ancient enough that I must admit finally to really being old. It is odd, though, that mentally and emotionally I seem far younger, at least to myself.
We have just completed another of our family newsletter issues.
Frances and I were cheered to see and hear more monk parakeets (parrots) today, building or repairing a nest in a "moon [lights] tower" near the Tien Jin restaurant, where we had a late lunch.
My middle-aged brother, Pete, recently living in Oakland, CA, but almost unemployed and running out of money after having quit or been fired from six jobs in a little over six years, has been in town for a few days (Mom having paid for his travel out to TX and also for his stylish rental car), mainly staying with our brother, Ron, who lives well to the northwest. Pete's seeking new work, as he has been for quite some time. He arranged for a project manager interview with a local company yesterday. No word yet on the outcome.
A week ago he got together with me, Fran, Ron, and my nephew (Ron's second son, from his first marriage), Joel. Joel lives a few miles from Fran and me, but we do not see that much of him. As is common among my relatives, there is more hurling us apart than pulling us together.
Joel is very religious in a fundamentalist way, a Jehovah's Witness, and this plus his severe hearing difficulty gets in the way of our being very close. He is working now as a high school math teacher, quite a challenge due to his near-deafness, but he is managing and even enjoying it.
Frances and I were over at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center one evening last week for a lecture on forensic entomology. The speaker was not that good, but some of the gruesome slides were interesting.
My nephew, Jim, was at our family reunion, on 10/7, along with his very smart and pretty girlfriend, Angela, who is also his dance partner. It is a small world, for she lived in south Austin, only a couple miles or so from our place, before leaving to further her career as an actress and dancer. She and Jim now both live and work in New York City. They are also both in touring dance troupes, though not the same ones.
My mom, now in her mid-eighties, is being featured for her success leading exercise classes. She is doing better at this, particularly for someone her age, than anyone else in a several cities' radius. Wow!
I went to both of my book groups during this past week. Each was well attended, and we had good discussions.
10/30/06-Mon.-Tomorrow is Halloween. It promises to be a very busy day. In the evening, I'll be giving out candy to young trick-or-treaters. Afterward, there are ten stock trades I must arrange. But that afternoon I'll be going to see "Little Miss Sunshine" with Matt.
Matt and Glenda joined Frances and me Sunday night at the Shanghai River restaurant for a visit and to celebrate another one of our birthdays, in this case mine.
Fran and I have been pretty busy, besides our normal activities, getting several galleries of digital pictures, taken the weekend of my family's reunion, prepared and online.
I'm going through The Great Stink, by Clare Clark. It's not a pleasant book to read, but well written.
On walks lately, I've seen a deer foraging near a busy road. And we've had great horned owls close to our house again.
It occurred to me that both the US and the world would have been a lot better off, even if he would not, if George W. had remained an active alcoholic, instead of transferring his addictions to religion and power. But maybe it is also true that the voters deserve what they get, when a majority can be so easily swayed to vote a certain way.
Here's a thought: to matter in life, take on a meaningful obsession. Buffett suggests that one may measure how successful one has been by what people think of her or him in the latter decades of an existence. Too many follow gods like greed or power but wind up with few if any who really have respect and warm, caring friendship for or with them.
Besides our trip to FL and seeing her mom in latter December, Fran and I now plan a short vacation in Galveston/Houston, likely at the very end of November and beginning of December, and a trip this coming winter, from late February to early March, to Canyon Lands National Park, hoping to have time as well to take in the Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Cavern.
This afternoon, I gave Fran a long massage while watching "The Third Man" on the VCR.
The dream group had a small celebration of my birthday the other night, at our regular meeting.
Among a few others, I recall this recent dream:
I'd been going a long way on foot when I dislodged part of a bee colony in a cube of fallen rock and/or in the ground. The bees reacted at once, angrily flying out and attacking. I got a glimpse at two or three. [They were amazingly fast. They were not merely metallic to look at but were themselves mercury-colored or silver metal. They were little flying, colonial, bullet-shaped (except with both ends flat, like stages of tiny rockets) robot bees. When they would sting, which two did at once, it felt like being shot in the back. They were capable of stealing or taking the form of or altering or replacing the parts they would hit.] I was falling from the first stings/shots. I knew I'd be altered/replaced/stung/shot by more bees in the next few moments. I thought I was done for. Then a female advisor voice told me I could call the members of the dream group in an emergency. I at once yelled "HELP!" the sound impossibly loud, a shout heard round the world. [I understood that this magic call could be heard telepathically.] Immediately, Christine appeared, and she was smiling her amused-concerned-ironic-curious-wow-isn't-this-interesting-it's-going-to-be-alright smile, as if to say: "Well, what do we have here!?" [And I woke up. The real Christine, of course, would probably have said I should have let the robot bees kill me and then see what happened. Maybe the bees were connected to being/existence. If so, though, I don't understand how.]
Another: "What a miserable play! What a miserable part!" I said, in great regret and frustration [apparently about my life; yet, a moment later, I recalled reading a paragraph about a young man (who would later become a meditation master) whose parents had just been killed in an auto accident, who realized he had two choices, to stay bitter and neurotic about why this had happened or to really apply himself to meditation - not that I see myself as meditation master material, but there must surely be alternatives to spending the rest of life neurotic, bitter, and miserable!].
And yet another dream: I'm at university and yet have been skipping classes left and right, then dropping courses, though I still have 2-3 of them left. I hope to maintain these, if only getting barely by. I shall definitely have to play catch-up with them just to achieve a passing grade, and I do not know where I'll find the time. I apply for some job and then for another. Someone I know suggests I go see so and so (?). I do. He seems to be big in literary scholarship and, surprisingly, agrees to take me on. The "job" is the most intensive, disciplined academic program I've ever had. There are two older, distinguished, brilliant, scholarly supervisors, one the fellow who has "hired" me and the other a more immediate supervisor than the one whom I saw initially, but both take a keen interest. Wondering how the hell I'm going to do my remaining coursework and this job, I have my first meeting with the immediate supervisor (while the other supervisor is there, sort of making little suggestions from the background). It's a typical academic setting office: even for the department heads, the conditions suggest insufficient funds, too long since a renovation, and little or cramped space, though it is still adequately functional. The new-to-me (immediate) supervisor (1) sits down with me at a circular table, the other supervisor (2) still standing and kind of hovering. "Now," Super. 1 says, and all his comments are very emphatic or emotional, "how much of Hebe have you already read?" referring, I think, to a quite thick, scholarly work, of literary history and criticism, by an author named "Hebe." "Well, not any yet," I confess. He seems exasperated by this answer, as though he's been misled about my progress and potential. But Super. 2 makes some (inaudible to me) comment and then Super. 1 rejoins the conversation or interview with me. "Well I WANT you to read LOTS of Hebe by next time," as though this job is to be a self-study (self-directed study) course, and he'll next meet with me for it the following week, and as if he's my professor and Super. 2 is my advisor. Super. 1 continues: "How much CAN you read by then?" and now I see the Hebe textbook before me, almost as thick and large as an unabridged dictionary. With some nervousness, not answering his question, I point out I'm still also taking some regular courses. He seems to take this in but to be totally impatient with my response, and then, most emphatically, he says I MUST [pointing to about an inch and a half thickness of Hebe erudition, any single page of which seems beyond my intellectual powers (but what is being assigned is more like about 200 large pages], and he says, brooking no dispute: "read ALL of this Hebe by next time." Willy-nilly, my "job" has begun, and I shall have to measure up, while also doing my regular stuff. I am feeling excited and yet overwhelmed, inspired, even thrilled, but utterly unsure I'm able to do all this, and so frightened. I recall a simple maxim from many years ago: "The only work we have to do is on ourselves."