A Rock And A Hard Place? Or…

Life’s sweet spots sometimes come towards the end of big struggles. I admit I create many of my own struggles, wrestling with how to be kind to a perpetually irksome person, or with the plight of the nearly-extinct white-bellied spider monkey. Oh, and how my country, the whole world even, can be a place where humans can actually live.

In the midst of these inner writhings, I haven’t remembered yet that I’d asked God and His/Her Universe to please get me to a higher level of understanding,  whatever it takes.  So, if I’m to be truly honest, what I’m really asking for is to feel better. I want to be more peaceful, less in turmoil, more comfortable in my own skin. To cross this or that particular demon off  the list.

At the beginning, when I’m miserable and churning, I see my need for divine intervention. I know I need to do the simple-sounding work of letting go. Simple, but not easy. I begin to feel alone in the struggle. Where are you, God? I’m showing up to this mess, which you apparently led me to do. Now what?

Feels like I’m between a rock and a hard place. A very gray area. I sit like a cartoon character with that wisp of smoke sketched above his head. No words. Unhappy. Feeling sorry for myself.

I could just keep griping to the heavens, but, although I do have lots to be concerned about, I’m not very happy being habitually miserable. I decide to go into town early in the morning for a quiet coffee.

I don’t feel like going to my usual haunt where people know me, so I walk up the street to another one. There’s a giant peace symbol painted on the side of a building. Never noticed it before. On close inspection, one can see that the paint is old. Guess I hadn’t walked in this direction on this street in this spot for a while. The peace symbol mocks me. I smirk.

In the coffee shop, I hesitate for a moment when I see a familiar face–dang! The homeless guy. He’s usually in the other coffee shop. Not in the mood, but I nod to him. Sigh. I ask him if he’d like some breakfast today. He says yes. I’m glad when he retreats to eat his breakfast on his own. I’m not very good company.

Later that day I go to see my mother. To keep my thoughts from going all gloomy as I drive, I hit play on my podcast list. On Beingthis time with Glenn Beck formerly of Fox News as guest. (You can read the transcript with a click on the link above.) Here’s the gist: host Krista Tippett spoke with Mr. Beck about how he had been an extremely anti-Obama Fox News personality, then converted to Mormonism, and now sees that no matter where we are politically, we can find the things we have in common with our political opposites. I am (was?) Glenn Beck’s political and religious opposite, but there he was, addressing one of my own concerns, an echo of what I’ve been thinking. His about-face challenged and humbled me. I cried, there in the car. The interview took me out of my own head and gave me a little bit of hope for the future of my country and the world. This has been one of my biggest struggles lately.

Almost at my mother’s house, I notice for the first time ever the skyline of the city beyond her town. Never noticed it before, even though I’ve driven down that same street a million times. I used to live on that street, for crying out loud! Never, ever noticed that skyline. Didn’t realize the city was that high up on a hill, or how beautiful it is on a cloudy day. I was astounded at how I could have had such limited perspective. Again, tears, and a strange relief.

I went on that day to cross off to-do’s, both pleasurable and mundane. I may have smiled a little. There are still life’s very big questions. That’s OK, I think. Between the rocks and hard places, there’s the universe, powered by Love, which I call God, always with me in the struggle.

 (Oh, and what book has my attention lately? Accidental Saints–Finding God In All The Wrong People, by Nadia Bolz-Weber. More on that later, perhaps.)

Judging Yourself Harshly

Just listened to a Love + Radio podcast called “No Bad News.” The hypnotist Larry Garrett told his story of being asked to work with an unlikely and world-hated client. What struck me hard about Mr. Garrett is his knack for being “in the moment” and seeing someone as s/he is right then and there. This struck me because I do that, too, and always think of it as somehow wrong. Now, in this new moment, I see it as a gift.

So, two things here. First, I understand as a human being that I’m gonna tend to judge everyone and everything, putting them in neat little baskets with labels: GOOD. BAD. UGLY. SCARY. IMPOSSIBLE. But there’s no need for that, because I can allow myself to (and here comes my second point) be where and what I am, which for me is a lingerer.

I stay in the moment, as my friend Cindy says, a little longer than the rest of us. And I always feel embarrassed when she says it. I’ve spent almost my whole life feeling embarrassed and apologetic and confused. Sorry, I think, I didn’t mean to…  There’s a whole other post I might write about why many women apologize too much. Today, in this, particular moment, I see something I didn’t see an hour ago. I see it’s OK to be the moment-whore I am. I am that way for a reason, and I’m betting it’s a really good reason.

Once again, I realize. I realize that when I start my day with a prayer, with an acknowledgement that I need help, that over some things I am completely powerless, a whisper into God’s always-tilted-towards-me ear, I very soon wind up with an answer.

It of course involves my (reluctant) letting go of distractions. That’s yet another topic for a new post. Until then, more moments to you, peaceful ones.

Still Need A Little Christmas? I do.

It’s my usual post-Christmas funk, so I decide the decorations won’t come down till “Little Christmas,” or Epiphany, as Christians call it. It’s when, as the story goes, the wise men visited the baby Jesus. In my church’s tradition, the event that led to widespread knowledge of the Christ’s appearance in the human world. What I like to think of as Love being revealed in a whole new way. But, I’m still in a bit of a funk; I have been for a while. It started in November. I wrote about it and then didn’t post it. I thought it sounded too cranky. But, now, here it is. 

November 24, 2016
It’s the day before Thanksgiving, here in the US of A, but it’s hard to tell. I’m at the mall, sitting next to a tree loaded with red bows and white lights, behind the candy-themed fantasyland where Santa’s been offering photo opps for a month already. Looks and sounds more like Christmas time than the time to ponder what I’m grateful for. Definitely doesn’t feel like Christmas in my heart.

Are you there, heart?

This heart of mine feels weary lately. Staying positive and serene has taken extra concentration.  Feelings and thoughts take extra time to process. I mean, a wacko has been elected ringmaster of my country and now is filling the circus with a frightening array of clowns. The stress is getting to me. On second thought, maybe this year I need the Christmas season to start extra early. 

My pre-Christmas season has always been about hope. Hope, and the bigger picture–two perspectives that sure are taking their time sinking in today. I’m trying to be gentle with myself as I sort it out. Instead of taking in everyone’s opinions, I’m tuning in to bigger-picture messages, starting with a recent Sunday message.

The story (in the Bible, Genesis 25) was about an ambitious man (Jacob) taking advantage of his brother’s (Esau) hunger. Esau, really, really hungry, craved the fragrant stew his brother had made. He said he’d do anything to eat some stew. Jacob saw his advantage and asked for his brother’s birthright in exchange for the meal, and Esau agreed! So much we could talk about here, but what I’m feeling today in that story is how I crave warm “soul food,” and how I sell myself out in my search for that “food.”  For sure, I could use that comfort right now. 

We read a Psalm together on Sunday, too, from the Bible, number 46: The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us.

I’m taking that on faith today, the day before Thanksgiving. God in my life always has a wild, unexpected plan for good. 

Sitting amongst pre-Thanksgiving shoppers, I think about using my heart and voice to connect more deeply with the preschool kids I sing with; I think about the connections that I so often am blessed to make with neighbors and strangers. I clearly see the hunger in us all, made so very obvious by the recent election. I see how that hunger drives us to sell our birthrights: love. We want to feel better, go about our daily business, hope that the powers that be work it out somehow. Not enough. I’ve got to BE love in all kinds of ways. I now can see the need for lights on the bushes, around the windows, wound around trees–ASAP! 

 Lucille Ball is in my head:

Haul out the holly;
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.
Fill up the stocking,
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now.
For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carols at the spinet.
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute.
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry,
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry;
So climb down the chimney;
Put up the brightest string of lights I’ve ever seen.
Slice up the fruitcake;
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough.
For I’ve grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now.
(Songwriter: Jerry Herman)

Give a little listen, if you’d like:

Be light in the world. 

I Need A Sick Day

I woke up early, after watching the election coverage for way too long.  Not enough sleep. Time to make the coffee and light a candle, a nod to love and light, which frankly seem absent on this gray day. My candidate didn’t win. The country didn’t, either, I’m afraid. But then again, no candidate would have been really OK, if I’m to be honest.

So many big feelings. I need a sick day.

Fear. That’s my gut reaction, and I want to run and find a place to live that feels saner.  I probably won’t, though. Because becoming a citizen elsewhere is a lot of work. And because the whole world is crazy anyway. And we’re probably gonna have a war to end all wars sooner or later. I think sooner.

I’m also afraid for children. I grew up feeling secure about basic, decent, commonly-accepted values, not the now-popular Jerry Springer mentality. I’m so thankful that my daughter cares about people and has good manners; we struggle as a family with lessons on how to act sometimes, but she’s grown up seeing my husband and I working things out,  and reaching out to others, and she’s been working in groups who go and do for people in need. Still, our culture has a strong pull, and she’s a teenager…

I’m worried, too. About so many things. The planet. Inequality. Greed  in so many of our leaders, not just politicians. Steadily disappearing farmland, not enough concern for the pollution of our earth and our food. Most of all, our treacherous concern only for our own little existences in our own little worlds. And there’s so much more, too much to list.  I’m too tired, and ill.

I’m also embarrassed, for all the above reasons. I don’t blame any one leader for this. We all carry some blame. But, now we’re about to have a leader who outright shouts his disdain for the things I value. I’m ashamed.

My instinct is to berate those who voted for this clownish, outrageous, dangerous man, Yes, I see the dangers of the other candidates. I wasn’t happy with any of them. I see  problems with our current leader.  It’s just that…him? Trump?!?  We could do better.

So, I’ll have to find a way to accept the result of those who were so hungry for change that they were OK with any means and form of it. Change in what? Financial status? Government? Race of the president? Growing support of women, immigrants and gay people? I don’t get it. But, I know. You’re allowed your opinions and your votes. Right now, I wish you weren’t. Not a noble attitude, I know. Just how I’m feeling right now.

I have only one place to go for comfort. I go to God. Not the Republican God, or the Green Party, or any party. I go to the God who likes to party. With me, personally, and with all of us, despite our outrageous actions and opinions. See, we’re invited to put on our crowns, turn our faces to the light, and dance.  Dance, dance dance!  Dance in the face of all that’s unholy. I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about what we are born to do. This is the God who expects us to dance into the world and be light. To tell people there is light.

I’m not feeling it today. I need a sick day. The problem is, I’ve got to get myself together. Later today, I’ll be singing with pre-schoolers. Facing their expectant faces, their tendency to dance and sing. I’ll show up for them today. Then maybe later, I’ll be better able to show up to today’s other realities–the good, the bad, and the ugly–with a little song in my heart.

I wish you all very well.

 

Stuck In The Weeds (Again)

Been a while since I posted. I was “in the weeds” for a while, again. In a funk. Really stuck.

What the heck! Do I like it there in the weeds for crying out loud?!?

Could’ve been all the rain last month, and the stupid cold temperatures, (Not. Normal.) Could be I left my job last July and don’t know what the heck to do with myself 10 months later. Maybe it’s Donald Trump’s popularity. And, was mercury in retrograde?

<Sigh>

Eventually, when I got quiet enough to listen, I realized that I was having symptoms of–drum roll please–stress.

I was a little embarrassed to have been roiling about in my misery all that time, only to come up with “stress” as the reason. It’s just not that interesting. So cliché.

But there it was, the truth of it. Stress. Light started to pierce the fog. I began to understand what to do. I started a list.

  • Medical bills
  • No job or direction
  • Taxi-cabbing everyone everywhere
  • A kid with some special needs
  • Getting Mom into new house
  • Concern for my dear husband’s job stress
  • Worrying about my DH coping with physical changes caused by cancer
  • Worsening physical problems of my own
  • Me, not talking about it
  • Me, not taking care of myself

The weather’s nicer now. Sunshine helps, especially if I actually go out in it. Exercize helps, too. (Dammit!) And naps.  Eating real food. Meditation and prayer. I did more of all the above, but the very best help came from a friend, when we met for mini-golf and lunch.

I hadn’t been up for much socializing. My body was expressing my stress level, and I just had to do something. I really wanted to keep avoiding, stay right where I was in my my own little patch of yuck. And, weirdly, I also wanted to be not there. I didn’t know what to do with myself. But my friend did. She can reach that place where I curl up and hide, and she does it in the kindest, gentlest way. And, she hears from God.

It took me all the way through mini-golfing and most of the way through lunch before I blurted out, “I have been struggling.” Then this friend, a gifted, compassionate listener, did for me what I could not do for myself: led me out of the weeds.

Not for the first time, I quietly marveled at my impressive ability to hold onto dark, stinking thoughts, beliefs, and feelings so tightly, despite the misery they cause me. It’s a skill I developed a long time ago. And it no longer serves me.

During this time of transition–coming out of scary family medical issues, quitting my job,  questioning my understanding of God’s place in the universe–I’ve prayed for help getting to the “next  place,” wherever it is, whatever it needs to be. I naively thought that this wouldn’t take God very long. Ha! If you want to know who isn’t is in charge, just ask God to take you where you need to go. For me, I always get what I ask for, and it’s never in a way I expected. It’s actually better than I expect, every time.

My friend told me, in a nutshell, that:

  1. God’s crazy about me.  In fact, God’s doing cartwheels because of me.
  2. God wants me to now enjoy the garden I sowed (the literal garden in my yard, and the one in my head–because they are now BLOOMING) when I was working through my struggles.
  3. God isn’t condemning me for struggling.
  4. God wants me to “get in the boat” with Him/Her and give Him/Her the oars. (Not the first time I’ve received that message…)

So, now that I’ve been reminded, I’m letting God’s universe of Love set me free every day. The worries do still nip at my heels. I fight fear and doubt daily. But, now, I’m sharing my struggles with people I trust. And you. Hope it helps.

Birthday. Birthday? Birthday!

Here’s to me on my 55th birthday!  I’ve gotten to that part of life when I’m glad to be alive and celebrating another one. Nevermind how the mirror is not working properly–showing me some older woman’s reflection. I know that I’m young on the inside, therefore I refuse to complain overmuchly about how “young people” butcher the English language (didja catch that? “overmuchly”), and aren’t even taught to write in script, and can’t read a regular clock, and who wear the kind of clothes I’ve seen on prostitutes in TV shows. Kids today!

Well I love ’em.  I love the challenge they present just by existing in the world with me.  In the college town where I live, students walking in the street, green solo cups in hand, wearing leprechaun hats and green beads, remind me of my good old days. Including the ones where I learned what I definitely did not ever want to do again.

I love the babies in strollers and remember my own bewildering and bewitching baby, now a bewildering and bewitching teen. I love the kids toddling around at Panera who explore the open space near the fireplace, like the pre-schooler who plopped into the chair next to mine this week and gravely warned me “You can’t get too close to the fire, or it will hurt you.”  I love the kids jaywalking across Main Street in skinny jeans and black Doc Martens.  I think I should get another pair. They still make the same ones I wore 25-ish years ago.  Man, I like those shoes.

I love older young people. They are dealing with huge issues, some I never had to deal with at their age. I love when they share their pain, and I get to listen and love and help a little. I love to find out what music they listen to, too. Too many people say to me how there’s no good music anymore. Not true! Don’t believe anyone who says this. Find a radio station or YouTube channel or live venue in your town and GO!

I love that my grandmother and father were so youthful in their own ways, and how my mother is so young even in her eighties. My mother, who loves the new music at church along with the old.  Who says, “You have to change, or you’re not growing.” (A shout out to my cousins here. They are young-at-heart, and the coolest.)

I love the child I was and my youthful nature. Through all the struggles of life, including dealing with my quirky self, I find myself feeling profoundly grateful. ‘Cause I learned how. How to be grateful for it all. How to struggle through. I learned that life is short. I learned that every single person, at every age, has something to give, a gift so important and just for me.

Thank you, everyone in the world.  You’ve meant everything to me, and I mean it. I need you. We need each other.  Preferably working together toward the common good. Now, go do that. I’m gonna eat cake. ‘Cuz it’s my birthday, and I can.  

♥ ♥ ♥ Peace ♥ ♥ ♥

Mad World

IMG_5359I! Am! So! Damned! Angry! Brussels, bombed. As of this writing, 31 deaths. A lunatic clown running for president. The idiot who rocketed down the “slow lane” past me this morning in his big truck. All parties involved trying to Get Ahead, Get Ahead, Get Ahead–all except the passed over, the bullied, the degraded, dehumanized, dead, injured, and grieving.

I sat down here at my desk to do some work and thought I’d first pray for the people of Brussels.  What else can I do? And I did pray. While I did, I thought of the song “Mad World.”  I heard Seal sing it in the production of “The Passion” on TV the other night. It was an interesting creative choice to have that song sung by Pontius Pilate.  The opening lyrics:

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for the daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere

Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I wanna drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you,
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very, very
Mad world, mad world

by Roland Orzabal

I haven’t any advice or answers to the madness in this world. I’m scared and ticked off, and very, very sad.  I know that, sometimes, I myself contribute to the madness, both actively and passively.  I also know I have a Higher Power who actively breathes Love into the world and continuously pries my heart out of the rock and encourages it to grow in  Love and help others find it, too. This Love really does save me.

I don’t usually roil around in fear and anger. I’ll find my way out of it again this time. It’s not good for me or for the world to make my bed in that dark place.

I pray that you don’t, either.

Magic Beans

Ah, my mother’s 4-bean salad! I could write an ode. Why, I think I will!

Ode To Mom’s Bean Salad


+++
All my life, dear Mother! You’ve made
This tasty melange in its tangy marinade.
A bowl of beans–four types.
(I hear of a recipe of three–yikes!)
The vinegar, it zings! The oil–it clings!
(The bits of onion sting, but in the most delicious way.)
I cannot–I won’t–ever hold back praise
Of this salad made sans mayonnaise.
+++

Thanks, Mom!
 IMG_4878

Yes, My Eyes Are Glued To My Phone

imageAll these cartoons and snide comments about people using their phones and other devices kind of irritate me. You’ve seen ’em. Like so much other commentary flying around social media, these are smug judgments about how people at dinner tables are immersed in what’s on their devices or taking pics of the beach instead of looking at the actual view.  Some of you reading this probably squirmed at my use of the abbreviated word “pics,” didn’t you?  I know this, because I do that myself sometimes. We humans (or is just Americans?) tend to use something helpful and then run with it.  Vitamin C comes to mind.  Too much supplemental Vitamin C can mess with your kidneys.  So we overuse our phones and forget the other beings in our vicinity.

We are also a judgmental species, a trait that, I guess, stops us from drinking sour-smelling milk and attaching ourselves to people who threaten our security.  (Oh, wait–I do that a lot… But that’s a topic for another post.)

Well I just want to say that I’m writing this post on my phone in a coffee shop right now, people, and I like it.  You may even be reading this on your mobile device. So, take it easy, pooh-poohers of all things strange and wonderful!  Technology isn’t inherently evil. Neither is choosing to use it in public or within groups, IMHO. This morning, I read my meditation, checked email, messaged a lonely friend, and replenished my daughter’s lunch account, all on my phone.  I’m enjoying my quiet time away from home, where there are too many distractions.

You perhaps are now thinking of those folks you know who are always their phones in your presence, even when you’re having a conversation, even when you’re really, really needing them to listen, for God’s sake!

I know; I have been on both sides of that situation. There is definitely a need for device use etiquette. I think the rules are the same as any other social environment: when you’re talking with someone, give them your attention. Look them in the eye. Use some sort of cue to let them know you heard. Respond. And, if you’re bothered by their phone addiction, tell them.  I have a friend who does this in the nicest way, and now I put my phone away when I’m visiting with her and other humans. One exception: I always glance to see if a text or call is from my kid or other family.

We can handle our phones the same way we’d put down the newspaper or book we’re reading. As for the dinner table? Same rules as always: no reading (or gaming or Instagramming) at the table, kids!  (Or at the party. Or in church.). Unless, of course, the entire group is reading/playing/posting together, which is great fun.

So there’s my 2 cents. I had a great time writing the above at my place before the fire in the coffee shop.  BTW, I had a great conversation with my poet friend after that. My phone was across the room in my purse.

Peace and Joy.

There are books on Amazon about device use etiquette. Here’s one that looks good, although I haven’t read it yet: Electronic Etiquette: Cell Phones, Netiquette, Social Media? Oh my…

 

Still In The Eating Phase

IMG_5046Before the holidays, as you may have read, I started reading “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I haven’t gotten very far; I’m still reading about her eating phase in Italy.  I’ve also been in my own eating phase–eating the last of the Christmas chocolates, eating up time as I hibernate with my bestie Mr. Netflix. Also eating up the good and light-filled spiritual messages that manage to penetrate my January stupor.

It’s OK, though.  I’m OK.  No need to be hard on myself. Just changing gears, as I seem to always be doing, as we all have to do. Some things I happily eat up (not caring so much about others’ opinions, setting boundaries). Some things have been forced down my throat (my husband’s cancer, aging, my child taking Driver’s Ed). And some things I invite right in, despite the harm. (“Hello, Negativity!”  “Hello, Apathy!” “Hello, Overwhelm!” “C’mon in!”)

Do I want to feel terrible?  Sometimes it seems that way.  But I don’t love feeling terrible.  There are too many fantastic things to enjoy, and heaven knows how little time to enjoy them.

I gave a pep talk to my teenager recently about trying a different approach to the same struggles.  I told her about the idea that humans will usually stick to what’s comfortable, that we tend to keep doing things the same way, even if we don’t really like being there, because there’s some kind of psychological benefit we’re getting.       Maybe someone will feel sorry for us.  Maybe we’re afraid of what’s next.  Maybe we need to wrestle with something before we can let it go.

I’m calling this post “Still In The Eating Phase,” because it really is just a phase.  The heartache, frustration, impatience, fear–whatever we feel about our situations–is just a part of the whole of our lives.  We can go ahead and be in the good/bad/ugly of it.  We can decide not to spend too much time there.  Then we can find a way to let it go, even if it’s a little at a time, even through our sobs or our rages.  (Heck, I am the biggest kicker and screamer I know.  God has to sometimes drag me by the ear ’til I finally make the change, the change I asked for.)  I say:

Go for it!  Embrace where you are. Become ready to let it go.

Then, go do what you love.


Feeling my feelings is one of the tools in my healing toolbox.  It’s an ever-growing arsenal.  What phase are you in?  What are your go-to helps?  Comment or Email. You may say something that someone really needs to hear.

An interesting article: “Are You Addicted To Unhappiness?”

To buy the book, click here: Eat Pray Love