Category Archives: Change

THE PRICE FOR THE FUTURE

December 6, 2016

THE FUTURE DOESN’T COME FREE–THERE IS A PRICE

The storm that snowed-in North Dakota has now blown across Minnesota, spilling into Wisconsin. All night the wind battered at the trees and leafless shrubberies; its howls given eerie voice across chimney tops and rain gutters. I got up this morning expecting to see deep snow piled up in drifts. But the storm split at the point of Lake Superior, just miles from my home. The snow went north and south–we caught only the ragged edges.

As I move through my morning, I am thinking about a quote I wrote down the other day  from the book, The Song Poet. Author, Kao Kalia Yang wrote: “…the price for the future is the present.”

When the week began I continued to carry a heaviness that had begun slowly over the past few weeks, a heaviness that was draining my store of energy. Each morning I stretched my will long…longer, on mental tip-toes, trying to snag the edges of happiness and joy so that I might wrap my arms about them and press them into my body. But I could only brush the edges as they sat shiny on the shelf high above my head. I was weary of the effort.

But Kalia’s words keep repeating themselves in my mind–“the price for the future is the present.”

I cannot retreat. I cannot hide. If I am creating in this present what will be in the future, I cannot stop planting seeds of hope, seeds of wisdom, seeds of truth, seeds of beauty. I must water these seeds–or there will be no harvest. No hope, no beauty, no wisdom born of truth honestly faced to guide us tomorrow. I cannot shut my eyes, but must keep them wide open, searching for even the tiniest gifts of loveliness and laughter that bestow  upon us a little sip of joy. I cannot close my heart, but must keep it wide open so that the flow of love can fill depleted tanks of any who may have need among those with whom I live and move and share my being.

I stretch my will again–no halfhearted effort this time–I snag the edge of Gratitude and hold it close…for the small comforts and privileges I mostly take for granted…for the big things that I oughtn’t ever take for granted. I take myself out for a walk in the grey light of a new winter. I stand by the waterfall where the creek tumbles down the bluffs a few blocks away from where I live. I throw my arms wide and release my little prayers of gratitude, a kaleidoscope of butterflies spiraling up into the heavens.

I smile at the water. I smile at the sky. I smile at the trees. I lean lightly against a cedar. I watch a little squirrel looking for where he buried his morning snack. I listen to the birds gossip. I watch what I think is a Raven playing in the wind. I think of my grandsons. I feel my belly waking up wondering what’s for lunch and remember I have leftover soup in the refrigerator.

Holding grief and rage in equal balance with love and joy is a high wire act worthy of Cirque du Soleil.

 

 

 

 

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Change Isn’t Easy and Healing is Hard Work — Part II

November 27, 2016

HOW DO WE DO THE  DIFFICULT AND PAINFUL WORK OF CHANGE AND HEALING?

…We are confronted collectively as well as personally with choosing the way of Love and Compassion and Kindness and yes, Forgiveness on a local, national and global scale. How do we do this? This is what I wrestle with in the dark before dawn.

I move through my day, practicing smiling–meeting the eyes of strangers I pass in the park, greeting them. I pay attention to the beauty around me in this moment. I watch the children playing with happy abandon.

Finally I tentatively sidle up to the latest headlines.

Sometimes I weep.

Sometimes I push back at the stress and bury myself in my work and then find myself yelling at some technological device that isn’t cooperating with me–or my husband because he’s conveniently at hand.

Sometimes I close the news feeds and immerse myself instead in reading about the good things people are doing in the world and am moved to do the small things I think I can do: donating money to a school for Native American children and to the Central Asia Institute educating girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan; renewing my membership in the Sierra Club which works so hard to protect our lands and the animals that inhabit it; signing petitions, writing to the President and donating money for Standing Rock. I check in on  the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) as they continue their stand against the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC), [MIC–an informal alliance between a nation’s military and the defense industry which supplies it, seen together as a vested interest which influences public policy; something Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke strongly against].

The other day I took a break and went to see a fun movie. Comic relief.

But it is another morning and I have again awakened in the dark before dawn, fighting the panic and the grief and the deep dread of my helplessness. None of it seems like “enough”. And it certainly doesn’t seem like enough to focus on love and kindness in a world so terrified and rattled.  Yet, I know how difficult even this seemingly small work is. I sit with this in these quiet grey hours. Slowly, with the awakening dawn I  realize that no, it is precisely this that really matters. Without it, nothing else will change much or for long.

We’re reading all over social media and the internet and in magazines,  hearing on talk shows and discussing across kitchen tables that we must stand up for and protect those who are being targeted for harm. We must mobilize to put a stop to the raping of our Earth and oceans. We must protect the animals and plants and trees as well as our fellow human beings.

My throat swells up with the suppressed tears of despair. How do we do this? How can I do this? How do I stand in opposition to so much and love at the same time? How do I do this without acting from the same angry and arrogant attitudes as those who perpetrate the harm?

We just elected a man who passed himself off as someone who would make America great again–hearkening to a time when we were more prosperous, safer, stable. But when was America like that? For whom was it more prosperous and stable and safe?  Have we learned nothing from history? How many of you have watched the Netflix Original documentary “13th”?

During the period of change between what has been and what will be there is a time of chaos. There has to be. We certainly can thank Mr. Trump for this at least…he has shaken us out of our torpor. We can no longer think that somehow it will all come right while we go about our lives. We have to do the work to make it so.

But then we run smack into those who also have been awakened but think that what must be made right, or the methods for doing so are deeply contrary to ours.

Some view Trump as a sainted leader, others see him as a ravenous wolf who pulled the sheep’s wool over the eyes of those angry and desperate for change. Both say they have “proof”.

Many said despite his flaws, he was the man for these times in order to save the unborn innocents being slaughtered because of our permissible abortion laws. Others said, “if you want fewer abortions, look to improving how we respect and treat our women, our mothers and families and our living children–here and around the world.”

Still others strongly claim that they have the right to choose what they will or will not do about a pregnancy. Will their views be changed with a law? Will we really stop abortions with a law? Can the Supreme Court actually overturn Roe vs Wade? Would they really even attempt it?

I propose that a deeper, more fundamental issue regarding the abortion argument lives in our overall attitude toward life. Where in our American culture do we see deep respect for all of life? Can we really blame those who see no problem with aborting a fetus when we as a nation condone drone warfare, [see the documentary National Bird] and when we raise false flags so that we can make war on a people–killing their men, women and children in order to gain access to their resources? When we dehumanize black and brown people? When we allow torture and oppression and view those of another religion with judgment? Is the problem really about having abortion be legal or illegal–or is it about our failure to respect life.

Who among us can claim a deep respect for all of life?

Even your enemy’s? Even the family member you just ripped apart with your words?

In only a few weeks post-election Mr. Trump has named to his future cabinet men and women who actively and vocally support a white, supremist nation–a white ‘Christian’ nation (what does that even mean, really?)

As he gears up to put the oil pipelines through that the public have stood against, it comes out that Mr. Trump has invested heavily ($500,000 – $1 million) in the Dakota Access Pipeline alone, as well as other companies engaged in these dangerous oil endeavors. An article published in June of 2015 presented data on over 3,300 incidents of crude oil and liquefied natural gas leaks or ruptures that had occurred on U.S. pipelines just between 2010 and early 2015. These incidents had killed 80 people, injured 389 more, and cost $2.8 billion in damages. They also released toxic, polluting chemicals in local soil, waterways, and air–damages that can’t be measured except over time. In October of this year a pipeline run by the same company trying to put the Dakota pipeline through ruptured in Pennsylvania and spilled over 55,000 gallons of gasoline into the Susquehanna River. And that is not the first time this company’s pipelines have ruptured. But if Mr. Trump has somewhere near a million dollars tied up in just the Dakota Pipeline, where do his interests lie?

If we are to know someone by the fruit of their life, it would seem that those Mr. Trump calls friends, and the money he stands to make personally by the policies he supports, his disrespectful rhetoric, the 75 pending lawsuits against him  including fraud and sexual harassment, all  call into question whether the fruit of his life is real and healthy, or artificial and poisoned.

The country is erupting with fear, hate, division. It has even affected our children and our schools where bullying and fear and the language of hate has increased in sync with first the campaign, and then spiked even further since the election. I have sat with teachers talking about the increased incidents of bullying and hate language and the fear of their young students. One teacher said that the day after the election several of her immigrant students came and tearfully said that they were worried that either their parents were going to be taken away or their family would have to go on the run…something they had had to do in their home country before coming here as refugees.

Is Trump and his rhetoric and methods solely responsible for all this fear and all this hate that has erupted? Some say, no, he’s being maligned and misrepresented.

Some others who also say no say that he has simply torn the veil of pretense off the ugly truths that have bided their time waiting for release.

It has also exposed the depth of naivety on the part of many who have not looked much deeper than their own mental constructs of the world and what makes their life feel safe and comfortable.

But watching closely, listening to him, it seems that he has also directly incited an irrational hate among those who are impressionable and for whom being angry and rebelling against ‘the system’ seems like a good idea.

Fighting ‘the system’ is a good idea–it is broken in many ways, on that just about everyone could probably agree. Let’s remember that Mr. Trump has benefited and profited from this system, and though it remains to be seen, many think he has every intention to continue to benefit from it–changing only that which will further benefit him and those whose ideology he shares. Would a Clinton administration, or any other for that matter, have been guilty of the same? Quite possibly, to some degree. However, none of the other candidates had as a goal to re-create America into a white, supremist Christian nation at the expense of all those who aren’t of European descent or who are not “card carrying Christians”. None of the others blatantly disregarded the evidence of the destruction and havoc we are wreaking on this planet. None of the others threatened to bomb the shit out of any country spawning terrorists–fuck the collateral damage.

Yes, our political system, our education system, our Energy system…our military policies…they all need to be re-made. But what is needed and how we accomplish it is where those who have given their trust to Mr. Trump and those opposed to him seem to have parted company. Unfortunately, the way we have parted has ripped deep gashes in the fabric of our nation–our communities–and for some, our very families.

As we’ve heard before, change begins with each one of us. Like never before, we have got to take this seriously and attend to our own attitudes, our own prejudices, our own divisive mental constructs, our own fears and grudges. Until we can each open up the flow of love from within us, we will be subject to fear and all that it spews. Until we can listen with genuine respect to views in opposition to ours, we won’t be able to make even one tiny stitch to mend the ragged rips and tears in the fabric of our communities. The thoughts we think and the words we speak will either ratchet up the fear and division, or power it down.

It is a tricky dance, loving while standing firm against that which causes harm. Loving while being reviled, or beaten or jailed–or while watching this done to others. Loving while risking the comfortable life we’ve known in order to speak up and care for those for whom this comfort and safety have been denied. Loving and supporting those with whom we may not personally agree–but realize that it is not right that they are denied basic human rights and dignity.

This is difficult work.

We have always been called to the way of Love, but now it is imperative that we respond. There are very few mañanas left to us before it becomes impossible to turn back. Love the Creator and all that has been created because the Creator is inside of all that is; love the Creator and this Creation with all your heart and mind and body and soul.  And love your neighbor as yourself. These are the two greatest commandments and within them is contained all the laws and dogma and prophets…of every religion, of every spiritual practice, of every culture.

Change isn’t easy. Healing is hard work.

Love one another.

Change Isn’t Easy and Healing is Hard Work — Part I

November 24, 2016

INVITATION TO THE JOURNEY OF CHANGE

I have lain here in the dark before dawn morning after morning. I awaken in these early hours with a weight in the trunk of my body–as though someone had opened me up and filled me with stones while I slept. It takes me some time to breathe through the panic, to move through this murky mud of despair. I focus on the threads of light woven through this dark. I bring to mind the goodness spreading through the world–the heroic actions of so many people determined to act with compassion in a world filling up with hate and fear. I bring to mind the beauty of the Earth where I live. I offer gratitude for the many blessings, the privileges and the comfort that I experience everyday: I wake up in a warm and comfortable home; I have healthy food in my fridge and cupboard; I have hot and cold water at the flick of a faucet–water that is safe. There will be no bombs falling on my city, no military marching down my street, no blockades impeding my drive across town. I do not fear for the lives of my children or my sweet grandbabies.

Finally I am able to get up. To sit on my couch and watch the dawn slowly melt away the dark.

Last evening I watched a documentary that briefly summed up what is happening to our Earth around the globe. The massive dead spots in the oceans. The rate of ice melt in the Arctic and how that is effecting the currents in the Atlantic Ocean–the North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) circulation that effects the Gulf Stream–which regulates the temperatures in Europe. Scientists are concerned that the NADW will stall and shut down, an event which  within a matter of a few years would plunge Europe into an ice age. The deforestation happening around the world is screwing up our oxygen levels, as well as causing droughts and deserts and death and suffering to millions of species of life. The plankton being killed in the oceans lowers (and in some cases eliminates) oxygen in parts of the ocean, which suffocates to death all the marine life in those areas. I watched footage of the atomic bombs we set off repeatedly in the not so distant past, both on land and in the oceans, and was reminded of other testing that has gone on more recently deep inside the earth and oceans. How can anyone think that this does no harm to the Earth? The film showed the increase in volcanic activity around the globe; the increase in earthquakes even in places where we have never experienced them in modern times. Some of this is thought to be the result of the explosive weapons experiments and also from the fracking we have been doing; our incessant drilling and mining and exploding of the Earth to get at what we want to “support our way of life”.

The film also showed the natural phenomenon that is contributing to the environmental upset the Earth is experiencing. We are moving into a new region of the galaxy which is exposing us to new levels of energy; the magnetic field around the Earth has been shifting and the Sun is dramatically increasing its solar activity. While it is true that this is disruptive for Earth and contributes to environmental changes, it is made clear in this film, and in other documentaries and relevant articles, it is what we have done, and are continuing to do to the Earth that has weakened her. We have made her vulnerable to destruction in a way she would not be if we hadn’t messed things up. When we are warned of an impending hurricane, those living in the target area prepare. They do not ignore the warnings. Preparing well will hopefully see them through the storm safely. Similarly we have been warned about what our reckless, irresponsible treatment of our planet would do…and we have denied the warnings, lied to ourselves that it couldn’t be true despite the evidence. We’ve continued our abuse of the planet and those that live here–plants, animals, birds, insects, marine life, soil, water and air. And people. All for money and “our way of life”. And that mostly for a very small percentage of the 7 billion people who live here.

I have heard some Christians say that the chaos and the destruction of our planet is  evidence of “the end times” as laid out in Revelations in the New Testament. If this is so, why, when it has always been within our power to choose to be responsible with this planet we have been entrusted with, why would we think it is “okay” to do what we have done despite the warnings and evidence of the destruction it has caused? Why do we think it is okay to continue to do it and then blame the results of what we have all chosen to do on God? Shifting the consequences of our irresponsibility onto those deemed immoral, those who do not honor our idea of the “true God”–saying it is “God’s judgment”? What we and this Earth suffer will be the consequence of our own collective choices to do what we have done to the Earth we were given, our own greed and irresponsibility, our own refusal to fully embrace and live in accordance with the greatest commandments outlined in every religion and spiritual practice on this planet–to Love our Creator, His creation, and to Love one another. If the end of this world as we have known it has come upon us–it has been by our own hand. We always have had a choice. We still do.

In the book of Micah in the Old Testament, chapter 6 verses 7 and 8 it is written: …“Does the LORD take delight in [the sacrifice of] thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? No, He has told you, O man, what is good…And what does the LORD require of you? To practice justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.” Which brings to mind a well-known passage in the New Testament: 1st Corinthians chapter 13 verses 1 – 13. Here we are admonished that if we do all the “right things” that are considered by us to be righteous–from speaking in tongues, to studying all the holy texts, to having faith to perform miracles, to helping the poor and doing many good deeds, even sacrificing our comfort or our very life for what we believe–but yet, do not embody love, do not know love, do not open the flow of love to others and all that God has created…we are nothing. The passage goes on to describe to us what exactly this love looks like in action: patient, kind, not envious or self-seeking. It does not dishonor others in how we treat or speak of or to them, or even think of them. This love does not anger easily or hold grudges. It does not delight in evil, or the pain of even our enemies. This love always protects–everyone and all things created. This love always trusts, hopes and perseveres. The passage ends by saying that faith, hope and love yet remain–but the greatest of these is love.

A long time ago I began to wake up to how arrogant my “righteousness” was–how bereft of real love I was. My heart was closed. I wasn’t able to allow love to flow…like a garden hose turned on full strength, but twisted and kinked so that the flow was cut off, the water unable to make it through to give itself to the thirsty ground. Love was something I had a mental construct of and worked to behave in accordance with–but it wasn’t something that filled me, or flowed from me freely. I was the “noisy gong, the clanging symbol” of 1st Corinthians. I made a commitment at that time that I would take myself on a journey to learn this love. To open the flow and heal my heart .

I thought it would be easy. Just a series of decisions and choices.

The journey has been rigorous. Like climbing a mountain. Like deciding to walk across America for a cause with only a few necessities in your backpack, trusting that your needs will be met along the way. It brings to mind Jesus’ description in Matthew 7 of such a journey: “Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate [path] is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction and those who enter by it are many. For the gate [path] is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Or as I wrote recently to some friends, “Change isn’t easy, and healing is hard work.”

At one time I arrogantly thought that verse referred to the “few” who chose to be Christians–“born again”. But then I finally had to reckon with something else Jesus described in this same chapter: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ In a later chapter he describes judging the nations and he welcomes into his kingdom many who are surprised and amazed because they had not even known his name (in other words, were not Christian nations?) But he says, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” But those who are being sent away cannot believe it–they consider themselves the ‘righteous’. But he says, “you did not help those who were hungry and thirsty, you did not care for the stranger in need, or ill, or in prison–and thus you did not do this for me.”

The tricky part is reconciling the good deed with a true flow of love from the heart. It’s all about motivation, I guess.

If the will of the Father–the Creator–by some referred to simply as “Source” is to Love, is to care for one another and for all things that have been created–why do we spend our energy and money and time fighting about whose dogma, whose vocabulary, whose story of creation is “right”? Part of my awakening those many years ago was noticing how truly loving and kind, merciful and humble were many people I knew or knew of who were not of the same religion that I believed at the time was the only one that was “correct”. There were so many who were far more “godly” than I was. I began to see how foreign really living the tenets of even my own religion was to me, and to many who I knew within my church.

And so I left the familiar shores of my life, and set out on my journey–to become this Love that I saw written into the very fabric of the world. This Love to which every spiritual practice calls their followers.

I have watched this call to Love going out from all corners of the world. I have read of children and young adolescents starting programs and movements to practice Kindness and Compassion. I have watched a group of people from many nations and from different religions craft The Charter For Compassion and gift it to the world, beginning a movement within the Faith community to create unity and peace. I have watched as hundreds of blogs and other internet sites have sprung up to post quotes and articles ranging from the esoteric to the scientific about the effects of kindness, of positive thinking, of compassion, of joy–all things that we’re admonished to practice within the texts of all the major religions. I have watched the movements to protect the planet and all its creatures grow in strength and numbers. I am watching the increasing awareness of how interconnected everyone and everything in this world and throughout the universe truly is. I have watched what used to be obscure information about the science behind this interconnection and the power of our thoughts and words to create become mainstream information. I have read with hope and relief of the inventions and experiments going on that can not only replace our unhealthy sources of energy, fuel and food with those that are healthy, but also ways to heal the damage we have done.

And yet, despite all this Light, we still are bowing and acquiescing to the Darkness–to war and separation and greed and “the way it’s always been done”. We are still renting rooms in our hearts and minds to Fear–and submitting to his bidding.

Each of us have experienced situations where we have had to struggle through a personal challenge to choose the way of Love and Compassion. Of real, true forgiveness. [And, by the way, by forgiveness I do not mean ‘acceptance’ or letting the one who has done harm think it is ‘no big deal’, or that ‘it’s okay’; it’s about letting go of the hurt that we’ve nursed, releasing the debt we harbor.] But now we are being confronted collectively as well as personally with choosing the way of Love and Compassion and Kindness and yes, Forgiveness, on a local, national and global scale.

How do we do this? This is what I wrestle with in the dark before dawn.

To Be Continued…

SPRING SONG

SPRING SONG

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March 20, 2016

I saw two robins in the slush during our Winter’s final tantrum the other day. They were fighting over what looked to be a worm. It had been raining hard in our part of the city, while snow buried everyone up over the bluffs. Our basement was leaking, proof that the ground was saturated and the earth soft–we knew this because it was easy to pound the metal stakes into the ground to put the deer fence back up around our garden. The tulips were pushing up above the earth–a beloved delicacy for the pregnant does who wander out of the snowy woods into the neighborhood where the snow has retreated, looking for the special treats they crave. So, it might truly have been a winter fattened worm escaping a flooded den. Do worms hibernate in dens? Where do they go when the ground freezes up? The scrawny robin won.

When my children were young, we went for our first ice-cream cone after we saw our first robins in Spring. It was a tradition. But I’ve become lactose intolerant. I bought some fresh strawberries instead that afternoon while it rained, and the school children were at home having a “snow day”.

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This morning the sun came up blazing rose-gold, announcing the first day of Spring. It is streaming in through winter streaked windows, inviting us to fetch our overshoes and go for a muddy trek in the hills. I am making fresh ground-buckwheat pancakes. David is frying bacon. There is a pitcher full of Green Smoothie on the counter filled with pears and pineapple, grapefruit and greens, ginger and celery and cucumber and avocado–we’re getting IMG_3258fortified for our Sunday migration into the bluffs. There are a flock of Redpolls taking turns having breakfast at the feeder outside the kitchen window; getting fattened up for their migration to their summer home in the Arctic–true northerners after my own heart!

I’m going to buy some daffodils from the Market today. It’s a tradition. A vase of Sunshine on my table. Last week we found some pussy-willows just beginning to consider opening up. This week they will be ready. Maybe we’ll find some today as we slog through the mud and navigate the swollen streams in the hills that climb up to the bluffs. From up there we can see our neighborhood laid out like a toy town. Beyond lies the harbor, the bridges, the Lake. We can see all the way to Wisconsin.  We’ll gather some pussy-willows, and fill up our house with Spring. Tonight we’ll go grill steaks at my daughter’s.

Tomorrow we’ll clean out the closets and put away the parkas and the skis.

DaffadillaBlueVase

 

 

 

THE THUMPER RULE

December 2, 2015

MY GUIDING BUNNY

Some people have Spiritual Guides in human form–counselors, priests, pastors, teachers. Some people have Spiritual Guides in the form of Spirit Beings, like Angels or other Beings of Light.

I have Animals. Sometimes real ones. A dragonfly brought me a message one spring day when I was trying to resolve a problem. She flew right up to me and hovered about a foot from my face…she just stayed there until finally the “aha!” broke through to my consciousness; then she flew off.  Another day  when I was particularly edgy and cantankerous I went for a walk and inadvertently walked into the middle of an entire herd of deer. Deer Medicine is all about Gentleness and Grace. I stood stock-still, with silent tears rolling down my face. Two young ones actually walked towards me, stopping about eight or ten yards away. After about 15 minutes, they all slowly wandered off and I went home, gentled, graced and peace-filled.

But my Animal Guides aren’t always real.  I have a Tiger and a Bear and a Wolf in my Mind’s menagerie. The Tiger’s name is Jack and he’s the one teaching me that there aren’t any parts of my Self that I need to kill off…it’s more about integrating. He’s taught me that Ego’s aren’t monsters that we need to keep caged somewhere deep in the dungeons of our psyche. They just need to learn when to move over and let the more Enlightened One of Us drive the bus.

But this isn’t about Wolves and Tigers and Bears. No. This is about a Bunny. Yesterday, Thumper got loose from the Bambi set and came wandering into my bathroom. I had just scrubbed the floor an hour previously, but there I was wiping up a pile of whiskers. Evidently my husband had dumped the whisker bin from his electric razor mostly on the floor, with some on the toilet seat and in the sink, just to keep it interesting. I think he meant to put it in the wastebasket, but he was probably looking at something else, his brain three steps ahead of his body. Sometimes his brain is actually out the door and three blocks down the street before his body leaves the house. You can imagine what he doesn’t notice then! Frowning, I could feel my body tense as my mind furiously wrote up the negative incident report that I would surely deliver as soon as he came upstairs.

Suddenly, there was Thumper, shyly peeking out from behind the wastebasket.

I eyed him suspiciously.

“Hello,” said Thumper.

Wow, I thought. I haven’t seen Bambi in maybe, oh, 25 years?

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“Well, ummm, I just came to remind you what my father taught me. It’s pretty good advice, ” said Thumper.

He ducked his head shyly. His foot started nervously thumping. And I remembered.

“If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all,” said Thumper and I. Together.

“You know this one?” asked Thumper.

“Yeah. I guess I do,” I said.

“Cool!” said Thumper. He loped out of the bathroom. Then he quick stuck his head back around the door-frame. “Don’t forget, now!” he said.

And he was gone.

I finished cleaning up the bathroom and joined my husband in the kitchen where he was making smoothies. I opened my mouth…

“Remember!” whispered an invisible Thumper.

I shut my mouth.

I never mentioned the whisker mess.

Not once.

I have been thinking a lot about my new Thumper Rule. My life will be so much more amazing because my focus will be on all the good stuff. I’ll bet I’ll smile more. I might even discover humor in the nooks and crannies of my life.

Thumper never said ‘If you can’t say something nice to someone…’. He simply said, ‘If you can’t say something nice…’ Period. About anything or anyone or to yourself.

Does that include the weather do you think? And stupid drivers? And insurance regulations? OMG–does it include politicians?!

I just finished writing a letter to someone because they had written one to me and it required a response. It took me 4 days. I had to keep applying my new Thumper Rule so I had to keep deleting shit–stuff– and re-framing, ah–stuff, and…Whew! What an exercise! It was like running a fucking–um–an exhausting–marathon. But different.

IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE, DON’T SAY NOTHING AT ALL…

 

THE FIGHT SONG…

November 4, 2015

GRACE…

Today I have to send out my gratitude to Rachel Platten and to The Piano Guys and to my daughter Susie who sent me the link to the Piano Guys rendition of Rachel’s Fight Song.

I stood at the top of the hill in the mist, looking out over the trees into the thick soup of grey cloud. Nothing more. There was the road, the trees at its edge and then solid dirty white nothing. I live here, so I know that hidden in that tired, dirty cloud are houses and schools and businesses, roads and railway tracks, cars and trucks and buses. Beyond them, far below me is the busy harbor with ships and bridges and industry. On a day when the clouds mind their own business high above us, from this spot I can see the strip of land we call Park Point that separates the harbor from the southwestern tip of the Great Lake, Superior, Hiawatha’s Gitche Gumee, the Shining Big Sea Water. Often there are a ship or three at anchor out there, waiting for clearance to enter the harbor.

But today, all that can be seen is this grey stuffing smothering everything. A stranger in this place, or a bird happening upon this land would have no idea what lies below.

The day reflects my life. I have had a dirty grey cloud engulfing me this past month. It presses against the joy I want to feel. It silences the song that wants to rise up inside me. It fills up my brain until I find myself lost in an obsessive circle worrying over endless lists of incomplete tasks, petty offenses,  unresolved situations and their unknown outcomes that have a 50/50 chance of coming up roses or shit. And I’m worried about the shit. Some days the cloud has been so full of heavy stuff that it has wrung out crusty old garbage that I forgot to throw away and had left in some trunk in a forgotten closet of my brain.

I find myself on the good days keeping my eyes on the path in front of me, taking one step at a time, doing the next best thing to do, the good that is in front of me, offering gratitude for my ability to navigate the path through this fog.

On the bad days, I can’t shut off the steady assault of condemnation for every mistake, real and imagined, five minutes ago, five years, five lifetimes–it doesn’t matter, they’re all screaming at me. I can’t redirect the rage that bleeds from the old wounds that have opened up. Neither breathing or walking or chocolate will ease the chaos churning in my body that makes me want to crawl out of my skin. I don’t enjoy living with myself on these days…and neither does anyone else.

I have been given some answers, some guidance through the month–hours or minutes when the sun burns through a patch of the fog and reminds me that he’s still up there shining in a blue sky.

The best day was the one when I was pondering what exactly this part of me called my Soul, or my Higher Self IS–the bit that is eternal, has come from the Creator, the Source of all Life, God if you will and always returns there when completing a life cycle here on Earth. (Yes, I happen to think that living multiple lives here on the Earth, learning, growing, working, contributing, makes more sense than spending an eternity singing in a celestial choir. I’m tone deaf.) For many years when I try communicating with this part of me, this Soul of me, I imagine her as a young woman–but she doesn’t really even look like me. But, there has been for many years another image who has visited me in dreams, and come to me at other times when I’ve been searching for answers, or healing. She is a little girl who looks like I did when I was five years old–complete with short brown hair, navy blue pedal pushers and a white tee shirt. I called her, “Little Mary”. When she first started showing up, I thought this was my “inner child” that I was learning about in therapy. But, she never acted like a wounded child that I needed to take care of. Instead, she would teach me, or offer guidance. The first time she “showed up” I was in a class on chronic pain, lying on a yoga mat, being led through a breathing meditation. I had started crying softly as deep emotional pain began to rise up inside me. And suddenly I was aware of this presence–this five year old child sitting on the floor next to me. She reached out and stroked my cheek and the love I felt coursing through me was so intense, I almost couldn’t bear it.

In Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s book, The Call, she asks us what the one word is that would describe what we understand is the central, most important thing we have come to this Lifetime to learn–and then to teach. When I read that a few years ago, I knew immediately that my word is Grace. Because it is the most difficult state of being for me to allow to touch me–or to live (to learn, in other words), but also the one thing I want to BE more than anything–grace-filled, gentle, compassionate, kind. And in my work in Restorative Justice, it is what I teach.

So, on this foggy day a few weeks ago, I was meditating about what, or who, this part of me is that is my Soul, that is the real, true, core Self of me. And the image of the young woman popped into my mind…okay, yeah, sure. You again. But who ARE you? “Do you have a name”, I asked? Immediately the word Grace dropped into my mind. Right. And then she said, “Hail, Mary, full of Grace” and giggled like a little girl. I stopped right in the middle of the street I was crossing. WTF?!

My father named me Mary–after, yes, the mother of Jesus. Who it is recorded in Scripture was greeted by an Angel who said, “Hail, Mary, full of Grace!”  And then of course, there is this notion that our Soul is what fills our corporeal body and animates it. Without our Soul, our body is just dead meat. So…Mary, full of Grace was just the most clever, ridiculous pun–and I have never found puns particularly amusing. But she thought she was hilarious.

The next ray of sunshine that found its way through the fog of this storm raging through my life came a few days later when the image of my Soul, “Grace”, showed up not as the young woman, but as “Little Mary”. She had a few choice words to say to me about my needing to embrace joy, stop resisting the very gifts my Life was trying to bring me, and and as my imagination had her dressed in her usual pedal pushers, she put her hands on her hips and said, “Really?! Pedal pushers? Again?!” She ended up dressed in jeans and a raggedy red shirt and cowboy boots and had a fairy wand stuck in her back pocket. And she had long dark hair in braids. (Because I always wanted long hair in braids…and my mother wouldn’t let me.)

In some other dimension in my mind she took me to an archaeological dig in Egypt and started moving a grain of sand at a time until she uncovered a treasure. She told me, “When you finally discover a truth, a treasure, or a revelation to shed light on the mysteries or the problems in your life, you have already done more than 90% of the work. You are finished. And this is true in your life now, you have finished the hard work. Now it is time to gather the treasures and celebrate! Share them!”

But then the clouds whirled about and drove the rain and the wind and shut off the sunlight again. Sealed me off from Grace, again. If I could just get it through my head that Grace is not “out there”, but here, inside me, then it wouldn’t matter anymore if there is fog, or sunshine–storms or balmy waters. I have Grace inside me. I AM Grace.

But still, the anxiety in my guts has me writhing; the cacophony of critical and condemning voices in my head rail on into the night. The despair weighs so much it is difficult to breathe. I open my heart over and over to the flow of the stream of Light and Life, to love, to joy. I offer gratitude for the simple things. I cry. I write a little. I yell at my husband for something stupid. I want to crawl out of my skin and run away. I freak out over the bills. I slam my fist on the rocks on which I’m sitting, furious that the help I pray for isn’t showing up.

Today I stood at the top of the hill in the mist. I told myself all I can do is keep on keeping on walking the path in front or me. The part I can see. Doing what I know to do in this moment. And wait out the storm.

I came home and watched the music video by The Piano Guys–their rendition of Rachel Platten’s Fight Song which they wove together with John Newton’s Amazing Grace. Of this project they wrote:

We all struggle. …to make the most of our lives. To take what we’ve been given and turn it into something better… But to do so seldom is simple and more often requires we fight. Not against each other. But against the current threatening to drown the ambition in us. There is tremendous purpose in struggle. From our youth we’ve been taught that when faced with insurmountable, unthinkable odds, we cheerfully do all that lies within our power, and then stand still with the utmost assurance to let fate, destiny, karma, or to let God do the rest. …the closer we get to the furnace of the affliction the more our obstinance and pride burns off revealing the best way to win a fight in ourselves is to let Grace fight the battle instead. There are those that have been through so many defining moments that they are intimately acquainted with Grace and know Her to be close cousins with Hope. They know that when they can’t fully understand the purpose of a struggle, they instead recognize that knowing there is a purpose is enough.

My Soul has a sense of humor. Grace, indeed.

Rachel Platten’s Fight Song...

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

THE LIGHTHOUSE

ON BEING A LIGHTHOUSE, A STREET LAMP, A CANDLE IN THE NIGHT

June 28, 2015

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”  – Anne Lamott –

I read this quote this morning, and the following commentary: “So, you want to save the world but don’t know what to do or whom to serve or where to start? Breathe deeply. Feel your own vitality. Connect with the essence of who you are, what you love, what has broken your heart open, and what gives you strength. Be fully who you are–no resistance, no shame, no blame–and shine.”

Doing Restorative Circles with juvenile offenders is heart-breaking and joyous work. Once a young girl who found our Circle to be the first safe haven she’d known in a long time, began to crack open the hard veneer she hid inside and share her stories, her fears, her dreams. One night after an especially intense Circle, I went on a long walk along the Lakewalk. My heart was heavy with the weight of a burden I had no way to resolve. I knew that this girl, as well as most of the young people who came to our Circles, had to return to homes and classrooms that would be unchanged, even while they struggled to change themselves in the midst of these environments that had tangled up their lives in the first place.

The Lakewalk cut through a park, and as I passed beneath a streetlamp, the light went out. Strange. As I moved across the dark path toward the next pool of light, the streetlamp behind me blinked back on. As I approached the next streetlamp, it happened again. Very strange indeed; was there a lesson here? Heading toward the next streetlamp, it remained on and I came into the pool of light, passed through it, back into the darkness, heading toward the next pool of light up ahead. And so I moved through the park, light by light.

I looked back at the streetlamps winding along the pathway through the park. I realized that I, and others like me, were like these lights in the darkness of the lives of the young people we worked with. Each one of us providing a pool of light, of safety, of comfort for as long as that young person was in our care, or our classroom, or our program, or our home. And then, they had to make their own way again. But I saw that there would be other lights along their path. It wasn’t up to me to provide light all the way down their road to the end. It was only my job to make sure my light was shining in my own little space.

The world gets changed one person at a time. The Darkness is vanquished one light at a time. No, lighhouses don’t run around looking for boats to save. They simply stand there–shining. It is enough.