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Monday, October 17, 2016

Riding with Kerrie

I walk for an hour every day. There was a time I would add "if I have time" to that statement, but my walk is no longer optional. As the social/political climate gets uglier and ever more bizarre, the sanity that walk brings me has become necessary and non-negotiable. I have had friends ask to join me, but I'm afraid the answer is always "no". I desperately need the solitude, and the opportunity for my mind to just wander. Walking is great for physical health, but it's my mental health that pushes me out that door every day. I don't even take Murphy (my dog). I walk him, then I walk me. My walk (and significantly limiting my time on social media) has become a survival strategy.

Today I caught the smell of leaves and wet earth, and it sent me immediately back to my childhood. It's funny how smells can do that better than anything else. It reminded me of riding with my sister, Kerrie. I needed that reminder of a time when peace, gentleness and kindness reigned.

My sister and I used to ride our horses every day. It was just an assumption. For miles and miles, with the careless lack of paying mind to our own mortality, with no awareness of time, we would while away the hours and days until the snow came and prevented us from doing so. We took that ease and peace so for granted. On my walk today, the memory was so vivid that I could almost hear the sound of shod hoofs on dirt and gravel, and feel the soft leather reins in my hands. I felt a confusing mixture of joy at the memory, and the ache of longing to be there again.

The thing we took so for granted as kids seems so impossible and unreal in the context of today's world. Once, for us, riding was breathing and horses were air. We rode bareback, almost always. We didn't give a thought to how strong it made us or what it did for our balance. We just knew that saddles weren't necessary unless we were showing, so we didn't use them. When we asked for a canter (read: gallop) there was no forethought. It was more like muscle-memory as subtle as instinct, and off we'd go. Our horses loved the increased speed. You could almost feel their joy in the freedom of their own movement. Faster and faster, as fast as we could go. The smell of sweaty horse, a mane brushing my nose. The wind blowing my hair off my face in a world before helmets. The blur of green as the corn on either side sped past. It was better than meditation, almost a prayer. The rhythm of hoof beats and the sound of our dog's tags as she raced beside us was almost a song. It was everything.

I miss those moments when there were only moments. Thousands of hours of blissful moments. I miss my strength and my fearlessness. I miss that connection to a magical unicorn. Horses have always been magic for me; almost a talisman. They represent everything strong, right and good. My life will never be complete without one, and I suspect Kerrie would say the same. I miss it so much it hurts, but I'm grateful, too. I'm grateful to have that, to know that kind of joy. To know that something in this world can provide me with that kind of happiness, and to have that to look forward to.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Once upon a time we used to say "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me". We still say it. But it was never intended to be a factual statement; more like a talisman to be used  against playground bullies, or other folks who like to use words as weapons. The truth is, words can do more harm (or good) than just about any other force on Earth. They have energetic properties; they are reflections of who we are and what we wish to convey and represent to the world.

I've always loved words. I 'blame' my grandmother. She loved to read, and she taught me to love it as well. She was not born in this country, and English wasn't her first language, but she loved both and studied them with voracity. She graduated valedictorian from an English-speaking high school. She read constantly, always in English and usually books about American history. Grammar and it's usage was always important to her, and she was relentless (but gentle) in correcting our grammar. She had a better grasp of the English language than I ever will, but I do try!

It wasn't just about grammar though. My grandmother understood the power of words, and the things they could make us feel. As a life-long, obsessive reader, I understand that words can inspire us, bring us to tears, create a sense of outrage or longing. Words are energy and intent. A good writer (or speaker) can move us beyond our own limited perspective and transport us to higher places. Words can make us better, smarter, more passionate and compassionate. Or not.

Growing up with a love of words and an understanding of them meant we also knew a lot about people by the words they chose to use. It wasn't about grammar (not everybody learns grammar; that doesn't make them bad people), but about the way they spoke to and about other people. I remember coming home from school, talking smack about a classmate because one of my friends had, and that was a hell of a lesson. When my Nana said I was being unkind and awful, I felt terrible.  I said "But _______ said it first!". The response was "And how did that make you feel about _______? And is that who you want to be? Don't answer me, just think about it." I didn't have to think about it for long. The words we choose tell people about who we are. It's unavoidable. There is nothing more revealing.

Fast-forward to today. People are disgusting and vulgar because 'free speech'. People condone the most awful speech and behavior and dismiss it as irrelevant. But nothing has changed. Words are as indicative of our character as they've ever been. That's an absolute, and unlikely to change. If 'freedom' means to you that you are free to be awful, then that IS a choice you have. You also have the choice to use words kindly and well. Your choices say everything about you. They say everything about your priorities, who you are and the energy you wish to put out in the world. We've been so desensitized to it. The bar on human behavior has been set so low. There was a time I never would have believed we could ever be here. But it changes nothing. Who do you want to be?

Thursday, June 23, 2016


I haven't written anything for a long time.  I've been sort of fluctuating between anger, sadness and, if I'm being perfectly honest, rage. I didn't want to put anything out while I was in that state of mind. I'm not sure why. Maybe because we are so over-saturated with all that already. I had to remind myself that no matter how awful people can be, it is ME that I'm responsible for. Revenge is not my job, insults are not my job, emoting forcefully, even when it seems entirely understandable, is not my job. I decide who I want to be, and nobody else. It sounds simple, but sometimes (more often than not) ugliness begets more ugliness. I can get sucked into that vortex (and have, and probably will be again) or not. I prefer not. But this is a post about freedom, and what that means. For starters, it means deciding who you are despite the powerful influences to be somebody else.

Some folks believe in freedom at all costs, but can't really define what that looks like. As a life-long animal person, I have a vivid picture of what freedom at all costs means for our domestic animals. For dogs and cats, it usually means untreated disease and injuries, parasites, and eventual starvation. It's a similar picture for disenfranchised human beings. People would argue that it's better than captivity. But those folks fail to see that there is middle ground: Symbiosis.  Most of the best information is found between the two extremes, but people get so wrapped up in an ideology that they fail to think. It's not by accident.

Freedom can mean a lot of things, I suppose. If I take a step back from the specific viewpoints of others and come from the pure perspective of a human being in the world, it means fulfillment. Freedom means the health and resources to be who I am meant to be, the freedom of will to think my own thoughts. It means doing what I am good at, and knowing that if we all were able to be who we are and acknowledge that we are all connected and need each other, then we could achieve a wonderful symbiosis. It feels like a fantasy, doesn't it? But it also feels right.

We all like to think we are free, but most of us don't even think for ourselves. In this age of information, misinformation is rampant and intent on polarizing us. Has anybody stopped to wonder why? Why are we not livid that special interest groups own our government and spend millions of dollars telling us what to think? Why is it that people who call themselves "free thinking Americans" all think exactly the same things and parrot the same language (the same language as the special interest groups who propagate it) and have no awareness at all around it? How is it that we are so insensitive that we think it's imperative that we post pictures of guns and articles that extol the virtues of guns and violence immediately in the wake of a horrible shooting. When did we become this? When did we decide that making political points was more important than allowing people to just process and grieve?  How is it, that if we believe in a different ideology that we don't see that we are just thinking in a different ideological box? Just because we agree with something doesn't make it true. Just because we want to believe something doesn't make it a fact. But in order to understand what that means, we have to take a step back, a step out of the constant flow of information. We have to question the information we see; articles memes and videos. We need to stop and ask ourselves "What is the point of this? Is this information (if so, look deeper into it), is the language biased? Is it purposefully divisive?" Unfortunately, as long as we take the information we're fed at face value, we will fail to see the underlying connections. Again, not an accident. I'm working very hard at not getting caught up in it. It's toxic, it's unhelpful, and as long as people are thinking in all-or-nothing terms, we can't accomplish anything.

I felt sad and discouraged just writing that last paragraph. Human beings are capable of so much good, and we've been reduced to hateful, violent, intolerant fools intent on destroying ourselves over material wealth (someone else's) and ideas that aren't even our own. People are actually angry about the expectation that they treat others decently and with respect. I don't even recognize the world I'm living in these days.

But I have freedom of thought. I have freedom of ideas, and I am the one who decides who I am. I am free to focus on the good; the good people the good news. I am free to see and embrace the kindness in others, and to find it in myself. I wish I was free from hate and violence, but it's invaded the psyche of our culture like a disease. I wish I had the resources to be who I am, but I have to believe that day will come. In the meantime, I'll just keep trying to remember who I am and to have some patience and understanding for humanity.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Weighty Issue

So, I signed up for a three-month food-prep and weight loss class. If you know anything about me, you know how completely out of character that is. I HATE cooking. I mean, I LOATHE it. And I'm horrible at it too. I've actually set my back lawn on fire and had to put it out with a hose, and I wasn't even cooking outdoors. Long story. I used to make waffles once in awhile when my daughter was little, and everybody called them 'awfuls'. It's no joke guys. And weight loss? Please! Lets talk about how much I DON'T care about weight. And then lets talk about why.

When I was little, I felt like I hated most of what it was to be a girl. I never wanted to be a boy (and I thought they were gross, of course), but girls didn't seem to get to have any fun. If I had to wear a dress, it meant I had to wear tights (uncomfortable), shoes that I had to keep un-scuffed and clean. It also meant that I had to be 'ladylike' (whatever that meant) and 'modest', (another word I didn't really get). Essentially, what it boiled down to was sitting quietly and politely, ie; NO FUN. Fun meant digging in the dirt for worms (to bring in the house), looking for frogs (to bring in the house), looking for grasshoppers (to bring in the house) and taking old electronics apart and trying to put them back together. Okay, I was a weird kid. I was also obsessed with horses, rode whenever I had the opportunity, and pretended to be one when I didn't. I liked to be dirty, and outdoors. I liked to follow my grandfather around his wood shop until I was covered in sawdust. In short, any day that ended with me being filthy enough for my grandmother to say "Go clean up before potatoes start growing on you" was a fabulous day. And didn't involve dresses, being ladylike, or being modest.

Another odd bit for me was that the more uncomfortable I was, the more adults would compliment my appearance. I would be absolutely miserable, and my older relatives would be all " Wow! Look at how PRETTY you are!!". Early childhood lesson: Misery = social approval. Okay, and I get it's not like that for everybody and I fully embrace my weirdness here. I didn't get the impression that my sister or female cousins felt miserable at all about dressing up, so it seems like it was more of a 'me' thing. But there it was.

Unfortunately for me I was an early bloomer (and that list of issues is for another day. Maybe.), and that meant an awareness of all the usual social pressures on women to conform to a certain physical type. I wasn't fat, but I wasn't skinny either. For a young girl (especially one that was extremely uncomfortable in her own, ever-changing skin)"not skinny" was the end of the world. Couple that with growing up in a household where weight and appearance were always a priority and a discussion, and the relentless message was "she could be pretty if she wasn't fat" and boy does that lend itself to a whole bunch of self-loathing and trouble.

I very quickly learned that my body wasn't designed for weight loss. I would lose it for awhile , and then it would just plateau eternally. Eventually I was frustrated enough that I just stopped eating altogether. I started to lose weight again, so in my mind that must have been the right course of action. Because nothing was more important than being thin. EVERYBODY knows that. And it started to show. People started complimenting me on how good I looked, started saying things like "It must feel great to start getting so healthy!"So I kept on keeping on. My skin was grey, I had dark circles under my eyes, and the compliments kept coming. Then I got sick. REALLY sick.  I had mono, but not just for the usual couple of weeks. I had it for MONTHS. And then I had pneumonia. I missed my freshman year of high school. And I still wasn't skinny! My doc at the time knew what was going on and he threatened me with hospitalization. I knew he meant it. He said if my mom wasn't a nurse, I would already be there. It scared me enough to stop the behavior, but didn't do anything at all about the psychological impact. I thought making myself throw up would be safer. My doc saw the burst blood-vessels in my eyes and threatened me again. He also mentioned scary things like detached retinas, heart failure and blindness. So I gave up. I mean, completely.

I thought things like "I'll never be good enough" and "There's something wrong with me" (and it was JUST me. My sister was thin. Of course she was.) I drank a lot, but I never really liked it. And then I discovered cocaine and what a miraculous weight-loss aid that was. I never really talked about what I was feeling, because what was the point? Wasn't that just another failure? Another weakness? I felt like my inability to be like other young women or to care about the things they cared about made me bad and wrong somehow. I went to hair school, learned to do hair and makeup, and started to really focus on how I dressed. It was always on the wild side and I liked to wear leather (still do), so I felt like maybe I had just found my own unique way of caring about the 'right' things. I would just be a person who cares about such things, and it would be okay. The substance abuse was just for fun. Of course it was. Until it wasn't. I kicked it, but the weight was there, right where I left it. And I hadn't reached "skinny" anyway.

Eventually I got pregnant, and it was right around that time that I started to think: What if I have a girl? How will I teach her about 'all that' when I don't really have a grip on it myself? I thought about it a lot. I would look in the mirror when I was getting ready for work and think: I wish I could look in the mirror and just say "good morning, you", without having to change my face. I wish my very own face was good enough; perfect the way it is. I wish I could wear clothes for of how they make me feel, not how they make me look. I wish I could stop putting my human-shaped feet into pointed shoes; but I have to wear high-heels "because they make my legs look longer and beauty is pain, after all". (Just between us, how f***ing stupid IS that?) I wish I could say those conversations with myself were the beginning of some kind of revelation, of healing, but they weren't. Not yet.

I had my daughter, and then it was all about "Baby weight". For some women it's not a big deal. They get a belly-bump for awhile and then they have the baby and it's gone. I couldn't even get out of my own way, or wear shoes home after work because my feet were so swollen. It wasn't because I was lazy and uncommitted, but because it was just the way it was. The TV told me differently though: If I had a tough time with the baby weight, it was just another failure. I just didn't try hard enough. Never mind that I was an exhausted single parent. I didn't look 'right', and it was all my fault. Now I was not only jilted and alone with a child, nobody would ever want me or love me because I was just a big, fat mommy-blob. The way people treated me confirmed this: according to everybody, I was suddenly no longer me anymore. My whole identity was about being someone's mother, and I should automatically know what that meant because "instincts". Yeah, not so much. But hey, I met a guy who seemed to dig me (my daughter's father had literally left the country), and though he picked on me ruthlessly about my weight (all it takes is effort and willpower, don't be so lazy), I put up with it because hey, maybe I was still human after all. Even though I was fat. And then fen phen (or was it phen fen?) came on the market. It was experimental and maybe not safe, but what the hell.

I lost a ton of weight on the drug. I changed absolutely nothing about what I was doing in terms of diet and exercise, but I lost weight like crazy. I was risking my life, but here came the compliments: "Look how HEALTHY you are getting!" Yeah, I was healthy-ing my way into a smaller coffin, but I was taking up less space, becoming more socially acceptable. A 'real' person. I thought about that thing Kate Moss says "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels". But I HATED how thin felt. I felt weak and frail. I would look at myself in the mirror and see a gaunt (and old-looking!) version of my face perched on an alien body. I hated the knobbiness of my knees, and how bow-legged I looked. I hated the way my bones protruded through my thin flesh. It made me think of death. Once, I caught a glimpse of my backbone and ribs in a mirror as I bent down to tie my shoes and I was so horrified that I burst into tears. (It's funny, I never looked at my thin friends this way, but to me I looked awful). I was cold all the time (which I usually am, so it was worse), I couldn't get comfortable when I slept and even the smallest bump would hurt. I felt terrible. Of course when they took the drug off the market, the weight came back. It didn't matter what I did to stop it (or why). It always came back.

The "crazy" around weight didn't stop there. I starved, I chain smoked, I over-exercised. I still did all of that. I think it's pretty normal for women to accept self-flagellation as just another way of life. We call it other things (because the TV does). We call it 'motivation' or something along those lines. It's not. One day, I caught my daughter watching me. Is this what I wanted for her? Did I want to teach her to hate herself? Did I want her to think that her appearance was the most important thing she had to offer the world? So important that it took precedence over everything else? No, a thousand times no. I knew that if I wanted her to grow up loving herself, I had to love me. I had to show her what self-love looked like.That was a tough one, but I did it.

I finally accepted that I wasn't 'normal' (whatever that means), but that I didn't have to be. I was my own worst critic on that score. I accepted that I'm always going to be a little fluffy, and that means nothing about who I am or my value as a human being. I sent my daughter to a great school with a strict no media policy, and that just made things easier. It eradicated all those twisted media-messages directed at women. She and I would dig in the dirt together, grow things, make things, and joke about how many potatoes we could grow on ourselves. She went through a 'pink' phase, and then a 'blue' phase, and then a 'red' phase. Sometimes she liked to play with dolls and that was cool. And sometimes she didn't and that was cool too. She led the charge in terms of her preferences for toys, colors and activities, and all was well. We hiked with the dogs, we danced it out, we read books. We both dressed in clothes we liked for how they made us feel, we wore comfortable shoes (or no shoes!) and our faces were perfect exactly the way they were. Seeing myself through my daughter's eyes was really the beginning of healing for me. Healing from a lifetime of bullshit messages about how women should look and what they should care about. I needed the freedom from the media messages as much as my daughter, and it was the beginning. And there were many years of therapy (which continues).

It's been a long, slow climb through self-acceptance, and finally to self love. I'm really grateful to be where I am in that regard. I've come to realize that the cliche is true: beauty does, indeed originate within. I started looking for it in other people first. Where once I may have thought "She might be pretty if she wasn't so fat", I think "Wow, her face glows with kindness". And that's not something you will ever find in a make-up bag or a photo-altering app. Now, I can turn that same love and kindness on myself and mean it. It's kind of a big deal. And I now understand that not everything is about goals or climbing mountains. I do yoga because it feels good (Yes, Debbie, it's still your VHS tape!), I let my hair grow because it makes me sad to cut it, and I don't have to. I did add some purple and blue highlights though :-) I dress for comfort and wear comfortable shoes. I look at my face in the AM and say "Good morning you. It's a new day, lets make it a good one" without any thought whatsoever of changing my face. It's flaws are a perfect reflection of a lifetime of sun and smiles. I finally understand that trying to approximate a socially-contrived stereotype is not for everybody, and it certainly isn't for me. But you can imagine how it feels to have someone say "You know, you should lose some weight. It's just a little diet and exercise". Seriously folks, I WISH it was just about willpower, effort and self-control. I starved myself, almost to death, I drove myself to the hospital in labor, I raised a child alone. If it were just about gutting it out, it would have been a done deal a loooong time ago.

And what does any of that have to do with my opening statement? Well, everything. It took a long time to get to this place. I'm taking the class because I want to, without any particular goal in mind.  It's about self love. It's an apology to myself for everything I've done; for the starvation and the drugs, for the self-loathing and judgement, for the shitty, dehydrated food and the chemical-laden, meal-substitute shakes. For the abuse, really. Both the abuse I put up with from others, and that which I imposed on myself. And to learn. My daughter and I went from a crushing poverty that meant we had no real choices in terms of food because it always came down to "what is the cheapest thing we can tolerate today?" (FYI, folks who really think poor people are out there buying lobster and steak are so full of willful ignorance that it hurts every ounce of common sense I posses, which is a lot.) , and with very little transition, suddenly went to "Who do we call for take out today?". That was cool for awhile, but it's no way to live. So I'm doing this, I'm taking this class. I'm sure I'll lose some weight, and that's cool. Do I expect miracles? I really don't, and that's okay. Because that isn't the point. The point is, to take better care of ourselves, just to do that. I've spent 2 years studying canine nutrition, and the better part of a year on equine nutrition (I don't even have a horse right now!) and it's time to spend a little time learning about me, a human, who's worth it. And for all the right reasons.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Why I love Circles

When I first started this blog, my intention was to keep it light-hearted. I wanted it to be a place where I could focus on the fluffy side of life; I wanted to make it primarily about animals and silliness. It hasn't exactly worked out that way. See, the thing about being online, about being part of any online community, is that it has a fairly pronounced dark side. I get that we all know this, and it isn't exactly the latest news. But it's easy to get caught up, to get dragged away and to be distracted by all the noise. For me, the worst part has been finding out about some of the horrible things that people believe in, even people I know and love. The feelings fall somewhere between a helpless kind of melancholy, and the realization that something with teeth is standing next to your bed at 3:00AM. It is what it is. And apparently, we're all about labels these days. We're all about making assumptions about large groups of people based on speculation, about passing judgement, about forgetting there is a difference between opinion and fact. Propaganda is propaganda no matter the source. Wanting to believe something doesn't make it true, but people believe just the same.

People believe nonsense about others simply because someone told them to. A failure to distinguish between opinion and fact compounds the issue. It feels heavy. It feels like negotiating an unpredictable landscape where logic and compassion no longer mean a damned thing, and anger, prejudice and greed are acceptable.  Everybody is competing to see who has it the worst, and those who have it good feel fully entitled to exploit the desperation of others. It's so in my face every day, and it makes it hard to stay fluffy. Everybody is looking out for number one. I want to talk about what I believe, and why it makes the rest of it so difficult.

I won't deny the importance of the individual, but here's the deal: Each and every one of us is unique. We are all "different". Even so, unless you live alone in the middle of nowhere, build your own house, grow all your own food, make your own clothes, create your own energy, etc, you are connected to the rest of us. Our fates are inextricably bound. But it goes deeper than that.

The reason I love circles isn't just because I abhor straight lines and the sharpness of angles, but because they accurately depict our relationship with everything. Circles are inclusive. They are found in nature in a perfect state. They hold us all within them; they accurately reflect the reality of how even the smallest act can create a far-reaching ripple.
Taken spiritually, the idea of the sacred circle has been embraced by many, many cultures, and not for nothing. I'll focus on the Native American medicine wheel pictured above (items like this beautifully quilled medicine wheel are available by clicking the link under the image, and benefit Native American cancer research. A site which I'm not affiliated with in any way). While the symbol has been adopted by many tribes, I am most familiar with the Lakota understanding (my great gram was Sihasapa, though I didn't know much about her). Even so, there are still a lot of holes in my personal understanding to fill in, so please feel free to comment if I'm missing something.

I love this symbol. It is the epitome of inclusiveness. It doesn't just represent the connection of all people, but all of nature. Nature doesn't place humanity above anything else; we are all one in nature. It is only humanity that tries to see itself as above everything. It is seen in small ways, like assigning morality to feeding oneself (veganism for the sake of the animals, which is a fine thing to do but it implies immorality of all flesh-eaters; and being anti-farm gets extra silly when you have dogs and/or cats), or the need we have to assign human emotions and judgement to animals in order to describe how great they are ("my dog felt guilty when he dirtied the carpet", "my dog feels sorry for the abused animals on the TV","my dog is like a little person"). The truth is, every dog is a perfect dog. Every horse is a perfect horse. Every animal is perfectly and wonderfully it's own being, and not human. That doesn't make it any less, just different. The idea that 'not human' is less than us is so ingrained that we look for ourselves in everything to prove it is worthy. There's rarely ill-intent, but it's disrespectful just the same. I know I've said that before, but it can be really difficult to fully appreciate what the idea of inclusiveness means without acknowledging our human tendencies. Even so, we are perfect humans, all of us, and a natural part of the circle.

We, as humans, tend to make our spirituality separate too, as though it is something outside of ourselves.  But it is a part of nature too, and a natural part of everything. We argue and fight about the different ways we perceive our spirituality, and don't stop to realize that nobody has the whole story, and that we all do. It doesn't belong to anyone more than anyone else. Our divinity isn't dependent on our financial place in the world, it's part of who we are. It's the very energy of our beings. Before you think I've gone all religious, you need to know that my understanding of spirituality goes beyond religion (my religion is Catholic, which is neither here nor there for the moment). Even the greatest minds in history acknowledge the force of energy: The law of Conservation of energy is absolute, and says essentially that energy can neither be created or destroyed. Tesla has been quoted as saying “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.” That's for those of us who need a little logic with our spiritualism. Having said that, my personal experiences have shown me a reality that many people have to take on faith. I know life doesn't end, because I've seen it. We are energy, and that energy is in all things. In that most profound, fundamental and unequivocal way, we are all connected. We can embrace it and live through it and with it, or not. But real separation is impossible, and the desire unhealthy. The individual is best able to manifest and thrive when that natural connectedness is acknowledged, and even more importantly, respected. For the more religious among you, for whom the Bible holds the most sway (or the curious), follow this link to multiple Bible passages that offer more incentive yet to support this point of view.

The problem arises when we need to be reminded of our connectedness. When we convince ourselves so thoroughly of our own self-importance that we become unable to see the validity of anything but our own priorities and our own point of view. As humans, it's something we need be aware of. Our big brains can be wonderful things; they can allow us to be stewards of our world, they can help us connect with the divinity of all things. Or they can give us a false sense of superiority and infallibility. Most of our biggest issues today come from trying to impose artificial priorities (like the acquisition of money and things) on a natural world that doesn't share or acknowledge our contrived values. The further we get from our natural state, the sicker we get. "We" meaning all of us and all of nature. That is a fact, Jack. There are ways to make it work, but the imposition of money on everything has functioned like a sickness in and of itself. It makes us hateful, paranoid, greedy. In our desire for a sense of control, we oversimplify everything; we make things so black and white that we fail to see the myriad of solutions that fall somewhere in the middle. The middle has become a blind spot. You think we would have noticed by now that the desire for money and control does nothing at all to make us better people or to improve our circumstances. We think having more makes us better. We get covetous and paranoid about our resources. It's ugly and it's violent. We use our big brains to justify it. We forget why we are here and what we're really about. We lose our magic in persuit of the trivial and insignificant.

So, those are my thoughts. I haven't found a way to adequately shield myself from the awfulness that exists, or to not get caught in it myself. We are going through a period of time when it's financially beneficial to play on peoples' prejudices and to exploit the worst of human nature. Our conversations are nothing more than hatred, name-calling, divisiveness and blame. It's so bad that we can't even see what we are doing to each other and to ourselves. We've forgotten the connection. All we can do is try to remember, and do our best to stay out of the fray.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Perfect Storm

I wasn't really sure how to start this. I just know that if I don't purge this, I won't be very productive and I won't be getting a lot of sleep. It happens like that sometimes. It's the holiday season, a joyful celebration for many of us. Being Catholic, for me it's the Christmas season. Once upon a time in a much more simple world that was really all I needed to feel happy about life, the world, and everyone in it. It's the downside of maturity, I think; the complex awareness that comes with adulthood. But it isn't just about maturity. Try as might, that cheer is more difficult to come by these days.

I feel an immense sense of gratitude for all that we have. I have a family that I dearly love, I have a roof. My daughter still lives at home, and she is an endless source of joy to me. I have some of the best friends a person could ever ask for. Our tree is perfect this year, and I'm having a great time with my crafting projects; every stitch filled with love for the giftee. But I have a knot in my stomach.

Every day I turn on my TV and there it is. Or I sign in to Facebook, and more of the same. For me, TV is only entertainment. I have an awareness that TV is no place to get accurate information as a rule. For that matter, neither is Facebook. Facebook memes can be made by anyone to say anything. I understand this, but not everybody does. Sometimes I am deeply troubled by the things people are not only willing, but eager to believe. And so much of it awful. It feels like there is this endless source of toxicity, a constant dumping of mental garbage, or the intellectual equivalent of an oil spill, and it's unstoppable. It's relentlessly poisoning us against each other. I read an article about the unraveling of the Central African Republic, and I couldn't help but see us in it.

Lies, hatred, blame; more and more and more. And then violence. Let's add that. Let's make it okay, lets make it a duty, sell it as good. SELL it. Sometimes I feel like we are drowning, saturated in a ridiculous deluge, ALL of us. But some still think the solution is more water. Demanding it. As a right. What about the rights of the rest of us? A small, selfish part of me wishes we could reserve an island for those who keep demanding more; the rest of us could live in peace. It doesn't work that way. I hear guns called tools, compared to shovels and axes. Shovels were designed to dig holes in the ground, to plant gardens. Axes chop wood. Guns were created to accurately propel bullets at high speed into flesh. That is what that 'tool' was designed for. No, you can't blame the gun for doing exactly what it was designed to do, but you can blame the culture that doesn't take it seriously, you can blame the multi-billion dollar lobby that prioritizes the bottom line over human life. You can blame every politician who's taken a legal bribe from this lobby, and voted accordingly. This is a monster WE created, with our apathy, our misinformation and our relentless, cold and calloused pursuit of profit above all else. I'm not anti-gun. I grew up in Vermont, in a hunting culture. Everybody has guns, and there are very few laws. We don't have a lot of gun-violence either (although we did have a school shooting here too, so we are not untouched). But this isn't the world I grew up in. People used to respect guns for what they were-weapons. Guns came with an education and an attitude of respect. That is no longer the case. But you know, doing something about it wouldn't be profitable.

We have sold our collective soul so thoroughly to the false god of money that we completely forgot why it was important in the first place; to enrich life. We've made it more important than life, more important than people. We've taken it to such an extreme that we no longer require or expect morality from each other if it results in monetary profit.  And before you start with the religious rhetoric, remember that morality has nothing to do with religion.

.Let's make everything about money, and then make sure very few people have any, and those that do relentlessly use and exploit those that don't.We live in a culture that takes hope and possibility away from our young people, and then blames them for having no ambition. Hopeless people have no ambition. That is a fact, not an individual failure. Once upon a time, hard work meant success. But the minimum wage failed to keep up with the cost of living. If it had, it would be somewhere between just over $20/hr to just under $22/hr, depending on the source. Imagine how your "I pulled myself up by my bootstraps!" story would go if you were making just over 1/3 of your hourly wage instead. That's what people are faced with today. Education isn't the answer it used to be either, with today's exorbitant tuition costs. But we aren't interested in investing our people anymore. In their well-being or their success. The immediate desires of a few are taking priority over the quality of our country, the quality of our lives. The answer to poverty is to exploit third-world countries for cheep products to sell to broke Americans. Once upon a time "Made in the USA" and "Look for the union label" were the thing to do. Now, it's the ones who write the checks who have all the control, and they want more. Do we need another Triangle Shirtwaist Factory to remind us why we had workers-rights and unions to begin with? Patriotism used to be about the people, now it's about the compliant acceptance of mistreatment.

My point is, people are armed and under duress. They are being told who to hate and who to blame. It doesn't have to be true, it just has to sound true. We are relentlessly brainwashed by television. It's easy to believe, and we want so badly to have some 'other' to blame. And it's impossible to break though to people once they're there. It feels like screaming in a nightmare where nobody can hear you, and lives depend on it. In the end you just have to let it go. But we've created a pressure cooker of hate and blame and ugliness; a perfect recipe for self-destruction. And yet when violence erupts all we can do is sit around and recycle the same old platitudes: We'll pray.  How sad. Too bad there's nothing we can do.

We need to be honest with ourselves. There's plenty we can do, just nothing we are willing to do. We're being kept dumb by people who have much to gain by doing so (though only short-term, even if the powers that be can't see that.). We've abandoned ourselves, our ideals and our moral character. We've reduced religion to nothing more meaningful than conflict. There are so many things that need our attention. Humans are capable of music, beauty, art, magic...and we've been reduced to this. Worse, nobody seems to understand how serious it is. I still believe in us. I know so many wonderful, in tune and in touch people who walk through the world with their TV off and their eyes open.  Hope is something I still have. But I'll admit that being in the world in its current state gets a little tougher every day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Statue of Liberty
The New Colossus 
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, 
With conquering limbs astride from land to land; 
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand 
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame 
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name 
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand 
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command 
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. 
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she 
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 
-Emma Lazarus

I spend a lot of time on my computer, and subsequently, on social media. It's a by-product of hoping to get some writing done and even do a little marketing. While it's true that I could spend less time on Facebook or reading Twitter posts, it's a hell of a good way to gauge what is going on in the world and how people are feeling about it. It's also a great way to depress and discourage the hell out of yourself. Everyday I log on with a knot in my stomach. I know it sounds silly. If it's so bad, why bother? Well, for the aforementioned reasons, of course. Also, I really do care about my friends and like to keep up with what they're doing. It is what it is. Sometimes though, I would be far better off not knowing what people think. Everyday it's the same: Hatred, Islamophobia, violence, anger, black and white, more violence, paranoia, blame...and my mind and my heart are Us vs. them, money money money. Money is such and all-powerful and pervasive motivator in this country it never occurs to anyone to think about how messed up that is...NO. War, death, fear, more violence, guns guns guns, people starving to death, people being hated for who they are, death, terror, more blame. War on women, people dying because of their color, gender identity, economic status, legal murder. Why have laws because they just get broken.........NO!!!

I see people I love and respect who have lost their common sense and compassion. That's the part that's the toughest to take. And they go to great lengths to tell me I'm wrong because I still have mine. To tell me I don't know what I'm talking about because I don't think or feel like they do. It's not about right and wrong. It's about the choices we make for ourselves, and we each have a right to that. I spend a lot of time on my computer. I spend a lot of time taking it all in, and digging around for the truth. Enough time to understand that anger is a consequence of fear, and anger is weakness. It's why a cornered animal is the most dangerous. Violence is an extension of that anger. I reject all those things that play on my fears to manipulate me to feel anger. That's a choice.

I choose not to let the worst behavior of the worst people dictate who I am. It's a choice I make every day. I choose to believe the best in people. I chose not to penalize any group of people for what the worst of their numbers has done, either in my mind or my heart, and hope to receive the same understanding. If I can help somebody, I do it. I don't attach strings or conditions, I don't have expectations. People who need help the most need it because they can't help themselves. If I can't help, I say so, but I don't blame. I will not be robbed of my compassion; not by fear, greed, or pressure. It's a choice. I'm not naive, I'm well-informed. I choose love over hatred. I choose humanity over us vs. them. We need less divisive language, less that separates us. It's not blind idealism, it's reality.

We need to prioritize each other, to extend our hands to those reaching out to us in need. You can call me foolish, you can call me a bleeding heart, you can call me whatever you like. As long as you understand that your opinion of me is an opinion and not a fact. I wish more people knew the difference. I wish more people let their inner compass dictate their behavior, and not the opinions of others. I still believe in us. I still believe in humanity; I believe that enough people still care and can look past their fear and anger and hang on to their love and compassion. I have to believe that.