Category Archives: "The Journey"

Okay with Being Average

As I walked to the sports field on Saturday, my suede boots sinking deep into the water-logged grass, armed with an umbrella, as well as one-of-those-supposedly-life-changing-novels, that just isn’t, I mentally prepared for the often-less-than pleasant culture that emerges when parental egos converge at a children’s sporting event. I have a set of rules.

Rule one: Don’t talk unless talked to. This is not because I am trying to be mean or hostile or anti-social. It’s just at events like these, people are interested in telling about themselves or their children. So, to be honest, no one, on the whole, really wants to hear much about anyone else’s life. I find it is best just to listen. Rule two: Don’t brag about anything about your child…college plans, grades, AP or honors courses…and never mention any statistics or sports rankings. These are all topics that do not trade well in such social situations. In fact, such talk engenders that old keeping-up-with-the-Jones spirit. It awakens the inner demon of I-am-not-enough or I’m-not-doing-it-right.

I sit down on the bench, and of course, there is a mom bragging about her children. Quite loud. Quite unwarranted. But I know what’s eating her. I know that she does not mean to be so flagrantly self-promoting. I get her. It is her not-enoughness, like an evil puppeteer, manipulating her to say too much, because deep inside, she does not understand that she and her children, are rare and wonderful and unique, even if by our silly culture’s standards, they seem average, or as Star Testing cruelly hisses, below basic.

You know, my whole goal in writing this blog is to tear down all the man-made ideas that have diminished human beauty. It is not that straining for excellence and achievement are bad things. However, if the motive finds its origin in some kind of inferiority, it is always sick and wrong.

Doing your best because you feel a sense of glory, of being truly alive…now that is cool. Doing it because you think that if you try a little bit harder, you just might deserve to occupy a space on this planet, that will result in a vast and empty wasteland within. I think it is why you see people who literally fall apart when they have finally achieved some culturally induced goal. Everyone muses, “What happened? He or she had everything.”

You don’t have everything, unless you love your bumpy, less-than-average inner self.

And guess what?

Love and acceptance remarkably have the effect of growing greatness.

Remember… it is the gloriously mystical phoenix that rises from the ashes…not from the perfect SAT scores or perfectly managed stock portfolio.

So, on to rule number three: If I do find myself in a place where I have to talk, I always tell the truth… that it has been hard. We have often been stupid. That my children struggle…and then I tell how we have learned to be okay with being average.

And then I tell about grace.

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Filed under "The Journey", "To thine own self be true", Children, Healing, Love

By the Numbers

Credit scores, housing prices, size zero jeans, 21 point evaluations, numbers on a scale, or in a bank account, all these things  seem to define what it means to be human. Your stats, if you are an athlete, SAT scores, if you are a young college hopeful, the dollar amount of your salary, if you are working person, all press hard against the windows of the soul. Menacing enough, that a mortal might just wonder if they matter to the world in which they exist, if the numbers don’t line up.

These days the numbers aren’t so good for me, and I have to ask an age-old question: Just what is my value? I am also, rarely, a member of any group or committee of note. My voice is not sought after. I don’t have a post-graduate degree. I haven’t written a paper or had my name associated with a big project. I am an observer, but I rarely know what is going on. And I have to admit, that often I am happy in my matter-not-one-bit-ness. But I would also be a liar to say that there is not a tiny, overly sensitive part of me that wishes I could better play the numbers game. But I am not even in the running.

So what do I do with my digitally-challenged self. I don’t know right now. I feel sad. Still a bit like the school girl who was always chosen last for dodge ball, the one never invited to parties. I do know one thing for sure, though. Isak Dinesen said it best Babette’s Feast, “An artist is never poor.” I have my words and the way I see the beauty in life. And I know another thing, I can love and be gentle. For I get what its like not to be number one.  I can give grace for I understand deeply what it means to be at sixes and sevens. I can accept that I may just be known as a social security number on some record one day, but there are sublime things in a human, sweetness that cannot be calibrated or measured. These little, inconsequential things, like the heart-felt connection between two souls, can’t be counted, but do indeed count.

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Filed under "The Journey", Pain, Perspective

A Run-in with the Law

Back, long ago, in what seems like another dimension of time, I was a college freshman, sitting in a single person desk, in an old cement-block kind of building, trying to catch the eye of the beautiful boy sitting in my row, and pretending that I understood what my philosophy 101 professor was saying. I honestly think I barely passed that class. Not that couldn’t have, but I didn’t have the desire to do so.

You see in my life my parents had made their best efforts not to leave anything up to chance. College was always in the works for me. So were a lot of other positive experiences–travel, prep school, dance, and theatre classes. But there was this thing, this law, quite unknown, that had not been obeyed. And you know how the law functions. It does not matter one bit if you are conscious of it or not. Whether you knew of a particular statute or not. It is still enforced. The law I am speaking of is this:  it is what new-agers call the law of attraction.

In a nutshell, it functions quite simply. What you put into life, and I am talking at the heart level here, at that raw-emotions-that-spur-actions place, is what you get out of it. So that negative talk participated in, will, for example, create a dynamic. It first super-charges the environment with disquieting energy and begins to affect human well-being. People start feeling bad. Work, relationships, etcetera, suck. It also alters the trajectory of things. Ideas and attitudes form life as we know it. So even though the news may be filled with all kinds of ominous warnings of bad guys, from terrorists to dental plaque, coming to attack our castle,  it is we that will decide whether those walls of fortification stand or not.

Here’s a story to illustrate my point. I heard this one several years ago and it goes like this. A man meets a woman on the beach. She is new to town. She asks this beach-strolling gentleman this question, “So what are the people like in this place?” To which he queries, “What were they like in your old town?” She quickly replies, “Oh they were awful. They were judgmental, petty, and very class-conscious.” Then the man on the beach said, “That is exactly how people are here.” Okay. People are jerks everywhere, right? There is more to the story. Another beach walk. Another woman. Same scenario. Same inquiry. Different response. When he asks this new sand-stroller what the people were like in her old town, she gushes, “Oh, they were the best people, so warm and real. I was so sad to leave them.”  To which the man replies, “That is exactly how they are here. I think you will be very happy.”

This story illustrates the law. Creation, artistry of life, is happening ALL THE TIME, whether we are aware of it or not. So when things are bad or seem to be sliding down hill, I have to start with myself. I have to ask some questions. These are a few I start with: What is going on with me? What is causing me to feel like complaining? What is the culprit in my poor connections with others? What is behind the constant disrespect I encounter? Why can’t I seem to move ahead?

It has been said that the quality of  life is based on the quality of the questions one asks. The handful listed above, are often beginning points for unlocking the swirling weather pattern of crazy-stuck-not-working-out stuff that has its way with me so often. Sometimes the answers come quickly. Like if I am judgmental and prickly, I usually find myself on the receiving end of another person’s condemnation or at the bare minimum, experiencing some kind disconnect with other human beings. No one wants to listen to my point of view. I feel less-than and I usually blame others for my predicament. However, after a few days of misery, I know its me. I know the world is not perfect. But its lack of perfection has to do with what is put into the ether…the fear, the scarcity, the people-are-idiots attitude, the things-never-work-out-for-me vibe. I have to abandon that stuff, if I want my life to work again.

Sometimes excavation is the order of the day. I have to dig deeper. Ask bigger questions. Sometimes the face of judgment I perceive on my neighbor, is just a reflection of some unresolved issue within me. For example, last night my son was talking about how all his friends like coming over to our house because they feel loved and feel relaxed here. The house is by default, kid friendly. It is dirty, old, and needs lots of repairs. The walkway is lined with surf boards and a sundry of other junk. It’s a little trailer parky. Then my boy said there was one ex-girlfriend of his that found it horrid. My heart hurt. I think I made some nasty comment deriding her character. But then I had to think about my reaction. You see, at the heart of that negative reaction was a sadness at the-just-getting-by nature of our finances and a shame at not being able to take care of most of the material things granted to us–cars, home, our boat project. And once I was able to admit to my inner most self  exactly what was up with my comment about my son’s friend, I was free. I owned my sadness. It was not this girl’s fault. It was my reaction because of an unhealed pain in my heart.

So this is what I did. I told God that I am sorry for always wishing for something that I don’t have, instead of appreciating, loving, relishing in the life I do have. And then I went and looked at the stars and felt better. I have learned that this process is absolutely vital. We have had both sides. I have seen how hurtful words born of scarcity and fear have created a life that has nearly annihilated my family. I am happy to report, the profound affect of the positive, too. Almost every knot of an emotional problem has been untangled through the realization that I have the power to create something different. You see, it is not just making a mantra of things you want to see happen, nor is it restricting yourself to only positive words, whilst seething just beneath the surface. It is understanding that life is trying to get you to resolve the pain that is creating your existence, so that you can think another thought; and in doing so, make something new. For regardless of what you think, thoughts become things.

Just look at the history of this country. A mess of a militia facing the greatest fighting force in the world. A David and Goliath scenario. George Washington realized after receiving pounding after pounding by the British, that he didn’t need to win the war, he just needed not lose. His strategy was to HOLD ON, despite all the evidence bellowing, “Give up.” In fact the new government, the Articles of Confederation, was created after one of the Patriot’s greatest defeats. What an act of faith! When they had no evidence that they would  even get to be a country, they acted as if it had already happened. They were determined to create something. Their focus was not primarily about being against the British, but shinning brightly at the center of their attention was the idea about creating something new, something where equality and freedom could grow. Do you see the difference?

It is not a denial that *bleep* happens, rather it is  a determined change of mind, to make sure that you are not a contributor to any more of the hurt, discouragement, or dysfunction that trips us up and make’s life like a dingy room lit by a single bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. It is suppose to be more like Van Gogh’s Starry Night. It is sublime. It is miraculous. And stuff just works out, if you are aware of this law and you start inquiring within.

Back to Philosophy 101. So this is a class I barely passed…truly because I was unconscious of all that I have talked about today. Yet for some reason, I remembered Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which, in Cliff-notes brevity is this: A bunch of guys are in a subterranean cave, lit from some unknown-to-them source. Shadows result on the walls. The cave dwellers think that the shadows are reality, when reality is through the hole up in the world where the light is sourced.

This is how I lived. Shadows being what I thought was real. I had to make the tough trek to the opening…to discover what was really going on. I still do. I still think the shadowy feelings I have are informing me of reality. But they are not. I have to ask the right questions to not only get out of my cave, but to make sure I am not adding to the pain of the world around me.

We have a weighty responsibility to obey this law, but isn’t so cool that we can commit to thinking differently, to healing, and in doing so, shift the world.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.” Margaret Mead


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Perspective Knocking at the Door of My Heart

After I finished the “Dinner Theatre” post yesterday, sitting at a little oak table in the corner of the coffee shop, watching the rain gently misting down, I picked up a copy of one of our local weeklies.  I turned to Rob Brezsny’s column and read because 1) he is a metaphor god 2) he has something to say, whether you buy his brand of spirituality or not.

Okay, to the point, I read “Taurus”, and Rob quotes W. Somerset Maugham, “The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistic, and self-complacent is erroneous.” In interpretive mode, Rob goes on to say that people born under this sign had a great 09. At this point, I look at “Ares” because Phil was born on the cusp, and perhaps this “reading” will have some resemblance to reality, because “Taurus” was soooo off.

Philip, my husband, who is technically a Taurus, has had a stripping-the-flesh-off-bones year in almost every way possible. He sold one painting, healed from a serious injury, and our marriage was, at best, thread bare. This gifted painter has shoveled dirt, repaired mail boxes, fixed all manner of house related ailments, all to bring in a tiny wage, that like manna, covered the just day’s needs. His life as an artist, well, let’s say, has shriveled back to just a seed of promise.

So Brezsny got it wrong, right?

That brings me to this morning. I am padding around the living room, tidying. It was my oldest son’s eighteenth birthday on January 15th, and we have had kids in the house ever since. Guitars, shoes, and water bottles are everywhere. Then my eye falls upon my middle son’s journal. I had seen it yesterday, and without my glasses, I thought it was just a school related tome or perhaps a place for his newly honed songs.

But no, it was none of those things. Upon closer inspection, it was a book of prayers.

Okay. It’s perspective knocking at the door of my heart, once again.

How many parents would wish that their children would have some guiding force in their lives? And here, we had it, without any effort on our part. We haven’t pushed faith on the kids, but they all believe. We haven’t pushed fiscal responsibility on them, yet they all are extremely careful with the little pocket change they have in their position. We have not pummeled them with rules about being kind to others, yet they are true to their diverse cadre of friends. We haven’t even pressed them to love us, but they do. The 18 year old wanted us to stay at his beach birthday party, because it “wouldn’t be the same without family.”

I could go on, but I won’t.

It just the simple fact that there no real success in life, unless the invisible kind is present.

So maybe what Rob said was true…

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Dinner Theatre or Partying Naked?

In the film, My Dinner with Andre, there is this  interesting exchange about the theater and parties. Wally, an out-of-work-actor and playwright remarks to his friend, Andre: “You know, Debby once said after one of these New York evenings, she thought she’d traveled a greater distance just by journeying from her origins in the suburbs of Chicago to that New York evening, than her grandmother had traveled in making her way from the steppes of Russia to the suburbs of Chicago.” He also that he said that he never understood what was going on at  parties. To which his friend, Andre, responded, “Well, I think that’s right! You know, it may be, Wally, that one of the reasons that we don’t know what’s going on is that when we’re at a party, we’re all too busy performing…You know, that was one of the reason that Grotowsiki gave up the theater. He just felt that people in their lives now were performing so well that performance in the theater was sort of superfluous…”

So my question is why when we are a completely unique form of life on the planet earth, are a walking novel, or strain of beautiful music in the starry night, do we feel the need to be someone else? Why do we feel the pull to pack away the truth and rummage in the costume closet for another identity? Or why do we feel compelled to only submit the well-scrubbed, carefully edited, polished, savvy self  to others? Particularly when, if we are honest, this kind of activity will only guarantee a really boring conversation.

I know the answer. It has been my life’s work to drop the costume in a pile on the floor and emerge in all my fragile psychic nakedness into life. Maybe that is what Jesus meant when he said that you had to be born again. Maybe it is nothing more than being born out of a life of costumed slavery and falseness. Maybe what he meant when he spoke of life abundant was that we could actually live free and true…

This has a lot to do with why our Christmas tree is still up. Just call me rebellious, but I don’t want to do anything without making sure my freewill, my ultimate gift from God, is engaged and active.

Now about the tree. We did not put ornaments on it this year. Martin Luther, who allegedly started the tradition, when out walking one night, came upon  snow-kissed evergreens shimmering against the starry night. So we kept our tree like his primordial vision…green with little lights shining out in the darkness. However, let me be abundantly clear, it is no longer a Christmas tree. It is our winter tree and I keep feeding it water because its fragrance and lights comfort me.

So what’s the thread, you might be asking? Well, it is this. I don’t want to do anything because I think I need to perform for any external dictates anymore. I personally think that listening to that haranguing voice that says stuff like, “You better do such and such…or it’s imperative…or don’t say this or that,” just condemns me to a life of stress and inauthenticity.

You may be wondering if I am just some kind of rebel who leaves her laundry piled high and is at odds with every so-called authority figure or duty at hand. Yes on the laundry…sometimes…because dirty clothes happen, but I don’t go looking for conflict.However, when a hurt, frustration, or reaction to someone or something, arises out of the misty realms of my psyche, I inquire within. What is this about? Why am I feeling this way? Is this some post-traumatic-stress thing poisoning my present moment? And I have to admit, that a lot of the time, it is just that. I, damn it, have played a starring role in my own pain. After the moment of clarity comes from this kind of inquiry-based learning, I usually don’t have a lot of fight left in me. Also, doing my job, being a worker-among-workers thing, is a super essential mindset for me. In all of my uniqueness, there is a sweetness, paradoxically, just being a part of a greater whole. I think it is why I adore storms. Big weather reminds me of how small I am.

Yet let me be clear, if  after such a sifting of my spirit, there remains something that is unequivocally wrong, I will say the truth. I have to or else, by denying the veracity of the throbbing bruise, I will never, ever heal. It will perturb me, like the Princess and that little nuisance, the Pea, and I will have no rest, no restoration, or well-being until I deal with it.

No rulership or enforced authority is my code, which makes me an anarchist of sorts. It’s just that I know that I am made to obey one source, and let me clear, it is not carbon-based. Poet Walt Whitman described human liberty as “loosed of limits and imaginary lines.” It is freedom from those systems of belief about what it means to be human, those false notions that bind me  up at parties, at work, and at life. And frankly, I am saying “No” to that kind of rule in my life.

Dinner theatre…all of life is a stage and we are the actors? I say, “I don’t want to play that game any longer.” I want to be known for the fragility, the lack of education, sometimes the iffy morality, the failings, the humor, the courage, and the rawness that is me. And I want to know that bundle of idiosyncrasies that is you, too.

I don’t care where or if you went, to school. But I would love to know what you learned. I don’t care what your house is like. But I do care about the life, dreams, and joy that has occurred in amidst those walls. I don’t want, really, to hear your plan for keeping the proverbial boogie men out of your life or what massive efforts at controlling others you are mounting at the moment. But rather, I am interested in hearing how you have handled life when those sad, dark things we all wish would never happen, happen. I want to know your journey through pain, for there is no greater, more epic Mount Everest-of- the-soul expedition than to face down the demons that taunt when all the busyness of the day dies down, and all that is left is the four walls of the soft, exposed self.

Now wouldn’t that be a dinner party…a celebration of all the uncostumed reality of the attendees. Gives new meaning to “party naked.”


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Filed under "Looking within", "Saying No", "The Journey", "To thine own self be true", Freewill, Healing, Parties, Perspective, Truth

Hope Kissed My Soul…

And then she flew away…

Less than a handful of days ago, a little conversation happened that gave me this  fuzzy embryonic white star of promise. Kinda like a sip of cool clear water after a long, dry, barren sojourn in a desolate land. Now I have never hiked in a desert, in fact, I live in a country of soulish, wild beauty. However, I do know about living in the great chilly expanse of a dream deferred and this Lilliputian possibility generated a sense of joy…you know the kind when you think some serious, long-standing juggernaut  just might vaporize, like the walls of Jericho.

But that is not what happened. Hope was a one night stand. We are back to this journey driven in the night, only seeing as far ahead as the lights from the high beams fall.

And this morning, I just want to say, “Really, God?”

And I want to say, “Shit” and a whole lot of other explicatives, because you know what?,  I am not hardening my heart to the possibility of miracles, but just this time, after this long uphill ascent, I was vulnerable to the wanting-it-so-much-to-change thing. And this place in my chest hurts. It’s not physical. It’s that place where the little girl lives who is still waiting for her Christmas present to come.

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Confessions of a Mask Wearer

Not a great title. I know. Kinda of clunky, like me right now. Tough day yesterday, and nobody knew it. We have some unrealized twenty-two year old dreams that we have not been able to bring out of the misty realms of hope, imagination, and wonder into the physical world in which we dwell. And to be honest, they are a heavy press on some days. Like a troubled child that you adore and cannot abandon, are these offspring of our souls. And yet like some corrective brace for unruly teeth or a twisted limb, they have shaped us by the hardship that naturally comes with off-road travel. What I am saying is that if we had not obeyed this inward vision and created a more conventional life, I probably wouldn’t have healed and grown up. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish for breakthrough…for some inkling of a crack in the wall of impossible.

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Filed under "The Journey", "Tough Days", Dreams, Healing, Pain