Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Normal Life

In the past month something kind of weird happened without my intent. I took a break from social media. I didn't check out, or delete accounts, I just got busy and stopped being glued to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flipboard, Zite.....all the usual icons that I tapped every single time I had more than 45 seconds of quiet or uninterrupted time.

My life just had more tasks than usual and, as my one of my very best friends put it, "I noticed you're sparse."

That's what happened. I didn't stop looking at these media spaces, I just stopped ENGAGING in them and in the long space that is one whole month of human existence (30 DAYS!!!) I actually stopped being invested in them without even trying.  Of course I clicked through to links of articles and blogs that I found interesting; I've continued to be informed of the workings of the world.

But the best part is this: in the small spaces where my phone wasn't in my hand, or pocket, or directly in front of my blank, numbed face, I started tapping back into my inner voice. I started NOTICING things around me, and noticing my feelings. My physical being took shape again and so did my awareness of self. For the longest time (a whole year - which is like an EON compared to 30 days!!) I have been sad. And it didn't make sense. I spent all this time over the past several years waking up to myself and spending time going through all the awful and wonderful and exhilarating moments that were showing me to me.

But then I left a job which fulfilled every single idealistic dream I ever had for myself and chose corporate, creature, financial comfort for myself and my family. I have sons who will someday want cars, and college educations and I want to be able to help them. I also want to not die at my desk and be able to retire someday and NOT eat cat food. Money wins. I live in America.

So in the past year, I have gained back every shred of weight I ever lost - and in a fit of divine and cosmic comedy, I regained it in the most horrific and awful physical places. My tummy which carried two lovely and gigantic boys now announces itself before I do. My face is like...well, it's like 3 or 4 faces depending on where the camera is. And I've been really, really NOT me.

A work friend reminded me that in this life we are given lessons. And we are given these lessons as many times as we need them to learn them. I have noticed, when I am open to self-reflection, that I care DEEPLY about what other people think about me. I base many of my decisions on how other people will perceive them and I try to insure that people can never question my integrity or intent. Even when I'm doing a good job I tend to feel stress when those around me might not understand that I'm doing a good job because I don't do it their way. And that's problematic...because eventually I stop caring about the performance and more about the perception. And then, under the weight of "not living up" to people's standards, I run away.

So this time I've decided to stick it out. I have so much gratitude for financial security, job security, and stability. And spiritual paths are opening up to me like never before. Hard lessons are being taught in the gentlest of classrooms. And I am committed to learning them this time.

And somehow....along the media fell off my hippy dippy radar. (Do hippy dippy people even believe in radar?!? Probably, and that's why they wear tin foil hats.) I have spent time reading articles written by learned people on Gaza, and Syria, and Isis, Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri. I've learned more about our economy and what people who approach it from a humanistic standpoint think than ever before. I've added new words to my vocabulary and learned about spiritual practices and beliefs that have endured for over 5,000 years.

All of this has happened without knowing what some fucktard troll in Schenectady thinks about it. No one from the great state of Alabama has questioned my patriotism or intellect as I've formed opinions, read things to challenge them and decide what I feel and believe. No one has made me feel enraged about humanity at large and I've spent the last bit of time in peace. Actual peace.

I've settled in to a life that should be right. And instead of buying into the notion that it's never enough (because not once have I been to Napa or the Turks and Caicos in this time...and I haven't bought a luxury car or new mansion....) I find that IS enough. Ironically, I've found that the whole time that I've been plugged in AND trying to find a simple life, I've been working against myself.

How can I find quiet and peace, or gratitude and appreciation, for simplicity when I surround myself with the constant and overwhelming din of social media?!? It's like complaining you can't get any sleep when you won't leave the nightclub.

Without meaning to....I left the nightclub.

And the quiet walk home has been wonderful.

Photo Credit: Alex Akopyan via Compfight cc

Thursday, July 3, 2014

This Land is MY Land

Bring me your wealthy!

It's no secret that around here my focus is on Buddhism. Honestly, the tenants of Buddhism are so humanistic and so cross culturally relevant. Where Buddhism implores you to connect compassionately with humanity and human suffering, Jesus Christ asks His followers to turn the other cheek and in the Book of Matthew (5:9) we are told "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

Buddhism tasks us with sitting in meditation to connect with giving and acceptance of people in all of their sadness. In every action we take, our goal is to be mindful that every living being wants to be happy and so we must meet even those who torment us and seek our unhappiness with kindness and compassion. It's very similar to what the Bible teaches its followers in the Book of Luke (6:35) "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."

Even under torture, Buddhist monks have prayed for their tormentors; prayed for their happiness and for a cessation of their suffering. Sound familiar? Read a little further in the Book of Luke (23:34) and you find Jesus on the cross saying, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

In my life, no matter the circumstance, no matter the torment, no matter the pettiness, rival or foe, I seek the path of the Buddha. I try to honor within myself the natural drive to meet with compassion every obstacle I encounter. In most communities in the United States, people SAY that they are followers and disciples of this great man, Jesus Christ. And yet they live lives so far removed from His teachings that the path back to them must surely be obscured with vines and brambles and needles and thorns.

I have been called many names in my life because I attempt to always resist the pull to sink to the level of pettiness and spite that greets me. "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.…" (Matthew 5:39-40) Whether it is Jesus Christ or Buddha who commands it, the message is the same. To fulfill our most supreme reason for being, we must live in love and compassion. That is an inviolable Truth spread across every religion and every humanistic paradigm.

In other countries America is considered the greatest place on earth. People leave everything they know and understand politically, socially, culturally, economically, religiously and financially; sometimes at great physical peril. They cross oceans, deserts, and brave horrific physical challenges as well as crime and destitution. They come here because we are a country that stands on the moral high ground of Love and Compassion. We are a Christian nation at our core. And so we must surely be a nation of people ready to help, to love, to reach out and give what we can to whomever we can whenever we can, even if it means we have to give something up ourselves. It's why we celebrate Christian high holidays such as Easter, Lent, and Christmas on a Federally mandated level. And so why wouldn't a mother want her children to live here, no matter the sacrifice?

Why wouldn't a family send their able bodied son to our border in the hopes of this manna, in the hopes of the riches and joy and safety and health that we PROMISE every other nation on the planet? We are America: and we stand taller, mightier, healthier and richer than every other nation. We call them, invade them, protect them, and promise them. And they respond. They uproot everything they know, they risk everything they have, because we have created a world that prizes US.

But do they find us ready to meet them and help them find the American dream? Do we offer them the compassion and promise that EVERY SINGLE ONE of our families at one time was offered? (Unless you're a 100% Native American Indian, in which case, I'm so, so sorry we raped your entire way of life.....and that's a blog for a different day.) Do we fulfill the teachings of our good man, Jesus Christ? Do we even fulfill the promise of our esteemed and very drunk forefathers, who were ALSO immigrants to this land?

No. No we don't. We meet them with protest signs and cries of, "I got mine!" We turn away sick children because fuck 'em. We are the very embodiment of the cartoon called "South Park" and we face the TV cameras with our Latino heritage, with our Germanic features, with our British-based Puritanical pride, and we say, "GET OUT." We say our money won't go to you. We will not give you our coats, our cast off textbooks, our cast off jobs that pay just enough to keep in you squalor. We will NOT support your children because you weren't born here. And if you were, but your parents snuck in, without going through the years and years of impossible, heart achingly difficult expensive red tape that is the legal route to citizenship, then fuck you too.  The sins of the father and know. America is the land free, home of the brave and country of limitless opportunity only if your immigrant family came before 2014.

Sorry suckers. Peace be with you (John 20:21).

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Eleven Things I Hate

Awright, enough with the sentimental hippy dippy crap. I'm over it. I hate these eleven things. (Eleven because I love odd numbers and so do research proves it.)

1 - These kinds of beards. My God. Comb that shit. Groom it. A beard is a glorious indication of maturity, of effervescent, pure concentrated manhood...this display is nothing short of slovenly, unkempt mess. It should be treated with respect and reverence.

2 - Easter grass. You only ever have to buy this once. Because from that single Sunday on, you will never, ever (not once) fail to have Easter grass floating around your home. And thus spoke the Lord: "Ye who buys the Easter grass shall henceforth find it thither and yon, for the grass shall be like the loaves and fishes....and ever multiply." - The Book of Target, Aisle 4: Shelves 1-3

3 - That one rotten potato that fell behind the pantry shelf and took you 9 weeks to find even though it smelled so awful you were fully prepared to burn your home to the ground to get rid of it. 

4 - Button batteries....because this is 2014. If you can't use a regular AA or AAA then get your act together and figure out some way to plug that shit in to recharge it. Button batteries are gratuitously expensive and get stuck in kid's throats, according to a cursory Google image search for "button batteries." I am so done with them.

5 - Coconut water. And you know why? Because no matter how cold you make this stuff, it still feels like someone else's spit in my mouth. 

6 - Jargon. OMFG just say it. 

7 - Cave crickets. Sweet mother of burpees and gluten free toaster muffins....these things are minions of Satan himself. They jump without any regard to the laws of direction or gravity. They just sort of apparate all around you. And I don't normally wish mass extinction on a species, but these right here have it coming. Unless someone can tell me what thing I love eats them...then I will work tirelessly for that particular animal. Because these things SUUUUUCK.

8 - When I Google image search for what it looks like when I bend my fingernail backwards. Initially I thought I hate what it feels like when my nail bends back...and I still do. But it pales in comparison to how I now feel about what I see on an image search thereof. I can't even show you. If you hate yourself and how it feels inside your body to be in a state of relative calm, then go look. I can't stop you.

9 - It's happened in my life that I think I'm going to take a drink of 7-Up but it ends up being water. I hate that. I know for a fact I'd hate it more if when I went to take a drink from a can it was dip spit, but I've only ever ALMOST done that. 

10 - Flat thumb tacks. First of all, that's a minefield right there trying to get one out of the box. And second, trying to get the stupid thing out of a cork-board will result in a nail bending backwards. OH MY GOD.

11 - Excessive talking. 

So that's it. These are the first eleven things I thought of when I decided to write about eleven things I hate. It only took me 30 minutes to think of them, write about them and find their you know I probably have about 50 more things I hate just as much. And now you also know that I don't really put much effort into these blogs. Do you hate that?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

So Much Life

Oh dear readers...all five of you,

I have been quiet for a bit and I have been trying to find my humor and find my righteous indignation, my satirical slant on all things societal and therefore real. But I can't, because there is just so much life happening to me every day and I can't possibly squeeze words out in the meanwhile.

There have been babies born, friends and acquaintances who've made their exit, stage right or stage left; I'm not sure it matters when the moment is yours and it's time to take that one big step. Because we all take big leaps and the two biggest are at the beginning and at the end....and it's only the one at the end that concerns us in daily living. What's out there? What's next?

The natural cycles are overwhelming in Springtime. We clean away the remnants of the fall, the last remaining, straggling leaves which made their way to Earth after the final sweep. We make room for the seedlings, who've miraculously found their way out of their shells, who've reached for a sky they don't even know exists and ruptured through a ceiling in an act of terrifying, instinctive faith. These small blossoms, springing up from the ground...weeds, intended plantings....they're all the same. They're every day and every minute reminders of "life's longing for itself." And I think that's what makes it so marvelous, and difficult, and tumultuous and utterly exquisite.

Life wants nothing more than life; we really can't deny that and in our final breaths, what else matters? What more is there than the answer to the question: Have we fulfilled Life's own longing?

I believe I'm coming to an age in which days count and minutes and the passage of Time begin to feel full. Where minutes and time feel hollow, I find myself in annoyance and in a state of terrible intolerance. There is no list which shows how many days we get and so what does it feel like as we step ever closer to an unknowable edge, finally understanding that that last step is ours alone to take?

Everyday what impresses itself upon me is that we're all the seedling: waking up to a life we really don't understand. Moving through an existence whose answers aren't provided in full measure. And we're all climbing for the sun in a blind trust; hoping, praying, meditating that the Truth will be provided, "for life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday."

Photo credit to Elizabeth Hartlaub - Sacred Grove Farm
Poetry excerpts from hippy dippy Khalil Gibran in his 1923 publication, The Prophet

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Get on the Bus, Old-timer.

There's this dude I know. Let's call him "Wayne." Wayne may not have been the one who coined a term I use all the time, but he's the first one I ever heard say it, so in the World of Liz it's "Wayne's" term.

Wayne gets "tired head" when things are mentally taxing, emotionally draining, or overwrought with drama. And lately I have been getting tired head quite a lot. When my children have more than one activity on our family plate...tired head. When the bills aren't getting paid and it's not even because I don't have the money....tired head. When I have to catch up on the shit-storm that is social media....tired head. 

Some people call it the "Overwhelm," (people like Brigid Schulte, who just published a phenomenal book I'm reading) some people just cry "too busy!" The feeling manifests itself in my world like this: my brain matter feels like it's actually turned into sludge. Like there's no integrity left to it at all and I'm simply an amoebic life form existing on whatever autonomic functions can be carried out in whatever is left of my brain stem.... because everything else has liquefied.

Have you ever had "tired head?"

It's stopping me from doing things that I really want to do! I'm opting out of my beloved Bikram Yoga thanks to this ridiculous feeling. I'm unable to make decisions with any confidence. And whatever part of me that I fancy creative or in any way unique has turned into dull grey ooze. No sparks. No vigor in my mental combustion. It's just....tired. (Thanks, "Wayne!")

So I've been researching what it means to "opt-out" of social media, because that's got to be my number one time suck, emotional drain and point of fury/envy/false expectation creator. People of my age (older than CDs, older than iPhones- my God...that's old) say they're going to opt-out all the time. It's called, "Quitting Facebook" because that's pretty much the only major media we consume in great number. And it's a total lie and adult version of a temper tantrum. You kind of can't do it. At least not forever. 

Woodrow Hartzog and Evan Selinger wrote a piece published by The Atlantic, in February 2013. Ancient history, but let's see if we can pull out anything germane to this discussion. In their article, "Quitters Never Win: The Costs of Leaving Social Media" they say that by opting out, we "miss opportunities for self-expression, personal growth, learning, support, and civic exchange." And that's true enough, but half of our collective dismay at social media is self-expression run amok.

In another piece, written by Alice Marwick, on Social Media Collective - a research blog, the notion of opting out is entirely ridiculous from the start. The problem with opting out is that she'd "miss out on 75% of the invitations in my friends group. And I don’t think it’s for anyone else to say that I should expect my friends to cater to my socially abnormal preference, or that I should prioritize my own personal irritation at Facebook over the very human impulses to connect and socialize." 

And to that point, I agree. Because my Dad is so disconnected that it drives me to actual anger that he can't just read my status updates, tweets and see my Instagrams to keep up with my life. MUST he insist on a phone call?!? A phone call....he won't even text! I'm overwhelmed dammit ...and my head ...suddenly ...tired .....because talking to my father shouldn't be a factor in the overwhelm. It just shouldn't. Except that maybe I'm getting all caught up in a whirlwind of sludge, because, as detailed by PJ Rey, in The Society Pages article, "Part of our collective insistence that social media is something we opt-in to—or, at least, may opt-out of—stems from an underlying moral conviction that the old ways of communicating are more genuine than the new ways of communicating—the “appeal to tradition” fallacy, if you like."

And I do like, because my Dad's refusal to use social media is like any other old-timer who refused to drive a car in the past. Once that's how Americans started getting around, I bet it was super inconvenient for all of his friends. Joe won't drive. Edith won't ride an elevator so she's walking up 45 flights of stairs...see ya 'round Edith. We'll be shitfaced at the bar by the time you haul your old bones up those stairs. 

So we can't really opt out. This is our social landscape. And it's making me very, very tired.

Photo Credit: khalid Albaih via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Nathan Congleton via Compfight cc