Friday, October 17, 2014

Frickin' Attitude of Gratitude

I spend an inordinate amount of time asking my ten year old son to "live with an attitude of gratitude" mostly because he is A VERY GOOD AMERICAN. He lives every single moment of his seriously short existence looking at what's next, what else can he have, what more can he have, and what better thing is out there.

Thanks to Google TV we spend loads of time browsing on our big screen and Mr. Ten feels that his life is generally without purpose, joy, or fulfillment. And so I spend inordinate amounts of time asking him to "live with an attitude of gratitude" and look around him for the riches he can't quantify. But I do the same for myself.

At present I am grateful for so many things in a world gone mad over foreign viruses, over madmen in countries we don't understand, and over every manner of lifestyle, belief or way of living that doesn't fit into a neat Ikea box. These are a few of my favorite things:

*A job, a home and a reliable vehicle. These are first and foremost. No matter how I feel on any given day about the job, or how hovelish my home feels, or how much duct tape the interior of my car contains...all three things rise to the occasion and provide a life for my family.

*Money that I sometimes have leftover from paying for our basic expenses that I can elect to spend on books, martinis, candles, fizzing bath bombs, roomy sweaters to hide my expanding middle because I also spend leftover money on chai tea lattes and bottles of red wine. And bread. I buy bread with the leftovers. And I love these things.

*My children's artwork from school, no matter how wonky or weirdly painted or flat out bizarre...because this leads me to what I'm REALLY thankful for and that's no "thing."

When I tell Mr. Ten to live with an attitude of gratitude, I don't mean to be thankful for our stuff. I mean for him to learn, on a very basic level, to be thankful for so much of what his life ISN'T.

He isn't living in an area of the world which cannot handle a virus sweeping through its people, nor is he living in a country which unleashes chemical weapons on its sleeping citizens. We don't suffer under the strain of government induced poverty while oligarchs rule from above (no matter what the 24-hour cable news networks just isn't true!) and we don't fear for our safety and freedom when we express our thoughts and feelings.

Mr. Ten lives in the very lap of luxury before he even starts to look at his STUFF. And he has a shit ton of stuff. Thousands of dollars and ten year's worth of Legos, Star Wars memorabilia and toys, Dr. Who apparel, sonic screwdrivers, and oh my God....Netflix! For the love of red capes and four tined spoons, what the hell else does a kid need?!?

Oh right - fresh air (we got it) a safe neighbor for outside play (got that, too) parents who adore him and spend their lives looking to his happiness, health and education (yeah, that's me and Dad). He has it all. And so to not live with an attitude of gratitude is a slap in the face of everyone who works hard around him, and who worked hard before him. His great-grandparents worked very hard to provide a life made better for his grandparents, who in turn worked hard for his father and me.

And Mr. Ten might as well be all of us: every single one. Because all of us need a reminder to live with this attitude of thankfulness - and not just on the third Thursday in November. Even on the second Tuesday in May. And the first Saturday in September. And really the whole month of February, because if you live in the Midwest of the United States, that's when you need gratitude most. It's a spectacularly miserable month.

So I'm thankful right now for my laptop, where I've spent a bit of time doing something that fills my bucket right back up to the top, for Mr. Ten who reminds me to remind him about all we have and forces me to count blessings with him, and for you...because if you're all the way down here on the page, then you've given this whole exercise a deeper meaning.


But, honestly, also this....

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