Saturday, January 21, 2017

And shines

Instagram: @justsally 

After my grandfather died I remember walking out of hospice and wondering how the birds were still singing. And how anyone possibly cared about a blue dress and cigars. After my mom died I remember wondering how the world could still possibly spin on its axis. Didn't it at least wobble a little? Because I definitely felt it wobble. I hadn't met the Dalai Lama yet and so I didn't understand.

I woke up this morning and sun was streaming into my bedroom. It was annoyingly glorious for a minute and I lay there and looked at it, wondering how it's possible. Remember Sally from last time? She posted a beautiful picture on Instagram the other day about how the sun always rises. And it did, even though I am 100% positive that the earth wobbled. Side note: I should probably rename this blog something like, "Thoughts Sally Made Me Have." But anyway the sun was streaming into my bedroom, just like that. Just like every other similar point in a 24 hour rotation since whenever the earth got here.

The point is that the earth wobbled FOR ME. It didn't wobble for other people.....I mean I'm also almost 100% positive it wobbled for around 64,654,483 other Americans, and from the news I see, a fair number of people in other countries. But it was just us who felt it. You may not have felt it, and that's important here because since all that stuff with my grandfather and mom happened, I met the Dalai Lama and Pema Chödrön. They taught me that my reactions to things create my reality which is, of course, unique to me.

It's how Buddhist monks fear only that they will forget their jailer's humanity as they're tortured. It's how Nelson Mandela came out of a tragic existence and stayed a man of peace. The real struggle is in remembering the pain and the fear that angry people are showing me. It's not so much that I need to find pity for them, but that I need to remember what they are displaying is a state of living that can't be peaceful or wholeheartedly engaged. They're too busy protecting and gathering in and closing the circle ever smaller, without realizing how big we all get when we make the circle big.

It's going to stay difficult for me to see the hypocrisy, to see people rolling over when they should be standing up, when I see that we have become so binary we can't figure out how to fight with compassion. But that's what we have to do: fight with compassion. First seek to understand our adversary, and then approach the conflict from a place of open hearted engagement. If all I'm doing is shouting louder, I'm no different than the person I call "adversary." And maybe sometimes I'll need to disengage, when the shouting AT me has become too loud, because self-care is important. And I will have to demand that my adversaries respect MY humanity and my position, even as they vehemently disagree with me.

None of that is going to be made "easier" by knowing DL and Pema. But they have provided a road map, and I will strive to always remember that my mindset, my emotions, create my reality. And that's how the sun still shines no matter how many clouds we see.

Check out more of Sally's work at her Instagram account

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Veil, Sally, and whoever God is.

So here we are at the end of times. It's all very dramatic. The gloating, the hand wringing, the predictions, the smug's everything you've come to expect from every single election the United States has had in the last 75 years. I picked 75 because I'm assuming that if you're reading this, you weren't much interested in elections before 1941.

And of course, the early 40s have figured heavily into this year's election, but we'll get back to that, maybe.

"The Veil" has been showing up in my life a lot lately. People keep referencing that we've torn the veil and the that veil is being ripped from our eyes. Metaphors keep showing up saying that we're looking at everything with open, unobstructed vision. Initially, I agreed with all of it. Things indeed feel cataclysmic right now, like the whole of the United States could rip wide open. But I think back to the Revolution, to the Civil War, to the suffragettes, to the laborers who demanded safe work environments, to the warriors of the early Civil Rights movement....and I don't think I stand on any precipice. I think I am dead center on the path that we've been walking since we set on foot some Native's land and decided, "Um yeah, so we're going to need you to go ahead and move all your stuff down to the reservation room, m'kay? That'd be great."

There's no veil. The veil is what we say when we want to romanticize what we're doing, and please please believe me when I say that I would love absolutely nothing more than to be part of an insanely romantic and high-poetry moment in time when my individual actions would be recorded forever as True and Right and Just. But I really don't think anything new is happening here. (See what I'm doing? We're inching back towards if that's making you roll your eyes so hard you can see your own brain, it's okay to stop reading. I'm not the boss of you. I don't even know who you are.)

And anyway, if you're rolling your eyes, I need to bring up Sally. It's her fault we're here. She's my friend who read my mind and she gave me the green light she didn't know I was waiting for to write a blog. So thank her if you're mad, sad, glad or any other -ad emotion I've left out. This is at her feet.

And now God. Because we always find that people are putting God square in the middle or taking God out and putting Him/Her/It out in some abandoned barn at the end of a logging road on a remote mountain no one's even bothered to name. And the part about God for me is that I really don't care about God. That might be blasphemy, but I'm betting if God's as big and powerful as all the books and preacher-people say, then my opinion isn't much concern. Here's why: my concern isn't for what comes next. I've seen National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation enough times to know you don't bank on a bonus check that you may or may not get.

Lately I've been doing a crazy amount of reading by preacher-people, especially for someone who doesn't care about God, and it's been pretty fantastic. There are more people out there than I thought who feel that media-Jesus and Gospel-Jesus are two different people. They also feel that lots of preacher-people are taking media-Jesus and presenting him as real-Jesus. (And, I mean, if these preacher-people putting down other preacher-people aren't committing blasphemy, then I think surely I'm okay to have a "meh" attitude on the whole "thing.") But every person I read says something like this: Jesus found the poor people. Jesus found those who were voiceless. Jesus gave to people who could never pay him back. Jesus gave to people who would squander the gift and come back for a do-over....sometimes a few times. I mean, Jesus....get your shit together. Why in the name of your own Dad and Self, would you KEEP offering forgiveness and grace to someone who keeps on needing it? Who keeps asking for more because they screwed it up and made a mistake?

These people I'm reading (full disclosure, most recently, it's Nadia Bolz-Weber and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu) think this is exactly how it's supposed to go. We're supposed to fuck it all up, and offer each other grace and forgiveness because we are each made in His/Her/Its image or something along that line. Keep in mind, this isn't my bag, I'm just telling you the parts I remember. But I like this God. I like the god who gets off the dais and walks right down into the Sinner's lot and sits down and says, "Holy Hell, what are you people up to? How can I help? You need a drink of water, something to eat? A HUG?" This is a Jesus and a God who is your 3am phone call and doesn't judge you for doing [insert mistake of choice] AGAIN and needing a friend to pick you up and help you try AGAIN.

This is the God I wish everyone believed was "out there" in the great beyond and in the astral plane and (gasp) right there at the end of the phone for a 3am call or text....let it be a text. No one likes a phone call.

So at the end of times like today, which really isn't the end of times at all, it's just another mile in the hike we've been doing since we sent the people with the Red Stapler to the basement, I am leaning on my friends and family who either believe in the God who gives hugs and warm food, or else I'm leaning on the people who give hugs and warm food without imitating anyone. All the rest of the people, who are tending towards a smug righteousness and a head-patting patronization (which is not a word) are those who are, sadly, once again going to find themselves on the side of the path. Kind of like the people who are too old to read this from back in 1941 did. They saw a man who could shake up the status quo, to shake up a government that didn't seem at all to recognize their struggle and the way they saw their values being ignored and left behind. They clung to him and all his charisma and promises and the belief that his way would circle the wagons and protect them.

It wasn't okay - and in the end, God showed up. People showed up. Humanists, atheists, agnostics, Christians, and every shade in between, showed up and fixed the horrifying mistake that had been made in fear. I'm going to keep trusting that God will show up (even though, whatever. I don't care) and We will show up and we'll never mind the people who tell us to stop complaining and stop whining. We're hiking a path together, and we're clearing more brush out of our way than we thought we'd have. It's okay. As Glennon Doyle Melton says, "We can do hard things together."

And if not, if it's all a waste of time and breath and my typing, we'll have a long talk with Sally.

Photo Credit: Irudayam Flickr via Compfight cc

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Endowment

He's worried you'll judge him.

My dog has a dermatologist.

This isn't something completely outrageous in my part of the Western Hemisphere. Lots of people have animals who live inside their homes, who receive medical care better than 85% of the rest of the world's population. (I totally made that percentage up, but you have to admit that it seems pretty plausible.) This past weekend I was so utterly consumed by the amount of accumulated crap in my house that I went to Ikea and bought outdoor furniture to install in my sons' room. My solution for too much stuff was to go buy DIFFERENT stuff. And this can be lumped right in there with the doggie derm. Not abnormal.

It occurred to me how unique the "Western ideology" is on the world stage. I wished for a moment that I could take the time to read the constitutions or manifestos of other countries; that I could ask a broad cross-section of every other population on earth the following question: What right do you feel you have to happiness?

Because it's written in our National "Who Are We" section that we have been "endowed by our Creator," in what is so obvious a Truth as to be "self-evident," with a certain number of "Rights" chief among those are: "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Now, I've made it no secret that I think the Founding Fathers were a bunch a drunken hypocrites, who would probably have been pretty fun to party with as long as you were a land-owning white man. But what a crock of shit they wrote.

It's a set-up for failure!

I kind of think it's why we're the richest, whiniest, most spoiled brats on the planet. From the very beginning, our helicopter founding daddies told us we were special snowflakes. They told us we have an absolute RIGHT to be happy and unfettered. Rules only apply if we agree with them. And honestly, if we think the Dads currently in charge ever get too bossy, you know...."it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government." Huh. The Millennials are the only ones who've actually read the Declaration of Independence, I guess.

Okay, but on the other hand, you also know I'm a hippy dippy Buddhist, if you've ever read other blogs. (There are like 180 of them, but hey - read them or don't.....I'm not the boss of you.) And anyway the Buddha says that all beings are searching for happiness. Even the batshit crazy ones. Even the huge mooches, and the drains on society, and criminals, and the politicians. Ha! That's all a description of the same person....but I digress.

Every living thing wants to be happy and that's the root cause of all our actions, whether or not they're correct actions. When we look at other people and we don't understand them, it's really just that we're not recognizing the recipe they're using to create happiness. But if you've ever eaten "chili" or "pasta sauce" or "pizza" or a "sandwich" then you know that those single words don't really describe the details of what you'd be eating. Are we talking chicken chili? Vegetarian chili? Three-alarm chili? And does the sandwich have meat on it, or is a PB&J? The possibilities are endless - but the guacamole is always an extra charge, okay?

So maybe the drunk Founding Fathers weren't quite so in the bag that they got it completely wrong. And someone needs to make sure they weren't closet Buddhists, because what they wrote would indicate a keen understanding of human nature; well, white-landed-male nature, at any rate. We should probably work on expanding those words to include more people and finally finish what their society couldn't: that ALL people are endowed with the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even if their recipe for happiness includes anchovies on a pizza. Gross.

The brown people, the white people, the dark eyes, the light eyes, the curly hair, the straight hair....the redheads. It doesn't matter. Each has been endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights. And you know what? That's why my dog has a dermatologist.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The other day, the other guy

Honestly, this picture has it all.
A bike, a sidecar, a tiny house, a hipster, a Keeshond!
You're welcome. 

This past Sunday was gorgeous for a late February day: blue sky, sun shining, not cold. We drove to my in law's house, which is about an hour away and we take a scenic US Route that winds through small towns and gentle hills and valleys. I mean, I live in the armpit, I mean HEARTLAND of America. The great flyover state of Ohio. So trust me. It's a pretty drive.

Of course all the motorcycle riders were out as well and I had the fortune to be right behind a gentleman out for a ride. He was in no hurry to get wherever he was going, and for once in my whole life ever, neither was I. His happiness with traveling at the posted speed limit was fast enough for me too. And from my vantage point, I saw all the times he extended his left hand down at his side, in the rider's wave, to each passing cyclist.

He passed women, men, groups, individuals, people in jean jackets, people in leather jackets. Some had helmets on, some didn't. Some had close haircuts, some had long hair. Every single person extended the sidelong wave in return. They had an unspoken community.

At some point along the drive, I remembered a time I was on a friend's boat, spending the day on the Ohio River. Boaters have this wave as well. You just don't pass a boat on the river without waving. And my friend looked at me and said, "You know half these people would spit on each other sooner than they'd help each other....except out here on the river. Get us all in boats and we'll do whatever it takes to help each other out."

So here we all are. We're strangers. We're foreigners. We're "us" versus "them" all day every day. We're divided, and we're nasty in tone and in feeling. We have all the answers and "they" are the problems, the enemy: poor people, Muslims, Jews, Evangelical Christians, liberals, conservatives, racists, system suckers.....unless we're on a boat or a bike. Unless we're both driving Jeeps. Unless we're both at the same concert. Unless we both drink the same soda.

It takes so little for people to find common humanity - we're hardwired for it! We look for patterns and similarities all the time, on a fundamentally biological level. And so when we see someone who shares even the smallest hobby or interest as us, we identify with one another, rather than divide each other. We wave....and smile....and offer kindness.

I spent the last part of our drive wondering why it's so difficult to assume the similarities. Why do we automatically assume a defensive stance? Was humanity always this way? Because the moment we see a connection, however small, our walls come down and we see each other for the brothers and sisters we are.

It seems to me like there are better assumptions we should all be making about each other. And maybe it's naive to think it, but I don't think anyone would be hurt by supposing that the stranger has more in common with themselves than differences. Ultimately, as my man the Dalai Lama says, every being wants to be happy and seeks fulfillment. How is that not enough of a commonality to bring us together, and offer each other that gentle sidelong wave as we pass?

Photo Credit: juergvollmer via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: oregon ducatisti via Compfight cc

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Ginger beer, bourbon, and other necessities

The other day I was at Trader Joe's and I saw the most wonderful thing. Someone alert Oprah. It's a really pretty bottle of triple gingered beer. Non-alcoholic, so the kids can drink, and also anyone I might know in recovery or in some weird non-problem-drinker state of abstinence. Seriously, if you CAN drink, why don't you? Leave a comment.

Back to the ginger. It's super spicy, and it kind of burns your lips when you first drink it. Fourteen year old needs a mixer with it, eleven year old wants to guzzle it straight, and I fancy a bit of bourbon in mine. Bit more bourbon, please. Don't be stingy. There you go - that's a good pour. We're ramping up to Christmas in my family and things are getting weird again, as they do every year.

We're spending way too much money on presents, and while that makes us both good Americans who support the economy, it also makes us typical Americans who are buying more crap we definitely don't need. But it's a local custom and I like to fit in.

I've been doing small things to remember my basics this season: I'm trying to read things that are calming, I'm attempting to stay away from media hype because I'm thoroughly over the ratings grab that is any of the news outlets, I'm trying to check-in every day with my boys in a meaningful way about their day. We ask these three questions,

"What was good about your day?"
"What was a bummer?"
"How can tomorrow be better?"

In my own subversive way I am trying to lead them to gratitude and calm understanding in every moment. Some days the bummers will far outnumber the good things. Sometimes we won't really be able to figure out how to make tomorrow better. We'll have to sleep on it; to let the moon-rise give us clarity and the sunrise give us courage to try again. Because it seems like everything right now is more difficult if we allow it.

The Western Hemisphere is in its dark period and the sunrise is a squirrely event to catch if you want your courage. But you have to catch it, and you have to face all the tomorrows with a grateful heart and resolve to fix the bummers. You can do that. Trader Joe's sells a magical elixir to right your spirits for $2.99 plus all local applicable tax.

Pour a ginger beer, toast your day, whether good or bummer, and remember that your only requirement is to show-up. Show-up in all your tattered reality, in all your glowing happiness, in all your blah mundane mediocrity. Every day, no matter what, show up and try to help your fellow human shit-shows understand that we're in this together. We can talk together about what's good, what's a bummer, and what we can do to make tomorrow better.

That's really the only necessity.

**P.S. I lied. Bourbon is also a necessity. But that's just me.