Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Quityerbitchin


We’ve all been there… running late, hoping to make up a bit of time on the road, and there’s the road construction. Sitting in line, waiting to move, we think dark thoughts about the members of the road crew, the DOT, and the government in general. And we completely forget it is our own fault for failing to plan ahead that has caused us to run late. It is precisely this type of negative thinking that can cause an ordinary day to spiral downward into rough and hellish realms. I’ve seen it, I’ve done it, and lately I’ve been seeing a lot of memes portraying various scenes of this behavior.
Stop it! Quityerbitchin! I would like to cheerfully remind you (and myself) that we have the power to change….basically everything! Because we have the power to choose, we can change the world. We can choose to get up earlier, to leave earlier, to check traffic reports and road conditions to try to be early or on time. We also have the power to choose which emotions to allow to rule the situation, which thought process to follow at any given time, which actions to take, and when to remain still and silent. And for those of us born after 1970, who may have missed out on those civics classes our elders sat through, we could use a healthy reminder of how taxes are designed to take a bit from all to benefit many. They were not invented by the Nazis to punish us.
Imagine the opening scenario a little differently. We are still running late, because stuff happens no matter how well we plan ahead. However, we accept the fact that we will be late, we plan our apology to be brief and honest, and we move on to thinking of other more productive things. We take a deep breath, blow away the negative energy, and think happy thoughts. When we arrive at the road construction, we think of how great it is to live in a country where we have a system designed to take just a small percentage of everyone’s income to help pay for the design, building, upkeep and repair, of roads and bridges to take us where we need to go. We look at the members of the road crew as people, just like us, working to pay their bills, and perhaps to pay for the education required to design that bridge rather than hold the sign that made us stop. Contrary to popular belief, they are not out there planning on where and when to make us late and miserable. We do that well enough on our own.
Now imagine how that kind of positive thinking can change other moments of your day. Waiting in line gets easier when you stop thinking of yourself and wonder about the inner thoughts and outer lives of those in line with you, or those serving you. If we stop to make eye contact, to actually connect when greeting people, to remember our shared humanity, we can make the difference between suffering in silence and commiserating with our fellow human beings. We all have stories that need to be shared. Rushing through our days consumed with our own story prevents us from ever hearing the others’. If we can learn to slow down and take a few moments to acknowledge our co-journeyers and to hear a bit of their stories, we may find ourselves feeling a bit less alone and harried.
“There but for the Grace of God go I” is a favorite quote of mine. It is a humbling reminder that I am no better than any other human being. If I am honest with myself when I look back over my life, I can see moments when a different choice would have made a big difference that may not have been a good one. And I can see many times when a kind word from a stranger made all the difference in the world. It can be hard to believe in yourself. When you are young, tired, stressed, untrained, unsure, overwhelmed by all that life has thrown at you, it can be very difficult to see the path. When those around you are self-absorbed and self-centered, it can be even harder to find a way through. When you have struggled and failed repeatedly, it can be hard to find the faith to try again because you expect more failure. It becomes a way of life. You are trapped in a downward spiral of negative thinking that you can’t escape. That is how people become mentally ill, how they lose jobs, lose relationships, become homeless. Despair is a powerful emotion.
You have the power to change that. You can look into someone’s eyes, and ask them how they are, and listen to their answer. You can refrain from telling stories that show how you’ve had it worse somehow. You can listen and say nothing. You might be able to think of something kind to say. Sometimes kind words and positive advice can be helpful. Sometimes all they need to know is that they’ve been heard. You don’t have to know all the answers. With practice, you learn when to share, and when to just listen.
Be the change you wish to see in the world. Begin as you mean to continue. Be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud. Be the hope….wise words from wonderful people. These are all a great place to start, and wonderful way to live. But if all of that seems to be too much for you today, then I ask you to simply Be. To simply Be is to do no harm, to affect no one, to save your strength and energy for another day. It is the best place to start.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

V is for Victim

Another day, another school shooting, another mass murder…when will it end? And what can we do about it? Those are the thoughts swirling through my brain today. And since I have the luxury of time in which to think and write, that is what I’ve decided to do; because I need to do something.
I began my day as I always do. Feed the animals, pack lunches, drink coffee, chat with hubby, read email, check out social media to see what my peeps have in store for their days. And of course, social media is overloaded with the latest school shooting. The news articles with numbers and quotes, video and pictures are sandwiched between the retweets from people in power along with the counter tweets begging for justice. There are memes and political cartoons along with prayers and poetry covering all sides of the issues. And the inevitable story in support of the NRA that takes us all the way back to Cain and Abel and their story to explain the existence of hatred in all of men’s hearts as some kind of excuse for why it is perfectly legitimate to purchase your own personal arsenal for self-defense. Suddenly, I just can’t stand it anymore. I want to rant and rave, scream and yell, cry out “WHY???” to the heavens. Children are dying and all we can do is argue and debate?
For the record, I have to address the Cain and Abel reference for the smarmy attempt at mollification that it is. I would like to point out a few things that always stick in my craw when this comes up. First of all, it is comparing apples to oranges. Cain beat his brother to death with a rock or club, depending on your translation. He didn’t mow him down with an automatic weapon equipped with a high volume magazine. He hit him with a big stick. Second, he wasn’t some stranger, newly arrived in town that had everyone looking over their shoulder because damn, that guy looks creepy. He killed his own brother. I don’t know about you, but I normally don’t expect my brother to beat me to death because he is jealous that my work has brought more favor from our father than his did. If that were the norm in sibling rivalry, I would have been dead decades ago. Lord knows there were many times that my efforts were seen as better than his and we all knew it. But that’s not the point. The point is that if we are aware and wary, we all have a chance to defend ourselves against an angry person wielding a big stick; nobody has equal footing with an AK-47. And dumping more guns into public hands hasn’t done a damn bit of good. If you read the studies and statistics, the increase in gun ownership has grown by leaps and bounds and the mass public shootings have grown right along with it. As far as the bit about Cain and Abel being proof that there has always been evil in men’s hearts…I can only say, “No shit, Sherlock!” After thousands of years of history, of wars, violence, slavery, etc., I think we have figured that out. What I just can’t understand is why so many people are totally fine with handing over weapons designed to kill efficiently and in large numbers when they know that evil is out there. You cannot condone your own use of those weapons by quoting the Bible. The Bible says to turn the other cheek, do not kill, do not covet thy neighbor’s wife and stuff….the Bible does not say it’s OK to own guns because you fancy yourself a great white hunter, or are afraid of Muslims, and besides, Cain killed Able.
 I say BULLSHIT! Christian gun owners feeling guilty over their stance really need to find a better argument. Spouting Bible quotes for every violent occasion hasn’t done a bit of good yet. Why not try a new tack? Christ didn’t just get pissed off at the money lenders and yell at them. He didn’t walk around with some kind of holier than thou attitude telling everyone the right way to be. He literally turned the tables on them, threw over the tables and tossed their money on the ground and took action against the injustice he saw. He fed people, washed their feet, learned what was in their hearts and learned to LOVE them. He didn’t sit in glass cathedrals sweating while the migrant workers start collecting stones.
So the great burning question is-- What can we do? Those of us that love our children more than guns, what can we do to help change the world and make it safer for our grandchildren? I know that many people have been calling, writing letters, and emailing their representatives for years on this matter. I asked my hubby what it would take to get some intelligent legislation written to help and was reminded that it has already been written, repeatedly. But as long as the NRA, (or Russia) keep paying, and as long as the gun lobbyists can expect to keep being paid, nothing will change until we vote some intelligent people into office. As long as we have large groups of citizens living in fear of The Other, listening to that idiot on Info Wars and his ilk, spreading hate and intolerance, and equating their rights to own guns with their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we have a very long, steeply graded slope to fight our way up.
This brings me to a few things I heard recently, from Morgan Freeman and Michelle Obama while they were being interviewed on separate occasions. Morgan Freeman was talking about people in general over time, and that behaviors and beliefs are like waves and can be almost predictable given enough distance and perspective. And I was reminded of the fact that ocean waves, while coming in and retreating, are inevitably turning over everything under them. If you study an island like Assateague, you will find that the island itself literally rolls over given enough time spent with the waves constantly moving. Michelle Obama pointed out that if you look at our nation just in the past 100 years, yes, we still have a lot of work to do, but we have already come so far. I take heart in that statement, and in the knowledge that like the tide, the Love will slowly work its magic. The ebb and flow will inevitably turn over everything it washes over, exposing the fear and cleansing it, washing away the hate and distrust it brings, exposing the tender love it hides.

Bottom line, if you can’t run for office to make positive changes, vote for those that can and do. And in the meantime, go out and love one another. Practice random acts of kindness, because Nice Matters. Be the change you wish to see in the world, one smile at a time. And never forget that you are not just a single drop in the ocean, you are also the entire ocean in a single drop.

Many thanks to Gandhi, my daughter Rebecca Emerick, Rumi, and many other poets for their inspiring words that I have taken the liberty to paraphrase in my closing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Soul Lights

Have you ever looked out of a window and seen, 
instead of the view outside,
the reflections of the lights in the room behind you,
sparkling off of the glass, shining in the dark?

When we look out into the world, 
we see the light of our soul reflected back to us.
It appears, not as our one light, but as many lights, multiplied.

When we share our soul light it grows and spreads,
touching off light in other souls.

When we look out and see our soul lights multiplied, 
reflected back at us,
we are seeing each other’s’ soul lights.

We feed each other, even when we don’t realize it.

If we could be aware of how we feed others when we share,
we could start a great bonfire of soul lights.

We could illuminate all of the darkness, so that all can see.
It all starts with one small spark.


Won’t you share your light?