On Using Your Voice in America

Although finding our voice and learning to use it is a huge part of life’s journey, the way we are teaching our children to do so today, the way we are communicating as a nation is truly heartbreaking. People are screaming so loud that you can’t even hear them anymore. Did you hear me? I said, “PEOPLE ARE SCREAMING SO LOUD THAT YOU CAN’T EVEN HEAR THEM ANYMORE!!” So, is it any wonder there is so much violence and rage with our young people today? Is it any wonder?

Is it any wonder, when we are surrounded by negativity; by so many raging against our very brothers and sisters in public office? The insanity that children are being taught today is not the fault of “them,” it is the fault of each one of us who accepts it. I haven’t even looked at who won or lost the elections yet this morning, because it has begun to feel as if it doesn’t even matter; instead I am digesting how happy I am that at least for now, the ugliness is over. My recycle bin will get a break at the very least.

I am exhausted by what went on prior to election day yesterday here in my neighborhood. Local commercials based only on slander. Mailbox fillers every day filled with hate. Posts and Tweets and Articles and Videos…filled with nothing but hate, hate, hate.

I don’t know how we got here, but it did not start this year or even last. It did not start with one man or with two or with one woman or three. It did not start with the last election or this. It did not start with this Congress. It started as a ripple effect some time ago and it worsens rapidly and exponentially because so many seem to be forgetting that we are today, tomorrow and always, supposed to be human. We are supposed to try and hope and guide and reach high. We are supposed to be brothers and sisters and tap into compassion and grace. To aim high for the stars instead of low at the jugular.

I hope, pray, and yes, do believe…that we can find peace. But first, each one of us has to be accountable to stop the hate right in our own home, in our own mailbox, on our own television and in our own heart. Right here, right now.

I hope you will join me. I hope you will try.

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Ethics Class

I just finished a summer ethics class within graduate social work studies. The class was an elective, which surprised me, because for social work clinicians, regularly faced with dilemmas involving client’s differing personal, spiritual, cultural and political belief systems, I’d have thought it would be compulsory.

The reason I chose this, one of four required electives, was for exposure to specific potential challenges and to be taught creative problem solving-strategies and academic approaches to potential bias situations I may encounter down the line.

Throughout class-time, we were asked to look at various scenarios involving what we individually feel is right, is less right and is more right, and to give input on ways to resourcefully work towards resolution. For many hours, we looked at a variety of ethical dilemmas and were guided to, supposedly without allowing judgment, work towards outcomes that could be accepted, if not by all, by most.

And then it came time to work collaboratively on our final “Ethical Dilemma” paper with chosen group members. My group was intentionally just myself and another student who thankfully, thankfully, thankfully, has a similar work ethic to mine. Some of my peers chose larger groups with as many as four students, but since I have “been there, done that” over the past year with group projects, I was not interested in ever again taking a chance by putting my grade in the hands of several other people.

A few days before the paper’s due date, a fellow student called me to ask for advice. Her reaching out to seek peer counsel, was very much part of the strategies we learned in class and is, in fact, something I have used regularly within both my earlier professional life and personal life. I was pleased that she felt comfortable enough to ask for my help. It turns out, the student was dealing with an ethical dilemma within her writing group. This was of course ironic given that the paper was to be an academic template of how to handle another ethical dilemma, one assigned by the professor. She was up against a partner who refused to accept constructive criticism for typos, misspellings, citation errors, or any additions or deletions to her work on their google doc. This, although everyone will receive the same grade on the paper, a grade which will be based beyond content, on each of these things. She asked me what to do.

…As an aside, you really gotta love google docs, really you do. Each time I open one and work with another person simultaneously, I realize that I truly have lived two lives; one as a dinosaur with a typewriter in my undergraduate studies and the other today…

My suggestion to my peer was to make any truly necessary grammatical corrections on their google doc and to ask her group members to help her in letting the other student know that any corrections were by no means personal (I really thought she should say, “get the bleep over it beeeatch,” but that did not seem very ethical). Over the next two days, she reached out several times, because not only did she begin receiving hateful text messages from the group member attacking her character, her ethnicity and her very being, but none of the other group members were availing themselves to help. While wanting to be of service to my friend and to offer helpful suggestions, ethically I knew that I could not be in the middle while only communicating with one side of the challenge, so all I could think to suggest was that she contact the professor, apprise him of the very ironic ethical dilemma on her hands, and ask for his advice (I also told her to be sure to put her shoulders back and her chin up and make sure she kept breathing and stuff like that too though).

She was hesitant to contact the professor, expressing that she did not want to cause any trouble for any of her group members, and finally, because the paper was due, she allowed it to be handed in. Later, she contacted me to let me know that after the deadline, she did in fact, reach out to the professor and received response that there would be communication between him and the entire group. She also said that she was now willing to share what she had experienced. It turns out, the other girl had reached out to the professor as well, so I can only hope that there will be a resolution that is the most right for all concerned.

As for our final paper, my partner and I worked well together for several weeks. We researched, read articles and books, and spoke to political organizations as we garnered data from dozens of citation sources. We edited, re-edited and re-re-edited, so much so that when we handed in our work on the due date, we knew without a doubt that it was an “A” paper; in fact, we were absolutely certain. However, when I woke up this morning, logged on, and saw our posted grade, it was an “A minus.“ My first thought was to be “Ticked off.” This thought was followed by a second thought which was to be VERY “TICKED OFF,” but thankfully, both of these thoughts were quickly followed by a third thought which was a very gentle, loving one. It was the thought of gratitude for the experience, because as much as I really, really hate the minus at the end of that “A,” I feel blessed. The gratitude stemmed from the realization that I could neither put a grade nor a price tag on what I learned outside the classroom, as I tried to help my fellow student with her emotional paper challenge. It stemmed as well from the understanding that, as far as I am concerned, our grade, my partner and mine, is an A+++ for the way we collaborated, learned from one another and kept an open mind as we sought solution. Perhaps, at the end of the day this is all that matters.

What I have realized this year, after waiting with bated breath through more than a dozen classes and two internships for please dear God, please an “A,” is that at the end of the day it is NOT about the “A,” but about what we learn and about what we are willing to take with us out into the world. In my case, within my practice, this will be a fabulously intense desire to be of service and to honor willingness, both my own and that of others.

 

 

Paterfamilias

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We went to a family wedding yesterday and during the reception it hit me that we, my brothers, sister, cousins and I, are now the matriarchs and patriarchs of our family. There is no longer a table where the older generation holds court; there were no place settings for our moms, dads, aunts and uncles, because they are all in heaven now. We, those that used to be the middle generation (wasn’t it just yesterday?), are now the family elders. As such, we have a responsibility to pass along to our sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, cousins and grandchildren, all the stories and love that we received from those who are gone.

Yesterday, watching one of the “kids” get married and move forward into his future caused a tug at my heart. There were other tugs as I listened during the reception about the castles young guests are building in the air, as businessmen and women; tugs because I remembered the ones of sand that cousins built on the beach together some years back. It is clear those expressing their young successes have no idea of the many personal lessons which likely lie ahead of them; nor should they. They are unaware of the experiences that will change them, the lessons they won’t want but will certainly need, as they maneuver their way through to the next level of placement within their own families. They do not yet know that they will do this maneuvering by sometimes coming together and sometimes pulling away, hopefully more often the former. And one day, likely well into the future, these children who are no longer children will look back and realize that at the times in their lives they thought they were sure, they in fact knew so little.

It can almost seem that once you realize what life is all about, it is too late; too late to tell everyone how much you always cared; so, you want to go back and grab hold of all the times you didn’t know … and make them right. You want to be sure the important people know that you would have been more open and less defensive, more secure and less frightened. You would have given more generously from your heart, no matter how much was or was not in your wallet, and you would have been around more often to love big, so very, very big.

When the pastor spoke of all who were missing at the wedding yesterday, his words touched a tender place; more tender still as the bride and groom opened a box to release several butterflies in their honor. It was a profound moment for us patriarchs and matriarchs, but one that very likely went over the heads of the millennial’s in attendance, because they still have two generational shifts to go before they are paterfamilias.

I thought of Aunt Pat, Uncle Tommy, Mom, Dad, KK and Pop, of Uncle Ed, Aunt Marion and so many others who were part of our Sunday reunion ukulele sing-alongs. As I did, I had to catch my heart before it wandered too far. I had to catch it and bring it back to the wedding service and the two souls before me, souls very much alive and committing to their sacred contract. I took a moment to pray a silent prayer for them and to ask God to make their lessons a bit less painful than the elders and mine have been. And then I clapped with joy as groom kissed bride.

And in a most fitting way, today, the day after this revelation, happens to be Mother’s Day. No matter whether you believe in celebrating this assigned meaning day or not, after a long hiatus of graduate school papers getting in the way, I am again compelled to write on this date. I take a formal moment to consider and honor family both here and gone, those who truly matter to my heart. It gives me great comfort to do so, because I know that this would please them, especially mom.

Typing these words helps me honor her and to honor my baby sister who did not make the wedding, and who today both celebrates her daughters and grieves the boy taken too young. It seems so often that life asks you to do both simultaneously; to grieve and be joyful. I also honor the great joy my family holds for me today and all the hopes and dreams I have for everyone who makes up that family. There are such possibilities ahead for all of us. Thank you to the generations who helped pave the way for all of us.

Relationships and Decisions and Choices

Over the last few days, it seems the theme around me has been relationships. Within conversation, one friend was processing some sadness about her former partner while another, her present one. Both turned to me for advice:  “How do you know when the person you are with is the right one for you?” “How do you know when he’s wrong and the time has come to move on?“How do you stand the feelings while you figure it all out?”

First, let me say that I am by no means an expert on relationships! However, because my peeps and I seek one another out for solution, I was compelled to give the best answer I could in both situations, “It’s not that simple. What I have learned from experience is that you know simply because you decide to and then you work within and towards that decision every day.”

 

My friends’ questions provoked powerful emotions within me, mostly ones of gratitude but also of sorrow and regret. They prompted a hope that once they make their choice they will know that whatever unfolds from that point on, will be right and true and good because that is who they are inside and because they will decide to work at making it so.

All my life, I stood in terror of making decisions. I was afraid to go right and find out later that left had been the way for me. Because of this, I lived always positioned for a move, ready to turn, as if waiting for a tennis shot; poised for either a forehand or back, but never too firmly planted on my feet; just ready, always ready. With this type of stance, it was difficult for any relationship to seed, take root, grow strong and flourish. The garden that was my life was one filled with annuals, never perennials, and I could not understand why flowers were not re-blooming year after year. Instead of planting new ones, knowing that the former’s gift had come and gone, I thought I must have picked the wrong patch of earth. Sure, I watered sometimes, but there was so much more critical work required. There were weeds to pull, soil to turn over and fertilizer to spread. Because I thought once I planted, pretty colors would be forevermore, when things went bare and brown I panicked. I did not understand.

Today, I can only wonder at how it was I believed I should always know, know Who and What and Where and When. How I thought I should be sure and certain in whatever I picked or chose. I wonder how it was that I so naively thought we all were supposed to find our custom designs out there, so easily, so surely. Did I think there were memos to help or sky-written messages from above to guide the way? Did I remain so afraid in my decisions, because I never got those memos, those messages? Was it because I felt abandoned somewhere, by what or whom I am not sure, but forgotten and left to pick my way through life on my own? It is laughable today, but laughable in the most gentle sort of way, to think about how terrified I was of getting it all wrong; the big IT of life; the guy I should be with, the career path to travel, the neighborhood to live in and the bestie to trust.

This morning, I have decided to smile with gentle kindness at all of it, appreciate the similarities between all of us fellow travelers and pass along what I have learned. I have opted to use the feelings stirred up from relationship conversations this week and remember to reach upward towards the blessed prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and its words that will guide me for the future. I choose today to head in the direction before me and to believe that help will come as I go, not in memo form, but in daily dialogue with God and His Angels.

Right here, right now, I choose to be one of the brave and decisive ones as I step out, one of the courageous ones, one unafraid to choose left with both feet on the ground or go right with everything I have inside of me. I commit to a willingness to make today’s choices gracefully and while doing so, believe that whatever they are will be good and true; because no matter what unfolds, the gifts will come in the lessons therein.

The most important choice I will make today will be once again to believe with all my heart, with absolute certainty that there is no right way and no wrong, but ever so perfectly, there is simply the way I will choose.

Don’t Explain, Don’t Complain

Almost two decades ago, my first spiritual mentor came into my life. A beautiful soul, she crossed my path suddenly and very coincidentally. In retrospect, I am sure our meeting was God’s handiwork, because it happened soon after I began seeking Grace.

At the onset of my quest, although I could almost taste what I sought, I did not yet fully understand what Grace even meant. As it turns out, it is so much more than I had thought. Yes, it is a relationship with God, as I believed it was; salvation even. Beyond that, it is all that you are; it is personal freedom, strength in vulnerability and the capacity to stand true and unwavering as your very best self at a given time. It is also “all that you simply cannot manage to be, even though you might like to, at a said given time.” Some might express the last sentence as “all that you are not,” but I prefer my own understanding.

One of the first things I remember discussing with this spiritual guide was that, “Ideally we want to get to a place in our lives where we don’t feel a need either to Explain or Complain.” The “Not having to explain” part, because if we stay true to trying to do the next right thing in our lives, we won’t have to prove anything to anyone. The “not complaining,” because doing so will just keep us stuck in our ego and that, as I have learned through very painful life lessons, will simply never do.

Whilst traveling a route towards God’s favor, I have done my best to honor many along the way with friendship. In learning to do so, as often as I have been able to remember, I’ve used this “Don’t Explain, Don’t Complain” mantra and it has been priceless. In the midst, I have received precious gifts of time and loving kindness and have offered the same in return. However, it is at times impossible to fulfill the needs of others or even to communicate fully why we are unable to. Work stuff takes a little longer than usual or the car has to go into the shop. The cat gets out or a neighbor distracts with a request to borrow sugar. Someone asks for help, or my husband wants to spend time; a writing deadline looms or a migraine hits.

When these things happen, these tugs, these ways that take me away from what I might really want to be doing in order to do what needs to be done, life can start to feel awfully lifey. Through it all though, I still need never explain nor complain. What I must do, is simply that which is immediately pressing in front of me in the very best way I can.

When living in this simple “Don’t complain, don’t explain” mantra, life has the potential to be grand. No, it’s not as simple as it sounds, not exactly, but it really does work as long as it’s basis is on trusting those you have relationships with to know who you are at your core; to know that you would never intentionally hurt them with what they perceive as your wrong.

When I find myself tempted to give a lengthy dissertation of why I didn’t or couldn’t or can’t, I have to stop and remind myself that getting fearfully embroiled in having to explain what is sometimes unexplainable is unnecessary, especially if my connection to God is intact. Those sometimes pulls, the yanks towards the need to be absolutely certain that others understand the why’s and what’s of my decisions can be let go if I remember that those why’s and what’s don’t really matter as long as God and I know the reasons.

In the big picture of life, what others think about my actions or inactions need have no bearing on my reality. Just as others have no idea what fully goes on in my total day to day, I have no idea what goes on in theirs. There are so many tugs, twists and turns in one twenty-four hour period that to try to be all that we desire to or to explain every situation encountered is a daunting and sometimes seemingly impossible task.

And so, as that long ago mentor also told me, I must trust that when I ask God each morning to guide me to His will, that what he puts in front of me is right and true, even when it changes or deviates from what I had planned. I can be firm in my choices, including re-choosing, even when those choices feel slightly uncomfortable, and do my very best to remember that He alone can judge; though he never even will, because He loves me so. How cool is that!

Connect While There is Time…

Time is so confusing. It seems to go so slowly when we are waiting for something to happen and trying to honor that “time takes time.” Yet, in actuality, it goes by so fast. The hours become days then weeks and then years. Where does it go, where does it disappear to, this time? There seems never enough of it to be able to catch up with those I care about and honor, those living their day to day in the same way as me. I often wonder when there will be time to connect. Will it be today? No, not today, today is just so busy, so very busy. Tomorrow maybe, but then again tomorrow is very busy too.

I imagine that many others feel the same way and sometimes wonder too, “What is happening with “So and So?” or “How is this person or that?” “I must call her when I get a chance,” or “I will check in with him just as soon as possible.”

So often, I find myself thinking about someone and realizing that it has been ages since we have spoken, eons at least since our last luncheon or coffee or since we have spent any time together. I seem regularly to realize this while sitting in traffic. I don’t know what it is about time behind the wheel, but at red lights or in congestion, that is when my best thinking happens, my best remembering.

For some reason when I have a few second STOP, an unplanned moment in the midst of busy days while waiting for red to turn green or cars to start moving again, I receive snippets of inner wisdom. Out in the world heading to a destination is where I often remember all the other destinations I want to get to later. It is when I ponder all the places I must go and the people I must see because I miss them so; it is where I am reminded of all I want to do, after of course I get to wherever I am getting to on this trip and after doing whatever it is that needs doing there.

The other day, in one of these out and about moments, a friend crossed my mind, someone I have not seen or talked to in quite some time, someone I miss chatting with. Our span of time unconnected has been, on my end anyway, because of busy hours turning to days, then weeks and then months before I even realized how long it had been. I take solace in the realization that I am truly trying to pay attention to all those who matter, but with only two arms to reach out there seems not a wide enough span to grab hold of every moment with every person I care about. There simply are not enough hours.

With a loving thought, I made a call to her feeling a bit shy as I did, insecure even, though I can not exactly say why. I sometimes worry, when I reach out like this after a long while, “They probably don’t want to hear from me, after all, the phone works both ways and they would have called or whatever, whatever.” “Maybe I shouldn’t bother; what if they forgot about me?” Random thoughts based in fear might have stopped me in the past, stopped me from dialing a number to send greetings and salutations, to let someone know that, if nothing else, they matter to me in some way, but not anymore.

Although some measure of insecurity still sometimes tries to creep in before I squelch it, it excites me to know today that I can refuse to buy into uncertainty in relationships in ways I never knew were possible before. Always now, when my head asks, “Should I call?” my heart answers, “Yes, Yes, Yes!” Yes, because the thoughts that would have stopped me have no basis in whom I want to be today. Anyway, even if these thoughts had some truth, in the scheme of the spiritual life I try to live, “Could it ever be wrong to reach out anyway?”

In the midst of making the phone call , when voicemail prompted, I left what I hope were thoughts filled with love, though I could not be exactly sure they had come out right. Let’s face it, whenever you hang up from leaving a message, you are never one hundred percent sure about what you said. I remember a long ago television episode of Seinfeld where Elaine, leaves a message on a guy’s answering machine and then is so paranoid about what she said that she gets Jerry, George and Kramer to help her get the answering machine tape before the guy hears it.

Yeah, sort of like that, whenever I leave a loving message, especially after a long time between chats with someone, I think, “Did that come out right?” “Will they know I really care?” I always hope so. Anyway, I left that message and felt happy I did; I sent love and friendship and that was the point no matter what the outcome. Then I went about my day.

When I returned home that night, I opened up email and there, in my inbox was a message from the recipient of my afternoon voicemail. The message tugged my heart to the point of tears. First, she thanked me for the call and then open-heartedly, from the tone of her beautifully written words, she filled me in on the past eleven months of her life, on things that had transpired since last I had seen her. The months she wrote about were rife with loss and family tragedy, loss of the worst kind. As I read, any measure of self-doubt or insecurity I had felt earlier when leaving the message suddenly seemed laughable, shameful almost. Yet, “No,” there is never any shame in what you feel in matters of friendship, or reaching out or willingness towards another person, no matter how much time has passed since the last attempt on either part.

Then it came over me almost as a sob, that I never, ever, ever know what is going on in others’ lives, just as they have no idea about mine during any of the time we may be disconnected. It also hit me, quite hard actually, that when I think of someone, it is critical to let him or her know, because life and whatever time we get go by so very fast and before we know it one of us may be gone.

I stared at the computer screen long after reading her message and my thoughts wandered to so many people that I miss, friends and family that I have not seen or heard from; people I have meant to call and send letters to. I wondered what was going on for each of them and suddenly I needed a hundred addresses to send letters to; I wanted to send flowers and cookies or gifts, some token of appreciation and acknowledgment for each person crossing my mind in an effort to express what they have meant over all the decades of my life.

In the world of texts and social media the connection is not enough, so I promise myself I will call Julia and Ernie, Debbie and Norma, Maggie and Ali. I will write Natasha and Dan, Ro, Colleen and Mary. I will for sure connect deeper very soon, just as soon as I get out of this traffic, as soon as I get the groceries home. I will the minute I finish the laundry or type up my work recap. The very second I walk in the door I will get on it and reach out to the people I love that I have not seen or talked to in so long.

Inevitably, however, when I arrive home I forget; being hungry or tired takes over. I need a shower or a cup of tea; the mail is waiting, the trash needs taking out or the cat needs feeding. There are always so many here and now things requiring immediate action. They take precedence because they are in front of me and so I do them, until suddenly, another week has gone by, another month, another year. So many of the calls went un-dialed, the cards were only written in my head and never made it to paper and ink; the flowers remained at the florist. I don’t suppose it counts that I sent them in my heart. No, I don’t suppose it does.

Today I must make the phone calls and send the greeting cards. I must tell all of you how much you mean to me. I must do this now before it is too late. I am logging off, yes right now to do so, but wait there is a notification on my screen. There is another email. one from work. I have to read it first and then respond and then…

American Woman…and Yes, I do like Dennis Miller

I remember a time when being a young American Girl allowed me to believe.

I believed in the idea of reverence for Heroes, Olympians, Religions, Movie Stars, Political Parties, Presidents, First Ladies, the Media, Teachers, Police Officers and even just my Elders. In school, we celebrated Washington, Lincoln, King and Columbus with holidays, plays and homework worksheets hot off the Mimeograph machine. We honored them, admiring what they had done well, instead of picking apart that which may not have been so great. Revering not so much the individuals, we placed value on what they represented. We respected authority, our nation, its beginnings and stood willingly awestruck by things so much bigger than the sum of their parts. We placed esteem because we needed to. It gave us something to believe in and it was awesome to believe, instead of standing armed with poison pen to pick apart the legitimacy of those beliefs.

I remember reading a biography on Abraham Lincoln many years after making crafts with cotton and black crepe paper for the class bulletin board and thinking, “Wait, he sometimes failed too? He had flaws? He had haters? Good ole Honest Abe was imperfect, wait, what?” I was so happy not to have known any of Mr. Lincoln’s limitations (or anyone else I revered) when I was young because it gave me time to hope and dream about what America offered to me. I needed to believe in all my heroes, in what each stood for and to this day, I am glad that too much information did not get in the way of those beliefs.

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As a little girl, I stood proud with hand on heart when my class pledged allegiance to the American flag. Doing so was not open for discussion and I learned to respect the teacher who held us accountable. Along with my classmates, I recited poems about the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria and wondered not only how the earth could possibly be round, how anyone could be brave enough to set sail in order to find out. At least back then, we wondered. I liked imagining what it was like for explorers to set out and find spices and places to call home some new day in a faraway place. It seemed back then, that talking about discovery was much more important than being politically correct about the discoverer.

As for Columbus and his men and the fact that some cities now refuse to celebrate him anymore, I am not saying that all they likely did upon arrival (even if that arrival was by default) in already inhabited land would have been things to revere. I am saying however, that as a young child having a chance to do so, allowed me to believe in the idea of discovery. That belief mattered. Was it really so terrible, those of you who insist on banning Columbus Day, to allow children to believe in a story of “sailing the ocean blue in 1492?” Did it really have to become an ethnic battle cry? Can you not see that the simplicity of the belief back when, served to help some of us dream of exploration of our own some day?    

Regarding trophies and grades, the way it worked was this:  we played games resulting in a winner and loser; some kids got trophies and some did not (I was one of the “did-nots”), but no matter what, we learned about perseverance, disappointment and sportsmanship. We experienced the feeling of victory and yes, the agony of defeat, but within each we were compelled to stand still in emotion. We got A’s when we worked hard and D’s when not so much and we felt joy and disappointment depending. Does that even happen anymore? Does anyone have to feel disappointment? Do our children even have to stop long enough to feel? I read that some colleges cancelled class and allowed students to bring pets to the dorms to help them process unhappiness during this past presidential election. Seriously?? Today, our nation focuses so much on making sure that everyone is comfortable and everybody wins that we seem to have lost sight of the value that discomfort and even losing have in forming our individual dignity and strength. This refusal to stand still in emotions anymore within our schools, our sports, our games, our elections, our country, this avoidance of discomfort in such an enormous way in our society, makes me so very uncomfortable.

Maybe that is why so many potential young discovers these days seek their high from drugs. They set out for the instant gratification, dopamine buzz from a substance instead of the long-term one that comes from setting out and trying and even sometimes failing, from an origin of purpose. Perhaps many of our young Americans today are just going with what they are learning, to cop out and make excuses instead of feeling. Or, maybe they feel blocked from seeking new heights because they are afraid of the judgment fishbowl they will likely have to swim in after they achieve them, the one in which every move, every thought and every comment will be picked apart by society and the media. Perhaps it is because no one is teaching our young people anymore that life is not about being always comfortable or always understood or always right. It is about striving along the way.

I remember the notion that I could safely strive for greatness someday; it gave me something to hold onto back when; I was in awe of athletes, strong, able and excellent competitors and loved watching the Olympics and being proud of another medal for my country. There was a sense of awe, of connection, of belonging to something so much greater, something that I may be able to try to know or find someday. I am glad I was naively unaware of which athlete drank too much or smoked pot or took steroids on their down time.

With our celebrations, our explorers, our Presidents, our heroes, there was a spirit of hope. I loved being a little American girl. I loved not knowing as much as I know now about each one of the individuals that helped me believe in their greatness. I am grateful to understand how flawed I have been myself in getting to any measure of accomplishment achieved in my own life; and am so very thankful to understand that we are each so utterly human. It saddens me that so many refuse to allow others the right to their humanness, with all that being human entails.

Back as a girl in school, although I did not really like all the rules, I understood them. Being accountable helped sure up the foundation under my feet. I loved that a teacher could still give a hug if I scraped my knee. I treasured, yet dreaded the excitement of getting a test back after studying hard for it and when the paper was void of a gold star, I valued the sense of effort from having to work harder next time.

I loved Christmas being Christmas and Hanukkah being Hanukkah and the fact that we did not have to watch out for offending anyone when we wished them Happy or Merry. Thank goodness, the news was not on round the clock and that we were not privy to every sideways sneeze someone famous made. I loved being a little American girl when I was one and I pray for those who are growing up now in this world that seems so afraid of grades and awards and hugs and mistakes.

I realize that today, I get to choose to love being a grown American woman and that is the choice I proudly make, although it is not always easy when I watch what goes on out there in America land. I must choose not to grab hold of the ugliness thrown out as bogus factoid grenades each minute of every day and remember how nice it was not to know what I didn’t’ know when I was little; how awesome it was to still believe in people, in their greatness. Each morning I commit to remind myself that I, that we, are flawed humans striving to do better and that yesterday I was not nearly as far as I am today so maybe you weren’t either. Things I said or did in my past, especially thirty years ago, are laughable because I am no longer that woman who spoke without always meaning what she said and I must ignore the media asking me to judge the latest person up for slaughter this week for what they said during their own back when. I am aware that I have made heartfelt mistakes and stand grateful in the knowledge that if my every quote, deed or action through life had been under a microscope the way our coaches, teachers and politicians’ are, I would likely be very lonely. For I have said, done and even thought things that would not bode well in the public eye or even within my inner circle.

Why are we so afraid? Why are we scared of mistakes made along the road to excellence? Why do we focus so much on ugliness and errors? Why do reporters so willingly tout what is bad instead of what is amazing about a person? Why do we the public pay so much attention? Why are we so terrified to give our children A’s and D’s when they deserve either as grades and why, oh why, don’t we understand that getting a D just may inspire someone to work harder next time for the A? Why do we think that everyone should get a trophy, whether for first place or last? What is happening here? Why are so many so quick to smile at or “Facebook like” things that are unkind and result in others undoing? Why do picketing and rioting get airtime, so very much airtime, when both incite confusion and violence? What happened to grace? Why does everyone have to argue about everything? Why are folks so fearful of healthy competition and why are some so intent on slander?

I wish, I hope, I pray, I dream that there are a few others out there that remember a time when we were naive enough to believe; a time when what we didn’t know allowed us all to grow. A time when you did not have to be afraid of picking plain milk over chocolate in the cafeteria, for fear someone might misunderstand and when you could bring a peanut butter sandwich without having to sit alone at a lunchroom table or even a boardroom one. I wonder if please, please, please we could stop going over the top to make sure everyone’s rights are being valued, because it seems like in doing so, we are getting lost and blowing others rights to kingdom come.

I wish we would start by opening our heart to honoring one another more simply and not taking anyone apart piece by piece to prove they were not or are not worthy of making the difference they tried to make or are still trying to make. Forgive them, those in the past, those in the present and one another for being human and move forward in that humanness so that we can all find love and respect along the way. God Bless all the American girls, boys, men and women who, like me, are grateful for the seekers and the finders, the settlers and the pioneers. God Bless the Indians and the cowboys, the military and the peacemakers, and PLEASE Dear God, help us find some balance. Thank goodness the earth is round so we can’t fall off the end of it, or worse yet jump. Wait, are we sure it is round? Who knows what the next explorers, pioneers and politicians will find out, if only they remain brave enough to set out and try; if only they remain unafraid of failing or being judged long after finding whatever they may find.

Weddings and Family and Lessons

As a young girl, I dreamed of the day I would walk down the aisle towards my soul mate. I planned for it, focused on it, obsessed even. I pictured myself sauntering slowly, moving in a sea of ivory and flowers past hundreds of smiling faces, all there to share in my joy, in our joy. Of course I had no idea who the other half of my “our” would be, but I prayed he would be someone wonderful. I spent a great deal of time visualizing, fretting even about my prince, “Would I know him when I saw him?” “What if I missed a cue and he rode off without me?” “What if my feet were swollen on the day he showed up with the slipper?”

At the forefront of my visions, always, was the wonder, “What would it feel like to be “picked” for good, for always? What must it be like to be chosen?”.It hurts my heart to think about how much of my girlhood was spent looking at marriage as a chance to be “picked” or chosen, as if another’s action would be the ultimate completion for my one half, instead of my one whole meeting someone else’s and our mutual choice to come together. Naive, I had no idea that marriage is not about a suitor’s validation, but actually about partnership and compromise, and about honoring that each already so utterly matters of their own volition before any proposal.

Today, I fully realize what this means. Ever so gratefully, I now live in the experience of coming together as two wholes, as partner to my husband.

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I have only come to this understanding many, many dreams and visions after first walking down the aisle as a very young bride, but I do finally understand. I am well aware, having learned the hard way, that marriage is an opportunity for two individuals to inspire each other to be their best self. Each person gets to hold the mirror for the other to reflect beauty not flaws in a framework based on mutual respect. It is a place where both are able to risk being vulnerable and courageous at the same time.

Within the structure of our marriage, my husband and I will soon have pieces of both of our pasts coming together. These pieces will form our family’s future. My son and stepson are both getting married this year. They have each picked a special someone who (and here is the important part) picked them back and it is wonderful to watch from the sidelines.                                                                               engaged

As a mom to a future groom, I am thrilled, ecstatic even for my son to walk down the aisle next June. The woman who will be by his side loves him; he loves her back. She is beautiful, loyal and kind and I know she will honor my boy. I can see that they are truly happy already, even before they go down the aisle so that their vows will be merely a culmination of the partnership they already honor and share.

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As a stepmom to a future groom, I am overjoyed for this young man to go down the aisle next March. His future bride is lovely and kind. They love one another and have found happiness already, even before the walk down the aisle, so that their vows will merely be a culmination of all they already know and share.

The part that makes it complicated, at least it feels a bit so, is that there are exes and steps and past and present and stuff, all the pieces that make up a blended family today. I know this just means that these two young men and their future wives have more people to love them, but in my heart sits a feeling of longing. The longing is a desire for a very sure sense of family somewhere in the midst of all of it. As I spend time now reviewing hotel and airfare reservations, working on logistics for extended family and shopping for attire and gifts, I wonder how we will all gel together. In the midst of this wonder, of doing these things, a sense of exhilaration overtakes me and I realize that I am blessed to be part of all of it.

How about a LIKE for YOU ;) ;)

Ladies, let’s face it. We rock! We rule! Strong and capable warriors wrapped up in nurturing caregiver packages, we get it done. We get it all done. We are amazing.

Now, if we could just remember this! Although realistically, “How could we?” Messages telling us we are somehow “not-enough” inundate us regularly. Constant communications bombard us to lose ten, freeze off our flab, flatten our tummies and augment ourselves in ways, well in ways too many to address, just to be OK let alone awesome.

In a world where media messages tell us to change who we are to matter, we can feel pressured to have a certain body shape or smoother looks. Striving constantly to uphold a standard of excellence and perfection that is next to impossible, we seem to have lost sight of who it is we are trying so hard to impress. Perhaps this is because of all the suggestions “out there” that we are somehow limited. “Change to conform,” they say. “Weigh less to be more.” “Alter your bodies to be more appealing.” “Tweak your looks to something better, but whatever you do change ladies change!”

These messages tell us, often all too subliminally, that our number one goal should be to kowtow to a societal ideal that is confusing. On one hand, dress size, there is a very small number attached, on the other, breast shape, a very large one. These numbers are actually nothing more than a set-up, but they are nevertheless in place, put there by some faceless, nameless rule-makers out in the world, imaginary rule-makers at that. Ones who cause havoc with our self-esteem and sense of security regularly. These rule-makers are not real. They do not exist. Do not buy in. You do not have to.

Collective standards teach us that we are in some way competing with one another as we follow dictates hypnotically. We may as well be walking off cliffs because we are not truly sure who is leading us, yet still we follow. We get behind the bandwagon with the most clicks or tweets or likes, often even before we have formed our own opinion. In doing so, we set up a model based on fluff and lacking substance, yet its templates are cookie cutter – Marketing 101. We blindly buy in to clever ploys designed to sell products and keep us buying.

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Have you ever taken a moment to ask yourself what it is you are really getting when you do this “buying in?” Is it not actually more stress than relief that rings up with your sale? Stress to be … well, whatever it is they tell you is the right way to be for now. Do not get too comfortable with your purchase though people, because whatever it is will surely change fast. So much time gets wasted keeping up that it makes me wonder, “How can we even be who we are supposed to be? Who the heck has time when we are so busy figuring out how to look like everybody else?”

How might you feel if you simply relaxed into being yourself? If you really want to “buy in” to something amazing, buy every inch of you. In doing so, you will be heading towards a much deeper existence than “survival of the fittest.” Consider what it even means to be “fit.” Merriam Webster’s definition of the word includes the following:  “adapted to the environment as to be capable of surviving; acceptable from a particular viewpoint, put into a suitable state; adapted to an end of design; suitable by nature or art; sound physically and mentally.”

So considering key words in this definition, “fitting in” would seem to involve much more than your dress size, breast shape or the flatness of your tummy. If “surviving” involves being acceptable from “a particular viewpoint,” why not decide to start making that acceptable viewpoint your own? Opt to be suitable for you. When you make a decision to fit, to “adapt” into your own beautiful package, to feel “suitable” from your own “viewpoint,” a shift takes place, one of self-acceptance and self-love. Within that framework lies an opportunity to honor all that you already are, exactly as you are. The result:  healthy mind, healthy body, healthy spirit, healthy world and a life that can then be about so much more than just “fitting in” or “surviving,” but thriving.

How do you get there? It can be difficult to imagine if you have spent years beating yourselves up over what you see as your proprietary flaws, “I wish my body were different. I wish I looked like “her” or “her” or her.” How about putting down the “how you look” baseball bat today and deciding, “This is who I am. This is what I’ve got and as of right now, I am rocking it.” Why not, “Yay Me! I am the prize baby, and by the way, I am so much more than OK with it.”

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Imagine the difference it would make in your life if right here, right now you began honoring your body as lovely. Think of how good it would feel to stand before the mirror and imagine yourself clicking “like” for you. Never mind how many times a day you click it for others. Try for an attitude of approval for yourself instead of dismay for what you perceive you are not. Consider the shift in your energy today, at this moment, if you accepted yourself, your very own self, the whole shebang, (love handles, tummy, stretch marks, wrinkles, blemishes, whatever, all of it) as being perfect. What would your day be like then? How would it be different if you went out to do your tasks being proud of the person you were in all of your “amazing-ness” instead of frustrated about not looking better while you tried?

I hope you will join in, will come together with all of the rest of us out here trying not to buy in. We need you. We really do. Will you please join us?

Love,

Your Soul Sisters