Euphemistically speaking

There is a memorial garden in my town. It isn’t a cemetery, oh no. Nothing that gauche. There aren’t even gravestones. There are little metal vases to hold bouquets of fake flowers. So there is to the eye a field of flowers. Perhaps you have such a place too and haven’t even thought about it.

Have you noticed that people don’t die anymore? They “pass on” or “transition” or are “fallen” if they are military. Even more euphemistically we might say they have “kicked the bucket” or “bought the farm”.

Why have we sanitized death? It isn’t a reality anymore. We no longer think about it in a real way. We no longer see it. We are divorced from it.

Our family members die in hospitals, alone or with strangers. They no longer or rarely die at home if it is an expected death. Their bodies are taken away by other strangers, who wash them and clothe them and lay them out. They put makeup on them so they look “natural”, because it is important for us to have a good memory of death. They look peaceful, because that is what we want to think of when we think of death.

We’ve done the same with birth. It is far more common these days for a woman to give birth in a hospital than at home. This wasn’t always the way. Birth is now treated as a medical condition rather than a life event. Women are treated as passive observers and no longer participants in this experience. It is something that happens to them rather than something they participate in. Sure, there are some home births and some midwives, but they are seen as the exception rather than the rule.

Ignorance causes pain. The more you know about something the easier it is to deal with. The more we ignore our own reality of birth and death, the more anxiety we feel.

I am for everyone breaking the taboo about talking about important life events, and for being aware of the lies we tell ourselves.

I wonder what it is about the English language that we can’t bother to
actually say what we mean. When we go to the bathroom we more often use the toilet than the tub. It isn’t a bath that we need.

I’d never thought about it until I went to England and asked where the bathroom was. The clerk looked at me funny and said they call it the toilet. I winced. “Toilet” sounds dirty, vulgar. It is accurate, but so gauche. But he had a point. We do this all the time.

We have “correctional centers” instead of prisons.

We have “medical centers” instead of hospitals.

Newspeak is here, right now. We don’t even fight it. It is time to notice how we are lying to ourselves.

Poem 7, the pie of grief

Keep up with You, because
nobody else will. They are too busy

getting affordable housing while

the housing bubble burst
and we burst into tears.

You can try to judge the world outside
by going through my hometown
but homegrown prophets are never respected

Fortunately I’m not from here.

I don’t have any questions about Monday.
Or maybe I do.
This once again Memorial Day.
Should I light a candle or a grill or a firecracker?

Thou shalt not kill.

The presidents of the same world
the sane world,
wield worms when dead,
the same as the poor, the plain, the painfully shy.

You don’t have to be famous
to fill out the next week’s schedule
so it can send flowers to followers,

Condolences as carnations.

Collapse into tears
Fall into pieces
Cut me a slice of the pie of grief
And fry it up with a side of being human.

Poem 6, whole, holiness

It isn’t the first time
It was the second night
It is not the same.

The waves are beautiful women who have origami hair

The first rule of God is in the way you are,
The rule is in the way.
It is the way you are.
The more you know what to expect then you are already done for.

We need to get married in the way
We need to work for a little more than just the way home
We are called to make the person whole
By celebrating the holiness that is already there.

All things work together for the same thing.
All rights reserved,
All things considered.

(all the numbered poems are constructed on a Kindle Fire, heavily relying on the predictive text feature)


I’m starting to see all negative energy as the same thing as a toddler having a tantrum. Try to see the bad behavior, the bad event, as a thing, a force. Divorce it from the person or the situation.

Job loss, cancer diagnosis, divorce papers? See them as negative energy. In “The Neverending Story” by Michael Ende, it is called “The Nothing,” in “The Dark is Rising” series by Susan Cooper it is called “the Dark.” In Jewish lore it is called the yetzer hara, or “the evil inclination.” See it as a thing, a force. It isn’t that person, it isn’t the event. It is a force outside of the person and the event.

Just like with a bully or a toddler having a tantrum, don’t give it energy. Make sure nobody is going to get harmed, certainly, but don’t give this force any more power. Ignore it. Don’t let it take over.

This is easier said than done. But every time you do, you’ll get better at it. Instead of beating yourself up for forgetting to ignore it (that kind of behavior is what it wants), congratulate yourself every time you do remember (that drives it up the wall).

Or here is an alternative – learn to love that force. Don’t fight it. See it as a reminder to return to God. See it like a sanctus bell calling you to pray. Every time you recognize that force by noticing anger or fear or hatred, see it as a blessing because it awakens you.

Buddha is a title, not a name. It means the awakened one. Fear and anger and anxiety and stress can be used as a way to transform you into an awakened person. Eckhart Tolle tells us in “The Power of Now” that it is easier for a person who is having a lot of difficulties to become awakened. The person who is having an average life with no difficulties doesn’t know that she or he needs to awaken, so they slumber on, plodding through life unaware of the lessons that need to be learned.


I am starting to see insomnia as a good thing. Instead of fighting it, I’m seeing it as a chance to pray and get closer to God.

When I was at the Cursillo retreat last October I was awake at night a lot more than I’d wanted. The entire experience is a little overwhelming for the average person, and it is mind blowing for someone like me who has a mental health diagnosis.

When I’ve been in a manic phase in the past, I have experienced God directly in ways that mystic writers describe perfectly. This is part of why I’m so concerned that I never confuse whether I’m experiencing God or a facet of my diagnosis. I’m starting to realize that it is also important to not dismiss an experience just because of my diagnosis. Just because a person is bipolar doesn’t mean that God isn’t talking to them.

I’ve already written in part about the first night that I was unable to sleep and went to the small chapel. When the second night of wakefulness happened, I was a little miffed. I had come to trust that it was God waking me up by this point, but I also know that if I don’t get enough sleep then I’m not really that intact for the next few days.

So I started arguing with God. “Really? God? Are you kidding? You know how I get when I don’t sleep.” And I heard back the same kind of reply that Moses heard when he complained that he was not fit to go plead to Pharaoh for the release of the Jews from slavery. God said he made me, so he knows what I am capable of and what I can handle. And then he followed it up with “You said you wanted to spend more time with me”. I laughed. He had a point there. So I lay awake, praying. Praying to me isn’t about saying certain words over and over. It is about being comfortable in the presence of God. It is about relaxing with an old friend who knows me better than I know myself. Remember, God knew you as you were being knit together in your mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)

So these nights when I wake up for no obvious reason, I am starting to use it as a reminder to pray, to get closer to God. I pray for the well being of all people, especially those involved in any recent tragedy. I feel out if there are any topics I need to write about. But mostly I try to relax and rest in the comfort of knowing that God is everything and is in control.

I’ve learned that the more I pay attention to how much sleep I didn’t get, the more wiped out I feel. But if I relax and don’t judge it to be bad, then I always feel fine. I may not get the amount of sleep I think I need, but I always get the amount I actually do need.