What can you do?

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

Once the marches are over – the real work begins. Volunteer. Serve. Help. Find something you feel is important that is threatened and work for it. It is time to stop expecting the government (or anyone else) to help. It is our time to act with love, with unity, and with focus on making our neighborhoods, our country, and our world a safe, loving and healthy place for everyone. This happens only with love – not with protesting the bad but by working for the good. It is not a time of numbness or fear, but of building, and rebuilding.

Jesus says to love our enemies. Love. Not protest.

Marching in protest doesn’t build. It says what you are against, but not what you are for. If all you do is focus on the negative, then that is the only thing you are giving your energy to. Life is too short to be angry all the time. Do something positive.

Teach a child from another country how to read and write in English. Learn Arabic or Spanish so that you can welcome the stranger. Donate your time to a women’s shelter.

Buy land and keep the trees on it so it is a haven for wildlife, and produces air for people to breathe.  Or donate to the Nature Conservancy to do the same thing.

Worried about the Department of Education?  Go to the library.  Read non-fiction.  Learn as much as you can.  Encourage others to do the same by teaching a class on what you learned.  Start a group (sometimes known as a salon) where you all share your knowledge.

Worried about the National Endowment for the Arts? Start your own creative co-op.  Paint.  Draw.  Have a play.  Recite poetry.  Have a concert.

You don’t need a special place for these experiences – you can rotate using member’s homes.  You don’t need a permit.

The biggest thing is to focus on what you can do.  Not on expecting anyone else to help or support, or protect.  The props are gone, or are going.  We don’t need them anymore. We can walk on our own.  We are stronger than we know.

Build bridges, not walls.  You.  Yourself.  Don’t worry about the government. You can’t control them.  Focus on yourself – what you can do.  It is time to stop being passive about your life. It is time to stop being co-dependent.

Worried about access to birth control?  Research natural rhythm methods.  Practice abstinence or non-penetrative sex until you are ready (mentally, emotionally, financially) to have a child.  Learn different ways to be intimate with your partner other than having sex.

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In the room

Just enduring is hard. It is living, but not being alive. It wears us out. The more we endure, the more we get closer to the edge.

You don’t have to be suicidal to get help.  You don’t have to be standing on the ledge. Just being in the room with the open window is enough.

It might help to call and talk to someone who knows how to hear what you are going through in a way that can help. You can’t lose anything by calling – and you might gain a lot – like a new perspective. The person on the other end of the line might know of something that you could do or some resource that will open things up.

Here is the number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the United States: 1-800-273-8255.  There is someone available to listen all the time. It is free and confidential. Please call.  You are important.

Play

I like to play the piano. And when I say “play”, I don’t mean perform. I like to do something I call “noodle doodle”. I don’t have a particular place to go or a particular song I’m trying to re-create. I just enjoy moving my fingers around on the keys and listening to what happens.
How do songs get created? Just like this. Not by trying to perform other people’s compositions. Instead of re-creating Beethoven’s music, I’m creating Betsy’s music.
There is something interesting about how music is taught these days. We are taught how to play other people’s music rather than discovering our own. We are taught the basics of how to operate the instrument and then given sheet music (another skill to be learned) in order to perform someone else’s music. There are several skills that have to be learned before you can even begin to make music. Then there are the dreaded recitals, where you must perform in front of others.
Writing isn’t like this. We don’t expect writers to learn how to hold a pen and then have them copy out the text from “Dick and Jane” as a warm-up. We don’t have recitals where they handwrite or type some famous author’s work in front of an audience. With writing, you write what is in your head and heart. Playing a musical instrument should be the same.
For many people, a musical instrument inspires “blank page fear”. They see it and don’t know what to do. Where to start? Then what happens next? How will it sound? One way around that fear is to play when other people aren’t in the house so they can’t hear what you are doing. Another is to use headphones with an electric keyboard. You can delight in your discoveries all you want without worrying that other people are hearing everything, including the parts that don’t sound too great.
Playing music is like driving on a road without a map. You are guaranteed to find new places that you like. But you are also guaranteed to find a few dead-ends too, and you’ll have to back-track to get out. This isn’t a mistake – it is part of the process. Give yourself the permission to play and discover your own song.

The wolf and the woods.

Perhaps the story of Little Red Riding Hood isn’t about the wolf, but about the woods.

Perhaps it is about taming the woods, making them less dangerous.

Perhaps it is teaching us that forests must be tamed, must be mastered.
That if they cannot be civilized, they must be destroyed.

Is this why large stands of trees are seen as “undeveloped”?

Is this why they are seen as a resource to be exploited, rather than one that serves perfectly as it is?

And why does something have to serve to be considered valuable? How human-centric is that – that if it does not serve us, it can be destroyed?

How much “development” do we need if we no longer have trees to create oxygen for us?

Should there be a limit on how many people per acre there can be in a given community? Should there be a mandatory people to tree ratio to ensure enough oxygen?

And what about the animals living in the forest – untamed, wild? Do they not deserve a place to live? Why is it considered progress to evict them by chopping down their home in order to build new ones for people?

Is this the new colonialism? Is this not what white settlers did to the native people who were already here?

Together we live or die.

We’re all in this life together.

I can heal myself. I can be awake and mindful. I can plant trees or buy land that has them on it already to preserve them – but it won’t matter much if others chop theirs down and build malls (our new temples to the god of consumerism) complete with parking lots dedicated to cars (mobile air destroyers). Each parking space is a gravesite, a memorial to a tree. A garish monument, an epitaph, a mockery of what was there before. The air will get more polluted, and without trees, there won’t be anything to clean it. The Earth will get warmer and warmer, and my efforts won’t matter. While I’ve done what I can to help, others have done more to destroy.

I can protect that stream of water on my hypothetical piece of land, keep it safe from pollution, taking debris out when I arrive there, not putting poisons in, but what about upstream? Their actions affect me. Then, what about the people who buy this land after I die? Who says that they will keep it pristine?

How to live in such a way that it inspires others to live – that is my goal.

What it’s like (art journal page)

what-its-like

A meditation on being estranged from my brother. I have only one sibling, and our parents are dead. I do not talk to him by choice because he is abusive. Even his apologies are abusive. He somehow is able to make it sound like it is my fault that he is abusive to me.  Then, after that, he starts doing the same abusive behavior all over again.  I have given him multiple chances.

I had not planned on working on this topic again – I’ve written about it a lot. But then I was cutting out some pictures and words from magazines for a project at work and came across the one at the top – about how awkward it is to have a sibling you don’t talk to. It isn’t normal or expected. I was initially upset about these words (I felt it in my gut) and thought it too personal to make an art journal page about. But then I realised that is exactly why I needed to do it.

Sometimes it takes a long time for wounds to heal. Sometimes it takes a lot of different ways to do it, too.  Sometimes it doesn’t ever heal, and that is OK too – to sit with the wound and let it be filled with something else, something better.  But first you have to see it, and clean it out all the way.

detail
what-its-like2

I have dashes under the “all of the fun, none of the” collage piece for “fill in the blank”. I’ve written a list of words – good and bad, about what it means to divorce your sibling. I’ve used washi tape to affix it to the back of the page. I use only one side of each page in this journal so that I can cut out and frame / sell / give away a page and so that the ink / watercolor / Sharpie doesn’t bleed through or smear and mess up the other page.

Words that are there  –

(things I’ve lost because I don’t have a sibling I can trust)

Friendship trust history promises future reliability cooperation resource dependability traditions insights help failsafe backup hope

(things I have lost because I’ve gotten rid of an abusive person in my life)

narcissism psychopath being used arrogance delusions subterfuge bullshit megalomania psychological abuse hidden harm manipulation gaslighting lies hypocrisy

———

The craziest thing is that a relative wrote me after a blog post I wrote once about how abusive my brother is.  The relative begged me to make peace with my brother because we were the last relatives that he had on this side.  As if it is my fault that the damage is there.  As if it is up to me to apologize and make amends.  That too is abuse – to expect the victim to “make things right”.

People say “But do you forgive him in your heart?” They are usually Christian.  They think there is some magic formula.  If I “forgive him in my heart” then I’m off the hook.  This is crazy-making.  Sure, I forgive him in the way that I understand a shark can’t help being a shark.  But that doesn’t mean I’m going to go back in the water and let that shark bite me again.

———-

Created around 1/2/17 – Strathmore art journal, magazine clippings (many from Cosmo), gesso, Distress ink, colored pencil

“In my mind” art journal page

“In my mind” completed 1/2/17.   Asian ephemera – printed calligraphy and map, “Hell money” pieces.  Gesso tinted with Distress ink.  “in my mind there are mountains”  – letters printed with “rusty hinge” Distress ink pad.  Stamped images – deer and Celtic. Gel pen. Includes art from Lilian deMello called “Ghost Dance” in bottom left corner.

in-my-mind

Detail –

in-my-mind2

When do lines mean words, and when do they mean places?  What if they are the same? Can words be maps? Can maps be words? Are wrinkles small mountains? Hide and reveal.