Dancing in the rain

It was tomorrow already and the rains had not come. They had chided her for wanting this house, more like a niche, all the way at the end of the alley at the lowest part of the city. The cobblestones directed the water this way, all of it, every last trip and drop. And then it ran, tumbling, gurgling, into the tiny alleyway beside her abode, rushing out to the sea which was the border of not only this city, but this state, this country. It might as well have been the border of the world for all she cared because she had no plans to venture out beyond it. Here is where she had been born and here was where she would die. There was no melancholy in it, no pathos. This was her fate and she was happy to accept it.

It hasn’t always been this way. The usual fits and starts occupied her in her youth, all that you would expect from a child. All of her classmates had wanderlust or itchy feet. All wanted to backpack in some foreign country on their summer breaks or find a way to get a spouse, get a job, get out of this fortress that was their home.

She had followed along, assumed that she was supposed to feel disappointed in her hometown, was supposed to want to leave as fast as possible, but that was what everyone else felt. It wasn’t really about her. It was all about them and what they felt.

It took a lot of her years and a little bit of therapy to understand the difference between her own feelings and those of everyone else. Perhaps she had enmeshed with the world because of her needy parents who had pushed their own anxieties and fears upon her while minimizing her own. Any pain she mentioned was overridden by their own hurts, both physical and psychological. They would tell stories of how it had been worse for them, making her pain small in comparison. And then they would tell her how they’d overcome it – always with a pill. Sometimes it was an aspirin, and sometimes a Xanax. Always legal, but never useful. It was a stroke of luck that pills never helped her or she would have become an addict like them. Every pill they offered her had a double effect, so much so that she started halving them on the sly. Then she just stopped taking them all together.

Which she really needed was love. Empathy would have healed her more than the “medicine” they offered. Meaningful connection, listening, anything other than what she had been given would have helped. It was a violence to her soul for them to say through their actions that her pain was meaningless, and to not teach her ways to heal that didn’t involve pills. But then again, you have to know better to do better. They were all dead now, or just dead to her. They would never learn from her hard-fought lessons.

So now she listened to her inner voice, the voice of her true Parent, the One who had created her and sustained her and brought her to this moment. Once she had started listening for that voice things had gotten a lot simpler.

Not necessarily better, mind you. Her parents hadn’t understood why she had quit college just a month into her sophomore year. Her mother had told her to ride it out, but her father – he understood. He too had been in that same situation decades earlier. Yet he had not been treated fairly or kindly then. In that moment, he knew he had a choice to treat his child now the way he wished he had been treated then.

Her brother had been the most unreasonable, telling her she caused shame to the family name. Meanwhile he was on marriage number three and had been discharged early from the military due to insubordination. But he, like their mother, had never been to college, so they didn’t know how alien it was, how foreign, how impossibly not human and artificial. It wasn’t for sensitive people, those who felt everything, all the time.

So now, all these years later, she was living in a tiny room with just a few possessions and finally she was content. She didn’t need anything, and when well-meaning folks tried to give her more books or craft supplies or ideas, she politely but firmly refused and directed them to donate it to a local charity or take care of it themselves. She didn’t need their ideas for her stories. She had plenty of her own.

But the rain still needed to come. You see, she had chosen this home because of the water. She loved the sound of it. She loved to dance in the rain. It healed her. But the townspeople didn’t understand an adult frolicking in a rainstorm, so she did it in private. This house with its little alleyway provided just that.

Be fierce (poem)

Owning your life
without fear
is a lot of work
for anybody.

It requires
a lot of energy
to get past
the immense gravity of
inertia.

But – the downside
of not living
an authentic life
(meaning the life You
were called to live,
not the one others
think you
should live)

is to slowly sink
into the morass
of an empty and
meaningless
existence.

Unplugged.

If you don’t “get” a piece of art or literature that everybody else raves over, it doesn’t mean you aren’t sophisticated. This applies to everything, really. It may be the latest bestseller, or the latest style, or the latest TV show. Perhaps you’ve tried to understand the appeal. Perhaps you’ve even faked that you like it. Perhaps you’ve hidden what you truly like because it isn’t “in.”

Please stop doing this.

What if everybody else is faking it too?

Wouldn’t it be better if everybody was honest? Sometimes what is popular really isn’t that great. Sometimes what is “high art” really doesn’t make sense. Sometimes what is fashionable is really quite ugly and painful to wear.
It is far better to wake up from the mass delusion of popular culture and just like what you like. Maybe the artwork or the novel or the clothing style doesn’t speak to you because it doesn’t actually have anything to say. It isn’t your lack of class that is the problem.

It is entirely possible that the art piece that you don’t understand is just as incomprehensible to everyone else, and they are faking it too. Perhaps it is just blobs of paint on a canvas, and there is no real meaning there. It is entirely possible that the modern day bestseller really isn’t that good, and the plot is terrible, and the writing is infantile.

There are plenty of famous classic works that aren’t that good that we were forced to read in high school. These works have killed off more passion for reading for fun than they have inspired new readers.

It is perfectly OK to buy all your clothing from Goodwill. It is perfectly OK to drink white zinfandel from a box. Be yourself. By being who you are, instead of buying into the mass delusion of what is “good” (that really isn’t), you’ll actually feel better, and you’ll give other people permission to be themselves too.

How do you divorce yourself from popular culture? For starters, stop watching television. Perhaps that is too radical for you. Try this – pick one night a week and turn the TV off. Read a book. Play a board game. Do something not electronic. The further you can get from the television the better. You’ll no longer have “your” thoughts created for you. Work up to unplugging the TV entirely. You’ll find you have more time to do everything else that you love to do but haven’t found time to do. The TV is a chain around our necks. The same is true for Facebook. Both can be useful tools, but they are more often huge time-sucks. Time is in short supply. Be mindful how you use it, or it will get away from you.

Look at what everybody is raving over and really examine it. The fact that it is popular is a clue that maybe there isn’t really anything there. It is part of the delusion. It has been marketed as “popular,” but not “meaningful.” Don’t waste your precious time on something just because everybody else is doing it.

Western culture has pushed a sense of entitlement on us. We are taught that we deserve the best. We are taught that we need to have the latest, hottest, coolest thing. We then are suffering from our excesses. We go into bankruptcy. We are obese. We have huge houses yet no place to live in them because of all the stuff we have. Our stuff isn’t real. It isn’t what we want. It is what we are told that we want.

We don’t need to have manicures and pedicures. We don’t need to wear makeup. These are things that are pushed on us to teach us that we aren’t good enough on our own. These are prosthesis, when none are needed. We are taught that we need to color our hair so nobody sees the grey. We are taught that we need to do so many things to our bodies so that we look “normal.” We are normal, the way we are.

It is hard at first to break free from the hive mind. But the more you become yourself, the more you help others do the same. I encourage you to be you. You are the only you there is. Celebrate that fact.