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.

Mixed Messages

“People and things don’t stop our pain or heal us. In recovery, we learned that this is our job, and we can do it by using our resources: ourselves, our higher power, our support systems, and our recovery program.” — From “The Language of Letting Go: daily meditations for codependents” by Melody Beattie

I saw this picture recently.
mixed message

The title of the article is “Her tattoo contains a hidden message, and it started an important conversation.” The tattoo is an ambigram – a message that can be read upside down as well as right-side up. In this case, the message is different when read upside down. The normal way it is viewed by others says “I’m fine”, while the way that she sees it says “Save me”.

The article says that she got it as a way of dealing with her depression. It is her way of asking for help. But there is something very wrong about this. It is passive. Help does not come from other people. If you give away your power to others, you will continually feel powerless.

I find it significant that “Save me” is the view from her perspective. Maybe she will finally read it that way – that she is the only one who can save herself.

She is the one who makes choices.
She can choose
to get enough sleep,
eat healthy food,
exercise,
avoid negative people,
find a job that is meaningful,
learn to speak her truth.

She can choose,
and must,
for her own survival.

Being healthy is a choice, and something each person must do for themselves.

Depression is a symptom, not a disease. It is the result of feeling powerless, disconnected, alone. It is a sign of not owning your own power, using your own voice. The way out of it is not to ask others to save you, but to save yourself. If others have to rescue you, you aren’t healed. They cannot do your work for you.

The giving away of power to others is part of the disease, the dis-ease. Ease, comfort, health, comes from taking responsibility for your own life.

You can ask for help to learn different ways of healing yourself, but you cannot expect others to do it for you. You must own your own power. You must be your own best friend. You must save yourself. This is the cure.

Stop being passive about your life.
Stop expecting others to rescue you.

Rise up, not riot

The riots in Ferguson speak to the pain and frustration that the black community feels. Yet they are saying the wrong thing. They are saying that violence and destruction is standard operating procedure for the black community.

We all know that isn’t so. We all know that the majority of our black neighbors are kind, hard-working and polite. In short, they aren’t thugs and hoodlums. Sadly though, good doesn’t sell in the news, so we don’t see their stories on the evening news. The only problem is that there are thugs and hoodlums. They aren’t just stories. The only problem is that there are “baby daddies” and “welfare moms” aplenty. Clichés come from reality. The actions of the few speak for the whole and they drag down everybody.

When college educated black youths are made fun of for “talking white” when they speak clearly it drags down everybody. When some black employees “play the race card” to stay employed even though they are doing half the work (or only there half the time) it drags down everybody.

Yes, it is time to rise up but not with riots and destruction. If the black community wants to make a real change, to be really heard, there needs to be a collective decision to “check yourself before you wreck yourself”.

Use the library to get books not DVDs. And by books I mean educational and uplifting ones, not ones that teach the same old script of “thug meets girl, thug uses girl”. The entire genre of “urban erotic fiction” is dumbing-down black women and enslaving their hearts and minds.

Celebrate education rather than ignorance. Sure misery loves company but miserable people aren’t good to hang out with. Rise up past the peer pressure and the collective dumbing down of our society.

Get healthy. Good health leads to strong minds and spirits. Eat better. Exercise. All these things are doable even with limited means. If we focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t we get free. If we look for openings rather than closed doors we will see them. Quit smoking and go for a walk instead. Avoid all sugar, caffeine and fried and salty foods. These socially accepted addictions are dragging down us all.

Sure we have a race problem in America. Sure we have a long way to go. Sure there have been problems on both sides of the race wall. Sure people are going to say that I don’t get it because I’m white and have white privilege.

Yet I do know what it is like to feel dragged down by my peers who wanted me to be as petty and lazy as them, the worst version of lowest common denominator. I got a college degree and they are still working in fast food. I do know what it is like to have a learning disability and rise up above it through hard work. It is why I now tutor learning-disabled kindergartners. I do know what it is like to be obese and addicted to drugs. It is why I write now to show there is a way out.

It isn’t easy to change but it is possible. Change starts one step at a time, one person at a time. The strong have to encourage the week. Good deeds and efforts soon start to outweigh the bad and momentum is achieved.

All this may sound like I’m blaming the black community when it was certainly the fault of police who shoot unarmed, unresisting black youths. It is certainly the fault of the judicial system that lets the guilty go free. We need to work on that too but that will take longer. Right now the first and best change has to start from within. Each individual has to decide to stand up and walk away from the old rules and the old clichés. Each individual needs to lift up everybody else with their actions. It is about caring for yourself and our community through the true empowerment that comes from education and health.

New age newspeak? Speaking up, empathy, and the new rules of communication.

I read this recently as the caption to a picture on a friend’s post.

“My child,” The Goddess said. “When you have to sacrifice expressing your feelings for the fear of the reaction of another, this is hiding your truth and deeply damaging to your value. Your feelings are worthy. Your thoughts and expressions deserve to be brought into light. It is not our job to rule how another takes our truth, that is theirs to figure out and not for us to absorb. You need only to express yourself fully. That is what you are here to bring into being.” ~Ara

I’m really conflicted by this.

Sure, we need to stop being so sensitive. We need to express our true feelings. If we spend our lives suppressing ourselves, our very natures, then we are constantly living a lie. It is important that we be who we truly are. This way we are truly alive.

There is a way of thinking these days that goes like this – If we are honest and real, it gives everyone else around us permission to be honest and real too.

Until it doesn’t.

Being honest and real can scare people off. It can be intimidating and overwhelming. It can be too much, too soon.

Are we supposed to tell people that we are recovering addicts within the first week we work with them? Are we supposed to tell people about the abuse we received as children on our first date? Are we supposed to tell people all of our misfortunes, misgivings, and mistakes?

Is that kind? It is honest, sure. It is real, sure. But is it real good, or real kind?

How much of this new desire to “actualize the self” is being fueled by the old tendency to be selfish and self-centered? We have to consider other’s feelings when we speak. We have to be kind. We have to live and work together as a community, as a world.

If every instrument plays whatever it wants to play in the orchestra, the result will sound terrible. If every instrument plays as loud as it can, not caring about the other instruments being heard, it will be a cacophony. Only when the instruments work together will we have beauty and harmony. Each has their part and their place, and they work together to create something beautiful.

Many people have played small, for a long time. It is important that each person feel able to speak up and share from their hearts. But it cannot be at the sacrifice of other people’s hearts.

On women’s clothing.

Women’s clothing is often shoddily made. Thin fabric, loosely stitched – it doesn’t last more than a season. That is part of the design because that style is out of date by then anyway. So women are constantly buying more clothes.

For some, that isn’t a problem. Many women practice “retail therapy” and go shopping when they feel down. Many women have closets full of clothes that they have worn only once, if at all.

This is a society encouraged addiction, and it is destroying us. We are being distracted from what is real.

Women’s energy is being diverted, diluted, disturbed.

Our time, our effort, our money is all the same. It is all energy.

When we are encouraged by society to shop, we don’t have time to think. We don’t look at what we are trying to “treat” in the sense of “cure” when we practice “retail therapy”. We treat ourselves with treats. We buy things instead of addressing our problems.

I know, from being a person in recovery that only causes more problems.

Also, when we are forced to shop for clothing because it falls apart or because it is out of style, we have less money for real things. We’ve also wasted our precious time not only shopping but also at work earning that money.

Imagine with me a world where women are freed from the social expectation to be beautiful and fashionable. Think how much time, money, and energy they would have to do things that matter, be people that matter.

Imagine the art that would be created. The diplomacy that would happen. The inventions, the solutions, the discoveries.

We have to be the ones to make this shift. We have to be mindful of how we are spending our time, money, and energy. This isn’t an “us and them” thing. This is just an “us” thing. It doesn’t matter who sold us this idea. It matters that we bought it. It is time to return it, like the broken merchandise it is.