Carbon copy

Sometimes it feels that all we are doing is copying each other. We copy style, ideas, and ways to think. We copy so much that we’ve copied our whole lives.

We have copied for our entire lives.
We have copied our lives, entirely.

Nothing is original about our lives when we copy.

After a while we have copied each other so much that we stop being anything at all. Have you ever seen a Xerox copy of a copy of a copy? After a while it stops looking like anything at all. It starts looking like a big mess. There are dots everywhere that weren’t there before.

White people in Western culture have started to think that they need to be Native American or Indian or Chinese or Tibetan. They don’t like their own culture and so they try and emulate another culture. They do this with clothing, with art, with music, with food. Perhaps they think they are showing respect to the other culture by adopting it.

I know, I’ve done this.

Meanwhile the other cultures are trying to emulate Western culture. They dress like us, watch our TV shows and movies, and have even started to try to look like us. Asian girls are getting plastic surgery on their eyes to look more Western and less Asian. There are products in India and Thailand to bleach the skin so they are more white.

We are trying to be them, and they are trying to be us. At what point are we going to meet in the middle? Then we won’t be anything at all.

Perhaps it is best if each person finds her own path. Stop trying to create it from someone else. Stop even trying to make it from your own culture.

Perhaps we need to stop faking it
so we can make it.

We need to start making it so that we are actually ourselves for a change.

Look at plastic surgery in general. What does “normal” look like anymore? Too tall? Too short? Too fat? Too skinny? Boobs too big/small? Butt too big/small? Eyes are too blue/brown/green?

You can “fix” that. But it isn’t a fix. It is a fake. You aren’t broken.

Eventually we will all have homogenized ourselves into one big mess of nothing.

Be yourself. Don’t copy anybody.

alone

I haven’t been alone in a long time. I’m relearning how to do it.

When I moved to my house I planned on learning how to be alone. Then I met Scott and he moved in rather quickly. My planned life of spinsterhood was changed. I’ve not really been alone since, not for any real length of time.

Shortly after we got married he left for the weekend. Literally the weekend after we got back from or honeymoon he left. He drove all the way back to Grandfather Mountain. I cried myself to sleep. It was really hard and it seemed unfair. I’d just gotten him, and then he was going away.

He goes there for working weekends twice a year. It has taken me ten years to adapt to this, to not dread it. Now I’m starting to look forward to it because it means I have more time to work on my painting and writing. I have more time to work on me, instead of working on “us”. I find when we are together, we don’t do our own things. There are a lot of things I am learning I need to do on my own, and I can’t do them with him here. Writing is one. That isn’t a very social action.

Before, when I lived alone in my apartment, I’d be stoned. So I was alone, but not present. I didn’t like being by myself. These days I’m relearning how to be alone but not lonely.

He has to spend time at his parent’s house these days because they are feeble. They really need to go into assisted living. That is a decision for him and his brother. But in the meantime he isn’t around as much as usual. Recently he had to spend the night. I have a suspicion that this will become more and more frequent.

In the past that would have freaked me out. What would I eat? How would I sleep without him there? I’ve gotten very used to him, and I’m kind of using him like a crutch. The more I do that, the less I remember I can walk on my own.

The ability doesn’t leave, or get weaker. We just forget. Not knowing you can do something is more powerful than having a physical disability. If you think you can’t, you won’t even try.

Conversely, if you think you can, you can move mountains.

So I tried. Instead of getting fast food (which isn’t really food) I cooked some vegetables. I had a nice supper and I felt like I had invited myself to a party and the guest was me.

I like that feeling. I’m actually looking forward to him not being here again so I can treat myself again to my own cooking, and have time to craft or read whatever I want.

Reconcile

Reconciliation is an important concept. It is where you try to make things right. It is important as a means to bring forth peace and understanding. It is not healthy to hold a grudge or be angry. Reconciliation is a way to release that. It is more than forgiveness. It is a healing, where two people are made harmonious.

Jesus says in Matthew 18:15
15 If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. (Amplified Bible)

He also says in Matthew 5:21-24
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. (NRSV)

Sometimes “brother” is translated as “another member of the church” but it can simply mean any other person.

We are called to be peacemakers and healers. The change in the world starts with us.

But what does it mean to practice reconciliation? You reconcile your bank balance every month. Money going out and money coming in needs to balance what the bank says you have and what you say you have. If there is a discrepancy, it needs to be found. Otherwise your account is in danger of being overdrawn.

The same is true with relationships.

I had a boss for 13 years who alternated between being a bully and a tyrant. She was horrible to work with. She wasn’t my direct supervisor so I didn’t have to deal with her that much, but it was enough. She was constantly in a bad mood. She was always angry, and would make up oppressive rules that had nothing to do with library policy. She would then change the rules and yell at us for breaking them. She was territorial. She put up passive-aggressive notes all the time. She was the master of psychological warfare.

When she announced she was going to retire, she said to all of us that she had been hard on us because she wanted us to be our best. It was for our own good that she had yelled at us for all that time.

I had suffered from her actions. I still have a little bit of leftover stress from her. There are many unhealthy habits I need to unlearn from dealing with her.

Shortly before she retired I asked if I could meet with her. I went into her office to talk. Now – even her office is oppressive. It is a small room with a huge desk. A chair for the visitor is wedged between the wall and her desk. It is very claustrophobic. I’m sure it is intentional. She was very aware of how to physically intimidate people. She did it way too often for it to be accidental. There is another chair that is slightly better positioned, but it always has her bag in it. I chose that one. I moved her bag to the floor. I talked to her for a little, trying to explain how I felt. I’d read a lot about boundaries and codependency recently. “Toxic Parents” was really helpful for knowing how to deal with her. It would have helped if I’d read these years earlier, but late is better than never.

There is only so much you can say in 30 minutes when there was 13 years of abuse. I had to be concise, and stay on task. I had to stay strong.

I reminded her of her statement – that she had been hard on us for our own good. I said – “Would it have been so hard to say “thank you” every now and then?” That got her. She had no answer for that. We never heard “thank you”. We only heard from her when we screwed up, which to her was often in her opinion. And mostly what we screwed up had nothing to do with our work. She was territorial. We used the “wrong” trash can. We didn’t cover our food in the microwave. We had boxes on top of our lockers. We contacted someone downtown at the Main library about anything.

She was terrified of any information leaving the building. She was being watched by Main administration. They knew how abusive she was. Yet they did nothing, because if they did she would have pulled the race card. But that is another post, for another day. We got abused because they were afraid.

I’m glad I talked to her. In the end, she didn’t come to understand anything. In the end, she started to turn it all back on me and make everything my fault. In the end, she was the same horrible person she always had been. I think that her problem is that she’s been a bully her whole life and she has never had anyone stand up to her and say “you can’t treat people like this.”

In the end, I walked away. I cried in the bathroom. I didn’t give her the pleasure of seeing me cry.

In the end, I’m glad that I did it. Nothing changed in her, but something changed in me. I spoke up. I told her how harmful she had been to me (and to all of us).

Now, when am I obliged to reconcile?

There is a lady at church who felt very hurt by my post “My Problem With Church”. She read it, and instead of talking to me about it (like Jesus tells us to do) she called the priest. The priest attacked me. I’ve not been back to church since. But this lady also sent me a very rambling letter about the post. She also used to go to my library, but I’ve not seen her since.

Do I have to reconcile with her? I don’t have a problem with her. She has a problem with me.

My post wasn’t about her, or her ministry. She is in charge of the Pastoral Care department. These are the people who take care of the people who are members of the church. This includes the elderly who need trips to the doctor or transportation to church. They visit the sick as well. This is to supplement what the priest is supposed to do.

My post had pointed out that church – not just that church, but all churches – is called to take care of everybody – not just those people who are members. Taking care of just the people in church makes it a club. Jesus tells us that we are supposed to help everybody.

Then there is a guy who was very abusive to me. He is a patron of the library. He threatened me. My boss knew about it, but he is still allowed in the building. Do I reconcile with him? Do I try to make peace with him? I am not the aggressor. He is.

At what point is it healthy for me to take care of everybody else’s feelings? At what point am I supposed to let them come to me if they have a problem with me?

I can understand reconciliation when it comes to making peace when I have wronged someone. I’m just not sure how it works if someone has wronged me, or if someone got their feelings hurt and it wasn’t intentional. Sometimes people need to work on their own emotional problems. Sometimes trying to fix it just causes more problems and brings up more pain for them.

Reconciliation is great, but it doesn’t come with any real instructions. And it certainly isn’t easy. Am I trying to avoid reconciliation because it is hard? Am I trying to make the other person’s responsibility because I just don’t want to do the work?

Weak back, strong God

I’m lying on my back writing this. Sitting up is very tiring because it is painful. But I still want to write. I have my Kindle to write with. I can prop it up on my chest. At this angle I can type with two fingers. It works, albeit a little more slowly. It is like texting, but longer, and hopefully more meaningful.

When I was at the chiropractor’s office yesterday, I asked what caused my slipped disc. The doctor sat down and drew me a diagram. He was very patient and kind and made sure I understood everything. He is also Christian. It is obvious from not only the signs around the office but also in his demeanor.

When he was drawing the diagram he said that God made the front part of our body strong, while the back part is weak. I asked him why God made it that way. He smiled and said he could ask God when he gets to meet Him, but he suspects he’ll have other questions to ask then. He was talking about when he died.

I said we can ask God now. We don’t have to wait until we die. God is always with us, always available to us.

God is present to everybody, regardless of education or training. You don’t have to be ordained to talk with God. Every person has a direct line. It may take a while to get a clear connection, but it is always there. You strengthen the connection by daily Bible reading and prayer. It is just like exercise. It takes effort and work and diligence. You get better at it the more you do it.

I think this is one of the biggest differences with the Christian faith. God came down here, to be among us, to live and die as one of us. It isn’t so much about us having a personal relationship with Jesus, as it is about God through the incarnation of Jesus having a personal relationship with us.

God loves us all the time, everywhere, and however we are.
God wants to connect with each one of us right now.

So I prayed. I asked God why our back muscles are designed to be weaker than our front muscles. The answer I got back is that it is for the same reason we don’t have eyes on the back of our heads. It is to make us have to depend on each other.

“No man is an island.” We aren’t built to be independent. We must learn how to rely on each other. We are stronger when we work together. We are better off when we share life together. We are better off when we ask for help instead of trying to do everything on our own.

Think of emperor penguins. They huddle together to stay warm and alive in the cold arctic winds. When the couples have an egg, one has to stay with the group, crouching on the egg to keep it warm while the other goes to get food. Then they switch. They can’t do it alone.

We are taught by society to be independent, but God constantly teaches that we are stronger if we are interdependent. God constantly teaches us that we must rely on each other. We have to reach out. We have to ask for help. We can’t do it alone.

Thankfully we aren’t alone.

Thankfully there are always people who are willing and able to help. They might not be who we expect, or who we want, but that is also part of the learning process.

Thankfully we also have a loving God, who constantly teaches us, who eternally loves us, and is always available to us.

Poem – ocean dream, and boundaries

I had a dream I was walking in an alien land,
foreign, unknown, different.
No map, no guide.

I found a necklace, an artifact
that spoke of the souls of the place.
It spoke of the time before,
to the spirits that were there, then.
It was a guide, of sorts,
a map of where I was but not a map
of where to go.

As I walked under an old abandoned building
– under, because it was like an oil rig in the sea,
like a house by the shore built on stilts,
the necklace spoke.

It spoke with the voice of an octopus long past.
She spoke to me of that place
of the history,
of what was there in the time before.

I got a sense of green,
the color green of the light
of a July day married with the sea.
The color green
of seaweed and sand,
of silvery fish and shimmering sharks.

It was warm, yet cool,
and safe only because I wasn’t there at that time.
The octopus spoke to me of the time before the house,
when she was there with her octopus friends,
looking up, seeing the sky through the lens of
ocean water.

Now it is desert.
Deserted.
Dry.
Now nothing swims here,
not even a goldfish in a bowl
swimming round and round and round
with no way out.

People moved in after the sea got smaller.
They had a beachside view.
They built their house on stilts
to protect against the sea’s inevitable rise.
They thought that the sea might attack their house,
never realizing that they were the interlopers,
they were the trespassers.

But there was no clash, no war.
The sea never rose.
The sea slunk away
like a bad dog,
like a shamed child.
The sea retreated,
like an abandoned army.

The people in the house saw the
desert begin to bloom around
their seaside resort,
their former seaside resort,
and they too retreated.
They left for another test of wills
on another shoreline,
another boundary.

Why must we explore only to destroy?
Why must we encounter the other
only to suppress, to dominate, to make docile?

These boundaries of place and people are the same to us.

The other is not the enemy,
whether it be the ocean, a forest,
a religion, a language, a culture.

When we try to shape the other
into ourselves
we both lose.

It speaks to our fear
that if it is not-us,
then either they
or we
are wrong.

Time to change that perception.
Here’s to new glasses, new eyes.

Here’s to boundaries becoming welcome spaces
where we encounter ourselves,
just with different faces.

Amen.

Building bridges rather than bombs.

I read a headline recently. “What are the West’s military options in Syria?”

Why military? Why not diplomatic? This is in a time where we celebrate the lady who talked down the gunman at the school. No weapons, just words.

Why can’t we be known for our peace rather than our pistols? Why do we have to be the policemen of the world?

I think there are many Americans who are tired of our tax money being spent on the military, and would rather money be spent on education, or food, or infrastructure. I think there are many of us who would rather our money be spent on filling people up with food rather than blowing them up with bombs.

Give peace a chance, indeed. Teach compassion. Teach people how to talk with each other. Teach love. And I don’t mean love under duress. I mean love that comes from a place where people are comfortable being themselves, and comfortable with other people being themselves. There is more to peace than getting everybody to be the same. That isn’t the goal. Peace that way is false.

How about peace that involves everybody being able to say what they feel from a position of safety and trust? They don’t have to agree, just listen, and agree to disagree. There is a lot of maturity in that.

How about peace that means that everybody has their basic needs met first – like food, and water, and housing, and energy, and education?

Peace that comes at the end of a gun isn’t. It creates secrecy, and resentment, and fear. It creates lies.

Peace that comes from books and knowledge is real.

It is time to rethink the way we have always done things, because it hasn’t worked.

Lessons from kindergarten – you can’t do your own thing.

Here’s another reflection from kindergarten. Part of why it is so hard is that you can’t do your own thing. Well, you can, within limits. You can pick what color you want use, but you have to hold the crayon in your hand and you have to draw what you are assigned to draw. You can write whatever words you want, but they have to be about the topic that is assigned.

It is about learning to be in community. It is about learning to dampen down your individuality. Sure, you are still you. Sure, you might figure out how to be an individual within the confines of the assignment. But you can’t do your own thing all the time anymore.

This is really hard if you are an only child or if you have doting parents. You think that the world revolves around you. You think that you are special. And yes, you are special. But so is everybody else.

Part of being in kindergarten is that there are a lot of other people there. Sometimes there are over 20 other kids who are also trying to learn the alphabet and count to 100. A good teacher makes these tasks seem like games, but they aren’t. They are deadly serious things. If you can’t read and write, you are doomed. If you can’t use numbers, you are in big trouble. You can fake it for quite a while, but after that if you can’t do these basic things you are sorely limited as to what kinds of jobs you can get. Because of that, you are limited to where you can live because you can’t afford good housing. Because of that it will affect the kind of school your child will go to. If you can’t master reading and numbers your whole life is affected. School is the key that unlocks a lot of doors.

Another part of being in kindergarten is that you have to learn how to get along with others. Remember how you are special, and so is everybody else? A lot of kindergarten is behavior modification. You have to learn how to sit still so that everybody can see and hear the teacher. You have to learn to keep your hands to yourself. You have to learn how to share. If you are a child who is used to having her own way all the time or bossing around younger siblings then this is going to be a hard time with a lot of adjustments.

Some lessons are harder to learn because they aren’t spelled out.

Some children take toys from each other. Some children hit each other. Some cut line. Some say mean things. There are a lot of adults who do these things too. I have a suspicion that if they learned better as five year olds they would do better as fifty year olds.

I’m all for individuality. I think it is important to be the person that God made you to be. But I think it is also important to learn how to fit into society. I’ve read that in Japanese culture there is no word for “privacy”. It just isn’t a concept that exists. I’ve heard that part of that is because there are so many people living in such a small area that privacy just can’t happen. It is essential that everybody conform to a social standard. We aren’t as crowded here in America, but we certainly aren’t spread out either. In the “wild west” times people were much more spread out and there was much more individuality. People took the law into their own hands. When more people move into an area, that just doesn’t work out and it is time to establish some sort of authority. People had to learn to let the sheriff handle disputes rather than do it themselves.

Going to school teaches you to submit to authority, to a teacher, to rules. It teaches you how to not disturb others. You might learn language, math, history, and science too.

It doesn’t teach you how to be yourself, but be honest – nobody can teach you how to be yourself. Only you can figure that out.

On stained glass windows – part one.

I read a meditation recently that said that stained glass windows are made of broken and imperfect pieces, that when put together make a beautiful picture. The meditation went on to express that this is the same as us in the hands of God – that we are broken and imperfect, but when we join together, God makes us into something beautiful.

Except it doesn’t work like that. Stained glass windows aren’t made from broken and imperfect pieces. There is nothing random about what happens. Each piece is specially cut for the job. The entire picture is known at the beginning, and each piece is planned out by a master craftperson. The pieces aren’t broken. There are no accidents. They may look irregular, and only make sense once they are assembled into the whole, but there is nothing random about the pieces. They were cut into that shape for a reason.

Each one of us is odd, and has irregular edges. We are sharp in places, emotionally and mentally. We are round in places too. We are weird and random sometimes. But we are made that way. We were created, each of us, to be exactly the way we are. When God joins us together we can be shaped into something pretty amazing.

But then there is more to stained glass windows. They come alive when light is shining through them. This, metaphorically, is the light of God. The windows can have a beautiful picture of an instructive scene, but it doesn’t catch your eye and inspire you until it is lit up with sunlight. We too are the same. We transform when we are lit up by God.

When we allow God to get involved in our lives we are changed. We are stronger, better, brighter. We can join together to defeat hunger, cure diseases, and make the world better. We can join together to stop war. God (or the Creator, or Spirit) is the light that sparks us as individuals, and the glue that holds us individuals together.

So sure – go with that stained glass image. But know that there is nothing accidental, and that the pieces aren’t irregular or broken. We are made the way we are because that is the way we are needed.

Flux (the only constant is change)

I wake up hot at 2:30 or 3 these days. Hot in body and mind. I’ve done this before. The first time was three years ago. I was afraid I was having heart problems. Turns out a racing heart and mind is part of perimenopause.

But this is also really cool. I get ideas at this time. I get ideas on things to write about. Ideas come together, ideas that I’ve been chewing on for years and never seen the connection. I had an English teacher in college who would inspire the same kind of connections. This is that, but without the tuition fee and way too early in the day.

I’ve noticed that “Oh Mani Padme Hum” is the same as “Namaste”. It is a greeting or acknowledging of energy. It is noticing potentiality. It is acknowledging that now isn’t always. What you see isn’t what you get.

I had a vision of a small girl in my dream tonight. She came up to me, with raven black hair falling past her shoulders. She smiled an open smile and held out her left hand to me. In her hand was a glass vial, maybe an inch long. I looked and I saw two brown coils, like tiny brown worms, like strands of chromosomes, flex and twine in their pulses. I understood this. All is in flux, all is movement. The only constant is change.

I remember that it is essential to not define something as “good” or “bad” – it just is. We see it as one or the other based on our human perspective, but we don’t have the whole picture. We can’t. Ever.

God is the Alpha and Omega and we cannot fully comprehend that. We want absolutes, yes/no, yin/yang. Yes, God is the beginning and the end, so God is bigger than we can comprehend. We are just a blip, a speck.

But it also means that God is dual natured – God is also unified.

Out divided selves cannot comprehend this. We don’t have words for it and we can’t experience this.

It is satori.

It is stopping time. It is Zen. It is the right now and being OK with things as is, with no definition. No definition means no words, but it also means no boundaries – it all gets a little fuzzy around the edges, because there aren’t any edges any more.

Sometimes things are clearer if you take off your glasses.

There is a bird’s nest at the top of the hill in my back yard. I noticed the nest the last time I was trimming the shrubs up there. I looked at the nest and the eggs over the course of a week and they looked abandoned.

I was sad about the eggs in the trees when I realized they weren’t changing. I wanted them to change, to become birds. I feared that my cutting the brush in that area had caused the parents to abandon the nest. I felt that it was bad energy, especially for that area.

That area is special. It has a small patio area that my husband put in. It is a place to sit, just big enough for two. It isn’t quite big enough to do yoga. Yet.

These are the star stones. This is in honor of Madeline L’Engle’s “Wrinkle in Time” series. This is where I sit to talk to God when I am at home, outside, just like her characters did.

Dead birds, unborn birds would be bad, right?

But the “bad” of Judas betraying Jesus was preordained. It was what had to happen. It the same as Rumi’s “The Guest House”, it is the same as the Chinese story of the man, the boy, and the horse.

It just is.

And it is all energy, “good” and “bad”.

How human of us to see things only from our perspective, from how it benefits us.

I recently found a pale blue egg away from its nest, dented, alone. It would become welcome food for ants and other unknown creatures. And it caused me to stop and think, and grieve a little.

Decay leads to new life. It can’t all be all go go go.

Yoga has rests built into it. The music is the space between the notes.

We can even learn from the exhale. We can’t always breathe in.

The only constant is change.

On giving thanks for food

You don’t pray before eating to bless the food. You pray to give thanks. You pray to keep yourself in check. You pray to remain mindful.

How many people were involved in getting that food to you? The farmer who owns the land. The worker who harvested it. The trucker who transported it to the store. The stocker and the clerk at the store. Or perhaps you go to the farmers market? There are many people involved no matter where you buy your food.

That food doesn’t just happen. It didn’t magically appear in front of you.

If you eat in a restaurant, there’s the manager, the chef, and the server.

Many many people are responsible for this food that you are enjoying. Be mindful of them. Give thanks for them. Send them a blessing.

Then there are others. The bees who pollinated the flowers that grew into the fruit you eat. The worms and ants who loosen the soil so the roots can get water. The sun. The rain. Even if you grow your own food, you aren’t the only one involved.

We are just a tiny part of this, and it is through collective effort that we are able to enjoy the life that we have.

It is good to stop and be mindful of this. It is good to not take anything for granted. It is good to be in a constant state of thankfulness.

Dear God,
Bless this food that it may heal me, and through me, I may heal the world. Amen.