Don’t go changin’

One of the worst things a new person can do is start to change things.

Perhaps your way is better. Perhaps the way you did it at your old place was smarter. But suddenly changing things at your new place when it affects everybody else isn’t smart at all. This is especially true if you start changing things without asking anybody else for their opinion.

Say we are all rowing a boat together, and a new person jumps in and starts calling out a different cadence. Or brings a different kind of oar. Or drops the anchor in the middle of the race. It is going to mess everything up. It is going to make the whole thing stop.

It is OK to ask, or suggest, or recommend. It isn’t OK to just do it.

Even if you’ve been there a long time, don’t make sudden changes if it affects other people. If it affects your work area and nobody else works where you are, then have at it. If other people use that space, then don’t.

Sometimes it may seem like we “are doing it this way because we’ve always done it this way.” Sometimes we may be. But sometimes there is a rule that you don’t know about because you’ve not been there long enough to know that rule.

Sometimes people will push back not because of the idea, but because of how it is presented. You have to warm people up to a change. You have to include them. You have to think about their feelings.

It doesn’t matter if the idea is a good one if people aren’t willing to put their energy behind it. Surprising people with sudden change will never result in their support.

The result isn’t more important than the people. If you leave the people out of the equation, you will make a far bigger mess than the one you were trying to fix.

1000 – a picture is worth a thousand words.

I hadn’t planned on writing any fiction. I started my blog as a way to explain the symbolism behind my poetry. Then I couldn’t figure out how to upload pictures to it, so I started writing my observations and opinions instead. Then I started writing poetry because well, my Kindle almost does it for me. But I certainly didn’t plan on writing fiction.

There was that time when I was at the eye doctor’s office and I decided to write about who might have lived in the building that wasn’t there anymore. But that was a fluke. I didn’t mean to do that. I was bored at the office, waiting to be called back. It was entertaining me to invent these people and their lives.

But then it happened again.

I painted a painting, but not anything of reality. I put blobs of paint on a canvas and swirled them around until I liked them. I wasn’t planning anything. I just was playing, receiving. I was letting the Spirit guide me.

I was creating, not re-creating. I wasn’t drawing anything specific. In a true way, I was re-creating, in the sense of relaxing. I was letting go of my ideas of what had to be and just letting it be.

Then I looked at it and saw something. Kind of like a Rorschach test but without the creepy business of being in a doctor’s office. It looked like a scene with murky light. I could see a rock. I started to imagine where this was and who would be seeing it. A story was developing.

I decided to set a limit of a thousand words, because a picture is worth that, right? I started to ask more questions. Where is this? How did the viewer get there? Who is it? What is the character’s backstory?

Soon I had a thousand words. It is a very short story. I thought I was through.

Then a few days later I painted a different scene, unintentionally continuing the story. I’d painted other things in the meantime and they hadn’t triggered more of the story. This did. I wanted to know more so I wrote more.

Now I am interested in this character and I want to know what is going to happen next. I have no idea where this is going. I’m not sure how long it will last.

I’m trying to decide if I should stick with the idea of painting a picture first and then writing a thousand words about it. Or, just write, and don’t set a limit, and don’t worry about the illustration.

Most books are written first and illustrated later. This started off backwards, but it still started. I’m amused by it, but this is normal for me. Things never seem to happen the usual way for me.

I want to write more nonfiction too, but I have limited time. I’m wondering if this is a distraction, too. Is writing a work of fiction a way to avoid doing the hard stuff of thinking about heavy topics?

Or, is it just a different way to write about it? I’ve noticed that even when I create predictive text poems, the same ideas that I wrote about in my longer, thought out pieces seem to come through. And they seem to get more “likes.”

In a way this bums me out. I’d like to think that the stuff I pour my heart and soul into would get more attention. But then, this is a fast paced world. People don’t make time to even chew their food. Why would they read something that is three pages long when they can get the same idea from a short poem?

The thought is what matters. The package doesn’t. And no matter how I package it, the thought shines through, even if I wasn’t planning it.

So I’ve decided to write anyway, whatever format it is. Paint anyway, or not. Just let it be. I just need to make time to do it, whatever it is.

Time and silence

(This was written at last weekend’s silent retreat, at 9:30 am on 1-18-14. I’d come to some understanding after this, but as the struggle is part of it, I’m posting this too.)

I keep looking at the clock. I don’t want to be late. I don’t want to miss anything.

This is so much like how I’m living my life right now. I’m not trusting that I’m on the right path, but I know I am. I’m not living in the moment, but I know I should.

There isn’t much going on. It isn’t like this kind of retreat is jam packed. There’s an optional centering prayer. There’s mealtimes. I’ve got an appointment with a spiritual director. Not much going on at all, in fact. That’s the point.

It isn’t like Cursillo at all. Every moment was scheduled with that. There was a little time for a walk or going to the bathroom, but nothing going for naptime. Even regular sleep was shortened. I think that was very intentional. Sleep deprivation is a cheap way to produce altered reality.

But at Cursillo they at least had a bell. I didn’t have to wonder what to do next or when to do it. The retreat leaders did all the thinking for me. It left me open to do as I needed, and that was to plug directly into the Source. Now, one thing there was that you couldn’t skip anything. Everybody had to be present for a program to start.

I was late to centering prayer this morning. I thought I was early but my clock was wrong. I missed the instructions. I’d gotten them the night before and not read them. I’m pretty sure I was doing it wrong. But I was there and quiet and trying to be receptive.

The word I chose was light. I hadn’t planned on it. It is what came to me.

Sometimes I think just showing up is part of it. I think also being honest with yourself is also part of it. I’d signed up to do yoga last night but I skipped it because I was in the middle of a good write. I found myself resenting stopping what I was doing to go to yoga. It was optional anyway.

I’m learning that just because the retreat is silent doesn’t mean my head is silent. There are a lot of thoughts crowded in there, jockeying for attention.

Poem- being OK with silence

It is about being OK with silence.
With not having words.
With not knowing how to fix it.

With being rooted where you are.
And not worrying about where you are headed.

It’s about celebrating the brokenness
because that is how the Light will get in.

It’s about making the broken bit
the centerpiece.

It’s about making the leftovers
the main course.

It’s about not holding on,
not hoarding
not being a homeless dog gobbling up all the food
for fear
there won’t be more.

And it is about being OK even when I do all these things wrong.

It’s about knowing that I am loved regardless,
not in spite of my brokenness,


because of it.

Because of my brokenness
Jesus came
to let me know
I’m not broken
I’m human
And it’s OK.

Peacemaker and the Process.

I said at one point about a year ago that my goal in life was to be a peacemaker. I’m not doing a very good job of it. Either I need to reapply myself to my goal, or I need to be honest with myself about what my goal really is.

When I said that was my goal I was in the deacon discernment program in the Episcopal Church. It was tedious. It was a lot longer and harder than I thought it would be. I thought that if a person said that they wanted to be helpful to people, they’d be given some training and some oversight and a task right away. Folks would get help in a helpful way, soon. Nope. Their plan was wait three years and think about it. Meanwhile, I’m stumbling along, clueless. Meanwhile, people are still coming to me with their problems and I still don’t really know what to do.

Part of the Process of discerning if you are called by God to be a deacon in that church, and it really is a Process with a capital P, is a series of assignments. You get an assignment once a month. You need a whole month to work on it. The last one that I was given before the Process was put on “pause” (read, thanks for playing, but you can stop now, you aren’t what we are looking for) was about my goals for life. It was to teach me that everything that I’ve already done in my life was training for what I’m going to do. I felt a bit cheated. If I already have all the training and experience, then what do I need this Process for? If I can figure out for myself what I’m being called to then why do I have to go to these meetings every month and bare my soul to these near strangers?

I’m a little bitter, still, about the whole experience. I try not to write about it much because it just opens fresh wounds that I’m trying to heal. But I’m learning that it is important to examine the source of pain in order to heal. This is a new part of my practice. I’m still learning how.

I said that I wanted to be a peacemaker. I said that I’d love to travel around the world and get people who have disagreed for years to actually listen to each other for a change and see things from each other’s perspectives. I thought that peace in the Middle East would be a big coup.

But then I thought I’d need to learn all those languages, because you always lose something in translation. And I thought that they certainly wouldn’t listen to a young American woman. That is three strikes right there.

Is that the yetzer hara speaking again? Is that the voice of the “evil inclination” that is trying to prevent me from doing what I’m called to do? Or is it the voice of reason that points out that is really not my calling?

Who am I kidding? Peacemaker?

I don’t even talk to my brother or my aunt. I don’t go to my previous church in part because of a huge falling out with the priest. And I’m spending Thanksgiving at home with just my husband because of a falling out with his family. My circles just keep getting smaller.

I don’t have a great track record with making peace.

My usual modus operandi is to avoid the problem. If you don’t talk about it, it will go away, right? Don’t talk about the elephant in the room. We herded elephants in my family home. Just thinking about that madness makes my stomach start to cramp up again. Who doesn’t want to avoid pain? Running away seems very healthy. Until it isn’t, and you realize that you’ve run away your whole life and there isn’t anywhere to run away to anymore.

I feel like I was cheating a bit when I said that I wanted to be a peacemaker. It sounds good. It is close to what I want, what I feel called to. I don’t really want what I’m being called to – but then I want nothing else. The idea of not doing what I’ve been put on this Earth for makes me sad. Nothing is more tragic than seeing someone waste her life thinking she has another day, another month, another year to start living it. I don’t want to be that person.

But then I don’t have a word for what I’m called to. That was why I consented to be part of the Process. I figured it would separate the wheat from the chaff. I figured out it would separate the signal from the noise and let me know what I was hearing. I figured if several of us listened together we’d hear better.

Turns out instead of boiling off the stuff that I don’t need, like skimming off the scum from chicken soup that you are reducing to juicy goodness, it just boiled everything over and spilled it on the floor. I didn’t know I had so much in me. I didn’t know that I can’t be contained to one denomination’s rules and rubrics. I didn’t know that one expression of faith wasn’t going to be enough for me. I didn’t know that this process would widen things up instead of narrowing them down.

I know God works through everything. I know that everything I go through is from a loving God who wants the best and is working with and through me to bring forth what is best. I also know it doesn’t feel very fun while it is happening.

Perhaps peacemaker is part of it. Perhaps I need to know what peace isn’t in order to understand what peace is. Recovering addicts make really good counselors. They’ve been there. They know. Perhaps I’ll know what my calling is when I get there. Perhaps God is treating me like I’m a secret agent. Not even I know my mission because that is for the best that way. Perhaps I just need to live my way into it and take one moment at a time, with trust.

Supplies – to paint or not to paint

I have so many unused art supplies it isn’t even funny. I have canvas, paint, and image transfer tools. I have books on how to do new techniques. I have fabric and beads. I have stamps and magazines for collage.
And sometimes they just sit around because I’m afraid of messing it up. I’m afraid of using it wrong and wasting the materials. I have to admit that I’d rather do nothing than do something.
Beads are a little more forgiving. I can restring them if they don’t work out the way I planned. But paint and canvas and collage? Not at all. Once it is used, it is used. That is money wasted if it doesn’t work out. But I’m wasting money by not using it either.
I’m trying to change my mind on this. I’m trying to see it as process, not product. Working on a piece is a process. Every failed attempt is a learning event. Everything I learn from trying something new will end up in teaching me how to do it “right”.
I want everything I make to be perfect. I’m not very good at giving myself second chances and do-overs. I’ve found the way through this with writing. I’m OK with the idea of writing about the same subject from different angles. I’m OK about using the same idea or concept in different pieces.
But that isn’t as easy with artwork. Some pieces are permanent. I could make copies of things and use them, but somehow that lacks legitimacy. There is a risk in using the real thing. There is something about that risk, that legitimacy, that I crave. Yet that is also the very thing that I fear.