Category Archives: Bio
I’ve been thinking a lot about support. I’ve looked at some of the ways I give support, the ways I ask (or don’t ask) for support, and about the kind of support I need. I’d like to think I’m aware of how much support I am given in my daily life. I am grateful for that support.
I see more and more posting on social media in judgement of support. Things like, “If you don’t march you can’t say you support the cause.” or “Marching doesn’t do anything, if you really want to support change….” My feed is full of articles about what it means to be an ally, and what it doesn’t. I am watching a heated and emotional battle that demands choosing sides. Once you’ve chosen a side ANY sympathy, compassion, or points given to the other side is a betrayal. There is no room for exploring nuance in that kind of “debate.”
I have often been offered support that really wasn’t very supportive. There are a lot of reasons that happens. Sometimes I’m just not ready to accept support. Sometimes I’m not willing to be vulnerable enough to need support from that particular person. Sometimes it’s help for something I’m quite capable of doing myself (as long as I don’t need to do that other thing I really can’t do alone.) I have been offered support that makes demands of me. I have been offered support that is well intentioned but not in my best interest.
Most of the time I still find a way to be grateful for the intention. However, I have also been known to explode and shut my “supporters” down. Over the years I’ve come to recognize that most people offer support based on their experience. They offer the kind of comfort they would like. They offer the kind of hands on labor they are comfortable with, or skilled at. They present things they have been told worked for other people they know in “the same” shape.
Sometimes people offer support to feed their own egos. Sometimes people are sure they know best, and they won’t listen. But most people are willing and able to have a conversation about support, and what that might look like in any particular situation. The problem is, often when support is necessary the conversation itself becomes too much for the person in need to handle.
Sometimes one of the best ways to be supportive is to be willing to intervene and educate the well intentioned but misguided supporters. I’ve done that. This week I’ve seen that done for me. It doesn’t always help, but it is very much appreciated.
Routines, we all have them. From the little rituals that get us going in the morning to the major cleaning, exercising, and vacation planning our routines help us get things done. The problem is that we can be assured that our routines will, at some point, be disrupted.
Disruptions come in many forms. An illness or injury can throw routines into a jumble. Taking a trip or having guests will put pressure on our schedules. Even something as simple as a change in the weather, or season, can throw a routine into chaos.
I feel as though I’ve been living in the land of disrupted routines. Even when I think I have a handle on it something else seems to rear its ugly head and throw me off my balance. I’ve been out of town (and not in a restful, renewing or inspiring way). I’ve been dealing with allergies (spring is early this year). I’m back into the remodeling project and even just planning has me throwing my hands in the air screaming.
I’ve missed two weeks of blogging. The first week I new I was likely to miss. Out of town and no internet handy it was unlikely I would get to it and didn’t make it a priority. The second week I was still reeling from the effects of having my routines disrupted, again and again.
I talk about Daily Practice a lot. Although Daily Practice can be part of the routine, I make a distinction for it. Daily Practice, for me, is a small action with a big impact. When I take up a Daily Practice it becomes a top priority, a commitment. Daily Practice requires an attention, and often an attitude shift.
In the crazy of my world, with my routines all a jumble, I hold on to my Daily Practice like a lifeline. I may not be as efficient, or effective, but I still do it. I may not manage to get it done in it’s “normal” timeframe, but I still do it. I may start with “oh shit, I have to do that.” but I do it.
This is one of the many reasons for taking up Daily Practice. Those small things can keep us going when we are physically, emotionally, and mentally out of sorts. They become a foundation from which we can build a new routine. They are a simple constant in an ever changing complex world.
It was a grey and cold and rainy week. I’ve got a chill that I can’t seem to shake, even when the sun peeks its head out. I’m doing all the “celebration of spring” things you might expect, but I’m still not feeling it.
This is actually the hardest time of the year for many traditional peoples. The stores are gone and the new food, spring’s promise, has not actually arrived. Pulling the sap from the trees was probably originally an act of desperation. Weather transitions are not easy either, and in Minnesota those transitions can swing very broadly and with little warning. 60 degrees one day and snow the next is not unheard of here.
I’m trying to pay attention and really honor the small things. The little delights and surprises in my days. I met a friend last week and she said, “Do you want to go out for lunch?” YES! I made a lovely venison stew and brought it to share for dinner with another friend. I threw colored eggs in the river (a magical act that’s part of my Tradition’s practices for the season) and came across a lovely shrine. I think it’s Hanuman the Hindu God who represents devotion and intellect. Hmmmmm……..
I also saw a bunny in a knot of wood. It made me smile, after all it is the season. I picked up my pastel colored M&M’s the last time I went to the store and I’ve been eyeing the Cadbury eggs.
This morning I went to http://gildasclubtwincities.org for the Euro Cafe Social. What a treat to have breakfast made for me. This is an occasional event for members to meet and get to know each other. The origins of the Euro Cafe were with a member, who most of us knew as Uncle Jack. He lobbied for more social events and cooked for the first several Euro Cafe’s.
Uncle Jack loved to cook, had a great sense of humor and always had a hug for anyone who needed it. He was the one who noticed the day I got my diagnosis of endometrial cancer. He didn’t ask what was going on, just if I needed anything and gave me the hug I asked for unconditionally. Working at Gilda’s we do lose members to cancer, but Jack’s memory will live on and I’m honored to have known him.
That sweet bitter sweet is very much my mood of late. It’s how I’m feeling about the changing seasons and about the world in general. Talking to people it seems like it’s a feeling that’s going around. How are you coping?
Daylight savings time is kicking my ass. I am not a snooze alarm fan. However, given the opportunity I will occasionally go back to bed for 10 minutes, or 20, or 40……. This morning I still want to go back to bed even though I’ve been really up for over an hour.
Daylight savings time is a great example of our country ignoring the facts in favor of a belief. With daylight savings we don’t even share a common belief! We just all have our rationalizations. We have daylight savings because it’s better for the school children to wait for the morning bus in the light. We have daylight savings because it save energy. We have daylight savings because it’s better for the farmers. We have daylight savings so that there is more daylight during our waking hours. We have daylight savings because it “saves” daylight.
I call bullshit! Sure it’s better for kids to wait for busses in the light rather than in the darkness. But weigh that against bus drivers whose internal clocks are all messed up and whose sleep schedule has been disrupted. Maybe daylight savings saves energy, maybe it doesn’t. Turning off the lights when we’re not using them probably saves a lot more. How much energy do we waste making our kids drive over to change the clocks on the electronics for us because we can’t figure out how to do it ourselves?
As for “the farmers” there are centuries of farmers doing what they need to do when they need to do it, regardless of the time of day. Furthermore I know (and so does anyone whose pets expect to be fed at a certain time of day) that animals are not cool with us arbitrarily changing the schedule. Frankly, humans are not cool with this arbitrary change of the schedule. The entire nation has jet lag. Coffee shops across the country have sales because they know the regular one cup isn’t going to cut it today.
I’d say it’s probably worse because of the weather. We got a blanket of snow yesterday. But spring and fall weather is always variable! The stress of the seasonal changes aren’t enough, so let’s add another random factor into the mix? Does that sound like a good plan?
But we stick with Daylight savings, because we’ve “always done it that way” (also not true) or because we believe one of those crazy rationalizations. I’d say “wake up people” except that I can’t wake up. My sleep schedule’s out of wack and all I want to do is curl up and go back to bed.
We all need an occasional “time out” to renew our spirits. Often times this is our hope when we take a vacation. It’s clearly a goal when we go on a retreat. But what may serve to renew us can vary from person to person and even across an individual’s lifetime.
I have known for a long time that I’ve needed a “get-away”. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to travel and take a break from the daily grind. Unfortunately for my renewal meter they haven’t really helped. Most of the traveling I’ve done in the past 5 years has been to promote my writing. They’ve been working vacations. I may not have had Orion along, I may have gotten inspired, but I haven’t had that sense of renewal.
I’ve been looking at a “real” vacation for awhile now. I had plans to go to Italy last fall, but they went by the wayside as I’ve been struggling to find a way to do home repairs. I haven’t given up. I’m still studying the language. But I also know that if I’m going to spend that kind of money I want to take time. If I take enough time then I also need to take Orion. That’s great for travel, but it’s not renewal.
As a birthday present to myself I gave myself a long weekend. Orion went to his Weekend Ventures retreat with Reach for Resources and to his Dad. I just had to figure out what I needed to do to find that renewal.
I tossed around driving or flying. How far could I go on my limited budget? Did I really want to spend the little time I had in transit? I looked at AirBnB I looked at package deals, I looked at the weather.
Historically my renewal/retreat weekends have involved a small (cheap) cabin in the woods, a fireplace, breakfast included and a kitchen for the rest of my meals. I’ve sat on porches and sipped coffee. I’ve curled up in the sunshine and read books. I’ve taken short walks in the woods. I’ve been alone long enough to get past the list of “shoulds” and into the bottled up emotions of my life.
Those options just aren’t available anymore. All the places I used to go have gone out of business. Any places I could still go seemed a little more structured, or a little more primitive, than I wanted. Even visiting my parents house (which used to be a cheap get-away) has become focused on helping them out. I can’t just sit and read undisturbed, or take a long soak in the tub.
Staying at home became more appealing, but I know myself well enough to recognize I’ve had plenty of weekends home without Orion that were not about renewal. It’s very easy to be distracted at home. It’s very easy to do the things that NEED to be done rather than the things that WANT to be done. It’s also very easy to bury my head to avoid the whole issue.
So I made an attitude adjustment plan. I know if I keep a fire going it shifts my focus. I know if I stay off the computer (read internet) I’m less likely to waste my time off. I know if I prepare ahead I can eliminate any URGENT household tasks.
So I cleaned the bathroom, changed the sheets on the bed, went to the grocery store and had a lovely renewal weekend at home. I did get on the internet, but it was to write book reviews because I felt like writing. I did light a fire one evening, but only because I really wanted to have that grounding task. I took several long leisurely baths – book in hand. I even took a walk. I didn’t take phone calls, didn’t check email, didn’t read Facebook.
It was different than a retreat, but in some ways it was better. Now I know I can have a renewal in my own home. I can make choices that are about taking care of myself rather than just indulging the whim of the moment. I can make myself get out the door just because it’s a nice day.
Those insights alone make taking a break well worth while!
I’ve maintained for some time now that the older I get the longer I get to celebrate. This year I’m pushing that edge with everything I’ve got. I’ve got a lot to celebrate!
I feel good. There have been many years where I haven’t. Two years ago I was recovering from surgery. Five years ago I couldn’t move. 25 years ago (or was it 26) my birthday party felt like a wake because I was in chemotherapy. Feeling good, willing to go out, having fun finding dress-up clothes, those are all worth celebrating.
I still have family. I started celebrating my birthday at the beginning of the month when I made a cake and packed it up to my parent’s house. My Mom and I share a fondness for german chocolate and a homemade cake is particularly appreciated by both of us. At this point neither of us needs a cake to ourselves so we share. Her birthday is in December and mine is the end of February so there is usually a freezer involved along the way. Having her around to share and appreciate the cake she taught me to make is definitely worth celebrating.
My kids seem to like spending time with me. I got Orion buying me flowers for valentine’s day and Karina’s “step-son” picking out roses for Oma’s birthday. We all went out to dinner (restaurant week falls close enough to my birthday to make that easier). Karina has also just said “hey, want to go out for drinks” and swept me up late night just because it’s my birthday. Orion and I have been to the movies, twice, and he’s also joined me out to brunch with friends. All worth celebrating.
My friends are finding time to “catch-up” I’ve had three brunches this month. I’ve had lunch and a trip to the Swedish Museum. I’ve had dinner with some old friends, and am still making plans into March. I’ve spent a lot of time on the telephone. Birthday presents have appeared unexpectedly. I have acquired a significant amount of birthday cheesecake. It’s really nice to know that people I care about are thinking about me. It’s great to touch base and reconnect. I’m not good at reaching out so having people reach out to me is very much worth celebrating.
I know that extending my birthday celebration means sometimes I decide it’s about me when really it’s not. Today (Monday 27th) I’m having “birthday breakfast” at Gilda’s Club. It’s really the monthly “Euro-Cafe Social”, but hey for me it’s birthday breakfast. I’ll get to visit with people I work with and when I call it birthday breakfast they’ll all say happy birthday.
It feels good to be acknowledged and it gives me a lot of reason to be grateful. I have places to go, things to do and people to do them with. I have generous friends and family. I have enough energy to go out and enough control to bring home leftovers. Extending the celebration means I get to really spend time with people rather than being overwhelmed by a crowd at one big bash. I am truly blessed.
Happy birthday to me.
There is a lot of research being done about the “information bubble” or more specifically “filter bubbles”. The idea is that our view of the world is being filtered so that the only information we receive (from social media) is information that will not challenge our existing world view. It certainly does happen, and it can be an issue especially for those people who tend towards highly biased, badly vetted, and heavily self- referential information sources.
Many of us are aware these sources exist. Many of us are not aware of how many of them we follow. Because we agree with them they seem reasonable. There bad sources coming from ALL points of view. Liberal, conservative, religious, fiscal, civil rights, you name a point of view and there is someone on the internet writing (loudly) with no basis in actual facts.
On the other hand there is the world we walk in. This is the world where we are not umbilically attached to our electronic media. It is a place where people talk to strangers. The “real world” is where we have to get along with our co-workers. We can’t be anonymous in this place when we shut up, stand up and sometimes get blindsided in our interactions with actual human beings.
I talk to strangers. I chat in line at the grocery store. I comment on reading material in the waiting room. I drive for those ap based services and sometimes the passengers are up for conversation. I also listen to stories from those strangers and from my friends about their experiences. Sometimes they’re not friendly.
So what do we do when we are trapped in a conversation (on an airplane, in a doctors office) and suddenly it takes a turn. The pleasant person we are talking to starts: quoting “fake news”, promoting a religious viewpoint we can’t support, making racist or sexist assumptions, belittling “my people”? What do we do when the person who was a work friend is suddenly assuming we agree with them about a political viewpoint we find abhorrent? What do we do when the customer we are serving starts spouting hate speech?
Those situations shake us up. They make us question both our positions and our responses. They can be threatening when they are clearly directed at us. They can be threatening AND unnerving when we find ourselves “passing” instead of being representative of our group. These kinds of occurrences seem to be happening more frequently, and more aggressively. I think part of that is the “filter bubble”. Strong language against another group can be “acceptable” within the filter, and so it is unquestioned in the world.
But when that world comes at us with active hatred we need to find some time with “our people”. We need that sanctuary to regroup and reassure ourselves that we are not alone in the world. Unfortunately I’m finding even in the most broad thinking sanctuaries there is little or no compassion for differing viewpoints, and so the aggressiveness becomes justified and reinforced.
Yes, bad behavior should be called out. Yes, we have a right (and often a responsibility) to defend a point of view. We need to remember that someone questioning a position is not the same as someone invalidating our existence.
Bad behavior does not always imply a bad intention. Ignorance (even willful ignorance – which is where my tolerance explodes) is not improved by being demeaning. Someone asking me for my sources is not a “threat”. It’s certainly not a threat equivalent to saying “my people” should be: locked up, thrown out, burned at the stake, not allowed to participate, or somehow “put away”. Defensiveness is not the same as defending a point.
We have the opportunity to practice these skills with “our people”. Let’s do that, instead of just closing those doors and creating another version of “us” and “them”.
Yesterday was one of those days when I needed to give myself points just for getting dressed. I meant to post a blog. I had started one about a weekend worth of celebrations. I had started one about the immigration ban. I had started one about Imbolc and the winter thaw. I just couldn’t manage to bring any of those topics into a coherent, cohesive whole.
I needed an ostrich day. A day to curl up and put my head in the sand. A day to pretend the world didn’t matter. I didn’t talk to friends. I didn’t get to my “to do” list. I stuck my head in a book, turned on Netflix, and played games on the computer.
We all need an occasional day like that. Right now there are many people who are practicing civil disobedience. There are many people who are truly threatened by the political climate. There are many who are suffering cognitive dissonance working to convince themselves that what they see, what they say, means something else. My Facebook feed is full of posts saying “maybe I should take a break from Facebook”
Sometimes we need to just take the time and space to actually feel our feelings. There can be so much going on in our lives that our emotions become a jumble and we don’t know where we stand or what we think. Allowing ourselves a moment to come back to our own center, without being battered about by our circumstances, can recharge us. Taking time can allows us to be more effective in the world.
Unfortunately, sometimes those ostrich days make me feel worse rather than better. It’s too easy to get into the cycle of self blame and guilt. It’s easy to start thinking of all “better” ways to have used the time. We live in a culture that has no patience for this kind of “time out”, and we carry that culture with us into our “time out” space.
It’s my Daily Practice that gets me through. I get dressed. Then, since I’m dressed I might throw in a load of laundry or run out to the mailbox. I make my bed. Then, since I really appreciate having the bed made I might tidy up someplace else in the house. I do my language lesson. Then, since I really do want a vacation, I might balance the checkbook or pack a bag or make a fun meal or even just tend to my seasonal spaces.
Doing the small Daily Practices I know I’m not lost in a hole. I am not entirely overwhelmed. I’m just taking some time out. Doing the Daily Practices I have a springboard to reconnect, to move forward. Doing the Daily Practices I am reminded to have compassion for myself. I am reminded to appreciate what I do, and accept that I can not accomplish everything.
Daily Practice becomes a kindness to myself. Doing Daily Practice is a magical act of transformation. It’s not always apparent that Daily Practice is doing anything. (That’s one of the reason “Daily Practice Sucks”) But ultimately we practice so that when we need something to be easy, when we don’t have the time or energy, when we are looking for a lifeline we have the Daily Practice to lean on.
My car was due for an oil change. Overdue technically, but not by much. I have always been diligent about the oil change maintenance.
Thing is, technology is changed. When I first bought the car, the first time I took it in for an oil change I was told the rules are different. With new systems and synthetic oils instead of 3 months/3,000 miles it is annually or 10,000 miles. I can’t keep track of that!
But now I’m driving for Uber and Lyft and racking up the miles on my car. It seems like I’m back at about 3 months. Maybe that’s just my perception. Maybe I’m reaching for the familiar. In any case I took the car in for routine maintenance.
Which of course got me thinking about maintenance. In my home there are places that I’m pretty good about doing routine things: laundry, dishes, paying the bills. There are things that are beyond me (My kitchen cupboards are empty, but still almost a year later falling off the walls. Don’t talk to me about banks!) There are a lot of things that fall in between (like cleaning the oven and scrubbing the floors).
I thought about the blog I wrote last week, and reconnecting with friends. Relationships require a certain amount of maintenance as well. I’m not great about keeping in touch. I’m less likely to make a call just to say hi. On the other hand I’m likely to show up in an emergency or send a hand written note in a get well card. Different skills sets I suppose.
Then I thought about general health maintenance. The annual physicals got crammed in between Thanksgiving and New Years. The letters keep coming from the insurance companies about which of my prescriptions they’ve decided not to cover. I’m still doing allergy shots. I do have some long term maintenance things here. Mammograms and colonoscopies are not even annual events any more. The rules change.
I come back to daily practice. When I’m doing daily practice maintenance seems to get done, both on the long and short term. When I let daily practice slide, everything seems to go downhill along with it. When the rules change sometimes the daily practice needs to change, but that’s different from letting it go altogether.
Life happens. Entropy happens. Maintenance is necessary and unavoidable. So I work on keeping up the calendar and consulting it daily. I work on tucking in a small home maintenance job daily. I juggle my appointments and phone calls and try to be available for my friends.
I also remember that the alternative to maintenance is crisis. I don’t need that. Maintaining to avoid it is worth a little gratitude. Maybe a daily practice worth.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions for a lot of reasons. The biggest is that I don’t keep them, so why make them. Not that I object to having goals and dreams, but that success builds on success.
I’m much happier with big dreams and small achievable goals than with the notion of creating a resolution for change at a time of year when I’m already reeling. I find it difficult to start something new at the same time that I’m trying to re-coop – (physically and financially) from the holiday hoopla.
This particular year, this particular “cultural transition” from 2016 to 2017 has been filled with a lot of public angst. The notion that 2016 was “so bad” that 2017 “has to be better”. I’ve always been reluctant to tempt fate that way.
There’s a lot of fear going into 2017. I’ve written about a shift in tone in human interactions. I’ve talked about the disenfranchised who feel particularly targeted and threatened by the new political climate. I’ve got personal fears as well, with aging parents and tightening purse strings. My “safety nets” are not what they used to be.
Sometimes I think I talk because I need to hear what I am saying. I talk (and write) a lot about practicing gratitude to fight depression. Fortunately I got to spend New Years Eve with some lovely people who chose to apply that practice.
It was an event designed to set the tone for 2017. The dinner guests were chosen specifically to suit our host’s preferences. No one was there “just because”. The decor was elegant, the food abundant, exotic, and heart warmingly delicious, and the atmosphere both festive and a little nostalgic. There was warmth and laughter and acceptance and I was grateful to be included.
When the champagne was poured we went around the table and each had to talk about something wonderful that happened for them in 2016. There were several people who had milestone moments that they could point to. A few of the guests spoke of unexpected opportunities that had become available to them. Clearly, Facebook memes aside, not everyone had a horrible year.
I didn’t have a “horrible” year either, but I did have a really difficult time finding something to be grateful for. Then I stopped going over the events of the year that I recalled (most of which were attached in some way to a funeral) and looked at the room.
I got to have a night out. I got to have a few days without Orion in tow. I got to have a beautiful fancy dinner that I didn’t have to pay for. I got to have an opportunity to dig up the dress-up clothes. I got to reconnect with a friend (our host) and acknowledge that connection with hope to deepen our relationship in the future. I got to have fun. I got to be in the room.
Then I looked back at the year at all the other friends I’ve connected with. I looked at the new friendships I’ve worked at strengthening. I looked at all the “rooms” where I’ve had the privilege of being included. There have been a lot. Even those funerals provided opportunities for me to reconnect.
This is what I’m grateful for and what I hope to find more of in 2017. Connection.
Happy New Year!