Category Archives: kindness
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!
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”.
Been gone for awhile. I’ve had some car trouble, internet trouble, life trouble. But I also haven’t been detained in an airport – so perspective. All of this has had me thinking about refuge.
It’s a simple word, a simple concept. It’s about being safe and protected. That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.
Last weekend I went up to my parents and had some car trouble. Needed to stay an extra day and wait for a part to come in. I didn’t get the repairs paid for. I didn’t have internet access. But I did have refuge. I had a place to stay, safe, while I waited for my car to be fixed. I didn’t even have to think about it, it was there for me.
Most of us think of our homes as a refuge. I’ve had plenty of times in my life when my home was not. But there is a big difference between being so sick that it’s scary to be left alone to fend for yourself and wondering when the men with the guns will break down the door. There’s a big difference between walking on eggshells to keep the screaming and yelling from erupting and walking on eggshells to stay out of the emergency room.
Because I can’t convince the bank to finance my kitchen remodel my home has not been a refuge. I’m not comfortable with boxes piled all over and my kitchen in pieces. Although the cupboards are empty, they are barely hanging on the wall and still may just decide one day to fall down. I’m struggling to make a “home”. I’m struggling to keep things orderly and organized. I’m struggling to find the space to be creative, to write, to come out of my sense of being overwhelmed.
At the same time, it’s nice to curl up under the covers at night. I sleep soundly. I don’t need to keep an ear open for unforeseen threats. I have heat, running water, and most of the time the internet allows me access to all of you. There is “escape” in music, and tv, and internet chats and games. I’m not starving for anything.
When I truly have nothing, when my life is at risk, when I am shaken to my core I find it easy to be grateful for any small refuge. A kind word, a warm blanket, keeping down a bite of food can all seem like the most amazing grace. Refuge doesn’t have to solve a problem. It just allows a little break. Why is that so hard?
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.
It’s been a very busy week in the country. Goodbye to our first black first family. Hello to a new president followed by the largest protest ever launched in America. In fact, protesting our new president and his anti-women, anti-civil rights agenda was a world wide event.
At times like these it can seem easier to just put your head in the sand. To turn off, tune out and escape the madness that surrounds us. Unfortunately, that kind of escapism historically leads to even worse problems, even more oppression. There’s a reason the poem is popular:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Still, even the most dedicated activists need a little break. So we turn on the TV, we read a book, we go to the movies, or the theater Time out can be mindless, but it can also be mind expanding. Star Trek aired the first interracial kiss, Will and Grace increased awareness and acceptance of the gay community. Hamilton not only educates us on our history but examplifies colorblind casting and the actual immigrant experience that has made America what it is today. Many people had never heard of Turing until The Imitation Game. Even fewer were aware of the women – human computers – who helped put our men in space.
I got to see Hidden Figures this weekend. What a remarkable piece of American history – good and bad. This movie demonstrates some of the underlying complaints I hear about everything that happened this weekend. This “separate and not anywhere near equal” is the America our president things was great. This white feminism has no room for black women becomes blatantly apparent in historical context. That “keep your head down and don’t cause trouble” doesn’t create change that needs to happen is obvious in hindsight.
Uppity women, demanding a place at the table, demanding to be heard plays better with a good screen writer. But those women are still out there in our workplaces. Angry black women may not have to find a colored bathroom, but that doesn’t mean they are welcomed when they come in, they’re almost as scary as transgendered women! The education disparity continues to be enormous, resources available to white children are just “not in the budget” for children of color. Is it any wonder resourceful kids will do anything to get ahead of the game?
This year I’m seeing a lot of reading challenges. Lists to encourage people to use their escape time to expand their point of view. So I’m also taking on a challenge. I’m back reviewing books on lisaspiralreads. There are already 50 book reviews there, and I’m challenging myself to review another 50 this year. I’m trying to tag and categorize to fit the reading challenge requirements I’ve been seeing. Check it out!
Hope you use your escape wisely!
Today is a national day of recognition for the civil rights movement. Here are some, perhaps less familiar excerpts from great speakers about civil rights:
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating for whites only. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream
From: Martin Luther King – I have a dream
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.
“Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.
This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.
From: Barack Obama – A More Perfect Union
Gratitude is difficult when the world seems to be falling down around our heads. It is difficult to find gratitude in crisis. It is difficult to find gratitude when we feel threatened. It is difficult to find gratitude under stress. But it is especially during these challenges when we need gratitude the most.
Practicing gratitude is uplifting. Even seeing people who seem to have less than we do being grateful can be inspiring. Knowing what we have to be grateful for is like finding a lifeline in a troubled sea. When we most need something to hang on to, an active practice of gratitude gives us just that.
Thanksgiving is a highly charged holiday. There are the family dynamics. Mixed families, blended families, new relationships create conflict over who gets to be with who when. There is finding table talk that doesn’t push buttons, make judgements, and generate huge arguments. There is the food both, expectations and execution, and issues of tradition versus lifestyle.
Thanksgiving is also highly charged politically. Not just with the family table, but the actual nature of the holiday itself. What we celebrate is the coming together of the European settlers and the Native Americans. The reality of that relationship is not nearly as peaceful or generous. Even now at Standing Rock Native Americans on their land with their supporters are being treated in ways that have the United Nations, the ACLU, and Amnesty International making statements against our government’s actions.
I am reminded again about the power of gratitude, and so I write reminding you. Let’s all take a moment, many moments, this week and dig deep into the things we do have to be grateful for.
I am grateful for all the people who work peacefully and diligently to preserve my civil rights, my breathable air, and my drinkable water.
I am grateful for all the people who work to ensure I have good, healthy food available to me especially all winter long.
I am grateful for all the people who are actively kind to others, who help those in need, who work with populations (in prisons, the mentally ill, impoverished families etc.) that I am not equipped to help.
I am grateful for the small opportunities I have to do my part to bring kindness, and caring, and loving support into the world.
I am grateful for the support I receive (from family, friends and strangers) just to be able to function in this world.
I am grateful to have a platform and readers who support my work. – Thank you!
What are you grateful for?
There is a movement suggesting that people who are willing to be supportive of blacks, hispanics, LGBTQ, women and other communities being targeted by Trump inspired racists wear a safety pin to indicate that they hold a safe space.
There is a backlash from those communities. There is anger that privileged whites think that just wearing the safety pin IS supportive. It’s too little, too late. Wearing a safety pin indicates intention, which frankly doesn’t count. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who are happy to “mansplain” away the concerns of these threatened populations. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who are sure they have the “solution”. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who wonder why we can’t all just get along.
There is also a backlash from the racists (who resent being called racists because they feel that they are entitled to define what that term means – and it can’t be them because they are “good people”). There is an “If you’re not with me you are against me” mentality. There is harassment, from a meme being generated that that safety pin is a diaper pin and we’re all crying babies to actual physical confrontations.
I know people in all of these communities and I hear them. Because I hear them I recognize that I can’t just “join the bandwagon” I need to make an active choice. If I choose to wear the pin what does that mean? If I choose not to wear the pin what does that mean?
I choose to wear the pin. Here’s what it comes down to for me:
- Wearing the pin is a visible identification of some kind of support. For a community that often feels very isolated just seeing someone making that small an effort can make a difference.
- Wearing the pin does not entitle me to anything. It doesn’t entitle me to respect from these communities. It doesn’t instantly bestow understanding. It doesn’t in itself create the “safe space” it’s meant to indicate.
- Wearing the pin means I have an obligation to open my eyes and increase both my awareness and willingness to intervene. That means more than filming an arrest or calling someone out on foul language. That means being aware of the clerk keeping an eagle eye on the black woman in the store with me. That means being aware of the cashier happy to chat with me after demanding identification from the hispanic man in front of me. That means being aware of the stink eye look being given to the gay couple in the restaurant. That means being willing to share a seat on the bus with a homeless man. That means knowing when to shut my mouth and when to open it.
- Wearing the pin means I am willing to be a target. It means I am willing to be a target from the communities that I want to support. A safe space means a safe space for them to vent their anger, frustration and fear. A safe space means I may be “harassed” for being a white woman who thinks wearing a pin is enough. A safe space for the people being targeted means that I may be exposed to feelings that are unpleasant, uncomfortable and I may not feel safe. Too bad for me.
- Wearing the pin means I am willing to be a target for the racist backlash. I will be perceived as being part of the communities they threaten: the disabled, those with racial differences, those with non binary gender identities etc. I will be putting myself in the position of being willing to accept some of the harassment those groups experience every day.
- Wearing the pin means wearing the pin. It is privilege to chose to wear the pin or not. The people in these groups do not have that choice. They can’t take off their race, their self identity, their handicaps. They can’t not be targets. Ultimately that is why I must be a target as well. I must wear the pin.
I skipped my blog last week. No notice. No excuses. No nothing. Just didn’t write.
I hit that overwhelmed point. I had things to say. Too many things it seems. I couldn’t find a focus. I couldn’t find a focus in the rest of my life either. I missed a doctor’s appointment. I discovered I hadn’t gotten in my time card when no check came in the mail. I had laundry (and water) in the basement. I had boxes (empty) all over the house. I was a mess.
In all fairness, I’m probably still a mess, but it’s getting better. I got out the calendar and started writing things down (rather than relying solely on the cell phone, which seems to drop appointments for no good reason.) I let go of an obligation that was the “one thing too many” that sent me on this spiral. I got the boxes out of the middle of the living room and into a “staging area” so I can fill them one at a time and put them back.
I’m working on my sleep schedule. At least I’m sleeping, even if the hours are still a little odd. I’m putting away laundry and watering the poor, sad plants. I had my corn for Lammas* and decided I am not in a hurry to dig out the harvest season decorations. I’m trying to be kind to myself – one step at a time.
Last week I got a notification from WordPress saying “Happy Fifth Blogging Anniversary!” My goodness, has it really been that long? I spent some time this last week wondering if I was done, if I needed a serious blogging break. I decided that I’m still good, as long as my readers will forgive an occasional dropped post like last week.
Having a weekly blog is one of my touch points in a rather unstructured life. I need those now and again. Once a week is not so high pressure I can’t handle it. It’s not so infrequent it doesn’t matter. It holds me accountable to take time to reflect on my life, my choices, my spirituality, my vision. Those are good things.
So, dear reader, I may be a mess but if you’ll still have me I’ll still be around on Mondays.
*Previous Lammas posts:
I had the opportunity this weekend to participate in a rescue mission. That’s not as dramatic as it sounds. My daughter, Karina, has quite the extended family given the divorces, the friends, the steps, and all the variations on “you are family to me.”
One of these family members has been in a difficult intimate relationship for some time. There is a history of isolation, abuse, and attempts to leave the relationship. After a conversation with Karina where she heard, “I want to come home” she went into action.
She arranged for transportation (costs covered), housing, a potential job opportunity and alerted the built-in support system of family and friends. There will be a bus card, people willing to help with transportation in town, bedding and toiletries and probably anything else as it comes up. When another call came, “I need to leave NOW”, Karina went into high gear and hopped in the car.
I went along, not only because it’s a long drive but also because she wanted back-up for anything she might find when she arrived. I have family in the area where we were headed. I called ahead. Without knowing ANY of the actual players, they stepped in as well.
My family members met us at the home of the person we picked up. We were taken out for dinner. We were offered any additional support we might need along the way. I got the bonus of being able to see family I haven’t been in contact with (outside of Facebook) for years.
Karina’s family member will be fine. They are overwhelmed, not only by making such a dramatic change but also by the outpouring of support. We also talked on the way home about how much of a difference THIS family member could be in supporting other of Karina’s extended family members who are struggling. We made it clear that even when you may be needy, you can also be needed.
Very few of us expect to have real support when we are desperate. Asking for one small thing is hard. Asking for planning, organization, execution and a lifeline is humbling at best.
I think we all have moments in our lives when this is exactly the kind of help we need. I know I have. I have been fortunate, awed, and overwhelmed on the occasions when my friends and family have swept in and just taken care of business.
When I had cancer last year my women’s group stepped up and made sure that I had the post surgery support I needed. They came by to check up on me, made sure I had food in the house, ran errands, and washed dishes. One of them brought me home from the hospital. Another took me out when I was going stir crazy. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I had no idea what I was going to do, but they clearly did.
The last time I had work done on my house, to increase accessibility for Orion, we needed to move out for 6 weeks. Cleaning and packing was beyond me. Again, I had friends come in and just do it. There was no judgement, no need for instruction or supervision, just support. I could focus on what I needed to take with me to the hotel, they took care of everything else. I knew I needed help, but never expected that level of support.
I am grateful that I have been able to count on my friends when I truly need help. I am grateful that I have learned to accept help when it is given. I’m grateful for compassion that has no judgement, simply does what needs to be done. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back a small bit of what I have been given.