Monday, December 31, 2012

Darkness and Light - post 31

As the year ends and begins , my musings about darkness and light fold together into a plea for the awareness, strength, and skills i need to be a bright candle, even in a hard wind blowing.

Prayer of Resolve

Help me choose
love, not ego.
Sharpen my mind
to question.
Strengthen my soul
to abide.
Guide my choices
toward balance.
Open my heart
to listen.
Open my eyes
to contempt.
Increase my wisdom
to discern.
Fortify my courage
to act.
Amplify my voice
to speak.
Quicken my spirit
to rejoice.
Soften my will.
to accept.
Help me choose
love not ego.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Darkness and light - Post 30

 I think it makes great and beautiful sense that the film Les Mis has come out just as this year and my posts about finding light in darkness are ending.  I think Les Miserables is one of the best books ever written about the human condition and the light and darkness in every human spirit and life.  The characters are always choosing, and their choices matter for others, if not for themselves.  The musical is my favorite of that genre, and always leaves me in tears of true catharsis.  I haven't seen the film yet but I will, and I hope you do to if you haven't.  The evil of contempt and the power of redemptive love and forgiveness to override contempt is a deep running theme in the story, and for all the sadness in the story it gives me hope that we can change our attitudes and behaviors when they are hurting ourselves or others and live lives that give off more light than they absorb.  That hope is my candle for today.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Darkness and light 29

 As the month of writing about darknes and light draws to an end, I am about to break one of my own unspoken rules. I've not been writing about live people as sources of light and lessons, and of course live people are.t I felt anxious about how to chose and in which order among people who might be reading what I wrote. But, having written  about  my first great love last night I want to write about my second and present great love tonight. So many lesons from you Bob. There is a diference in just being out in the country and being in the presence of awdsome unruined wildnes. Self delusion is dangerous. Sometimes planning realy does create beter experiences. Sometimes it really is beter to wait until I calm down to say anything about anything. But brightest of your lights to me is the constant leson that trying to make a diference makes the bigest diference of all. Having loved you and been loved by you, I can never again just be a pasenger or a consumer - got to try to see the big picture, create some kind of strategy and steer my actions in acordance with my values and toward some aproximation of what sems best for all.

Cosy in Blacksburg

Bob's parents are absolutely superb at creating a sense of home.   So here I lie under a pink silk comforter with fires in the fire places and garlands on the mantels and lights outslide welcoming all.  I love it, as an augmentation to their welcoming hugs.  This trip we have been listening in the car to  The Warmth of Diferent Suns, and absolutely superbly human version of the great migration of blacks from south to north to escape Jim Crow.. It is a perfect (and I realy don't even believe in perfection) blending of fhistorical drtailt and personal story.. We also saw the Civil Rights Institute  in Birmingham right acros the street  from the Sixtenth Street Babpist Church where toe four litle girls were shot on September 15, 19633 where the foule itle girls were kiled in the church bombing. There wil be more posts on history, nonviolence, contempt, the value of comunity.But I'm faling aslrp here and I don;t type wel thre quarters asleep

Friday, December 28, 2012

Darkness and light 28

When I was just eighteen I met Kerry Sullivan, the man who became my first true love and the father of my children. It would be dishonest and wierd not to count Kerry as one of those people who was a light in my life, who passed on particular lessons of light. I was crazy in love with the man and felt his tender care and admiration wrap me like the magic circle of his arm...s. Raising kids with him was delight and the family we created together was the biggest goal for each of us and for the two of us together. But that is just the texture of our life together. I think the big light Kerry turned on for me was his absolute undying confidence in me to come through when the chips were down or die trying. He didn't expect perfection or magic or immortality, of either one of us. When he saw beginning to die he focused his own effort and attention on doing so with grace and without leaving loose ends. He did a great job. I didn't. In fact pitched a fit and shrieked that I couldn't live without him, he grabbed me by the shoulders, stared straight into my eyes and said "You can if you have to, and you'll do a damn good job of it!" He hadn't been surprised that I had been able to get through a terrifying middle of the night fire experience and keep both girls safe. He trusted me to be able to do what I needed to do, one foot in front of the other through the fog or in the heat of the moment. That trust, that respect, is something that healed me deeply and is the way I strive to feel toward others.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Darkness and light 27 -Mama was, in her own idiom, "a ring-tailed tooter". She was intense and efficient, quick, achievement oriented, ambitious, enthusiastic, hot headed with a tendency to put foot in mouth when under stress. She taught me so much good stuff from her best self, like to do the work first, then play, to be fiercely loyal, exactly how to season beef stew, that no problem is so scary it can't be talked through, and to dress to please myself not anybody else. But I think the most important thing she taught me is a lesson she wished she hadn't had to teach. Mama said some pretty hurtful things to me over the years. When she screwed up she did it on a big scale and it hurt alot. AND, when she screwed up, Mama owned her error as soon as she came to her senses, apologized, made consistent amends, and worked hard if not totally effectively at not repeating mistakes. She did repeat apologies.

 It is true that prevention is the best cure, and our mistakes really do hurt others. I strive and hope to keep better control of my tongue and actions than Mama did, AND the most important lesson I learned from her is that it does matter what I do after I screw up. Self pity and defensiveness, self-castigation and guilt don't do any good. Honest claiming of my errors, apology, and amends do. I am glad I learned from my Mamar that I don't surrender responsibility or the ability to make a difference for good once I make a mistake and hurt somebody's feelings. I'm glad she taught me to keep taking responsibility for the impact of my actions

Wise words about grief

Thes words are not mine, they belong to Frank Ostaseski, founder of the Zen Hospice Project, on dealing with grief:

Grief may be the greatest healing experience of a lifetime. It’s certainly one of the hottest fires we will encounter. It penetrates the hard layers of our self-protection, plunges us into the sadness, fear, and despair we have tried so hard to avoid. Grief is unpredictable, uncontrollable. There are no shortcuts around grief. The only way is right through the middle. Some say time heals, but that’s a half-truth. Time alone doesn’t heal. Time and attention heal.

In grief we access parts of ourselves that were somehow unavailable to us in the past. With awareness, the journey through grief becomes a path to wholeness. Grief can lead us to a profound understanding that reaches beyond our individual loss. It opens us to the most essential truth of our lives: the truth of impermanence, the causes of suffering, and the illusion of separateness. When we meet these experiences with mercy and awareness, we begin to appreciate that we are more than the grief. We are what the grief is moving through. In the end, we may still fear death, but we don’t fear living nearly as much. In surrendering to our grief, we have learned to give ourselves more fully to life.

A Quote on the value of listening

 "Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing. It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to affect the most profound changes in the people around us. When we listen,...we offer with our attention an opportunity for wholeness. Our listening creates sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person. That which has been denied, unloved, devalued by themselves and others. That which is hidden. In this culture the soul and the heart too often go homeless. Listening creates a holy silence.When you listen generously to people, they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time. And in the silence of listening, you can know yourself in everyone. Eventually you may be able to hear, in everyone and beyond everyone, the unseen singing softly to itself and to you." ~Rachel Naomi Remen

Darkness and light - post 26

-Up past midnight in a motel room in Louisianna night after Christmas, I 'm thinking about the song "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and that has me thinking about my daddy, or maybe I'm thinking about my daddy and that has me thinking about the song. Who knows? Which is, I guess, the point of this post. My daddy (and yes I know its oldfashioned and sounthern for a ...grown woman to think of her paternal parent as her "daddy" but I've tried typing several other labels for paternal parent and they all feel phony. He was my daddy and he was also, literally, a rocket scientist, a theoretical physicist, a man who learned for the sake of learning and was more than anything interested in "how things work ". And yet he was the one who taught me to see the world as a balance of mystery and science. He taught me to always look up at the night sky and see the vastness and the order, the beauty, the possibilities, and the mystery. He made it alright to always keep seeking without ever needing to know everything. One of his many gifts to me was comfort with paradox, and that gift has carried me a long way and I celebrate that gift and my Daddy tonight

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Darkness and Light 25

On Christmas night I'm thinking aboout babies, the beautiful nativity story and babies in general, how each is a little spark, a light that can be nurtured or snuffed out, and how each is unique. and none is of more intrinsic value than any other. That is the lesson my Uncle Rudy taught me. He was born very prematurely and lack of oxygen had affected his lungs and his coordination. Things like ...making change were hard for him and he had terrible asthma. he also had music in his every cell and was a drummer for his high school band and the Texas Longhorn band. But none of that is my point here. My point is that I was raised to be way too achievement oriented and success oriented and by high school must have been pretty snooty about academic success. Uncle Rudy and I were pulling weeds together one morning and I said something, don't remember what, but something stuck up and mildly contemtuous regarding school performance. And he looked me straight in the eyes and told me to remember that not everybody has the same advantages and I needed to stop judging. The lesson took. It was years later that i thought about that lesson in reverse. I sure don't have Rudy's musical ability or naturally outgoing nature, and he never held me in contempt for those lacks. So on Christmas night I'm thinking about babies, and how each one is a unique spark, to be discovered and nutured, not judged.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Darkness and Light - Post 24

I've been reading posts of Christmas preparations in the homes of many of my friends, and remembering wonderful celebrations I have attended throughout my life.. All the baking and wrapping and choosing and decorationg - all the care of presentation - love in the act of making a holiday is a beautiful manifestation of ove, and one I'm not great at.. Hostessing in general  is not a gift of mine, but that means I value it more not less. I celebrate the light of hospitality tonight and feel gratutude to all who have made me feel at home and look forward to being in Bob's parents' home in a few dayus.  Those two have a real gift for hospitality, both of them..

Darkness and light- Post 23

Now that the light is returning I want to focus on people and ideas who/which have brought me light. Today, as I busied myself for shutting down everyday life and getting on the road for the holidays, I especially thought about my Grandma Anna. There is so much I could write about her. She taught me that being quiet was just fine, that love can smell like cinnamon ...and brown sugar or like potatoes in butter or like fresh peaches. She taught me that having endured losses doesn't have to make you bitter even if it leaves you sad. And so much more. But today I was mostly thinking about how she taught me, when I was really small, to truly enjoy making order, drying dishes, putting things where they belonged. She took deep and quiet pleasure in doing everyday tasks well and taught me not just to do the tasks but to feel that same contentment in having done them. It wasn't quite as fancy as "Whistle while you work.", but it definitely was a message of "Simple work is satisfying." I am thankful for that lesson and for all the love with which my Grandma Anna treated me every day we had together. She, with her quiet wisdom, was a great light in my life and is still.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wow! It's my sixty second birthday, and a good one. This is my first birthday in which Face Book messages have played a major part. I got a bunch of messages some of which were sweet and total surprises. I feel so happy to have gotten that attention.  Birthdays were celebrated in my girlhood home, but played down, and that never bothered me.  But the more years my birthday gets played up, the more spoiled I get. It feels good to be noticed as present and desired in the world.  I'm trying to get better at noticing the birthdays of those I love.
My day here was great - l slept late, which would have been enough all by itself, had brunch with Bob at Trudy's buffet, which is my very favorite with hashbrowns and enchilladas of four kinds on the same table and a ginger mango mimosa and my guy's hand to hold.. Wow! Bob and I spent some time in the country looking for a rare bird (fork tailed fly catcher up from Mexico) we didn't find and watching the sun set brilliant orange and purple. We went to a cool museum IMAX theater to see the Hobbit 3D. I enjoyed it but felt the battle scenes took up too much of the film compared to the book. Glad I went though, and had every opportunity to hide my head in Bob's shoulder. If I interpret sounds from the kitchen right, there is still cake to come. 
PS, not cake, but better, Chris' gingerbread trifle, my all time favorite dessert - this time with a candle in it.

Darkness and Light - Post 22

- The light is beginning to return. The days are getting longer, inperceptibly, first move in new direction. It's my sixty second birthday. At sixty I wrote that sixty didn't feel different from 50. The process of aging like the process of spring coming, has it's own pace. I still have plenty of energy, but my knees are noticably stiffer and wiggling out of tight spots takes more effort. My movements are slower and stiffer. I'm OK with all of that, fair price for being here. I don't like the wrinkles on my face and arms, but that comes from working in the sun. I do like my increased patience, tolerence and wisdom. My current task is task is to see aging not as the enemy but to take it on its own terms, caring for my body, keeping up with new trends and technologies as much as possible, continuing to learn and grow, and also to make as much sense as possible of the lessons life has taught me and pass them on.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Darkness and light, Post 21

 Shortest day, longest night. Right now, tonight, the pattern of the seasons reverses and the light begins to return. Winter solstice born, this is my favorite moment of the year, the bottom of the well where resurgence happens. We will not see hte green shoots for months yet, but the on first day of winter the sun sets its pattern back toward spring. In my part of. the world the air is cool and the stars are bright, the half moon ringed in green. The darkness of this night holds infinite mystery. Tomorrow is a question mark and it's always possible I may not see tomorrow, and yet, on this long night I always feel hope pushing through the mystery and uncertainty. Tonight my words are for all who hope and all who are afraid to.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Darkness and light - post 20

Tonight Bob and I and KK and her friend visited our city's trail of lights along with hundreds of other Austinites. I've done this off and on (mostly on) since college days and spun under the gigantic tree made of wires of lights of every color. It was fun tonight to be out in the cold with people I love among well behaved strangers celebrating sparkle. I watched. the two girls walking ahead with their arms around each other's waists and felt fear for them, both because we are all so vulnerable in the world and because each has possibly serious medical isuues.

I also though about how awful it would be if a shooter targeted the trail of lights. I've never thought that before. I wonder if many people stayed away for that reason. Clearly many people, with their small children wrapped up and in strollers, came anyway. I'm glad of that. Tonight's lights are, for me, trusting an unsafe world enough to participate fully whatever may or may not come.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Darkness and Light - Post 19

- Still the days get shorter and I am discouraged having just read an article about people using the shooting in Connecticut, and other recent shootings, as ways to scam money, pretending it was for victims' families. That kind of mercenary behavior shocks me and provokes ethical outrage in me. It dims my hope. But I had lunch today with a friend who reminded me tha...t if most people didn't make honorable choices most of the time the world would be much more unsafe than it is. I would get mugged every time I walked home from the bus stop after dark (Its never happened). The waitress today would not have told me that I had mistakenly given her a fifty dollar bill instead of a twenty. I hang onto this light. Most people make honorable choces most of the time. I have power over my own choices.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Darkness and light - Post 18

Tonight in the wake of Sandy Hook, on the brink of the fiscal cliff, in the middle of finals for the high schooler in my house, while waiting for diagnostic test results, in the midst of trying to get holiday gifts and rituals right, I think about fear. There's the fear my granddaughter voiced tonight that the lock down drill at her school would probably not work b...ecause the shooter could just knock down the doors to the fear of forgetting to send someone important a Christmas card, to the fear of making a lower than desired grade on a final, the fear of not getting it (whatever it is) right enough. I could list on and on the fears that haunt me and those around me. in addition to our economic and safety fears. It is a time of the year where many of us press even more than usual to be perfect. I believe strongly that perfection is an iilusion. Real is better than perfect. For now I strive to do what I can to raise the odds of my safety and the safety of my family and community and to work and right and life according to a high standard, and then to let go of striving and accept limited control and uneven performance. I strive to act out of hope, not fear.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Darkness and light - Post 17

- I'm thinking about imbalance and balance tonight. Work play and rest. Thought and feeling. Argument and faith. Change and stability. Justice and mercy. Tenderness and hard truth, curiosity and acceptance of mystery. I know balance one day is imbalance the next day. For myself, I will focus on finding my balance points, day by day on all the various axies, and on accepting that balance shifts constantly and always will.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Darkness and Light - Post 16

Hanukah is over and the days still get shorter. I miss lighting the candles in the early darkness and am daunted by the task of dewaxing all eight mennorahs, but hte light was worth the work. I'm still full of feeling about what happened as Sandy Hook Elementary and full of thoughts about how to move toward a world where such horrors are less likely. I don't want to fall into helplessness or fixate on an oversimplified solution. I really believe everything is multidetermined and complex problems require careful, openminded study and multifaceted actions. The darkness I want to illuminate is the darkness of oversimplification. For mywself I'm focusing on thie issue of violent acting out in our culture and looking at it from as many angles as I can with as few preconceived notions. And I hope to use that open mindedness in all areas of my life.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Emotional response to Sandy Hook

I've been reading responses to the Connecticut killings this morning. The intensity of both the suffering that results from this massacre and the intensity of the need to create a kinder, gentler world in which such shootings and other horrors are less comon. I feel strongly committed to working hard to turn the intensity of my reactions to this shooting into the energy of working for change. Einstein was right. Energy cannot be destroyed, just converted from form to form, purpose to purpose. That knowledge gives me comfort when the energy of suffering is great. We all have a choice of what to do with it. Anything that happens to us or around us, I truly believe we have the choice to let it diminish us or to add it to ourselves in some way that serves. We can even use good things to diminish ourselves, by becoming complacent, judgemental, enttitled. Using the energy of pain to grow is hard. For me, the most effective forms or energy to turn pain into have been plain hard physical work, service sometimes oriented to reduce the cause of the pain for others, sometimes not, and art.  I'm surprising myself by writing no poetry about Sandy Hook. I think I'm going for service/action this time - to fight contempt and acceptance of meanness and violence anyway I can.  I know management of weapons and better care for the mentally ill, as well as a better way to figure out who is likely to be dangerous are all part of the needed change, but my own focus seems to be on the underlying attitudes, especially of contempt.  So readers beware, you will be reading that word alot in my writings.   

Darkness and Light, Post 15 - Eighth night

We had dear friends with us for the last night of Hanukah, lit all eight candles in all eight menorahs, shared curry and lattkes and opened presents together. Liam and Ruth put together his cool gift of a Lego ambulance complete with paramedics and patients, and my mind jumped again to the real ambulances and horror yesterday in Connecticut. Innocence... and safety are so transitory. I don't want to watch Liam laugh and cuddle up to his Mama and list in my head all the awful ways he could die. I stop myself when I start doing that kind of crazy thinking, but I have to stop myself more frequently than I'd like. Life is uncertain. Life is hard. I light tonight's candle for all of us who choose to live fully and love intensely anyway.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Darkness and Light - Post 14 - Candle 7

 Tonight before dinner we lit seven candles in each of seven mennorahs. Before Liam lit the first helpercandle, Ruth flipped off the single remaining electric light, and we were plunged into thick black darkness - alot of darkness. Candle by candle, light began to illuminate the darkness . The first thing I noticed was that I could begin to see the family faces clustered around the candles. I felt less alone with each candle that was lit, more connected. And I thought about the horror of the school killing today in Connecticut. I felt helpless and isolated regarding that horror and those which have preceded and will follow it. I don't want to sit isolated in horror and hopelessness.I want to keep lighting candles and looking into the faces around me. And I dedicate tonight's candle to everyone who fights the urge to give up on change at any level, personal or global.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Darkness and light -Post 13 - Candle 6

This morning I awakened to intense, repetitive banging and voices right outside my window shouting unintelligbly (Spanish my awakening mind recognised groggily). It sounded like war outside my window, or at least like someone was trying to break into my room. That wasn't the case. The workers fixing my neighbors plumbing had gotten an annoyingly early s...tart, but I couldn't get my mind off the experience, what it must be like when it really is war outside one's window, or post traumatic st4ress episodes of war replaying in one's dreams. I know both of those things are reality for way too many people. So tonight's candle is for all affected by war and especially for the peacemakers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Darkness and light - Post 12 - Candle 5 -[Defensiveness

One of the faces of darkness I find most seductive is defensiveness. It's so easy to just want ot explain my point of view and why I'm not really all that wrong, even if I really am. Defensiveness shuts doors and blocks intimacy. It doesn't make me any less wrong. So tonight I commit to listening when I start to feel defensive and I light tonight's candle for all of us who work to listen to feedback without defensiveness and admit when we are wrong.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Darkness and light - Post 11- Candle 4- So a man in Portland put on a white mask and picked up a shotgun and walked into the mall and shot up winter wonderland. And in out family, we attended our community's wonderful Christmas sing along, a tradition I've come to love, Jewish as I am. The atmosphere was friendly and happy, all sorts of voices raised in song. Then we came home and lit our four mennorahs, with four candles in each and sang together, put the young ones to bed. And through it all I was haunted by the idea that somebody felt something that made him need to go shoot up winter wonderland and kill innocents. I go back to Dorothy Satten's teachings about emotion. Anger, hurt, and fear are a triad of emotions which are pretty interchangable. Think of the parent who, terrified, grabs a toddler out of the road and swats the kid's bottom. Fear can sure look like anger. And anger can look like fear or hurt if you've been taught long enough that "nice girls don't get mad" or hurt or fear like anger if your lesson has been "big boys don't cry." But there's a deeper triad, helplessness, rage and shame. We can talk about anger, hurt and fear, and we can aim them. Helplessness, rage and shame are too deep and primal for words or directionality. The paralyze or explode. As helpless or ashamed someone has ever felr, that's how much rage that person has. So when I think about today's mall shooter and all the other shooters I am terrified by their rage and deeply saddened by their helplessness and shame. And I know that earlier this afternoon, because I felt helpless to make the transition from a busy work day to a busy family evening smoothly and ashamed of how helpless and incompetent I felt, I lost my cool altogether and yelled at Bob and KK, neither of whom had done anything except point out my inefficiency by their efficiency. I hurt them even though I had no intention to. I commit to whatever physicl and spiritual disciplines I need to stay away from the edge of overwhelm and exhaustion, that place where I behave badly. I dedicate tonight's candle to all who struggle to contain and heal feelings of shame, rage and helplessness.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Darkness and light 10 - Third Candle - for those who are ill

Darkness and light 10 - Third Candle - Tonight it is cold out and warm and full of light and the aromas of good food in our house. We have our sorrows worries and stresses, each of us in this house. We all know that life is uncertain. At dinner I watched Liam throw a minor fit because he was required to eat a tiny bit of kale before icecream. And I thought about a little girl Ruth knows who di.ed of cancer two days ago,  just about a year older than Liam. Later, for Hannukah gift exchange, we sat on the floor in the livingroom and treasured gifts of jewelry from our beloved Heidi, who died of cancer in September. I wear her moonstones as I write and they lay warm on my chest. I light the third candle for all those who are seriously ill, whether with cancer or some other life changing or life threateneing disease, and for those who love them and fear and hope for them.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Darkness and light - night 9- Second Candle for decision makers

Darkness and light - night 9- Second Candle - This year I will let the second candle be for decision makers, which means its for all of us. I am awed by the number of decisions an ordinary person like me has to make every day and the impact these decisions have on quality of life for me and those my life touches. When I think about people in positions of greater power in the affairs of nations, especially want to draw light to their decision making, to help them see clearly and choose wisely. For myself, I think of an image my daughter Ruth has been using lately. Desicion moments are like siding doors that slide open for a moment, and then shut again. I choose to work harder, especially when I'm feeling tired and overwhelmed, to pay attention to each moment and the decisions it offers.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Darkness and light 8- first candle for those who mourn

-I love the song that begins "I light one candle for the Macabbee children..." and from that song have developed the habit of personally dedicating each candle to a people in a particular circumstance. So tonight I dedicate the first candle to all who mourn. I've been writing alot about grief, and so that dedication seems right. Each of you who aches with loss, may you find comfort and light in the darkness.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Darkness and light 7 - night before Hannukah begins

 Hannukah, like most winter holidays is about light in the darkness. Tonight, during and after services, I've let myself think about the darkness, before any candles are lit. There's a Native American story I like about the darkness and its gifts. My version goes like this.

"In the long ago when the animals coould speak words, Dragon fly was the keeper of the void, the deep well of darkness which swelled at the edge of all that was known. Dragon fly flitted back and forth at the edge of the darkness. Few animals came close the the edge of the void. The darkness frightened them. But Swan was different. She was gray and dumpy, bored with her life, and very very curious. Day after day she would waddle to the very edge and ask Dragon Fly "What is down there?" and day after day Dragon Fly would give her the same answer "If you want to know, jump." And one day Swan did jump. When she emerged she was white, serene and graceful as we know swans today. All the animals were astounded by the change in Swan and asked her in a hundred ways "What happened to you down there in the void." And every time Swan answered, "If you want to know, jump,"    May I find the courage to explore and abide areas of darkness in my life.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Chris is helping KK with chemistry and geometry homework out at the kitchen table. She is exhausted at the end of tech week for her current dance show, a send up of The Nut Cracker. Tomorrow night about this time she will be high off the first performance and the fatigue won't matter.  I respect  the way she works to keep up as both a performer and a studentRuth is grading in the livingroom with the TV on, happy to be at the end of a long haul of a teaching semester.  Liam, who was not a school boy yet when this semester started, is happily snuggled in his bed probably dreaming of science Friday tomorrow. I'm hoping the phone will ring any minute and Bob will report himself safel ensconced in a motel somewhere on his way home from his invitational meeting at the White House.  Back in September i never would have expected that the volunteer campaign work he was doing would get him a working invitation to the White House.   I've worked hard on the house. especially our room, while he was gone and am feeling like it is much more comfortable and livable than it has been and that some of the organizaational decisions I've made will let it stay that way.  I feel happy, and especially happy because of my living situation.  I am so well supported and loved on  and that feels so good.  Ruth helped me deliver three boxes of teaching resources Bob no longer needs to a school librarian friend who knows how to find people who will use them.  Chris cooked delicious indian style chicken and vegetables for dinner and I didn't even have to think about what I was going to eat.  That is purest luxury for me.  KK gets math and science tutoring from Bob or Chris and I don't have to stretch in directions that I'd rather not at this point.  Ruth bought her a "nutcracker" scented candle in honor of her upcoming performance and delivered it, with chocolate, at a moment when KK was feeling tired and overwhelmed.  I grew up as an only child, loved, but without the rich tapestry of interwoven lives under one roof that a larger family provides.  I didn't know what I was missing then.  I sure appreciate it now.

Darkness and light -6-Grief

 Back last month when I was writing thankfulness posts, I wrote that I was thankful for grief because I see it as the natural process of making our losses real and finding a way to live in the world without those we have lost. Several people who have had recent losses asserted that they are not thankful for grief. I've been thinking alot about grief since that time, and I am still thankful for that process because I feel that without it loss would just stay new and harsh and raw forever, that it would never change, soften, become something one can carry and isn't consumed by. I realize that, for me, grieving a loss is like sleeping when weary or eating when hungry, the only way to really meet the need. Fear of loss and loss itself hurt and can blow one's world as one knows it apart. I want to be available always to those who mourn, to answer any question, to share experiences, just to abide.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Darkness and light 5 - Big Picture Tthinking

 Big picture thinking is hard for me. my tendancy is to do what I can where I am to make simple differences. I tend to be happy making little changes for individuals and mostly changes in my own behavior and thinking, but I am married to a man who has taught me the importance of the bigger picture, of thinking of the whole world and how everyone's we.llbeing or lack thereof interacts. I do feel strongly that "We are all in this together." as citizens of the world in terms of perserving the earth's resources as much as possible and getting along at least well enough not to killeach other off[. What I don't have is the solid information and focus on facts and details about worldwide problems which give grounding to that basic view. So this month, at least, I'm going to work on learning at least a little about a variety of worldwide problems. I hope I'll be blogging at least the occasional factual article or link about issues which affect the earth and all on it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Darkness and Light 4- Making an effort

 Making an effort - One of the biggest lessons for me over the last decade has been that people need, truly need don't just appreciate, kind actions from others just to keep moving through daily life without feeling loneliness and despair. Its so easy for me, especially introvert that I am, to get "busy" or preoccupied with my own thoughts and projects and not return the phone call, write the note, send the birthday card or sympathy card. It's easy to get overwhelmed when someone is in a really bad situation and not say anything because I "don't know what to say.  I know I can put foot in mouth, and I know that the little things I can do for people don't fix bigger problems, and I know that the little things do make more than enough difference to balance out the effort that doing them takes. So, for now, I am increasing my commitment to follow through with small kindnesses.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Darkness and Light - 3 - Contempt

 I have almost finished Bullied, the book which inspired yesterday's post. The book contains a concept that strikes me as powerfully and deeply true. The root of bullying is not anger or even powerlessness, but contempt. To bully (on a personal level or on a societal way like Jim Crow or genocide) a person or group of people has to hold another person or group of people in contempt - to see them as less worthy of resources and life itself, less human. When I look around me, I see contempt around many everyday human differences including looks, posessions, age, spirituality, politics, sexuality, interests and life style choices. Contempt in its most toxic form allows genocide and in its more everyday form allows eye rolling, not taking someone's idea seriously, lack of empathy,and erosion of trust in relationships. So, for myself, this month I will work on avoiding labeling anybody "an idiot" or any other degrading label in my head. This doesn't mean I have to agree or approve of their ideas or seek out their company. I can even believe their ideas are dangeroous. I simply need to accept them as fully human as I am.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Shaggy Fall

Thanksgiving Day it was full bright fall in Austin, evidence of our rainier summer, bright color in the trees.  Now it is what I call "shaggy fall"  days short and colors fading, leaves drifting down in every breeze even though tempoeratures stay mild.  Shaggy fall can depress me some years, as beauty fades and streets look messy.  This year I'm enjoying shaggy fall, all the colors drifting down against low gray skies - soft.  Bob is on the road, on his way to the great opportunity of attending a working meeting on increasing bipartisan communication at the White Hous (yes I said the White House) on Wednesday)  I'm so impressed by my husband and his efforts to improve the state of our nation and world.  I'm. impressed with my family here too.  Ruth and Chris and I worked really hard yesterday on sorting and organizing tasks and made big progress.  I look around my room and see signs of that progress and smile.  There is a point of real change that shows in decluttering and I feel just barely there for the first time.  That feels really good.

Darkness and Light 2 - Meanness

As most of you who know me know, I have never done well with humor with edge. It seems like so much pain is delivered packaged as "I'm just kidding." or "It's a joke." It's a fine line between taking life lightly and laughing at the absurdity of our human condition and our individual accomacations to it and trying to gain an edge over others by laughing at them. Right now I'm reading an amazingly comprehensive book called Bullied by Carrie Goldman. It goes way beyond childhood school bullying and cyber bullying to the theme of meanness in our culture. I saw way too much of it in the election process, which is maybe one reason this particular area of darkness calls to me right now. A quote from the book that reverberates with me is by actress Chase Masterson from Star Trek. "I think it's 'in' on some horrific level for people to be mean. Talk shows and comedy shows say it's okay to laugh at other people. But it's not okay. It's certainly not a 'do unto others' attiotude." For myself, I am going to pay careful attention this month to my language, especially avoiding use of the word "hate" even lightly.

Darkness and Light 1

Light 1 - Posting thankfulness posts in November was good for me and now, November over, I'm hungry for a followup theme, don't wnat to quit. My December theme is darknesss and light, because the shortest day is coming and light is obviously a little less every day and soon will beginto return, a little bit every day . December holidays are bright with light. I want to focus on ways I can bring more light to the world, which will cause me to look into areas of darkness, so expect a mixed set of daily posts as I explore darkness and light in my life.